The Long Journey Home – Part 18
Friday 22 June 2018
We left Sheffield Bottom (stop it!) on another beautiful day having rocked ourselves off the shallow mooring. It was a long, straight stretch until Sulhampston’s Lock, followed by a swing bridge an on to Tyle Mill Lock. We were aiming for here to use the services provided. Sometimes Narrowboating seems to be less about beautiful scenery & tranquillity and more about finding the next service point.
The Nicholson’s Guides have clear symbol designations for Water Points, Sanitation Stations, Bin & Recycling and most importantly: Pubs 🙂
When on the Cut, you’re only as good as your next service stop, no water, full toilet, bags overflowing with recycling does not for enjoable narrowboating, make! Luckily though, you do use a lot less (there’s no time to consume, you’re too busy checking and re-checking the engine or opening & closing another lock!).
The Black Cat
So, with water taken onboard, toilet emptied at the Elsan point and thoroughly cleaned, mu went off to prepare the lock. At this point a boater called across and asked if we were travelling with a boat that had just pulled into the Service Point. We weren’t and she asked if she could travel with us to Aldermaston. Would we mind as she was a solo boater. There were locks, swing bridges and lift bridges and they could prove difficult at times, especially if travelling alone. We were happy to agree and once through the lock, we crawled slowly past moored boats and picked up ‘The Black Cat’.
Introductions completed across the thrust of the propellers and roar of engines identified ‘The Black Cat’s’ owner as Jenny. Jenny was travelling with her dog ‘Brandy’ and black cat ‘Murphy’ and had local knowledge about the Kennet & Avon Canal around this point. We leapfrogged through the locks (not literally) and ended up parting for a while at the winding hole at Aldermaston Wharf. We went on through the lock, which was manned by CRT volunteers, making short work to bring us up to a long line of moored boats. Pressing on (on ‘tickover’) to a quieter spot by Poplars, we moored there, as recommended by Jenny.
The mooring was a little shallow at the point we chose and that, combined with a drop in the water level that the Kennet if famous for, saw MIRRLESS listing to starboard after our return from a walk back to Aldermaston Wharf. The worry always is “are we taking on water?” (and not for drinking purposes).
A Perfect Location
The location was perfect: shade from trees in this hot Summer, a view across fields, a nice view of trees across the other side of the canal and just one or two boats moored. A welcome rest from the long journey home.
A little later, we walked back, to The Butt Inn which is a nice pub. I sampled the Maharajah IPA which was one of the best IPA’s I have ever tasted. It was from West Berkshire Brewery. Mu had a Pimm’s.
Jenny had passed us and had moored up just beyond a widebeam vessel a few yards wayand it was as she walked her dog and cat that she put our minds at rest regarding our list to starboard.
“The levels were up and down. We weren’t sinking”. Phew!
The next morning we were still listing which all added to the sense of being aboard a boat. The lighting through the trees was beautiful and jenny passed with her Brandy and Murphy and we talked about Aldermaston. We planned to visit the village. It was a homage to CND 1972 and peace.
Around the same time we received a phone call that more crew were on the way in the form of Moira: mu’s Sister. She had set off by folding bicycle and was making her way out of London to board a train, bound for Thatcham. She would then cycle along the towpath, back toward us at Aldermaston and seeing how there was time so we set off for Aldermaston Village.
Along the way we passed The Black Cat. We stopped to say hello to Jenny, Brandy & Murphy (an inseparable three) and pick up a paintbrush, kindly lent us by Jenny. This was to paint in the missing ‘S’ in MIRRLESS. We had painted the previous missing one with a toothbrush (old one 😉 ). We would finally be MIRRLESS and not MIRRLEES.
Into the Village
Initially, the walk to the village takes a route over a bridge and on winding roads with no path that were filled with traffic. After a while, a path can be picked up which runs you into the pretty village of Aldermaston. It was another beautifully hot day.
The Hind’s Head provided a much welcome breakfast of Croissant and Coffee. We sat outside in the courtyard garden, in the sun. It was perfect. Aldermaston itself is an old building with lovely buildings. Not least of which is the Lodge with it’s wrought iron gate. We went into a local shop that provided everything. We walked back and upon arriving back at MIRRLESS: checked the ropes, swept the deck and then Moira arrived.
Waving, shouting and welcoming aboard ensued. After loading the cargo of a folding bike and a tour of the MIRRLESS we set off. I didn’t fall in – disappointment I’m sure, as it was now an expected event (word spreads quickly and you only have to fall in once and you’re expected to publish an itinerary of subsequent events…).
Locks, swing bridges and beautiful weather. Moira managed to get a flavour of canal life at its best. The day passed pleasantly and hopefully we hosted another honorary crew member well. However, the day passed on and we neared Thatcham but a dash for the train was called for. This is one thing you can’t do on a narrowboat – she missed the train. Not to worry, there was another one due in the not too distant future.
We moored up at the 48-hour moorings , just under the bridge by the level-crossing. We were entreated to a beautiful sunset.
Here ends The Long Journey Home – Part 18
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