Friday 31 August 2012

Narrowboat Laplander steams past, and I cut some logs

As a bonus to all the historic boats we've seen over the last few days, steamer Laplander came up behind us as we came down the Coventry canal and turned onto the Oxford at Hawkesbury Junction.

Jan said, "Do you think they know they're going backwards?"

With the front doors looking like back doors you can see what she means.

At first glance it looks as though the boy is steering the boat under the junction bridge. But no: Laplander has just made the turn and is coming up behind Shadow to queue for the stop lock.

As with all old boats, seemingly, Laplander had a good turn of speed. Or was it that the steam engine is not so easily controlled? (Or do we go too slowly?) Anyway, the steamer soon made up the few minutes lost in the stop lock and was on our tail again. I pulled over and waved them on, and took these photos as they passed.

This is what the stern really looks like.

At Stretton Stop they turned into the arm to have some work done on the boat. So that's why they were going in the wrong direction for Shackerstone.

We stopped as planned to explore the village of Harborough Magna, tying up by Bridge 43. This was at the exact spot where a tree was blocking the towpath a few days ago. Now the towpath was clear, but there was still a good load of logs to be had. I got the bowsaw out and set to work for about an hour. I'll give the logs to Ally and Ben - they were cold on Jubilee this morning!

Now we're at Hillmorton, just below the locks and in wonderful earshot of trains speeding over a section of non-continuous welded track, ready to return Shadow to Wigram's Turn tomorrow.

Thursday 30 August 2012

And still the old boats come

As we made our way along the Ashby Canal towards Marston Junction we kept encountering historic boats making their way to the Shackerstone Family Festival.

Here comes Victoria, followed by Archimedes.

Their steerers were talking to each other on mobile phones.

It was even better seeing the boats in action than all lined up on their moorings. And there was the thrill of not knowing which boat was just round the next bend.

As I approached Bridge 17 I could see that I was much nearer the bridge hole than a boat coming towards me. But the boat was towing another - so I waved the steerer on and reversed out of the way.

Biddie was towing LMS boat Olive (built 1930).

There are many more photos, which I'll save for another time.

I must just say, though, that we stopped for lunch at the Lime Kilns pub where the A5 crosses the Ashby Canal. Excellent food and good value.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Historic boats gathering for the Shackerstone Family Festival

Today it rained. A lot. Fortunately my waterproofs, leather hat and workboots keep me reasonably dry.

We passed them going, and we passed them coming back. Going to the current (connected) end of the Ashby Canal and coming back from there, we passed all the boats gathered (so far) for this year's Shackerstone Family Festival.

Here's a small sample, starting with Darley, Blossom's Large Woolwich.

And here are Cassiopeia (far left); Hadley (centre) and Widgeon (right), two Large Woolwiches and a Large Northwich.

And, totally unrelated, this is the moon from the cabin of Shadow this evening.

There is more to say, and I will say it another time. This includes a meeting of some fellow bloggers which sort of wasn't.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Ash on the Ashby

For the first time in seven years we are on the Ashby Canal. And it is busy, busy, busy, with many boats heading for the Shackerstone Family Festival being held this weekend. Today most of the traffic has been going our way, which means that we haven't met too many boats in bridge holes. It is somewhat uncomfortable, though, when an unladen former working boat - a Small Woolwich in this case - looms up behind and sits on one's tail. I was going as fast as I could reasonably go - any faster and I'd have been breaking a wash and pulling boats from their moorings - and still it dogged me! After a while I pulled over to tie up so we could have a look round Stoke Golding, and zoom! Cassiopeia was released and disappeared round the bend.

Cassiopeia was, I assume, heading for the festival. As was Spey.

Spey came past our mooring at Market Bosworth at about 9.00 pm, preceded by the lovely, loud, irregular beat of its Bolinder engine and the light cast by a pair of LED units mounted at the front. (Photo taken earier in the day!)

And the ash of the title? We had a towpath barbecue to round off an excellent sunny day. As we finished eating a few spots of rain fell to cause the hot ashes to sizzle, but the rain came to nothing.

Tomorrow we'll pass the festival site on our way to the head of navigation, then we'll have the fun of going past Shackerstone again and, no doubt, meeting many more boats on their way up.

Monday 27 August 2012

Overgrown towpath

This is where we moored last night, near Bridge 75 on the Oxford Canal in the Hillmorton area.

It's a good job you don't get many horse-drawn boats these days, as the vegetation would be quite a hindrance. That ash tree in the foreground might be only a few years old, but it's already six feet high.

Sunday 26 August 2012

The twists and turns of the Oxford Canal

After three nights on Jubilee staying with Ally and Ben we're now on Shadow - just the two of us. We turned right out of Wigram's Turn Marina at about 4.00 pm; turned left at Braunston Turn; and we tied up just south of Hillmorton four hours later.

Now I know the Oxford Canal was one of the first to be built, and hugged contours where it could, but this bit just east of Wigram's seems just a little extreme. The canal heads steadily east for a third of a mile, except for regular indentations in the towpath. To my untutored eye the countryside looks flat, so why is the canal like this?

To the south the cotton wool clouds floated over the hills...

...and Jan enjoyed a spell of steering.

A few minutes ago we heard, and then saw, a firework display taking place about four miles west of here. They must have known we were coming! (But the location was slightly out...)

Top Thirty, 2012 Week 34

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 2200 on Sunday 26th August 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 Waterway Routes (=)

6 Water Explorer (+2)

7 UKCanals Network (-1)

8 Retirement with No Problem (-1)

9 Towpath Treks (=)

10 nb Epiphany (=)

11 Granny Buttons (=)

12 boatshare (=)

13 Canal Shop Company (+1)

14 Jannock Website (-1)

15 nb Waiouru (=)

16 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (+1)

17 Takey Tezey (-)

18 Trafalgar Marine Services (-2)

19 Narrowboat Bones (+6)

20 nb Lucky Duck (-1)

21 Google Earth Canal Maps (-3)

22 ExOwnerships (-2)

23 Nb. Yarwood (=)

24 Boatshed Grand Union (-2)

25 (+1)

26 Halfie (-2)

27 Rock n Roll (-)

28 Contented Souls (-)

29 Derwent6 (=)

30 Seyella's Journey (-9)

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 167 entries, down from 168 last week.

Saturday 25 August 2012

Shower sump float switch broken - dark cloud overhead

Jubilee has a shower unit which drains into a sump - a cuboid plastic box of about six inches side. From here the waste is pumped up, via a hair trap, and out of a skin fitting. The pump knows when to, er, pump because a float switch in the sump floats up and makes an electrical contact.

That is, this is how it is supposed to work. Unfortunately the float switch has stopped functioning, leading to the shower tray filling with water and threatening to overspill into the bathroom. As a temporary measure I have fixed up a push switch above the shower, so that whoever is in there can pump out the waste without having to traipse round into the bedroom, open the wardrobe and switch the pump on, dripping over everything in the process.

Today I tried to extricate the float switch. In the end I had to cut through one of the switch's supports to release it. Earlier I had tried to unscrew the bolts holding the switch down, but the bolt head just rotated without coming undone. After a couple of uses of the shower I discovered that the floor under the sump - and there's not much under the sump - was damp. Oh dear. Was waste water seeping out where a bolt was now not sealing properly?

Having triple-checked that the float switch was definitely faulty I removed it, as described, and tried to open it up to see what was in it. It sounded like a ball bearing was rolling about inside. Attacking it with a Stanley knife failed to do the trick, so I'll try a hacksaw later.

Meanwhile I've squirted sealant around the bolt heads and the base of the switch unit; I've also had to seal the hole the wires from the switch passed through to the outside. I hope it's all watertight again by the morning!

Speaking of showers, I thought we were in for a deluge when this black cloud formed over Jubilee and Milton Keynes Marina just before six this evening. We read Lucky Duck's account of the storm in Cambridge only 40 miles away and wondered if it was coming here. It didn't. At least, it hasn't yet.

Friday 24 August 2012

Crumbling Milton Keynes bridges

We're on Jubilee again! Visiting Ally and Ben in Milton Keynes, we took the boat out of the marina for the first time. Last night we tied up opposite Campbell Park and enjoyed a towpath barbecue.

This morning we continued to Great Linford, where we bought diesel (89p per litre) from a coal boat whose name I keep forgetting (five letters, begins with "A", horse racing venue). After winding just before the aqueduct at New Bradwell we found ourselves being filmed as we passed under the bridge by the Black Horse pub at Great Linford. As we got closer I could see that I knew the reporter who was doing a piece to camera. Even on holiday I can't get away from work!

Jozef Hall was reporting on the crumbling state of some of Milton Keynes's bridges, and had chosen Bridge 77 to stand by to record the 1315 promo. We stopped outside the pub, had lunch on board (I bought a pint at an eye-watering £3.60 to justify our presence) and watched Look East at 1330 to see Jozef's live report. Afterwards we invited him to have a look round Jubilee. I'm sure he spent more time on his phone on the back deck than on the tour!

As we travelled yesterday we had noticed the parlous state of some of the bridges.

In a particularly bad way was Bridge 84...

...but Bridge 82 wasn't much better.

In other news... it actually rained this evening! But not for long.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Thorpeness Meare and a giant scallop

On Sunday we drove to Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast where Jan's parents were enjoying a few days' holiday. After lunch we stayed in the hotel talking, then, after a cup of tea, they went home. We wandered round the town where preparations were being made for the Carnival the following day; found the Scallop beach sculpture; and drove home via Thorpeness, just up the coast.

Here was a mere, only they spell it Meare and put a "The" in front. The setting sun provided a lovely orange light reflecting off the upturned boats; the swans gliding across the water added to the peaceful scene.

Oh - here's Maggi Hambling's "Scallop".

This steel sculpture sits on the shingle just north of Aldeburgh and is dedicated to Benjamin Britten, who used to walk along the beach here. It has its detractors, but I like it.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Route planning: the Ashby Canal beckons

We have a week on Shadow coming up, and I thought I'd better decide where to go. Shadow's base is currently Wigram's Turn Marina, which is conveniently located for many choices of route: the Oxford Canal either north or south; and the Grand Union either north or south. Each of those options has further options branching out, and many of these are within range of a week's there-and-back cruise.

We've just done the GU down to Milton Keynes; and we went to both Market Harborough and Oxford last year. We were last on the North Oxford at the beginning of 2009; and last visited the Ashby in 2005 - so it's back to the Ashby for us this time. The only down side for me is the lack of locks: there will be just four in each direction. Never mind. We're planning to stop off and explore lots of villages en route, including Brinklow with its church with a steeply sloping floor (according to Nicholson).

The only photo I seem to have of the Ashby Canal is this one from 2005 - and there's not much that identifies it as any canal, let alone the Ashby!

Monday 20 August 2012

Waves in the sky: cirrus cloud formation

On my cycle home from work a couple of days ago I was aware of the unusual clouds above me. I knew there'd be a good vantage point when I'd turned off the main road flanked by houses and got among the fields. I was hoping that the cloud formation would last long enough for me to get there, and, fortunately, it did.

I think this is cirrus cloud, but there's nothing exactly like it on the page of cloud types on Wikipedia. Confirmation, anyone?

By the time I'd cycled a mile or so further the clouds had gone and the scene was lit by a low orange sun.

Sunday 19 August 2012

Mystery photo - the location revealed

Congratulations to Sue and Bill. Sue wondered about Peel's Wharf, then changed her mind and plumped for either Brindley Place or Cambrian Wharf. Bill then backed up the Cambrian Wharf suggestion ... and, yes, it is indeed the crane at Cambrian Wharf at the top of the Farmer's Bridge Locks in central Birmingham.

Here is the original, uncropped, photo. Not an easy one to get!

I like the shape of the hook.

Top Thirty, 2012 Week 33

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 2215 on Sunday 19th August 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 Waterway Routes (=)

6 UKCanals Network (+2)

7 Retirement with No Problem (=)

8 Water Explorer (-2)

9 Towpath Treks (=)

10 nb Epiphany (=)

11 Granny Buttons (=)

12 boatshare (=)

13 Jannock Website (=)

14 Canal Shop Company (=)

15 nb Waiouru (=)

16 Trafalgar Marine Services (+1)

17 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (-1)

18 Google Earth Canal Maps (=)

19 nb Lucky Duck (+9)

20 ExOwnerships (=)

21 Seyella's Journey (+1)

22 Boatshed Grand Union (+8)

23 Nb. Yarwood (-4)

24 Halfie (-3)

25 Narrowboat Bones (-2)

26 (-)

27 Narrowboat Briar Rose (-1)

28 Baddie the Pirate (-)

29 Derwent6 (-5)

30 Canal and Riverside Pub Guide (-3)

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 168 entries, up from 159 last week.

Saturday 18 August 2012

Mystery photo - wider still and wider

A little more revealed:

Now do you know where it is?

Friday 17 August 2012

Mystery photo - wider still

Location anyone?

Thursday 16 August 2012

Mystery photo - slightly wider

Here's a little bit more of the photo.

The "what" should now be obvious - but what about the "where"?

More tomorrow.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Mystery photo

Here's another in the occasional series of mystery photos. Can you tell what and where it is?

I will reveal more tomorrow.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

The shed in the sky

Alongside the Grand Union in the Long Itchington area (sorry not to be more precise) at Radford Semele is a curious shed in the sky.

From a collection of mostly ordinary-looking farm buildings the shed sticks out. Literally. It appears to be standing on top of a giant hopper.

What is it? It's actually St. Nicholas's Church wrapped in dust sheets undergoing restoration. It's unmissable on Google Maps here.

View Larger Map

Thanks to Adam for the info.

And I've only just realised that the strange multi-element chimney is not a chimney at all.

edited to update

Monday 13 August 2012

Volunteers make the Olympic Games a success

After reading Sue's account of her less than satisfactory experience as a Games Maker (or volunteer) I thought I'd try to redress the balance slightly. As I commented on Indigo Dream's blog, we found the volunteers we encountered on the way to and from ExCeL to see the table tennis all that time ago welcoming, cheerful and fun. As would Sue have been, of course, had she been given the opportunity!

Many had the unmissable outsize pointing hands; some had loudhailers; and all would chat excitedly and enthusiastically about what we'd see. It was Day One - I wonder if all that exhilaration lasted to Day Sixteen?

Lord Coe (or was it Jaques Rogge?) was right to applaud London 2012's 70,000 Games Makers.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Solar powered narrowboat reviewed in Canal Boat magazine

I've just read with great interest an article on a narrowboat powered solely from solar energy. In the latest (September) issue of Canal Boat magazine Martin Parry describes how he has fitted a 32' GRP boat with four 220W solar panels and an electric motor connected directly to the prop shaft.

I'm looking forward to part two in next month's issue where Martin promises to tell us how the all-electric boat performs in daily use. Will he be able to cruise in the winter months, I wonder?

Top Thirty, 2012 Week 32

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 1200 on Sunday 12th August 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 Waterway Routes (=)

6 Water Explorer (=)

7 Retirement with No Problem (=)

8 UKCanals Network (=)

9 Towpath Treks (+1)

10 nb Epiphany (-1)

11 Granny Buttons (=)

12 boatshare (+1)

13 Jannock Website (-1)

14 Canal Shop Company (=)

15 nb Waiouru (=)

16 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (=)

17 Trafalgar Marine Services (+10)

18 Google Earth Canal Maps (-1)

19 Nb. Yarwood (-1)

20 ExOwnerships (-1)

21 Halfie (+3)

22 Seyella's Journey (-1)

23 Narrowboat Bones (-3)

24 Derwent6 (+6)

25 boats and cruising (-)

26 Narrowboat Briar Rose (-)

27 Canal and Riverside Pub Guide (-)

28 nb Lucky Duck (-5)

29 Rock n Roll (-3)

30 Boatshed Grand Union (-)

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, down from 160 last week.

Saturday 11 August 2012

Wirksworth Puzzle Gardens

Jumping back to our little Derbyshire holiday of a few weeks ago (BLOG*) - we explored the Puzzle Gardens of Wirksworth.

This is the name given to the houses, gardens and maze of steep narrow passages on the hillside to the north west of the town. Some of the gardens are open to wander round, or you can just sit and enjoy the views.

*Before the London Olympic Games

Friday 10 August 2012

Taking the cable car over the Thames

Part of our Olympic experience on the first Saturday of the Games (it seems like a long time ago) was to cross the Thames by cable car.

This runs from Royal Victoria Dock south to the Dome - sorry, the Oh Two (or the North Greenwich Arena) and is sponsored by the Emirates airline company and is called the Emirates Air Line.

The views were excellent: here are the Dome, Canary Wharf, the river and the DLR.

Tickets - or "boarding passes" as they call them - cost us £3.20 each for a single journey as we had Travelcards for the Olympics. Normal single fares without Oyster card or Travelcard are £4.30.

It was good fun, and we had a car to ourselves, but I didn't feel it necessary to do it again for the return leg (we used the Underground).

Thursday 9 August 2012

Underneath the Worcester and Birmingham Canal in Birmingham

While we were on Jubilee in Birmingham last month I decided to find where the Worcester and Birmingham Canal crosses Holliday Street.

This is it - a lovely cast iron bridge topped off with brick. The brickwork looks in poor condition - the shrubbery growing out of it won't help.

To the left the railway line from New Street Station to Longbridge - the line which runs alongside the northern end of the W&B - runs in a tunnel. I couldn't see any evidence of this, but I didn't try very hard.

I'm glad I found this bridge. It would have been easy to continue to criss-cross overhead ignorant of the engineering and beauty below.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

BWB Class B moorings

I think it was on the Buckby flight* that I saw this sign:

"BWB Moorings Class B"

This is a relic of former times, but what were Class B moorings? And Class A moorings? And were there other classes of moorings?

* My log-keeping while cruising is not what it could be - I am full of admiration for those who can record (or recall) every tiny detail of their cruise, with locations, times, and names of other boats in the area!

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Window nearly put out at CRT launch

I've been so absorbed in the Olympic Games that I've barely looked at the latest issue of Canal Boat magazine. Inside is an article on the handover from British Waterways to the Canal and River Trust, with a selection of photographs from some of the locations which held "launch" events. I wish now that I'd submitted my own photos of the Birmingham ribbon cutting ceremony, as that was one which did not feature in the magazine.

While we waited for the boat carrying the man with the scissors to get to the ribbon, a camera crew from BBC Midlands Today was being steered around. At one point they seemed to come very close to losing a window to the prow of a stationary boat.

Here's one of my images from the ribbon cutting in Birmingham (there are more here). Would Canal Boat have been interested? Too late now!