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Monday, 21 October 2013

Kennet & Avon Canal - Part II (Bath to Pewsey Wharf)

Next morning, after a quick trip up the Avon as far as Pulteney Bridge, we set off back towards Bradford-on-Avon along the Kennet & Avon Canal. After negotiating Bath Locks again our only viable lunchtime stop was outside The George at Bathampton!
The George, Bathampton
As it was now a Monday lunchtime there was plenty of room to sit and the experience was much better than two days earlier!

After lunch we cast off and spent the afternoon gently navigating our way back towards Bradford-on-Avon, arriving there just after 6pm. This gave us plenty of time to explore the delightful village and the pubs therein.

We ignored the Canal Tavern and walked past The Three Horseshoes finally ending up here.
The Bear Inn
The Bear Inn, Bradford-on-Avon
Despite its traditional exterior, inside was quite modern and stark. As it was early evening on a Monday it was quite quiet, but a few people were turning up for the quiz night, just as we were leaving.

Next was the Dandy Lion which has the feel of a proper pub and provides very good food.
The Dandy Lion, Bradford-on-Avon
Contrary to what you'd expect, it hasn't been a pub for that many years. Most of it's 200+ years of existence was as a variety of shops (including shoe shop!) I can't remember the details, but I think it has only been a pub for about 20 years. It felt much older than that.

After more beer, wine and food it was time to head back up the hill to the canal and we just had time to pop in to The Barge for a nightcap...or two!
The Barge Inn, Bradford-on-Avon
As The Barge Inn is just over the cut from where we were moored it seemed like a good idea. However, the only lagers available were 5% and served in non lager glasses...not a good combination. It also felt more like sitting at a farmhouse kitchen table than a cosy pub! However, there was an unexpected memory to take away.

All experienced boaters know that pubs tend to offer the best option for toilet facilities and we usually take advantage when necessary. One of my fellow travellers (I won't name him here!) needed to pay a visit and, when he returned a few minutes later he related a strange occurrence. Apparently, as he was sitting there he suddenly had the sensation the the room had tilted to 45°! After a suitable pause, I needed to go as well. As I was sitting there I experienced nothing strange and was beginning to think my friend was going soft in the head or had drunk too much. But then I stood up to sort out the 'paperwork' and suddenly the room tilted to 45°...very weird!

Next morning we were on our way again heading east and we ended up at Seend Cleeve for lunch.
The Barge Inn, Seend Cleeve
Another Barge Inn, but a much more satisfactory experience than our previous Barge Inn visit the night before!

Back onto our boat Anitra for an afternoon of working locks up to the bottom of the world-famous Caen Hill flight - sixteen locks rising 130 feet towards Devizes.
Caen Hill Locks
That was something to look forward to for the next morning, but our immediate problem was - where is the nearest pub? The village of Rowde was about a mile away and we were hopeful that we'd find something.

There were two pubs, so that was us sorted for the evening!
Cross Keys, Rowde
The Cross Keys is a fairly standard pub, but food wasn't available on the night we were there. Not the end of the world because there was another choice.
George & Dragon, Rowde
The George & Dragon isn't really a pub, but rather a hotel with a restaurant, so we were happy! After a pleasant meal we headed back to the Cross Keys for a couple more before strolling back to the boat ready for an early(ish) start to tackle the locks next morning!

Next day it was quite misty when we set out up the locks. It took us a little over 3 hours to negotiate passage to the top, but this included a ½ hour wait for a wide beam boat coming down at about the eighth lock. After all the hard work, this was our mooring.
Black Horse, Devizes
Mooring up at a pub garden is always the best! Lunch was pleasant and we were off again a couple of hours later. After three more locks we then had a long flat stretch of canal all the way to Pewsey. This turned out to be the longest travelling session of the holiday (and also the first time it rained!). It was my turn to steer and 5 hours later we were mooring up (illegally) at Pewsey Wharf in the dark and wet.
Waterfront Bar & Bistro, Pewsey Wharf
Fortunately for us it was open and serving food. Again, not really a proper pub, but it passed all the criteria we needed - food, drink and a seat. It felt more like a clubhouse for the local boaters (it was quite busy when we arrived) and the landlord/owner was a real character who'd had many previous jobs including owning one of the early hire fleets on the Kennet & Avon Canal. All-in-all a very good night of eating, drinking and talking (and we were the last to leave!).

This seems like an appropriate point to press the 'Pause' button.

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