I've stumbled across a website on the River Weaver. According to the site, River Weaver Navigation, it's been set up by BW employee Mel Blakey. It looks like a good resource for anyone contemplating navigating the river, or for anyone interested in its history. There's an in-depth discussion of the geology of the stone used in the building of Hunts Locks too!
Our daughter and son-in-law decided they'd visit us this weekend, so they drove up from Birmingham and crept into the house at one o'clock yesterday morning. Had they not come we would have been on our monthly walk, instead we heard all about Ally's new job as a local business executive with a Swedish office furniture company. No, not Ikea, but Kinnarps. At the end of her initial four-week training course she was handed the keys to a company car, and here it is. Well, with all that sign writing she won't lose it in a car park!
OwnerShips boats Shadow and Slipstream on the Shroppie
Yesterday afternoon the death was announced of Allen Matthews, the boss of shared boat company OwnerShips. He had had cancer.
Allen founded OwnerShips in 1990 and remained its managing director. It is thanks to him that I got back into boating after a long gap after our children were born. We bought our share in Shadow in September 2002 and have enjoyed many weeks of excellent cruising, with many more, no doubt, ahead of us. Under Allen's direction the shared ownership scheme has always felt more like a club than a business, with well-organised annual meetings in Birmingham for owners (no compulsion to attend); the unmoderated (but self-controlled) discussion forum where any criticism of the company is uncensored and always taken seriously; and the annual OwnerShips Show at Braunston.
It was the discussion forum which provided the impetus for my joining the scheme. Anyone posting that they were considering buying a share of a boat would receive numerous replies from satisfied members all saying how good it was, yet the same tentative enquirer would read posts on minor quibbles with the company and see how honest were the replies.
At the annual owners' meetings Allen Matthews would, at some point in the proceedings, recount a funny thing that happened to a boater in the summer, or tell a tale of disaster narrowly avoided, in his fairly dry style.
The OwnerShips discussion forum has already received many tributes to Allen Matthews. I'm sure there will be many more.
I mentioned yesterday that there was a boating connection with the gallopers of yesterday's post. I have also mentioned that I'm reading Victorian Engineering by L. T. C. Rolt, author of Narrow Boat and co-founder of the IWA. In one chapter Rolt talks about the influence on agriculture of steam engines, and how agricultural engineers, especially in East Anglia, branched out into providing steam power for fairground rides.
From the book:
"The original fairground ride, the roundabout or 'gallopers', was propelled by horses, but in the 1870s a Norfolk agricultural engineer named Sidney Soame of Marsham built a very small portable steam engine which he used to drive a roundabout at Aylsham Fair. By doing so he laid the foundation of a considerable industry. Soon several country engineering works were producing a variety of mechanical fairground rides: steam gallopers, steam yachts and scenic railways, while to haul these rides from town to town the sober agricultural traction engine blossomed forth as a 'showman's engine', decked out in a baroque splendour of twisted brass and columns and other decorative metalwork."
A little later on:
"One of the first to profit by the example set by Sidney Soame was Frederick Savage of the nearby St. Nicholas Ironworks in King's Lynn. He took up the manufacture of fairground machinery with such energy, skill and success that the name of Savage soon became so famous in this field that its earlier association with agricultural engineering was almost forgotten."
Quick - it's nearly time to go to work and I haven't prepared a blog post for today. What shall I do? I know, there's a photo I took of a fairground ride which sat on Millennium Plain outside The Forum in Norwich over the Christmas period. It's called "Pride of the (something)" (sorry, I can't remember what it's the pride of now), and is a traditional galloping horses ride. Probably very famous. Pride of the South. Just looked it up.
I experimented with slow shutter speeds and I've tweaked the results on iPhoto.
This is just to show what it looked like "at rest".
There is a boating connection, but there's no time to give it right now. Work calls.
For my birthday I was very pleased to be given by Jan three books by L. T. C. Rolt: Thomas Telford; The Clouded Mirror; and The Landscape Trilogy. This builds on books I was given for Christmas which included Landscape with Canals, the second part of the trilogy, which I have almost finished reading. If the other books are as readable I'm going to enjoy this hugely.
I'm also reading Rolt's Victorian Engineering, which I got from the library. This is a fascinating account of how engineering developed in the nineteenth century, and of the people involved.
The laughs? Some friends came to share some wine and birthday cake. Jan had made a nice chocolate cake (sorry, no photo, it didn't hang around long enough), and we all had a piece. It was only when Annette was licking her fingers that she suddenly remembered that she'd given up chocolate for Lent! We all laughed a lot!
I have already mentioned the saga of our daughter's mysterious leaks from the bathroom, and how nobody has yet been able to resolve the issue (pun intended).
And yesterday I referred obliquely to my birthday.
The two things came together hilariously this morning when I opened a card from daughter and son-in-law.
Thanks, Ally and Ben, I laughed a lot!
Curry update: we had a jolly evening at the King's Head in Magdalen Street and the Ali Tandoori on the other side of the road. The ale at the King's Head was so good that I've now forgotten what it was called (although I can remember that it was 4.0 abv and cost £2.60/pint!)
(Beer update: after a bit of searching I've found it on the internet. It was locally brewed Spectrum Bezants. Very tasty.)
I don't bother with getting any commenters on this blog to complete a word verification box. Some people do, of course. And sometimes the word required can be eerily appropriate, as in this example on a post by Neil on Herbie re logs.
Of course, we notice only those words which seem to have some relevance. Incidentally, isn't it much easier now that the "words" resemble real words, and are not just a random jumble of characters?
Day off today. I'm typing this watching the snow come down. It's been snowing all morning, but it seems to be settling only on the grass and car roofs (current outside temp. 2.2ºC). Out for a curry tonight to celebrate another step closer to retirement and that boaty dream...
I noticed the other day something I hadn't spotted before. Let into the side of Foundry Bridge over the River Wensum in Norwich is a curved piece of iron conduit.
There's a similar thing on Blackfriars Bridge a little further upstream.
I assume the conduit is - or used to be - for use by the fire service so a hose could be let down into the river without it kinking. Many bridges on the BCN have red fire doors for this purpose, although I don't know how the Birmingham fire fighters prevent their hoses kinking!
Foundry Bridge, in the top photo, was built in 1886 of wrought iron according to this website. Another site, Broadland Memories, has good information on this and other Norwich bridges.
Radio Caroline (1965) promised a "Film in two sections. First is a 'travelogue' style look at the River Thames. Second is a look at life aboard the ship that hosts Radio Caroline."
From an unlikely beginning this 4' 47" film takes us on a short cruise up the Thames, looking at a few disjointed things: Tower Bridge; a young mother using a mangle on a houseboat; the Cutty Sark - with ridiculous commentary of which even the log on the website is disparaging: "...narrator is rambling on about Britain being an "island race ... being at our best on the water's edge." - and then we're suddenly on board Mi Amigo for a tour of Radio Caroline (with young versions of Tony Blackburn and Simon Dee, among others).
But of equal interest is the accompanying assemblage of clips which didn't make it to the final cut. British Pathé call it "outtakes", which now has a connotation of hilarity. This shows, among other working boats, a load of timber being towed along the river (screen grab at the top of this post); also we see a wharves with cranes, including a gleaming white New Fresh Wharf.
OUT TAKES / CUTS FROM CP 536 - reel 2 of 2 - RADIO CAROLINE
Seen on the Grand Union last March, Callisto, a "Star Class" Grand Union Canal Carrying Co. "Little Woolwich".
I have found the A. M. Models website invaluable for information on former working boats. From there I learn that Callisto entered the fleet in December 1935 and was
"Originally powered by a National 2DM but now powered by a Russell Newbery DM2. She was hired to the London Fire Service during the last war and worked on fire fighting duties in the Surrey Docks. After the war was converted to a house boat and in 1948 made a historic trip down the Kennet & Avon Canal to prove that it was still navigable. De-converted by the mid 1970s and spent the next 25 years operating as a camping boat paired with ARA and based at Braunston. Seen at Maffers Xmas 2002. Bought by present owner in 2004."
The last time I was on a river navigation was last April when we used part of the Trent to get to the Trent and Mersey Canal.
emerging onto the Trent from the Soar: the entrance to the Erewash Canal is dead ahead; Shardlow is to the left; Nottingham is to the right
I much prefer canals to rivers, but, as the IWA National Festival is being held at Beale Park on the Thames this year, and as I have three weeks on Willow in August/September (subject to my request for leave being approved), it seems that we might go to the festival by boat, and therefore by river.
I've had some initial thoughts about a possible route: from Willow's mooring on the Paddington Branch we could explore the Lee and Stort Navigations, before a trip up the Thames to Beale Park. There might be time for an excursion up the Oxford Canal before having to return to the Paddington Branch.
Lots of river, then, but new territory in the Lee and Stort.
Or we could shun rivers (and the festival) entirely and head north up the GU. (But I did the section of canal from Bulls Bridge to Buckby only last year ...)
The Daily Telegraph (or their online version) reported on 4th February that part of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal was emptied so that poachers could get their hands on carp.
photo: Manchester Evening News
Part of the 20-mile Huddersfield Narrow Canal in Tameside, Greater Manchester, was closed for 36 hours after it was deliberately drained.
Anglers believe the culprits could be immigrants looking for carp - a staple in Central and Eastern Europe - although others have blamed local vandals.
The saboteurs managed to break through security locks fitted to the gates to stamp out illegal tampering. Only boaters have access to the keys.
Alwyn Ogborn, 70, a local resident, said: "I noticed what was happening and reported it to British Waterways.
"It might have been vandalism, but I heard some people let out the water because they want the carp."
Three locks were affected in two incidents over the weekend.
Three locks affected? That'll be two pounds, then, assuming three adjoining locks.
But British Waterways said that the culprits were unlikely to be carp poachers. Edward Fox, BW Head of Communications, is quoted:
"From what I understand it would be a very inefficient way of trying to catch fish, as they detect the increased flow and escape from the pound with the water. There was no evidence of any footprints in the mud, so it seems unlikely on this occasion."
Whatever the reason for the vandalism, it gives an opportunity to have a look at the canal bed. It seems there's a very good depth by the towpath bank retaining wall (technical term?). At first glance I thought I could see a long mud bar dividing two stretches of water, but it must be the lower section of the wall which happens to be the same colour as the water. And what's going on on the side nearer the camera? The stakes look to be securing a low wire mesh. Gabions started but abandoned?
I realised just how many fish live in canals only when we cruised the weedy eastern end of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal five years ago. The weed seems to filter out the suspended mud in the water, enabling you to see the canal bed and lots of fish. Presumably the fish exist in similar quantities in the more common "muddy" canals, where you can't see more than an inch down.
I found I couldn't access my blog this morning, so I typed in "blogger.com" to see if there were any "known issues" ... and that took me to my blog's "dashboard" from where I can edit posts and create new ones. Blogspot bloggers will know what I'm talking about. It still won't let me view any of my earlier posts, from where I was hoping to use a picture, but there you go.
Now to see if this feeble excuse for a blog post will publish ...
We drove to South Woodham Ferrers yesterday for a family birthday gathering. On the way we stopped briefly where we crossed the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation in Essex.
This is Papermill Lock, where the old stables have been converted into The Old Stables Tearoom. There's a good account of the fourteen mile waterway here: the navigation was authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1793; horse-drawn barges survived into the 1950s, and the last diesel lighter loaded timber from a Scandinavian steamer for Browns Wharf in 1972.
The above photo shows the weir; the lock cut is out of shot to the left. For a bit of fun I played around with iPhoto to produce the image below.
British Waterways says that damage to old canal bridges by road traffic costs £2.5 million per year to repair. That's money which should be spent on maintaining the waterways. BW estimates that at least two of its 1800 bridges are hit every week.
Head of Heritage for British Waterways, Nigel Crowe, said, "Whenever you go over a humpback bridge in Britain you are likely to be going over a canal. Often officially listed as being of special architectural or historical significance, these bridges have to be painstakingly repaired at considerable cost. We're working with the County Surveyors' Society and local authorities to improve signage and road markings, but, frankly, if motorists just slowed down a bit and took more care and attention then we'd not be defacing our heritage in this way on a day-to-day basis."
BW goes on to say:
Humpback bridges were built using traditional materials such as lime mortar and locally sourced stone or brick. Damaged sections of bridges are replaced with like-for-like materials, using skills passed down over many generations.
I wonder if BW will now come up with a figure for the cost of damage to bridges caused by boats hitting them. Across the whole system there must be many more than two hits per week in summer. Two hits per BRIDGE per week is probably an underestimate, especially on the popular cruising routes.
Perhaps if this bridge had been looked after it would have lasted better
Is this boat damage, or was the bridge poorly built? (Bridge on GU Leicester Section, February 2009)
Seen on the Trent and Mersey near Great Haywood last April. Beeston seems to have a steering position amidships as well as at the stern. The covered central position doesn't appear to be collapsible. I wonder if it has difficulty with low bridges, or are looks deceptive? Is it really not as high as it looks?
plaque on tail of one of the Frankton Locks on the Montgomery Canal (more info and photos here)
I wonder if L.T.C. Rolt, the centenary of whose birth we celebrate today, had any inkling that boats like this might have resulted from his book Narrow Boat. Tom Rolt was a founder member of the Inland Waterways Association and wrote books informed by his engineering background. I'm currently reading two of them!
Willow tied up below Stoke Bruerne top lock, March 2009
Woo hoo! I have some accumulated leave which needs using this year, and there's a possibility of some additional cruising on Willow. It's a friend's boat we've used before, once for a holiday on the Leeds and Liverpool, and once when I moved it from Buckby to London. I don't want to say too much more at this stage in case it doesn't come off, but I have had a quick look at the London Nicholson...
Not my title, but that of a travel feature in the Church Times of 22nd January 2010! It's what I referred to yesterday and is a well-written account of the pleasures of boating by journalist and former boater Sarah Meyrick.
photo by Martine O'Callaghan
This is the photo which accompanies the story, giving sufficient clues to enable identification of the boat as Rigal.
Sarah Meyrick starts her article with THAT quotation from Kenneth Grahame.
"IT IS the Water Rat who puts his finger on it. “There is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats,” he tells Mole in The Wind in the Willows.
“Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.”Ratty’s vessel may have been a skiff rather than a narrowboat, but it is still the most eloquent description of the joys of life afloat. First-timers sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that a canal holiday is about distance travelled, or locks ticked off; old hands know that too fixed an idea about the destination will almost inevitably lead to frustration and disappointment."
Sarah Meyrick writes about speed, bank erosion, moored boats, queueing at locks, wildlife (and, in parentheses, the tendency of boat-owners to sneer at those in hire boats). She tells of her experiences in the narrowboat she and her family owned near their Oxfordshire vicarage, Noah's Ark. She also describes the moment when they ceased to be boat-owners:
"Then, suddenly, we outgrew it, literally: limbs seemed too long, tempers too short, and the maintenance/pleasure ratio reversed. Noah’s Ark now belongs to another (clergy) family; I regularly see her from the train, and smile. We, meanwhile, have discovered other canals, and other ways of enjoying them. And yes, Mole, in answer to your question, it really is “so nice as all that”."
My parents had saved me a cutting from the Church Times, which they gave me when we visited them yesterday. It was an article on boating, with an interesting title (more on which later). Accompanying the piece is a large photo of part of the back cabin of GUCCCo Rigal.
The original Rigal, according to A. M. Models website, was a steel composite "Star Class" butty built in 1935 by Harland and Wolff at North Woolwich. According to the same website the boat was at some point, presumably when its working life came to an end, cut in two. Best here to quote from A. M. Models:
Fore end now 60ft motor with under cloth conversion. Original butty stern ( as bow) exists as approx 45' boat also called RIGAL converted to 45ft motor for sale 07 RIGALGUCC I-Z
So now there are two boats called Rigal, both sporting the same Brentford registration number 585.
The caption accompanying the upper photo reads "Rigal - stern going backwards". This confounded me for a while, but it must be that the fore end of this boat, not visible in the picture, is the stern of the original Rigal.
In the lower picture Rigal is the one with the red back cabin.
*Just like an amoeba, then, the original boat has divided in two, both copies of the original. (Not according to Wikipedia! Apparently this is binary fission, which is not how amoebae reproduce. But "Prokaryotes boat" doesn't have the same ring.) (Now there's an idea for a boat name!)
I said yesterday that Poundland is my favourite shop. I'll now run through the items in the photo. Clockwise from the top: watering can with canal-type decoration; gaffa tape; LED headlight (attaches to baseball-type cap); LED headlight (held on head with elastic strap); pack of car bulbs; sunglasses; slimline reading glasses in case; 40m polypropylene rope; LED "camping light" (not stocked now, but where else could you have got 24 bright white LEDs for a quid?); single AA battery LED torch. In the centre is another LED caplight in its packaging.
My gloves are from Poundland, as are my various reading glasses, my USB card reader, rechargeable batteries, gardening gloves, scarf, kitchen timer ... I reckon I've saved a fortune (and spent a smaller one) shopping in Poundland.
*Poundland's slogan is "Everything's £1". Andrew Denny comments that this implies that you could walk into the shop and buy its entire stock for just one pound. Hmm. This title all right for you, Andrew?
I wonder just how many pounds I've spent in Poundland? Quite a few. It really has the most useful things sometimes. This is a small selection of items I've bought there and used on the boat. When I have a bit more time I'll go through them in detail.
Everything you see here has come from Poundland (well, not the floor, don't be silly). Even the canalware-type watering can.
Andrew Denny of Granny Buttons is unwell. Actually he claims to be "still alive but dying". I hope this is an example of male exaggeration and not to be taken too literally.
Of course, we're all "dying" in the sense that our lives on earth are finite, and the experts tell us that our brain cells are diminishing in number all the time (is that right, Bones?), but there I go, taking it too literally.
Andrew says his latest post, an interesting piece on spoof mushrooms and BW, is mere "filler" and "inconsequential". But one man's filler is another person's meat and drink. A crumb from his table is worth a hundred of my posts. (Oops, I'm self-denigrating. I've been told off for that before.)
What I'm trying to say is: Filler can be good. I bought some more just the other day as I was running out. I've been attending to a few cracks in our house (tip: always mix up more filler than you think you need). I bought this from Poundland ... and that's given me an idea for a future post. Can you wait?
Have you noticed the new steps down the bank in several places on the Llangollen Canal? They're probably elsewhere on the system as well, but I noticed these on our October 2009 cruise.
They look well made, with a safety hand rail and non-slip treatment on the treads. I initially thought that they might be footpaths, possibly ending in a stile.
But when I investigated, at the bottom I found a fence completely blocking the way. The steps go nowhere. Or so it seems. A clue was in the fact that they tended to coincide with where a stream was culverted under the canal. Could the steps be a maintenance aid?
I e-mailed BW to ask about them. Here's their response:
I can advise that yes the steps are to enable us to visually inspect the canal to make sure it is running correctly and to check for any blockages/extra water. If we find that there is a problem then we have other means of gaining access to the culvert.
I photographed the steps from the towpath of the Llangollen at Bettisfield. Was this the site of the recent breach? Did the steps make any difference?
My attempts at night photography rely on artificial light. Far from cursing streetlights, as Andrew Denny does, I need them to supply the light my compact camera needs. Here's an example of one of my pictures where I needed that extra illumination. The longest exposure the camera will do is eight seconds. This is Shadow tied up at Bettisfield on the Llangollen Canal last October.
As you can see, it's like looking at coal in a cellar at night with the lights off.
But I can tweak the picture in iPhoto to increase the "exposure". It gets grainier the more I do it, but at least you can see something.
OK, not a lot, but I think you'll agree there's a bridge hole with some trees against the sky.
iPhoto has tweaks for colour temperature, tint, saturation etc. I've helped myself to one of Andrew Denny's recent photos from his post linked to above (thanks, Andrew) to show what it can do. I can't lose the sodium yellow altogether, but I think the gate's now blue shadow is interesting!
And here is Mr. Denny's streetlit original.
Hey, look, the shrubs in the treated picture are a more realistic green colour!
Don't bother clicking on the above two photos, by the way. They won't get much bigger. I borrowed the original just to show what can be done to counter - or attempt to counter - the chromatic effects of streetlighting. I promise to make my own photos published here clickable and large enough so see anything worth seeing. Photos which I deem less worthy might be smaller.
(edited to add: If I remember correctly all I adjusted was colour temperature, going through the loop several times. So, from a photo which looked monochrome, I managed to recover some of (what I imagine are) the original colours.)