Friday 30 January 2009

The narrow boat. Third most iconic image of England

In a poll organised by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (Bill Bryson is its President) the narrow boat has been voted the third most iconic image of England. That's according to The Times, which published a Focus Report on Britain's waterways on Wednesday. According to the CPRE itself third place was won by "canal boating", but I suppose it's difficult to make an image of a gerund. Old news, you might say - the CPRE published the result of their online poll, in which 1036 people voted, on December 8th 2008 - but it passed me by.

The double page spread in The Times is notable for not using the term "barge" incorrectly. It does, though, repeat the myth that "canal boats travel at 4mph". Much of the information seems to have come from British Waterways, but there's a good chunk devoted to freight, as well as power generation and the use of towpaths for laying fibre-optic cables.

Oh, by the way, the pictorial pub sign came first (150 votes) and red post boxes came second (123 votes).

Thursday 29 January 2009

The wonders of colour correction

I don't usually tweak my photos but I've successfully applied some colour correction to a photograph I took nearly four weeks ago. This is Shadow coming out of Calcutt Top Lock at dusk on new year's day. To get enough exposure the shutter was open for a few seconds. I'm resting the camera on the balance beam to steady it.

Here is the same shot with colour correction:

And this is why a tripod is recommended for long exposure times: the camera shake is especially noticeable on the lights in the background.

I like the illusion these pics give of a fast-moving narrowboat!

Wednesday 28 January 2009

Mystery objects 2

On a walk in March last year I came across a pile of hard, red brick-coloured spheres, about 1/4" to 1/2" diameter, on the ground. They seemed hollow as they were light. I took a couple of photos, and a few of the balls, and forgot about it. Then a month later. on our walk of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal I found some more. I don't know what they are. Can anyone help?

what are they?

a finger for scale

High Bridge 62, Mon and Brec, where I think it was that I found some more

Tuesday 27 January 2009

Phew, glad that's over! (2)

Ally handed in her final year dissertation today! Hooray! We've been living "A Study of Water Quality on The Broads" for the last few weeks, with the pressure growing as the deadline loomed. We've all been getting to bed late as we've been going through her many thousands of words. Is that really milligrammes per litre? Or should it be microgrammes? Did the lab tech say you have to divide everything by ten? Look, this website might be useful... Ah well, too late to change things now!

These are the pictures she included (from July 2008 - and it wasn't raining!)

measuring pH (or is it conductivity?) on the River Bure

Hoveton Little Broad

Monday 26 January 2009

Can you guess what these are?

Two lightweight cylinders, with stripes and a bright orange shape which spirals along their length, were lying on an old car at the garage which looks after my car. There's a weak spring attached to one end. When I was told what they were I was amazed - and I'd used one for years.

Sunday 25 January 2009

Top Twenty

Just for the record here is where the twenty most popular UK waterways websites - which have signed up to Tony Blews's ranking site - stood at 0930 today, Sunday 25th January 2009.

Headline changes from last week: Tony's tweaked the look again, removing the Hits (28 days) column and adding adverts between each block of ten entries. Boats and Canal Forums has been removed following suspected cheating: Tony explains in a comment on Granny Buttons. The Clicks (7 days) column is still there, but I'm not sure what its purpose is.

There are now 53 entries, an increase of five from last week. Jim Shead's Waterways Information has, as prophesied by Andrew Denny, risen to the summit level. Lazy Days has slid back nine places; and new to the top twenty is Jannock Website, making a splash at number 10. Things are beginning to settle down now, with much less volatility in the rankings. The site you're on now, Halfie, remains out of the top flight, below the bottom lock at position 24.

1.....Jim Shead's Waterways Information (+1) (-1)
3.....Pennine Waterways (=)
4.....Granny Buttons (=)
5.....Ten Bob Note (+1)
6.....No Problem (+2)
7.....Bones (+5)
8.....Gypsy Rover (+3)
9.....UK Waterways Ranking Site (=)
10...Jannock (new entry)
11...Caxton (+3)
12...Maffi (+6)
13...Lucky Duck (=)
14...Hadar (-4)
15...Epiphany (=)
16...Lazy Days (-9)
17...Debdale (+3)
18...Khayamanzi (new entry)
19...Waterway Routes (-)
20...Warrior (-4)

Saturday 24 January 2009

Phew, glad that's over!

But not for long.

Every moment of spare time during the last two weeks has been taken up with getting DVDs done of last year's village pantomime. Every year I "volunteer" to film, edit and produce DVDs of the show, but I've been having problems with getting the rushes into my computer. Final Cut on my Apple Mac kept crashing, so, when Ally was here two weekends ago, we captured onto her computer and then transferred the media onto my external drive. This done, I could at last edit it. Extra motivation came from the fact that this year's panto was upon me: how could I film that without having completed the previous year's?

Well, it's done now. At half-past four I handed over 30 double-DVDs to the pantomime group, as their penultimate performance was under way. Double-DVDs? Yes: I was unable to get two hours and three minutes onto one DVD. I'm sure it must be possible, but it's beyond my skill level. And getting the edited film onto DVD is itself a struggle.

The pantomime is always excellent, and it's been written by the same person for 40 years. It is done in a professional manner and plays to nine full houses. It is being reported that this year's is his last panto, if so, I hope he has a protege waiting in the wings. (By the way, how do you get an acute accent to go over an "e"?)

Now let's see if I can capture this year's rushes...

Friday 23 January 2009

The curious case of Granny Buttons

Have you noticed how Andrew Denny's apparently defying the natural order of things and getting younger all the time? That would appear to be the case if one goes by the photographs of himself which adorn his Granny Buttons blog. Over the course of a year or so we have seen his hair grow back and his apparel (I was going to say dress, but thought better of it) reflect earlier times.

Unfortunately Mr. Denny might have put a spanner in the works with his latest self portrait: the current incarnation seems to have jumped out of sequence, looking older than the dapper bow-tied image it replaces.

The title of this post, of course, refers to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a film showing near you now (probably), in which the main character grows younger as time progresses.

I wonder if any else has noticed...

... where your Canal Boat magazine might be returned to were it not able to be delivered? And I wonder if the town of "Marketing Harborough" knows how it's being, er, marketed?

A quick search found this mistake has happened before, but not often!

Edit to say: I should have mentioned that Canal Boat has made a dramatic improvement in the grammar department since I last wrote about it. Well done to Nick and team.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

On the way to Birmingham

... on our November cruise last year we passed one of the very few boats on the move: Tranquility, on the Stratford Canal. It wasn't being crewed by Tranquility's bloggers Kevin and Linda, though, as this is a shared boat and it was someone else's go.

(edit to correct sp in title)

Sunday 18 January 2009

Top Twenty

As promised, here is a snapshot of Tony Blews's UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 0930 this morning. Tony's tweaked the look from last week, and introduced better column headings. The sites are ranked according to how many hits each has received in the previous seven days. As new members are still signing up to the list it's pretty volatile at the moment, with big changes of position. I've tracked just the top twenty; there are 28 other registered sites, including mine, below this.

Down nine places to number 20 is Adam's Debdale. In at 19 is Waterway Routes ... and no change for Maffi at number 18. Kestrel moves up two to 17; while Sarah's Warrior stumbles down nine to 16. Epiphany is a seasonal new entry at number 15. Caxton's been pressed down eight places to 14 ... and 13's lucky for Lucky Duck: a new entry. Bones is down four to 12 ... and Gypsy Rover's down six to 11. Coming in for the first time to Tony's Top Twenty ... at number 10 ... is Hadar ... and Tony's own Waterways Ranking site is at number 9. Last week's number 2 - No Problem - is down six to number 8; up six this week is Lazy Days, cruising nicely to number 7. The top six this week has three new entries: in at number 6 ... is Ten Bob Note ... and straight in to number 5 is Boats and Canal Forums. Andrew Denny's Granny Buttons slips last week's top spot mooring ... down three to number 4. The Pennine Waterways site isn't going anywhere, staying at number 3 ... and up two places ... to number 2 ... is Jim Shead's Waterways Information. This weeks number 1 ... a new entry ... is Just Canals Forums.

1 Just Canals – Forums (new entry)
2 Jim Shead’s Waterways Information (+2)
3 Pennine Waterways (=)
4 Granny Buttons (-3)
5 Boats and Canal Forums (new entry)
6 Ten Bob Note (new entry)
7 Lazy Days (+6)
8 No Problem (-6)
9 UK Waterways Ranking Site (new entry)
10 Hadar (new entry)
11 Gypsy Rover (-6)
12 Bones (-4)
13 Lucky Duck (new entry)
14 Caxton (-8)
15 Epiphany (new entry)
16 Warrior (-9)
17 Kestrel (+2)
18 Maffi (=)
19 Waterway Routes (new entry)
20 Debdale (-9)

(edited to add link to last week's chart)

Saturday 17 January 2009

Putting a smiling face on it

I knew that face on a leaf reminded me of something. This is on the Mon and Brec. At least it was when we walked that canal last year.

Bird poo caught my eye

Spotted grinning at me while ascending the Hatton flight recently. Nothing more to be said, really!

Thursday 15 January 2009

History cast in brick

When boating we often pass reminders of our industrious past. Some are big and obvious: the canals themselves; locks; bridges etc. Some are small, such as boundary and distance markers. All help to give the feel of travelling in an earlier time. Inscriptions on some things can lead to discovering more about that past era. These bricks, at locks on the Grand Union and Stratford canals in the midlands, proudly display their makers' names.

From the British History website:

The (brick making) industry reached its zenith in the 1880s and 1890s. In the mid 1890s the two biggest brickworks in West Bromwich were on the edge of that area. At the Piercy Brickworks the Hamblet firm was producing between 400,000 and 500,000 bricks every week, while at the adjacent Albion Brickworks Wood & Ivery had a weekly make of between 200,000 and 300,000.

I tried to find out about W. Bennit of Oldbury but failed.

This looks a bit more recent, but the inscription is too worn, from feet pushing against it to move a balance beam on the Hatton flight, for me to make it out.

Dave Sallery has an informative website with lots of photos of stamped bricks, but without these examples.

What a difference a day makes (2)

Aston top lock and turnover bridge

Text message from Ally this morning: Ben has an unconditional offer from ... wait for it ... Aston University! Excellent for him, and, er, interesting for me! On which major city is the network of England's canals centred? Where is Aston University? Two questions with the same answer. Yup. Birmingham. After posting yesterday that the early purchase of a boat as temporary living quarters for Ally and Ben seemed to have been scuppered, now the idea is afloat once more.

Is there a secure mooring nearby?

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Outright boat ownership...

... may be on hold for a bit. Ben, our soon-to-be-son-in-law, has had his application to Manchester University rejected, so he and Ally won't be requiring accomodation in that vicinity. Cardiff is next on his list, but that's not too convenient for living on a narrowboat. (I had offered to buy a narrowboat for them to live on temporarily had they been in the Manchester area: when they had found more permanent accomodation the boat would then have been mine, all mine (ha haaargh!).)

Do I wait until I retire, or do I take the plunge sooner? After all, my savings aren't earning much interest these days.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Fame at last

It had to happen one day. Andrew Denny has seen the (halfie) light and given this blog a mention on Granny Buttons. Thanks Andrew. Although you won't see "Halfie" on his boatroll, as he says he usually* lists blogs by boat name. So I'm down as "Shadow", which is fair enough. Except that I sometimes cruise in boats other than our shared ownership one. Never mind!

* "Usually" because there is at least one exception: Maffi's boat.

Monday 12 January 2009

A, B, C... Lodge

On our recent trip on the north Oxford Canal, just north of Ansty, we saw this rather tatty canalside house. I say "we", more likely it was only I as the others were probably inside keeping warm. It was the lettering on the side of the building which drew my attention: I wondered how Alphabet Lodge came to be so named.

In the window on the left is a poster advising that Savills are/were auctioning the property, but a search of their website revealed nothing. An internet search on "Alphabet Lodge" threw up another photo, and, more informatively, a Times Online article from March 2008 describing it as Wreck of the Week!

How wrecked? The reason the house is in such a bad state is unknown. The agent describes it as “one of the worst houses I've ever seen”. All the windows are smashed, the floorboards have been ripped up, and there is said to be a pervasive smell.

The guide price was £165,000, but it was reckoned that another £60,000 would have to be spent on it straight away. Looks like not much has happened yet. Oh, and it's right by the M69 motorway. Did anyone buy it?

Sunday 11 January 2009

Tony's Top Twenty

For the record, after less than a week of Tony Blews's UK Waterways Site Ranking, here is a screenshot of the chart as it stood at about 1500.

I might well do this every week, although there's a possibility that interest could wane if I drop to the bottom...

A couple of recent entries to the chart are Pennine Waterways and Jim Shead's Waterways Information. Both have climbed rapidly to their current positions of 3 and 4 respectively. Andrew Denny, when bringing the ranking system to our attention, is expecting Jim Shead to oust him from his current, and seemingly unassailable position, of Top Dog.

There were 36 entries today.

What a difference a day makes!

Yesterday was all cold and frosty - today there was real warmth in the sun (in Norfolk, anyway). This is a model of steamer Vulcan, which was built as a gas boat in 1906 (information from Drew's Joshers Info. Here it is - the model - basking in the sun.

Saturday 10 January 2009

Walking in a winter wonderland

Barry leading the walkers

Today Jan and I joined 15 others (and Jo, the dog) on a five and a half mile walk near Poringland in Norfolk. The conditions were superb: frozen ground, no wind, weak sun, and frost coating everything. Here are a few piccies (not canal-related, but I never promised everything would be).

not this time of year!

is this burdock?

At the end of the walk, just before lunch at The Dove pub, a scrap heap peeps over the trees and bushes. At the top of the pile ... the remains of a light aircraft.

Night-time at Coventry Basin

Before the basin froze over I photographed the warehouses, nicely reflected in the still water.

photo taken 30th December 2008

Friday 9 January 2009

Zulu on the oscar charlie

Spotted as we cruised into Braunston on new year's day: this splendid tug-style boat. According to Jim Shead's boat listing Zulu is built by Tony Francis and is 60 feet long.

Noah Hingley and Sons made wrought iron at their Netherton ironworks.

Hingleys were famous for their chains and anchors, and prided themselves on the superior tensile strength and anti-corrosion properties of their wrought-iron chains and cables.

(this from a fascinating description of iron puddling and wrought iron manufacture from the Ironbridge Gorge Museums)

The oscar charlie? The Oxford Canal, of course.

Thursday 8 January 2009

Ranked seventh ... but not for long

Echoing Nev's post on Waterlily I'd like to record that Halfie is ranked 7th on Tony Blews's UK Waterways Site Ranking chart. As I was writing this, I looked up the site again to get the URL ... and found I'd been promoted from 8th! Thanks guys! I don't have the expertise to take a screenshot, so you'll have to take it from me.

Edit: I've just worked out how to take a screenshot, so there it is! Of course, I could have gone to the seventh-ranked site and grabbed that, so you'll still have to take my word for it that at one time, on 8th January 2009, this blog was indeed in that position.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

Old year/new year trip, day 5: cleaning, packing and going home

Friday 2nd January 2009

Lady Celine passing us at 0930

The downside of sharing a boat is having to leave it in sparkling condition for the next owners. If it were exclusively our boat we could leave it however we liked. Still, it keeps it looking good, and benefits us in the long run. It does take quite a long time washing the exterior, sweeping, vacuuming, cleaning the windows etc. though.

Shadow by the hard standing

Just before I thought we'd finished Jan walked over to the OwnerShips office to ask where we should go for fuel and pumpout.
"Moor next to Harlequin", was the instruction. So we pootled over, tied up, and went to the office.
"No, we don't want it there: it won't be seen to until Monday. Could you put it in the marina, please?" Grr. We couldn't go straight in as Bronington was going in just ahead of us.

They made rather heavy weather of it, and we were delayed for what seemed like a long time. The marina had a thin covering of ice, enough to make manoeuvring trickier than usual: Bronington's tactic of going in bow first, then reversing alongside Wigston didn't really pay off. At last we tied up alongside, walked back to the car, and drove home. Another cruise completed: no new ground (water?) this time, but an excellent mini-holiday. Our next trip in Shadow is at Easter, by which time Shadow might be stationed at Tattenhall Marina on the Shroppie.

ice in the water tank (and man in funny hat)

(edited to add photos)

Tuesday 6 January 2009

Old year/new year trip, day 4: Newbold to Stockton Top Marina

Thursday 1st January 2009

moored in front of Newbold Tunnel - lights on during the day but not at night!

Woke up at 0815, and looked out of the window. Some ice had formed on the canal, but it didn't look too thick. The fire was still in, but didn't look very healthy. I tried poking it, but that just had the usual result of putting it out. I walked to the Co-op and bought a paper and a pack of firelighters. Back on board the fire was soon re-lit and well loaded up with coal. This charge lasted all day and night, so perhaps I'd been too miserly in the past.

We set off at 1000, through very thin, patchy ice. It didn't feel as cold as the previous day, although this may have been due to the extra pair of pyjama trousers under my usual trousers, bringing the total of leg layers to three! It might also have been due to the extra exercise of working through Hillmorton Locks.

between locks, Hillmorton

approaching Braunston

At Braunston Turn we turned right onto the Grand Union/Oxford Canal, and left behind the last of the ice.

turnover bridge 95, Braunston

On this section is NB Lucy, blogged about today by Andrew Denny of Granny Buttons.

I think this is Bridge 100, another one in need of TLC on the Grand Union/Oxford

We carried on to Napton Junction, where we turned right, leaving behind the Oxford Canal. Soon came Calcutt Locks. Here we found that all three locks were against us, all three with both bottom gates open! How unhelpful! I just hope that the boat in front of us had had a good reason for not closing the gates.

Speedy Gonzalez exiting Calcutt Top Lock!

By now it was getting a bit gloomy but, as this pound is wide and straight, the darkness posed no problems. And then we arrived at Stockton Top Marina, so-called I assume because of its proximity to Stockton Top Lock. We tied up at 1730 just the marina side of Birdingbury Bridge, noticed that the pub lights were on, and planned to check out the food there. At 1800 most of the pub's lights suddenly went out. Ah. It was now closed. Oh well, we had food and drink on board.

a couple of night shots at Stockton Top Marina

Later we moved the car to the hard standing right by the boat. Very convenient for loading. And so to bed. The cleaning would wait until the morning.