Monday, June 15, 2009
I had a lovely day out yesterday on the Kennet and Avon - a waterway I have never boated on before - thanks to my friend Mike and his colleague Mark. Mike has been doing some steering on the Kennet Cruises trip boat Lancing - and knowing that I would like to add another big Northwich to my collection, asked if I would like to come along. Of course I didn't need asking twice!
Mike met me at Reading Station, and we walked down to his own boat, below the gaol, and I had my first introduction to this eclectic and challenging waterway, as we travelled through the Oracle shopping centre - a waterside completely and deliberately bereft of boats; a variety of locks and of landscapes, arriving at the Cunning Man pub at Burghfield Bridge.
From there we made the brief walk back to pick up Lancing, where I met Mark of Kennet Cruises, who made me feel very welcome. When I asked for instructions, I was instructed to go down to the bar and get myself a drink! Yes, they have a licenced bar - not that I took advantage of the licence, you understand. I got to have a little steer on the way back to the Cunning Man, where we were to pick up our passengers, and it was a different experience on the rivery Kennet, with its currents and silt banks, than on the Regents Canal, although I only tried on an easy bit.
Having collected the passengers (eighteen of them! Heady stuff - Lancing is licenced for up to 44, compared with the 12 that Tarporley, as a community boat, is permitted) we continued up through the next lock and on to Garston lock, just below which we turned around. This is where I came into my own, persuading all the passengers to crowd into the front of the boat so that the back end could just clear the mud. Amazingly, this works. We reckoned that they probably weighed at least a ton in total. Then back to the Cunning Man for the passengers to disembark, and all had thoroughly enjoyed it. That is one of the nicest things about running boat trips; you really get the chance to make people happy, even if only for a little while.
Looking at the Kennet Cruises website just now, I was particularly impressed with their potted history of Lancing, which is clear, interesting and engaging.