The Kennet and Avon from Bath to Bradford-on-Avon has got to be the busiest stretch of canal I’ve yet experienced – specially on a sunny Sunday the week after a bank holiday weekend. Lines and lines of permanent moorers make it slow going. Hire boats carrying heavy drinking stag parties add to the hazards. When we got stuck behind a group of 20 or so novice canoeists paddling from Dundas Aqueduct to Avoncliff we gave up on any speed over tickover and just enjoyed the ride.
On our last evening in Bath we were sitting on the poop deck at 6pm when one of the aforementioned stag parties wobbled past on their way out for the evening. They were all in fancy dress – I’d guess medieval English was the theme. Where’s your camera when you need it? Tucked away in the boat of course. About 3 minutes later a couple of stragglers arrived one of whom (dressed as Robin Hood) was being held up and stopped from landing in the canal by a fluffy purple dragon. Not sure how his evening panned out as he was barely able to stand before he started!
One of the first hazards you face when leaving Bath from the river is the dreaded deep lock. Linda and Richard on nb Mary H came to grief here a few days ago when they caught their tiller under the walkway at the back of the lock and bent it badly. Forewarned is forearmed and we approached the lock with caution. It does make the whole process very much easier if you’re in the lock with another boat and have been warned of the hazards and we managed without incident.
After Bath Locks the canal goes through some very elegant bridges and tunnel portals.
You’re lulled into a sense of false security by this serene stretch of canal. It’s not long before the lines of moored boats appear and your speed drops.
It’s also an extremely beautiful canal and the slow pace gives you plenty of time to enjoy the views. We thought we were doing pretty well when we reached Dundas Aqueduct, filled up with water and emptied the things that need emptied.
Unfortunately for us that also included a group of 20 or so novice canoeists. Our speed dropped even more and Gord was having real problems steering as the back markers were often out of his eye line. You really don’t want to mow down a group of kids – specially when their parents are walking along beside them on the tow path!
Dundas aqueduct to Avoncliff aqueduct taken at novice canoeist speed takes quite a long time. There was a convoy of about eight narrowboats by the time we got there. We’d decided not to attempt to go straight into Bradford-on-Avon that afternoon but stay the night at Avoncliff and sneak in the next morning when the hire boats had moved on for the day. It was a good choice. We got a mooring in Avoncliff easily and had a lovely afternoon there in the sunshine. The Cross Guns was incredibly busy but there was room for us to sit outside with a drink and an ice cream and people watch. Perfect!