Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Requiescat in pace

Various things have been keeping us very busy over the last week or so, and will continue to do so for a while longer.

Yesterday Jan's mum died at home, aged 91.

We shall miss her but are comforted in the knowledge that she is now with Jesus.

We are currently at the bungalow in Writtle with Jan's dad.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Triple parapet bridge

Someone a while ago wondered whether there were any more examples of a turnover bridge with attached roadway besides Bridge 95 on Braunston Puddle Banks. Last year I found one on the BCN (Spon Lane Bridge on the Old Main Line).

And here's another. Bridge 47 just north of Gayton Junction on the GU.

Not a good photo, but Milton Road crosses the canal on the same structure, meaning that between the two parapets is a third wall separating the road from the towpath as it is taken over the canal.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Any entomologists out there?

I found this insect while I was chopping logs this afternoon.

I tried to find out what it was, but it appears that there are a million known species of insect and a further five million species waiting to be discovered. It's probably something common, but my cursory glance at some pictures didn't help.

Here's another shot with my finger for scale.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Those Wilderness boats at Stoke Bruerne

A few people have mentioned seeing the little convoy of Wilderness boats heading south on the Grand Union. We saw them at Stoke Bruerne, tied up below the bottom lock, just over two weeks ago.

That's it, really. We should be back on the boat soon, so I'll be able to start posting more up-to-date fare. Until then I'll have to rake over old photos ...

Friday, 14 April 2017

Carrying the cross

Today, Good Friday, is one of the most important days in the Christian calendar, when we remember the death of Jesus on the cross. In our Norfolk village we carry a large wooden cross through the streets between the parish church and the Methodist church, alternating the direction each year. The walk is done at a slow pace and takes about half an hour.

We walk in silence - well, that's the idea, anyway. This year we ended at the Methodist church where we had a service followed by hot cross buns.

This is the first time we've been at home for Easter for a while. Over the last few years we've been at Tamworth/Polesworth, Nantwich and Market Harborough, all by boat.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Seeing Nutfield reminds me ...

As we passed through Blisworth two weeks ago there was Nutfield tied up. I was saddened recently to read of the death of someone closely associated with Raymond, the butty usually seen with Nutfield.

I first met Steve Miles at a book signing at a boat festival a few years ago, although I knew him only as Geoffrey Lewis, his pen name. Since then we exchanged greetings whenever our paths crossed, usually on the cut somewhere. He was always cheerful, friendly and ready to chat. Steve Miles made a big contribution to the waterways through the Northampton Branch of the IWA, the Friends of Raymond and the Buckingham Canal Society, being a past chairman of the last two organisations. He wrote detective stories and children's fiction, weaving in tales of the canals. Steve died on 9th November 2016, aged 69.

Mike Freeman has written an appreciation of Steve Miles on the Friends of Raymond website.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Lock against you with exit gates open? It's not always a lazy boater's fault

As we climbed Stoke Bruerne Locks a couple of weeks ago nearly every lock was against us, as I think I said at the time. Some locks' top gates are balanced such that they swing open when the lock is full. Lock 19 is one example.

Until I went to close up after Jan had steered Jubilee through I had thought that we were following a boater who couldn't be bothered to close the gates after leaving the lock. Then I shut one gate only to see the opposite one open by itself.

To empty the lock in this scenario you might think you need three crew - one on each top gate to hold it shut and one to raise paddles the other end. But all you have to do is crack open a bottom paddle a little and then walk to the errant top gate and close it. The slight flow of water out of the lock will tend to pull the gates to. Then the lock can be emptied as normal.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Picture perfect?

At the end of March we left our mooring at Thrupp Wharf Marina, saying goodbye to our neighbours Paul and Pam on Intrigue and to marina owners Roy and Val. The weather was breezy but sunny and warm for spring.

Few other boats were about and we were enjoying being on the move. Do you like my picture? No, of course it's not perfect, but I'm quite pleased with it.

We didn't chase this heron for long.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Insurance quandary

Jubilee's boat insurance is due for renewal in a few days and I am unsure of the best thing to do. We have been with EIS (Euromarine) for the last five years and have been very happy with them, but we have had a quote from a rival for considerably less. The difference is probably because EIS is insuring the boat on an "agreed value" basis, whereas the competitor is quoting on a "market value" cover. EIS is able to insure the boat for the price we paid for it as we haven't had it valued since then. As I understand it, this becomes relevant only in the event of a total loss, through fire or sinking, for example.

Is it worth paying an extra 30% to be "sure"* of getting the full payout in this very unlikely scenario? We're talking £40 per year. I have to decide by the end of the week.

I suppose all insurance is like this.

*Reading through the list of exclusions in the policy I don't think you can be sure of anything. The list of get-out clauses is vast.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Wyming Brook walk, Sheffield

A couple of weeks ago, on 28th March, we drove up to Sheffield to visit Andrew. He took us to Wyming Brook, a tributary of the River Rivelin to the west of the city.

Andrew led us on an excellent walk through the trees, down to the Rivelin Dams reservoir and back up along the brook itself.

As we set off from the car park the sunlight was filtering through the trees. Andrew also filtered through the trees.

What looked at first glance like dandelion is actually, I believe, coltsfoot.

When we climbed up by the brook it had started to rain, but the trees sheltered us to some extent and we didn't get too wet. The rain didn't last long.

It was a delightful walk. Andrew appreciates having countryside such as this on his doorstep.

On to today, and what amazing summer-like weather we've been enjoying! As we walked in shirtsleeve order to church this evening for a Palm Sunday service of music and readings the aroma of a barbecue wafted tantalisingly over us. I think we'll be down with a bump tomorrow as temperatures ten degrees lower are forecast.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

It's a daffodil, all white?

Jan says it's common, but perhaps I have a short memory. Whatever, I was surprised to see this daffodil in our garden amongst the usual yellow (and yellow/orange) ones.

Despite the development of gardens nearby for housing we still get some wildlife. Today I managed to photograph this visitor.

As far as I can tell from the internet it's a speckled wood butterfly.

In other news, our boat is being worked on at the Grand Junction Boat Co. A mushroom vent has been resealed and two windows are receiving the same treatment. A small gearbox oil leak will be investigated, and the engine coolant will be replaced with a fresh mix of antifreeze. All should be ready for us after Easter.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Holland at Gayton

FMC boat Holland motored past us at Gayton Junction four days ago, looking splendid in the sunshine.



I must phone the boatyard tomorrow to see if they've done anything to Jubilee ...

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Curious hump bridge over old railway near Stoke Bruerne

On the road between Stoke Bruerne and Blisworth - that's the road for wheeled traffic I mean - there is a hump bridge.

Not that surprising, you might say. After all, there is a canal in the vicinity. But the canal here is in Blisworth Tunnel. I stopped to investigate.

Underneath the bridge, quite a long way down, is the bed of a dismantled railway.

I was surprised to see a flat underside to the bridge; I had been expecting a canal-style arch. On the OS map - image below from streetmap.co.uk - you can see the line of the former railway where the road crosses it, just above Stoke Plain.

The tunnel is a very short distance to the east. The railway is in a cutting here; its builders must have had to be careful not to break through into the roof of the tunnel.

The building marked on the map immediately to the west of the bridge is now a private house, but there is what looks like an old platform alongside. Was it Stoke Bruerne Station? I didn't take a photo, sorry.

Update: Consulting Wikipedia reveals that this was indeed a station, although it was misspelt "Stoke Bruern", without the final "e". The line was the Stratford-upon-Avon, Towcester and Midland Junction Railway; the station opened on 1st December 1892. It closed for passengers just four months later, 20 passengers per week not being enough to justify the cost.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Our last meeting with the Waiourus? And a good Sunday lunch in Stoke Bruerne

On Sunday we arranged to meet up with Tom and Jan of Waiouru at the Navigation pub in Stoke Bruerne for lunch. We left Jubilee at Gayton Junction and drove to the pub. There was no space in the car park so we parked on the road.

The place was heaving but our orders for lunch were placed reasonably quickly. Tom, I'm very grateful to you for helping me transfer - wirelessly - photos from my camera to Jan's mobile phone so that I could e-mail them to the BBC.

Our chatting while we waited for food helped to pass the time; when the roast meals arrived they were very good. My ordered chicken had mysteriously turned into beef, but I was so hungry I would have eaten anything. And the beef was very tasty, with plenty of nice vegetables - including RED CABBAGE! (one of my favourites).

Two Jans, Tom and Halfie
Tom told us a little about their plans for when they return to the other side of the world, so it wasn't a huge surprise when we read his post about Waiouru being for sale. Still, it will be a sad day when the deed is done and our waterways lose a lovely couple of people. I will especially miss your posts about technical matters, Tom.

We wish you both all the very best for your future travels.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Replacing Jabsco Par-Max 2.9 water pump

On Sunday I looked at the water pump under the bed and found a small flood. I don't know if the water was coming from the connections or the body of the water pump itself, so I replaced the pump and used the new O-ring connectors which came with it. This was an easy job as it was replacing like for like, a Jabsco Par-Max 2.9. Also, gate valves were handily there to isolate the pump.

I took this photo after sponging up the water and replacing the pump.

The computer fan is a temporary measure to help dry the surroundings.

There are two things about the pump's installation which might have led to the O-ring connections failing, if indeed they did. First, the pipes leading to the pump are fairly rigid, despite being plastic. Second, the pump is not screwed down - it merely rests on a couple of bits of foam insulation.

I think I could improve on this by using flexible hoses and screwing the pump down. For now, though, I'll see if what I've done stops the leak.

We returned home yesterday to find another minor flood. Our washing machine had been steadily filling up with cold water and leaking all over the parquet floor and into a cupboard. The solenoid valve on the cold feed must be not closing off properly. The biggest damage appears to be to the sliding cupboard door, the bottom of which has been wicking up the water causing the veneer to lift. Now the door won't slide open. Not sure what to do about it yet.

The boat, meanwhile, is at the boatyard for windows and a mushroom vent to be resealed in the hope that that will stop rain getting in. A gearbox oil leak will also be investigated, and a failed weld on a pigeon box flap will be rewelded.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Stand up paddle board world record* made on Grand Union Canal

This morning at 10.00 an exhausted stand up paddle boarder came in to the bank at Gayton Junction and was helped off her paddle board. Joanne Hamilton Vale, from Banbury, had just completed 24 hours of paddling, standing on a glorified surf board, continuously save for four breaks of no more than one and a half minutes. Her route was the section of Grand Union Canal between Blisworth and Bugbrooke, each there-and-back taking about two hours.

We became aware of a world record endurance attempt when Jo, in brightly coloured garb, kept paddling past our boat, accompanied on the towpath by someone jogging along filming her. I reckon she must have passed our boat 26 times - twice on each of the twelve "laps" and another twice to bring her up to the 24 hours required.

Two of Jo's supporters - from Cumbria - patiently answered my questions about the record attempt. It was much easier photographing them, relatively slow moving, than Jo, going about as fast as she could (commensurate with lasting 24 hours).

We now took every opportunity we could to cheer Jo on to victory.

I displayed a message of encouragement on the boat. Jo later asked me for my home-made sign, visible in a later photo.

At the end of her 24 hours, during which she got too hot during the warm sunny day and too cold during the starry night, she looked shattered. As well one might. While she was being congratulated and tended to, evidence of the distance covered and time taken were being meticulously filmed.

Jo recovered enough to smile with my sign ...

... before group photo time.

So how did Jo do? Well, according to provisional data (and my memory), she paddled a total distance of 179km in the requisite 24 hours. That's 111 miles at an average speed of 4.66 mph in old money (yes, she had special permission from CRT to break the speed limit). Of course, she had no locks to do.

*Guinness World Records has to confirm the result before Jo can truly claim to have beaten the previous record, of 177.79km by an American.

I shall endeavour to update this post when I get the information.

Jo raises money for Stand Up for the Cure, a cancer charity. Jo is herself a survivor of breast cancer. (I can't link to the charity's website as it seems to be insecure.)

You will see in one of the photos the red and white tape still closing off the Northampton Arm. My photos from yesterday did make it onto BBC Look East - neighbouring boat Festina Lente saw the story and we watched it on iPlayer at Ally and Ben's house this afternoon.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Fuel theft closes Northampton arm (again)

We noticed this morning that red and white stripy tape had been stretched right across the Northampton arm by the services block at Gayton Junction (but allowing boats on the main line to use the services). On investigation we found a police and fire service operation in progress.

What appeared to be a CRT man at the junction (he was wearing a non-hi-vis lifejacket) said that overnight someone had drilled into a pipe crossing the canal to steal fuel from it, and that a lot of fuel had leaked into the water.

The bridge was closed to traffic, but I was allowed down onto the towpath.

Booms had been placed across the canal to contain the spill. A number of small absorbent pads were floating on the water, achieving little by the look of them.

Two pipes cross the canal ...

... there is a damp patch at the foot of one of them.

Notices on the pipes seem not to have deterred the thief.

There was a very strong smell of fuel, but it didn't have the familiar diesel whiff.

A news report from two years ago describes an earlier attack on the fuel pipes where an astonishing 50,000 litres of fuel escaped. The fuel was named as kerosene, a fuel used in aviation. That must have been what I smelled today.

I sent photos to a former colleague at BBC Look East, who already knew about the story. It sounded like he was going to run the item and promised me a picture credit. That will surprise a few more former colleagues - I can imagine them saying, "I thought he left four years ago!"

There has been a lot happening today; the rest will have to wait for subsequent blog posts.