Thursday 31 May 2012

Starcross lover (of canals and buses)

Jim of Starcross has beaten me to it with his account of our meeting in central Brum.

I had known from his blog that he was in the vicinity, so I sent him a comment saying where I was. It transpired that Starcross was just the other side of the bridge from us, so this morning Ben and I called in for coffee before inviting Jim on board Jubilee (for more coffee). It was good to meet you, Jim. Sorry I delayed your bus trips. Perhaps on the next occasion it will be beer time rather than coffee time!

For you, then, here is Yardley Wood Bus Depot, next to which we have been moored recently.

My photos don't do this amazing building justice - it has a vast art deco style frontage and was opened in 1938. Right by Bridge 5 on the northern Stratford Canal.

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Towpath bridge parapets covered with corrugated steel near the Aston Locks

Coming up the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal in the heat of last Saturday, between Salford Junction and Aston Junction there are many former arms. Those which lead off the towpath side have bridges over the main line's towpath. The parapet nearer the canal is the conventional brick design leading up from the ground such that it wouldn't snag a towrope. But the other parapet has, in most cases, been covered with horrible corrugated steel coated with anti-climb paint.

Presumably these parapets were too easy to scale for those intent on breaking in to canalside properties. I can't think of any other reason for doing it.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Mysterious chain disappearing down paddle gear

Following on from yesterday's revelation about the red-tipped racks, another strange thing about the Curdworth flight is that some paddle gear posts (is that what you call them?) have a chain winding down into the hole the rack disappears into.

As this chain is painted black and white to match the rest of the gear I suspect it doesn't get used these days.

At one location, however, what was attached to the end of the chain was visible.

It's reminiscent of the square shim which is used where the collar holds the heel post of a gate - but it's not near the gate and it has a right angle bend.

Anyone know the answer?

I mentioned a couple of days ago that the Aston Flight was beautifully maintained. Well, work has been done on the Curdworth Flight in the past. At each lock there is a small triangular flower bed with a post with the lock number on it. The flowers might have looked good last year!

Monday 28 May 2012

An interesting thing about the Curdworth Locks

Well, I thought it was interesting. The tops of the paddle gear racks are painted red. Usual practice elsewhere on the system is to paint them white.

So why are the Birmingham and Fazeley's Curdworth (and Minworth) locks' racks red-tipped?

(I told you I'd have some photos for you!)

Sunday 27 May 2012

Birmingham to Bridge 5 on the Stratford Canal

A short post this evening as I am whacked (again). From entertaining, not boating!

We left Holliday Wharf just after 8.00 this morning and continued down the Worcester and Birmingham Canal through Edgbaston and Bournville to King's Norton Junction. Here we turned left onto the Stratford Canal and tied up at Bridge 5, the nearest point to Ally and Ben's house. They were waiting for us at the bridge to take us to their church, after which we went back to the house for lunch.

Then into Ally and Ben's car we loaded up some of their stuff which they wouldn't be taking on the boat, and drove to Fazeley to transfer Jan and the stuff to our car for Jan to drive home.

By the time we got back to the house we were all hungry again, so we took a casserole (which had been cooking while we were driving) to the boat, where Ally was showing two of their friends round. We enjoyed the meal; the friends left; Ally and Ben left; and now it's nearly 11pm! My first chance to relax (since this morning's 2 1/2 hour cruise) and it's bed time!

So, yes, Jan has returned home leaving me in charge of the boat for a week. But I don't suppose I'll be going far: there are jobs to do on Ally and Ben's house.

Photos tomorrow (computer willing) - I promise!

Top Thirty, 2012 Week 21

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 2255 on Sunday 27th May 2012. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 CanalPlanAC (=)

4 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

5 Retirement with No Problem (=)

6 UKCanals Network (=)

7 Waterway Routes (+2)

8 Granny Buttons (-1)

9 Water Explorer (+1)

10 Towpath Treks (+1)

11 nb Epiphany (-3)

12 Jannock Website (=)

13 boatshare (+2)

14 Canal Shop Company (+2)

15 Takey Tezey (-2)

16 Trafalgar Marine Services (+3)

17 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (=)

18 nb Waiouru (-4)

19 Narrowboat Bones (+1)

20 ExOwnerships (+2)

21 Nb. Yarwood (-3)

22 Canal and Riverside Pub Guide (-)

23 Halfie (+2)

24 Google Earth Canal Maps (+6)

25 boats and cruising

26 Chertsey (-5)

27 Derwent6 (=)

28 Narrowboat Briar Rose (-4)

29 Seyella's Journey (-)

30 nb Lucky Duck (-7)

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

There are 158 entries, down from 159 last week.

Saturday 26 May 2012

Fazeley to Birmingham

38 locks and about 16 miles since leaving Fazeley this morning we've arrived at Holliday Wharf in central Birmingham. As we set off I made the mistake of not being able to remember just how many locks there were. I must have mentioned the number 13 at one point because Jan was not pleased when she discovered that there were rather more than 13 locks to do! (I don't know what her beef was, as she did the steering, while I covered the ground between locks three times over on my bike - setting locks ahead and closing gates/paddles behind.

As we approached Curdworth Bottom Lock, the first lock of the day, a hire boat pulled out in front of us and proceeded up the flight very slowly. I ended up lock wheeling for them as well as us, to speed things up a bit! It was a very nice Swedish couple on board, but they seemed to have left any Swedish efficiency at home.

Just below Minworth Top Lock they stopped for water - hooray! - and readied the lock for us. We whizzed along to Salford Junction, took the second left to stay on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, and soon entered the Aston flight.

This is a delightful lock flight, in a more industrial setting than the remote Curdworth Locks. The flight was well maintained with lots of engineering brick lock surrounds and freshly mown grass. And no other boats. Nearly all the locks were in our favour, but two separate ones were full for no reason that I could see. Compared with the earlier part of the day we flew up the Aston locks.

And then we came to the Farmer's Bridge flight. Every lock was against us, until we passed a boat coming down. But then they were against us again. We were obviously following another boat. We made short work of the flight, though, even if it was hard work (for me). Lock wheeling makes all the difference: we were averaging 12 locks per hour.

So we arrived at Farmer's Bridge Top Lock and Cambrian Wharf. The noise hit us. Saturday early evening revellers filled every bar's balcony. I stayed on the towpath scouting for a mooring while Jan steered left towards Gas Street Basin. She said that she couldn't hear what the engine was doing above the merrymaking. I found a space facing the Mailbox, but it was on an angled bit of towpath and we stuck out a bit. We decided to move round the corner to Holliday Wharf where, incidentally, it was a lot quieter if a little more breezy.

Our original plan was to have a barbecue, but the wind would have played havoc with outdoor cooking, and we were both ravenous. Jan grilled lamb steaks which we had with potatoes, broccoli and onions/mushrooms which went down a treat (as did my cold beer which I had been looking forward to for some time!)

The weather today has been very sunny and warm. I think my arms have got a little sunburnt.

Ally was at a friend's hen night in the Mailbox - she took a few minutes out to come to see us (all of 200 yards away) and showed a couple of friends round the boat. They made all the right "impressed" noises.

Again, apologies for the lack of photos in this post. No time! I'll make up for it soon.

And, yes, the engine started fine this morning, as I had predicted.

Friday 25 May 2012

First major problem on Jubilee

We arrived at the boat at 6.30pm today. After loading up and a cup of tea (it was a hot drive from Norfolk to Fazeley) I did the usual engine checks and went to start the engine.

Ignition stage one: lights on the control panel and buzzer sounding. All as per normal.

Ignition stage two: turn to glow plugs on - oh dear. Everything died. Nothing. No lights, no buzzer. Oops.

I checked the battery conections, the isolator switch, all other relevant connections I could find. All seemed sound. Was it a fuse? I looked for a fuse. No fuse (that I could see). Did the bilge pump still work? This is powered directly from the engine battery so this should confirm that the battery was still alive. Yes, the bilge pump worked. I checked the battery voltage anyway: 12.6V.

What next?

I turned to Canal World Discussion Forums and posted a plea for help.

In a matter of a few minues I had had several replies, all suggesting checking various connections. One suggested a multiway connector. There is one by the control panel, so I reseated it - but still no joy.

And then I found that there is another multiway connector near the engine. When I brushed against this the buzzer sprang back into life! I had deliberately left the ignition switch in its first position so I would know when I found the dodgy connection. (So that's what the buzzer is for!)

I exercised the connector, and now the ignition consistently comes on - and the glow plugs warm up when required too. I didn't select ignition stage three - power starter motor - as by this time it was nearly 10 pm. But I'm confident that tomorrow it will start.

We had planned to get three hours under our belt this evening, but now we'll have to do a long day tomorrow if we're to get to our daughter's house by Bridge 5 of the Stratford Canal. Perhaps we'll call it a day in central Birmingham.

Sorry there are no photos with this post.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Managing not to set the house on fire

I've been using up some leave not boating, but doing jobs in and around the house. Some time ago I replaced the hot water cylinder (I want to call it a calorifier) in the airing cupboard with a twin coil one (just like on the boat). This was to enable solar heating of the domestic hot water.

The solar panels are on the roof; the hot water cylinder is plumbed in to the original boiler circuit; and all (All!) I need to do is finish off connecting the solar circuit.

I'm sure it's the sort of job which would take a plumber half a day, but I'm doing it very slowly. I have to think about where each pipe is to go and where it needs bending, cutting or connecting.

The top photo shows the expansion vessel mounted in the airing cupboard, with what looks like a trombone connected to it. Don't laugh: the instructions said it needed a metre of horizontal "dead leg" before connecting up to the rest of the pipework, and the only way I could get it in the space was to fold it a bit. I hope all those solder joints are sound. It had been a while since I last soldered copper pipe, and I made the mistake of assembling it all before soldering rather than adding each length of pipe and soldering it one at a time. The problem with the former method is that, as the lengths are short, heating one joint burns off the flux from the next, and so the solder doesn't flow properly.

The last job I tackled this evening was a tricky T-junction about an inch from the ceiling. (I'd learnt my lesson - I soldered each of the three pipes into the T as three separate exercises.) The difficult bit was making the final connection, that of the pipe coming down from the loft. How would I heat the joint without setting fire to the ceiling (lath and plaster)? My heat resistant mat wouldn't protect it as there wasn't room. So I had the idea of stuffing some of the loft insulation around the pipe. First I tested a piece for fire resistance on the gas hob. Good - it didn't seem to burn. Then I wetted the laths in the loft in the vicinity of the pipe, and made a water fire extinguisher out of an old squeezy bottle. With Jan watching on I lit the blowtorch and applied the heat to the joint. Of course, with three pipes now connected, the joint took a lot longer to heat up before the solder would take, and I was worried about what might be happening in the loft. The ceiling in the airing cupboard didn't seem to mind getting hot, though. As soon as the solder started to flow I hurriedly finished off the joint and rushed up the loft ladder to see what was happening up there.

Fortunately my precautions seemed to have worked as there was no smoke - and certainly no fire! Phew! You can probably see the blackened fibreglass insulation where the pipe goes through the ceiling.

Well, that's the difficult bit done - until the next difficult bit. Still got to connect to the coil, and there's a fair amount of crawling around the loft to come.

I really want to get this all finished now - but it will have to wait a little longer. There's boating to be done! And not much time left in which to do it before Ally and Ben move in.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Bumping into friends on the Kennet and Avon

Last month, as I think I've mentioned, was the occasion of my uncle's 80th birthday celebration. Members of the family converged on Wootton Rivers for lunch at the Royal Oak.

Uncle Michael was a loadmaster in the RAF. He wanted to be a pilot really, but his eyesight wasn't good enough ...

... so he built and flew his own plane. When I was little I remember there were parts of it stored - or being worked on - in his mother's (my granny's) garage in Lincolnshire.

I have flown with him once, in a shared ownership powered glider of his. I have a (pre-digital) photo in a box somewhere...

He's retired from flying now - no more crash landings!

After the lunch we went back to his house to watch the Grand National (a sweepstake had been organised to keep the interest up), and after that a few of us walked down to the canal.

From the bridge we turned left to go upstream. Just beyond the work boat was nb Gospel Belle...

... the boat of our friends Peter and Lin (others in the party were impressed that we could find boaters we knew on a random bit of canal!)

Peter and Lin work for Canal Ministries, which is allied to the Boaters' Christian Fellowship.

After church the next day Jan and I went back for coffee on Gospel Belle; after lunch we helped them up a couple of locks and said goodbye.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Norwich artist Chedgey

More than 15 years ago I looked round an art exhibition in Norwich and was impressed by the work of a local artist known as Chedgey. So impressed was I that my parents commissioned him to paint a portrait of our family.

Here's the result. It's huge, by the way, and hangs over the stairs. We've all changed somewhat since then: I've lost my moustache and beard, and my hair has, inexplicably, changed colour. The background is Menai Bridge with Snowdonia behind, taken from a photo I took some years earlier.

Why am I writing about this now? I bumped into Chedgey in The Forum in Norwich last week. I was looking at an artwork there, this rather gory one called 'The making of "I could be an EXCELLENT surgeon" by Chedgey and Grant Ley', when I realised the artist was standing beside it. I was amazed when he remembered me!

I asked him if I could photograph him. Here he is, with another of his works, 'Self portrait as a hero of the Soviet Revolution'. (There's a fascinating story of how Chedgey was elevated to the status of "Hero", and had a 30' statue erected in Gdansk in his honour.)

Another view of the self portrait:

Monday 21 May 2012

Above Braunston Tunnel

Way back when we were on Shadow with David - er, just last month, actually - David, Fergus and I walked along the horse path over Braunston Tunnel.

From a distance the construction/ventilation shafts look squat affairs which should be easy to look down.

But get closer, and they grow.

If I remember correctly the next step - literally - was for Fergus to stand on David's head.

David looks at Braunston from the ventilation shaft.

I should have tweaked the photo. Ah - this is better for seeing the wet bricks and the winding horse path, if not the clouds:

Sunday 20 May 2012

Huddlesford Junction and the Lichfield Canal

It will be great when the "Lichfield Canal" is restored (my Nicholson calls it the Wyrley and Essington) and boats can travel the seven-and-a-bit miles (and 31 locks) up to Ogley Junction and the W&E proper.

I like the way the "no access" part of the sign to Ogley Junction is a temporary, removable plate.

The route will be full of interest: apart from the large number of locks there are (or will be) six short tunnels (all right, more like long overbridges); an aqueduct over the M6 Toll; a lift bridge from the Peak Forest Canal; and a "sliding bridge".

A good place for information on the restoration is the Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust website; for distances etc. go to CanalPlan.

Top Thirty, 2012 Week 20

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 1250 on Sunday 20th May 2012. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

The first eleven positions are the same as last week.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 CanalPlanAC (=)

4 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

5 Retirement with No Problem (=)

6 UKCanals Network (=)

7 Granny Buttons (=)

8 nb Epiphany (=)

9 Waterway Routes (=)

10 Water Explorer (=)

11 Towpath Treks (=)

12 Jannock Website (+1)

13 Takey Tezey (-1)

14 nb Waiouru (+5)

15 boatshare (-1)

16 Canal Shop Company (-1)

17 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (+1)

18 Nb. Yarwood (+4)

19 Trafalgar Marine Services (+4)

20 Narrowboat Bones (-4)

21 Chertsey (-1)

22 ExOwnerships (-5)

23 nb Lucky Duck (+1)

24 Narrowboat Briar Rose (-3)

25 Halfie (=)

26 (=)

27 Derwent6 (-)

28 NB The Manly Ferry (-)

29 Baddie the Pirate (-2)

30 Google Earth Canal Maps (=)

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

There are 159 entries, up from 154 last week.

Saturday 19 May 2012

Fazeley Mill (treated)

Just for fun, I subjected my photo of Fazeley Mill to a little "treatment".

For comparison, here's the original.

Friday 18 May 2012

Bond End Canal, Burton upon Trent

As we went through Burton upon Trent I fired off my camera as we passed an interesting-looking entrance to what looks like an old arm. This is Shobnall Basin, now used as a marina etc. by Jannel Cruisers.

The towpath bridge over the entrance is numbered 1. This was the first bridge over the Bond End Canal, which ran for just over a mile through Burton to the Trent. There is an excellent history of this canal, which was infilled in 1874, on the Jannel Cruisers website here.

The description makes me want to explore this old canal on the ground. It will give me a good reason to stop at Burton upon Trent, a town I haven't been to (only through).

Thursday 17 May 2012

Horninglow Basin: Tom's Moorings, mural and a belly button

Not even a month ago, and yet it seems like a lifetime. I'm talking about our first trip on Jubilee. On day 3 of this trip, on the Trent and Mersey, we passed Horninglow Basin. This has a striking mural brightening up the concrete wall supporting the A38.

The artwork is a montage of canal scenes. I wonder what the significance of "W+S" on the bridge is. Perhaps they are the initials of the artists.

In the basin was narrowboat Belly Button. Granny Buttons, Belly Button ... are there any more Button boats?

And the sign (can you spot it in the top photo?) indicates that these are "Tom's Moorings".

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Fazeley Mill

There are many striking canalside buildings. Some of the biggest are old mills. Fazeley Mill at Fazeley Junction is a good example.

From the English Heritage text from the above link:

Textile factory. 1886, with minor C20 alterations. Built for William Tolson Ltd, by Messrs Wattons of Lichfield. Red brick with ashlar sandstone dressings and a shallow, double-pitched roof set behind a low parapet. [...]

Fazeley Mill is a little altered example of a late C19 textile factory, specifically designed for the manufacture of narrow fabric. It displays the structural characteristics of metal framed construction typical of the period, and represents the ongoing significance of the local textile industry established by the Peel family in Fazeley in the late C18.

There's a brief description of the interior design of the mill, all cast iron columns and metal cross beams; hoist beams and rope races. Sounds fascinating. It's probably converted into flats now.

Tuesday 15 May 2012

A corner of England that is forever ... the DDR?

One more for the collection of strange sights canalside:

Someone's clinging on to the old East Germany in Amington on the Coventry Canal.

I can't help thinking that the life ring is somehow symbolic.

Monday 14 May 2012


Another boat with character on the Coventry Canal (detached section).

This was by Bridge 82 just south of Huddlesford Junction.

Sunday 13 May 2012

Sir Edmund Hillary and life rings

Moored at Tamworth Cruising Club when we went past recently was nb Sir Edmund Hillary. This appears to be a fibreglass superstructure on a steel hull. Jim Shead's website doesn't seem to list the boat under this name.

The centre section of the cabin looks like it slides back - and is there a steering position here as well as at the back?

Seeing this reminds me that there is currently no life ring on Jubilee - perhaps I should get one.

Top Thirty, 2012 Week 19

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 1700 on Sunday 13th May 2012. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 CanalPlanAC (=)

4 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

5 Retirement with No Problem (=)

6 UKCanals Network (=)

7 Granny Buttons (+1)

8 nb Epiphany (+2)

9 Waterway Routes (-2)

10 Water Explorer (-1)

11 Towpath Treks (+1)

12 Takey Tezey (-1)

13 Jannock Website (+1)

14 boatshare (+6)

15 Canal Shop Company (=)

16 Narrowboat Bones (+1)

17 ExOwnerships (-4)

18 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (-2)

19 nb Waiouru (-1)

20 Chertsey (+1)

21 Narrowboat Briar Rose (+3)

22 Nb. Yarwood (-3)

23 Trafalgar Marine Services (-1)

24 nb Lucky Duck (-1)

25 Halfie (=)

26 (-)

27 Baddie the Pirate (-)

28 Contented Souls (-2)

29 Milburn Boats Ltd (-)

30 Google Earth Canal Maps (-)

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

There are 154 entries, down from 155 last week.

Saturday 12 May 2012

Canalside polytunnels

I don't know what was/is growing in these polytunnels north of Hopwas on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal at the back end of April.

It doesn't look like asparagus. I read the other day that an asparagus farm in Norfolk had 32 acres of asparagus under polythene!

Friday 11 May 2012

Raindrop patterns

... on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal (other canals in the rain are available)

Thursday 10 May 2012

Small amphibious car takes to the Coventry Canal

Approaching Glascote Top Lock on Monday I could see what I initially thought was a model radio controlled boat in the water.

When we got closer I saw that it was, in fact, a toy amphibious car.

A small boy was controlling it - under the instruction of dad.

As far as I could tell, the propulsion was merely by the rotating wheels. I don't know how the steering was done - perhaps the wheels one side turned slower to turn it that way.

The waterways are full of surprises!