Saturday, July 10, 2010

Early start, early finish.

We got off early again today, and this time it was – just before 8 o’clock! Two reasons really. There were a couple of potential pinch-points on today’s trip, and we wanted to get moored up before it got too hot this afternoon.

So we were up, Meg walked, and into Dimmingsdale Lock at 8. We just made it before a boat coming down from Compton. I felt a bit guilty, but they weren’t in sight when I filled the lock, only appearing when I pulled over to the top gates.It was fortunate as it happens, being first on the water we had the advantage of catching any locks that were full. The following boat had to refill each as they came to them.
We cleared the first three locks in quick time, arriving at Bratch Locks after only an hour. There was no-one about when we were here last time, but during the summer there’s a lock-keeper on duty.
These three locks are very close together, with only a very short pound in between. The water to fill the chambers is held in side ponds, similar to the staircase at Foxton. They were originally designed as a staircase, but re-engineered as single locks to save water.

Coming down Bratch Locks. The tower structure is the lock-keepers lookout.Operation isn’t rocket science, you just have to make sure that there’s somewhere for the water to go before emptying each lock, but the lockie is on hand just in case. Blue before Red in this case.
The lock keeper explains how they work to a couple of young gongoozlers.As they are so close together, it’s one way traffic at any given time, and we were lucky to arrive just before another two arrived at the bottom.

Two boats waiting to go up.
Shortly after is the delightfully named Bumblehole Lock. With those two recently coming up it was ready for us to go straight in.

Variation on a theme – pear-shaped bywash weir at Bumblehole LockBotterham Staircase Locks were another potential hold-up, but once again we arrived just nicely, and were down the pair in 20 minutes.

Out of Botterham Locks.
Then just two more locks around the village of Swindon, a quick stop for a paper from the handy shop near Swindon Bridge, and we pulled up just above Hinksford Lock.

Moored at Hinksford.
We were here in plenty of time to watch the qualifying rounds for tomorrow’s Silverstone Grand Prix. It looks like the McLaren boys are going to struggle against the dominant Red Bull cars of Vettel and Webber. Hamilton is 4th on the grid, but Button failed to get to Q3 and is slotted in on 14th. Still, it can all change on the day.

Locks 11, miles 5½

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