Aldermaston (returning to the cut)

After finishing at the Hartley Wintney house that we rented for the family festive period it was off to the Kennet & Avon canal (the K&A) at Aldermaston.  We were heading for Frouds Bridge marina just outside the village where we would be picking up the narrowboat we’re borrowing for a couple of months.

Ken & Annie (also K&A) were kindly lending us their boat while they went ashore to do some grandparenting for a few months.  They are normally continuous cruisers but with the temporary lifestyle change they had put their boat in the marina until we took it over.  They had the best mooring on the marina as it was right at the farthest end of the site and next to the entrance to the river.  This meant they only had a boat on one side with pleasant views across the fields and the river on the other.

As the marina entrance is off the river the current can make it quite problematical getting out especially with the recent rain causing stronger than usual flows.  The river sections of the canal and also the Thames are still on ‘Red boards’ so we’re not going to be able to cruise far once we’re out of the marina.  The river section between the marina entrance and the cut is only a couple of hundred metres long so we all felt it was safe to go out and take a test drive on Ceilidh.

Our first UK cruise for a while
Ceilidh, like our first boat, has a cruiser stern so has a large rear deck and I was soon back into the swing of things; although making that right hand turn out of the entrance and into the current was a bit hairy.  With Karen’s back still not good we were all on alert to make sure she didn’t do any locking or try and drive the boat

The marina entrance with the river ahead, running right to left
Looking at the picture above, the river looks still, but that’s just an illusion and the current would easily be seen in a video.  Once we were out on the cut itself, Karen & I felt instantly at home as our first year owning a boat was spent up and down the length of this canal from Reading to Bristol.  The immediate difference compared with France was the number of moored boats.  In just under the mile down to the first lock we probably passed nearly as many liveaboards that we have seen in all our French cruising, other than along the Seine around Paris of course.

The only lock of the day was the unusual scalloped sided Aldermaston lock.

Setting Aldermaston lock
The K&A has double width locks that take two narrowboats side by side but as we were the only boat using the lock, we only needed to open one gate at each end.  Once through the lock we were going to turn left up an old wharfing arm that now just houses a sanitary station and water point near the beginning of the arm, the rest being filled in.  Ken & Annie have a manual pump out and they needed to show us how to use the kit as it is something we haven’t come across before.  Annie went ahead to check the station was clear but quickly came back to tell me to moor on the lock landing as there was already a boat up there.  It turned out to be Tina & Steve, friends of theirs who continuous cruise in the area on a widebeam.

We didn’t have to wait long for them to finish and I soon had Ceilidh moored up albeit with a bit of overhanging shrub brushing on the way in.  The self pump out was a simple job, and it must have saved them a fortune on pump out fees over the years as it costs nothing, other than a potentially sore back swinging the lever to operate the pump.

As there were no other boats around and not likely to be any others coming due to the red boards, we locked the boat up and went to the Butt for a couple of drinks and a pub lunch.  While we were there Tina & Steve joined us, and we had a pleasant hour or so of boaters’ chat before we realised the time.  It was beginning to get gloomy and we needed to be back to the marina as Karen & I were going to spend a couple of nights there getting the boat ready before venturing off.

Going back up Aldermaston lock with K&A’s dog for company
Annie & Karen walked back to the marina and Ken stayed with me whilst I drove back; happily, with no mishaps on the way.

Driving back onto the mooring
On Friday we cruised one and a half miles and went down and up the lock at Aldermaston.

We spent Saturday and Sunday settling into Ceilidh.  She is laid out in the reverse way to ours and therefore has the bedroom at the back and lounge or saloon at the front.  She is also three foot shorter which, surprisingly, makes quite a difference to the feel of the rooms.  They all felt smaller and we couldn’t work out why it was so obvious until it dawned on us that the lounge was in fact longer than ours. This would be because it was originally a hire boat where cooking, sleeping and washing areas would be kept small and living areas as large as possible because most hirers would only be aboard for a week or so at a time.  When holidaying, the majority of people make the most of socialising and tend to eat out or have a barbecue.

Ceilidh on her mooring in Frouds Bridge marina
We still can’t believe how fortunate we are that Karen found K&A and that they were prepared to lend us Ceilidh.  Other than the room size differences, which we immediately became accustomed to, the main difference was having two armchairs rather than a sofa.  Again, we have got used to that too and, as I said earlier, we really feel at home already.  Annie had even emptied out all her storage jars so we could use them.  Karen soon filled them while we settled in and we both had a good laugh when it occurred to her that it's going to be interesting dealing with anything we don’t finish off when we leave.  As the jars are Annie's we will have to bag up any leftovers.

One of the storage jar units Karen has filled up
During these last few days we have, of course, been popping into the hospital at Reading to catch up with our new grandson, Ellis.  He is doing really well (as is mum Lauren) and has put on a pound in weight already and, at 4 ¼ pounds, we don’t think it’ll be long before he will be allowed home.  The main thing they are waiting for is for him to be taking all his feeds from Lauren rather than being tube fed.  They are slowly transitioning so it should only be a few weeks before they are home.

On Monday morning we decided it was time to leave the marina and set off after getting a couple of bags of coal and filling up with water.  We weren’t going far but it was still exciting being afloat and on our own again. 

Buddy immediately decided where his spot was going to be once we were on the move
We decided to moor up at the end of a line of ccers and were caught by the wind as we were pulling in. In no time at all the front was blown across the cut and the back was soon following.  Karen was holding onto the centre line but couldn’t do anything because of her back.  Steve, who was moored at the other end of the line of boats had seen us when we passed and came along the towpath to give us a hand. 

We were soon moored up but with slack lines as there is a notorious ledge just under the water line. The water level fluctuates quite a bit on this stretch and hopefully leaving slack lines will avoid the boat listing too much if the level drops.

Moored just outside Padworth on Monday night

We popped around to Tina & Steve’s boat for a cup of tea and then went for a walk along the Kennet reliving our memories of the time we spent on the K&A all those years ago.

On Monday we cruised ½ mile through no locks.

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