The Pewsey Paddlers

Westward Ho!

Below is Colin's account of his and Emma's epic navigation from Pewsey to Bath on Sun 26th June 2005.

The video clips linked below are in .3gp format (mobile phone) -  

to see them you will need to download a viewer such as Nokia Multimedia Player

Any better pix/viddies than my mobile phone efforts please send them in ... Musical note For the musical accompaniment I was torn between the themes from Titanic or African Queen,orthat irritating 70s Disco thing that had everyone rolling around on the floor - "Ooh up-sides your head, singing ooh up-sides your head" (... or whatever it's called?). Then in dawned on me there really is only one possible tune for an ex-cop in a canoe ... I hope those with speakers turned on appreciate the gag! (those without audio, scroll to bottom of page for enlightenment)..

0545 hrs -  The day has arrived, we meet up and make our way to Pewsey Wharf, well aware that we will be in for a long hard and painful day.  Get the kayak out to the slipway, get plenty of fluids aboard and wait for the ground crew, friends and relations to arrive.  When they do so there is much chatter and Graham Lee's bedroom window is pointedly slammed shut! ... ooh-err!

<<< 0610 hrs - Pewsey Wharf: support crew arrives in the form of Pewsey Zixex Club, charitable veterans of many a water-born navigation from Pewsey to the sea.

0620 hrs - Pewsey Wharf: Shelley and Emma meet for the first time ever. >>>

Historic image lost to posterity

thanks to its accidental deletion

by mobile phone newbie.

The Launch pt 1 .3gp

The Launch pt 2 .3gp

<<< 0630 hrs - Pewsey Wharf: one small step for Harris ...

When you've gotta go, you've gotta go - so we do!  This is it then, there is no turning back - Shelley and her parents are there to see us off - lets get on with it. Emma is soaked quite soon because of my inexpert paddling - but at least the wind is behind us and the weather is ideal, not too hot or cold. Got to set targets now, it helps to break the canal into sections and mentally to tick them off. Seeing the ground crew plus friends and relations on the accessible bridges is a great help.

0650 hrs - Wilcot: full steam ahead! >>>

Racing Along! .3gp

Soon we are at the suspension bridge by Wilcot Cricket Ground - did you know that this footbridge is the oldest and probably the only one left in the whole of the country? It is suspended not by cables but by linked iron plates. Beyond Wilcot, at Lady Bridge, we know that we shall meet a rather protective swan so we are looking forward to that - not a lot. In the event he is still half asleep and we slip by undetected, I feel like one of the Cockleshell Heroes evading the enemy. Emma is too young for that ancient history!

<<< 0745 hrs - 0745:- onwards towards Honeystreet, another target, and it is all going quite nicely thank you. Then out into the wilderness behind Stanton St Bernard and All Cannings where missionaries have only recently been welcomed. You know, there are a heck of a lot of boats on this old canal. Where were they all hiding in the years of the canal's decline? Some are really old ones built in the late 19th century, most are immaculately maintained.  Unfortunately, some of these once proud vessels are now just rotting hulks, covered by tarpaulins, not a lot a restoration going on, but homes for someone I suppose. The bend in the canal round Horton village is much longer than you would imagine but at last we are passing the Bridge Inn. Here we find a whole flotilla of steam boats, quite a sight - bit like a waterbourne steam rally.


1000 hrs - first major target is shortly to be achieved but we are a little surprised and puzzled when some fishermen laugh and wish us the best of luck. We will be at Devizes Wharf soon and feeling quite bright and cheerful at the thought of coffee and a loo.

Then it happens - I had been told of a swan somewhere in the first section who was somewhat cross because his mate had been killed and he had played havoc with the Devizes to Westminster race at Easter, but I was not prepared for the fury of this bloke!  When he first came into view he looked like a warship of Nelson's day under full sail. I gulped, Emma uttered a short word rhyming with "bit". We tried to creep by under the overhanging foliage but psycho swan was having none of it, he turned towards us just as we thought we were past him. Emma yelled something which roughly translated meant that we should increase our speed quite considerably and we were off!  Cockleshell Heroes my arse! This was strictly Whacky Races! That was the fastest we went all day. Fair flying we were! He kept coming but eventually gave up the chase, fear is a powerful accelerator! On a serious note, I would not wish him any harm. Swans are monogamous and he must be very upset at the loss of his mate.


1015 hrs - so to Devizes Wharf, coffee, a loo, a chance to ease aching muscles and a long walk down the Caen Hill flight of locks to Lower Foxhangers.

<<< 1100 hrs - Caen Hill: portage & elevenses for canoeists and groupies alike.

Our gallant ground crew trolleyed the kayak down the hill and some of them walked all the way to Seend Cleeve where we again had to come out of the kayak to negotiate the five locks.





1200 hrs - Seend Cleeve: the "Mystery wagon" comes up trumps - bacon & egg butties, courtesy of Culinary Ali; the Zixex club pause to wonder how the hell far the keys to their truck have wandered off to ... >>>

Then on to Semington main road bridge - No ground crew?, what's going on? Never mind - "do it yourself" time so we hauled the kayak out, dragged it past the locks, put it back in the canal and carried on. We later heard that Dave Owen was concerned for our welfare and set off to find us on foot - taking the truck keys with him! As we had already gone through he had a fruitless search and the rest of the ground crew suffered severe hardship having to wait for him in the pub at Seend Cleeve!

We are way out in the sticks now and it seems to last forever. Plenty of wildlife though, Emma keeps wanting to take fluffy ducklings, moorhen chicks and goslings home with her.

Getting Tougher (Seend) .3gp

1400 hrs - Hilperton Marina: APB is launched back in Seend for driver of Giler's truck - dark mutterings are heard; "Mystery Wagon" has taken on the role of Support vehicle but navigation proves a problem for resident TA crew.

Eventually we find friendly faces again at the Marina At Staverton and take a welcome break for the loo and to replenish the camel bag with "loopy juice" (or high energy drink to you). We are getting involved with much more traffic now and overtake one particular narrow boat twice, once before Staverton and again before Bradford.

1500 hrs - we are very pleased to get to Bradford and especially when the customers of The Barge Inn, a waterside pub, all clapped and cheered us in. Our friends from the narrow boat, who turned out to be former kayak instructors, then donated money to our sponsorship effort which was much appreciated. Anyway, a bite to eat, a drink and the inevitable loo and we are on our way again.

The canal is very much more interesting round the next stretch, what with the fine aqueduct at Avoncliff and closer to Bath the Dundas aqueduct and the junction with the Somerset Coal Canal. Also the banks are block lined and all along this stretch are purpose built ramps to allow the waterfowl and other wildlife to get in and out of the water. Hence the expression "up yer duck run" I suppose! We follow a very long narrow boat across Avoncliff Aqueduct wishing we could have a tow and are then invited to overtake. This takes a great deal of time and energy but eventually we are by and heading for the long, long bend round Batheaston. Pleasure boaters having "fun" we can do without, it really hurts now. After what seems an age we cross the Dundas Aqueduct and come to a 'T' Junction! A 'T' Junction?! on a canal?! Oh lordy! Of course! ... the Somerset Coal Canal! Then we spot a sign - hooray! Right hand down a bit and carry on - behind us a shout and friendly faces again - onwards the end is nigh! Yeah, right! It is a long time coming then. After a final fag and a call from Emma for "one last effort" we struggle on. The arms and shoulders seem to burn with pain. "Emma, shall we drift for a minute" I ask. "No." she says, "We must keep going or we may not start again."

Photo awaited

1820 hrs - Bathwick (or thereabouts): just short of 12 hours after setting out, the "Pewsey Paddlers" reach their goal - to be greeted by Shelley and fellow GB team member Kristan "Dr Ice" Bromley.

Eventually, on the towpath, we see Richard Giles who has walked for twenty minutes from our destination to meet us. He keeps up a commentary of our position as he walks beside us (only we thought we were nearer than that!).  "You must be going faster" he says, "I'm having to walk quite fast to keep up!" At last into the suburbs - friendly faces again - last lap! I had read that I.K.Brunel had had two short tunnels built to hide the canal from the local people who walked in Sidney Gardens, so I Knew that once they were in sight it was nearly all over. At long, long, last there they were, Emma wanted to buy the waterside house in the gardens and insight is the ornate bridge No.118, our destination!

18.30 hrs - we resisted Richards suggestion to come out up an 8ft bank of stinging nettles and came ashore on the opposite bank where we were literally pulled out of the kayak.  Ally Mabbutt greeted us with a Vodka and coke and a Guinness, bless his heart and Shelley had a bottle of shampoo for each of us!  What a kind thought. Anyway, job done.

2000 hrs - Pewsey Wharf: our grateful thanks to all who helped us, especially our ground crew, Graham Lee from the Waterfront who loaned us his kayak, all who gave help and encouragement and particularly our very generous sponsors who have raised in excess of 2,500 to help Shelley on her Olympic way.


Colin and Emma






Hawaii Five-O! - it was on TV before Shelley was born ...

so, guys, when you get home from Devizes School, you'd

best ask your parents all about it!