Day Total (crew): 9 miles, no locks, 3 hours 18 minutes
Overall Total: 534.25 miles, 462 locks
Distance to Bath: 0 miles, 0 locks
So we are here, three months, over 500 miles and 462 locks and NB Essence and her intrepid crew have reached the City of Bath.
We’re not quite at our final destination – there are a few miles still to do later in the week, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
We started the day lazily as we had done the lion’s share of the journey in the beautiful weather of the last three days. (Very glad we did now as it’s raining as I write this today!)
I meandered back into the centre of Bradford-on-Avon to get some supplies from the supermarket and got a better look at these buildings.
I thought I had stumbled into Diagon Alley from Harry Potter!!!!
On the way back to the boat I took a slight detour and found the Medieval Tithe Barn. Medieval in this case means built between 1334 and 1379 and a Tithe barn was where the 10% of crops owed as land rent to the local Monastery were collected.
It was an amazing space – they have theatre here – but not any time we are around sadly. The precision of the date comes from the oak timbers in the roof. Dendrochronologists (aka People who date things by looking at tree rings) looked at the rings in the trees and from the pattern of rings were able to set that date range. A very old building!
I got back to the boat all excited about taking the family to see the barn (it was less than 5 minutes walk from the boat) when I spotted Jacquie, with the net, “fishing” between the boat and the bank.
Not a Good Sign! In fact a VERY, VERY BAD sign! A sign that Jacquie’s phone had fallen out of the hatch on the side (don’t ask – well, don’t ask me!)
After a few minutes of fruitless searching (apart from finding a 3 inch long freshwater mussel) I decided to do what Jacquie had been threatening and after divesting myself (carefully) of all electronics, I lowered myself barefoot into the gap between the boat and the bank, whilst Jacquie held the boat away from the bank.
Sadly my feet were unable to locate the phone (which was almost certainly beyond help at this stage and it remains at the bottom of the canal…
“until that day when the sea shall give up her dead.”
from Liturgy for a Burial at Sea
… along with my Smartwatch so I can’t really complain (except replacing my smartwatch was rather less expensive than replacing a phone – we’ll check with our insurance later!)
I had a “Lee Abbey Shower” – where you climb into the shower dressed and slowly get undressed as the layers get warmer – Lee Abbey would take too long to explain for anyone that wasn’t there – I may elaborate another day!
We then headed off to the Tithe barn and then back to the boat for the final push to Bath. Lots of moored boats so another painfully slow journey. The bonus is that the landscape is fantastic.
Just like on the Llangollen Canal on the borders of Wales the Kennet & Avon Canal follows the contours of the land all the way from Bradford-on-Avon through to the northern edge of Bath. This means riding high above the River Avon itself as the canal winds round the edges of the hills, and then at two points the canal crosses the River itself on impressive aqueducts – but more about that later!
On our way into Bath we spotted a really useful mooring by Bathampton Primary School which looks an ideal candidate for loading and unloading the car on Friday. There is a water point just before and winding point just beyond the mooring so it’s ideal to head back a little way to reach it! Looking ahead of us there is a boatyard, again at a winding hole, where we can top up the diesel, and empty the toilet cassettes and then head away from Bath on Thursday ready for changeover day on Friday.
What that means is that we won’t be going through any of the Bath locks, so the lock at Bradford-on-Avon that we went through just before mooring last night was our 462nd and last lock of the journey.
Moored at the northern edge of Bath we decided to head down into the city for a brief preliminary explore and to get Jacquie to a “Three” shop to get a SIM for an old phone we have with us.
These are some of the beautiful sandstone houses…
And this was an art installation on one of the main streets…
Joshua said it looked like a “Mary Poppins Memorial”.
Back to the boat and tea and blog.
So my picture today? Well it is the Dundas Aqueduct that took us across the valley towards Bath.
And this is the Avoncliff aqueduct (a little closer to Bradford-on-Avon).
They are immensely impressive pieces of Engineering. Like the great Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal they are designed to cross seemingly insurmountable barriers.
(By the way we have done the Pontcysylte twice each way on previous holidays, and no, there is no rail or towpath on the left hand side!!! Just hope that dog didn’t see a rabbit!)
And, surprise, surprise a verse from John’s Gospel came into my mind…
Jesus said, ‘Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.’
John chapter 5 verse 24
The Bible teaches us that the things we do that wound, inflict pain and do damage to those around us and which also wound and cause pain to God get in the way of us knowing Him fully. The age old story of Adam and Eve (no I’m not going to get into a discussion here about literal or historical or mythological – it’s not the time nor the place – suffice to say the first few chapters of the Bible tells us WHY humans live separated from God, not necessarily the scientific details of HOW it came about.) – so the age old story of Adam and Eve says that their sin led to them being separated from God – hiding from Him when they used to be eager to see Him. So too with the things we do wrong – they separate us from God – like the Avon Gorge or the Dee Valley at Pontcysylte separates the canal one side from another.
Like the engineers of old we build hugely complex systems of religion to try and bridge the gap – the theological equivalent of the Caen Hill Flight yesterday, yet when we try we find the gap is too wide to be bridged by our solutions. We would need too many locks and the river would be impossible to cross at the bottom anyway.
See this video of a Narrowboat on the River Medway in Kent for proof that some journeys should not be attempted!
So it is with the gap between us and God. It is unbridgeable from our side and with our means. How then can we cross over – what is the equivalent of the Aqueduct – who is the Thomas Telford who will make a way for us to cross over from Death to Life?
The answer is, of course, Jesus.
Somehow, by his dying on the Cross, by His taking of a punishment that I had brought on myself, by standing in my place and enduring the separation from His Father that I deserved, somehow he reconnects me with God, and the gorge is bridged. There is a way – narrow as the Pontcysylte, some are afraid of that Way – just like the aqueduct. But it is there and it is, like Avoncliff and Dundas, magnificent.
Which is why, even now, those who have been saved – who have crossed over from death to life – who have been rescued by Jesus – sing these words written by Isaac Watts in 1707…
When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
A bridge too far? Not for Jesus!