Friday 30 May 2008

Cycle ride: conclusion

Next stop was Daisy Dukes snack bar on the A140 for coffee. This must be one of the most comfortable roadside snack bars, being a converted coach. Inside are worktops running along both sides, with padded stools under; the kitchen is at the back end of the coach. (Just searched under "Daisy Dukes" and discovered that they are very short jeans shorts. I never knew that.)

Banana break at Hethel (famous, of course, for Lotus Cars).

Nearly home, but time to stop at the wonderfully named Spong Lane; and the alien-looking water tower.

What road is the water tower in? Oh, yes, of course.

Cycling home

Amazonia is 27 miles from home, so I got the bike out of the boot and started pedalling. I was taking it easy: last time I went too fast and ran out of steam with a few miles still to go.

I cycled through Hoxne, famous for its hoard of Roman treasure. It's also where Edmund, King of East Anglia, is said to have been killed. This is the village hall.

Not much further on is the River Waveney, defining the boundary of Norfolk and Suffolk. Here is Billingford Gauging Station coping with the recent heavy rainfall.

To Eye to get the car fixed

OK, it's Denham Street, not Eye, but who's heard of Denham Street? I know, I know, you haven't heard of Eye either. Eye is a small town in Suffolk which has a Show every so often. When driving along the A140 the signs for the Eye Show certainly catch, er, the eye. I've been taking my various Volvos to Brian at Amazonia for many years. This time it's a coolant leak on the 240 estate (I suspect the water pump).

Most of the cars here are Volvos, mainly Amazons and P1800s, but there was one which will interest someone we know. This is a 1955 Chevrolet, yes, even older than me, here for restoration. It has been used in the past for drag racing, powered by a whopping seven litre engine. Now it's just for road use and has only a 5.7 litre engine. Sorry about the focus on the interior shots, Bones.

Thursday 29 May 2008

Twenty answers

... to the twenty questions in the June 2008 issue of Canal Boat magazine

(and I actually composed these immediately after reading Andrew's replies in Canal Boat, but, unlike Sarah, I didn't post them straight away.)

  1. the Peak Forest Canal

  2. (tough question) the Aire and Calder perhaps?  No, I like all canals

  3. My brother

  4. The Canal Age by Charles Hadfield (1968)

  5. Dawn

  6. GMT

  7. An impossible question. I'll say "Now", but can we wind the clock forward ten years, please?

  8. I haven't done so yet

  9. Something in the BBC

  10. ... Probably not be as fit!

  11. ... a mixed bunch. People who appreciate our industrial past and who enjoy a slower pace of life.

  12. Hot food, preferably cooked by someone else, and ale or red wine

  13. ... More working narrowboats

  14. "Hello, watch where you're treading!"

  15. Both

  16. Cassette

  17. Canals

  18. On a canal somewhere, introducing my grandchildren to narrowboating

  19. Staying alive!

  20. To be able to do urgent jobs by just looking at them

Now the question is whether Granny Buttons will spot this and include in his list of twenty answerers.

Closing the stable door...

...after the horse has bolted.

As an example of the above I have re-dubbined my "waterproof" shoes.

Wednesday 28 May 2008

Going with the flow

We were woken by the rain and wind in the early hours of Monday. I got out and checked the mooring ropes at 7.00, taking up some slack and adjusting a fender. We were being blown about and the current was increasing. And we had to go with the flow before we could turn up the lock cut. This was going to be interesting. Bones and Maffi managed to get NB Bones turned round and disappeared off down the stream. Now it was our turn in Milly M. I planned to go down backwards, reasoning that I would always be able to slow the progress as necessary, and maintain steerage. Not such a good idea, as it happened. For one thing, the current was strong and turbulent, with many bends in the river. For another, the wind was also strong, and blowing against the stream, apart from the times, that is, when it was blowing across the stream. It started well, but things went wrong when the current caught the bow, which started to try to overtake the rest of the boat. Not a problem: Milly M has a bowthruster. But bowthrusters are happier on canals than on fast-flowing rivers: this one just reduced the speed at which the inconveniently-placed tree started to attack the side of the boat. So it was out with the boat hook, this being the longest shaft in the inventory, and, after a bit of straining against said obstruction, and praying that no damage was being done, we got clear. Did I mention it was raining? It was raining. And the phone in my pocket was ringing. That would be Bones wondering where I'd got to, no doubt. Or Maffi wondering what had happened to his home. I decided to tie up alongside a narrowboat (just before the plastic boats, phew!) and take stock. OK, we were secure, but the wind and current showed no signs of abating, and all we needed to do was get down a third of a mile before turning into the lock cut. Bones had done it, so could we. Back up to the pub mooring we went - a lot easier going this way - winded, and cruised down the weir stream in tickover, just enough to keep steerage. In a flash we were there. Why didn't I do it this way in the first place? I know now, but I would have rather found out in my own boat! Maffi assures me that no damage has been done, but you can imagine how concerned I was.

Apologies for the lack of photos to illustrate the above (!)

Somehow during today's quite short cruise, between fixing her engine and checking up on me by phone, Bones managed to concoct a delicious minced beef stew for lunch. After that it was goodbye Maffi, goodbye Bones, and hello A34.

Clifton Hampden and Long Wittenham

Clifton Hampden

On Sunday morning Jan and I walked through exceptionally long grass, and along the Iron Age Dyke Hills to Dorchester. Lots of thatched houses, well-cultivated allotments, and an abbey church. Oh, and trees messily covered in pinned-on posters. The 8.00 service was in progress in a side chapel out of sight, with a congregation of at least five people according to the number of umbrellas in the porch. We crept in and had a bit of a look around. When we came out it had started to rain. We walked back along hay fields, the grass fizzing in the rain, the shoes getting even wetter.

After a leisurely fry-up breakfast - thanks, Maffi - we left Bones and Maffi working on NB Bones while we walked to Clifton Hampden and Long Wittenham. After inspecting the churches and pubs in both villages we reported back to the boats, suggesting the Plough at Long Wittenham for (a late) lunch. We set off up the weir stream towards the mooring at the foot of the Plough's long garden. The current was quite strong, and the mooring not designed for boats longer than 35 feet, but we tied up without too much difficulty. Bones/Maffi have written about lunch and evensong so I'll just say that afterwards we returned to the boats and had a cheesy/winey evening aboard.

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Bones and Maffi are tops

NB Bones and Milly M above Day's Lock, R. Thames

The journey started with a pheasant. It was lying in the road half a mile from home, and was still warm when I bagged it up and put it in the car. I took its lack of protest as sufficient indication of its being deceased.

We had taken up Bones’s offer to look after us for a weekend (or was it that we should look after her?) And it was to be 48 hours of boating fun and games, although the official game (of croquet) was left unstarted through lack of time. With a brief explanation of the gear/throttle control, “lift before moving, pull away to disengage. You’ll knock the ignition switch and cut the engine when you dont want to”, Maffi gave us charge of Milly M and we set off in convoy down the River Thames.

steamers Sandra and Chimera II

We shared a lock with a couple of steamers and moored up just above Day’s Lock, having enjoyed sunshine all day. Now I could practise my barbecuing skill, such as it is, on the three varieties of Pickerings sausages we’d brought from Norfolk: Classical Greek; Thai; and a new, as yet anonymous, pork, pepper and garlic sausage. (photo here) I’m happy to report that they were consumed with gusto, along with other things, so a Success. And I didn’t need the umbrella I’d brought especially, although we could have used the fortified look-out post if it had been chucking it down.

camera with viewfinder (see top photo for image)

Oh, the pheasant? Yes, it was dead, and we presented it to Bones on arrival. She seemed pleased.

Friday 23 May 2008

Where does BW get its water from?

A borehole, that's where. At least, that's the case at Tyrley, on the Shroppie, as the latest Waterscape advice says:

Friday 23 May 2008 until further notice

The water point at Tyrley is currently not available.

The water supply at Tyrley is supplied from a borehole in a nearby field. The water is pumped and treated before it is supplied to the waterpoint. Unfortunately the pump and filter have failed and BW are currently investigating the most efficient, cost effective and sustainable solution to this problem.

The nearest alternatives to the North are Market Drayton and to the South, Norbury Junction.

British Waterways apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

And I thought all water coming out of taps just came from the mains, all connected together like the electricity mains.

Boating this weekend!

Yes, we're going boating this weekend. Hooray! And I think we're in for true boating weather, too (must remember my waterproofs). Our hosts promise a barbecue - I wonder if I should bring the gazebo? Perhaps not - I don't want it blowing into the Thames.

Not looking forward to bank holiday traffic, though. I did investigate the possibility of going by train, but the cheap tickets were available only if you booked two months ago, and if you're happy that your journey take fifteen hours, leaving the day before you need to get there. And as long as there's no "a" in the month and it's a Tuesday.

Looks like the car, then. Although if fuel prices rise much more it'll be worth taking the train even at the eye-watering "walk-on" fares. But, by that time, the rail companies will have had to put up their fares too, "because of the rising cost of fuel".

Thursday 22 May 2008

Child and Baby Sale

I did a double take when I spotted this poster on an electricity pole. I thought this sort of thing didn't happen over here - and it's right on my doorstep.

Tuesday 20 May 2008

LED dimmer circuit

Using the circuit from the Renewable Energy UK website I breadboarded an LED dimmer. Again, if I could draw a circuit diagram on the computer I would.

I used just one "string" of three LEDs with a 140 ohm resistor in series. Apart from the 555 timer IC (59p (I think) from Maplin) all the components came from my drawers (ooer, missus). It worked extremely well: the LEDs not dimming completely, as predicted, but at "full" brightness they looked bright enough.

Measuring the voltage at "full" I found:

10.2V across the three LEDs in series, i.e. 3.4V across each LED.

And a lot less power was consumed by the electronics - I used a (small) BC546 transistor which didn't even get warm.

An interesting side effect of taking the photo: when pointing the digital camera at the LEDs the camera's CCD sensor shows you the mark/space ratio on the screen!

There's more to do, as I now want to combine the voltage regulator with the dimmer.

LM317T voltage regulator

I breadboarded a voltage regulator using the LM317T (69p from Maplin) and various reclaimed components. The aim was to power one of the Poundland "Camping Lights" in its original all-the-LEDs-in-parallel form. The breadboard is a bit of a mess as to the right is a simple zener diode and two transistor voltage regulator; to the left are various old projects which I couldn't be bothered to remove. Using two fixed resistors and a variable resistor between them, with the slider connected to "Adj" on the LM317T, I achieved an output voltage of between 2.1V and 4.4V, exactly what I wanted to feed the LEDs.

I took a few measurements of current and voltage applied to the 24 ultrabright LEDs in parallel:

3.0V across LEDs; 0.13A drawn (power = 0.39W)
3.5V across LEDs; 0.70A drawn (power = 2.45W)
4.0V across LEDs; 1.43A drawn (power = 5.72W)

Any less than 3V and the LEDs weren't bright enough; any more than 4V and I was worried that they'd burn out. As it was, with 4V across them the LM317T was getting very hot, even with the (admittedly small) heatsink. It's rated at 1.5A, so it was running close to the limit.

If I knew how to draw circuit diagrams on the 'pooter I'd draw it.

In the next post I'll describe the LED dimmer I built (from the excellent Renewable Energy UK website).

Sunday 18 May 2008

LEDs and voltage regulation

I'm continuing to play with LEDs and electronics (see previous post on this). The idea is to build something which will accept a nominal 12V supply and regulate it to power LED light units. I've been using the LM317T regulator and experimenting with various voltages feeding the LEDs. Progress is slow because there's a lot of gardening to do at this time of year: I need it to rain so I can stay indoors and experiment more!

I'll post more on this.

Hoe Mill Lock

On my way to an Essex village last Sunday I crossed the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation at Hoe Mill Lock, so I stopped to take some pictures.

Another pic to come when system allows.

on my cycle to work...

... I pass this field. This year it's oilseed rape. Fortunately I don't suffer from hay fever as the pollen can be strong. It's a stunning sight, though, especially when the sun's shining and the sky is blue.

April cake

Thanks, Sandra!

Wednesday 7 May 2008


Small fires in Norwich city centre, not many hurt

Marks and Spencer had a small fire in the basement last month, cutting off the electrics, so the shop closed for the day.

Yesterday a branch of the Halifax suffered a similar fate, only the fire was in the sign. Still put the bank out of action, though.

Unlike M&S, the Halifax staff didn't feel the need to wear hi-vis jackets.