About Me

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After thirty years of hiring, I finally bought my own 50ft boat in 2005, which was built in 2001 by Andicraft at Debdale Wharf. I mostly cruise single handed and have no problem with that, although it does take a little longer than with a crew. My mooring is on the Wey Navigation, so I have a choice of routes on the Wey or the Thames.

Friday, 6 April 2012

A Basingstoke Virgin

This post has nothing to do with Richard Branson, so rest assured that I am not planning transatlantic flights into Basingstoke. It is all to do with the Basingstoke Canal, which as you probably aware, has been in suspended animation for a good few years for various reasons, not least that is owned by Hampshire and Surrey County Councils jointly, who have spent very little money on its upkeep since restoration in the ‘70’s, until now. Several large trees have been felled at the Wey Navigation end and the Woodham flight of locks appear to be in good condition, with some attention paid to paddle gear and lock gates in good condition, however, the bottom is too near the top and is in need of some serious dredging. Once above Woodham top lock, the going was much better in clear water for some distance, although there is still plenty of weed, timber and other rubbish afloat.

Approaching Lock No. 1
I was invited by Kathryn Dodington to join the Byfleet Boat Club on an Easter Weekend Cruise and having never ventured up the Bassy in 5 years, since owning Stronghold, I jumped at the chance. There were eight boats taking part, so there were crew on hand for lock wheeling, which was fortunate for me, because I could not have achieved this on my own. The lock landings or waiting points were impossible to get to, due to lack of depth, as I soon found out when I wanted to stop to clear the blades. I realised that the better of two evils was to carry on with rubbish on the prop, rather than to try and stop.

Waiting for the ranger with no depth for mooring.

After spending the night moored at The Anchor at Pyrford, I accompanied Dick and Brenda King on nb Nancy Bell to Woodham Junction on a very cold morning, to meet up with the other boats at Lock No. 1, where we waited for the ranger to arrive and unchain the gates. I then progressed with Zavala, with Brian, Margaret and Suzanne operating the lock gear, though I did manage to wind a paddle or two. We cleared the six locks in good time and were then cruising through mostly clear water with reasonable depth for the next 2/3 miles to Bridge Barn, which was our stopping place for the night. By this time, the sun was out and so were the people at the pub. Several people along the way commented on how good it was to see some boats moving on the cut at last.

They have their own dredger, but don't seem to use it very much!

The Gang moored at Bridge Barn

It was a big table booked for us at Bridge Barn, and as it was a Beefeater House, I was rather apprehensive.
Firstly, there were not enough staff serving drinks at the bar during this very busy period and I only got a pint, because Peter insisted on getting me one in with his round. The table was booked in the restaurant upstairs, which was some respite from the melee at the bar. It took about an hour from being seated to actually getting the food and I was served with my spare ribs, which were very good, but by this time I would have eaten almost anything! We had all had enough activity by now and rolled into bed for a fairly peaceful night.

Day 2.

It was a much warmer night with cloud cover, so no need to light the fire this morning. We set off at 10am with Stronghold and Nancy Bell in the lead. We were soon at St. John’s  Lock flight and all went well until the final pound, which was down by about 12ins.

Bottom lock with Nancy Bell

 Trevor, an ex maintenance man from the Wey Navigation, was lock wheeling and had to let a fair amount of water through the top lock before we could make an entrance, having been stemmed up in the middle of the cut.
Not a lot of water here!

Stemmed up with no way off.

Trevor runs some water through.

 The main problem was the depth of leaves on the bed of the canal, which just choked up the propeller and almost stopped it from rotating. With more water and Trevor bow hauling, I managed to get into the lock, followed by Nancy Bell.

Where did Ratty come from?

The same problem existed above the lock and considerable tooing and frowing continued until we floated free beneath the bridge. After that it was plain sailing in very pleasant surroundings along the long pound to Brookwood Country Park , where we arrived about 1pm and moored up for the night.
Chaos ensues in the mud and leaves.

 I was fortunate in getting on the only jetty with bollards, most of the others having to put planks out.
The first and best mooring.

Brookwood Country Park

Later in the afternoon, I decided to walk up to the Deepcut Locks. It was in the 80’s that I last saw them from a car, when they were being restored, so it would be interesting to see what state they were in now. I passed by Brookwood  three locks, most of which had no paddle gear. There was was water in the pound above, but very green with weed.

Lots of the green stuff about.

Plenty of these too.

 Further on I got to Deepcut bottom lock with an inappropriate sign advertising lock opening times.

Someone's having a laugh.                                                       See what I mean!

Something is going on! 

Strange culverts beneath the cill.

On returning to the moorings it was nearly time for twelve of us to go out for the evening meal to the Hunters Lodge, part of the Vintage Inns Group. Service was much improved on the previous night and we were joined by Sylvia, who conned us into  believing it was her birthday. Upon overhearing that, the waiter brought a bottle of Champagne, implying that is was on the house, but never actually saying so. At the end of the meal, it appeared on the bill, which no one was happy about. Eventually, Brian ‘manned up’ and asked about it, upon which the waiter apologised about it being on the bill and said it was a promotion paid for by Vintage Inns – whereupon smiles broke out all round. Apart from that little hiccup, an excellent evening was enjoyed by all. Finally, Kathryn invited me to join the Byfleet Boat Club, so I think I had passed the vetting procedure!

Day 3
 A rather miserable day with mist and the promise of rain. However the day was brightened up by the arrival of the Easter Bunny with a goody bag from the Basingstoke Canal Society. There was a bottle of Merlot, a chocolate Easter bunny, a little Easter chick and a card thanking me for venturing up the Basingstoke – how nice. We set off a little later and had an uneventful trip back to Bridge Barn, where we had yet another meal. After the last fiasco, it could not have been any worse and it wasn’t, thankfully.

Day 4.
Awoke to rain on the cabin top and it continued throughout the trip down the Woodham flight to the Wey. Phil turned out on his bike to do some lock wheeling, which was very welcome. There was a lot of hanging about, because the locks are very slow to fill the last few inches, but I don’t think anyone got stemmed up, as the channel had been somewhat cleared on the way up and all the pounds were full. Where the water came from, I just don’t know – we didn’t have that much rain and there was nothing coming through Deepcut.
I continued on the Wey with Mick and Suzanne on Aqua Vitae to our moorings at The Pelican, arriving in the middle of the afternoon.

Final impressions.
I have waited five years to voyage up the Bassy and I found it to be somewhat of a challenge, but extremely enjoyable, with new experiences and new companions. I have booked to go again in June for the 40th aniversary of the re-opening, but I will need to go with another crewed boat, because the lock landings are just too shallow to enable a mooring to operate the locks singlehanded. No doubt something will turn up.

Note. I finally got this blog published with pictures with a Wi Fi conection in The Pelican, even though there was no internet connection, or so it said! The first priority was to upload the photos, as they take the longest time to upload. Once that was done, the text was soon done. Trying to do the same with a 3G connection was just impossible. How do these other bloggers do that?

1 comment:

Leo No2 said...

A virgin no more I suspect. You are most welcome to join us - all we have to do now is get you to become a member of Byfleet Boat Club (the other BBC) - I am sure you would enjoy it - all the details are here http://www.byfleetboatclub.com/magazine.php and then download the Membership pack. We really would welcome you as a member. The dredger belongs to River and Canal Services (Rob Locatelli) and is shared with the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society but quite what the relationship is I am not sure. St John's today!