What happens when you are cruising down the canal which is approximately 25 or 30 feet wide and want to turn your 70 foot canal boat around to head home? Until yesterday this was just a theoretical question, but we had hit our half-way point and needed to spin around to head back east to Aldermaston. We knew we would need to look for one of these semi-circular arrow-squiggles on the map which indicated a "winding hole" on the river. Good start!
A winding hole is an area of the canal or river where there is a scallop carved out of the bank, or sometimes where a side "tributary" canal joins, or perhaps a weir to the main canal. Regardless, there should be a minimum of 75 feet of turning space unless otherwise specified, which gives us just under a couple of meters to spare. As we approached the W.H. our strategy was simple – stick close to one bank of the canal and then slow down before hauling fully on the tiller… at some point engage reverse to slow ourselves down completely. As the bow neared the opposite bank, Jboy16 would jump off with a rope and help pull us through 90 degrees to finish the turn. That was the plan, and that was (somewhat surprisingly!) exactly what we did! Admittedly it did take us more than five minutes to fully turn around and we sure stirred up plenty of mud . Turning complete – only one more to do at the very end as the boat company ask that the boat be returned to the dock pointing upstream!
As mentioned, we also spent some time looking around the town of Hungerford, a small town of approximately 5000 residents that was a bustling canal town in the 1830s. The canal between Newbury and Bath was proposed and designed back in 1788 by a group of Hungerford "gentlemen" who thought that the canal would bring prosperity to the town. Barges of stone, brick, timber, tiles, coal, manure and peat ash were ferried up and down the canal until the early 1900s when the railway gradually replaced the canal as the preferred means of transport.
These days, the town is a typical small English town – and even more typical today as it was shrouded in a light fog that hid the sun from view all morning. However, there is a fantastic collection of antique shops through the town which actually captured all of our interests with their range of ancient instruments, tools, pots, carriage and boat parts, post boxes and all other unimaginable but interesting bits and pieces! The local butcher’s shop also looked fantastic with traditional sausages, fresh whole pigeon, guinea fowl, partridge, grouse and venison. We decided to stop by the butcher tomorrow on our way downstream to buy some handmade sausages for dinner!