Friday 12 November 2021

Grand Union Gobio Gobio Society

What on earth is the Grand Union Gobio Gobio Society, I hear you ask? What, for that matter, is/are Gobio Gobio? Well, for those - like myself - not acquainted with piscatorial matters, gobio gobio is the classification of the freshwater fish commonly known as the gudgeon. And GUGGS is the name of the society dedicated to this one fish: fishing it, recording it and, of course, throwing it back into the water. And they do it just on the canals.
A couple of days ago Jan and I came across this fisherman, Neil Williams, trying out various locations on the Shropshire Union Canal. I got talking to him as he was fishing opposite our mooring in Market Drayton. He was very happy to tell me about GUGGS, despite my confession that I knew little about the art of angling. I suppose what caught my attention was that he seemed to be using a moderate length pole, dangling the bait just a few feet away from the bank. Not trying to get it to the opposite side, as most seem to do. As we were talking, he jerked the pole up. Dangling from the line was a small fish, a gudgeon, which pleased Neil greatly. He removed the hook and placed the fish on his scales. It weighed 41.6g - not even two ounces - but Neil was ecstatic.
GUGGS fishes only canals; the record for a gudgeon is only 50.8g* so this, as Neil said, made his day.
Neil caught several fish in the few minutes I was there, including a much more impressive (to me) perch. This was chucked back in with barely a glance. Our friendly fisherman had travelled from Tring to spend a week on this part of the Shroppie; after his "whopping" catch he said he would extend his stay by an extra day. He sent me two more photos of gudgeon he'd caught in the Woodseaves cutting since meeting me ...
... including one weighing in at 42.3g.
To add more interest, I suppose, any gudgeon caught over 30g is termed a specimen fish and can be given a name. If the tenths of a gramme is even it can be "male"; if odd, "female". And for fish caught in 2021 the names have to begin with "S". So Neil's 41.6g catch was "Sloppy". (I am not making this up - look at the website!) 

It was good to meet you, Neil, and I wish you good fishing. And thank you for inspiring me to resurrect this blog! I have fallen so far behind that I wondered how I was going to catch up. I don't think I will, quite, but I shall try to be a little more active.

All close-up fish photos copyright Neil Williams.

* According to the GUGGS website the UK record is 140g in any waters

(Updated to clarify information)

Wednesday 28 July 2021

British Grand Prix, Silverstone

I mentioned in my last blog post that I'd been to Silverstone, so here are a few of the photos I took. Normal boating service will be resumed shortly.

The weather for the whole weekend was sunny and hot, just like it was the last time I came three years ago.  Friday evening saw the qualifying sessions for Saturday's "sprint qualifying".  Yes, qualifying for qualifying.  Lewis Hamilton emerged the fastest, with Max Verstappen second and Valteri Bottas third.
On the Saturday there was plenty of track action. I think this is a "Masters GT Challenge".
Back with Formula 1, whenever the British drivers Hamilton (of course), Lando Norris ...
... and George Russell came past the stands they were greeted with cheers and applause.
Verstappen won the sprint qualifying - a half-hour race with no scheduled pitstops - which gave him pole postion for the grand prix proper on the Sunday.
Before the race on Sunday Russell and Norris clearly enjoyed the fans' adulation.
For the race itself I was not in the best position as far as seeing action was concerned. There is only one of my photos half worth showing: Hamilton doing a victory lap with a borrowed Union flag after his controversial win (having taken off Verstappen with a collision in the first lap).
That's it from Silverstone until the next time. Meanwhile we are currently outside the closed Anchor pub at High Offley on the Shroppie.

Sunday 25 July 2021

Why did I photograph this boat?

We left Water Eaton on 21st June, moving the boat north to Downhead Park. Ally picked us up to take us to Cranfield, where we borrowed Ben's car and drove home for gardening etc. We were back on the boat on 24th June; we moved on to Giffard Park on 26th. Ally, Josiah and Micah came with us to the pub there, where we waited a very long time for the food to arrive. Not good.

For some reason I took a photo of this boat.  Too long ago for me to remember why,

By Sunday 4th July we had moved to our favourite spot just north of The Galleon in Old Wolverton. Over the next few days we did a lot more driving: to Essex, to Bedfordshire, to Norfolk, to Essex again and back to the boat on the Bucks/Northants border.

On Thursday 15th July we moved further north, to Grafton Regis.  This is so I could cycle to Silverstone for the Grand Prix weekend, as I did three years ago.  Photos to follow.  For now, though, a quick update on our current location:  Fradley, just above Shadehouse Lock on the T&M.

Friday 23 July 2021

Water (Eaton) under the bridge

Woe is me! For I have not been keeping up to date with this here blog. And the further I get behind, the more difficult it is to remember what I did and when and where. And I just get out of the habit of doing it, which makes it even harder when I return to it. But enough excuses - that's water under the bridge. Here are some photos and words.

First, back to the middle of June.  Only last month, but it feels like half a year ago.  Here is a group of members of the Boaters' Christian Fellowship.. We had gathered at Water Eaton on the Grand Union Canal in south Milton Keynes in preparation for a few days of supporting the nearby churches in their work with local people.
This was to be a Covid-curtailed "dry run" for next year, when the idea would be for there to be much more publicity and greater involvement with the local community. Similar events in past years have seen schools invited for tours of boats, free short boat trips for members of the public, cream teas and so on. This year all our meetings were outside and socially distanced.

We were, however, able to offer boat trips for families or "bubbles"; I went as crew to help move the boat being used for this from Marsworth Junction to Water Eaton.  Here is a different John steering Beacon down Soulbury Three Locks.
The weather at the start of the week was perfect: warm with wall-to-wall sunshine.
Some of the eight BCF boats put up banners and bunting.
Eric steered Beacon for some of the boat trips.
Fuel boats Bletchley and Bideford passed through.
It was great to see our friends Steve and Sue who came for a cup of tea on board Jubilee one afternoon. I have known Steve all my life. Literally. His mother and my mother were in the same maternity ward; Steve and I were born two days apart.
I will try to be a good boy and compress five or six weeks into a few days, continuing tomorrow. We are currently at Marston Junction on the Coventry Canal heading north.

Thursday 10 June 2021

Partial solar eclipse and an old lock at Cosgrove

I have some catching up to do as I have neglected this blog for quite a few days - oops! First, did you see the partial eclipse of the sun today? We had enough sunshine in Bletchley for me to project the sun onto a white card using a pair of cheap binoculars.
Nothing like as impressive as a total eclipse (which I was fortunate to see in France in 1999), but it's nice to see the moon nibbling away at the sun. There was no discernible darkening of the surroundings - that only happened when the odd cloud passed in front of the sun.
Now back to the business of catching up.

Thursday 3rd June 2021

Josiah was raring to go, having put on his lifejacket, so we set off immediately after breakfast.  The canal was covered in places with furry seeds.
I think they came from willow trees.
At Cosgrove we stopped to explore the horse tunnel under the canal and looked round the church.
And here's Josiah in the mouth of the horse tunnel.
Back on board, we continued down Cosgrove Lock, across the aqueduct and tied up just before the Galleon.  Ally came to collect Josiah leaving us to have a quiet evening on our own.  We walked through the Ouse Valley Park to the Iron Trunk Aqueduct over the Great Ouse.  The footpaths here, as in many parts of Milton Keynes, are of very high quality being smooth and wheelchair-friendly.  It felt odd walking on these paths through fields of grazing cattle.

There are some nice photos to be had of the aqueduct leaping over the river.  But here are mine.
Having walked through the horse tunnel immediately to the south of the aqueduct we looked for evidence of the former locks which led down to a crossing of the Great Ouse on the level. Here's what we found: a gate and a lock chamber, still in remarkably good condition given the length of time since it was last used. The current iron trunk aqueduct was opened in 1811 and I can't imagine anyone wanting to use slow and wasteful locks when they could go straight across, so perhaps the old locks fell into disuse from then. (I suppose they might have been used if the aqueduct was closed for maintenance.)
Jan noticed a strange phenomenon in the sky while we were at the lock. I don't think I've seen a red rainbow before.
The sun was setting and turning deep red, hence the apparent lack of other colours in the rainbow.
After looking at the sunset over the aqueduct we returned to the boat.

Wednesday 2 June 2021

He'll make a fine lock boy

After Stowe Hill (was it Flore?) there was work going on around an overspill weir.
That's what it looked like, anyway.
We had a salad lunch in shifts on the move, and stopped at Blisworth just past Candle Bridge for grandchildren Josiah and Micah to join us, with their parents Ally and Ben. It's a good job we stopped at the first available mooring as there was easy car parking there, whereas opposite the mill a new development has blocked access.

We all enjoyed the trip through Blisworth Tunnel and went straight on to the locks, where there were plenty of gongoozlers at the top lock.
Micah mostly stayed on the boat with Ally ...
... but five-year-old Josiah got stuck in, helping with opening and closing gates.
After tying up at the bottom I cycled back to retrieve Ally and Ben's vehicle, then we all ate at the Navigation. Josiah is staying with us overnight; we will rendezvous with his parents at Old Wolverton tomorrow.

Tuesday 1 June 2021

Exploring the Royal Ordnance Depot, Weedon

Until today I had never seen inside the former Royal Ordnance Depot at Weedon. I shall write more about this below; meanwhile here's a picture to be going on with.
I wrote yesterday about the cow parsley footpath - this is it, running from Butcher's Bridge to Nibbet's Lane.
From the path, looking towards Braunston Church, the field is a mass of buttercups.
As we had breakfast a stream of boats went past in the direction of the locks, so we delayed starting until they had had a chance to get through. Eventually the traffic seemed to ease, so we waited for a boat coming along behind us and then set off.

We had to wait for a pair of boats in front of us to enter the bottom lock, then it was a slow process as we waited for oncoming boats to use each lock as we left it.

I watched a pied wagtail flit back and forth across the tail of the bottom lock; then further up the flight I managed to photograph a yellow(?) grey wagtail on the lockside. (Thanks to Adam for the correction.)
Our passage was calm and orderly, but it took an age.
It was a similar story down the Buckby flight. At last we reached Weedon, where we tied up and had tea on board. Then we walked to the former Royal Ordnance Depot where we found we could actually get in to the site.
It's amazing! We could walk through the open gates, past an unmanned security cabin and all round the area. The buildings were made to store small arms, cannon and gunpowder.
It all looks rather decayed, but the buildings themselves look in good condition. Many now house industrial units.  Where the tarmac and concrete have crumbled away a railway line is revealed.
Running through the middle of the site - indeed, the focus - is the former arm of the Grand Union Canal. The level has dropped and it is obviously silted up but, thankfully, it has not been prettified. It is almost as if it hasn't been touched since the last boat left, probably several decades ago.
There is more information on The Depot's website here. Look - here's a lovely old-fashioned lift with those rattly cage-like doors!
And, finally, another view of the Ordnance Canal.
Updated for correction

Monday 31 May 2021

Cows and cow parsley

We followed a boat up Itchington and Stockton Locks this morning. At the point when they might have waited for us to join them in a lock boats started to meet us coming down, so we stayed separated. At the top I made myself a coffee (Jan doesn't drink the stuff) and we continued to outside Ventnor Marina, where we stopped for lunch. The sun had come out to burn away the chilly early morning air and it got sunburningly hot.

At Wigram's Turn we turned left onto the shared GU/Oxford Canal towards Braunston.  It was perfect boating weather.
I thought cows were supposed to lie down when rain was on its way - these obviously hadn't heard of that.
At last, Braunston Church came into view.
Today has been the busiest so far, and by a long way. There were boats queueing to come down Calcutt Locks, and there was a seemingly never-ending procession of boats coming towards us between Wigram's and Braunston.

At Braunston we turned right to stay on the Grand Union, and tied up just before Butcher's Bridge, nabbing the last spot before the locks.  Our friends John and Gill, with their daughter Stacey, joined us on our boat for drinks in the evening.  (I think that was allowed!)

When they had gone we walked into the village to post a couple of letters.  It was a very fine evening, and a delightful walk through the cow parsley to get to the High Street. If I remember I'll try to get a photo of the cow parsley path in the morning.