Saturday, 30 April 2011

Ships that pass in the day
Back in the days before Gecko we had to hire boats to travel the canals in short bursts.
Some of those bursts were more intense than others: I am thinking particularly of the three years we participated in the BCN Marathon Challenge.  This event took place over the weekend of the longest day, in June, and involved cruising for 24 hours in a period of 30 hours. Every mile and every lock negotiated on the BCN in that time earned points based on some esoteric formula designed to encourage the navigation of the least used stretches of the network. Planning the route took longer than cruising it! Plans were lodged beforehand with estimated timings in order that the scrutineers could check your progress and photographic or other evidence of significant points of the route was required. We  joined this appropriately named exercise in boats we hired from Alvechurch Boats on the Worcs & Birmingham Canal. The challenge started at 9am on the Saturday so after picking up the boat on a Friday afternoon we had to get it to our chosen starting point the same evening.  One year this involved cruising right through Birmingham to the top of Wolverhampton 21 locks. That was the year the boat broke down.
However, on the two previous years we acquitted ourselves quite well.  One of the competitors who we encountered was an ex-working boat named Fulbourne.
Since then we have seen Fulbourne wintering in Aylesbury and today at the Little Venice Canalway Cavalcade where we are moored at present.
This was not the only boat to pass us which we recognised.  Limelight Crew also from Aylesbury is here as is John Pattle on his lovely Stewarts & Lloyds tug, Pacific.
Whilst She who must be obeyed was sitting in Hyde Park yesterday celebrating the wedding I took a short stroll and returned to find we had neighbours. Tony & Pauline had recognised Gecko from the BCN Explorer Cruise we shared in 2009 and breasted up Iberia until a space came available for them in the pool. Soon Henry and Lyn added Trinity to the group. Such is our unrivalled social esteem that they both moved off to better moorings smartly leaving us to collect sticky sap  drips from the trees all alone.
nb Iberia on the BCN Explorer Cruise 2009
nb Fulbourne at Canalway Cavalcade 2008

Tug Pacific at Batchworth lock May 2008
My  Landmark  of the  Week

Where were you on 11 September 2001?
We were in the Bristol Channel with neither TV nor newspapers and so were spared the media frenzy which accompanied the Twin Towers tragedy. We had joined a Landmark Friends house party. If my memory is still functioning there were 25 of us occupying 5 different properties ranging from the 2-bed Castle Cottage to 12-bed Millcombe House. We crossed to Lundy on ms Oldenburg but returned to the mainland a week later by helicopter - both most enjoyable journeys in their way.
It is so peaceful on the island that it is hard to leave it.  We were out walking every day and still we did not see everything the island has to offer.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Where there's a Will................................there's a Kate

Some of the less conventional tributes to the wedding couple

A famous store in Oxford Street, London
Care to count the crystals?
A dress shop in Rochester, Kent
The same dress shop

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

2012 Olympics Ban
Margaret wants to go to the Olympics next year but has finally given up trying as it has become clear that we are not allowed to.
1)  To buy online you need a Visa card which we do not have. following a dispute with Citi bank recently they have black marked our credit reference so we cannot get another card anyway.  This is despite them refunding  the charges under dispute!
2)  To send a cheque the bank account must be registered at the delivery address for the tickets.
3)  Tickets will not be delivered to a PO box which is how we get our mail and is where our bank and credit cards are registered.  However if we could apply by post the address to send the application to is .............a PO Box!!!!!!!!
4  If someone else buys the tickets they must attend the event and give all personal details of  those accompanying them.
I think we would be more successful if we lived abroad.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Eco Boat
Woke this morning to find a boat breasted up to the  craft behind us. It must have crept in quietly during the night.
At first glimpse I thought it was stern on to us but as the sleep cleared from my eyes I realised that I was looking at an unusual bow shape. As we tend to refer to this end of the boat as the pointed bit I was a trifle confused.

When the skipper emerged I learned that it was an Eco Hull design and the (not very) pointed end was not the only unusual bit.  The curves of the swim at the blunt end go the other way to ours.

This design, the skipper claimed, gave him 25% better fuel consumption and 40% less wash than a conventional design like Gecko.

 He achieved this with 35hp engine instead of the more usual 43hp. The boat is currently unfitted so it will be interesting if these figures, however they are arrived at, hold up when there is another ten tons of fitting out and contents.

An important feature of this hull design is the rounded and bulbous bow, similar to the bows of ocean liners.
It is on its way to Yelvertoft Marina for completion and will be black and silver with the name Ag47.

As it left there was certainly less wash than conventional boats.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

My Landmark of the Week
Stogursey  Castle

Exterior, Stogursey Castle, Somerset

Stogursey, an old village to the east of the Quantocks, was chosen as his principal base by William de Courcy, Steward to Henry I. Both his son and his grandson married heiresses and the de Courcys became even more important. So, too, did their castle. Then the male line failed, and the castle was inherited by Alice de Courcy. She entertained King John here in 1210, when her husband won 20 shillings from him ‘at play’.

Later on the Percys from Northumberland inherited it but, after a minor part in the Wars of the Roses, they could find no useful purpose for it as it stood and they did not think it worth rebuilding as a less fortified seat. So time and neglect, and adaptation to more humble uses, reduced it to ruins, in which it has lain ever since.

The small dwelling formed inside the gate towers of the castle has seventeenth-century roof timbers and was repaired in the 1870s; but when we found it, the entire castle had vanished beneath a mantle of vegetation. Clearing this and dredging the moat revealed an unsuspected thirteenth-century bridge. We also recovered some chain mail and other warlike fragments from the mud. The cottage makes a strange dwelling but a pleasant one, still commanding the only entrance to the castle’s grassy inner ward, scene of all those doings long ago.

Castles don't come much smaller than this - and with a drawbridge!

Sleeps: 4

  • Open fire
  • Moated garden
  • Parking nearby
  • Dogs allowed

Please Note

A public footpath runs past the eastern end of the bridge.
 Best  Wishes 
 St.  George's Day  

Fly the flag today

Friday, 22 April 2011

Homage to Humph

Whilst in London I felt the urge to revisit Mornington Crescent. Apart from station being a fine example of Tube architecture with its tile-clad walls, it was immortalised by Humphrrey Lyttleton on the Radio 4 show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue.

Across the road is the Lyttleton Arms which sounds like a tribute to the great man.

On this occasion I was able to find a clue to that query.

With the temperature approaching 80deg F I very reluctantly succumbed to temptation and entered this establishment for refreshment.
Now, I prefer to drink my ale from a proper tankard but these are so hard to find in London pubs I have  given up asking for them. For one thing the staff, often from Eastern Europe, do not always understand my request and those that do understand consider me some kind of deviant.  Such perspicacity is not welcome.  On this occasion I selected a pint of the Battersea-brewed Wandle Ale and it appeared in a tankard. Now that Humph would  have been pleased with as indeed I was.
This picture is for Dave the Rave
I should mention that the ale was very good and the menu for lunch almost as imaginative as at  The Narrow and considerably cheaper.

Well worth a visit (if you are moored in Paddington Basin the 27 bus will take you all the way)

Whilst there I would also recommend a 50 yd walk to the old Carreras factory more of which I  will reveal tomorrow if I have any data time left on my dongle.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Mermaids of Limehouse
Water quality has improved so much over the past few years that the mermaids have returned to Limehouse Basin. 

On Sunday April 17, soon after the London Marathon had passed the basin for the second time (south side mile 14; north side mile 21) this mermaid was spotted by our intrepid reporter, April Sage.

Suggestions that this is no mermaid but just another drunk who jumped onto the roof of a moored boat and fell overboard are strongly contested.
Overheard at Gordon Ramsay's Narrow Pub.........
(Formerly The Barley Mow)

"Here is your side order of ships, sir".

"I didn't order **ing ships, I ordered Fish and Chips"

"My apologies, chef".

Monday, 18 April 2011

Engine Failure on River ThamesI have been watching the boats leaving Limehouse Basin today to make their forays up and down the Thames.

When I first went out it was low tide and nothing could have escaped from Limehouse Basin.  The inlet on the left of this picture is the entrance to the basin.

Boats going upstream are destined to re-enter the Grand Union Canal at Brentford or to reach the limit of the tidal section at Teddington.  They leave Limehouse on an incoming tide to carry them at enhanced speed aiming to reach their destination just as the tide turns which makes their entry into their destination lock more manageable than if they we being carried with the  flow or fighting the ebb.

Narrowboat Tiddler was the  only boat heading for Teddington today so they  left around 11.30am encountering the wash from a waterbus immediately!

However they were soon on their way on a calm river.

An hour later three narrowboats set off for Brentford, two of them returning with the tide at 6pm by which time the wind had picked up and the water was a trifle choppy .
I took a break at this point whilst a variety of cruisers made their exodus up and down stream. By mid afternoon the river was higher than the basin and the lock was lifting boats rather than dropping them before disgorging them into the arms of Old Father Thames.

At this stage in the day there is insufficient air-draft under Narrow Street and the road has to be swung to the side to allow passage.

Compare the water level here with the picture of Tiddler leaving a few hours earlier in the day.

However this procedure was interrupted by developments outside the lock in the river.

A small cargo ship passing Gordon Ramsay's pub lost its power and took refuge against the river wall creating quite a stir amongst the diners and drinkers.

This was not a problem until the ebb tide swung the vessel round so that it partially obstructed the lock approach.

So the road bridge was returned to perform its role as a highway whilst the matter was considered.


Finally it was decided that the expertise of the boat crew was sufficient to navigate the reduced exit and away they went.

Francesca Prior , I believe, had suffered oil loss through a leaky or broken pipe which was repaired in an hour or so and she, too, left the scene

Oh I do find it interesting down here.  Perhaps we will stay for another day.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

My Landmark of the Week
Clavell  Tower

Since the summer of 1830, Clavell Tower has stood sentinel on a wild and open stretch of the Dorset coast. It was built by a seventy-year-old clergyman, The Reverend John Richards Clavell, who unexpectedly inherited the Smedmore Estate, on which it stands, in 1817. Why he built the tower is not clear; it has served as both folly and seamark since. With its twelve columns and pierced parapets all of local stone, a journalist reporting its completion called it ‘as elegant a building as any the county of Dorset can boast of ’. The young Thomas Hardy used the tower as a frontispiece for his Wessex Poems and courted a local coastguard’s daughter here.

The geology of this coastline is at once a glory and a threat: it brought designation as a World Heritage site, but the friable Kimmeridge shales also cause gradual erosion for which there is no remedy. By 2002, Clavell Tower (which had stood empty and increasingly derelict since the Great War) was left perilously close to the edge of the crumbling cliff.

Desperate remedies were needed if it was not to be lost forever. We considered all the options, and were left with the difficult conclusion that the only feasible way to save the tower was to dismantle it and re-erect it on sounder footings, further back from the cliff’s edge, carefully positioned to capture as many of its original site lines within the landscape as possible.

The result is at least as elegant as the original and has saved a well-loved local landmark, known to many who have walked the South West Coastal Path past its door. You too must walk, for ten minutes or so, up to the tower on the cliff top, leaving your car below. The effort will be worth it to stay in this unparalleled spot.

Sleeps: 2

  • Gas coal fire
  • Access by steep footpath only
  • Parking 170 yards away at foot of cliff
  • Dogs allowed

Please Note

Clavell Tower is heavily booked until 2012. Please contact the Booking Office directly for availability.

The climb can be daunting especially when the ground is wet.
Perhaps an opportunity to order groceries from Occado!

The original site of the tower is likely to disappear into the sea  soon

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Back a Bit
We are moving back to Uxbridge today in order to meet up with the marine engineer who is replacing our calorifier tomorrow.  Sometime over the winter the calorifier (hot water tank for non-boaters)  developed a split which we did not identify until April 1st which was no joke.  We had been mopping up water from the bilge for a while and thought that we had solved the problem when we found the pressure release valve leaking but replacing that did not stop the development of a small paddling pool in the engine room. If all goes well we will be all fixed up and on our way back to London on Friday. 
I expect Brenda and Graham on nb Jannock will pass us whilst we are laid up.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Grand Union Fauna

The ducks on the Grand Union have developed a new game.  It involves dashing into the lock with a boat just  as the gates shut and then sharing the ride down as the water is emptied.Three times during our trip from Ricky to Bulls Bridge  we encountered these adventurous ducks.

We have not seen this lioness on previous trips. either

Another new comer is this young lady

and King Kong is still hanging around

The dinosaur of Kings Langley is well known  (to all, apparently, except Graham on Jannock)  so I won't repeat my pictures of three years ago.

Have a look at Graham's blog if you have missed this creature.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Hot Chocolate 2
I am not sure that anyone reading the earlier posting "Hot Chocolate" appreciated the time and date of its publication.
 - 11.59 am April 1st
I did, in fact, buy a chocolate  cake amongst the half price bargains at Tesco without reading the package properly: I did suggest that the solution would be to buy and return a microwave: but we actually ate it uncooked.
Shan't do that again.
Back on line
For the past week we have been moored in Paddington Basin without a strong enough signal to post on the blog.
This morning we moved around the corner to Delamere Terrace which is near Little Venice and are now connected.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

My Landmark of the Week
Silverton  Stables

Exterior, Silverton Park Stables, Devon

In 1837 Captain the Hon. George Francis Wyndham, RN unexpectedly found himself 4th Earl of Egremont. His uncle, the 3rd Earl, had failed to legitimise his natural heir by omitting to marry his son’s mother. Wyndham also inherited an estate at Silverton and set out to create a vast classical mansion on a scale to rival his cousin’s pile at Petworth. He planned a stable block to match.

The 4th Earl’s architect was J.T. Knowles (senior), a self-taught Reigate man and a believer in a patented metallic cement render. The mansion that sprang up at Silverton Park exploited this versatile material, using it to clothe double-height colonnades.

On a rise to the rear of the mansion, Wyndham charged Knowles with erecting an imposing block to house and display his carriages and provide stabling for his teams of horses and their grooms.

In 1845, with the stables in use but before the brick cadre could receive its coat of the famous patented cement, Wyndham died. The estate never regained its momentum. The contents of the mansion were auctioned off in 1892 and a few years later the house was demolished. The unfinished stable block was left as an imposing and romantic monument to the 4th Earl’s grandiose ambitions and was used in a desultory way for agricultural purposes. It turned out to be one of our most intractable projects, finally unlocked by the enthusiasm of one particularly loyal supporter.

You will stay mainly in the south range, with views of the rolling Devon countryside from a common room behind the giant portico. Bedrooms opening off staircases around the courtyard give a sense of collegiate life, yet we hope too that you still catch a sense of the equestrian as you enter through monumental gates.

This building is available for bookings for groups of 5, 7, 9, 11 or 14 people. For prices and further information please visit our New Landmarks page.
Despite its size we drove past without finding it on our first attempt. Plenty of room for children to run around safely and ideal space for al fresco dining.   When we did get there I took the following photos

This bedroom still has evidence of its original use as tack room

Sleeps: 14
Beds: 3S 3D III 

  • Solid fuel stove
  • Enclosed courtyard and open grounds
  • Adjacent parking
  • Dogs allowed

Saturday, 2 April 2011

My  Landmark of the  Week
Hackfall  Ruin

However well we get to know our buildings, they can still surprise us. It took Landmark some 15 years to acquire this little pavilion, dramatically perched above a steep wooded gorge in the remnants of an outstanding mid-eighteenth-century picturesque garden at Hackfall. The garden was conceived and created by the Aislabies, who also made the gardens at nearby Studley Royal. Hackfall was Studley’s antithesis: a ‘natural’ Gothic landscape with follies, waterfalls and built structures. The Ruin is one of these, a tiny banqueting house which we have allowed to keep its eighteenth-century name, trusting our visitors to share the Aislabies’ sense of irony.

The Ruin is a typically Janus-faced Georgian folly: smoothly Gothic on its public elevation, which leads through to a rugged, Romanesque, triple-domed ‘ruin’ redolent of ancient Rome and Piranesi, and framing a terrace set before one of the finest views in North Yorkshire. It had indeed become a ruin when we set our stonemasons to work to sift, stitch and point it back together. Work was well underway when we had our surprise – a discovery that was, in fact, entirely consistent with Hackfall’s pedigree. Our building archaeologist noticed a striking similarity between The Ruin’s Romanesque elevation and a watercolour, Design for a Roman Ruin, by Robert Adam. It offers an unusual example of the work of this greatest of eighteenth-century British architects, better known for his more formally Classical houses and interiors.

The three rooms enclosed by this unique exterior never communicated with each other, and we have kept them so. A richly decorated sitting-room is flanked by a bedroom and bathroom; flitting between the two wings across a moonlit terrace is a truly Gothic experience.

Sleeps: 2

  • Solid fuel stove
  • Small garden
  • Parking nearby

Please Note

The terrace is open to walkers on certain days. Please contact the Booking Office for further details. Open Days are held at The Ruin annually. Please check 'Visiting Landmarks' on our website for details.

Our youngest spent his honeymoon here.
On the Sunday morning he was returning to the bedroom from a visit to the bathroom, which is only reached by walking outside, when he encountered three ramblers. 
I don't know who was the more surprised - the ramblers or our naked son.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Missing Links
Just a reminder that when you are bored with Gecko's Progress there are some links to other interesting sites.  Look down the panel on the right for the heading 'Links'
Don't forget to come back to Gecko's Progress, though. (It might get interesting whilst you are away!)
Hot Chocolate
Whilst selecting items from Tesco's yellow label range I found this lovely Cadbury's Hot Chocolate Cake which I purchased.  However I had not noticed that it required 20 seconds in the microwave first and we do not have such a machine.  So, no problem, back to Tesco for a microwave: zap the cake: return microwave to Tesco.
Job done.