Monday, 28 April 2008

more on LEDs

I found the Renewable Energy UK website today (while searching for voltage regulator circuits). It had exactly the information I was looking for, as I wanted to use a solar panel to charge a small 12V lead acid battery. The website has lots of useful stuff on LEDs; and 12V batteries being charged from solar panels. Highly relevant to boating methinks.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Norfolk's canal

The North Walsham and Dilham Canal

We went for a walk near Dilham this morning. Once a month the Humbleyard Hoofers meet in the church car park and go somewhere for a five (or so) mile walk. (We are in the Humbleyard Deanery). Our walk didn't actually include the canal (mostly derelict) as we started from Honing and went north. [Several years ago we had a 10' dinghy which I rowed up the canal from its junction with the River Ant.] Lovely warm sunny weather: spring has sprung and sumer is icumen in.

Honing Common Bridge from the west

the North Walsham and Dilham Canal. About six feet wide and very shallow, but at least there's water in it!

Honing Common Bridge from the east

Friday, 25 April 2008

a little bike maintenance

I really need a new bike, as Maffi noticed recently. There's not much that's original on my 25-year-old Falcon Oxford. Thinking about it, it's actually only the frame, the brakes, and the pedals which came from the shop in Milton Keynes. Wheels, mudguards, brake cables, brake blocks, gears, sprockets, chain, lights, saddle ... they're all "new". Well. they were new once. Now it's all rather decrepit.

But I did replace the front brake blocks the other day, so it keeps going. Or, rather, keeps stopping. The "bottom bracket" - as I think it's called - is seriously worn and will need replacing in, oh, a couple of years I should think. I did effect a major improvement last summer: I discovered paniers. They're brilliant! How I rode the previous 50,000 miles without them I don't know. Now I can carry so much more, and without noticing.

An essential piece of kit for the boater is the bicycle. Have you freed yours yet, Mort?

an American in Bournemouth

I came across a funny, interesting blog the other day. Terry C came to England last month and has been writing about his experiences. He's been posting once per day, and is thus easy to catch up with. No photos as yet. I've laughed out loud at some of his observations. Not a boaty blog, but Terry does go kayaking on the Stour in Christchurch:

In researching the rules of kayaking in UK, apparently you are not just able to paddle up any river, as unless there are specific exceptions, most of the rivers are "owned" by the landowners surrounding it, and there may be limits to water access. On the major rivers, such as Stour, Avon, Thames, there are fewer restrictions, but they do have "obstacles" in the way, such as locks, sluices, and weirs (not sure what that is), where you have to "portage" (get out and carry the boat on land past the obstacle).

And this is encouraging, on politeness:

As you will find, Brits are extremely polite. And nothing more exemplifies this than driving or waiting in lines (queuing up). People are patient, there is no honking, no shoving in lines, no yelling at people (unless they are drunk in or leaving the pub). It's almost surreal. You do have the odd exception, but rare.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Barbecue weather!

Wow! and Hooray! We've had the first barbecue of the "season". (Not the first one I've seen, though - that was a week ago at Pontymoile Basin on the Mon and Brec.)

Things had got off to a bad start, though: I was cleaning the proper big three-legged version when it collapsed. Now I'm trying to remember when I got it - must have been at least ten years ago, so I suppose it hadn't done too badly.

So I had to get out the Hibachi. We take this one camping. Lit using the fircone system...

... it's not long before we're cooking. Oh yes: I stood it on a dustbin to bring it up to a comfortable height.

Monday, 21 April 2008

100th post

Here it is, for what it's worth. My hundredth post in this blog. The first was on 19th November last year. Since then I've learnt how to add photos and links, and how to make text bold or italic. I've tried to conform to bletiquette, but I think I might have transgressed when posting all those photos of bridges in recent posts. I've tried to write interestingly, but I know I will never match Sarah or Andrew. I have learnt to be a little freer when writing. Although pride prevents me from knowingly making grammatical or spelling errors, I can see that the really interesting blogs come from an uninhibited, almost uncaring, splurge of thought direct to the keyboard. Certainly the most readable blogs are those whose authors don't mind revealing quite a lot about themselves: Here I am - take me or leave me.

I would welcome suggestions as to how I could improve - but let's just stick to my blogging technique, shall we?

The March Cake

Just before we went to Wales I hurriedly snapped Sandra's cake for March. But not before Jan had removed a slice.

Mon and Brec conclusion

the conclusion of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, Pontnewydd

On the way back from our recent expedition to the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal - incidentally, there must be more bridges per mile on that waterway than any other: you might have seen one or two photos in earlier posts - we called in on Bones and Maffi. After a bit of confusion about which bridge they were at, and, indeed, which waterway they were on, we met up for lunch and I was able to repay the kindness they had shown us five days before. Then Bones invited us for coffee on her boat (I'd been rather hoping she would) and, to round off our canal holiday-with-a-difference (no boating involved up to now), Bones took us for a short cruise to get us nearer our car. Thank you!

We drove back to Norwich and a choir rehearsal.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Mon and Brec day four

Tuesday 8th April 2008

Pontymoile Basin to Cross Keys Bridge, Cwmbran (and to Newport)

We woke to a beautifully clear, frosty morning. Had breakfast then left the cottage to drive to Pontymoile Basin. Parked in small car park by the boat tearoom. John had coffee (instant, boo) and we bought three Welsh Cakes (£1). Started walking 10.15am.

Pontymoile toll cottage

Union Bridge 50

a Welshman's canalside home...

Cwmbran Tunnel north portal

Cwmbran Tunnel, south portal

end of navigation, Cross Keys Bridge, Pontnewydd

Spoke to several people on the way. The people are very chatty around here and sometimes it’s hard to get away! It took about an hour to walk to the end of the navigable canal. Went to The Cross Keys pub to use the loo and have coffee and hot chocolate. 50p each. Read and signed the pub’s visitors’ book for people who have got to the end of the navigation. OK, so we walked it, but we felt every bit as entitled to make an entry as all the boaters before us.

new moorings/marina under construction in Sebastopol

I read this first as "to be completed 1983" before realising it's actually Torfaen Borough Council

concrete lock "gates" on the Five Locks flight, Pontnewydd

locks converted to step weirs

just how many bollards do you need along a lock?

when you have common aims there are no boundaries...

...this bench by the derelict Mon and Brec Canal says it all

on an isolated length stands this restored lock. The top gate balance beam hinges out of the way of the towpath

a duck in its element

We continued walking down the unnavigable section. Immediately by the pub are the five locks. The chambers are intact, but have concrete lock ‘gates’. Some of the locks further down have been converted to step weirs. We looked for a pub for lunch in Cwmbran but found nothing suitable or open. It started to rain/hail a little. We ended up having lunch in Sainsbury’s cafe. John had a Mega Brunch; Jan had minced beef hotpot with vegetables. Then John set off on his bike to explore more of the canal while Jan went to the shops in the Cwmbran shopping centre and in the retail park opposite. I cycled by the derelict canal until I lost it amongst main roads. I'd been following Cycle Route 46, but towards the end it didn’t follow the canal. I arrived at River Usk near the railway bridge in Newport. The tide was out, revealing mud banks but I couldn’t see where the canal joined the river. I went to other side of the river by a road bridge and cycled up the left bank of the Usk but still I couldn’t see the canal entrance. So I returned to Sainsbury’s to call Jan on the walkie-talkie to say that I was just on the way to get the car. This I did, losing my way slightly a couple of times. When I got back to the car I had a quick tea and Welsh cake in the Marina Tea Room. Then I picked up Jan and we drove to Newport to see the Transporter Bridge. The notice indicated that the last crossing was at 1800, another ten minutes off, but all was locked up. Looked spectacular though. So we drove back, but went via Blaenafon to see the remains of the iron works. If we’d been earlier we could have looked round the site free. Then to Waitrose to get microwaveable tea, and back to the cottage.

Transporter Bridge, Newport

Transporter Bridge

Transporter Bridge

Blaenafon Iron Works

but back in Newport this looks more like a block of flats

Tomorrow we pack and drive home. Job done.

Friday, 18 April 2008

When, when?

I was looking at ads of boats for sale yesterday. And calculating how long it would take to drive from home to a possible mooring on the Middle Levels, and how long it would take to cruise from there to the main canal system. Because I knew it existed - thanks Sarah - I picked as an example Bill Fen Marina. 1h 45m to drive there, and four days to cruise to Gayton Junction, and that's assuming the requisite 24 hours' notice has been given to Stanground Sluice. Or 48 hours - suggestions vary.

Or, I suppose, I could try for Welford, or Blisworth, and have a slightly longer drive but be on the canals straight away. Two hours driving is a bit of a trek at each end of maybe just a few hours on the boat. I sometimes work Saturday afternoons - I couldn't just pop down and do a bit of painting, say.

I've found a boat for sale at the right price, but I have to get the question of the mooring sorted first. And that involves input from my brother, if he's to go halves with me, and, of course, from my wife.

So I mustn't get any hopes up about the boat (looks good though!)

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Mon and Brec day three (part 2)

Monday 7th April 2008

Goytre to Pontypool

After our lunch at the Waterside Inn tea room we continued our walk southwards along the towpath of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal.

Saron's Bridge 74

Penroel Bridge 73

Park-y-Brain Upper Bridge 72

Park-y-Brain Lower Bridge 71

Birdspool Bridge 70 with heron taking off

Croes-y-Pant Bridge 68

Pentre Bridge 67

Mortimers Bridge 65

Mamhilad Bridge 63

there doesn't seem to be much left of this distance post

... compared with this one

High Bridge 62

At High Bridge 62 we walked into Mamhilad and had a look round the churchyard (the church itself was locked). According to Nicholson’s the large yew tree could be between two and three thousand years old. It didn’t look like it would last much longer as ivy had started to creep up some of the sections of the split trunk. Does ivy attack a dying tree, or is it that when ivy creeps up a tree that tree then dies?

according to Nicholson's this yew tree at Mamhilad Church is between 2000 and 3000 years old

Mamhilad Church

Keepers Bridge 59

Lower Wern Bridge 57

River Llwyd aqueduct

Toll Cottage and Pontymoile Bridge 52

Jockey Bridge 55

Back on the towpath. When we reached Jockey Bridge 56 we decided that after 9.5 miles it was time to retrieve the car. So Jan walked on to Pontymoile Basin and had hot chocolate and a Welsh Cake in the marina tea room, while John cycled back to Llanfoist. I left at 1630 and got to the car at 1715 (why had I parked up such a steep hill? It was hard work pushing the bike up!) Drove back to Bridge 56 and tried to find the basin by car and failed, so returned to Bridge 56 and cycled to the basin. Jan gave me a Welsh cake from the tea room (shut by now) which was excellent. I also ate my emergency marmalade sandwich (cycling that sort of distance makes me hungry!)

what happens if you go too fast round the roundabout

Then it was a case of back to Waitrose by car, then to the cottage, and eat. We both had spicy parsnip soup then I had the microwaved remains of Saturday’s curry - still very good - and Jan had half a chunky chicken-filled jacket potato with salad.

It is now almost 2200 and time for bed. We didn’t quite finish the navigable Mon and Brec canal, but just two miles to go. As we will have lots of spare time I’d like to carry on down the derelict line to Newport. We’ll see what Jan says!