The Long Journey Home – Part 28
Saturday 18 August 2018
The Caen Hill Locks
Moored between the first and second locks of the Caen Hill Flight, we anticipated setting off early. We didn’t. What we did decide to do was have a big breakfast – a boater’s Breakfast. It consisted of scrambled eggs, Vegetarian sausages, hash browns, beans and toast. The galley coped easily for four as opposed to the two it had been previously used to. George and Tim (Daughter and Son) had arrived to act as honorary crew for the task that was the Caen Hill flight.
Prepared (gastronomically at least) I performed the engine checks and before long, we had set off, aiming for the second in the series of locks, having passed through the first last week. We entered the lock and saw another boat approaching beyond so waited. This hireboat with its crew of 1-day experience from Birmingham were to descend the locks and flight with us and it made for a pleasurable and speedier progress than going alone.
The First of Several
The first several locks until the Caen Hill Flight Cafe are normal, two narrowboat locks and the Cafe denoted the top of the 16 Staircase lock flight. Poised at the top, looking down provides an impressive view of Rennie’s (and more importantly, the French people who built it) feat of engineering.
When with someone else, there is no time to wait and admire the view, you are straight in and once in, there is no stopping as one lock feeds straight into the next – just like a staircase. However, just as we were setting off down, Ian: my Brother-In-Law arrived. Fresh from another Gumball rally no doubt ;-). He was the first of many visitors this day. We started down.
We threaded our way through the locks in fairly good time and it wasn’t long before my Sister-In-Law: Moira appeared on the towpath. More descent them my Parents-In-Law appeared. There was little time for stopping but I did get handed a takeaway latte from the Caen Hill Flight Cafe.
Ian Takes the Helm
Several locks in, I handed over the helm to Ian. As an Engineer by trade, he loves all things industrial and mechanical was in his element. This gave me breathing space to admire the 16-flight staircase lock and the crew (both mine and that of the neighbouring boat that went down the flight with us). My son Tim took over windlass duty. He was running backwards and forwards and opening and closing lock paddles and gates. My daughter: Georgina was on Grandma duty. The Grandma was less than keen to step aboard and was adamantly staying on the towpath. This was in contrast to my Father-In-Law who fairly hopped aboard. Once ensconced in a chair, he sat square in the middle of the lounge, commanding a view of the proceedings. He took the whole flight in his stride.
Just so readers know, there does come a point where the thought of
“not another lock?” surfaces.
It can start to seem fairly endless: once is normal, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action. Sixteen times is bl***y ridiculous! 🙂
There was one point where we two boats going down the flight met two others coming up. As this was a staircase lock, the first tendency would be to pull over to the side pound: a small ‘lake’ or reservoir used to feed each lock. However, it transpires that this is only about a couple of feet deep, so we would have got instantly grounded. So not a good idea. A CRT member was on hand and coordinated a shuffling of boats: a bit like the ‘Tile’ game. It worked perfectly. It was also extremely useful as further down, we met two further boats sans CRT member so I could coordinate proceedings like a boss.
After the flight, when the drama had died down and we only had normal locks to contend with, Gloria (Mother-In-Law) was convinced (cajoled!) to allow herself to be hoisted aboard. Once on deck, she loved every minute of it and an ambition (if not quite a lifetime ambition or bucket list tick off) was fulfilled.
We continued on to just before Lock 22/Bridge 146 Lower Foxhangers Bridge where we let the day passengers off . We then moored at the perfect spot. The end of a long day. The funny thing is, we walked straight back up the flight in a matter of half an hour. We stopped at the Caen Hill Flight Cafe!
With the flight accomplished, we were ready for the final phase of this journey – toward Bristol. There were still many places, moorings and journeys before we finished and the destination itself was unclear at that present time. It did feel like a milestone marker had been reached.
Sunday 19 August 2018
A beautiful morning, lazing on the boat. The thing about coming down the Caen Hill Flight of locks is that you have a fairly steep incline to walk back up into Devizes town. By the end of the weekend we knew that hill very well. George and I visited Caen Hill Marina to beg, steal or borrow water (just a couple of litres to get us throught he afternoon). It’s a large modern marina and it looked like a great place to moor. The shop/office had just closed so we couldn’t check out what it stocked. If it wasn’t for the fact that Devizes has no railways station, it would have been a tempting place to residentially moor.
George and Tim enjoyed their time aboard MIRRLESS, it was great having the family back together but they had to head back to their respective homes. Another walk back up the hill! They’ll visit again soon.
Here ends The Long Journey Home – Part 28
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