Monday 31 July 2017

Meeting Edward Elgar in a tight spot

This morning I cycled back to Worcester to collect the car while Jan toured Tewkesbury looking for OS map 150 (Worcester and the Malverns) for me. She found a not-too-old, good condition one in a second-hand bookshop, but it was too late. I had already set off on National Cycle Route 45 - big mistake. I should have just kept it simple and used the direct and ubiquitous A38 (it seems to go everywhere). As it was I tried using the directions from Google Maps on my phone, which led me at one point along an exceedingly muddy narrow track complete with horse droppings. I eventually reached the car and drove back to Tewkesbury where I found a side street with no parking restrictions. The car will stay there until we return by boat.

This was our peaceful mooring last night, with Healing's Mill in the background.

Nothing terribly exciting or noteworthy happened as we travelled down the Severn to Gloucester - until we met trip boat Edward Elgar. This was in the East Channel, a narrow section of the Severn, a mile above Gloucester Lock. The lockie had warned us it was on its way and mentioned that it might be a tight squeeze getting past. In the event we passed at a good point with plenty of room for both of us. If we'd been a minute ahead it would potentially have been awkward as there are some tight bends.

But our slowish pace (1100 rpm = 4.8 mph here) paid off as we arrived at the lock just as a boat was leaving. Having been warned about the stream pulling to the right across the entrance of the lock I aimed to the left. The flow obviously wasn't that great as I had to correct to the right myself before entering the lock.

The approach had given us a taste of the fine buildings to come; as we ascended the lock we found we were entering a cornucopia of large old warehouses.

We turned left immediately after exiting the lock and tied up on one of the floating pontoons. Jan spotted BCF stickers on a boat two away from us, so we invited ourselves round for a cup of tea on Pound Eater with Barry and Kate. It was good to chat to you, and thanks for the tea and biscuits!

We then went for a walk round Gloucester city centre and returned to the boat for tea. While Jan was preparing a chicken meal I walked round the docks and took this photo of our mooring. Jubilee is in the centre, the front bulkhead catching the light. That's the cathedral in the background.

After tea Jan joined me for another walk round the docks, and we witnessed a fine sunset over Sainsbury's car park.

As you do.

It looks like tomorrow we'll stay here and do the National Waterways Museum. And I have to cycle to Maplin to pick up a powerbank I've ordered.

Sunday 30 July 2017

Tewkesbury takes its toll

I'll start today's write-up with the photo which came out best. This is Abbey Mill from Severn Ham. Tewkesbury Abbey is in the background on the right.

Now back to the journey. It took a long time to get down the two locks from Diglis Basin onto the Severn. There were two hire boats and a narrowboat-style plastic cruiser in front of us. The hire boats were in the top lock and the cruiser had tied up to the lock landing leaving us hovering as there was nowhere else to go. The hire boats emptied the lock, but then found that the intermediate pound was too low, so they stayed in the lock and refilled it, then emptied it again before leaving. Meanwhile I had managed to get off the boat and walked down to the bottom lock to set it, which none of the numerous crew from the hire boats had thought of doing. Eventually we were able to enter the top lock and start down. These two locks take a very, very long time to empty and fill. They must be the slowest on the entire system - are they? Only one bottom paddle was working on the bottom lock, which didn't help.

In the top lock
The cruiser was also going to Tewkesbury, so we shared Diglis Lock with them.

leaving Diglis Lock
The Severn was placid, the weather was bright, dry and breezy, the scenery changed just sufficiently to prevent it getting too tedious.

typical Severn scene
We passed a couple of bulk loading sites with boats in situ.

It looked like gravel or sand was what was being transported.

After passing a mooring opportunity at Upton-on-Severn we made the left turn onto the River Avon and tied up beyond the lock entrance without going up the lock. Having paid the fee (the toll of the title) to the lockie we walked into Tewkesbury and marvelled at the abundance of old half-timbered buildings.

There are lots of narrow passages called 'courts' or 'alleys' - this one led to the old Baptist chapel of 1655.

We went to a service of Choral Evensong in the Abbey, then ate at the Bell (a very ordinary roast meal) (the beer was good though - North Cotswold 4.0%) before continuing our exploration of the town.

Here's another shot of Abbey Mill.

Tomorrow I shall cycle back to Worcester to get the car, then we have some decision making to do. I'd quite like to stay on in Tewkesbury for a sacred music festival in the Abbey, but that would interfere with our cruising plans. And do we continue to pay for mooring or do we carry on to Gloucester and drive back for the festival? Or do we get a two-week Avon licence or even a 30 day licence?

To be continued ...

Saturday 29 July 2017

Wet Worcester

I was having so much fun posting the pictures of the old BBC kit yesterday that I neglected to say much about our trip from Droitwich to Worcester. The first thing to say is that there is a huge amount of reed growth on the Droitwich Barge Canal.

It was not a problem, but it did get a little boring after a while. We met four or five boats, mostly at locks. One was coming up as we left this pretty scene. The balance beams are cranked as there is a bridge immediately below the lock.

The restored (newly built?) circular overspill weir is in the style of some on the Staffs and Worcs.

All too soon we were at the bottom of the Barge Canal and at the junction with the River Severn. We had very much enjoyed the Droitwich Canals, especially as they were new to us.

The Severn was wide but not very fast flowing. At my usual 1100 rpm, which propels the boat at about 3.0 to 3.2 mph on a canal, we made 4.5 - 4.8 mph.

Soon Worcester Cathedral appeared beyond the road bridge. Jan got a good shot of it framed by the arch but she hasn't sent it to me yet.

We turned in the river to come alongside the lock landing pontoon behind another narrowboat; we came up the two locks into Diglis Basin together and then tied up as soon as we could.

Today I cycled back to Droitwich to get the car (National Cycle Route 45 - very good and well signed); we had lunch and then walked into the city centre. Jan witnessed the official opening of the Cathedral Square shopping centre, meanwhile there had evidently been another unveiling in the Cathedral Close. The blue plaque remembers the composer Thomas Tomkins (1572 - 1656).

We had visitors this evening: my former big boss in Norwich, David, who is an even bigger boss now, came with his wife, Deborah.

It was great to see you again, David, and to meet you, Deborah.

The 'wet' of the title? It was raining when we arrived yesterday, and it started raining again just as our visitors were leaving on their bikes today. I hope your journey back wasn't too awful. At about 8 pm we walked to a Wetherspoon's for a meal and were very glad of our waterproofs.

Tomorrow we hit the river again and will aim for Tewkesbury.

Friday 28 July 2017

Droitwich calling

We looked round the small museum in Droitwich this morning. I found the salt aspect of this disappointing - the Lion Salt Works museum on the Trent and Mersey Canal, with its large scale reconstruction of a working salt works, is much better.

But what Droitwich is really famous for - for me, anyway - is the BBC transmitting station which for many years radiated on 1500m long wave. (These days it's actually 1515m as the frequency was changed to 198kHz so that all AM broadcast transmissions were on frequencies a whole multiple of 9kHz (this happened in 1978, I believe)).

Down a corridor by the salty exhibits (mostly skulls and skeletons, by the way) is the more interesting part of the museum. An area dedicated to the old days of the BBC, when the BBC ran its own transmitters, studios and production. This being Droitwich, the exhibits were mainly connected with the transmitting station. On the left below is an early version of the main control desk.

There's an assortment of other paraphernalia, including an AXBT microphone (remember the tiller pin on Savoy Hill?)

This is an interesting former incarnation of the BBC logo. It looks like it's on a flower planter.

And here's some outside broadcast kit, the OBA 8 (outside broadcast amplifier 8). It's essentially a mixing desk for microphone inputs and was used inter alia to get regional stations set up as the second world war threatened.

All this equipment was obsolete by the time I joined the Corporation as an engineer in 1980 - but I do remember we had a Ferrograph tape deck in the videotape area. Not as old as this, probably.

Well, that's enough of that. We left Netherwich Basin at 1300 and continued down the Droitwich Barge Canal. This was bordered by vast reed banks for much of the way to the Severn, but a handful of locks added interest. Once on the Severn we passed through Bevere Lock and made our way downstream to Worcester, where we ascended the two locks into Diglis Basin and tied up on the canal just before the facilities. Photos tomorrow.

Thursday 27 July 2017

p'doyng, p'doyng, Droitwich!

We're on the move again. We spent ten days away from the boat seeing family and mowing the lawn etc. But now we have entered waters new: the Droitwich Canals.

How did we get here? From the Stratford Canal we had turned left at King's Norton Junction and overnighted at Hopwood on 12th July. The next day we went through Tardebigge Tunnel, made use of the facilities at the wharf and dropped down the top lock. We left the boat in this long pound while we were away. Returning on Tuesday 25th July we set off down the rest of the Tardebigge flight at about 1600 after I'd taken the car to Stoke Prior. When we saw a length of piling above Lock 33 we stopped for the night. En route we'd passed Gerty No. 30. We'd met Robert and Wendy at Etruria and in Milton Keynes, this time we did little more than exchange greetings as we passed between locks.

Yesterday we waited for the rain to stop before moving, then we finished off the Tardebigge Locks, then the Stoke Locks, then the Astwood Locks. We stopped at Hanbury Wharf, hoping for a cheap meal in the Eagle and Sun. This, we found, had gone upmarket so we saved our pennies and ate on board.

Today we set off just as it started to drizzle, and turned right into the Droitwich Junction Canal. This was the first time we have been able to do this - the last time we were here, on Shadow, the restoration had still to be completed.

This was our view of the first lock, one of three close together.

These have working side ponds, which I was looking forward to operating, but the locks were manned by a volunteer lockie who hardly gave me the chance to do anything. Next time I'll have to make sure we come "out of hours"!

These three locks are deep.

From memory, this bridge carries the access road to Droitwich Spa Marina. It's quite a tight squeeze, and to prevent any embarrassing scrapes it has floats tethered along the sides so you can't hit it.

The narrow locks are delightful, none more so than this two-rise staircase. We arrived at the same time as a boat coming up, who asked if they could use it first as the bottom lock was set for them. The crew seemed slightly concerned that I started filling the top lock, so I had to explain that it needed to be full in order to empty into the bottom lock to get them over the cill. Had the locks been wide we could have passed in the middle, as at Bascote or Bunbury.

Here is Jan taking Jubilee into the lower chamber.

Then came the low tunnel/culvert under the M5. We'd taken the can off the roof and lowered the pile of logs, and were relieved when we passed under the height gauge with perhaps three inches to spare.

The height gauge proved an accurate guide. I found it difficult to take a photo while crouching to steer - this is the best I could do.

The radio aerial was going "p'doyng, p'doyng" on the underside of the concrete sections, so too was my elbow once or twice. But then we were out, and soon at the Barge Lock marking the start of the Droitwich Barge Canal. We had already joined the River Salwarp, we shall be making its acquaintance again on the way to the Severn tomorrow.

After three manually operated swingbridges (BW key to release padlock) we tied up at 1300 to a pontoon at Netherwich Basin, Vines Park. After lunch we explored the town a little. There's more to see tomorrow: I'm looking forward to the display of BBC transmitter stuff in the museum.

Wednesday 12 July 2017

Having one's knuckles rapped - by CRT

Oops! This evening I looked at my e-mails and discovered one from CRT headed "Please keep cruising if you've been moored for over 14 days". In it I was very politely told that my boat had been seen moored in the same general area for more than 14 days. The message included links to the relevant parts of the licence conditions. How could this have happened?  Well, we moored by Bridge 5 for two weeks, then moved to opposite Lyon's Boatyard for a further two weeks. This was while we were working on a house we let nearby. I had hoped that moving from Bridge 5 would be sufficient, but it appears that moving half a mile or so still counts as the "same general area".

our mooring opposite Lyon's Boatyard
Very few people stop at either location, and I had hoped that that might mean that the mooring police would not have bothered. But I'm impressed that we had been clocked.

When I read the e-mail we had already moved on - to Hopwood on the Worcester and Birmingham - but I wonder what the minimum moving distance might have been. The two miles to King's Norton Junction? Or less? Anyway, we have now finished the planned work at the house so we are cruising at last.  And I am very sorry to have been judged as overstaying.

Yesterday we were in Sheffield visiting Andrew. This electrical shop in Wicker caught my eye. It looks like just the sort of shop I would have loved as a small boy. I'd probably quite enjoy it now too.

The signs on the windows look as though they haven't changed from the 1980s, advertising 'video and cassette tapes', 'drive belts' and 'stylus', among other electrical essentials such as fire elements and urn spares. It's not all in the past, though. There's a website address above the shop.

Sunday 9 July 2017

Laminate floor laid

(not on the boat.) Some of what we've been doing here in Birmingham over the last weeks is sorting out a floor in a house we let near the Stratford Canal. What we're now calling a utility room is a monopitch roofed 18' by 6' extension behind the kitchen. This appeared to be an unfinished project by the previous owners of the house in that, before we attacked it, the room had no insulation in the ceiling, a garden gate for a door to the side alley and water pipes running diagonally across the bare concrete floor. Oh, and the window frames and the clapboard exterior wall were rotten.

A few years ago we had the rotten wood replaced with white plastic, the windows were replaced with double glazed units, then I insulated and pine clad the ceiling.  I installed lighting at the same time.

On Monday last week we removed the severely delapidated side door and boarded up the hole. Tuesday's job was the removal of the copper pipes from the floor and replumbing in plastic around the edge of the room.
On Wednesday we cut and laid the sheets of 18mm ply we'd squeezed into the car the previous week. And on Thursday - at last - we could lay the laminate flooring. Never having done anything like this before, I must say I'm pretty pleased with how it went.

And here's the finished result.

It's not perfect. We found that the concrete was rather uneven, leading to the ply sheets not lying very flat. But - fortunately! - the laminate on top seems to have sorted it out. There's just a small bit of 'bounce' when entering the room from the kitchen.

Our next job is to box in the pipework where it runs across to the washing machine. At some stage we will have to tidy the end walls, but that can wait.

Today we went to Yardley Wood Parish Church for the 0930 communion service and explored the extensive churchyard afterwards. This gave way to informal paths through a forest of fern, and then this vista of rosebay willowherb.

Immediately behind the camera is a steep bank down to the canal some thirty feet below.

Sunday 2 July 2017

Diesel interference patterns after spill

We are now back opposite the moorings at Lyon's Boatyard. As we approached we became aware of diesel on the water making its unmistakeable interference patterns. If I remember my school physics correctly, this is caused by light reflecting from the surface of the diesel combining with light reflecting from the water surface, just a molecular distance further. The thickness of the diesel is so small, approaching the wavelengths of light, interference patterns are set up revealing light's component colours in a rainbow effect. I'm sure someone will tell me if I've got this wrong.

As the diesel spreads out from the original spill I believe that surface tension effects quickly cause it to be only a molecule thick, i.e. not very thick at all. So a small spill can cover a large area, making it look worse than it probably is.

The next day there was no evidence of the diesel.

This afternoon Scorpio came past.

Jubilee is tied up on the towpath.