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Archive for April, 2013

Boat Blog: A Brief Bobble on the Basingstoke

Posted by indigodream on 4 April, 2013

Saturday 30th March

The view from Brookwood Bottom Lock....

The view from Brookwood Bottom Lock….

Although the Thames has come down from red boards, it was too late for us to revive our hopes of joining Basingstoke canal convoy over Easter; so our new plan is to have a little bimble north on the Grand Union. It will be the miniest of micro-odysseys because we need to be back in Limehouse for the start of a quite amazing convoy at the beginning of June. I’ll post about that later when we’ve got some details – there may be crewing opportunities but NOT for the faint-hearted!

We had planned to move Indigo Dream from Brentford today, but last night Kathryn from nb Leo No2 invited us to crew up the Deepcut flight. It was the nearest we were going to get to the Basingstoke Canal so we said “yes”.

It was very strange to cruise without Indigo Dream – there’s something very comforting about having your own boat on the water – even though Kathryn and the convoy made us very welcome.

The convoy was moored at the bottom of the Brookwood flight – we joined them at 9.30am-ish. Kathryn and nb Leo No 2 were “tail-end Charlie” today and, when we arrived, around half the convoy were on their way. We mooched around at Brookwood Bottom Lock and helped out, though between the Basingstoke Canal Rangers, volunteers and boat crews there seemed to be an abundance of help around. That was fine by us – it gave us time to fill up with Costa coffee from the garage nearby, which must have been doing a roaring trade with the sudden rush of boaters! After a while, I walked back to Leo no. 2 with Kathryn and got a chance to cruise the short stretch up to Brookwood Bottom Lock.

Looking up towards Brookwood Bottom Lock - the bank is a bit uneven for mooring but the towpath is in very good condition!

Looking up towards Brookwood Bottom Lock – the bank is a bit uneven for mooring but the towpath is in very good condition!

I’m still digesting my thoughts about the Basingstoke – I suspect that I didn’t get to see it at its best, but Richard saw more than I did so he’ll fill in the gaps shortly. My initial impressions were:

  • You need a great deal of patience, tolerance and good humour when taking part in a convoy – especially on an “untried” canal – part of the convoy’s purpose was to “snag” the canal – one set of lock gates on the Brookwood flight was only fitted 2 days ago!
  • The surroundings seemed a bit bleak in the cold weather, especially as the trees are still bare, but there is great dog-walking here and the towpath is in very good order
  • The locals walking the towpath were excited to see the boats and warmly welcomed the convoy  – that’s a really positive reaction, as their local authorities will be funding the canal in the long term.
  • The Brookwood flight showed us every sort of problem that besets the Basingstoke – water management is an issue, the pound between the bottom and middle locks became very low; debris such a silt and wood (long branches and huge sawn logs) blocked lock gates, made it difficult to position boats and were a general nuisance; leaf and other trash made for slow going. It took some time to get the convoy through Brookwood bottom, but thereafter, transit through the rest of the flight was much smoother; as was the transit up the Deepcut flight. The reason for the slow passage through Brookwood Bottom was silt. Apparently the second lock in the flight had been full of silt. The Rangers had asked the contractor to get rid of the silt whilst carrying out works there; some was taken away by road but a lot was simply flushed into the short pound below and ended up in the bottom lock.
  • The Basingstoke Canal would benefit from more boat movements – that’s what will keep it alive as a navigation but….
  • Having to rely on Rangers to accompany boats and to caulk the locks after their passage means that the Basingstoke has to be planned – it’s still a bit of an expedition!
Richard fishing a big log from the lock - not where it came from or why it suddenly stopped this boat from getting in to the lock side when all the other had passed through!

Richard fishing a big log from the lock – not sure where it came from or why it suddenly stopped this boat from getting in to the lock side when all the other had passed through!

But it would be extremely unfair of me to judge a canal of 50-odd lock miles on the basis of the 5-odd lock miles that I cruised!

The reason that I cruised so little was that I needed to pop home to let the dogs out; in the meantime, Richard stayed with the convoy and crewed up the Deepcut flight……

Richard’s view of Deepcut: After the grief of starting a convoy through the one bad lock of the day, Deepcut itself was a pleasure. The allegedly bad cill at lock 18 held out well, in fact it looked better then many cills on the CRT network. After a bit of exercise, one paddle decided that it had had enough – by the time we got there it had stopped working but the remaining paddle luckily stayed on duty and got us up the lock. The scenery was beautiful, the canal is great and obviously navigable. Because the canal is fed by springs and has no reservoirs for storage, water supply is the big worry, even at this of year, However the pound that the Rangers were very worried about was better then many you see on lock flights elsewhere.

The Rangers caught up with us towards the end of the day and we chatted to them as they waited for us to exit the lock so that they could caulk – the Rangers on the day favoured a very particular technique for caulking the locks:

  • when the lock is full, crews were asked to crack open a gate and close the top paddles before fully opening the gate – this means that less muck gets pushed into the paddle
  • once up the lock, boats were asked to hover outside the lock
  • close the top gates
  • open a downstream paddle to put some pressure on the top gate
  • the hovering boats were then asked to hit the throttle hard so stir some muck up – this is sucked into any gaps and helps to plug the leaks
  • the Rangers then pour in a few buckets of loamy material (one told me it was chipped wood) to further block the leaks. They also stir this soup with their long shovels to distribute it evenly along the bottom of the gate.
Deepcut Bottom Lock - this is the convoy's real achievement - this lock flight has been closed since 2009!

Deepcut Bottom Lock – this is the convoy’s real achievement – this lock flight has been closed since 2009!

Back to Sue: By dint of getting slightly lost on my way back, I rejoined the convoy at Deepcut top lock, having parked near Deepcut Bridge. I walked back to Deepcut top with Ollie, who’d come out for a little adventure. Needless to say, Ty stayed at home, just as well, the area is full of military ranges and there was gun noise around. Ty would have been freaked; even Ollie seemed a little out of sorts. As the name suggests – Deepcut top lock is in a deep cutting – the towpath from the bridge to the lock was a nice walk – it felt like a different world. Deepcut top lock was the last of the day, so quite a crowd of volunteers and rangers had gathered there – Ollie made the best of this and got lots of fuss! I was little ahead of nb Leo, but she soon turned up, along with Richard on his bike, they locked through and cruised on down the cut, with us walking along the towpath not far behind.

We’d hoped to meet the crews later – the convoy assembled at the Canal Centre with plans to assemble in the pub later (? Potters pub). We rang the pub and sadly found out that it was not dog-friendly. I wouldn’t have wanted to leave Ollie in the car while we had a drink so we headed for home after a busy and interesting day.

I really don’t want to to hope for a wet summer (!) but I do hope that there will be enough water in the Basingstoke Canal for us to have a solo cruise later in the year. If they can keep the canal open at least as far as Fleet, then that would be a worthwhile excursion. Sadly the recent rain has caused a landslip at Dogmersfield and the canal is closed there “until further notice” so it may be a while before boats can get to the limit of the navigation at Odiham.

Photoblog:

I love the Snakes n Ladders board on the hatch - great idea!

I love the Snakes n Ladders board on the hatch – great idea!

Deepcut View...

Deepcut View (1)…

What's this structure then?

What’s this structure then?

Deepcut view (2)

Deepcut view (2)

Deepcut view (4)

Deepcut view (3)

Deepcut view (4)

Deepcut view (4)

Deepcut view (5)

Deepcut view (5)

Deepcut view (6)

Deepcut view (6)

Deepcut view (8)

Deepcut view (7)

Deepcut view (8)

Deepcut view (8)

Deepcut view (9)

Deepcut view (9)

View back towards Deepcut top Lock from Deepcut Bridge..

View back towards Deepcut top Lock from Deepcut Bridge..

You see a lot of these signs hereabouts - I'm glad that the greyhounds don't like retrieving toys/balls/sticks or "suspicious objects" :-)

You see a lot of these signs hereabouts – I’m glad that the greyhounds don’t like retrieving toys/balls/sticks or “suspicious objects” 🙂

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