Saturday 31 August 2013

The wides and the narrows of the Wendover Arm

On my walk along the unnavigable end of the Wendover Arm I was surprised to come across what started off looking like a winding hole, but then the water just got wider.

There are useful interpretation boards along the arm, and handy seats. Unfortunately I didn't photograph any of the boards, and I can't now remember the reason for the Wides here.

Further east, and the canal narrows for a couple of hundred feet. In an attempt to prevent leakage into the Rothschilds' dining room concrete walls were built in the channel.

I can't work out why the tops of the walls are below the water level. Has the water really risen here?

Coming up: a few more bridges.

Friday 30 August 2013

The Wendover end of the Wendover Arm

At Bulbourne Junction on the Grand Union Canal the Wendover Arm joins the main line. This is the end which most boaters see - some even turn into it and cruise the mile and a half currently navigable. We did this last month.

But the other end of the arm is well worth exploring too, even though it has to be by foot or bike.

As Sue of No Problem correctly identified, yesterday's photo was of the very start of the arm, where a stream emerges from under a road and pours into the canal.

After a few yards a sign welcomes you to the Wendover Arm and gives four instructions for "safety and enjoyment of others": No horses/motorbikes; cyclists take due care; keep your litter; no dog fouling on path.

The towpath is in excellent condition here, and stays like it for most of the way. For a canal which was abandoned in 1904 it still looks like a canal. Indeed, with a little weed clearance and some dredging, it's easy to envisage boats coming here again.

Oh, and a bit of tree removal from the winding hole would help.

But look at this: it even has the ducks!

Unfortunately the water is only a few inches deep. Could a kayak could get through?

Some of the bridges are too low for navigation. This footbridge is no more than two feet above the water.

Coming up: Tixall is not the only Wide.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Where is this?

Where is this, and which canal is it the start of?

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Palindromic milage; panoramic views; and preying red kites

Last month, on our way home from Milton Keynes, I noticed that our Volvo's odometer was just about to register a palindromic milage. We were driving along a dual carriageway, and a lay-by appeared just at the right moment for me to pull in and take this photo.

177,771 miles in 26 years is less than 7,000 miles per year. At this rate we should hit the 200,000 mark in about three years.

Two weeks later we pitched up at Town Farm Campsite in Ivinghoe for four nights.

This is part of the amazing panoramic view from our tent. We could see across miles of countryside spread out at our tent pegs.

I don't usually mind being able to hear trains at night, especially from within a boat, but here there were at least ten miles of West Coast Main Line within sight and hearing. The wind direction and the lie of the land magnified the noise, which seemed to be incessant. Actually, it was the wind itself which kept us awake at night: we were in a pretty exposed spot at the foot of Ivinghoe Beacon. The tent - and we - survived, but when we struck camp we found one of the fibreglass poles had split. (At times the windward side of the tent caved in to particularly strong gusts, but it always recovered, I'm glad to to say!)

As well as Mentmore Towers (visible in the top right of the photo above) and All Saints' Church, Leighton Buzzard (not shown) we could see boats on the Grand Union Canal (hooray!)

Almost the only birds seemed to be red kites.

As well as seeing them on our walks they flew over the camp site.

It was good to be camping again. Next time we might choose a slightly more sheltered location!

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Just how many portholes do you need?

At Milton Keynes Marina last month was a boat on brokerage.

I don't think I've ever seen so many portholes in one place before.

The boat is Spirit of Langley and seems to be still for sale.

Monday 26 August 2013

Installing solar panels on narrowboat Jubilee

I have now installed the solar power kit I bought at the National Festival. The kit comprised two 100Wp solar panels, an MPPT control unit, a remote display/control unit, connecting leads and brackets/nuts/bolts etc.

I decided to mount the control unit in the electrics cupboard so as to be conveniently close to the nice fat leads from the battery bank.

In order to do this I had first to make a mounting panel from some scrap timber, wood glue and panel pins!

I screwed this to a vertical timber - the next photo shows the four fixings on the right side of the panel protruding into the calorifier cupboard.

To get the cables from the panels to the controller I routed them through a mushroom vent. When I unscrewed the gauze from the underside I found it had successfully prevented the invasion of a number of bees.

I cut away enough of the gauze to be able to feed the cables (with connectors) through. The cables run under the ceiling above the bed to the back of the boat. I have bought a length of scotia moulding to hide them, and I intend now to cut away part of the ceiling T&G next to the vent so that the cables don't have an awkward visible bend before they enter the moulding.

Supplied with the kit was a tube of glue to stick the brackets to the roof, but I didn't fancy doing something so irreversible. I screwed rubber feet the the underside of the brackets and stood them on pieces of anti-slip matting for good measure.

Security is an issue I still need to address. At the moment the panels are held in place on one side by tying them to the roof furniture stands. To weigh them down I've threaded a short shaft through the other side.

The panels are set slightly off-centre because of the position of the roof furniture brackets.

As well as tidying where the cables run through the bedroom I think I'll remove the brackets from the panels in order to sit them lower.

I connected the panels in series. In strong direct sunshine the voltage from the panels is about 40V and I have seen them supply 11A at 12.5V.

Sunday 25 August 2013

Doctor Who narrowboats

First I saw this unusually named boat:

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart appeared in many Doctor Who adventures.

And I hardly need say that the Tardis is the Doctor's bigger-inside-than-out time transport machine.

Both boats were on the Grand Union between Cosgrove and Stoke Bruerne.

I wonder what other Doctor Who boats are out there.

Top Thirty, 2013 week 35

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 0950 on Sunday 25th August 2013. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 CanalPlanAC (=)

3 Pennine Waterways (=)

4 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

5 UKCanals Network (+1)

6 Living on a Narrowboat (-1)

7 Boatshed Grand Union (=)

8 Retirement with No Problem (=)

9 Water Explorer (=)

10 Waterway Routes (+1)

11 Towpath Treks (-1)

12 BCBM Ltd (+4)

13 boatshare (-1)

14 nb Epiphany (-1)

15 nb Waiouru (=)

16 boatrent (-2)

17 Canal Shop Company (=)

18 boats and cruising (+3)

19 Narrowboat Chance (-1)

20 NB The Manly Ferry (-1)

21 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (-1)

22 Boats and Canals Forum (+2)

23 The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife (-1)

24 M. B. Willow (+6)

25 Narrowboat Dreaming .... Parisien Star (=)

26 Baddie the Pirate (-3)

27 Halfie (+16)

28 Narrowboat Briar Rose (+1)

29 Herbie (-)

30 Seyella's Journey (-4)

31 Contented Souls (+1)

32 NABO (+2)

33 Milburn Boats Ltd (-5)

34 freespirit (-)

35 Skippy's Random Ramblings (-8)

36 Rock n Roll (=)

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 113 entries, the same as last week.

Saturday 24 August 2013

Sheep may safely kneel

On our way from Stoke Bruerne to Wolverton yesterday we passed through some lovely countryside.

In one field one poor lamb either had neck ache or weak legs.

The pigeon on a post looked the other way.

In other news... Ally and Ben returned from France today and claimed their home back. It was nice while it lasted! Now we are back at home in Norfolk: I don't know when our next boating will be.

Friday 23 August 2013

Five days there; one day back

We've never boated like this before, and it's been great! We set ourselves the goal of getting from New Bradwell to Stoke Bruerne and back to Wolverton in six days, a trip which CanalPlan reckons should take nine hours.

In the old days, before owning our own boat, I'd never have contemplated stopping until a solid day's boating had been achieved. In 2005 that meant 12- or even 14-hour days.

But now things are different. On the first day, Sunday, we cruised a mile. Yes, just one statute mile. I had jobs to do, you see. I had to complete the solar panel installation (full description coming later). The next day we cruised another mile ... and stopped for two nights! That was the rust treatment day (or two). On Wednesday we did - ooh - six miles! And stopped for a barbecue.

This was just before the service point below Stoke Bruerne Bottom Lock.

On Thursday we ascended the locks and stopped in Stoke Bruerne for the night; today we came down the locks, called in for diesel at Baxter's, and tied up in Wolverton in time for shopping at Tesco and a sit-down curry.

And, as I said, it's been great. Very relaxing (despite the jobs I gave myself) - and we've been blessed with excellent weather too. Over the week, between us, we've managed to do all of the Times's jumbo cryptic crossword bar two clues.

Thursday 22 August 2013

Stoke Bruerne 2: what a lot of water

We came up the Stoke Bruerne locks this morning in the rain: the bottom one on our own; then sharing the next six with an experienced boater and crew for some of them, and first-time hirers for the rest.

These locks, like the Rochdale 9, appear to have no bywashes so any excess water cascades over the bottom gates.

This is the lock under the A508 - Lock 18, I believe.

At the top we tied up in the first available space and had a very relaxing rest of day. Despite it being Thursday, and therefore a good day for eating steak at the Navigation Inn (you get a free bottle of wine with two steaks ordered), we opted for the two meals for a tenner. I had gammon steak - with both egg AND pineapple (hooray!) - and it was very good. So was the ale, Jennings's Sheep Thrills. This was much better, incidentally, than the Cumberland Ale, from the same brewer, which I sampled at the Boat Inn. This was much too cold, and hence fairly tasteless. Jan and I threw a few cheeses at the Northamptonshire Skittles, but we seemed to be the only people in the pub. There were, actually, a few people eating outside. - Yes, it was still just about warm enough at 8 pm.

Tomorrow we will return to Milton Keynes.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

A scaled down Stoke Bruerne, and something for Sarah (Chertsey)

We have finally got away from the immediate vicinity of Milton Keynes, and cruised on the level up to the moorings just below Stoke Bruerne Bottom Lock.

I'd read that the weighing machine which used to be in the redundant lock next to the top lock had been removed - this is what it looks like now.

The old boat is still there, but now resting on the bottom of the lock chamber.

It was quite hot in the sunshine, and we went into the shop part of the Canal Museum to get an ice cream. While there I came across something which Sarah would have been interested in. I tried to comment on her blog about her rag rug woes, but my attempts failed. This is what I wanted to say:

I saw a leaflet in the shop about rag rugs. In it the rug making tool was referred to as a "rugging tool"; and your problem with the broken spring was addressed. It said that part of a safety pin was often used to replace the original spring when it broke. Hope that helps, Sarah.

(I've had problems trying to comment before. If I'm doing something wrong I wish I knew what it is! All I can think is that I'm using a computer which is more than five years old.)

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Using Fertan to treat rust for the first time

Today I decided to empty the under-well-deck storage area and treat it to a coat of Fertan, a rust converting chemical. I'd bought a litre of the product at the National Festival last month with this job in mind.

With the beer, wine and paint tins removed all that was left was the ballast.

The rust is all too obvious. It had been flaking off and covering everything with bits.

This is where the pipe from the water tank emerges: the strainer has handy isolation valves either side.

The ballast consisted of 61 engineering bricks. I don't know how much it weighs, but I knew I'd shifted them when I'd done it!

The next stage of preparation was to sand down the loose rust. This was a very noisy job as my head was inside the enclosed steel area I was sanding. Oh, and my hair turned orange. After sweeping up the rust I then had to dampen the rust prior to painting on the Fertan. This seems counter intuitive, but the stuff needs water in order to work its magic.

The head torch was as invaluable as ever.

At last, I could actually apply the Fertan! My first thought when brushing it on was Kurust. It had the same phosphoric acid smell as that evil grey stuff I used to paint on 1100s and Minis to get them through the MOT in the 1970s.

The smell was pretty strong in that small space: every so often I had to come out to breathe in some fresh air.

And this is what happens to the rust. In a few minutes it turns black, and looks as if it has been freshly painted that colour.

When I'd left it for a while I saw several areas I'd missed. As you're painting wet onto wet it's impossible to see where you've been - and I was probably too stingy with the Fertan anyway. It was an easy job to re-dampen the missed bits and re-apply the Fertan.

Now it's a case of letting it all dry. We have to move on from here tomorow as we're on a 48 hour mooring (at Cosgrove), so I brought all the ballast inside the boat. (Bad planning to do this on a 48 hour mooring!) If I'm going to paint what I've done I have to do it within three months. I don't know what will happen if I don't paint - it'll probably go rusty again, I suppose.

On to Stoke Bruerne tomorrow.

Monday 19 August 2013

Look! That's our home floating over us!

It can't be often that you cruise over an aqueduct and see someone you know driving along the road below. But that is precisely what happened yesterday as we set off from New Bradwell heading north on the Grand Union.

Jubilee at New Bradwell on Friday

We'd had Sunday lunch with Ally and Ben at the New Inn, then they set off for France via their house in Wolverton leaving us on board Jubilee for a few days. We soon got under way, and shortly arrived at the 1991 aqueduct over Grafton Street. Suddenly there came a few blasts of a car horn below us, and we saw a hand waving from the driver's window of a familiar-looking car driving south. We waved back, amazed at the coincidence! In a few moments a phone rang: it was Ally asking if we'd seen them. She hadn't even realised that the bridge carried the canal overhead, and was surprised to see that the boat on top was her home floating past!

Ally and Ben going to France means that we have sole use of Jubilee - hooray! We are determined not to do too much, though, and put that into practice by going no more than a mile before tying up in Wolverton.

After a bit of car/bike shuffling - and a shopping expedition to Wolverton's Tesco - we cruised today all the way to Cosgrove. Another mile! What's happening to me? We walked round Cosgrove and had another barbecue this evening. Well, we have to make the best use of the fine weather, especially after the damp and breezy spell of camping.

Top Thirty, 2013 Week 34

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 2115 on Sunday 18th August 2013. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 CanalPlanAC (=)

3 Pennine Waterways (=)

4 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

5 Living on a Narrowboat (+1)

6 UKCanals Network (+1)

7 Boatshed Grand Union (-2)

8 Retirement with No Problem (=)

9 Water Explorer (=)

10 Towpath Treks (+1)

11 Waterway Routes (-1)

12 boatshare (=)

13 nb Epiphany (+2)

14 boatrent (-1)

15 nb Waiouru (-1)

16 BCBM Ltd (=)

17 Canal Shop Company (=)

18 Narrowboat Chance (=)

19 NB The Manly Ferry (=)

20 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (=)

21 boats and cruising (+2)

22 The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife (+2)

23 Baddie the Pirate (+5)

24 Boats and Canals Forum (-3)

25 Narrowboat Dreaming .... Parisien Star (+4)

26 Seyella's Journey (=)

27 Skippy's Random Ramblings (-5)

28 Milburn Boats Ltd (+8)

29 Narrowboat Briar Rose (+2)

30 M. B. Willow (+2)

31 'Eileen Inlanding' (+2)

32 Contented Souls (-7)

33 Narrowboat Harnser (-)

34 NABO (-)

35 Warwickshire Fly Boat Company (-)

36 Rock n Roll (-2)

Halfie is at number 43.

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 113 entries, up from 111 last week.

Saturday 17 August 2013

Camping in the wind

We've gone camping for four nights in Buckinghamshire. As the campsite was going to be fully booked this weekend we were put in the sheep field. We have a fantastic view of the vale of Aylesbury but we are in a very exposed, elevated, position. It would be quite good if the wind dies down a little overnight - it's rather disturbing when the side of the tent buckles inward under the pressure of the wind!

We walked most of the Wendover Arm of the GU today. It must be one of the closest to restoration of any derelict canals. Almost the entire line is intact, and most of it is in water. I'll do a fuller post about this when I can upload some photos.

In the meantime we'll be boating again from tomorrow: the intention is to pootle up to Stoke Bruerne and back to MK.

Sunday 11 August 2013

Sheridan the Robotic Sheepdog at the IWA National Festival 2013

One of the promised "attractions" at this year's IWA festival was Sheridan the Robotic Sheepdog. Sure enough, there he was, pedalling his little tricycle and stopping to talk to bemused festival goers.

The quickest of internet searches reveals that, for a minimum fee of £375 per day, Sheridan is bookable through Peter Johnson Entertainments for bringing "smiles, laughter and amazement to children and adults alike" to your festival or shopping centre.

Top Thirty, 2013 week 33

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 1700 on Sunday 11th August 2013. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 CanalPlanAC (=)

3 Pennine Waterways (=)

4 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

5 Boatshed Grand Union (+2)

6 Living on a Narrowboat (-1)

7 UKCanals Network (-1)

8 Retirement with No Problem (=)

9 Water Explorer (=)

10 Waterway Routes (=)

11 Towpath Treks (=)

12 boatshare (=)

13 boatrent (+1)

14 nb Waiouru (+2)

15 nb Epiphany (+2)

16 BCBM Ltd (-1)

17 Canal Shop Company (-4)

18 Narrowboat Chance (+3)

19 NB The Manly Ferry (+1)

20 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (+5)

21 Boats and Canals Forum (-2)

22 Skippy's Random Ramblings (+10)

23 boats and cruising (-5)

24 The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife (-2)

25 Contented Souls (-1)

26 Seyella's Journey (+9)

27 Halfie (-4)

28 Baddie the Pirate (-1)

29 Narrowboat Dreaming .... Parisien Star (-3)

30 Narrow Boating Blog (+1)

31 Narrowboat Briar Rose (-2)

32 M. B. Willow (-4)

33 'Eileen Inlanding' (+3)

34 Rock n Roll (-1)

35 freespirit (-1)

36 Milburn Boats Ltd (-6)

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 111 entries, down from 112 last week.

Saturday 10 August 2013

Sunday services at the IWA National Festival

Usually at the IWA festivals the Boaters' Christian Fellowship organises two services on the Sunday. One, at 0800, is a short communion service intended for boaters, campers and site staff; the other, often at 1030, is for members of the public too.

This year the BCF was sidelined, to an extent, by the churches in Watford. They had arranged for their annual open-air combined service to coincide with the festival. Fencing was moved so as to make the trailer stage temporarily part of the "outside" space, meaning that the public didn't have to pay to go to church (though they were encouraged to buy tickets for the festival afterwards).

I estimated that 500 people attended the open-air service, most of whom, presumably, were from the Watford churches.

Before that, though, and a much quieter affair, was the communion service in the Food Court. Even this seemed to have little BCF involvement as it was led by two Waterways Chaplains.

Perhaps things will be back to "normal" next year.

Regarding the festival itself, though, I hope the IWA will do some serious thinking about what went wrong this year. Numbers were down, exhibitors must have been disappointed, and many boaters have been expressing their feelings in the blogosphere. Despite the gorgeous weather there just wasn't the buzz of past Nationals. As others have said, nice though Cassiobury Park was, the festival site was too far detached from its raison d'être - the waterway and boats. The Crick boat show seems to have supplanted the IWA National Festival as the main large-scale event of the year. All it needs is some obscure competitions with no advance publicity, such as "best child's drawing of a boat", and the takeover will be complete.

Friday 9 August 2013

Spitfire flypast at the IWA Festival in Cassiobury Park

One of the promised attractions, weather permitting, at the IWA National Festival this year was a flypast by a WWII Spitfire. Well, the weather could not have been better - unlike my camera!

When the time came everyone stopped what they were doing and stared into the sky. Over the PA came, slightly incongruously, the Dambusters March and some helpful commentary. Thankfully the fairground music stopped ... and then the lone fighter flew right overhead.

We were told it was a Spitfire, but aren't a Spitfire's wing tips more rounded?

This is the best photo I got, cropped from a shot mostly of the sky. Still, not too bad. The plane turned and flew over us a couple more times before flying off again. The sound was tremendous. Not loud, but briefly evocative of that other world of black and white bravery and sacrifice, loss and heroism.

There it is, heading off to its next engagement. It's that tiny speck just below the dark cloud in the centre of the frame.

Don't bother to click on the photo, here it is magnified for you.

No more than half a dozen people joined me in applauding. The fairground music started up. Everyone went back to what they'd been doing a minute before.