Sunday, 30 September 2012

Some more old boats at Shackerstone

A month ago, as we were coming past Shackerstone for the second time, more historic boats had moored for the festival.

Here are two views of Darley.

No sign of Blossom, though.

On the same stretch of towpath was steam tunnel tug Hasty...

... and FMC boat Empress (renamed from Emperor?)

I'm looking forward to being able to visit these sort of rallies properly by boat one day.

Top Thirty, 2012 Week 39

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 2215 on Sunday 30th September 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 (+1)

7 Waterway Routes (-1)

8 Water Explorer (=)

9 nb Epiphany (=)

10 Granny Buttons (=)

11 boatshare (+1)

12 Towpath Treks (-1)

13 nb Waiouru (=)

14 Jannock Website (=)

15 Canal Shop Company (+1)

16 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (+1)

17 ExOwnerships (-2)

18 Contented Souls (=)

19 Baddie the Pirate (+7)

20 Narrowboat Briar Rose (+8)

21 Seyella's Journey (+9)

22 Nb. Yarwood (-2)

23 Narrowboat Bones (-2)

24 boats and cruising (-1)

25 Boatshed Grand Union (-1)

26 Narrowboat Chance (-7)

27 Trafalgar Marine Services (-2)

28 Google Earth Canal Maps (+1)

29 Narrowboat dreaming ... Parisien Star (-)

30 Halfie (-8)

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, the same as last week.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

David's 50th birthday and an amazing traditional pub

My brother David celebrated his fiftieth birthday today. His wife had secretly planned a weekend away to which family members and friends had been invited, and we enjoyed a day with them in a lovely large cottage near Halesworth in Suffolk. David had no idea that so many people were going to turn up - I think there were 18 of us for the barbecue lunch.

While the evening meal was cooking some of us drove to Laxfield where we had a drink in the amazingly well-preserved King's Head pub.

To quote from the pub's website:

The King’s Head (The Low House) is one of the very few pubs left in Britain that has no bar-counter. You go in the tap room at the back. Beer drinkers survey the array of barrels and request whatever takes their fancy, drawn straight from the barrel, while others can order whatever they usually have. Before you reach the barrels, you pass through a room dominated by an ancient fireplace. Old settles, polished in parts by the backs and bottoms of the long deceasead, surround it in a U-shape, with a table in the middle. Another room, also called the tap room, likewise has one large table and bench seats around it. This is a social pub. We have no juke box or television, and we pride ourselves on still having a sense of tradition, and a slight window into the past.

Back at the cottage David found that fifty candles give out a fair amount of heat!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Kestrel and Northolt

Two boats at the gathering at Shackerstone last month were Kestrel and Northolt.

Kestrel appears to have been built for Fellows, Morton and Clayton in 1928 (but, according to the A.M.Models website it was cut into two boats in 1959, the stern remaining as Kestrel).

According to the same website Northolt was built in 1942 for FMC, then being acquired by the Samuel Barlow Coal Carrying Company. The website also says, "Renamed Sunny Valley for the film 'Painted Boats' and has remained so ever since". So how is it that it now appears as Northolt?

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The (current) end of the Ashby Canal

It was raining steadily when we reached the current limit of navigation on the Ashby Canal last month.

The new swing footbridge was swung for us and we nosed up to the end of the canal.

That's a slipway on the right.

After tying up I sheltered from the rain while looking round the small Ashby Canal Association shop where I bought an old book and paid for a "certificate of navigation" which was posted to me later.

I really should have walked into Measham from there, but a combination of the rain and the fact that I had to give ourselves enough time to get back to Wigram's Turn led me to give up that idea. There'll be another time.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Mangle House, Stoke Golding

Stoke Golding, the "Birthplace of the Tudor Dynasty", on the Ashby Canal has a number of blue plaques dotted around the village.

One marks the former existence of a box mangle at a house.

"At this house in the late 1800s a Box Mangle was in public use".

What a strange thing to commemorate with a blue plaque!

I looked it up: according to the village website the box mangle was used more for "polishing" laundry than for squeezing water out. Possibly an early form of ironing.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

How I plan to make a cheap timer for a Webasto

When Jubilee was built the Webasto heater unit had, apparently, a time switch fitted. By the time we bought the boat the timer had failed, and the previous owner had substituted a simple on/off switch. This works fine and is ultra-reliable, but Ally and Ben would like to be able to wake up in a pre-warmed boat these cooler mornings.

I know, I thought, I'll use a mains time switch to supply a small power supply to operate a relay, the contacts of which will be connected across the Webasto switch. I had a small power supply, so all I needed was the relay. I looked in a Maplin catalogue and found something even better: a mains actuated relay. I didn't know these existed! The relay coil takes 230V AC mains.

Here it is. I've tested it by connecting the coil to the mains and, yes, it switches. It buzzes a bit too, but I can hide it away somewhere so that shouldn't be too much of a problem.

And this is the time switch which I'll plug in next to the existing timer for the immersion heater (or in place of it - the Webasto will heat the domestic water as well as the radiators).

All I'll need then is a 13A plug and a bit of cable. And I'll obviously have to insulate the mains connection to the relay.

Cost of components: Relay £4.49; Time switch about £5.00. Total: about a tenner.

Compare this with £85 for a genuine Webasto timer! Of course, my method needs mains to work - fine for Ally and Ben in the marina on shoreline power, not so handy on the move.

I'll let you know how I get on installing it next time I'm on the boat.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Light Pyramid appears and dinosaur changes colour in Milton Keynes

If you walk from Campbell Park to the shopping centre in Milton Keynes you will probably come across this sculpture, "Light Pyramid" by Liliane Lijn, which was unveiled in June 2012. It is probably more impressive at night when, from the photos on the sculptor's website, it can be seen to light up. It's on the highest bit of ground for miles and there are views across a surprisingly flat landscape. I don't know if it's visible from the canal.

Even closer to the Grand Union Canal, near Peartree Bridge if I remember correctly, is a dinosaur which used to be painted gold. Perhaps as a reaction to the post boxes being painted gold in honour of Olympic heroes this dinosaur turned from gold to black-and-white a day or so before I took the photo (24th August 2012).

I'll post soon - probably tomorrow - about a modification to Jubilee's central heating system.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Luckyboat Noodles for MK Marina Chinese takeaway

A recent visit to Ally and Ben at Milton Keynes Marina coincided with a delivery to the Chinese takeaway.

MK Marina is blessed with two takeaways - one Indian and one Chinese - and a pub carvery. How appropriate, then, that the noodles should be Luckyboat Noodles!

Top Thirty, 2012 week 38

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 0930 on Sunday 23rd September 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 Waterway Routes (+1)

7 UKCanals Network (-1)

8 Water Explorer (=)

9 nb Epiphany (=)

10 Granny Buttons (+1)

11 Towpath Treks (-1)

12 boatshare (=)

13 nb Waiouru (+1)

14 Jannock Website (-1)

15 ExOwnerships (+1)

16 Canal Shop Company (-1)

17 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (=)

18 Contented Souls (+2)

19 Narrowboat Chance (+7)

20 Nb. Yarwood (+9)

21 Narrowboat Bones (+1)

22 Halfie (-3)

23 boats and cruising (+7)

24 Boatshed Grand Union (-6)

25 Trafalgar Marine Services (-4)

26 Baddie the Pirate (-2)

27 NB The Manly Ferry (-)

28 Narrowboat Briar Rose (-1)

29 Google Earth Canal Maps (-6)

30 Seyella's Journey (-2)

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 165 last week.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Garden bonfire - just in time!

Our bonfire pile had grown to about five feet tall so I lit it on Thursday evening. The wind was in the right direction (away from next door's stable with the horse in it and away from the new houses the other side) and it was dry so I took action.

One piece of newspaper lit in one corner was all it took.

After a couple of hours the flames had died down, and it was a mass of glowing embers.

The next day it rained, so I was very pleased I'd got the timing just right.

Today, just two days on, the pile is growing again.

Friday, 21 September 2012

The axe-man of Hillmorton

Below Hillmorton Bottom Locks a man was getting ready for cooler weather.

I expect he's started using the logs now - this was four weeks ago when it was still very much summer.

Oh - the log's stuck to his axe!


It's felt a lot more like autumn in Norwich today with a cold night last night and some rain this evening. Plus, of course, the days are getting dark by half past seven. Perhaps we'll be lighting our stove soon!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Photographing Ely from a moving train

One of these days I'll get a half-decent photo of Ely Cathedral from the train. What usually happens is that trees get in the way. Like here.

The foreground trees are blurred as they're whizzing past the camera.

This one was better...

... but there are still blurred trees, and the cathedral is half hidden by the houses. I'm sure there's a better picture to be had.

I had a day working in Cambridge yesterday - I did my usual thing of cycling to Wymondham Station, getting the train to Cambridge, and cycling to the BBC at the Business Park. (I must remember to claim the train fare back - and the fare from the previous time I went!)

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Funny brick wall and a sign of transition

This is getting a bit "old news" now, but, for what it's worth, here are my photos of bridges 80 and 79 on the Oxford Canal.

This was almost four weeks ago, so I expect the rebuilding work has been more or less finished.

Here's Bridge 80...

... and this is Bridge 79. We had to squeeze past the works in the bridge hole - I don't know what a widebeam would have done.

Just to the left of the red-and-white post in the above picture is a curious low brick wall.

Was this to test the skill of the brickie? Or to test the mortar? Or did /does it have a practical purpose?

The sign by the works has a mix of Canal and River Trust logo and British Waterways words (the "enquiries" and the "emergency" details).

I see Blogger has decided to go over to the horrible new format for composing posts. It doesn't like my Mac's browser, probably because it is outdated. Grr.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Is this the sunk boat which is being raised?

I read on a blog recently that a boat sunk at Braunston Puddle Banks was being refloated (I can't remember who it was who wrote about it). Is it this the boat in question?

When we went past last month it was looking in a sorry state.

I looked up the registration number on Jim Shead's website but it seems to imply that the boat is called Trade Plate, but I assume it means that the boat is currently registered under one. I haven't encountered this term being used in connection with narrowboats before. Could someone please explain?

Incidentally, the curious black boat is visible in the top photo - thought by another blogger (or possibly the same one) to be an estuary buoy.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Graffiti style of signwriting

On Braunston Puddle Banks last month we passed a boat with an interesting paint job. According to Jim Shead's site the boat is called Diogenes, but the graffiti-style paintwork suggests otherwise.

Mind you, perhaps any painted name is better than none!

Jubilee is still waiting for a spot of signwriting. I'll have to get things moving. Do I find a signwriter first, and then ask her or him if they have any ideas? Or do I approach said signwriter with a design and say, "Paint that"?

(Jubilee is photographed moored at Campbell Park, Milton Keynes)

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Victorian rectory preserved as living museum

This afternoon Jan and I cycled to a neighbouring village to experience a taste of how life was over a century ago. A rectory built in 1851 has been preserved as it would have been in 1900. It opened its doors to local people for the second time in five years this weekend.

The house still has its croquet lawn, immediately bringing back memories for me of my late uncle's vicarage in Swinton, Manchester.

Inside, actors in period costume welcomed us visitors and gave us snippets of "news": the rector's daughter's imminent wedding; the son-in-law rather too fond of his drink; the maidservant worried about losing her job through pregnancy; etc.

In the drawing room another "daughter" was entertaining herself on the piano, inviting us to join in the chorus of whichever song she was singing. Somehow Jan found herself playing the violin to the "daughter's" accompaniment!

The dining table was laid for the evening meal...

... while the butler was in his pantry polishing the silver.

The rector himself was in the study writing his sermon (on Daniel's prophecies, referring to a book on the subject by Isaac Newton of all people); the cook was gossiping in the kitchen; the scullerymaid was using the wringer; and the lady of the house was guiding us guests through the various rooms. Oh, and the stable lads were enjoying a beer in the stableyard (but they might have been gardeners as we didn't spot them).

A cup of tea and a large slice of Victoria sponge (what else?) rounded off the afternoon nicely. The whole place took me back to my childhood (although my uncle and aunt didn't have quite so many servants!)

Top Thirty, 2012 Week 37

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 0935 on Sunday 16th September 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 (+2)

6 UKCanals Network (-1)

7 Waterway Routes (-1)

8 Water Explorer (=)

9 nb Epiphany (+1)

10 Towpath Treks (-1)

11 Granny Buttons (=)

12 boatshare (=)

13 Jannock Website (=)

14 nb Waiouru (+1)

15 Canal Shop Company (-1)

16 ExOwnerships (=)

17 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (+2)

18 Boatshed Grand Union (+3)

19 Halfie (+7)

20 Contented Souls (-3)

21 Trafalgar Marine Services (+4)

22 Narrowboat Bones (+1)

23 Google Earth Canal Maps (-1)

24 Baddie the Pirate (-)

25 nb Lucky Duck (-7)

26 Narrowboat Chance (+3)

27 Narrowboat Briar Rose (+1)

28 Seyella's Journey (-1)

29 Nb. Yarwood (-5)

30 boats and cruising (-10)

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 165 entries, down from 169 last week.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

A good cut at Burton Hastings

No, not the Ashby Canal, fine waterway though that is (despite the lack of locks for the ordinary boater), but on the fine slate gravestones at St. Botolph's Church in Burton Hastings.

This was another of our planned stops for local exploration on last month's trip.

If you want people to be able to read your gravestone centuries after you've gone, then perhaps you should go for slate.

The lettering looks as sharp today as it must have done 175 years ago when, presumably, the inscription commemorating Elizabeth Barrs was done.

The name of the monumental mason appears at the foot of this gravestone: Smart of Attleborough. There is an Attleborough only three miles from Burton Hastings on the outskirts of Nuneaton, so I presume Smart's did their engraving here (and not in Norfolk!).

The slate would most likely have come from the quarry at Swithland in the neighbouring county of Leicestershire. Smart's doesn't seem to exist these days, but there is still a monumental mason in Attleborough - Dobson's.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Hawkesbury Junction

The cast iron towpath bridge at Hawkesbury Junction must be one of the most photographed bridges on the waterways.

But how many people notice the grooves cut by more than a century of towlines in the stone and metal?

On the Coventry Canal side of the bridge is this wonderfully worn iron bollard.

And how many have seen this? I hadn't, until I walked along the line the Oxford Canal used to take when it ran parallel to the Coventry for some distance before joining it to the west of the "modern" junction.

"Sutton Stop" is now the name of the road which leads to the Greyhound pub - the sign is set in a low wall under the pub sign.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Brinklow Castle and village

One of the stops we made on our recent trip was at Brinklow, to look at the castle and walk round the village.

There's not much actual castle to be seen, but the motte, or castle mound, is unmissable.

We bounded up it with friends Amanda and Gavin, who joined us on Shadow at Newbold-on-Avon.

The views from the top were good...

... then it was time to descend.

According to Nicholson the church features a floor which rises 12 feet from the west end to the east - this we had to see.

My photo fails utterly to show the steepness of it - in fact, it looks like it's sloping down!

But perhaps you can make out the steps to the chancel, and a further set of steps up to the altar.

There were plenty more old buildings to look at as we finished our tour of the village and returned to the boat.