On tour at home and abroad with the Sumpners

The view below is Toad Rock, Tunbridge Wells

Newbury 2-4 May

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Less than a week before this weekend, we were let down by our chosen site due to waterlogging. A slight panic ensued as this was a bank holiday weekend, but we eventually found a site – not quite as close  – but pretty near Kintbury, where we had an early start on the Saturday.  The site – Oakley Farm – was easy to find being just off the A34. It was not full and we had a warm welcome to a nice pitch. It’s a small site and the facilities could probably do with updating but it does have a certain charm. It is also quiet, despite its location. Also handy for amenities – chippy, Chinese and a large Tesco all nearby. We’d certainly return.

After an early night (also quite chilly) we arose early to make sandwiches and pack for our day on the narrowboat Cygnet. The day was to be spent with my brother Bruce, Mel and the kids and Peta and Steve Reading and their son Teddy. It was a beautiful morning and we – having the shortest journey – were naturally first to arrive. The Carters and Readings turned up shortly after.DSC_0250 DSC_0251DSC_0253 DSC_0252

Cygnet is perhaps not the smartest boat on the waterways but she handles well and is more than fit for purpose. We like her and you may recall reading about our previous trip on her in June last year? She must have a hard life as a dayboat, often being crewed by novices.

We went through several locks and through Hungerford and turned round after our lunch stop just above Little Bedwyn. On the return journey, we were behind a slow and wide boat, which meant that we had to wait at every lock while they went through and then refill the lock, enter and re-empty it. This slowed down our passage considerably and it soon became evident that we would be late back. A quick phone call to the very friendly guy from the boat company (Kennet Horse Boat) and all was well. We had laughed, sung and gorged our way through another lovely day on the canal and discovered that Steve Reading had a natural talent for steering the boat.  The weather had been amazing and everyone was a little frazzled by the sun by the end of the day.  Also tired, but very happy.

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After we had returned the boat, we went to a nice pub just down the road in Marsh Benham – the Red House. It was a very nice meal.  and then it was off to their hotel for those with kids and home to the van for us. All that fresh air and the early start meant an early night!

The next morning was also lovely and the Carter/Reading crew went off to a farm which had a lambing event for the kids. As we had the dog, this ruled us out,  so we went off and explored near Inkpen, up on the downs and thence to Bagnor. This is the home of the rather wonderful Watermill Theatre, which we plan to visit soon. We stopped here, at The Blackbird for refreshments and polished off the remainder of the sandwiches from the previous day. These had matured well!

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We met up with the others near Newbury town, at the Nature Discovery Centre. This is a great place to go with kids. I know I’d be there very weekend if I lived nearby and had little ones. There is plenty for them to do and there is a beautiful lake, where we sat and had a cuppa and fell upon the remains of the cake I had made for the boat trip. Everyone still looked very rosy from the day before. More sunscreen next time!

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As the sun began to lose its heat, we parted,  having had a lovely weekend. It was back to the van for us and away home quite early on Monday to avoid any bank-holiday traffic build up. Looking forward to the next Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May, when we are off to Wales – via Bristol.

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