We’ve finally made it onto the Basingstoke Canal on our third attempt! We set off with Sue and Andy on nb Festina Lente a couple of days ago with hope in our hearts that this time we’d be successful.
You need to book onto the canal and are given times when you can work through the locks. There are several SSSIs so there is a limit to the number of boats allowed through each year and as there is a always a water shortage the locks have to be very carefully managed.
We moored up at the bottom of the first set of locks…
…met Carl the Ranger, were told the rules and regulations, received our licence, signed our lives away…
…and set off up the locks.
The bottom lock of each flight is unlocked when the first boat goes up at it’s alloted time and locked again when the last boat has gone through. It’s inevitably hard work to start with, as all bar one of the twenty nine locks need to be negotiated in the first two days. The eleven locks of the Woodhams and St John’s flights on the first day and the seventeen of the Brookwood and Deepcut flights on day two. No stopping half way up a flight and deciding to moor up for the night when you get knackered!
We got this far on our first attempt so were not feeling smug yet.
Lock Five, where we came to grief the first time, had come and gone with no problems so we were starting to believe we could actually do it! We were particularly aware of the problems that logs could cause, so were on the case when we spotted any, making sure they were removed and put to one side on the canal bank for retrieval when we come back down. No point in wasting good fuel.
The only ‘official’ way across the locks is via a bridge at the bottom but that didn’t stop Andy using his boat hook as a balance as he daintily tripped across the top gates, much to Sue’s consternation. I don’t think she fancied getting all the weed and crap off his clothes if he fell in.
It really is a very beautiful canal….
… and, as it was Sunday, there were plenty of gongoozlers around to watch and chat. Many of them walk the canal regularly and were surprised by the sight of boats.
The second day, going up the three locks of Brookwood and the fourteen of Deepcut proved tough going. The canal is just as beautiful but the locks are quite hard work. It wasn’t helped by the fact that a boat going up ahead of us had left a paddle open at each end of a lock, draining the pound above. That caused us to have a compulsory hour long lunch break while the ranger sorted it out.
You’re normally supposed to finish this flight by 3.30pm but it was after 4.30 before we went through the top lock and moored up at Frimley Green, before heading off to the Harvester for dinner – too knackered to cook.
Our mooring was right beside the Frimley Lodge Miniature Railway. What a great toy that would be to play with! I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see it running but they were working on the model train so we did get to have a peek at it.
It was a hard couple of days’ boating but it was great to have finally got here. Only one more lock and a few low bridges to tackle after this, as well as the journey back down of course.