Last weekend the team here at Waterways holidays were lucky enough to have a weekend away boating on the Kennet & Avon. Our partners at Bradford-on-Avon provided us with a lovely 69ft narrowboat – the ‘Duchess 6’ which was so comfortable, clean and spacious and was the perfect floating home for our weekend break.
On arrival we were greeted by the boatyard manager and after putting all of our belongings and supplies onto the boat we were ready for our show-through. This included a complete walkthrough of the boat, beginning at the bow we were shown how to use the mooring pins and how to tie up the boat properly. Inside we were shown how all the electrics work, how to turn on the engine and heating (v.important in Feb!) and a couple of very simple engine checks. Next came the steering, which may seem daunting to a first-timer, but once you’ve got the hang of it it’s actually really fun.
We started our journey heading west from Bradford-on-Avon towards Bath. Cruising past the impressive 14th Century Tithe Barn, this is worth a visit if you have time. After around 30-45 minutes cruising we reached the Avoncliffe Aqueduct, the first of the two aqueducts along the Kennet & Avon. The approach to the aqueduct is at a 90 ̊angle, which you approach slowly and beep your horn to notify other boats on the other side of the aqueduct. On the first afternoon we cruised for around 1.5 hours, our first mooring for the night was at a little village called Limpley Stoke. From here it was a short 5-10 minute walk to the Hop Pole Inn, where we had an evening meal.
After an early night and a good breakfast the next morning we set off towards the Dundas Aqueduct. The scenery along the Kennet & Avon is a nice mixture of farmland and woodland set amongst rolling hills, with small villages in between. The approach to the second aqueduct is also at a 90 ̊angle, cruising across the Dundas Aqueduct offers some stunning views of the River Avon and surrounding countryside. Once off the aqueduct you will enter Brassknocker Basin, where there is a water pump and recycling facilities. We continued on towards Bath, encountering a couple of swing bridges on our journey, easy enough to operate, using the windlass provided on the boat to undo the bolt and then pushing the bridge to the side of the canal.
On the approach to Bath, we cruised under some stone bridges and through a small tunnel near Sydney Gardens, where there are moorings if you wish to walk through the gardens into Bath city centre. We decided to moor just after the gardens and walk across the bridge overlooking Pulteney Weir, into Bath. We spent the afternoon visiting attractions such as Bath Abbey and the renowned tea house – Sally Lunn’s, the oldest house in Bath built in 1842, and known for its famous buns. After a quick coffee we made our way back to our boat ‘Ginny Marie’ and took a look at the two locks that we needed to operate to turn around at the winding hole just after.
Two of us made our way back to the boat to begin cruising towards Bath Top Lock whilst the other two began preparing the lock by opening the paddles with the windlass; this enabled the lock to fill with water. Once the lock had filled with water and the water levels were the same, the lock gates could be pushed open, allowing the boat to cruise into the lock.Once the boat was in the lock and secured with ropes, the paddles at the opposite end of the lock were opened to allow the water to drain out. When going ‘down’ in a lock you must always be aware of the cill (the concrete part of the lock) as the boat could get caught on it if you don’t stay forward. Once the water levels were the same inside and outside the lock, the gates could be opened, allowing the boat to cruise out. Luckily for us, some ‘gongoozlers’ also gave us a hand with the gates.
We decided to head to Bathampton for our second night, and by chance we managed to secure ourselves a mooring right outside The George Inn. Once again we had a very enjoyable meal along with a glass of wine or two. Tired from all of the fresh air and full stomachs we decided on an early night again, so we’d be ready for a prompt start for our journey back to Bradford-on-Avon. We’d moored up in a ‘quiet zone’, which means that engines must be switched off until you start cruising, keen to get the heating on we set off just before 9am and had breakfast on the move.
We cruised back past the farmer’s fields and through the swing bridges, looking at all the narrowboats moored up along the towpath. Many of these boats were live-aboards and out of courtesy it is important to go as slowly as possible past them, so as not to disturb the people or their belongings on the boats. We stopped off at Brassknocker Basin to top up with water on the way back; this is very easy to do and takes around 15-20 minutes. We journeyed across the aqueducts again, making the most of the surrounding views and taking lots of photographs.
We arrived back at Bradford-on-Avon on the Sunday afternoon, to begin packing our belongings and give the boat a clean, leaving us enough time to take a closer look at Tithe Barn, which is well worth a visit. We loaded all of our bags into the car and said our goodbyes and thanks to the boatyard owner for such a fantastic holiday. One that I think we all thoroughly enjoyed and would all highly recommend.