Sunday 31 October 2010

Newcastle bridges and shopping trollies high and dry

Sunday. At work today. Not too taxing, but very different from how working weekends used to be thirty years ago. Then we had a staff canteen, oh, and staff, of course! We'd all take our lunch break at the same time, get our food from the canteen, and enjoy a shared bottle of wine supplied by one of the longer serving members of staff. Now there's no canteen, not the same camaraderie - and no wine.

On a more waterways theme than of late, here are a few bridges over the Tyne we saw in Newcastle/Gateshead recently.

The swing bridge (1876) is swung two or three times a week, just to keep it from seizing up, I suppose. In the background is Robert Stephenson's High Level Bridge (1849). Upper deck railway; lower deck road traffic and pedestrians.

The Tyne Bridge was opened in 1928 and carries road traffic.

The Millennium Bridge (2001) is for pedestrians and cyclists. It tilts such that the curved footway/cycleway rises and the arch falls, allowing river traffic through. Again, it is operated a few times every week, but probably more as an attraction than to give way to boats.

Nearby is a representation of the double helix form of DNA - made from shopping trollies.

Top Thirty, 2010 week 44

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 1240 on Sunday 31st October 2010. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

3 - Forums (=)

4 Pennine Waterways (=)

5 Granny Buttons (=)

6 (=)

7 CanalPlanAC (=)

8 Retirement with No Problem (=)

9 ExOwnerships (+1)

10 boatshare (-1)

11 Jannock Website (=)

12 UKCanals Network (+1)

13 Canal Shop Company (+2)

14 Baddie the Pirate (+8)

15 Towpath Treks (-3)

16 (-2)

17 Narrowboat Bones (+2)

18 Waterway Routes (-2)

19 WB Takey Tezey (+1)

20 NBNorthernPride (-3)

21 Derwent6 (+3)

22 Canal Photos (+6)

23 Water Explorer (+2)

24 Trafalgar Marine Services (-3)

25 Narrowboat Caxton (-2)

26 nb Lucky Duck (-8)

27 CutConnect - keeping boaters in touch (+3)

28 Google Earth Canal Maps (-1)

29 nb Piston Broke (=)

30 Warwickshire Fly Boat Company (-4)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous chart; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry into the top thirty; (=) denotes no change.

There are 131 entries altogether. Halfie is at number 46.

Saturday 30 October 2010

Birmingham and Walsall

I'm going to try to be a little more up-to-date in my blog posts. Yesterday we drove to Birmingham to see Ally and Ben, and to do some jobs and stay overnight before today's boat meeting in Walsall. The drive yesterday was slow and tedious: not much more than 150 miles in four and a half hours. There were holdups on the A14 and M6. Next time I'll revert to our route avoiding the M6, but it's difficult not to use the A14.

My first job on reaching Birmingham was to replace the light switch in the kitchen. "Energy saving" compact fluorescent bulbs had been put on a dimmer circuit. The dimmers didn't, and a burning smell had been coming from the switch. When I took the switch off the wall one wire had come adrift. This had obviously been sparking across, and, not visible in my photo, there was a charred hole in the plastic enclosing the electronics. A straightforward non-dimming double switch went in its place.

Another job was to fill a large hole in the kitchen ceiling where a leak had been repaired some months previously. I ran out of time to finish this, but at least there isn't as much of a cold draught falling on the kitchen table now!

Jan, meanwhile, rubbed down and primed the wood-clad face of the garage at the end of the garden.

This afternoon we drove to Walsall for our Shadow syndicate meeting, our first under BCBM. We agreed on various things to do with winter maintenance, and decided that we'd move the boat to a new mooring next year: Wigram's Turn Marina at Wigram's Turn (or Napton Junction) on the South Oxford/Grand Union Canal.

I had wondered if today we might have met up with Captain Ahab, but perhaps you didn't get my e-mail, Andy. So at 1730 we set out for home, arriving four hours and forty minutes later. We stopped in Thetford for some late bargains and a newspaper.

Friday 29 October 2010

Boat meeting

We're in Birmingham visiting Ally and Ben, and have just had an excellent takeaway curry from Sweet Chillies. Our boat meeting is tomorrow - new management company (BCBM), new location (Walsall) - so we'll see what happens.

Meanwhile, here are some more recent photos.

The chimney in Spittall at the mout of the Tweed is all that remains of, well, what was it? A mill?

And two more photos of a Lowry view: Berwick-upon-Tweed from near Berwick Dock.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Boats and golden buildings in Berwick

I've not quite finished with Berwick-upon-Tweed yet. By the Chandlery (now a collection of business units) was this little collection of boats. I like the look of Lady M, the blue and white clinker-built one in the top right.

Just seven minutes later the sun flooded the town with a golden light.

I haven't adjusted any colours.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Decline of the salmon industry

One thing Berwick-upon-Tweed was renowned for was its salmon fishing industry. Now it's gone. The associated buildings are boarded up and abandoned.

I did find an ironic piece of flotsam on the Tweed's foreshore: a piece of packaging from the Wester Ross salmon fishery.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Berwick-upon-Tweed and L. S. Lowry

Until we went there I didn't know that Salford artist L. S. Lowry spent much time in Berwick-upon-Tweed, producing many fine works there.

This is my view from the town's mediæval wall, a higher vantage point than Lowry's.

photo of painting from Christie's Images Ltd.

75 years ago in Lowry's view there were no cars, no road markings even, just masses of people.

I have an affinity for Lowry having spent five years at Salford Uni in the 1970s. Many of his works were displayed in the City Art Gallery on the campus. Also during that time the song "Matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs", a tribute to Lowry, was released and got to number one.

We did most of the "Lowry Trail", seeing paintings from the places he'd painted them.

Monday 25 October 2010

Berwick-upon-Tweed and its railway viaduct

There is really only one way to arrive at Berwick-upon-Tweed, and that is by train. From the south you go over Robert Stephenson's magnificent Royal Border Bridge, opened in 1850. Rail passengers get a good view, as the track bends a full ninety degrees on an embankment above the town before crossing the river. The embankment merges into the viaduct as it bends round. If this were a canal it would be one of the must-see places.

It's not difficult to get a shot of a train crossing the viaduct as this is the main East Coast line; and the viaduct is so long you have plenty of time to line up your camera!

The locomotive hauling these wagons (below) is "Drax Power Station". I can't think of any narrowboats with such a prosaic name - are there any?

We didn't just stare at the viaduct, we did a bit of walking too. Here we are with rain-spattered glasses and hat on the coast path.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Darlington, Roman remains, and how the grandfather clock got its name

We spent two nights in Darlington with my aunt, arriving late on the Saturday evening. I couldn't resist taking this picture of four diesel locomotives coupled together at the station.

The next day, after church and lunch, we drove to Piercebridge and walked to the remains of a Roman fort and bridge over the River Tees. Unfortunately I had forgotten to take my camera with me, so no photos!

We walked past the George Hotel, where my cousin Victoria's wedding reception was held. The George is perhaps better known for its long case clock - and its coincidences - which inspired the million-selling nineteenth century song by Henry Clay Work: "My Grandfather's Clock". A result of the popularity of this song was that long case clocks became to be known as grandfather clocks.

Then, on Monday morning, it was back to the station for a train to Berwick-upon-Tweed, our base for the next couple of days.

Darlington Market Hall clock tower

statue of Joseph Pease, a founder of the Stockton to Darlington Railway, the first in the world to carry passengers

one of the four tableaux around the base of the statue

Auntie Pauline and Jan

Top Thirty 2010 week 43

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 1520 on Sunday 24th October 2010. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

3 - Forums (=)

4 Pennine Waterways (=)

5 Granny Buttons (=)

6 (=)

7 CanalPlanAC (=)

8 Retirement with No Problem (+1)

9 boatshare (+1)

10 ExOwnerships (-2)

11 Jannock Website (+1)

12 Towpath Treks (+2)

13 UKCanals Network (+3)

14 (-1)

15 Canal Shop Company (+2)

16 Waterway Routes (-1)

17 NBNorthernPride (+1)

18 nb Lucky Duck (+11)

19 Narrowboat Bones (=)

20 WB Takey Tezey (+5)

21 Trafalgar Marine Services (+5)

22 Baddie the Pirate (=)

23 Narrowboat Caxton (+7)

24 Derwent6 (-1)

25 Water Explorer (-5)

26 Warwickshire Fly Boat Company (-)

27 Google Earth Canal Maps (-3)

28 Canal Photos (-17)

29 nb Piston Broke (-)

30 CutConnect - keeping boaters in touch (-9)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous chart; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry into the top thirty; (=) denotes no change.

There are 132 entries altogether. Halfie is at number 44.

Saturday 23 October 2010

A Sheffield walk

From Sheffield railway station we took the "Supertram" to White Lane. The tram looks and feels like a modern, spacious bus, and not at all like a train, despite the fact that it runs on rails. And it has overhead cables to provide the power. It seems strange having a mix of rail and road. There are signs warning that the rails can be slippery when wet ... and what happens when the road needs resurfacing? How often do cyclists find their wheels caught in the grooves which take the tram wheel flanges? And what does it feel like driving a bus with no steering wheel? Questions for people who live in Sheffield (or Manchester, Croydon, Nottingham, or Birmingham/Wolverhampton) to answer.

Here are some photos from a short walk we took in Stoneley Wood.

light and shade in the trees


snails in a crack in a wall

Friday 22 October 2010

To the north and north east by train

We've just got back from a mini train-and-walking holiday, one highlight of which was Robert Stephenson's amazing railway viaduct, the Royal Border Bridge over the River Tweed at Berwick-upon-Tweed.

There'll be more on the viaduct in a later post.

First stop, though, was Sheffield to see Andrew and Bekka, and their cats.

After a fry-up lunch at the park café where Bekka works Jan and I went for a walk through the nearby woods, and Andrew did a moving job. After I trimmed most of their privet hedge we returned to the station to catch a train to Darlington.

Sheffield Station

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Hertford's low bridge takes off chimney's hat

Oops. It looked as though it would fit, just. But as we crept under a bridge in Hertford, the chimney's coolie hat started to scrape on the concrete underside of the bridge. The bridge, annoyingly, got lower the further under we went. I had tried to remove the chimney before going through, but it was stuck fast. So I hoped for the best. Mistake. The coolie hat was ruined, its rusted legs buckling and snapping.

I bought a new chimney hat at Beale Park, together with a flue brush. When I did eventually manage to work the chimney free, I found that the flue was caked with soot, and down to perhaps half of its original diameter.

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Take off! (Go on, have a gander)

I was enjoying a rare moment at the bow when we came upon a large gaggle of geese on the approach to Hertford. The noise when they took off was ... er, what's the auditory equivalent of "spectacular"? It was that. Noisy. Like the heron which waits for you to get almost close enough for a decent close-up photo, then flies on a hundred yards before doing it again, these geese took off, landed, took off ... being driven forward by our intrusion on their space.

Eventually most of them gave up, and took off for good. I don't remember them being here when we returned the next day.

Monday 18 October 2010

Hoe, hoe, hoe - take that, you weed

As we travelled up the Lee Navigation in August we kept encountering two men in a van at the locks. These were men on a mission. Their task: to seek and destroy all weeds growing out of the lock walls. Their weapon: a garden hoe.

I imagine this is the sort of meticulous maintenance which will fall by the wayside in a cash-strapped, abolished BW/charity/trust/whatever next.

Sunday 17 October 2010

Blue is the colour, painting is the game

A house on my route to work has suddenly gone all Chelsea*. Well, perhaps not exactly overnight, but I have only recently become aware of it. The blue theme of the walls is carried on to the garage and the gate.

I have decided I like it. Why shouldn't a house be painted differently from its neighbours?

*other football teams are available

Saturday 16 October 2010

Heeding the warning at Stanstead Lock

Our copy of Nicholson's Guide to the waterways of London, the Grand Union, the Oxford and the Lee is second-hand. The previous owner has gone over part of the navigational notes to Stanstead Lock with a blue highlighter pen. It's a warning about having to be "extremely careful" when ascending the lock - I wonder if they had problems there?

I'm always very cautious when opening gate paddles to fill a lock. This lock has no top ground paddles, so the only way to fill it is by opening the paddles on the top gates, which can, if they're opened too quickly, create enormous turbulence in the lock. This can cause boats to lurch around, or even flood them. In such situations I'm a little nervous when other people "help" with the lock operation, especially when they say there's nothing to be worried about.

In the event nothing went wrong: the paddles were opened (reasonably) carefully. I still would have preferred to have done it all myself, though.

Here's David holding Willow steady at the bow; Penny and Jan are the other end.

I have tried, unsuccessfully, to find out about the building with the interesting roof beside the lock. Anyone know what it is/was?

Top Thirty 2010 week 42

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 0515 on Saturday 16th October 2010. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

3 - Forums (=)

4 Pennine Waterways (=)

5 Granny Buttons (=)

6 (=)

7 CanalPlanAC (=)

8 ExOwnerships (=)

9 Retirement with No Problem (=)

10 boatshare (+1)

11 Canal Photos (+7)

12 Jannock Website (-)

13 (-1)

14 Towpath Treks (-4)

15 Waterway Routes (+1)

16 UKCanals Network (-2)

17 Canal Shop Company (-2)

18 NBNorthernPride (-5)

19 Narrowboat Bones (+1)

20 Water Explorer (-3)

21 CutConnect - keeping boaters in touch (-)

22 Baddie the Pirate (-1)

23 Derwent6 (+2)

24 Google Earth Canal Maps (-1)

25 WB Takey Tezey (-6)

26 Trafalgar Marine Services (-4)

27 The Graphics Boat (=)

28 Chertsey (-2)

29 nb Lucky Duck (-5)

30 Narrowboat Caxton (=)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous chart; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry into the top thirty; (=) denotes no change.

There are 127 entries altogether. Halfie is at number 36.

Friday 15 October 2010

I tried to buy a copy of Waterways World yesterday ...

... but failed. After bumping into and congratulating a colleague who has just swum the Channel (he's now off work with pneumonia - oops!) I called in to WHSmith to see if Andrew Denny's "first edition" of Waterways World was in.

It was, so I took it to the till. There the sales assistant (as I suppose I'll have to call him, although he did nothing much to assist) was talking to a customer and making a phone call as the queue grew longer. If he had just acknowledged us waiting, and perhaps promised to be with us very soon, I would have stayed. But he ignored us. I went to the other till on the other side of the shop, but there was a queue there too. I put my £3.50 back in my pocket, returned the copy to the rack and walked out.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Rye House

A long time ago - in the 1970s - I worked for an Essex garage company during my university vacations. Most of the time I was on the till at the main edge-of-town location, a six-pump (or was it eight?) self-service Mobil garage in Brentwood. Some of the time I was looking after a small old town centre garage with two pumps on the forecourt, and an ancient cash register in a small office. This wasn't self-service: I had to dispense the fuel, offer to check the oil, and take the customer's money. There was one more location I worked at, a garage in Cranham in outer London, a few miles away. Why am I telling you all this? Well ... one of the workshop mechanics used to go stock car racing at Rye House Speedway, and another of the mechanics did drag racing* in a (modified, naturally) E-type Jaguar.

We passed Rye House Junction three times on our recent cruise; at the junction is the Rye House karting track. I think the speedway is next door.

A karting session was in progress as we passed.

For good measure, here's Rye House Power Station, or as much of it as I could see from the Lee.

*the drag racing would have been at Santa Pod

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Curious boat - where's the steerer?

Have a look at this boat.

Have you ever seen such a domed cabin top? Or so much window space to the rear? And where's the tiller?

I've been trying to think what it reminds me of.

Got it. It's an Underground train!