Thursday, 5 August 2010

Swing Bridge Trouble at Semington

A typical K&A Canal Swing Bridge
Swing bridges are a feature of the Kennet & Avon Canal. Those at the eastern end can be heavy and difficult to move, but those we encountered between Devizes and Bradford-on-Avon were, on the whole, a doddle. They even have proper off-side landing places which make it possible for a single-handed boater to work them, although as there were three of us on "Sunshine" this was not an issue on this trip.
The bridge just before Semington however was an exception. As we approached it in its closed position we could see a moored boat and people on the bridge deck jumping up and down.  Another, smaller, group of people were on the towpath side, but what they were up to we could not see.
It transpired that the bridge was stuck. These bridges are held in the closed position by a chain fixed to the deck on the towpath side which is then attached to a hook on the bank. When un-hooked, the bridge can be swung whilst the chain dangles over the far end. In this case, the chain had got jammed between the closing bridge and the towpath support. The captain of the moored boat had been attempting to free it for over ten minutes and was now resorting to using a lump hammer to knock his mooring pin against it. Despite an initial lack of success, this was actually a sound plan and after a suggestion that the chain be attacked from the other direction it came free and the bridge could be opened.
Sunshine (on the outside) and a Foxhangers Hire Boat wait for the bridge to be opened.
Semington was (and will be?) where the Wilts & Berks Canal branched off the K&A on its 52 mile run to Abingdon on the River Thames. The canal is long-closed, but you can read about its history and the plans to revive it here.
Wilts & Berks Canal Interpretive Panel at Semington

The boatyard at my home mooring at Norbury Wharf usually claims to have the cheapest red diesel on the canal system, but it will have to keep an eye on The Boatyard at Hilperton which last week was matching it at 60p per litre ("domestic"; plus extra duty for "propulsion").
Bradford-on-Avon Lock
Bradford-on-Avon is what in tourism terms is known as a "honeypot" site on the K&A and we weren't surprised to find a lack of vacant moorings even in the early afternoon. Things were being made worse by boats that were overstaying the 24 and 48 hour limits (and which had BW patrol notices on them to prove it) and also by inconsiderate mooring - a failure to share rings in order to maximise spaces between boats. In  the end we had to resort to moving an empty boat up to the next ring along to allow us to get in and even this was only possible due to "Sunshine's" somewhat shorter than average length of 30ft.

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