Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Wood worm

As I was splitting some of the logs from our ash tree the other day I suddenly found myself staring at this monster.

It's about 6cm long by 1cm across, and was living at the end of a long hole it had presumably eaten along the grain of the wood. Many of the logs had a single 1cm hole down them with blackened areas around the bore.

Does anyone know what the creature is?

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Dust fills the sky as another tree comes down at Halfie Towers

We had the second large ash tree felled a couple of days ago. It had a lot of dead wood in the canopy, and chunks were frequently coming down. When the tree surgeon got up there he said it had the "die-back" affliction (although the tree looked reasonably healthy last year).

The weather was friendlier than last time; the blue sky made a great backdrop for the sawdust flying around.


Down comes another log.

Below is my favourite photo; the sky seemingly filled with the sawdust from Daniel's chainsaw.

I positioned myself such that the sawdust was drifting directly at me - I said the weather was friendly!

This is the tree before work started. A shame it's gone now, but we do have a huge pile of logs now! Some of which I have chopped up.

I helped on the ground the whole time; Daniel was so impressed with my assistance that he asked if I'd be interested in helping him on future jobs. Could a new career be starting?

Monday, 2 February 2015

A fishy number on a post

Yesterday I posted a close-up of something which looked like a marine creature.

Here is its partner:

Davidss sussed that it was a bent nail, hammered such that the head had folded over.

The two nails fasten a small metal plate, bearing the number 1199, to a post. The post is near Bridge 63 on the Grand Union between Castlethorpe and Yardley Gobion.

My question now is ... why?

Sunday, 1 February 2015

What's fishy about this?

On a walk along the Grand Union the other day I photographed this.

Can you identify it?

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Plenty to nibble at the Buckingham Canal Society's AGM; CRT wants to manage EA waterways "soon"

At lunchtime we took the boat for a short cruise to the services block at Cosgrove to empty the Elsan. The wind was fairly strong and behind us. While there we topped up the water and had lunch while the tank filled. Even with my newly kink-free hose it took a long time - well, time enough for us to have lunch. The wind assisted us round above the lock, and we returned to the marina. To get back on our berth stern first I usually reverse in from the canal as our mooring is, conveniently, directly in line with the marina entrance. On this occasion, however, I went in nose first, overshooting the pontoon, then allowed the wind to catch the front and bring the boat round. I then let the wind blow us sideways until we were in line with the pontoon, then reversed in. At this stage, of course, the nose carried on moving in the direction of the wind, and so we ended up nudging the next-door boat a bit, but I was pleased to get back into position without too many problems.

On the trip we saw lots of geese (Canada?) They didn't fancy being in the water at the same time as us, and scarpered off up the piling and onto the field.

This evening we went to the AGM of the Buckingham Canal Society. We joined the BCS a year or so ago after I encountered a small work party doing some test digging on the line of the canal. One of the party, sensing my interest, handed me a joining form which he happened to have in his pocket. I was impressed then that the BCS was so well geared up to attracting new people; I was even more impressed this evening when that same person - a committee member (or "trustee" as they now seem to be called) - remembered me from that chance meeting.

The business of the meeting was concluded fairly swiftly, then it was half time when we were invited to partake of the refreshments laid out on tables at the back of the room. We half regretted having already eaten tea as there was a feast of vol-au-vents (vols-au-vent?), olives, spicy sausage slices, sandwiches, cheese etc. There was wine too, but I stuck to fruit juice as I was driving.

After being called back to our seats it was time for a talk by Richard Parry, the CEO of the Canal and River Trust. He took us rapidly through a series of slides full of facts and figures. I think he was trying to show how CRT is committed to canal restoration as well as maintenance, but I'm afraid the presentation went on too long and there were too many slides with not enough time to take everything in.

Perhaps the most useful part was the question-and-answer session at the end, where Mr Parry came across as a real human being, genuinely interested in people's questions and trying to answer honestly without corporate-speak. The chairman of the meeting wound up the session all too soon, but I managed to talk to the CRT boss afterwards. I asked him how negotiations regarding the Environment Agency were going; Richard Parry replied that things had come to rather a standstill at the moment, but it was CRT's intention to "take over" the management of EA's waterways without having to be responsible for the major structures such as weirs and flood controls. Mr Parry said that when the Canal and River Trust took over from British Waterways it was the intention that CRT would be looking after EA's waterways within six months. Now that timescale has slipped, apparently - according to Mr Parry - because there didn't seem to be any will for it within the ranks of the civil service. We cannot expect any progress on that front before the General Election, Mr Parry said, but CRT is very keen that it should happen.

Meanwhile I'm going to have to get a short-term EA licence if we're to attend the Northampton boat gathering this summer.

Friday, 30 January 2015

A towpath walk to Kingfisher Marina

I did at least two jobs today, both of which involved drilling pilot holes ands screwing into the lining of the boat. I moved the clock to the front bulkhead, where it can now be seen from the galley as well as the saloon. And I put up my Christmas present, a metal BW poster reproduction "Discover yesterday today" with a bucolic scene of a boat being towed under a bridge next to a pub.

After lunch we walked along the towpath to Kingfisher Marina to have a look round. It's marginally cheaper than Thrupp Wharf Marina, but the noisy A508 runs very close by. Also the electricity points will allow a maximum of 6A - not enough for a washing machine or a normal kettle. Still, we'll be bearing it in mind.

Some photos from the walk:

Taverners Boat Club moorings by the Navigation Inn

A swan in the sun

The Navigation Inn and Thrupp Wharf Marina

We clocked up 4.7 miles mostly in sunshine, but with a biting wind and one very light shower. Not a patch on Tom's (Waiouru) route marches but good enough for us.

For tea we bought some more curries from the Castlethorpe shop and shared them with Ally and Ben at their house. After a spot of late evening shopping in Wolverton's 24 hour Tesco we returned to the boat where I am now writing this.

It's the AGM of the Buckingham Canal Society tomorrow (Sat); it will be our first as members.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Repairing a water hose; the Amazon runs well

We were up early in order to drive up the M1 to Eastwood, Notts, for Jan to attend a committee meeting. Before we set off I gave the overdrive relay a few thwacks. This seems to have done the trick as it performed faultlessly the whole journey (more than 70 miles each way). I was a little concerned at the forecast of snow, but we arrived at 1100 having barely even used the wipers.

While the committee meeting was in progress I walked around Eastwood and, at one stage, became a walking snowman. I was glad of my overtrousers, and the coat from Aldi was very good at keeping the heat in and the snow out. My new Clarks waterproof shoes were warm and comfortable.

I bought a hose repair connector from B&Q (£1) and a double male hose connector from a small hardware shop in the town (60p - B&Q wanted £4 for the same thing!). Had I found the hardware shop first I wouldn't have bothered with B&Q, as all I wanted to do was to cut out a badly kinked section of the water hose and join the two ends together. I already had two female ends, so the double male connector was all I needed.

This shows the problem (the insulating tape was put on by the previous owner) ...

... and here are the various connectors. Centre top is the hose repairer; centre bottom is the male double-ender.

In the end, when we got back to Jubilee, I decided to cut out the kink and use the £1 hose repairer. Job done.

The repair is to the shortish length of hose I use if the bow is near the water tap. It saves the hassle of using the hose drum. Also, I don't need to run as much water through to remove the old stale water from the hose. At this time of year I keep it inside the cabin so it's reasonably flexible. At one recent fill up the hose resembled a stretched out Slinky across the towpath.

The drive back to the boat was, again, better than I had expected. No more snow fell, the spray from the traffic wasn't too bad and the 50 mph section for roadworks flowed smoothly. There were two or three slow bits but they soon passed. And the Amazon drove really well, happy to cruise at 60 mph. I think it likes the cold weather: the temperature gauge never moved from just below normal. (In warmer weather it tends to creep up into the hot region - sometimes I have to put the car heater on to dump some heat.) When I filled up in Eastwood I found it had dome 31 mpg. I'm pleased with that.  The car is 46 years old, after all.

Tomorrow is a "rest" day; no doubt I or Jan will find some jobs, though!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Back on board for a few cold nights

We drove over to the marina today, being buffeted by the wind all the time. The Amazon is back on the road and I wanted to give it a good run. The old Volvo presents rather a bluff profile to the wind; you certainly know it when a gust hits you broadside! The car behaved well in the wind and the rain, but the overdrive packed up as we got onto the A5D in Milton Keynes. Hmm. I hope it's the relay again ...

The marina was being whipped up to 6" waves, but the boat was remarkably stable. I retied the bow rope so as to pull the back end further away from the bank. I had to pass the rope through a side fender eye on the gunwhale to give the necessary pull. Now the rear fender won't get stuck under the rail from which the pontoons jut out. I'll have to take a photo.

Jubilee wasn't as cold as I thought it would be. The fierce wind outside blew all one's heat away, but the only wind inside was from the vents. I soon had the stove going, then we walked the mile to Castlethorpe to warm up our feet.

From the village shop we bought another couple of home-made curries to enjoy one evening, but not today as we already had a pie with us.

It hailed on us as we walked back to the boat, but it didn't last long.

We have to drive to Eastwood, Notts, tomorrow for Jan to attend a Boaters' Christian Fellowship committee meeting. Heavy snow is forecast for the afternoon. Our return journey might just take a little longer than the outward one, for which only light snow is predicted. Joy.

The central heating is now on as well as the stove, oh, and I believe Jan has switched on the electric blanket too. The luxury of marina-dwelling!

Speaking of which, we have given notice to leave Thrupp Wharf Marina at the end of March. We'll be off cruising again - an even longer cruise than last year. I haven't planned a route yet, but we'll try to get to a few boaty gatherings. We'll keep a look-out for a different home base, possibly somewhere with a few more facilities. The lack of an Elsan emptying point here at Thrupp Wharf is a bit of an inconvenience. So to speak.

Sorry about the lack of photos; I'll try to make up for that tomorrow, if we're not held up too long on the M1.