On our Humbleyard Hoofers walk today - on the first grey day for a while - we came across this attempt to keep the pesky pigeons from pecking the plants in New Buckenham in Norfolk.
Shaped like a bird of prey, and suspended from a pole, it moves about in the wind in a realistic way. Well, it looks reasonably realistic to me, but I wonder what the birds make of it.
Initial signs were good: I couldn't see any birds trying to get at the crop - oilseed rape - but we humans might have scared them off, I suppose. Will they get used to it, and treat it with the same contempt as I'm sure they do an old-fashioned scarecrow?
At least it's quieter than a gun, and therefore more human-friendly.
Two days ago, on my little cycle ride along the River Cam, I reached Baits Bite Lock. There's a wide turning area above the lock and weir for rowers to spin their boats round (I think that's the terminology the sign used).
By this time tomorrow I'm hoping that we might know whether or not it's all systems go for buying our boat. I wonder how long I'll be able to hold back before phoning the surveyor? Perhaps I should wait for his full report ... yes, I think that's probably sensible. But that might take another week!
On the day when I decided I wasn't going to go looking for a boat I sat in the garden for a bit in the sun.
A bee buzzed by and stopped off at some of the flowers for a drink. That's when I went to get the camera, but he wouldn't let me get close enough for a photo. So these polyanthus (polyanthi?) are all beeless, but still pretty, I think.
As I was in Cambridge for work today I made the most of the warm sunny weather and cycled along the river Cam in my lunch hour. Almost the first thing I came across was a bicycle which had been dragged out of the water and left, muddy and lifeless, on the bank.
And a few yards further on was another one.
There were four within half a mile.
There was no sign of the person or persons who had pulled these out, neither was there anything to suggest that they were going to be disposed of properly.
If they're not collected soon they'll just end up back in the water.
I got quotes from three boat surveyors yesterday. Two of them wouldn't have been able to get to the boat until next Tuesday, but one said he could inspect the hull on Saturday afternoon, freshly dry docked but before blacking, and return later in the week for the rest of the inspection. So I booked him - he also happened to be the cheapest. I must remember to ask him about the heavy steering.
Now I need to get a mooring booked in Milton Keynes. It'll need to be residential, with electric hook-up, so I'm thinking along the lines of MK Marina - unless anyone knows of an alternative. MK Marina is a convenient location for Ben's job but is pricey.
Despite many encouraging comments all I can think of are the things I don't like about the boat we're buying.
My ideal boat would have a reasonably large foredeck with side lockers and space for a small folding table, as we enjoyed on Lee Swallow. The boat we're buying has a small foredeck.
My ideal boat would have a traditional back cabin with range and drop-down bed, and an engine room with a vintage engine. The boat we're buying has a modern engine at the back.
My ideal boat would have a low electrical power need. The boat we're buying has a 240V fridge and halogen lights. And five leisure batteries.
My ideal boat would have no TV. The boat we're buying has an integral telescopic TV aerial!
My ideal boat would have a pullman dinette. The boat we're buying has a longitudinal bench seat and a table: any more than two people would have to sit on stools.
My ideal boat wouldn't be compared with a railway carriage.
What am I doing? Is it too late to back out (I've sent off a deposit)? Am I being paranoid?
I'll list some good things: nice floor; nice woodwork; well maintained; cassette loo; ready for Ally and Ben to move onto.
Oh no! The red outweighs the green. Help!
We did look at a boat with a lovely two cylinder Lister engine and trad. back cabin. The boat itself had hardly been used, indeed, the bed had never even been slept on. It needed a fair amount of finishing off, the galley was tiny, and the exterior needed painting. And it had a pumpout loo. But the shell was good, with portholes throughout and a large foredeck; the galley could have been extended and a dinette constructed.
Do I go through with our purchase, knowing that it will suit Ally and Ben, sell it in two years' time when they've finished living on it, and buy the boat of my dreams (if it exists) then?
Or do I pull out and carry on looking?
Or do I buy the "project boat" with the nice engine and engage someone to finish it off before July?
In the course of looking for a boat I called in at Mercia Marina, as I think I mentioned in a previous post. While there I had time (but not much time) to call in on Heather and Dave of Takey Tezey.
It's great that blogging has the potential to open up another sphere of friendships within the boating community, and it's interesting that, in this age of social networking, the friendships become real only once actual face-to-face meetings take place. We first met the crew of TT in July 2009 just after our daughter's wedding nearby. Then they were in St. Mary's Marina on the Rufford Branch. Previously we had merely exchanged the odd comment on each other's blogs; now I feel as though I can call in for a cup of tea (as I did at Mercia) - and I would hope that we would be able to reciprocate once we're up-and-running with our own boat.
[This is the first time I've published this photo of that day in 2009.]
It is a bit weird meeting fellow bloggers for the first time. You feel like you know them already, and they know you (if they read your blog). But what you know about each other is obviously just a speck of coal dust in the stove of life. As soon as you get talking, though (and it's easy to talk about boating), the bonds of a real (not virtual) friendship can begin to form. And there are many more Heathers and Daves on the waterways.
Ray of No Direction asks if I have told Shadow about the new boat which is coming into my life. Well, the answer is no, not yet. For one thing, when Ally and Ben are living on it, we won't be able to use it for holidays. So we're likely to be holding onto our 1/24th share of Shadow for another couple of years. The other thing is that, until the survey has been done and the money paid, it isn't ours yet.
The upshot is likely to be that we'll be the owners of 1.0417 boats (or as near that decimal as makes no difference). Greedy or what?!
As part of the deal the boat is to be blacked and have three new leisure batteries before we take it over. Oh, and have new anodes welded on. (Hmm. I wonder why it needs new anodes already. It's been in the water only seven years. Galvanic corrosion?) It will obviously make sense for the surveyor to do the survey while the boat's out of the water.
We've already started to think about where we're going to move the boat before taking it to Milton Keynes. There's a lot to do, and we haven't considered insurance or licence yet!
Subject to survey, and the handing over of a certain quantity of dosh, we will shortly be the proud owners of a narrowboat. It was a tough decision. We knew what we wanted; we also knew that we'd be unlikely to find the perfect boat. This one has many good features, but doesn't tick every box.
Rather than list its possible failings I'll run through some of its good points.
First, it is in very good condition. The floor throughout is oak strips laid on marine ply. The lining-out is light ash, with mirror graining (if that's what you call it). The galley has a beautiful solid wood (beech?) worktop. The bathroom has a quadrant shower cubicle, a decent-size sink and a cassette loo. In the bedroom there is a wardrobe, a shelf unit and a bed. There's a utility room with a washing machine, and an engine "room" with more cupboards.
There's a mix of portholes at the back and rectangular windows at the front.
And, yes, it has a traditional stern.
I'd love to be able to provide some photos, but that will have to wait until it's properly ours. Its name will have to wait, too.
Now we'll have to arrange a survey. I expect there's a list of boat surveyors somewhere. I'll have to find that "buying your first boat" pamphlet which is kicking around somewhere...
If anyone knows a good surveyor in the Erewash Canal area I'm open to suggestions.
I have been overwhelmed by all your comments on my last post. Who would have thought that a post entitled "The collywobbles" would have got 29 comments (and counting)? It must be a record for me. Thank you all who took the trouble to add your views. And I think the "tradders" might have won the day.
Negotiations on a boat we looked at are continuing, and I won't be betraying any confidences if I say that it has, indeed, a traditional stern.
If it comes off ... well, I'd better not get ahead of myself. But watch this space!
The photo shows two trad sterns: modern-looking motor Truro with butty Ditton above Claydon Top Lock on the Oxford Canal in October 2011
Jan has admitted to me that she has the collywobbles over getting a boat with a trad stern. Now, I appeal to all you lovely blog readers, please help me to convince her (and me!) that a trad stern is a Good Thing.
The trouble is, you see, that we are used to boats with cruiser or semitrad sterns. Shadow is a semitrad; Willow, Lee Swallow and other boats we have used in the past have been cruiser sterned.
The concern is that a trad stern is less sociable.
The thinking is that there will be room for only one person at any time in the hatch, and that's the steerer. It is possible to sit on the cabin top, with legs dangling in the hatch, but I don't think Jan would want to do that. Nor would she be at all happy about standing on the gunwale, clinging on to the hand rail. When she's steering, of course, there wouldn't be so much of a problem, but I tend to do the lion's share of steering, except in locks.
And the "problem" would be exacerbated when we have guests. On a warm and sunny day we have enjoyed being able to congregate at the business end, watching the world go by and partaking of tea, or even the occasional beer.
We have recently looked at a boat. We liked it, but it has steering which is much heavier than we are used to with Shadow. Can anything be done about this? Would it be possible to modify the rudder such that more of it extends forward of the pivot point? Is there anything else which might be affecting the feel of the steering? As far as I can tell, the tiller moves freely enough when the boat is at rest. The tiller arm is a little on the short side, perhaps, but if it were much longer it wouldn't be easy to stand in the hatch to steer. How much difference could an extra three inches, say, on the tiller arm make?
In 1988, a couple of years before we moved to Norwich, a strange event occurred in the city. A large hole opened up in Earlham Road and swallowed the back end of a double decker bus. The story is here. The dramatic pictures went all over the world.
Every day my cycle to work takes me past - over - the scene. Recently I noticed a large piece of wood sculpture in an adjacent small park; yesterday I had a closer look.
It's a representation of that incident of 24 years ago. I see a graffiti vandal has already struck. I wonder how long it will be before it's set alight.
Typical of the cuts which drain the Lincolnshire Fens is Counter Drain, running in a dead straight line. It looks almost navigable, doesn't it? But the map will tell you that it starts as a ditch near Market Deeping, other ditches run into it, there are lots of sharp bends and bridges, presumably low ones. And there's an obstruction at water level by the flood doors.
Below is a poor photo of Vernatt's Drain at Pode Hole. This joins the tidal Welland at Surfleet Seas End, the other side of Spalding; the Welland runs into The Wash, The OS map doesn't indicate the nature of the junction at SSE, whether there's a set of flood doors so that the drain can drain into the Welland at low tide. These things are best discovered on the ground!
This is where I parked up for my coffee on Tuesday (hot water from flask added to coffee grounds in cafétiere). The building on the right is the original Pode Hole Pumping Station, but I didn't realise that at the time.
I did, however, take a photo. The building used to house a beam engine, and is now, apparently, a museum.
On the side, unmissably, are the bye-laws of the Deeping Fen Trustees dated 1876 (or, as the bye-laws themselves put it, the 18th year of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria). They are almost legible if you click to enlarge the photo.
Under the window in the centre of the photo is another thing I didn't spot at the time: the keystone of Sharps Bridge, dated 1806. Perhaps the bridge was demolished when the pumping station was built, and the keystone incorporated as a memento.
On a long car journey yesterday I stopped at Pode Hole in the Lincolnshire fens for a coffee break.
Pode Hole is the location of three pumping stations built to raise water from Deeping Fen and Pinchbeck South Fen into Vernatt's Drain (info from Wikipedia).
The newest pumping station (I think it's the newest) has an interesting weather vane on its roof which I saw only after I'd loaded the photos into my computer.
From the left: a drain with water and a bank; a tree and a house below the water level; a tractor working the drained land. I'm not sure why there are two wavy lines indicating water - just the top one would have worked better, I suggest.
One reason for the canals' current water supply problems is the poor state of some of the lock gates. This was on the Watford Staircase last June.
A boat was almost submerged by the torrent of water gushing through from the lock above. See where the steerer is standing! I wrote about what happened here. The gates were due to be replaced later in the season.
Of course, the biggest problem is the current drought. I fear the rain we had a couple of days ago will soon be a distant memory.
We have been poring over details of dozens of narrowboats in the last few weeks, stepping up our hunt for the right boat. Jan and I still have slightly(!) differing views on the ideal boat, but I might be coming round to her way of thinking. I have always fancied a boat with a traditional back cabin and separate engine room with a nice slow-revving engine. But I'm prepared to concede that this might not be the way to go (yet).
I have also been persuaded that diesel central heating isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Here is the story so far: At Christmas we looked at a boat with a lovely old Lister engine, but the boat was a little on the short and grotty side. Jan didn't get on with the speed wheel and push/pull gearbox control. And where the back cabin should have been was the galley with limited headroom.
A few weeks later we thought we might have found the one. A boat which had been on Apollo Duck for a while grew on us more and more, and our daughter and her husband went to see it for us. The report back was very favourable, and we had been getting quite excited, but, while they had been looking round it, they were told that it was already "under offer". So that was that. The broker told us that the seller had accepted an offer, and I wasn't interested in gazumping.
More ad browsing threw up another interesting boat: back cabin, engine room, fine engine, good length, virtually unused ... but unfinished. This would probably make someone an excellent boat - but not us. We do not want a "project boat". It would be all right, I suppose, if you live nearby and have lots of time and money/expertise.
Now here's the latest: I've just arranged to view a boat on my next day off, Wednesday. It's a conventionally laid out trad which looks good from the photos. Unfortunately I'll have to go on my own, but if I like it, I'll fix up to return with Jan. And I'm going to see if I can view another boat on my way back.
I'll let you know how I get on.
Whatever happens, we won't be saying goodbye to Shadow (photo above) just yet. The plan is still that Ally and Ben will live on the boat in MK for a couple of years.
The best things about my day in Cambridge yesterday were the two train rides, followed by the four cycle rides. Well, the cycle rides were either side of the two train rides, but you know what I mean. The actual work was tough, and I'd had to leave a poorly Jan behind - she'd had to take a very rare day off sick. (She's feeling better today.)
As it happened, the most convenient seat on the four coach train from Norwich (I boarded at Wymondham) was immediately by my bike, with the loo completely obscuring the view to my right and no window on my left. So I read my Canal Boat magazine, and looked up when approaching Ely.
I snapped off a few photos, but it's always tricky timing things to get a clear shot through the trees. Here's Ely cathedral, the Ship of the Fens, towering above some more modestly sized ships of the fens.
After work I cycled along the Cam, past a dark Lucky Duck, and then across Midsummer Common following the directions to the station. I lost the trail after Parker's Piece, so I rejoined the road traffic and went down Hills Road and Station Road.
By the time this is published I shall be in Cambridge for a day's work there. I'll be going by train, so I'll look out as usual for the crossings of various waterways, some more navigable than others: the Little Ouse; the Cut-Off Channel; the River Lark; the Great Ouse (four times); and the Cam.
The last time I was sent to Cambridge to work was in July last year. When I'd finished I cycled back to the station following the Cam for part of the way.
And here's a fenland photo I took from the moving train. Any photos this time will have to be on the outward trip as I shall be returning after dark.
By the way, I'm being very considerate of TV licence fee payers. My travel expenses to get to BBC Cambridge (above) will consist solely of my off-peak return ticket: £15.40. Compare that with the cost of hiring a car, or even the cost of fuel for a pool car, were one to be available. And using the bike means no taxi fares either.
Looking through some photos for yesterday's post I realised that I need to get back on the water. I'm missing the cut. Fortunately we have a week on Shadow coming up next month, so there's not too long to wait. I hope there'll be enough water.
I ordered an 8GB memory stick from Maplin on Tuesday for £5.99 with free delivery. I had tried to get it in the central Norwich store but was told that it was an on-line offer only. On Wednesday I had a day off, so happened to be at home when there was a ring at the doorbell. A large FedEx van was in the driveway, and a deliveryman was proffering a jiffybag and something for me to sign. I signed his electronic device, took the package and closed the door - and then wondered what would have happened if I'd been at work. Presumably the delivery would not have been made, and I would have had to go to an office on an industrial estate somewhere to pick it up. The package would easily have fitted through the letterbox - it was only a cheap memory stick - so why did I have to sign for it? Also, why not just stick the stick (so to speak) in the ordinary post?
I see there are other offers at Maplin - for today only - which might be of interest to boaters. There's a 150W inverter for just £17.99; and an 8GB SDHC memory card for £6.99. Possibly not quite as useful for boaters is a telescopic ladder - 3.75m shrinks down to 80cm - for £59.99.
I have no connection with Maplin, by the way - I just thought you might be interested. I'm going to see if I can get the memory card this lunchtime...
Yes, I know all weather is boating weather, but -at last - there's a decent amount of rain falling out of the sky. Well, there is in Norfolk, anyway. Very necessary for the canal system, and the rest of the country. Although I'd rather it didn't rain too much when I'm cycling to and from work! But, when it rains, Jan and I often say to each other, "Boating weather!"
I think this stems from early boating experience when it always seemed to rain. I never minded the rain: the act of being in charge of a narrowboat on a canal was so absorbing that I almost didn't notice the weather. Now we're better protected against the wet. My leather hat is one of the most useful weapons in the battle to keep out the rain. If it's really chucking it down I wear my "greens", a waterproof jacket and overtrousers given to me years ago by Jan's dad. They were intended for use in the garden, but they work really well on the boat!
Nearly all our boating so far has been "against the clock" to some extent. Warwickshire ring in a week; Four Counties ring in a week, that sort of thing. I still like to cover a decent amount of ground (water) when cruising, hence the need to be out in all weathers. But I'm envisaging slowing down a bit in retirement - when that comes - when we have our own boat: stopping for lunch, maybe, and not being in quite so much of a hurry to get going if it's raining, perhaps.
I haven't many pictures of rain on the canal as my camera isn't as waterproof as I am. The top photo is of the Staffs and Worcs Canal during a cloudburst in Kidderminster in July 2011 taken from the shelter of (I think) Kidderminster Bridge 16. The second photo is on the Bridgewater Canal at Stockton Heath in July 2008.
Late on Christmas Day David took me for a ride on his tandem around his part of London. One thing we saw was something which indicates the state of the tide at the entrance to Deptford Creek.
I have just found out that HIGH...LOW is a solar-powered work of art. This is from the Deutsche Bank website:
The art work, an illuminated sign made up of the words HIGH...LOW, spans 21 metres and 1.5 metres high. A total of 165 LED spotlights create this tidal indicator which sits on the Creekside wall in front of the Faircharm Industrial Estate building - each lamp serving as a pixel. As the tide moves in and out twice daily, the letters within the words are illuminated to reflect the current level of the tide with each segment lasting approximately 20 minutes.
From the same position I photographed the creek itself. I've tweaked the levels to make it a bit brighter.
Deptford Creek joins the Thames opposite the Isle of Dogs. It has been home to ship building, chemical works, engineering works, gasworks, soap and candle factories, sawmills, coal and timber wharves, paint works, breweries, food stores and verdigris works for the manufacture of copper sulphate. (Taken from this concise history).
Many people from the north to the south west, apparently, saw a bright meteor streaking across the sky on Saturday night. This reminds me that, cycling home from work a couple of weeks ago, I was struck by the brightness in the night sky of two planets.
I stopped to take a photo, resting the camera on a fence post. The moon always looks much bigger to the eye than it appears on my photos - I suppose that's because there is nothing on a human scale in the blackness to compare it with.
I've just looked up which planets they are: Jupiter (top left) and Venus. Not that they look anything more than a couple of bright dots on my photo! According to this website Jupiter and Venus are gradually moving closer together (as observed from Earth), being at their closest on 13th March.
Continuing from where I left off yesterday, this is the rest of the Port of Liverpool's 1957/58 handbook's section on inland waterway facilities.
The Shropshire Union Canal entered through the docks and locks at Ellesmere Port can be used by barges of 50 to 60 tons capacity serving the Chester and Nantwich areas, and giving direct waterway communication between theses areas of Cheshire and the Docks at Liverpool and Birkenhead.
This canal also serves Audlem, Market Drayton and Wolverhampton with direct connection at Autherley to Birmingham and the South Western Waterways Division (River Severn, Gloucester, etc.) and through Birmingham to the Waterways of the South Eastern Division (River Thames, London, etc.).
A British Waterways fleet of modern self-propelled boats operate between the Midlands and Ellesmere Port or via Middlewich and Anderton to the Weaver Navigation and Weston Point Docks.
All the canals have extensive areas alongside for industrial development, particularly suitable for works dependent on the Ports of Liverpool and Birkenhead for the imports of their raw materials or for the export of their finished products. The Waterways enable manufacturers to enjoy the facilities and advantages of Direct Overside Shipment of Goods in the Ports of Liverpool and Birkenhead while at the same time permitting their works to be decentralised and situated away from the immediate vicinity of the Port.
The Rochdale Canal Company owns extensive warehouses and wharves at Manchester, Rochdale, Heywood, Todmorden, and other places for the accommodation of merchandise of all descriptions, information respecting which can be obtained on application to the General Manager and Secretary, at the head offices, 75 Dale Street, Manchester.
And that, apart from a half-page ad from British Transport Waterways, is it as far as mention of inland waterways is concerned.
The photograph's caption reads "Good stowage, a port feature". What can one say?
As promised, here is an extract from the fascinating handbook of the Port of Liverpool, compiled and edited by the Public Relations Dept. of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board for 1957/58.
INLAND WATERWAYS FACILITIES
The Port of Liverpool, comprising the docks, wharves and warehouses situated on the Estate of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, both at Liverpool and at Birkenhead, is well served by the Inland Waterways in the North Western Waterways Division of the Inland Waterways Board of Management, British Transport Commission, at Liverpool.
The Leeds and Liverpool Canal, navigable for barges of 50 to 60 tons capacity has direct connection to the Liverpool Docks through the Canal Locks at Stanley Dock.
A British Waterways fleet of 50 ton capacity diesel engined barges afford quick and regular movement of traffic between the Port and the towns of Wigan, Leigh, Blackburn, Church, Burnley, Nelson, Skipton, Keighley, Shipley (for Bradford) and Leeds, where British Waterways warehouses provide local storage and distribution or collection services.
Through traffic can be routed through Leeds to and from East Yorkshire and the ports of Goole and Hull over the North Eastern Waterways Division and to and from Manchester or Salford Docks through Leigh over the Bridgewater navigation.
The St. Helens Canal, with locks at Widnes, is navigable by barges of 100 tons capacity serving the Warrington area and the sugar refineries at Earlestown.
The Weaver Navigation provides a waterway through the locks at Weston Point for coasters or barges up to 400 tons capacity serving the salt and chemical producing areas of Mid-Cheshire at Winsford and Northwich.
At Weston Point the Commission's well-equipped Docks with modern electric cranes comprise a storage area and transhipment port with extensive wharves and warehouses where temporary accommodation is offered at low rates for materials being collected preparatory to shipment at Liverpool or Birkenhead or awaiting distribution inland; large consignments can be handled in vessels up to 1,500 tons in capacity. There is direct communication at Weston Point with the Bridgewater Navigation for traffic to or from Manchester and Salford Docks and at Anderton with the Trent and Mersey Canal for traffic to and from the North Staffordshire Potteries and the Midlands.
(That's half of it - the rest will follow.)
It should be remembered that these were the days before containerisation, where cargoes had to be handled by the barrel, case, bundle etc.
It's an indication of how much canal transport was withering at the the expense of railways, that there are nine pages devoted to railway facilities, and only one and a bit to inland waterways facilities.
The photo is from the handbook, and shows the Tobacco Warehouse. Is that a boat about to go under the bridge?
For my birthday recently I was given a 1957/58 edition of the handbook of The Port of Liverpool, subtitled "The Gateway of the West".
I have yet to browse through it properly, but the first few pages of ads evoke an era from before I was born (just). Several shipping firms take adjoining full-page ads: Harrison Line; Brocklebanks; the Blue Funnel Line; Anchor Line; Clan Line; Houlder Brothers & Co.; Furness Warren Line and Johnston Warren Line; Booker Line; Pacific Line; United States Lines; Mac Andrew Line ... and the list goes on.
The ports their ships served read (mostly) like a table of exotic holiday locations: Calcutta, New Orleans, Galveston, Brazil, British West India Islands, Venezuela, Curacao, Colombia, Cristobal, Central America, Bermuda, Bahamas, Jamaica, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Mexico and Charente. And that's just the Harrison Line! Other trading destinations include Ceylon, India, Indonesia, Australia, Egypt, Pakistan, South Africa, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Demerara...
As with most publications of this age, the advertisements are at least as interesting as the main text. There are 97 pages of them! And 110 pages of details about every aspect of the port: its history; the Graving Docks; Unloading Sugar in Bulk; Dredging; Railway Facilities; Canteens etc.
Yes, there's a section on Inland Waterway Facilities, which I will write about another time.