I got to know Mike
& Liz Holloway, because they had their narrowboat built by Heron
( as mine ) and also started a website about their boating aspirations
and then the reality. ( see www.snecklifter.com ).
We finally met up last year, first at Abingdon and then later on the Oxford Canal. They had earlier ventured onto the Kennet & Avon Canal, but only got as far as Newbury, and decided they could not face any more of the K&A obstacle course. I said they had missed the best, and it was worth the effort to carry on.
In a rash moment ( after a couple of shandies ) I suggested meeting in Reading in 2004 and travelling together all the way to Bristol and back. It would be a lot easier always
working two boats through the locks, very helpfull to me, single handed, especially some of the awkward swing bridges. The final plan agreed was to do the K&A, then up the Thames to Lechlade and then the Oxford Canal to Braunston. I had also decided to move the boat to the Midlands, and had secured a mooring in Braunston Marina, and Mike & Liz needed to get back to the Midlands.
I left Newbury on Saturday May 1st, and on Sunday afternoon met up with Mike & Liz above Fobney lock on the outskirts of Reading. Monday we started our adventure ( back via Newbury for me ) and set off towards Bristol.
The weather started badly, but improved after a few days, eventually staying very good for the whole trip, seven weeks. We soon got a good system working through the locks etc. and with my knowledge of my home canal, especially moorings, we settled into a most enjoyable routine.
As I said, the K&A can be a bit of an obstacle course, but it pays back the effort with a sense of achievement, some beautiful countryside, villages, wild life etc. and it's aspect keeps changing. We spent a lovely weekend in Bristol Floating Harbour, the Industrial Museum had a special working / steaming weekend, and with lovely weather the place was really buzzing.
I will not go into details of the trip to Bristol and back to Reading. ( Mike's web site diary gives a very good account ) But I will mention all the lovely places we stopped. From Reading to Aldermarston, Newbury, Kintbury, Hungerford, Great Bedwyn, Wooton Rivers, Devizes, Sells Green Bridge, Bradford on Avon, Bath, Bristol, Bath, Avoncliff, Sells Green Bridge, Devizes, Pewsey, Crofton, Great Bedwyn, Froxfield, Hungerford, Newbury, Theale, and back into Reading.
Reading on the 1st June, and set off up the Thames towards Lechlade, via
Goring, Abingdon, Hagley Pool, and Tadpole Bridge. The
upper Thames past the Duke's Cut was new to all of us, and with great
weather it was very enjoyable, all though it is hard work
negotiating all the bends.We saw plenty of bird life, Red Kites, Curlews,
a Barn Owl, Heron of course, but suprisingly only once a
flash of blue, a Kingfisher.
After a couple of lazy days at Lechlade, with visits from friends, we stopped near Rushey Lock and at Bablock Hythe on the way back to the Duke's Cut and the Oxford Canal and a mooring at Thrupp. We had plenty of time to get to Braunston so movement up the Oxford was very casual, stopping at Lower Heyford, Chisnell Lift Bridge, Banbury, Little Bourton, Cropredy, Fenny Compton, Napton and arriving at Braunston on Mon 21st June. We had a last meal together at the Mill House on Monday evening and Mike & Liz set off Tuesday afternoon. I see from their website the lazy days have become a habit, isn't life grand on the cut..
I wrote earlier it was a rash moment when I suggested the start of this trip, but it was definitely one of my best. The trip could not have turned out better, the weather was mostly good, the scenery mostly beautiful, nearly everybody friendly, we were able to moor everywhere we planned, and seven weeks in the company of such lovely people as Mike & Liz made it a trip to remember with delight.
The holiday carried on for me until the weekend. My son Lee arrived on the Friday, and we had a lovely day showing him the area, an evening meal at the Mill House, and a pint with a jazz band in the tent as part of the Historical Boat Festival. Saturday was the parade of boats, and Lee drove me home in the evening.
From the log, the total journey was 333 miles; 291 locks; 56 swing bridges; 6 lifting bridges.