the voyage of friendship
part 11 - the basingstoke canal
Hello family and friends,
The most remarkable thing about my trip so far has been that it has gone roughly according to my plan. However, for the last few weeks I've been on the river Wey while I would like to have been on the Basingstoke canal which runs very close to my daughter's home in Farnborough. Unfortunately the Basingstoke canal, or "Basing" as it is fondly known, will not open all its locks now until early April but I was told that the first flight are in use and that I could travel as far as Woking, a place I knew little about.
Having brought Therapy back to Guildford last weekend I left her there to have a few days on land with Jenny and her family, have my washing done and play with the children. My plan had been to moor up around the corner from them but I had a lovely time anyway.
On Wednesday morning John and Jill, friends from Scotland met me at Guildford station and became the next crewmembers. John, like most men who take the tiller, quickly learned to control the steering. Women friends are often more reluctant to drive; for some (including me) its not intuitive and we take longer to pick it up.
It was sunny and warm and we had an idyllic journey, quietly cruising back down the river. I had arranged by phone to take Therapy on to the Basing on Thursday and we met the ranger at the junction at 10am. It is fed only by rainwater and every drop must be preserved, so after we had negotiated each lock, he "caulked up" each one behind us by pushing silt into the gaps that would otherwise leak through the gates.
We were the first boat to go up this season and passers by and "live aboard" boaters seemed pleased to see the canal coming to life again. It is a very weedy canal and having gone through the flight of 6 locks poor Therapy was struggling to move. On checking the propeller inspection hatch we found not only handfuls of weeds but plastic bags wrapped around the blades. Its all part of the privilege of being first up the canal!
Moorings often allow us to live in some wonderful places for a short time and in Woking we found a great spot very close to the station, the theatre and an art gallery, yet within yards of Horsell Common woods (where I could take Bunty for walks) and an old oak tree that blew down in 2007 had been carved into a huge horse by the Tree Pirates, led by Captain Chainsaw.
On Friday morning we checked out the headquarters of the World Wildlife Fund (which was also yards away) and a superb display of their work, enjoyed the gallery and had coffee and cake, all before 11am when John and Jill left for Oxford. Jenny's husband then picked me up in the car and we had a fun day with the children in Legoland, followed by supper at their house. Although I'm not around the corner, I'm making the most of being close-ish.
On Saturday I walked into Woking past the theatre and noticed that "Spamalot" was showing. I thought I'd love to go but I'm so reluctant to go by myself. I can drive my narrowboat, stay aboard in any lonely or busy place, I can even manage her through locks by myself but I'm afraid to go to the theatre alone! I gave myself a good talking to and bought a ticket. The show was brilliant and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
As Ewan is getting very busy at home in preparation for lambing, I'm enjoying the last couple of weeks of my journey. I look forward to having time with next week’s guests as we leave the Basing to start the journey on the Thames back to Reading.
Warm wishes to all,