Friday, February 25, 2011

A Bath-time story - The lock of doom.

 This first picture shows the 1st lock in a flight that goes from the river Avon up onto the Kennet Avon Canal proper. The gates you can see are fairly average and lead onto a winding hole next to that beautiful Weeping Willow.
This is the winding hole and that glass front is the bar/eating area of the Travelodge we stayed in. Now for the story......a long time ago (J was just coming up for 3) we had a canal boat holiday on the Kennet Avon. It was a total nightmare - the boat was on its last legs (and it wasn't cheap!) and everything that could go wrong did.
I remember seeing this Willow and the hotel and envying those sensible people who had avoided boats - it seemed like an oasis of calm after a day and a bit and two nights actually on the River Avon (which going from Bristol to Bath isn't very nice).

 This is the 2nd lock in the flight. It is one of the deepest locks in England. Those gates at the end are massive. When we went up this flight, J and I stayed on the boat whilst M worked the lock. It was terrifying, I kept it under control as I didn't want to spook J but I was bricking it. The lock ends are massive solid blocks and the boat was hard to keep still, being the only boat in the lock, and I had read about boat ends getting caught on the blocks and getting capsized. Our little barge bucked about - and the rope round the white poles (you can see them set in the side of the lock) was woefully inadequate. But we made it through.
Due to other stuff we cut our holiday short by one day and decided to flee back to dry land. We stayed over night in Bath and planned to get up very early, do the flight and get back to Bristol and head for home - what had taken us almost two days - done in one. M and I swapped roles. He stayed with boat, I worked the locks. Including what I now call 'the lock of doom'. All the others where fine, it was pissing with rain, I was drenched to the skin, but I did all the locks and then we reached this one. We had to drain it to go down a level, then open these huge gates. To this day I do not know how I opened these gates on my own. They would not budge. I put my whole bulk against them and kind of bounced and sent a plea to the universe and slowly they started to move. Momentum did the rest. I pulled virtually every muscle in my upper torso and was on painkillers for weeks. We, with a few more adventures and mishaps, got to Bristol by 4.00pm, it was still raining and we drove in a storm straight back to Brighton. I was never so happy to see the hills of home!

We went, for the first time since then, and had a proper look at this lock, it still 10+ years on, gives me the heebie-jeebies. I don't like it at all. But I felt that I needed to go and see and lay this demon to rest and I think I did.

On a positive note - I did enjoy our time in Bath and Bathampton on that canal holiday and have since been back quite a few times. I did enjoy this time being the sensible person in the hotel looking out at the locks - shame we saw no boats using them. The canal water levels seem really high and the locks are undergoing repairs. I still like walking along the towpaths - but this time with a sense of relief that I am headed back to a proper bed, toilet and shower that do not move and cannot (in all probability) take on water and start to sink!

No comments: