Friday 31 December 2010

Milking it on the Lee

Some boats have very odd names, don't they? On the Lee Navigation in August 2010 we went past Milking Shed just south of Stanstead Abbots.

Well, this is my last post of 2010. 396 posts! Knock out the weekly Top Thirty chart posts, though, and the total goes down to 344 or 355 (I think I missed one week). Still, that's very nearly one a day. Mostly drivel, but if you've enjoyed reading it, then that's great.

So ...

A Happy New Year to all my readers!

And may the only ice you encounter while boating - whether really or virtually - be that which goes in your G&T.

Thursday 30 December 2010

Boozy boat juxtaposition

Liquid Lunch next to Spirit Level just above Stanstead Lock on the Lee Navigation in August 2010.

On Christmas Day we most certainly did not have a(n entirely) liquid lunch. Afterwards ten of us went for a short walk round the village. Here we are illuminated by the security light on our return.

(yes, I was the one taking the photo.)

[By the way, H.S., did you know that clicking on a photo will (usually) enlarge it?]

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Caption competition

Is that you Bones?

Thank you, Debbie, for that caption.

No prizes, but if you write your caption as a comment I'll incorporate it into the post.

Offers so far (with a small amount of editing):

The locks can be a bit slow on this waterway (Halfie)

Will you ever bring me that tea? (Halfie)

Thats a rowing boat coming past. No its not, its a scull! (Captain Ahab)

Whose turn to steer? (H.S.)

Waiting for new licence from BW (Martin)

It'll take more than a skeleton crew to get this boat moving. (Jan)

Is that you Bones? (Debbie)

In 1960 they told me this was the Tardis & I'm still tryin' to get inside the darn thing ... (Heth)

Thank you all who have contributed. Debbie, your caption made me laugh out loud, so I've promoted it to top spot!

(edited to incorporate suggestions)

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Snow on narrowboats, and gauging loads

On her blog yesterday Heather of Takey Tezey mentioned that members of the local constabulary were handing out £50 fines to anyone driving around with snow on their vehicle's roof. In a comment I explained why driving with snow on the roof is dangerous, but then got thinking about how much snow would have to fall on a narrowboat's roof before its weight* became a hazard.

A foot of snow on a 60' narrowboat weighs about a ton. How do I know? Well, I worked it out.

60 feet is about 20m. That's 2,000cm. The boat's beam is about seven feet, or approximately 2m. That's 200cm. Multiplying together gives the area:

2,000cm x 200cm = 400,000 square centimetres.

Assuming that a foot of snow is equivalent to an inch of water, all we have to do is multiply this depth (1" = 2.5cm approx.) by the area:

2.5cm x 400,000 square centimetres = 1,000,000 cubic centimetres.

This is the total equivalent volume of water.

We know from car engine capacities that 1,000cc is 1 litre. So a million cc is 1,000 litres. A litre of water weighs 1kg, so a foot of snow on this narrowboat would weigh 1,000kg, or one tonne (or approximately one ton in old money).

The extra load would, assuming even distribution, merely serve to push the boat down in the water about an inch. (Why? Because that's the equivalent extra depth of water on top of the boat. It would displace its own weight of canal water, or an inch's worth.) That's if the ice were to relax its grip (and it probably would). OK, the boat's now a little less stable now, but dangerously so? Probably not. Most of the weight (I believe a modern steel narrowboat weighs about 17 tons) is still below water level.

Now if TWO feet of snow were to fall, that would mean two tons extra on the roof, or a possible increase in weight of more than ten percent. This could start to get significant, especially as this weight is a long way from where you'd normally want ballast.

In calculating the above I now understand why working boats sink about an inch for every ton of load. Yes, working boats are generally 72 feet long, but a cabin and the pointed bow would limit the hold to a maximum of 60 feet, so my calculation, although approximate, is directly applicable.

The photo is of Fulbourne heading up the Thames above Teddington Locks. It looks as though there's a good two feet of freeboard, so I would estimate that it could take an extra 24 tons of load. (That's 24 feet of snow!)

*Note: I have talked about "weight" (a force) where, strictly speaking, I should have used the word "mass" (a, er, mass). But, given that narrowboats are unlikely to be navigating in an environment where the acceleration due to gravity is much different from 9.81 metres per second squared, I think I can get away with it! Of course, if we discover narrowboats on the moon - in a snowstorm - I'm quite prepared to reconsider.

Monday 27 December 2010

Weird natural ice formations

On a walk yesterday David and Penny came across some strange ice sculptures. Today, after we'd said goodbye to the last of our Christmas guests, we went for a walk ourselves, and saw the outlandish natural phenomenon.

A small stream often flows across the road at this dip. Passing cars have thrown spray to the sides, which has frozen on plants and on the grass verge, creating these amazing shapes.

And this was after a few hours of thaw. I imagine it was even more spectacular yesterday.

Sunday 26 December 2010

Christmas Day and Boxing Day chez Halfie

Thank you everyone who wished us well at Christmas. This was the scene at the present-opening session after The Queen. I'm happy to report that there was no fresh snow, and that all the hoped-for guests came.

On Boxing Day nine ten of us went for a walk to the old gravel pit nearby.

This is Jemima looking at the shafts of sunlight through the trees.

Top Thirty, 2010 week 52

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 2240 on Sunday 26th December 2010. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 - Forums (+1)

3 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (-1)

4 Pennine Waterways (+2)

5 The Boats and Canals Forum (-1)

6 Granny Buttons (-1)

7 Retirement with No Problem (=)

8 CanalPlanAC (+1)

9 (-1)

10 Jannock Website (+1)

11 ExOwnerships (-1)

12 WB Takey Tezey (=)

13 nb Epiphany (+7)

14 Narrowboat Bones (=)

15 Waterway Routes (-2)

16 Towpath Treks (+7)

17 boatshare (=)

18 nb Lucky Duck (+3)

19 Derwent6 (=)

20 (+4)

21 nb Piston Broke (+6)

22 Narrowboat Caxton (-4)

23 Canal Photos (-7)

24 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (+1)

25 Water Explorer (-)

26 UKCanals Network (=)

27 Lazy Days (-)

28 Seyella's Journey (+1)

29 Canal Shop Company (-14)

30 Halfie (-)

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 135 entries altogether.

Friday 24 December 2010

Happy Christmas from Halfie

Well, it looks as though all the invited guests are going to be here for Christmas. That's 12 people round the table(s) in the dining room tomorrow, which will be a bit of a squeeze (but not as much as if we were attempting it on a boat!) Nine are here already; the last three to come tomorrow in time for lunch.

Occasional crew member Adrian was warming himself by his Morso yesterday.

Happy Christmas!

Thursday 23 December 2010

Wreaths are sprouting out, I see

We visited friends Adrian and Willie in the village this evening. This is their Christmas wreath.

Yup. It's made with Brussels sprouts.

When we got home we opened their card.

Oh yes! We like sprouts!

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Things don't look much different a year on

18th December 2009

20th December 2010

Tuesday 21 December 2010

The Wherryman's Way book and blog

A few weeks ago I spotted a book on a desk at work entitled The Wherryman's Way with an enticing aerial photograph of the River Yare and what looks like The Wood's End pub at Bramerton. And then I noticed the name of the author. Steve Silk has been a colleague for at least ten years. I had no idea he was writing a book. And then, a couple of days ago, Brian of NB Harnser alerted me to Steve's blog. Again, I didn't know he had a blog.

I haven't read the book, so I can't offer a review, but Brian speaks well of it, having received it for his birthday.

On the other hand, I can recommend the blog. In a post from earlier this month, headed "When the Bure had locks", Steve writes about the Aylsham Navigation, and the disastrous flood of 1912. This swept away many locks and bridges, destroying the navigation. There's much of interest here, especially if you have a connection with Norfolk or the Broads.

Here's an extract:

THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY of the 1912 floods might still be more than 18 months away, but it’s already got some people thinking. Among all the loss of life and damage, the floods also brought an end to the Aylsham Navigation on the River Bure. Long forgotten, this waterway dated back to 1779. It meant that the people of Coltishall, Horstead, Hautbois, Oxnead, Burgh and Aylsham were all connected by river to Great Yarmouth for the first time – a huge boon when it came to getting cargo in and their produce out. Essentially – as a new website says – the navigation was a series of locks designed to get around pre-existing Mill streams. It mostly used the River Bure for its 9.5 miles but it did include some canal cuts. But all that was pre-flood: 

“When the flood came on August 26th 1912 all of the locks and some of the bridges (including the one pictured between Coltishall and Horstead) were washed out. The navigation was already in decline as the coming of the railways in the 1880's had dramatically cut the trade. After the flood the Navigation was never re-opened. Trading wherries caught upstream were abandoned with the exception of the Zulu which was man-hauled around the obstructions to gain her freedom.”

Steve explains that he "pinched" the painting from the website of a group which wants to raise the profile of the Aylsham Navigation as the centenary of the flood approaches.

Jan and I walked part of the Wherryman's Way, in the rain, just over a year ago (write-up here). So perhaps I should buy the book, and complete the walk - "Norfolk's long distance footpath" according to the cover (what about Peddar's Way, then? Or Boudicca's Way?)

Monday 20 December 2010

If the ice doesn't stop you the trees will

Stoppage alert sent by BW today for the Rochdale Canal at Luddenden Foot:

Luddenden Foot

Monday 20 December 2010 until further notice

A number of large trees have fallen across the canal which will need access by water to clear. With the current frozen conditions this is not possible. We will update regarding this situation once the work can be completed, which is likely to be in the New Year.

British Waterways apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Enquiries: 01782 785703

More stoppages on this waterway:

I had to look up Luddenden Foot as the only bit of the Rochdale I've done is the short length through central Manchester between Castlefield Basin and the Ashton Canal. Luddenden Foot is a village between Hebden Bridge and Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire.

Sunday 19 December 2010

Pear logs seasoned for a year and burning well

A year and four days ago I suddenly came into possession of a quantity of pear logs (you can read how here). I split them straight away, and stacked them under cover.

I'm now feeding them to the woodburner. They are lovely, dense logs. We should have enough to last us through this cold snap.

Top Thirty, 2010 week 51

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 1240 on Sunday 19th December 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 (+1)

3 - Forums (-1)

4 The Boats and Canals Forum (=)

5 Granny Buttons (=)

6 Pennine Waterways (=)

7 Retirement with No Problem (=)

8 (+2)

9 CanalPlanAC (-1)

10 ExOwnerships (-1)

11 Jannock Website (=)

12 WB Takey Tezey (=)

13 Waterway Routes (+4)

14 Narrowboat Bones (=)

15 Canal Shop Company (-2)

16 Canal Photos (=)

17 boatshare (+2)

18 Narrowboat Caxton (+4)

19 Derwent6 (+2)

20 nb Epiphany (-)

21 nb Lucky Duck (-6)

22 CutConnect - keeping boaters in touch (-4)

23 Towpath Treks (-3)

24 (+2)

25 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (+2)

26 UKCanals Network (-3)

27 nb Piston Broke (-3)

28 Herbie (-)

29 Seyella's Journey (-)

30 boats and cruising (-)

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 134 entries altogether. Halfie is at number 33.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Minus 9.5 last night, and a cold walk

My max/min thermometer last night recorded a low of minus 9.5ÂșC (that's the minus sign between "MIN" and "MEM"). That would explain the ice on our bedroom windows - on the inside - this morning. And they're double glazed!

This morning we led our walking group on a walk round some local Norfolk fields.

It was perfect walking weather: no wind; no precipitation; just enough snow on the ground to turn it white, but not so deep as to make walking difficult.

This ditch froze when the water level was high; now the level has gone down by a couple of feet, leaving curious horizontal patches of ice clinging to the hedge.

One or two of our number got a little chilly, but we soon warmed up when the sixteen of us ended up at Jan's school for mulled wine round the fire, followed by a Christmas lunch.

Friday 17 December 2010


Gloves has been a hot topic recently. Did you find something satisfactory, Bones? Commenter VallyP asked about the gloves I use for cycling. I don't know what make they are - my brother David gave them to me last Christmas (as I recall). Today, cycling to and from work in below-zero temperatures, I wished I'd been wearing my old leather motorcycle gauntlets (bought, I think, from a market stall in Salford in about 1976). (No, the motorbike wasn't leather.)

But, better than trying to describe gloves, here's a picture of them.

The pair on the right is (or are?) my silk liners, which make a difference, but my hands still got flippin' freezing!

For boating, as I've already said somewhere, I like my fleece gloves. They're especially good in wet weather as they act like a wetsuit, and can be wrung out when necessary. They also dry quickly.

Now I'll gargle a soluble aspirin (for the sore throat I woke up with this morning) and go to bed.

Thursday 16 December 2010

Raking the cut

The other day my father asked me if I'd heard of "raking the cut", and sent me a transcription of a letter sent in to The Oldie magazine (October 2009 issue).

In response to a regular Memory Lane feature and the question, "What were you doing 30, 40, 50, 60 or 70 years ago?", Rosemary Hoggard writes:

70 years ago this autumn, I found myself in charge of a wheelbarrow on the towpath by a disused lock on the Grand Union Canal in Leicester. I was five years old and about to participate in a new pastime. I watched as my grandpa clambered up onto the lock gates and balanced precariously.

War had just broken out and we had been warned by the government to expect shortages. But Grandpa had an answer to that. He had decided to revive the old custom of 'raking the cut' (the cut was what local people called the canal).

"Be careful Grandpa", I shouted.

"You stand well back", was his reply as he prepared to trawl the bottom of the lock with his home-made apparatus - a garden rake with a long rope secured to the top of the handle. Holding the rope he cast the rake into the murky water then hauled it in.

Grandpa was a small chap with a dodgy ankle, legacy of a wound collected on the Somme, so he struggled. But gradually the canal gave up its bounty. He flung each hard-won treasure to land with a splosh on the path beside me. Stout pieces of timber handy to 'mackle up' the gaps in his home-made shed. Rougher bits of wood which could be dried out and burned as fuel on the living-room range. A cycle tyre which, cut and shaped, would serve to sole our shoes. An industialised oval fish tin (probably from a factory canteen) which, by dint of being scoured then 'purified' in the range fire later, became the hull of a pull-along sailing ship for my brother (a toy much followed by the neighbourhood dogs, who could doubtless still smell the fish).

Today the enterprise might be termed 'freecycling' but all those yesterdays ago it was completely in line with the government policy of 'make do and mend'. This was only the first of many such expeditions for Grandpa and me. We always felt really chuffed after a trip with the wheelbarrow, over the bridge, to slog away at the time-honoured tradition of the poverty-stricken - raking the cut.


And here is someone 'raking the cut' in modern times. This man was using a grappling hook to recover old bikes from a bridge hole on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Leigh Branch in July 2008. At the time he told me that he got £200 for each van load of the scrap metal thus obtained.

(edited to add date info about the magazine)

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Oculus in Coelum

I cycled to Eye in Suffolk today to pick up the 240 estate which had been in for an MOT (it passed - nothing needed doing).

[26.7 miles, 2h 45m, 9.7mph average speed - I was taking it gently, saving my knees!]

With the bike in the boot I stopped in Eye for something to eat. While there I snapped this structure which grateful townsfolk had erected to the memory of ... er, I don't know! I can't remember his name, and I can't read it from the photos. Sir someone-or-other, who became the town's MP.

The interesting thing about the memorial was the coat of arms with its punning inscription OCULUS IN COELUM, or Eye in Heaven, or, even, Eye in the Sky. There it is, in the centre of a sunburst.

Proper canal post tomorrow, I promise!

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Shooting star in 20:20 vision

On my cycle home from work one day last week (wind blowing at my exact velocity and direction, hence no wind noise in my ears):

Heard but not seen: a sheep and two owls (one "to-whit" and one "to-whoo").

On my cycle home from work this evening (large patches of clear sky):

Seen but not heard: a shooting star.

The shooting star was spectacular, being very bright against a dark starry sky (we get them in Norfolk). It was to the north, going from east to west, and so low that it looked as if it was over land and not way out in space.

Ray and Jayne of No Direction posted about seeing a meteor a week ago. Mine wasn't in the same league - no tail; no bits flying off.

To explain the title of this post: I reached home at 24 minutes past eight, four minutes after seeing the meteor.

Monday 13 December 2010


Apart from the few photos I took on our walk to Newtown along the Montgomery Canal in July I took only two shots in the town itself. One was the impressive Pryce Jones building overshadowing the Queen's Head pub. Pryce Pryce-Jones was born just outside Newtown in 1834, and started the world's first mail order company. The building in the photo was built in 1879 to accommodate his expanding business, selling Welsh flannel across the world. People would choose what they wanted from a leaflet, then Price-Jones would post the product. In 1880 he had 100,000 customers, including - as he stated on his publicity - Florence Nightingale and Queen Victoria.

The other photo was of an old W.H.Smith and Son shop. Well, half shop, half museum. The shop was first opened in 1927 and was kept in its original condition when all other WHSmith branches were modernised in the 1970s.

Sunday 12 December 2010

More dereliction on the Monty

The last two miles along the Montgomery Canal into Newtown sees the canal gradually turning from dry bed to footpath to nothing.

Some of the bridges are in better condition than others.

This scene somehow comes as a surprise. All it needs is water!

Top Thirty, 2010 week 50

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 1000 on Sunday 12th December 2010. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 - Forums (=)

3 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

4 The Boats and Canals Forum (+1)

5 Granny Buttons (+1)

6 Pennine Waterways (-2)

7 Retirement with No Problem (+1)

8 CanalPlanAC (-1)

9 ExOwnerships (+1)

10 (-1)

11 Jannock Website (=)

12 WB Takey Tezey (+4)

13 Canal Shop Company (-1)

14 Narrowboat Bones (-1)

15 nb Lucky Duck (+10)

16 Canal Photos (+3)

17 Waterway Routes (+3)

18 CutConnect - keeping boaters in touch (+4)

19 boatshare (-5)

20 Towpath Treks (-5)

21 Derwent6 (=)

22 Narrowboat Caxton (+2)

23 UKCanals Network (=)

24 nb Piston Broke (+4)

25 Narrowboat Debdale (-7)

26 (+3)

27 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (-1)

28 Chertsey (-11)

29 Google Earth Canal Maps (-)

30 UK Waterways Ranking Site (-)

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 36.

Saturday 11 December 2010

Freestone Lock (derelict)

Freestone Lock, two miles northeast of Newtown, marks the end of the in-water section of the Montgomery Canal.

It's a shame seeing the rubbish in there, but it could be a lot worse. The structure looks sound - a bit of cleaning up and some lock gates and it'd be as good as new. Mind you, there wouldn't be much point using it unless the currently dry canal can be restored to Newtown.

The tail bridge is also somewhat overgrown.

Friday 10 December 2010

Brymbo iron bridges

Many of the bridges across the Montgomery Canal bear the name "Brymbo". Why? Because the ironwork was made there.

Brymbo is a place in Wales, near Wrecsam (or Wrexham) where John "Iron Mad" Wilkinson set up an ironworks. Production from Blast Furnace No. 1 started in 1796. "No. 1" continued in operation for an astonishing 98 years - what factory building these days could possibly last that long?

All the images above are of the amazing iron bridge at Abermule. It spans both the Montgomery Canal and the River Severn. Over the canal it's a simple girder span, but over the river an elegant arch bears the words "This second iron bridge constructed in the county of Montgomeryshire 1852".

But there are several other Brymbo bridges over the canal. I can't work out which bridge number the above is, but it was built in 1853.

This one (below) is definitely Bridge 153, though. The other side of the bridge the canal dries up and becomes derelict for the last couple of miles to Newtown.

This bridge looks a bit low!