Essential Maintenance? After our day off yesterday we left Banbury this morning with the hope of passing through the locks at Claydon before they are chained up for the night. The Oxford Canal is so short of water that the locks at either end of the summit pound are only open form 10am to 2pm each day.
With the shortage of water so critical it was good to see that BW can spare two men and a boat for sweeping around the lock at Cropredy rather than such frivolous activities as repairing leaky lock gates which look like Niagara Falls
Pump It Up
The Kennet and Avon Canal is about 75 miles from Reading to Bath and a cross section of it shows the steady climb up from the east and the impact of the Caen Hill flight of locks at Devizes.
Water supply is always an important consideration when designing a canal. From Reading to Kintbury water is supplied primarily from the River Kennet: The western section of the canal draws water from the River Avon. At various poionts on the canal these fluvial sources are augmented by back-pumping, particularly at Caen Hill where the electric pump at Foxhanger can raise a lock full of water to the top of the flight every 11 minutes. In the past pumps were not electric.
Crofton was powered by steam supplied by two Lancashire boilers. These are run about once a month during the summer for tourists to view.
Last year, however, the modern electric pump failed and Crofton Steam Pumping Station came into its own by fulfilling its original role.
Restoration of the Crofton pump was undertaken by the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust but these plaques remind us of the immense debt we owe to Sir John Smith and his Manifold Trust. Sir John, who also foounded The Landmark Trust, was also instrumental in bringing Brunel's SS Great Britain hack to Bristol from the Falklands where it was rusting awy. A great man, who I had the priviledge of meeting, and who achieved much without seeking glory for himself.
At Claverton, near Bath, a very neat solution was employed which has overtones of the search for perpetual motion:
The water was lifted from the River Avon to the canal by a waterwheel powered by the River Avon itself.
This suffered from inundation whenever the river was in flood and is no longer operational although the mechanism is run by electric power on open days.
About half way down the Widcombe flight of locks which take the canal down into the Avon at Bath is what many passersby think is a monument of some kind. It is the remaning chimney from a pumping station which used to porvide back-pumping for the flight.
I have been chastised by an American reader for using the word voracity when I intended to use veracity. After highlighting gramatical shortcommings of others in the past I have to hold my hand up and accept due humiliation.
A Walk on the Wild Side
I have just returned from a day trip to London for a hospital appointment.
The train from Newbury takes about an hour to Paddington and I had time to walk around Paddington Basin before taking the 205 bus to Old Street.
Not many boats moored but a little activity on the opposite bank. By the road bridge there is a patch of undergrowth in which a man has been living for about seven years. I do not know the why or wherefore but we have seen evidence of his habitation on our visits.
Today, however, the council are clearing the area.
Apparently the previous occupant is in prison.
A BW employee told me that it is not BW land and she did not know why the council had not been able to remove the incumbent sooner. She added that the workmen had found about 200 suitcases in the debris they were clearing. The suggestion is that he had been claiming lost property from Paddington Station.
Further down I discovered that on Tuesdays there is now a food market with about half a dozen stalls selling various foreign delights.
Not to be outdone by Bradford-upon-Avon the operators of Merchants' Square have their own Pea Soup.
The moorhens are entering into the spirit of competition and demonstrating how they cope with it.
When the residents of the surrounding property chose to exclude canal boats from the basin was this their preferred choice?
At the bottom of the Widcombe flight of locks in Bath there is this graffiti which I have been told is by the great Bristol artist - Banksy. I have no way of checking the veracity of this claim but it is certainly very good. What a pity some talentless twerps has added their pointless efforts.
A Hole in the Wall
Last week on BBC Radio 4's The Food Programme the impact of George Perry-Smith on post war dining was being extolled. His first, and possible his greatest, restaurant was The Hole in the Wall in George Street,Bath. He only ever owned one restaurant at a time and would not have been happy with the current cult of celebrity chefs. There is still an establishment of the same name in the same place but it was sad to read this week in the local paper that an inspection by the Public Protection Service found the following:
>Mould covering the walls and ceilings of the washing up area
>Food debris, rubbish and dirty water in the kitchen
>Unclean chopping boards, bowl, mixer, microwave and freezer door seal
>Broken door seals on a fridge
>Ready-to-eat foods kept uncovered and exposed to mould
George Perry-Smith's kitchen was open for diners to view and hence was a spotless and polite environment at all times.
A whole different place!