After two days at Sydney Gardens we needed to move on or we risked being charged extra. We’re sure that Bath has more to see, but we’re also likely to be coming back this way pretty soon. The weather forecast suggested that there could be some sharp showers in the afternoon, so we decided to set off fairly promptly so as not to be locking during them. It was only a short cruise to the locks, which are grouped close together and quite deep.
As we approached we could see a volunteer lock keeper closing the gates at the far end and heading away from us. Clare hopped off and caught up with him to check that we were OK to enter the locks. We were, and he said he would help us through if nobody needed him more than we did. He helped us through the entire flight, including walking ahead to set locks and informing us about the quirks of the lock flight while chatting pleasantly on more general topics.
With the extra help, we made good time through the flight. The unusually numbered lock 8/9 is a relatively recent replacement. The site of lock 8 was used for a road, so the total drop has to be accommodated at the location of lock 9. Once I was at the bottom, Clare had the unusual task of opening the gate with her windlass. The gates are so large and heavy that a (human powered) hydraulic system is needed. The concise instructions were complemented by a longer message warning boaters not to let swans through the locks.
The next lock was down on to the River Avon. Our helpful lock-keeper suggested that if we had time to spare we might wish to explore upstream before heading on our way. I had contemplated doing just that but had been unsure if it was permitted – now there was no stopping me.
As I’d hoped, it was not very far upstream to the weir immediately below Pulteney Bridge. The gentle approach in to the horseshoe waterfall put me in mind of the Maid of the Mist – though I have to admit the falls are not as large, and there was a lot less mist.
We turned round and headed off down river. We reached the first of the river locks just as a shower was starting. The river had seemed so quiet – we’d only seen one boat, a hen party – that I reckoned we could sit on the lock bollards and have lunch while the rain went over. We’d hardly started eating when a boat appeared behind us – it was the hen party! It turned out the trip boat delivered them to a nearby pub and used the lock bollards to wait for them, and to turn round. I was able to reverse back, leaving the bow rope on a bollard and tie the stern to a handy tree. We had a pleasant exchange with the boat driver while he waited for his mate to bring him his lunch – and then we nipped in and had ours. I also put the pram cover up – the showery weather was coming!
By the time we’d eaten, the hen party had gone away and a narrowboat was coming up in the lock. Before we’d helped them through there were two wide boats waiting to come up too. There were signs warning of a sand bank on the exit to the lock. One of the wide boats was on the lock bollards as I exited. After collecting Clare I had to pause while they moved in to the lock before steering firmly away from the shallow water. The friendly crew of the boat asked about moorings in Bath, and volunteered a suggestion for a mooring spot for us.
I was glad I’d put the cover up when a very heavy shower came on suddenly between the next two locks, but the rain had gone off again before we reached the next lock. After that lock we found the recommended mooring spot and decided to stop for the day. The mooring was not the easiest, but Clare managed to get ashore with the bow rope, and then we have tied the stern to a tree to stop. Getting on and off involves a bit of a jump, but we still managed to get to the local pub – and back – without undue difficulty.
Access to the river up and down steep banks seems to be a local theme here.