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deluge – 30th July 2019

Written back in July 2019, but finished off (with the obligatory photo selection which I’d had in mind at the time) on my non-working Wednesday on the last day of April 2020: there’s a lesson here somewhere!

It’s so timely to revisit our trip now though. Back then, we never could have imagined that it might have been impossible this year (before coronavirus.

Before, when we were free to go out and play in the rain!)


I feel like I have passed some kind of a test today. One from the River God of Rain.

So – as I may have mentioned before – we had to set off from our previous ‘this is our home now’ of Wootton Rivers this (Tuesday) morning at 10am, in order to be allowed up to the summit towaards Crofton (lock 60) and on-wards, past lock 63, to beat the restrictions in place, otherwise we would have been marooned until Thursday.. and our feet are already too itchy.

Imagine my delight then, this morning (to be fair as the forecast had predicted) it started to tip it down this morning a 9.30am. Of course, this was no ordinary rain. This is the kind of rain that soaks you to the skin in 2 seconds flat. Tropical Mexican storm you-can-have-a-shower-and-wash-your-hair-in-it-rain. The kind of rain you get in horror films or Stranger Things. Epic rain.

I don’t think I can quite describe the wetness of said rain. But in the conspicuous absence of my lovely waterproof walking boots and fabulous wide brimmed cowboy hat (which would have been perfect for this scenario, but are currently residing at Ryan’s Mum’s house because seemed like overkill when it was 30 degrees and we had a train to catch and already too much to carry), I ended up wearing my three quarter length running tights, sandals (yes sandals, the kind you wear on walking holidays: I figured wet feet was better than soggy), a vest top, a shirt and a woolly jumper, my sarong as a scarf, green flat cap (previously army-themed hen-do issue) and bright yellow mac.

Before settling on the sandals/bare feet scenario, I messaged my friends back in Buntyvillle for advice about my inappropriate clothing dilemma, with a photo:

“It’s like your mish-mash of running clothes lol'”concluded Marie. Accurate.

On the plus side, it was a proper test for both my mac, and Ryan’s new red one, but to be fair I’m not sure there are many jackets which would have stood up to today’s task.

Within about 16 minutes my arm-seals had sprung a leak. Not a terrible one, just as if my shoulders were slowly weeping. Other than that though (which created an interesting non-sweat caused dampness in the underarm area of my woolly jumper) my little sunny rain jacket did pretty well and kept me chipper in a way that a dark green, blue or black one could not possibly do. Confession: I was definitely helped kept buoyant by Ryan’s eternally sunny – almost joyous – attitude to the rain… I think something was made complete, for him, by today’s ‘inclement’ weather. (Honestly our empty tea mugs were filled up-to half by the rain at one point… in 10 minutes).

There was a few highlights that kept us going. Mainly the wonderfully cheery C&RT volunteers. I mean, they are doing this by choice. They are VOLUNTEERS! ….They don’t have to be through the restrictions by the end of the day, as otherwise they are stuck for another two days.. they’re just there for the sheer joy of it (although one lady – in shorts – did confess to me that she hadn’t realised the weather would be ‘THIS bad today’).

There must have been only four locks of thirteen that didn’t have volunteers grinning, laughing about how they were all slighty crazy and telling you to ‘head on and jump on the boat’ as they closed the final paddles. They were my heroes today. I hope they’re all now at home, sat in their fluffy dressing gowns, having enjoyed a long hot soak in a bath and a nice beverage of their choosing.

Less fluffy but more in its element was our friend the Kingfisher (probably the same one we saw on our walk back from Crofton) who darted out, ahead of us entering the Savernake/Bruce Tunnel. The tunnel itself is 459m long (yes, I checked). Its not especially wide (maybe 17 foot wide) and you can see how its been constructed in sections of old red brick, with seams at every 1.5 metres illuminated by the light at the front of your boat.

It was built in 1809 after the 1st Earl of Ailesbury Thomas Brudenell-Bruce refused permission to cut deep into his land, so the foot-way and the railway go over the top and the only way you an actually physically get through the tunnel, is by boat. You can’t help feeling like the past is rather close for those 6 minutes; that there might be horses pulling you through from the tow path up ahead; or men laid either side of walking the boat along with their feet or hauling it with bulky biceps aided by the chains on either side.

Or this is what I thought about anyway. It transpires that for Ryan (who was at the controls) is was more like slow motion sustained panic as his eyes played tricks on him the entire way down and his tiller arm stayed on alert to push the boat back in one direction or the other every millisecond. Less stressful for me, that bit. Here’s what it was like on video, in case you’re interested.

…and we’re out (and into the rain again)!

A couple miles on at the other side of the tunnel, there was a little green and red harlequin patterned bug, trying to work out where the hell to take shelter as he tiptoed around the end of our gang plank, weighed down by the rain droplets clinging onto his back.

At the point when hunger and cold started to set in, I headed inside to make tea (yes, I drank proper bonafied caffeine filled cup of tea today. What can I say? Desperate times. There were also several – okay, five – rich tea biscuits, which helped things considerably).

It was at this delightful tea and rich tea filled moment that we realised we were at the summit, Crofton Top Lock, number 55.. and that it was downhill from here. (Neglecting the thought that we still had eight locks, to do at this point; nine in the end, to get to Great Bedwyn, where we ‘live now’).

There was a glorious slightly drier section, for about 45 minutes, when we managed to get out (ahead?) of the deluge. Our horsey acquaintances near Crofton had just been turned out. The mare waited until her owner had disappeared and then came over to say thank you and show me how much better her eye was now.

The wind blew tepidly through our macs like a not particularly well-maintained body drier at a Centre Parks and (almost) dried out our underlayers. That’s one thing about English weather: the really bad bits make you appreciate it when it’s fair to middling, or just middling…. or middling to bad.

Having been lulled into a false sense of security, we asked some gardeners next to the lock if they’d had the rain yet. We were curious to know if we were being chased by a storm, or heading right into a fight with one. That’s when we got our answer. It had hailed on them. No sooner had the words left their mouth, when the skies opened, right on cue.

I cast a jealous thought back at those cosy little pigs (well, more accurately some cosy little pigs’ bums) enjoying their straw-filled tunnel at the previous lock. And then was dripping again, nose to feet.

Our soggy moods were lifted when we met our final C&RT volunteer at lock 63, who said it was just one more lock (one more lock!!) to Bedwyn.

We spied a cleverly placed sign on the paddle, announcing fresh bread and fresh produce, across two bridges and up into the town opposite the red phone box (fresh produce, local store) or down left down Church Street, on the right for the bread (Post Office).

What a promise for hungry, cold, dripping wet, boaters. Sure enough, we found a spot just after Great Bedwyn Wharf, moored up and headed straight over the two bridges and into town to replenish our supplies.

A couple of hours on, and we have eaten Ryan’s left over first-made-it-on-the-Kennet-&-Avon-chuck-in-everything-we’ve-got, good-job-we-brought-apricots-and-almonds chicken-tagine and I’ve prepared (but we are too stuffed to eat) peach crumble… and we have a fully stocked larder for breakfast. Happy days!

It’s a cute little spot. The rain is still doing its thing. The church bells of Great Bedwyn have just finished ringing and Ryan is just retrieving three soggy feathers from the back of the boat for me, which I’d jammed into the wooden crates for safe keeping. (Ryan’s wishing for a thunder storm, of course; this would be the cherry on the top of his day).

We have quite a feather collection building up; no kingfisher feathers. Yet. Probably a rare find, but if we do that will be our floating home’s name decided once and for all. We’ve got swans feathers though, and blackbirds, ducks, geese, what we think might be an owl and possibly a goldfinch .. and these silky elegant grey ones which are pointy at the end and float when you swish them back and forth through the air, gangly too, like how a pelican flies, so we think those belong to it. It’s certainly a burgeoning collection.

I need to come up with a crafy plan for them… light shade? ‘Light and shade of the Kennet & Avon’? Hmm, this may need some work. It’s been a long soggy day…

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Angela #

    Love your ramblings, so well written xxxxx

    April 30, 2020

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