Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Great Bedwyn to Newbury

After a soaking first thing, the weather picked up as we headed east towards Hungerford. We did have to perform a duckling rescue at one lock, where a duckling at got swept down the side sluice. Its mother was quacking frantically by the side of the lock and the duckling was paddling upstream frantically, but getting nowhere. Gallantly we jumped in and scooped up the duckling, delivering it to mum on the other side. My sympathy for the mother's anxiety abated however when, after throwing them a bit of duck food, I noticed that she was grabbling it all, leaving nothing for the poor chick.
"That one is a crap mum," I observed.
We have noticed whilst boating that some birds are distinctly more family orientated than others. Last year one duck, whom we nicknamed "supermum" managed to rear nine ducklings without losing one. When we watched her we realised that she always made sure the youngsters had food before she ate any herself. Other, less family orientated parents grab everything they can and leave the chicks to fend for themselves.
Anyway, crap mum or not, we felt we had done our bit. I stuck my soaking boots on the back to dry out and we pressed on. 

At Hungerford Marsh, the lock is awkward, having a swing bridge across the top of it. The bridge has to be opened before using the lock. Mick went on to deal with the lock whilst I secured the boat. The lock was against us so Mick closed the bottom gates, opened the paddles and, whilst the lock was filling, wandered off. When I got up to the lock I realised that the bottom gate had swung fully open and the water was rushing through, creating mini whirlpools beneath the paddles. Ooops! Luckily the pound above the lock was long and full. I yelled for Mick and we reset the lock again. 
"I remember this one, now," said Mick ruefully. "I had the same trouble last time, and I was on my own. I had to prop the gate shut with a pole."

The Rose of Hungerford passed us at Hungerford Wharf. This is a trip boat for the K&A Trust and was the boat that the Queen travelled down Caen Hill aboard for the official re-opening of the canal on 8th August 1990, 180 years after its first opening. 

 By the time we reached Newbury it was nine o'clock and we were pretty bushed. There was no room at West Mills so we wearily made our way through the swing bridge and tied up above Newbury Lock for the night.

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