Friday 30 September 2011

Old and new - a bridge repair on the Stratford Canal

12th April 2011

I think this is Bridge 45 at Yarningale on the Stratford Canal. I expect it will look better when it's weathered a bit, but it's a shame the parapet hasn't been finished properly.

The original would probably have led right down to the ground, presenting no sharp edges, and thus minimising the risk of the tow rope snagging.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Yarningale Aqueduct and a leaky lock gate

12th April 2011

On our journey towards Stratford-on-Avon we crossed three notable aqueducts, short, medium and long, in that order. First was Yarningale Aqueduct, crossing a stream immediately before Bucket Lock.

It looks like Jan is working the lock. Unusual, as I normally do the paddles and gates while Jan steers. And here's another barrel-roofed lock cottage.

Want an example of a leaky top gate? Here it is. In the background is the iron trough aqueduct. The towpath, as on the other aqueducts at Wootton Wawen and Edstone, runs at low level alongside the trough.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

The grass is greener this side

On our April trip down the Stratford Canal we found a parent sheep and a lamb on the lock island (between the bywash and the lock).

One lamb hadn't yet made the leap. Perhaps it never did. (Jump over there? Ewe must be joking.)


I don't get many perks in my job. In fact, when I'm on a filming day, I often get no break. Tough in a ten-hour day. I got no break today. But I did get to be driven at speed in a Lotus Exige round the Lotus test track. So it wasn't all bad!

Monday 26 September 2011

Lock cottages. Two different ones.

12th April 2011

In the red corner ... a lock cottage on the Stratford Canal where pigs might fly. Appropriate, as an inflatable pig was due to fly today above Battersea Power Station in a recreation of Pink Floyd's famous "Animals" album cover, originally done in 1977. Wow! That's 34 years ago!

And in the green corner ... another lock cottage on the Stratford Canal ...

... this one featuring a man sitting in the sun reading a book.

It could have been today, not April, as it's been warm and sunny (after the rain). We even had a barbecue! Yes, today, almost at the end of September.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Close to the edge

Yes, sometimes people seem to do quite silly things on or near a canal. And you and I know it.

This digger was teetering on the edge of the Stratford Canal when we came through in April. If it had started to topple one of the posts might have caught it but the fence wouldn't have.

Close to the edge, down by a river (or canal) ...

Top Thirty, 2011 Week 38

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 0945 on Sunday 25th September 2011. 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 CanalPlanAC (=)

4 Pennine Waterways (=)

5 - Forums (=)

6 (=)

7 Water Explorer (=)

8 Towpath Treks (+1)

9 Granny Buttons (-1)

10 boatshare (+2)

11 Jannock Website (-1)

12 ExOwnerships (-1)

13 UKCanals Network (=)

14 Waterway Routes (+1)

15 nb Epiphany (-1)

16 Canal Shop Company (=)

17 nb Waiouru (=)

18 (+1)

19 Takey Tezey (-1)

20 Google Earth Canal Maps (=)

21 Narrowboat Bones (=)

22 Narrowboat Briar Rose (+1)

23 Trafalgar Marine Services (+2)

24 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (=)

25 nb Lucky Duck (+1)

26 Chertsey (-4)

27 nb Piston Broke (=)

28 Derwent6 (+1)

29 Narrowboat Caxton (-)

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 145 entries altogether.

Saturday 24 September 2011

A spot of dredging on the Stratford Canal

12th April 2011

Just above Lapworth Top Lock on the Stratford Canal we had to wait for a few minutes for Land and Water to do some dredging and then move out of our way.

How do they know how deep they can go without dredging up the clay puddle? (I might have asked that before...)

Friday 23 September 2011

Beware golf balls!

One of the problems with trying to write up a trip several months later is that I forget some - OK, most - of the details. Photographs are, of course, very handy as memory joggers, especially as they are dated and timed.

Now I knew that we'd come down the Stratford Canal on 11th April 2011 as I'd written it in the cruising log, but I'd forgotten about the sign saying "Beware of golf balls". The photograph times it at 1318, and, as we tied up at Bridge 5 a few minutes later, I can be confident in saying that the sign refers to the adjacent Cocks Moors Woods Golf Club. But on which side of the canal is the metal fence? I think it might be on the side opposite the golf course, but now I can't be sure.

Quite how you're supposed to "beware of golf balls" I don't know. I imagine that a flying golf ball coming your way isn't going to avoid hitting you just because you're "bewaring" it.

Thursday 22 September 2011

Exposure at King's Norton

11th April 2011

Sometimes, just sometimes, I take a photograph and, when I look back at it, I find that the exposure has been just right. My camera is a "point, shoot and hope for the best" compact (now with a permanent piece of detritus in the lens assembly which degrades the right side of the picture).

I like the contrast in this picture, and that's in the technical sense of the blacks being black and the whites being white.

And, for contrast (the other sense), here's the same scene nine seconds later. Overexposed, minus the weeping willow, and generally much less interesting.

Just under the bridge we turned left from the Worcester and Birmingham onto the Stratford Canal.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Behind a coffer dam

VallyP left a comment recently wondering about how a coffer dam works. Here is the coffer dam by The Cube at Holliday Wharf in Birmingham, with Shadow tied up in the centre of the photo, taken in April 2011.

This one is made from plastic sheeting forced by the weight of water against sloping metal supports. These sloping supports are held in place by vertical scaffold poles driven in to the canal bed. It's hard to tell from the photo, but it doesn't look like much water has yet been pumped out from this side of the dam.


Incidentally, I don't like Blogger's new way of displaying photos once you've clicked on them. They seem to be smaller than before, and it doesn't help to have the dim remains of the blog around the outside. Also the scroll bar disappears from the original blog once you've closed the photo view.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

I had no idea this was next to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal ...

... until I came across it on a satellite mapping image.

View Larger Map

That's the canal running from centre left to centre top.

I knew we go past the University of Birmingham on this stretch, but I'd not known about the sports ground before. Google Maps has captured the athletics track in its prime.

View Larger Map

I was trying to use Bing maps, for its high resolution north, east, south and west views, but the last couple of time I tried it I was presented with an error message saying that it was having problems with its server.

Monday 19 September 2011

How many men does it take to fix a coffer dam?

11th April 2011

How many men does it take to fix a coffer dam?

Five. One in the water and four watching.

We'd just set off from the start of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, round the corner from Holliday Wharf on day nine of our Easter cruise. We didn't have far to go as we would stop at Bridge 5 on the Stratford Canal, five minutes' walk from Ally and Ben's house. The coffer dam was by The Cube. Was the canal leaking into the cellar?

We stopped at the water point on Holliday Wharf, and then continued away from Birmingham. The canal and railway run alongside each other for a distance.

Sunday 18 September 2011

Tour of Britain flashes past

It's not often that a cycle race passes nearby, but yesterday the Tour of Britain whizzed through Wymondham. Ben and Ally are visiting us this weekend, so, as we wanted to buy some spark plugs, Ben and I cycled to the town to combine the spark plug buying with the race spectating.

There was a good atmosphere, despite some rain, as people lined the streets to cheer the cyclists on their way. The funniest moment was when, about 15 minutes before the official cyclists came through, a postman in uniform pedalled his bike furiously along the route. Everyone cheered loudly, the postie waving to the crowds. (No photo, sorry.)

Then someone in a race commentary car with loud hailers made the classic faux pas of pronouncing "Wymondham" with three syllables (this being Norfolk, it's actually pronounced "Windham"). More cheers and laughter. Six cyclists came through about seven minutes ahead of the rest of them, all bunched into a pack. Interspersed were dozens of support vehicles, many with extra bicycles on top. There seemed to be a limitless supply of police motorbikes too.

It's all over (for the spectators) very quickly. The participants rattle through, disappear round a bend, and that's it. They were about half way on their 200km stage from Bury St. Edmunds to Sandringham; we just cycled home. We didn't buy the spark plugs - the motorist centre wanted £19.96 for four! I bought them from a Wilco branch in Norwich later for £9.60. And, no, the Wymondham ones weren't platinum plated. What a rip off!

Back to boaty stuff tomorrow.

Top Thirty, 2011 Week 37

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 0900 on Sunday 18th September 2011. 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 CanalPlanAC (=)

4 Pennine Waterways (=)

5 - Forums (=)

6 (=)

7 Water Explorer (+1)

8 Granny Buttons (-1)

9 Towpath Treks (=)

10 Jannock Website (+1)

11 ExOwnerships (-1)

12 boatshare (+1)

13 UKCanals Network (-1)

14 nb Epiphany (+2)

15 Waterway Routes (-1)

16 Canal Shop Company (-1)

17 nb Waiouru (=)

18 Takey Tezey (+1)

19 (-1)

20 Google Earth Canal Maps (=)

21 Narrowboat Bones (+1)

22 Chertsey (+2)

23 Narrowboat Briar Rose (+5)

24 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (-3)

25 Trafalgar Marine Services (-2)

26 nb Lucky Duck (-1)

27 nb Piston Broke (=)

28 boats and cruising (-)

29 Derwent6 (=)

30 Contented Souls (-)

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.

Halfie is at number 31.

There are 145 entries altogether.

Saturday 17 September 2011

Repairing a mini DV tape saves the day

I was presented with an interesting challenge at work the other day. I'd hardly stepped through the door when a worried-looking journalist came up to me, told me that a tape machine had chewed his precious rushes tape, and could I do anything to rescue the situation? Well, I'd never tried to repair a mini DV tape before, but I like a challenge like that, and set to work. In my time I've repaired audio cassettes, Umatic, Betacam and VHS cassettes. This was on a par with an audio cassette, but on an even smaller scale.

This particular cassette was glued and not screwed together. That was the first problem. I wrecked a couple of gash tapes to find the best way of recovering the minute tape spools from inside the cassette, re-affixed the end of the tape to the take-up spool, and put it all back in a screw-type housing. Fortunately the tape was chewed at the beginning, not half-way through.

Eventually I had it all back together, and put it in a machine to start replaying. Oh dear: Error-31. The end of the tape had come off. Oops. I had to dismantle it again, re-attach the end, and try again. This time it held together, and we got all the material onto the server. The reporter was extremely pleased!

I had an impressive pile of bits on the desk afterwards!

Friday 16 September 2011

Sitting on a high voltage line without getting electrocuted

Warning: this post contains explicit photographs of pylons and transmission lines. This might not be to everyone's taste.

Now, there are many places to see pylons from, and I can think of one famous canal-straddling pylon on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. Are there others? Most of the time we see them and ignore them. Some might rather they didn't march across the countryside, but we live in an electrical age, and we have to get the power somehow.

pylons crossing the Fens, as seen from the Cambridge to Norwich train

Over the last three months National Grid has been upgrading their transmission lines in Norfolk, the "Norwich Main to Walpole 400kV Overhead Line Refurbishment". My route to work passes under these lines, and I've been watching with interest what's been going on.

The first noticeable event was pulley wheels appearing under new insulators on one side of the pylons.

I was pleased with this next photo. The pylon has a dramatic cloud backdrop which gives the sense of plasma radiating from it.

Then, where there were two lines for each insulator, suddenly there were three.

A bit of conductor pulling had happened.

Or "conducter pulling" as National Grid has it.

Then the lines acquired cylinders pointing to each other either side of the insulators, and jumbles of metalwork dangling nearby.

I don't know what the cylinders are (anyone?), but the tangles I think are the triangular spacers which were fitted to the lines on their run between pylons, four per run.

On another cycle to work I could hardly believe what I was seeing above me. Using the cables as an extreme aerial runway (or "zipwire" as I believe Americans say), National Grid workers were travelling along in trolleys suspended from the lines.

It was the most amazing sight. I assume they were removing the spacers from the old two-wire runs ready for pulling through the new cables.

Lowering a pulley set from the restrung pylon. Both sides have now been done.

Presumably the first requirement for these workers is a head for heights.

Taking a breather straddling the 400kV lines. It doesn't look the most comfortable seat! But do you see how thick the cables are? I hadn't really thought about it before, other than knowing that the higher the voltage the thinner the cable can be for a given power transfer. These look to be about three inches in diameter. That will take a considerable quantity of amps, and at 400kV, that's lots of megawatts!

Finally (phew!), what a difference the sun makes.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Spey spotted

31st August 2011

From Warwick we continued up the Grand Union to Long Itchington, tying up by Bickley's Bridge 26. We walked/cycled into the village where we looked in the church.

Just above Radford Bottom Lock, just past the skew railway bridge, Spey was tied up.

Spey is a wooden boat in Thomas Clayton livery. The hold is planked over, presumably because this is a "tar boat", designed to carry bulk liquids.

The Historic Narrow Boat Owners' Club gives Spey's build date as 1937.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Trespassing in Warwick

31st August 2011

David had built sufficient time in the schedule to allow for a morning looking round Warwick, so he and I went off on our bikes while Jan, Penny and Fergus walked into the town. We'd tied up the previous evening opposite the Cape of Good Hope pub but had eaten on board.

Warwick is a splendid town, and has become another on our list of possible places to retire to when the time comes. St. Mary's Church played a tune on its carillon several times over at nine o'clock - either that, or it played one very long tune. I haven't been able to find a reference to this despite the millions of results for Warwick church on an internet search engine.

We found a good hardware shop where we bought some timber edging (or whatever it's called) and brass pins for David to improve the slide over the rear hatch. I then cycled a few miles with it sticking out of my panier. The height wasn't too much of a problem, but I had to remember not to swing my leg over the back when dismounting. Amazingly I think I remembered every time.

Warwick Castle is a huge tourist attraction, but costs a small fortune to visit. A family of four would pay more than a hundred pounds if they wanted to go round all of it. We went round, but outside the walls, cycling alongside endless acres of car parks until we came to the River Avon. My OS map showed a track we could follow across a field, so we carried on. It was a lovely warm and sunny morning.

I think we passed a sign saying something about no public access, but I just followed David until a tractor blocked our path. A man, a shepherd, climbed down and told us we were on private land (oops!) and that the owner didn't take too kindly to strangers crossing it. He was friendly, though (the shepherd), and we were able to take another route off the estate. This took us to a main road which crossed the river, from where there was a good view of the castle. (I've just looked at the date of my OS Sheet 151 map. 1979. Ah.)

As I took in the scene, a rower came downstream under the bridge towards the castle, adding a bit more interest to the photo. Incidentally the sculler is demonstrating perfectly the way one hand has to go above the other to avoid the oars' handles hitting each other. (I found that out from Wikipedia).

Tuesday 13 September 2011

A leaky Wootton Wawen aqueduct and a tease

30th August 2011

Wootton Wawen to Warwick

Nothing much to report on this leg of David's Evesham to Wigram's Turn trip. But I'll share some of the few photos I took. First we crossed Wootton Wawen Aqueduct.

This was leaking slightly from its drain tube.

We soon reached Preston Bagot with its awkward narrows just before the bottom lock. You're supposed to check your way is clear before entering, but the sign isn't easy to spot until it's too late.

On the home front Ben and Ally look likely next year to move to Milton Keynes, where Ben has been offered a job. This could have a very interesting implication, but I'm saying no more at the moment! Ally was born in MK but we moved to Norfolk before her second birthday, so she claims to remember nothing of the place.