Sunday, 26 July 2009

Top Thirty, 2009 Week 31

Here is Tony Blews's UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 2030 on Sunday 26th July 2009.

1 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 - Forums (=)

4 Granny Buttons (=)

5 CanalPlanAC (+3)

6 Retirement with No Problem (=)

7 UKCanals Network (-2)

8 Canal Photos (-1)

9 Jannock Website (=)

10 Narrowboat Gypsy Rover (+1)

11 nb Epiphany (-1)

12 Waterway Routes (=)

13 Narrowboat Bones (=)

14 nb Lucky Duck (=)

15 nb Kestrel (+10)

16 Boating Holidays in the UK and Europe

17 Khayamanzi (+3)

18 Warwickshire Fly Boat Company (-3)

19 nb Warrior (-1)

20 Narrowboat Caxton (-4)

21 Derwent6 (-2)

22 Takey Tezey Tales (+2)

23 Seyella's Journey (-1)

24 Water Explorer (-7)

25 Narrowboat Debdale (-4)

26 Google Earth Canal Maps (-)

27 Zulu Warrior (-4)

28 NBNorthernPride (-)

29 UK Waterways Ranking Site (-2)

30 Herbie (-1)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous week; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry; (=) denotes no change.

Halfie is at number 39 out of a total of 79 entries in the chart.

Friday, 24 July 2009

An old canal, some old locks, and a chatty cafe

Today we intended to go to Runcorn, but, after a mixup with the satnav, we overshot slightly and found ourselves going over the bridge to Widnes. Rather than turn round straightaway we parked up and looked round the western end of the Sankey (St. Helen's) Canal where it joins the Mersey.

entrance lock from the Mersey to the Sankey Canal, Widnes

There was a group of lads by the lock connecting the two waterways. One youth saw that I had a camera and asked me if I'd like to take a photo of him jumping in naked. I replied in the negative. We had a pleasant walk round Spike Island in the sunshine, didn't feel inclined to pay £4.95 each to go in the Catalyst Museum, and drove back over the bridge to Runcorn.

view from Spike Island

In Runcorn we had several cups of tea from an enormous pot ... and pastry ... and toasted teacake ... and another toasted teacake at the Chatterbox Cafe in the High Street near the current terminus of the Bridgewater Canal (Runcorn Arm). This was a great find.

Katie Condron, the young owner of the Chatterbox Internet Cafe, was extraordinarily helpful when I mentioned that I was looking for the old locks which used to connect the Bridgewater Canal to the Mersey. She brought over a great pile of books, full of old photographs of Runcorn, and all with much fascinating information on what I was looking for. I was astonised, and greatly encouraged, by her enthusiasm. Her main interest is in the old transporter bridge, of whose existence I had been unaware. On looking round the cafe, I saw that there were photos of this, and many other scenes from the past - including the canal - on the walls. Her mother (I'm assuming it was her mother) helpfully wrote out for me a set of directions to aid me in my quest.

We set off, following the directions, and passed under the current road bridge and the railway bridge. I hadn't realised quite how far we had to go to find the locks, and I began to wonder if I'd somehow missed them. Jan returned to the car while I carried on walking. Eventually I found what I'd been looking for - hooray! The line of filled-in locks running down to the Manchester Ship Canal. I'd been told to look out for the "Doll's House". There's something quite bizarre about the windows. Can you spot it?

And here's what I'd been looking for, and what I couldn't find four years ago: the line of the old locks from the Runcorn Arm which leads now to the Manchester Ship Canal.

bottom lock, with water from the Manchester Ship Canal

looking towards the Ship Canal: a footpath runs between the lock walls

The wedding - a couple of photos

As promised, here are just two photos of Ally and Ben on their wedding day last Saturday.

The wedding was in Southport, which we visited by boat last summer. The nearest point of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was Scarisbrick, which is where Ally and Ben met us.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

The Liverpool Connection

Today was Liverpool day, so, as advised, we drove to Hooton Station and took the Merseyrail train to Liverpool Central. The line is a curious mixture of overground (up to Birkenhead) and underground (from Birkenhead, under the Mersey, and all of Liverpool). In the city it had some of the feel of the London Underground, complete with escalators. When we surfaced we walked to the Metropolitan (RC) Cathedral, which I’d last seen in the late 1970s when it was only about ten years old (I was a little older!). It is still stunningly modern, and a must see for anyone going anywhere near.

interior of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral

After that we walked to the Anglican Cathedral, which felt really old-fashioned in comparison. We’d timed our visit well, being between graduation ceremonies for John Moore’s University. For lunch we found a small cafĂ© run by a Chinese couple: I had a fry-up for only £2.95. Then we went (at last) to the docks area. Opposite the Liver Building was moored the cruise liner Crown Princess. You wouldn’t lose that boat easily.

Jan went to do some shopping while I walked along the dock wall trying to find the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. We’d seen the new bit, where it connects to Albert Dock, but there’s no towpath, and its course runs through some out-of-bounds docks. The docks were endless, and fascinating, especially their gateways and names. One had a plaque with the information that 1.3 million Irish people had passed through the gateway escaping the famine.

Interesting to see that apostrophe confusion isn’t just a modern complaint.

Here’s an old lift bridge by the Tobacco Warehouse.

I photographed the basin without realising at the time that this was where the canal entered. It comes through a short tunnel under a road just out of shot to the right.

As I say, I didn’t realise that this was what I was looking for, so I continued walking in the sunshine past more and more docks. Eventually I succumbed to modern technology, switched on the satnav, and discovered that all I had to do was strike inland a few hundred yards to come across the canal. This I did, and followed the towpath back towards the city centre. There’s a junction where four locks lead down to the right, but I continued straight on to Eldonian Basin, the end of the canal a couple of hundred yards away.

Back at the locks I followed these down to the tunnel under the road, where I had to leave the canal as there was no towpath.

the four locks ascending to the main line

new lock in Liverpool

The warehouse I’d photographed earlier looked in terrible condition from this side: gutters had blocked and rainwater had seriously damaged the side of the building. Most of the windows had been smashed. From here it was a brisk walk back to rejoin Jan at Albert Dock, where we had 15 minutes to look at one or two things in the Tate gallery...

... and where we said a quick “hello” from the quayside to Derek and Dot on Gipsy Rover.

We reluctantly turned down their kind offer of a cup of tea (although we could have done with it) as we had to catch the train back in order to meet up with friends Phil and Penny for a good Indian/Thai/Chinese buffet meal at the Amantola restaurant on the outskirts of Queensferry. We said nothing to them about a surprise party being held at their house a couple of days later to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Chester, and a fine Indian takeaway

Yesterday we drove to Chester to visit a friend. For a meal we got a takeaway from Ahmed Indian Takeaway in Brook Street, very close to the canal. It was excellent, especially the mushroom bhaji. Definitely a place to patronise again. Brook Street seems to be Chester's Indian Restaurant Quarter: there are loads of them. Paradise!

I'm getting somewhere with the photos now - I've managed to load them in. Now to do battle with the resizing for blogging. OK, not now, but later.

Cut here for organ transplant

Today we walked from our friend's house to Chester along a former railway line, now converted to a cycle and pedestrian path. Where the railway crossed the canal we continued along the towpath to Northgate Locks.

I had the best cup of coffee for a long time at Telford's Warehouse: £1.35 well spent. We looked round the city, had an ice cream by the river Dee, and used the wonderful facilities at Grove (next to the Dee).

I hope the above photo causes no offence - I made sure no-one else was around at the time! I should have taken a close-up of the manufacturer's stamp: made in Burnley.

Then we looked round St. John's Church. I was interested to see that the organ had been played at Queen Victoria's Coronation in 1838 in Westminster Abbey, and was then transported by canal to Chester for installation in the church. I seem to recall (from a notice in the church) that the organ was built for St. John's, and then requisitioned for the Abbey to get them out of a fix, before being allowed to go to its original destination.

On our walk back we went via the Dee Locks branch. Stop planks in place at one of the locks would seem to prevent passage. The Tuesday Night Club did it though.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

An afternoon by the Rufford Branch

Yesterday aftenoon we invited ourselves over to Takey Tezey for a cup of tea, to claim the promise Heather made after the last time we visited (last summer). It was a lovely day - sunny and warm - and the sat nav got us there quickly and efficiently. As we walked towards the jetty Heather saw us and came to open the gate. On board we got our Tetley (an upgrade from Tesco's Finest, apparently) and accepted Heather's invitation to stay for tea, which we could smell cooking. Thanks Heather and Dave - it was very good. We chatted about lots of stuff, took a couple of photos, and then said goodbye and walked down the towpath towards the swing bridge. On the way we saw two boats displaying BCF (Boaters Christian Fellowship) stickers so we told ourselves we'd say hello to them on the way back. Gabriel, nearest the bridge, had an unmissable BCF banner on the roof. James and Hazel were in the bow, so we introduced ourselves and were immediately offered a cup of tea. How could we refuse? We sat down and chatted to them for a while, and then walked down with them to the other BCF boat (of which James and Hazel had been unaware) to say more hellos. This was California, owned by an American couple. Both boats - and one more in the convoy - were on their way to do the Ribble Link.

And, since you ask, yes, the wedding went very well, thank you. The dry cleaning wipe had rendered the tea stain on the wedding dress all but invisible; the sun shone; the best man proved to be a brilliant organiser; the speeches went down a storm; and everyone had a thoroughly good time. Our daughter and new son-in-law are now on honeymoon.

Apologies for the lack of pictures: I'm having trouble loading them onto the laptop. I plug the card reader (with memory card) in; it recognises that some hardware has been added; but it says "insert disk". Grrr. I'll try again later.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Top Thirty, 2009 Week 30

A little later than usual, here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 2250 on Monday 20th July 2009. (I've been busy).

1 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 - Forums (=)

4 Granny Buttons (=)

5 UKCanals Network (+1)

6 Retirement with No Problem (-1)

7 Canal Photos (+3)

8 CanalPlanAC (-1)

9 Jannock Website (-1)

10 nb Epiphany (+1)

11 Narrowboat Gypsy Rover (-2)

12 Waterway Routes (+1)

13 Narrowboat Bones (+4)

14 nb Lucky Duck +2)

15 Warwickshire Fly Boat Company (=)

16 Narrowboat Caxton (+2)

17 Water Explorer (+2)

18 nb Warrior (-4)

19 Derwent6 (-7)

20 Khayamanzi (+7)

21 Narrowboat Debdale (=)

22 Seyella's Journey (+2)

23 Zulu Warrior (-3)

24 Takey Tezey Tales (+2)

25 nb Kestrel (-2)

26 Lazy Days (-4)

27 UK Waterways Ranking Site (+3)

28 boats and cruising (-3)

29 Herbie (=)

30 nb Piston Broke (-)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous week; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry; (=) denotes no change.

Halfie is at number 38 out of 75 entries.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Dress disaster!

Aaargh! Somehow tea managed to get spilled on the wedding dress! It doesn't matter now how it happened (we weren't in the house at the time), but Jan is now trying a dry cleaning wipe on it to see if the stain can be removed. I'm staying out of the way as much as possible. The stain is at the end of the train. Ally was as upset as the tea. Update from Jan: the dry cleaning wipe doesn't seem to have helped. We'll have to take it to a (proper) dry cleaner's tomorrow.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Speech writing and chocolate

Two days before the wedding (our daughter's) and I'm writing the speech. I can't say too much about it as I don't know who might be reading this. Tiredness has set in, though, so I think I'll continue in the morning.

This afternoon we were house hunting on Ally and Ben's behalf in Birmingham, crossing canals as we did so. One area of research was Yardley Wood (Stratford-upon-Avon Canal); and we crossed into Bournville (Worcester and Birmingham Canal), where the ironwork of gateways by the station is painted in Cadbury blue.

Blue is what the air will be if I don't come up with a good bit of verbiage on Saturday so that's all for now.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

A proud daughter

Here is our daughter (BSc). Her graduation ceremony was on Monday at Royal Holloway, University of London. The next big event is in three days time when she and Ben get married. Proud parents? You bet!

Normal waterways-type posts will resume in a little while.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

It's all happening this week

There's a lot of momentous stuff happening this week, none of it involving boats*. Our daughter is graduating from Royal Holloway, University of London tomorrow; and five days later she's getting married! Their photographer has already taken some photos; I hope he won't mind if I post one here. Especially as I've linked to his website.

No, I don't know why half the picture is black and white.

*Actually, some of it might involve boats: we're going to Birmingham to help them find some accommodation. Now, if we could just find a canalside property...

Top Thirty, 2009 week 29

This week's snapshot of Tony Blews's top thirty UK waterways websites was taken today at 2315. Getting late, I know.

1 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 - Forums (=)

4 Granny Buttons (=)

5 Retirement with No Problem (+1)

6 UKCanals Network (+1)

7 CanalPlanAC (-2)

8 Jannock Website (+1)

9 Narrowboat Gypsy Rover (+1)

10 Canal Photos (-2)

11 nb Epiphany (=)

12 Derwent6 (+3)

13 Waterway Routes (=)

14 nb Warrior (+6)

15 Warwickshire Fly Boat Company (-1)

16 nb Lucky Duck (=)

17 Narrowboat Bones (-5)

18 Narrowboat Caxton (-1)

19 Water Explorer (+2)

20 Zulu Warrior (+6)

21 Narrowboat Debdale (-2)

22 Lazy Days (+5)

23 nb Kestrel (-5)

24 Seyella's Journey (-1)

25 boats and cruising (-)

26 Takey Tezey Tales (-)

27 Khayamanzi (-5)

28 Working Boat Hadar (-4)

29 Herbie (-)

30 UK Waterways Ranking Site (-5)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous week; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry.

Halfie is at number 44 out of 74 entries. Not bad, considering I made only one real post last week!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

What happens when you don't blog for a week

What happens when you don't blog for a week is that

1. you feel slightly guilty about it

2. your ranking slips 13 places

3. you have more time for other things

If I need to justify my comparative silence I'll blame general malaise. And I tend to agree with Andrew Denny's guidelines for good blogging. I usually get no further than his point 1:

Have something you want to say. Don't just sit down and think "right, I need to do a blog today, what shall I write?"

Top Thirty, 2009 week 28

This week's snapshot of Tony Blews's top thirty UK waterways websites was taken today at 2145.

1 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 - Forums (=)

4 Granny Buttons (=)

5 CanalPlanAC (=)

6 Retirement with No Problem (=)

7 UKCanals Network (=)

8 Canal Photos (=)

9 Jannock Website (=)

10 Narrowboat Gypsy Rover (+1)

11 nb Epiphany (-1)

12 Narrowboat Bones (+1)

13 Waterway Routes (-1)

14 Warwickshire Fly Boat Company (+2)

15 Derwent6 (-1)

16 nb Lucky Duck (-1)

17 Narrowboat Caxton (+1)

18 nb Kestrel (-1)

19 Narrowboat Debdale (+5)

20 nb Warrior (=)

21 Water Explorer (-2)

22 Khayamanzi (+3)

23 Seyella's Journey (-1)

24 Working Boat Hadar (-1)

25 UK Waterways Ranking Site (-4)

26 Zulu Warrior (-)

27 Lazy Days (+2)

28 Tony Clayton's Canal Photographs (-)

29 NB Windsong (-)

30 NBNorthernPride (=)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous week; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry.

Halfie is at number 51 out of 74 entries.