Caen Lock Staircase

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Having visited the Caen Staircase, we concluded that it’s definitely not the sort of staircase to get right to the top of only to find that you’ve forgotten why you’ve come up it. Located on the Kennet and Avon Canal, the Caen Staircase comprises of 29 manually operated locks in a 2 mile stretch of waterway, lifting the water level through 237 feet.

Sunday, 5 August, saw the weather-delayed ride-out from the previous weekend leaving Rownhams Services on the M27. We were a party of 5 bikes riding in the heatwave conditions that had returned, albeit a little subdued from the real extreme temperatures of the previous week, but still pleasantly close to hot. We dipped straight off the motorway and onto the more shaded roads, heading up towards Romsey and the Broadlands estate.

Mike and Lesley Smith were leading the group and kept to an enjoyable pace as the Hampshire countryside soon gave way to the Wiltshire plains. The route followed some familiar roads with light traffic, but as we progressed, the passing villages became newer discoveries, each with its own delightful layout and architectural gems.
A view down the lock flight
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We arrived at the Haven Café, our planned brunch stop, on the outskirts of Salisbury and only a few minutes behind schedule, finding Godders and Chippy already waiting. Having been there a little while, they were already champing at the bit in anticipation of food.

After a gentle repast, and time to catch up, the party reformed. Mike, and David and Debbie, spilt off to return home for domestic duties, whilst Chippy, in turn, diverted home after a couple of miles along the road, leaving us as a party of 4 to complete the run to Caen.

Riding over a small, ancient looking bridge, we caught a brief glimpse of the staircase from the bottom before heading up the narrow, speed-bump strewn, road to the official car park. This gave us access to the top of the main staircase, with narrow bridges over the canal, allowing us to get to the all-important Café and ice cream parlour. Godders very kindly treated us all to delicious cone of their finest before taking shade in the café garden.

Wandering around the extensive site, we watched various, beautifully decorated,  narrow boats lining up in the top basin before commencing the demanding run down the flight of locks.  By the nature of the staircase, once you’re in, you’re virtually committed to the end! Adrian raised an interesting question about the name of Caen (pronounced cain) and was advised that it means ‘battle’ in old English, probably coming over with the Normans.
With the distance covered getting to this stunning location comes the small matter of getting back. So, after some discussion, we all agreed to go our own ways with Godders, and Bob and Susan opting for a blast back via the A303. But even the direct route saw us covering 205, enjoyable miles during the day.

Thanks go to Mike and Lesley Smith for leading this superb run. Just a quick thought, though, we were joined by a total of 7 bikes on this ride-out with various leavers and joiners, but it always seems to be the same members turning up. What do we need to do to encourage more members to join-in, please? Replies on Facebook.