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jradley

Kennet & Avon - Devizes - Bath - Devizes in 4 days ?

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The Barge food is pretty good, as is the Mill, the George ok and the one at Seminton ok-ish. Bt the one at Semington had excellent cider - something pig.

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It’s a shame that you have already booked your trip from Hilperton as there are closer hire companies nearer to Bath, two around Bradford on Avon and one at Bath. We have been to the George at Bathampton three times, the first and second times we complained about the food so did not have to pay, the third time the food was ok. We did talk to a couple on the third occasion that said they had been going there for 20 years and never had a bad meal, you pays your money you take yer choise.  

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Thanks again for all the feedback. I like the idea of having some known go-to places on the route but in reality I think we will end up just playing it by ear with any plans going overboard from the start, replaced by weather, progress made and want to make on any given day and just how we feel at any given time. We may get to all the pubs or none of them. It's nice to know what we might be letting ourselves in for though.

 

Re Hilperton - I'll be honest, the choice came down entirely to cost, which results from us having a relatively small boat (47ft) - shorter and cheaper than what most yards were offering and a very good offer on that boat that popped up literally the day I was looking to book.

 

John

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On 18/07/2019 at 11:33, Johny London said:

There is what looked like a winding hole after the lock east of the Barge, I don't know if it's an official one though. Funny enough I was with a boat looking to wind (which they did further up just west of swing bridge 150). You can see it on google though the map shows it more clearly than the photos. Might or might not be deep enough.

 

Winding Seend.png

 

We often turned our 57' nb there. The offside can be shallow if the pound is down on water, but what would one expect. Oh, it is not marked as a winding hole.

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To add some closure to this thread.... we just got back from our trip on Friday.

 

Ultimately we didn't make Seend, but did make it to Bath and Semington. I have to say that whilst I enjoyed the trip I didn't enjoy it as much as I'd hoped. The fundamental issue was that we had set ourselves what we thought was a moderately ambitious itinerary, but turned out to be overly ambitious. making for early starts and late finishes, and not fitting in some of the things we would have liked to do. The missus enjoyed it, but she wasn't the one driving for 7 hours a day....

 

Fundamentally the western K&A sucks. The scenery is very pretty and Bath is lovely, but the whole stretch apart from Avoncliff to Dundas is littered with mile after mile of liveaboards, most of which clearly haven't moved in months or years. Some of them clearly can't move, others have expired licenses and one I spotted with what is evidently a scanned copy of a license with the date changed and printed on a home printer :(. Passing them all at tickover makes for slow progress - in fact every journey we did took 50% longer than what CanalPlan reckoned. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against people who choose to live on board a boat, but they should respect the rules and when there are so many of them that clearly flout those rules it gets annoying.  If time is on your side then that isn't a problem of course, but with a hire boat time is limited. I found trying to get to places, arriving late and having nowhere to moor quite stressful, which is not the point of a canal holiday. What was meant to be 4 or 5 hours cruising a day becomes 6 to 7.5 hours and as a novice I was having to concentrate more than what an experienced helm would and was knackered at the end of each day. We were damn lucky at Bath top lock that we could get a mooring, which worked only because we were 47ft - any longer and we would have had to go through the locks to find a mooring or turn and come back, but that would have written off what was left of the day by the time we had got there and written off any chance of actually visiting Bath.

 

We almost certainly will do another canal holiday, but it won't be on that stretch of the K&A, that is for sure. 

 

 

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Enforcement on the K&A is pretty strict and as far as I am aware almost all of the boats are moving at least every 14 days. There are quite a few long term moorings down that way but otherwise I am not sure how you can "clearly" see that most have not moved for months or years. There are a small number that are not moving but these will already be in the enforcement process or granted an exception.

 

.............Dave

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OK, so unless you pass by on a regular basis it is impossible to know the movement of boats. However, there were clearly abandoned boats - some sunk and some cruisers with no outboard or stern drive, so I doubt they are moving every 14 days, but to be fair, they're not being lived on either. There were more than a handful with blatantly expired licenses - my guess was that if they don't care about displaying a valid license then they probably don't care about moving, either, but maybe they do to reduce risk of detection and confiscation. Some boats had so much crap on the roof they wouldn't get through the low bridge just west of Bradford and probably not some of the other bridges further west either, so unless they dump the crap in the woods, move, come back and put all the crap back on the roof then I doubt they are moving far (the amount of crap on the roof on some boats equals the internal volume of the cabin space, so they can't put it there to move either).

 

However, besides all that, it's just a feeling you get that these folk have lived there for a decent while.  As an example, there was/is a very large camp set up just into the woods off the towpath. It has structures and looks like a communal area for cooking and sitting around. It looks very entrenched into the habitat and doesn't look like it was built in just a day or two - a lot of work if you're only hanging around for a week or two. I got a real sense that this stretch of canal houses a community, rather than a bunch of random liveaboards that just happen to have rocked up in that spot and have been there for anything from a few days to a couple of weeks max. 

 

I guess it's possible that there is a constant flow of boats arriving and leaving within the 2 week period, so at any one time the stretch is always full but with different boats coming and going, but if that were the case why would the CRT feel the need to increase monitoring and enforcement on that stretch, as highlighted here http://kanda.boatingcommunity.org.uk/crts-plans-for-the-ka-include-more-enforcement/

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22 minutes ago, jradley said:

OK, so unless you pass by on a regular basis it is impossible to know the movement of boats. However, there were clearly abandoned boats - some sunk and some cruisers with no outboard or stern drive, so I doubt they are moving every 14 days, but to be fair, they're not being lived on either. There were more than a handful with blatantly expired licenses - my guess was that if they don't care about displaying a valid license then they probably don't care about moving, either, but maybe they do to reduce risk of detection and confiscation. Some boats had so much crap on the roof they wouldn't get through the low bridge just west of Bradford and probably not some of the other bridges further west either, so unless they dump the crap in the woods, move, come back and put all the crap back on the roof then I doubt they are moving far (the amount of crap on the roof on some boats equals the internal volume of the cabin space, so they can't put it there to move either).

 

However, besides all that, it's just a feeling you get that these folk have lived there for a decent while.  As an example, there was/is a very large camp set up just into the woods off the towpath. It has structures and looks like a communal area for cooking and sitting around. It looks very entrenched into the habitat and doesn't look like it was built in just a day or two - a lot of work if you're only hanging around for a week or two. I got a real sense that this stretch of canal houses a community, rather than a bunch of random liveaboards that just happen to have rocked up in that spot and have been there for anything from a few days to a couple of weeks max. 

 

I guess it's possible that there is a constant flow of boats arriving and leaving within the 2 week period, so at any one time the stretch is always full but with different boats coming and going, but if that were the case why would the CRT feel the need to increase monitoring and enforcement on that stretch, as highlighted here http://kanda.boatingcommunity.org.uk/crts-plans-for-the-ka-include-more-enforcement/

Don’t bother yourself with the issues of the western K&A. Just pick somewhere more suitable for your next trip. You don’t declare where you are but if the western K&A was convenient than I suspect a trip from either Worcester or Heyford might also be feasible. From either of those you’ll find canals that are far more representative of the English system than the western K&A. They’re narrow beam for starters.

 

JP

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I'm in east Berks, so the Oxfordshire or GU would be convenient. I'm not sure if the GU would open a whole new can of worms though, but just guessing the Oxfordshire would be nice.

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7 minutes ago, jradley said:

I'm in east Berks, so the Oxfordshire or GU would be convenient. I'm not sure if the GU would open a whole new can of worms though, but just guessing the Oxfordshire would be nice.

I suspect if your opening question had been “I’m based in east Berkshire where does the forum recommend for a midweek hire within easy driving range?” a popular answer would have been “Oxfordshire Narrowboats at Heyford”. You’d certainly get a different experience and I’d be willing to bet at least a fiver it’d be a more enjoyable one for you.

 

JP

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The only way you can check if a boat is licenced is to look on the CRT website. CRT haven't been supplying printed licences for some years, although they will if requested. A bit like cars.

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13 hours ago, sueb said:

The only way you can check if a boat is licenced is to look on the CRT website. CRT haven't been supplying printed licences for some years, although they will if requested. A bit like cars.

OK, many thanks for that - I wasn't aware of that

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14 hours ago, Captain Pegg said:

I suspect if your opening question had been “I’m based in east Berkshire where does the forum recommend for a midweek hire within easy driving range?” a popular answer would have been “Oxfordshire Narrowboats at Heyford”. You’d certainly get a different experience and I’d be willing to bet at least a fiver it’d be a more enjoyable one for you.

 

JP

I'd bet more than a fiver that you're right :) TBH, I stumbled on this forum a bit late in the day, after we'd already decided it would be really cool to visit Bath by boat. The opening question was therefore more a case of "if we are to visit Bath by boat where can we set off from". We would both love to do another canal holiday and the Heyford base is a very likely contender.

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As the truly spectacular Western End did not satisfy, then maybe the op can tell us what sort of canal he would like to do? Lots of locks/no locks/pretty countryside or industrial/canal archeology, and the forum may have a few suggestions. If a bit of driving is ok then the Rochdale from Sowerby Bridge to the summit has some of the feel of the K&A but with far fewer moored boats, though we did meet a hirer up there last year who said their holiday was spoiled by the untidy moored boats.

I always find the Oxford a little tame compared with K&A. The T&M and the Caldon are both rather good.

 

............Dave

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I agree that the scenery is truly spectacular. That aspect we loved about the trip. The issue was in lack of making progress, when on a schedule, making for long and tiring days. That is entirely my fault and is due to being a first time hirer with unrealistic expectations. I had based those expectations on the CanalPlan website, which seems to base its cruising time on an average of 3mph. I'd thought that might be reasonable, but was wrong. For the trip overall I reckon we managed 2mph, with some sections at probably 1.5mph average or even less. As an example, we were following a widebeam from Avoncliff to B-o-A - about 1.5 miles and it took well over an hour. It was so slow that I had to keep engaging neutral as in gear tick-over was too fast for the boat in front much of the way. The lack of available visitor moorings, despite being (just) outside of school holidays was a worry too. Like I say above, we got damn lucky at Bath and also got the last available place at Semington when we stopped for lunch, but other than that we had to press on to less desirable places than we had wanted to moor.

 

It's not the lack of progress that would put me off doing the K&A again, but the lack of mooring at places does somewhat. There was just the 2 of us and my wife really struggled with the lock at B-o-A and also the couple of swingbridges we had to open (she is very slender person). We had help on all occasions otherwise things would have been more tricky. I think any stretch of canal with a lot of locks would have to be done with friends, which we would consider. I do wonder if narrow locks might be a little easier though - at least I could prob climb on the roof to hop onto the side of the lock to help with the gates (not ideal I know).

 

Rochdale would be a bit far - ideally we would like within 2 hours or so of Reading.

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Lots of hirers assume they will do 4mph so your 3mph estimate was not too bad. I reckon on 2.5 mph most of the time but we are big and deep. The K&A from Bradford to Bath is very slow, maybe 1.5mph much of the way, and getting stuck behind a widebeam is a real possibility. Its not a good canal for widebeams but there are a lot down there. I think the hire companies should take some of the blame as you may well have enjoyed it a lot more if you had been given more realistic expectations. Arriving in Bath and finding nowhere to moor is also always a realistic possibility. 

I also wish some of the locals would keep their boats a bit smarter with a bit less roof clutter, but then last week we shared a few locks with a boat with spectacular clutter and it was an enjoyable day with a pleasant and competent boater, and some of the roof clutter was actually quite interesting, in fact many of the Western Enders are creative and entertaining people and a canal boat holiday should be a chance to get away from the drabness of 9 to 5 life..

 

.............Dave

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I am a long time hirer, and over the years my wife and I have done various canals. We've never done the K&A (despite it being the closest canal to where we live) and read the OP's comments with interest. We did a week on the Shropshire union/Llangollen canal a few weeks ago, and I happened to encountered two separate boat owners who had cruised the K&A earlier this year. They were both unimpressed with the K&A, with one of them mentioning that in their opinion the Western end had far too many liveaboards and the other mentioning that to their surprise the canal is overgrown and shallow at the edges in places. They both mentioned that these factors make finding a place to moor harder than it should be. 

 

jradley I would highly recommend you do another holiday on a narrow canal......your wife will find the narrow locks much easier to work than wide locks. I would also recommend you don't really set a strict schedule.......if you are on a 4 day hire just see how far you get in 2 days then turn around. This makes for a much more relaxed holiday.....especially when you encounter unexpected minor stoppages, which happen more than you might think. (We've been stuck at a lock for 3 hours because a tree branch was stuck under a paddle stopping it closing, and on our last trip an unfortunate hirer sunk their boat in Wharton's Lock on the Shropshire Union....it took 2 days to clear it). Sometimes locks get congested and it might take an hour or so of queuing, so a schedule can just add stress.    

 

Edited by booke23

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Why do men do the easy bit and steer the boat and leave women to do the hard work of working the locks? I can understand it if the man is disabled but to have a strong healthy man holding the knob whilst a slim woman strains with the locks is just stupid

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In our case it is because I have been handling boats since I was a kid, while my wife had no boating experience until we started hiring narrowboats. So although my wife has tried steering the boat, she isn't confident or proficient and it stresses her. We only ever hire for 1 week, and she feels it is a poor use of time and effort for to her to spend this limited time learning. 

 

Of course when we buy a narrowboat, this will all change and she will learn to steer! 

 

     

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In our case it is because of a close shave in a lock when two crew of another boat coming down from the lock above rattled open the top gate paddles in the lock my wife was in before she was ready. The boat was flushed back and then dragged forward until it hit the gate. 

 

This frightened my wife so much that she has refuzed to take our boat into a lock since. The incident must have happened about 25 years ago.

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17 hours ago, jradley said:

It's not the lack of progress that would put me off doing the K&A again, but the lack of mooring at places does somewhat.

 

Your comment about the spectacular and ever-popular western end of the K&A reminds be of the bloke waiting to get served at the bar in a crowded pub. He turned to his mate and said "Great place this. If only it wasn't so crowded they could sell more beer and make more money". 

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15 hours ago, booke23 said:

They were both unimpressed with the K&A, with one of them mentioning that in their opinion the Western end had far too many liveaboards and the other mentioning that to their surprise the canal is overgrown and shallow at the edges in places. They both mentioned that these factors make finding a place to moor harder than it should be. 

 

Bearing in mind I have very little to compare it with (other than hours and hours of watching youtube canal vloggers) , we didn't find the shallowness and overgrowth too bad. That said, we had to use the gang plank 3 of the 4 nights we were moored. It was ok, just, but I do wish they would make the planks wider than they are - twice as wide would give me more confidence. We also almost had an accident when mooring with the plank when trying to pull the boat in by the centreline. The stern started to drift out and almost dropped the plank in the cut, which would have created a bit of a difficulty !!

 

Also, after the breach some years ago west of Avoncliff they have lined the entire section to Dundas with concrete. It creates a shelf at the sides which I guess is a bit like the shroppie shelf.  We didn't know about that until we tried to moor there. That was one of the nights we had to use the gang plank, but not the scariest or longest walk over water. Perhaps not surprisingly this is the only section that is not packed with moored boats - in fact there are very few.

 

We will definitely do another canal holiday - my wife loved it and I know I would too with a different approach.

12 hours ago, sueb said:

Why do men do the easy bit and steer the boat and leave women to do the hard work of working the locks? I can understand it if the man is disabled but to have a strong healthy man holding the knob whilst a slim woman strains with the locks is just stupid

Totally agree. However, I have many years experience sailing yachts and dinghies, including tiller steered yachts. Although I have never driven a narrowboat before I found it very easy to handle. My wife has never driven a boat of any kind before and was struggling with steering. With practice she will get there, but on this occasion she was not confident and would very likely have got into difficulty, which would have brought on a full blown panic attack and ended the holiday there and then. She was happy to steer under my supervision when there were no other boats around to hit, but due to the circumstances already discussed that didn't give much opportunity for practice.

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Regarding Canalplan, my guess is that the 'average speed' in the program comes from a time when there were far fewer 'continuous cruisers' lining the canal banks and, while it is true that the default times can be changed, you need experience of cruising on a particular canal to know what more realistic timings are. We now just plan against a 4 hour cruising day, with reduced cruising and lock speeds, and try to stick to that.

 

As far as women working the locks, and not steering, is concerned it is a matter of confidence for my wife. She is far more confident in her abilities working a lock, and mine steering the boat. Conversely, she doesn't have much confidence steering the boat, and less in my abilities to work the lock!

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To be honest the south Oxford can be just as stressful in terms of finding a mooring at peak spots after a long days cruising. Especially if you do the equivalent trip and try to go from Heyford to Oxford and back in a weekend with a full day sightseeing in Oxford. Literally everyone wants to moor in Thrupp and Oxford is also busy, and this time you can't use tatty looking liveaboard boats as the scapegoat, as there aren't any on the canal that don't have permanent moorings. Really the trick is to be far less ambitious about where you want to get to. But I know it is hard to get into this mindset. It has taken me nearly 10 years of boating to finally slow down and not try to cruise until dusk and still expect a perfect mooring on a busy canal. The hire boat companies really should give customers more realistic targets of journey times etc...

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The K&A is very much a "Marmite" canal and the only way to find out which side you are on is to visit and arrive with an open mind.

 

We are ere now, used to spend winters here lots but been up North and returned for a summer visit. Full of apprehension after reports that it had got even busier and had far more non-boater liveaboards but its still great, in fact better than ever. A few two many big shinny widebeams, one or two moored in silly places, was the only issue for me. The re-opened Barge Inn was quite a highlight.

 

............Dave

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