August 2012 - March 2013
We left Bristol to head back east along the length of the Kennet & Avon canal to Reading (87 miles and 107 locks). The 29 locks on the Caen Hill flight at Devizes is about half way back; it takes a whole day so we set out early when the summer morning mist hadn't burnt off.
Traveling only at weekends or every other weekend we arrived at Woolhampton (between Newbury and Reading) at the end of October. Here are a few snaps of the journey back.
As everyone probably remembers, the summer of 2012 was extremely wet hence our inability to get up the River Severn. Just below Woolhampton lock was one of the many places where the River Kennet joins the canal. The river was running so fast that boats were not being allowed through the lock as they would be swept away after coming through. Here are a couple of flooded locks that we just managed to get through near Newbury:
We had to leave the boat above Woolhampton lock until the middle of December when the stream decreased enough. Fortunately it was right next to the Barge pub which gave us something to do at the weekends. We had been for a drink at this pub a year earlier, on my birthday, and we were drinking at the bar when I noticed two girls looking at us - it took me a while to realise it was my daughter Lauren and her good friend Emily. They had arranged with Karen to turn up and surprise me.
We were allowed to move again on 15th December and we got as far as Burghfield. The next safe place to leave the boat after Burghfield was on the Thames. The Thames was still closed so we had to leave the boat at Burghfield (outside the Cunning Man pub of course) until the water levels went down in the Thames. We left the boat at the end of a long line of moored boats on the outside of a bend - we were at the rear of the line heading downstream - it looked innocuous enough as can be seen here:
We went back on 21 December for Christmas and couldn't find the boat. It transpired that it had loosened its moorings and traveled 1/4 mile downstream, through a narrow bridge and past many moored boats on a marina, finally getting wedged up against a large sluice.
Unfortunately we have no pictures of this but we learnt the story from the marina owner who was on his boat by the bridge when ours went through. Apparently he was shouting that we were mad to be traveling and that it was too dangerous. He realised that there was no one on board and was able to confirm that it only grazed one boat on its travels downstream.
He rallied together other people living on the marina and they roped her up and manged to drag her off the sluice and tie her to a boat opposite. We were very lucky and handed round a few bottles of scotch on Christmas Eve!
We moved the boat to Southcote lock where we had Christmas and New Year.
We were stuck there until 8 March 2013 before the levels receded and the canal was reopened allowing us to continue down to Reading. Which is yet another story...
Added 6/10/14. Just found a picture of the aftermath of the floodded canal.
The bridge the boat went through on its own:
And the sluice it was washed up against: