Ten Bob Note  

Saturday 15th March 2008

Location: Burghfield, Berkshire, Kennet & AvonCanal

Today: 15 miles, 7 locks. Total distance: 1240 miles.  Total locks: 779

A day to remember - or perhaps, best to forget!!!

Another early start today. We set off at 07:00 to finish our journey down the Thames to join the Kennet and Avon before our one day license runs out.

We stopped off at Tesco in Reading to do a big shop. There was only one mooring spot left on the 24 hour moorings outside Tesco. I suspect that many of the boats moored there have been there for a lot longer than 24 hours.

Left Tesco and turned right into the K&A. There was quite a strong flow and we were only managing about two miles per hour on full throttle. A sign at the first lock warned of ‘increasing flow’ conditions. It wasn’t wrong!!

Just as you reach Reading town, there is a traffic light and a sign warning not to proceed if the light is on red – which it was. The sign tells you to press a button fitted to the pole that the traffic light is mounted on and to wait until the light turns green which the sign says can take up to twelve minutes. There is no proper landing/mooring beside the traffic light, just a metal bar wide enough to stand on and some posts. I pulled the boat along side the traffic light and stepped off onto the bar with the centre line in hand. I wrapped the centre line around one of the vertical bars to hold the boat fast while I pressed the button on the traffic light – the light instantly turned green. All in all, this strategy turned out to be a HUGE mistake. The fast flowing current had very quickly pulled the boat out into the river and the pull on the centre line had the boat leaning over at an alarming angle. As much as I tried to hold the boat, the pull of the stream was far too strong. I had to release the centre line to stop the boat being pulled right over. Had the centre line been securely tied to the side, I am fairly sure that the boat would have been pulled right over and sunk. The whole thing happened in much less than a minute. I always carry a knife in my pocket so that should any of the mooring lines ever get caught up (in a lock for instance), I can cut them quickly. Any way, by this point, the boat was out in the middle of the fast flowing river and I was standing on the bank watching it going backwards with the flow. Rhonda was by this point getting somewhat worried (perhaps an understatement) and was shouting to me for instructions as what to do. The best I could offer was to push the throttle forward to get some power on to stop the boat heading off down stream. Luckily, there was a group of volunteer canal enthusiast clearing rubbish from the canal. One of the guys saw what was happening and managed to board the boat from the far bank. Once on board, he was able to drive the boat across to me so that I could get back on. I can tell you that we were very thankful that he was there and very grateful for his help. A BIG lesson learnt today – never get off the boat in a strong flowing river.

After moving off from the traffic light, we found ourselves right in the middle of Reading town centre. As we were approaching a foot bridge that crosses the river (very slowly due to the strong flow against us) I noticed a couple of lads about 17 years of age looking at us and acting a bit suspiciously. As we passed under the bridge, they spat on us – very nice. I have heard of such things from other boaters but this is the first time that it has ever happened to us – probably won’t be the last.

As you approach County Lock from the town centre, there is a very strong flow from the weir which is right beside the lock. You have to keep right over to the left as you approach the lock due to the turbulence from the weir. Problem is – there is a rather large tree on the left bank as you approach the lock that badly needs cutting back. We ended up having the tree scrape the boat all the way down the left hand side. Luckily it didn’t take any paint of but we had to duck down to escape any injury from it.

Due to the flow from the weir and the tree being in the way, we ended up approaching the lock a little bit faster than we normally would. The boat was still moving forward as I stepped off with the centre line to haul it to a halt with the help of a mooring bollard. Unbeknown to us, during the episode with the tree moments earlier, the centre line had become wrapped around one of the mushroom vents on the roof. The strain on the centreline pulling on the mushroom was sufficient to rip it off the roof and catapult it about 40 feet past my ear and onto the bank. Had it hit my head, I think it would have done a lot of damage (it’s basically around a pound of steel with some sharp edges where it bolts to the roof). So this was the third event of the day – 1) the traffic light incident where the boat could have been sunk, 2) being spat on by the nice young lads on the toot bridge, 3) almost having my head taken off by the flying mushroom vent. Not the best day in the world!!!!

We carried on out of Reading and eventually moored up here at Burghfield. Not a bad spot but a lot of dog walkers, many of whom don’t seem to bother clearing up after their dogs.

Sunday 16th

We have had heavy rain over night (it was forecast) and we woke up to find the river a good foot higher than it was last night – oh we do love rivers – always lots of surprises. I had expected the change in the river so had tied up with fairly loose lines and four mooring pins to be on the safe side.

We are not planning on moving today, we need a day or so to rest after our last two long days travelling down the Thames to the K&A.

Looking out of the window at the speed the river is now flowing at, I suspect we would not be able to move forward even if we wanted to. I suspect that even on full throttle, we would still be going backwards – at least until we hit the first bridge!!!

Monday 17th

Something I forgot to mention in my last update – As we were passing through Reading centre on Saturday, there were lots of good folk with life jackets on trawling the river with ropes and hooks for rubbish. We passed a boat towing a barge with two full size skips on board. Both skips were full of rubbish – mostly bicycles. We spoke to a couple of the volunteers at the lock and they were telling us that kids steal the bikes in the estates on the outskirts of the town, ride them into the town then to get rid of the evidence, they chuck them into the river.

Around mid day yesterday, we heard a screaming engine then felt a significant bump to the bow. I opened the window and stuck my head out to see a boat coming down stream with the strong flow. They had hit our bow and were scraping the full length down the side of our boat – the engine being in what sounded like full power reverse. I spoke to the man and women as they passed and told them that in my humble opinion, the river was not safe to be travelling on. The woman’s answer was that they needed to be somewhere so had to move – it must have been important?? They passed us again about half an hour later – they had gone down river a bit and turned. The engine was screaming and we could smell the heat of it with our windows closed. They were barely making progress against the flow.

I checked the two bow moorings after the ‘bump’ incident and one of the mooring pins was just about out of the ground. With the flow of the river as it is, if the bow moorings were to give way, the flow would get between the bank and the boat and the boat would very rapidly get swept down river ripping the centre and stern mooring pins out of the ground. We now have three separate mooring pins with three separate ropes holding the bow firmly into the bank!! Must make a note to pick up some really big mooring pins for use on fast flowing rivers…..

Apart from lots of motorbikes roaring up and down the towpath yesterday afternoon, this has been quite a nice mooring spot. A few dog walkers and push bikes now and again but not too bad at all. Being so close to The Cunning Man pub, we thought it may be noisier. Would definitely moor hear again.

When we went out for our walk with the dogs yesterday afternoon, the river was actually overflowing it’s banks and starting to erode the path. Fifteen minutes later, on our way back to the boat, the river had dropped a good 4-5 inches and was no longer overflowing the bank. Some one down stream must have lowered some weir sluices or something in order to drop the river level?? It was amazing how quickly the river level dropped.

Still a fast flow on the river this morning but it’s not a problem for us as we have no plans to move today.

Re-fitted the mushroom vent - photo below for anyone that has not seen a steel mushroom!!!

Monday 17th PM

We met a couple of BW engineers this morning while we were out walking the dogs. They were opening sluices further down the river in an attempt to reduce the water level. We had a chat with them and they advised us to stay put for another day or two until the flow has reduced. Apparently there is a narrow bridge up river ahead of us and as all of the flow is channelled through the small gap, the flow may be too strong to get the boat through.

The water started flowing over the bank again this afternoon – photo below.

Current mooring

Early morning mist

A Thames lock and weir at Mapledurham - lock to the left

Note helicopter beside swimming pool

Black swan

Start of Kennet and Avon about a mile up from the Thames

Can just about make out traffic light on right bank straight ahead of boat - beside the white poles

Looking back at Spitting Bridge

Near Burghfield

Mushroom now re-fitted to roof - weighs about 2kg

Tripple bow mooring ropes!!!

The Cunning Man pub - looks old but it was only built in 2001

Flowing over the bank again


Material Copyright © 2008 Ernie Williams
This page last modified on: 23 April, 2014 5:31 PM