Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Caen Hill

I'd been invited to spend a few days aboard Kris and Bernard's boat "Sunshine" which is currently on the Kennet & Avon Canal on an extended cruise from its normal base at Pillings Lock on the River Soar. I agreed to meet them at Devizes and then realised that I could get all the way there by bus from Hereford on a Stagecoach Explorer ticket for £6. The journey involved changing buses at Ross-on-Wye, Gloucester, Cheltenham, Cirencester and Swindon and would have been considerably quicker by train, although that would have cost over £20 and I would still have had to take the bus from Swindon. The bus journey was a scenic delight, passing the fringes of the Forest of Dean, crossing the Cotswolds and bridging the North Wilts Canal at Cricklade before running through the Wiltshire Downs and right through the middle of the  ancient stone circle at Avebury.before setting me down right in the centre of Devizes. Many of the buses were double-deckers, allowing superb views from the top deck. Every one of the six buses I caught was exactly on time, except the very last - which was 11 minutes late "due to a problem at the other end" (Shades of Reggie Perrin!).

The following morning we set off down the locks. There are 29 of these between Devizes and the bottom of the flight, sixteen of which run spectacularly down the hillside in a straight line. Sharing most of them with another boat we made good time and arrived at the bottom of the "16" only three hours after leaving Devizes. There are spectacular views to be enjoyed whilst working the flight, but as I was steering I didn't see much of them: my main view being of the inside of the locks as the boat descended. It was only at the bottom that I got the chance to experience the full beauty of Caen Hill
The main part of the flight of locks at Caen Hill
Kris and Bernard, who did most of the lock work, said it was relatively easy due to the excellent condition the locks were in  - a tribute to the local British Waterways' staff who are responsible for maintaining them. They are certainly in better condition than last time I was here, when I took the following photograph!
Caen Hill locks in July 1981

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