Saturday, 12 January 2013

New year high levels for the River Kennet Navigation Newbury to Thatcham

Whether using the Kennet Navigation as the means of a circular route around, or simply as access to the Chamberhouse loop, the canalised and riverine run down the Kennet between Newbury and Thatcham has started 2013 at an unusually high level. 

The convergence of the river section that flows down from Hambridge to join the cut at Bull's Lock normally demonstrates reasonably consistent levels, but the current height of the water may create a few unexpected minor changes of plan for paddlers.

Typical gauge readings at the tow path footbridge below Bull's Lock...

...are not matched by current conditions.  The river is approximately .5m higher than normal.

If you were to put in on the section of the river upstream of the footbridge (which appears to have had many of the former tree falls cleared recently, should you be paddling down from Hambridge)... would quickly be faced with limboing under the bridge in the relatively fast flowing water (viewed here from downstream of the bridge on the flooded far bank of the lock exit).

It's probably therefore currently easier to just put in directly after the bridge and below the lock.

The current flow rates will enable a quick journey down to the weir marking the start of the Chamberhouse loop (river right just before Widmead Lock), but please be aware that this riverine section is currently substantially higher and broader than might normally be anticipated.

The Chamberhouse loop has flowed out of its banks around the footbridge at SU 511 657.  The bridge, which appears to have suffered damage from a tree-strike, is passable river right.

The drainage channels that run to the north of the loop (river left) have also inundated swathes of surrounding land and merged with the river (in the foreground at the bottom of the southern Kennet Valley escarpment) before reaching Chamberhouse Farm.

The river is just about back in its banks by the time it reaches the bridge at Chamberhouse Farm, viewed here looking upstream...

...and downstream.

The return channel from the river to the canal cut near Thatcham station from below Monkey Marsh Lock.

For anyone wishing to return upstream to Newbury/make a circular route by use of the canal cut, portaging at Monkey Marsh Lock, Monkey Marsh bridge (not enough room to get under it) and Widmead Lock is currently very easy as the Navigation is also extremely high.