Sunday 28 June 2009

Braunston Historic Boat Rally

Well, we went. And the weather, after a misty start for us driving from Norfolk, was warm, if not very sunny. I did some filming for the (yet to be commissioned) piece about Russell Newbery, the engine maker. I also found time, but not much, to take a few photos.

While at the Russell Newbery stand I was introduced to Steve, the owner of Brasso. He took me to his boat and kindly let me film as he started up his 25-year-old DM2, explaining what he was doing as he did so. Should be useful in the final film.

no photo of Brasso from the day, but here's one I took earlier: in November last year on the Stratford Canal.

Because I was there for work purposes, filming some of the action of the rally, and the Russell Newbery display engine, I didn't really feel I was enjoying the show as much as I should. When I judged I had enough footage I walked up the locks, encountering Warrior on the way. I stopped to take a couple of photos, and Sarah and Jim turned up just at that moment. It was good to meet both of you. I was especially honoured by Jim starting up Warrior's monster three-cylinder National for me. What a splendid beast! I swear the ground shook with each heartbeat.

Our plan had been to continue to Birmingham but Jan and I were feeling too tired to get there and home again in the time we had left, so we drove home. Jan picked me up from the car park of the Admiral Nelson pub to save me carrying the (heavy) camera and tripod too much further.

Top Thirty, 2009 week 27

This week's snapshot of Tony Blews's top thirty UK waterways websites was taken at 1415.

1 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 - Forums (=)

4 Granny Buttons (=)

5 CanalPlanAC (=)

6 Retirement with No Problem (+1)

7 UKCanals Network (-1)

8 Canal Photos (=)

9 Jannock Website (+2)

10 nb Epiphany (-1)

11 Narrowboat Gypsy Rover (+1)

12 Waterway Routes (+2)

13 Narrowboat Bones (=)

14 Derwent6 (-2)

15 nb Lucky Duck (=)

16 Warwickshire Fly Boat Company (-)

17 nb Kestrel (+9)

18 Narrowboat Caxton (-1)

19 Water Explorer (-3)

20 nb Warrior (-1)

21 UK Waterways Ranking Site (+1)

22 Seyella's Journey (-4)

23 Working Boat Hadar (=)

24 Narrowboat Debdale (-4)

25 Khayamanzi (-)

26 Contented Souls (+3)

27 Takey Tezey Tales (-6)

28 boats and cruising (-1)

29 Lazy Days (-4)

30 NBNorthernPride (-)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous week; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry.

Halfie is at number 38 out of 74 entries.

Thursday 25 June 2009

More residential moorings needed - BW

(Alternative title: Wake up and see the ducks)

Boating got onto the Today programme again this morning. Business presenter Adam Shaw interviewed BW's Customer Services Director, Simon Salem at about 0845. You can listen again by clicking here (will work only for the next week).

To save you the trouble I have transcribed the interview in full below. Adam Shaw doesn't get a straight answer to his question about prices. Simon Salem complains about local authorities' reluctance to approve new residential moorings.

Evan Davis: We know the housing market’s been sinking; is it the right time to splash out on a houseboat? Two corny puns in one sentence! Here’s Adam.

Adam Shaw: ...some sort of award for that, Evan, thank you very much. Yes, what about the property prices for floating homes? Houseboats and barges have become an increasingly popular option over the past few years, have they been able to hold their price during this downturn? Well joining us from our Luton studio is Simon Salem, customer services director at British Waterways which manages the UK river and canal network. Good morning.

Simon Salem: Good morning.

AS: Erm, have homes on the river done any better than those on dry land?

SS: Well certainly there, there’s been a very strong demand for people to live abroad on the water. I think part of that is just the popularity of the canals, you can... you can imagine the number of visits the canals have been going up, 300 million visits a year; the number of boats have been going up: ten thousand more than there were ten years ago, er, and you can imagine the attraction, can’t you, of waking up in the morning, drawing the curtains and seeing the ducks. So we know there’s a really strong demand for these things. I think it’s important to say that if you’re going to ... to live afloat, you’ve got to remember that, er, er, even if it’s a reponse to the credit crunch, there are costs as well as the boat: you’ve got to have a license, you’ve got to have, er, MOT certificate and insurance and all that sort of thing...

AS: Ye... none the less...but have houseboats, for instance, have the price of houseboats been insulated from the price falls we’ve seen in the more traditional market?

SS: Well, I think we’ve seen very strong demand ... and, I think there’s, you know, there’s good reasons for that, it’s all very nice as I’ve just outlined, er, and there’s a sort of worrying reason for that which I think British Waterways thinks is very important. The worrying reason is that, you kow, as, as economics tells you, if the price is going up, even in difficult times like this, that probably means there isn’t enough supply... er, one of the problems with er with living on a boat is, it’s, it’s great if you’re going to cruise around the system all year: you don’t need a residential home mooring, but if you’re going to live on it, and live in one place, and that’s what most of us do, we wanna live in one place, then you need somewhere that’s got local authority residential planning permission, and the local authorities on the whole don’t take a very positive atti...attitude towards, towards houseboats, so we wanna persuade them to think differently.

AS: Erm... you... you say the attractions of houseboat living are obvious, I’m not so sure, looks always rather cold to me sitting there, having the rain hammer down on your thin roof, would you live on a houseboat if they’re so lovely?

SS: Er, well the rain, it raineth everywhere, doesn’t it, both on the houses and on the houseboats

AS: Indeed...some of the roofs are bigger?

SS: ...Some of the roofs are bigger but you get a lot of modern comforts on houseboats I think the crucial thing is to ... try and persuade local authorities to take a positive view of this and get people the opportunity to live in the right sort of houseboat community where they want to. But it isn’t for everyone, you’re right.

AS: OK, Simon Salem, er customer services director at British Waterways, and weather forecaster, many thanks.

Sarah Montague: The sound of the rain is lovely. Adam.

AS: Is it? (Laughter) OK, I’ll take your word for it!

edited for spelling

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Braunston, here we come (possibly)

We might be going to the historic boat gathering at Braunston this weekend. If we do, I shall be looking to film some Russell Newbery engines for a possible piece for BBC Look East - I think there might be one or two around!

image from Russell Newbery

Monday 22 June 2009

Pontcysyllte pronunciation purler

You'd have thought someone with a name as Welsh as Evan Davis would have been able to pronounce Pontcysyllte, as in the aqueduct.

On BBC Radio 4's Today Programme just before nine o'clock this morning there was an item about Telford's famous engineering masterpiece and its World Heritage status, but neither Evan Davis nor his guest Dan Cruickshank could say its name with any degree of accuracy.

Click here to Listen Again.

Evan Davis reviews the item here, but he doesn't attempt another pronunciation.

UNESCO is apparently deciding this week whether to add the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to the World Heritage list. (I thought it was already a World Heritage site, but I've just looked at the current list and it's not there. Yet.)

edited to add a link to Evan's review - thanks, Adam.
edited once more to improve the link to the original item.

One bedroom property with hall and brass engine room

I came upon this on an estate agent's website:

The Green, Frampton On Severn, Gloucester £46,000 - 1 bedroom property for sale.

The "property" is, of course, actually a narrowboat, and is being marketed by Frowens of Gloucester. Despite the heading, it's described as being moored at Sellers Bridge, Hardwicke, on the Sharpness/Gloucester canal. (The location map marks it as being very much on land!)

The ad continues:

This traditional narrow boat has all the comfort of a modern home plus an engine room with polished brass and authentic boatman's cabin. Built in 1992 by G.T.Boatbuilders in the west midlands this craft has a boat safety certificate for the next four years.

Fore Deck
With cratch cover; doors to:- Saloon Area 4.37m(14'4'') x 1.83m(6'0'') With Morse Squirrel stove in tiled surround; radiator; wall cupboard, 3 windows; open entrance to:- Galley/Kitchen 2.13m(7'0'') x 1.68m(5'6'') With inset sink unit (mixer tap); gas hob; gas oven; Electrolux room sealed gas refrigerator; range of fitted base units; two side hatches. Double Bedroom 2.54m(8'4'') x 1.83m(6'0'') With built in double bed; radiator; two port hole windows.

With radiator; door to:-

With bath incorporating shower over, washbasin, cassette toilet, window. Engine Room 2.13m(7'0'') x 1.52m(5'0'') With Kelvin K2 engine, two side hatches; radiator; plumbing for automatic washing machine; hot water cylinder with immersion heater. Boatmans Cabin 2.36m(7'9'') x 1.52m(5'0'') With built in bed, boatman's range and a wealth of traditional storage areas.

The ad fails to extol the virtues of "outside", i.e. the thousands of miles of garden, all with water feature, no maintenance.

But perhaps the most important omission is whether the "property" comes with a mooring.

Looks like a nice boat, though (certainly ticks lots of my boxes). I wonder how long it is (and how many others try to sell their boat through an estate agent).

Sunday 21 June 2009

Top Thirty, 2009 week 26

Here is this week's snapshot of Tony Blews's UK Waterways Site Ranking, taken at 0930 today.

1 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 - Forums (=)

4 Granny Buttons (=)

5 CanalPlanAC (+3)

6 UKCanals Network (=)

7 Retirement with No Problem (=)

8 Canal Photos (-3)

9 nb Epiphany (+1)

10 Narrowboat Gypsy Rover (+1)

11 Jannock Website (-2)

12 Derwent6 (=)

13 Narrowboat Bones (=)

14 Waterway Routes (=)

15 nb Lucky Duck (=)

16 Water Explorer (+5)

17 Narrowboat Caxton (-)

18 Seyella's Journey (-1)

19 nb Warrior (-1)

20 Narrowboat Debdale (-1)

21 Takey Tezey Tales (-1)

22 UK Waterways Ranking Site (=)

23 Working Boat Hadar (+3)

24 Google Earth Canal Maps (+1)

25 Lazy Days (+3)

26 nb Kestrel (-3)

27 boats and cruising (-)

28 nb Piston Broke (-1)

29 Contented Souls (-)

30 Tony Clayton's Canal Photographs (-14)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous week; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry.

Halfie is at number 40 out of 75 entries.

Saturday 20 June 2009

The writing's on the bridge

I love bridges with old advertising slogans on them. One I remember from when I lived nearer London is the Ferodo bridge; and there were one or two motorway bridges on the M6/M1 with graffiti messages which seemed to be immune from painting out, lasting for years. OK, not advertising slogans, but memorable. So memorable that I can't now remember what they said!

Of course, bridges with words on tend to be photographed more than otherwise similar bridges unadorned by text. No-one cruising the T&M through Burton-on-Trent can miss the Marston's bridge.

And here's a less ostentatious inscription: if you want a bridge that will last, buy it from Mr. Joseph Butler's iron works of Stanningley. 160 years old when the photo was taken, and still (presumably) going strong. This is on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal near Burscough. At least, I think that's where it is: my logging is not very good.

Another bridge from our 2008 cruise on the L&L is Oaklands Mill bridge, Wigan. Not a good photo, and the paintwork on the bridge is very faded.

You can just make out the last three letters of "OAKLANDS", and the word "MILL".

Friday 19 June 2009

A couple of locks

4th April 2009

My log records that we left our Shardlow mooring at 0745 (must have had a lie-in). It also records that Weston Lock is fierce! Many of the locks at this (Trent) end of the Trent and Mersey have metal flaps which hang over the top gate sluices. I suppose their function is to direct the flow downwards to avoid flooding boats.

(In the interests of accuracy I ought to point out that although the top photo is of Weston Lock no. 4, the bottom photo must be Aston Lock no. 3.)

Thursday 18 June 2009

Sweden in Shardlow

When we stopped at Shardlow back in April I noticed Sweden tied up on the towpath. Its owner, Colin, told me a little about the boat: built of wood for carrying salt. I'd misremembered the date as 1929, but both Jim Shead and the HNBOC give the date as 1926.

Appropriately, the boat is tied up outside a former salt warehouse. Perhaps not quite as iconic as the Clock Warehouse (visible in the bottom picture), but a beautiful building in its own right.

Did Colin tell me that he'd converted the boat himself? Sorry, that's another thing I can't remember.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

London's hidden motorway...

... according to Robert Crampton is the Regent's Canal. In a feature on cycling in The Times last Saturday, and on the website, he writes:

The Regent’s Canal is the hidden motorway of cycling London. Well, not so much the canal, as the towpath alongside it. The towpath is quick, convenient, safe and surprisingly rustic. In large parts of the stretch I know best — the four miles or so running from Islington through Hackney and the East End down to the river at Limehouse — you could be in the countryside. Well, countryside with the occasional gasometer, anyway. But I like gasometers.

Cycling is the most efficient way to get around London. Study after study proves it. But many potential cyclists are put off by fear of negotiating traffic. For such people, and the already committed who fancy a break, the canal system is the answer.

He goes on to list a few destinations and routes, and praises the British Waterways Board (sic) for being one of the unsung heroes of urban regeneration throughout the land.

The paper version of the article is accompanied by a picture of a cyclist pedalling through a bridgehole. I wish I could read the sign on the bridge: I wonder if it requests cyclists to dismount!

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Two letters from "home"

On 3rd April we cruised from Loughborough to Shardlow. After a week of seeing few boats - and even fewer moving - we found ourselves looking for somewhere to tie up. We got a good spot opposite a boatyard: that's Shadow on the right, by the warehouse. This is probably the nearest our boat's name gets to a canal place: just insert an "R" and an "L".

The nearest I'd been on the Trent and Mersey was Fradley, so, at last, I would be completing the whole of this canal. Shardlow is full of canal interest with its pubs and warehouses. An overnight stop simply isn't enough: one day I will return. We didn't even have time to look round the museum.

Two more letters, R and D, feature on something considerably older than our boat. This is one of the original cast iron mileposts made by Rangley and Dickson of Stone. Phil Myott has a website devoted to these mileposts, yes, there's a photo of all 93 of them.

Monday 15 June 2009

Probably famous

Continuing my rather haphazard write-up of our "Easter" cruise: after passing Red Hill on 3rd April we were soon turning left on the wide waters of the River Trent. This steamer, with its gloriously bright red funnel, just had to be photographed.

I have only just noticed the viaduct in the background - probably very famous, but I've turned it into an afterthought...

Sunday 14 June 2009

Top Thirty, 2009 week 25

Here is this week's snapshot, taken at 0850. There are 72 entries in Tony Blews's chart. Ten Bob Note, which has hovered around the number 5 position almost from the beginning of the chart in January, has disappeared - voluntarily or forcibly? Clicking on the link gets Error 404.

Update: Alan of Lazy Days reports that he bumped into Ernie today: he has given up the Ten Bob Note blog as it was taking too much time.

1 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 - Forums (=)

4 Granny Buttons (=)

5 Canal Photos (+4)

6 UKCanals Network (-1)

7 Retirement with No Problem (=)

8 CanalPlanAC (+8)

9 Jannock Website (-1)

10 nb Epiphany (+1)

11 Narrowboat Gypsy Rover (-1)

12 Derwent6 (+1)

13 Narrowboat Bones (+1)

14 Waterway Routes (-2)

15 nb Lucky Duck (=)

16 Tony Clayton's Canal Photographs (-)

17 Seyella's Journey (+1)

18 nb Warrior (-1)

19 Narrowboat Debdale (+1)

20 Takey Tezey Tales (+1)

21 Water Explorer (+7)

22 UK Waterways Ranking Site (+2)

23 nb Kestrel (-4)

24 Khayamanzi (-1)

25 Google Earth Canal Maps (+1)

26 Working Boat Hadar (-4)

27 nb Piston Broke (+2)

28 Lazy Days (-)

29 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (-)

30 Herbie (-)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous week; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry.

Halfie is at number 37.

Saturday 13 June 2009

Why Red Hill is so called

On 3rd April we cruised past Red Hill on the River Soar. This year's IWA National Festival is to be held near here on the last three days of August; I don't yet know if we'll be going. The white bits of cloud in the photo are actually from Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station, a 2GW coal-fired plant.

Thursday 11 June 2009


On my drive yesterday I came across a field of poppies, so I had to stop to take a photo. They won't be there for long as it looks like they're in a field of oilseed rape. Not that poppy flowers last long anyway...

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Burton Latimer Round House

I drove to Finedon in Northamptonshire today. Not long after turning off the A14 I spotted this unusual building which would look quite at home alongside a canal. A small amount of internet research reveals that the Duke of Wellington, on visiting a nearby house, "remarked that the view from the top of the house reminded him of the field of Waterloo." The round house was built to commemorate the Duke's victory at Waterloo, and included a turret with panoramic views.

Yes, had Wellington been alive a couple of centuries later, he would have looked out on a wind farm.

Wind farm photo actually taken in April, the previous time I drove past the Round House. But then I saw only the wind turbines.

Monday 8 June 2009

The importance of beer (in Loughborough)

On Friday 3rd April 2009 we woke up in Loughborough Wharf. This had much to do with the fact that we'd moored there the previous night. After getting some supplies from Sainsbury's we had a look round the town. I was pleased to discover a large Wilkinson's and bought a few bits and pieces.

I couldn't help noticing the Catholic Club (beers by Bass)

almost next door to The Three Nuns (Everard's)

Sunday 7 June 2009

Top Thirty, 2009 week 24

Here is this week's top thirty UK waterways website as ranked by Tony Blews. This snapshot was taken at 1515 today.

1 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 - Forums (=)

4 Granny Buttons (=)

5 UKCanals Network (+1)

6 nb Ten Bob Note (-1)

7 Retirement with No Problem (=)

8 Jannock Website (=)

9 Canal Photos (=)

10 Narrowboat Gypsy Rover (=)

11 nb Epiphany (=)

12 Waterway Routes (+1)

13 Derwent6 (-1)

14 Narrowboat Bones (+1)

15 nb Lucky Duck (-1)

16 CanalPlanAC (+1)

17 nb Warrior (+2)

18 Seyella's Journey (=)

19 nb Kestrel (+6)

20 Narrowboat Debdale (+1)

21 Takey Tezey Tales (+7)

22 Working Boat Hadar (-6)

23 Khayamanzi (-1)

24 UK Waterways Ranking Site (=)

25 Narrowboat Caxton (-2)

26 Google Earth Canal Maps (+4)

27 NB Windsong (-)

28 Water Explorer (-8)

29 nb Piston Broke (-3)

30 NB Northern Pride (-)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous week; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry.

There are 70 websites ranked; Halfie is at number 36.

Friday 5 June 2009

Loughborough Wharf by day and night

On 2nd April 2009 we tied up in Loughborough Wharf (original post here). As there was plenty of artificial light I took the opportunity of taking a photo after dark. This is half-past ten.

I should really have tried harder to reproduce the exact framing of the daytime photo - at the time I thought I'd got it close enough.

Unlike Andrew Denny I cannot rely on moonlight alone for illumination, as the longest exposure time on my camera is just 8 seconds. I've artificially boosted the "exposure" in iPhoto.

Thursday 4 June 2009

Hold on - this might be slippery

I could hardly believe my eyes when we came upon this at a weir at Barrow-upon-Soar on 2nd April. A party of schoolchildren, holding on to each other, was walking along the top of the weir. A raft of canoes/kayaks was tied up at the bottom: presumably the group was going to make its way down the steps to them. We didn't hang around to se what happened, but while we watered up at Barrow Mill Basin I returned to take another picture.

All evidence of what had seemed a foolhardy venture had gone. I say "foolhardy", but, for all I know, this may be how one learns canoeing! At least they were wearing lifejackets.

Wednesday 3 June 2009

The donkey which romped away

One pub I was looking forward to on our recent cruise was The Romping Donkey at Hassall Green on the Trent and Mersey. We tied up by Bridge 146 and walked up to find it depressingly boarded up.

This was a bit of a blow as we were relying on a pub meal that night. In the event we had time to cruise further, ending up at The Nag's Head in Wheelock, a different animal altogether. Here is the relevant post from the time.

Waterscape still stubbornly lists The Romping Donkey. Let's hope it can be revived.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Birmingham new main line?

A few days ago we went up to the North Norfolk Railway, which runs various steam and diesel trains between Sheringham and Holt. It's a very scenic line, with picture postcard views of the sea. Half-way along is Weybourne Station, which is where we usually park. I'm getting closer to the point of this post, bear with me! At Weybourne Station there's often a bookshop with lots of second hand magazines, mostly railway ones (which don't interest me). But there always seems to be one small box with a few canal mags. Before I got my subscription to Canal Boat I used to feed my appetite for canal literature from that small box, and cheaply too, at 25p a throw. This time I picked up a couple of Waterways Worlds (hmm, I've read them already - should have got more!)

An old wagon houses a model railway, but what caught my eye was the canal in the layout. Perhaps it's the BCN new main line as it has a towpath on both sides.

Oh, all right then, here are some full size railway pics. This train has come from Sheringham and is passing the Weybourne sidings approaching Weybourne Staion.

These were the days of seriously heavy engineering.

For the last runs of the day they use a DMU or a railbus. If you're quick enough you can get a seat with a view through the cab.