Thursday, 26 December 2013

Look what Santa brought us!

There are some parts of UK we cannot reach comfortably by canal - Scotland, for a start.  And there are places in Europe which do not freeze up in the winter.
We hope our Murvi will help us to reach those parts Gecko cannot.
Day 1 - Paignton Seafront

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Season's Greetings to all my Readers

Thank you for visiting my humble blog over the past year.  I hope it has been enjoyable and perhaps a little entertaining and educational.
Have a good Christmas and see you in the New Year.

Monday, 2 December 2013

60% Price Hike at Boots

Around this time each year I take my USB stick of interesting photos to Boots and get some printed. I do this once a year because if I print 200 pictures they cost 5p each which I reckon isn't bad.  Well this year the price has been increased to 8p which is somewhat above the rate of inflation.
How can this be justified?
Having found several items in Boots are 10% more expensive than in Waitrose the loyalty card does not seem quite such an advantage now.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

First Boat through Lock 12

Yesterday lock 12 on the Aylesbury Arm was finally opened to traffic.  The first boat to come down was nb Gloriana.

In the evening Aylesbury Canal Society held their AGM and following supper they were treated to a presentation by Jewff Whyatt, the Senior Waterways Manager for the South East. A cynic might suggest that the opening of lock 12 a few hours before this was no co-incidence. For Jeff to give up his Saturday night for C&RT was a privilege which I think all members appreciated. His message was generally upbeat but smacked a little of jam tomorrow, particularly with the planned spend on major works illustrated here.
The inevitable question from the floor was - Why did an eight-week repair take eight months and cost £800,000?
At this point  I am afraid the answer was as predictable as the question and included such platitudes as we have learned a lot.   As Jeff reminded us at the start of his presentation, BW  took over management of the canals in 1962.  After  50 years they might be expected to be well into their leaning.
I was reminded of the commercial panacea that was popular when I was working: outsourcingThis is the process where a set of activities are transferred from in-house to a contractor who claims he can do it cheaper.  The company then washes its hands of all supervision, monitoring and management with the result that it all goes sour. At this point another contractor  is brought in and the cycle is repeated.
Today we took a walk up the canal to look at lock 12. Unfortunately it is still not accessible on foot as the towpath is blocked off.  However we could see what looks like a cheap ply-wood repair on the bottom gates.  I hope that we are mistaken.
Lock 13 - Red House - has also undergone some repairs to the bottom gate. But it still took three of us to open it which for the single-hander we were helping was hardly an improvement. C&RT have taken the opportunity to install a long access path to the lock with a gently gradient. This, I assume, is for wheelchairs and/or cycles.
Statistics relating to canal visits vary considerably but whichever figures you use they all show that about 95%of visits are made by people who do not contribute directly to C&RT's coffers. I have queried before the spending priorities  exercised by C&RT and do not apologise for returning to the subject.
Above lock 13 there is a hole in the towpath where water is leaking out of the canal noisily. Over the eight months that the canal has been closed was it not possible to carry out some preventative maintenance here? Or  are we waiting for this to qualify for the Major Works budget?

Monday, 18 November 2013

There is a word for it

I have not verified the following bu, if correct, says something about our current state of affairs
Pythagoras' Theorem:                            24 words.
Lord's Prayer:                                            66 words.
Archimedes' Principle:                                67 words.
Ten Commandments:                                    179 words.
Gettysburg Address:                                         286 words.
US Declaration of Independence :                     1,300 words.
US Constitution with all 27 Amendments:             7,818 words.

EU Regulations on the Sale of CABBAGES:             26,911 words

Friday, 15 November 2013

Narrowboat SOLD - in France!


Dream  On
A rare opportunity to buy a live-aboard narrowboat with its own mooring
in France
Dream On is eleven years old.  It has spent half its life on the English (and Welsh) canals and half in France.  It was built for our friends who have lived on it all that time.  They are now going native and buying a house in France.  Not only is this a comfortable boat which has been cared for (we have stayed on it and can vouch for that), the moorings are really amazing.  Located on the outskirts of Arras and on the site of the national watersports training centre. This is where the French Olympic team train.  If you have any experience of UK moorings then you had better sit down for this one:
950 Euros per year including water and electricity
with a discount in year 2 and 3  !!!!
  We have just learned that the buyer  of Dream On found it first on this blog.

How to reduce your electricity bill

There is considerable interest in the cost of electricity and gas at the moment.
I can recommend one way of reducing your electricity bill:
Dump your DAB radio - it uses 17 times as much power as the equivalent FM one and delivers an inferior service.
To read the full story of The Digital Fallacy click here.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

New Boss of C&RT Has Plans for The Year Ahead

After a few months looking around his domain, the new boss of C&RT, Richard Parry, made the following statement last week:
"All our many users, especially boaters, [my itallics] are vital to the Trust. I want to make sure we listen carefully to views from the cut and openly share our ideas and plans for the future so that we get input from those whose commitment to our waterways is greatest."
And he announced his plans for the year ahead.............

The year ahead

"We have a lot to talk about as we shape our planning for the years ahead. I want to make sure our plans align with what our customers want. There are also things we can do in the short term that will make a difference in the next year. So today I'm announcing a range of initiatives to engage with and benefit boaters and waterway users in general. Our governance arrangements already provide us with considerable input from waterway users through our Council, local Waterway Partnerships, and Advisory Groups—especially the Navigation Advisory Groups. Whilst we value these relationships I am determined to do more to open up the Trust's thinking to as wide a range of views as possible.

  • A series of open meetings planned for Richard to meet boaters and hear their views, starting in early 2014;
  • Carrying out a large scale survey of Boat Owners views this winter with the results to be published in the spring;
  • Setting up an on-going boaters' research panel to track regularly what a representative sample of boaters thinks about what we're doing and the hot topics of the day to inform what the Trust does;
  • A programme of regular meetings with both the national boating organisations and local user groups to discuss the Trust's longer term priorities including, in a fresh approach to planning, the Trust's proposals for its repair and maintenance work with discussion of the Trust's work programme for 2014/15 and beyond;
  • The Trust will also seek informal input from national user groups to the emerging plan to target up to an extra £2m spend on control of offside vegetation this winter in response to feedback already gathered from this autumn's local user group meetings;
  • Regular social media live chat sessions with Richard Parry to reach those who may not be able to come to meetings;
  • Identifying boaters willing to help us achieve better communication on the ground, working with the Trust's waterway teams to provide up-to-date information to those out cruising via notice boards and the ‘towpath telegraph' as well as digital media;
  • Bi-monthly updates on the Trust's efforts to support better and fairer use of towpath moorings, with the first report available now;
  • A review of our traditional User Group meetings to ensure they meet the needs of boaters and other users and to encourage as many people as possible to attend."      

Friday, 1 November 2013

On The Level?

The British Heart Foundation publishes a booklet aimed at clarifying the safe quantity of salt we should consume.  I learnt that if a quantity of Sodium is declared on a food product then I should multiply this by 2.5 to equate it to the Salt intake.
However, I did find this picture a trifle confusing.
At first glance this illustration appeared to me to be a heaped teaspoon, not a level one as described.
On closer examination I can see that the spoon is not filled to the rim and the contents may indeed equate to a level spoonful.
I wonder if every reader will take a second look.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Progress at Lock 12

Despite the weather forecast, it is sunny here today and I decided to take a look at lock 12 (the one that collapsed back in March).
Repairs at lock 12 (Red House lock 13 in the distance))

It is not possible to get close to the lock but it appears that a concrete lining has been installed and that this is being faced with brick.

I understand that the lock gate repairs should be completed next week and so a completion date of November 25 is still realistic. 

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Up,Up and Away

Yesterday was the great day: Gecko was lifted out of the canal in Milton Keynes and transported by road to her winter moorings at Circus Field in Aylesbury.
For those who are not up to date with the story so far, here is a reprise.
In March, lock 12 on the Aylesbury Arm collapsed due to inexplicable neglect of maintenance over at least eight years to my personal knowledge. C&RT promised it would be repaired in time for August Bank Holiday.  In April they lifted out 24 boats who were stuck in the town basin and put them back into the canal in Milton Keynes.  For the next six months C&RT made no repairs but paid a team of men to guard the lock 24 hours a day. In August the completion date for repairs was revised to October 25.  In September C&RT revised this date again to November 25 and lifted eleven boats back from MK to Aylesbury. This left a number of us still out on the system with a repair date which moved away from us all the time like a mirage.  Hence the lift out yesterday. Originally there were 15 boats requesting a lift but some have decided to make other arrangements and so there were just five of us.

First out was Exe. Weighing thirty tons, a special crane was required which accompanied her to Aylesbury to put us all back in the water.

Next was the hotel boat Earlswood.  The continued closure of the arm upset the itinerary for their last guests of the season.  The destination was changed to Berkhamsted in place  of Aylesbury.

To keep the  lifting team on their toes the next boat was a V-bottomed Springer - Black Swan .  This had to be carefully chocked on the lorry to prevent it rolling off.

The only one of us with a traditional engine, Jarrah was lifted next: watched closely by the owner Nigel who fitted it out himself.
The most important boat was kept to last
In order that the boat is lifted in as level an attitude as possible the lifting slings have to be carefully aligned. This is traditionally done after stomping in thick mud before assuming the appropriate positions on the boat roof
As Gecko is rather tail-heavy she was loaded facing backwards on the lorry.
The exit from Willowbridge Boatyard is not generous and appears rather scary.  It was probably here that the contents of our 'fridge  decided to relocate to the kitchen floor.

As we arrived at Circus Field we passed a boat on its way in the other direction.

Shortly after, Gecko was returned to her familiar medium.

This is where we will be for the next five months.

Thursday, 24 October 2013


Please feel free to append your comment to any post that interests or annoys you.
Many people do so but I suspect that their contribution may not get as wide an audience as the original post.  This is becasue the comment appears at the end of the post concerned and often this is not the latest one (some go back years)
To redress this, here are a fe of the recent comments with a link to the original pos

 Hi Peter I agree with your comment quote - Early morning dog walkers and joggers, commuting cyclists, anglers, weekend mountain bikers, mid-morning pushchairs and Sunday family strollers all bring something - unquote. Except there is one thing they don't bring - £££££ James on An Illustration of C&RT's Attitude

 Exactly! on An Illustration of C&RT's Attitude

48hr moorings with nowhere for your rope, the sign off things to come. I've just bought a new 16mm drill bit for my hammer drill so I'll be all right :-) on SUCS to C&RT ! 

 I thought of tying Gecko to the trees. And that 48 hr post looks quite sturdy...... on SUCS to C&RT !

 This is awesome! on An Illustration of C&RT's Attitude

 The people from South Wales are wonderful people. Paul, Chris & Ivy on Audlem Lock wheelers

This family were wonderful. The lads, espcially James thje younger one was so inquisitive and intersted. They both had rides on Gecko through a lock and were great. they were on a two week holiday and appear to have spent most days on or near the canals.They live near my cousin and know the local chippie. However I would not go so far as to say that all people from S. Wales are wonderful - there are one or two odd ones. on Audlem Lock wheelers 

From Graham Greene - The End of the Affair" - "I remember Henry chose a Vienna steak - it was a mark of his innocence. I really believe he had no idea what he was ordering and expected something like a Wiener Schnitzel. ... he was too I'll at ease to comment on the dish and managed to to ram the pink soggy mixture down." on Vienna Steak 

I found The End of the Affair so moving that when I later bought the soundtrack to the film (which I have not seen) I could not listen to it without getting upset. If you have not heard the music I suggest you borrow it from the library in case you, too, find it too emotive. on Vienna Steak 

 I didn't know that. And I doubt many of the software engineers I worked with in the 90s knew that either. Mo on For the Love of Ada or Was Babbage a Cabbage?

No, me too. Although I am not surprised. Appalled yes! But not surprised by the idiocy of the law! If the magistrate had his hands tied by the law couldn't he at least have made it a custodial sentence? And surely, if a dog is dangerous and out of control it doesn't matter where it is! Kath (nb Herbie) on I Don't Understand 

 Hi Peter Here is a bit about Esther if you are still out there. There is a Face Book group which is trying to save Esther. Esther is a sail trawler. This is her web page Below is her Face Book page. I would be pleased if you could join her Face Book group and tell your friends if you think this is a good cause. Kind regards Eugene Forrester onA Boat Too Far?

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Stop Locks

This is not a new protest campaign.
The canal 'network' in England was never designed as such.  Although James Brindley  dreamt of the 'Silver Cross' of canals linking the rivers Trent, Mersey, Severn and Thames most canals were built by local people to satisfy local needs. The Duke of Bridgewater built his canal in 1759 to transport the coal from his mines in Worsely to Manchester more cheaply than by road. Where a longer canal was mooted, such as the Trent and Mersey, its supporters all had their own personal axes to grind: one of the original proposers was Josiah Wedgewood who sought an improved method of moving fragile pottery from Stoke-on-Trent to the rest of the country. The success of the Bridgewater Canal stimulated a mania for canal building and dozens of canals were built in the next half century: many more were proposed but did not get built. There is one over-riding rule of canal operation which was difficult to avoid: water  travels downhill.  A constant water supply is required to feed the canal but, whether it comes from reservoirs or rivers, it always drains away at the bottom of the hill. The route which Brindley surveyed from Worseley to Manchester has no locks and crossed rivers by aqueduct.  Very few subsequent canals were able to emulate this and so locks were employed to carry boats up and down hills. Whilst this enabled boats to climb hills it did not prevent the water from heading the other way.  Water supply, therefore, became critical to the success, operationally and economically, of any canal. The individual canal companies were very protective of their water supply and when a new canal proposed linking its route to an existing one protection of each company's water supply was high on the agenda.
This narrow channel in Gas Street, Birmingham is known as Worcester Bar.  When the BCN and the Worcester & Birmingham Canals met here goods were unloaded from one canal and transshipped to the other across a short land barrier: there was no water connection between the two canals!  Later this costly and inefficient practice was abandoned when a pair of lock gates was installed ensuring that a lock full of water passed from one canal to the other only when accompanied by a boat. This too has been abandoned now and the water is free to go where it will.
 A short way out of Birmingham this guillotine lock prevented Worcester & Birmingham water from taking the Stratford-upon-Avon canal down to the River Avon.

Stop locks were employed all over the system: wherever two canal companies met they were used.


At the southern end  of the Bridgewater Canal, where it meets the Trent & Mersey the stop lock not only controls the water but also prevents broad-beamed boats which can operate to the north from entering the T&M canal by tapering the lock chamber.

This device for keeping two bodies of water apart is also employed where a canal and river meet.  Rivers have a tendency of changing level and flow, characteristics not common to canals.

The southern Oxford Canal is joined several times by the River Cherwell and these lozenge-shaped locks prevent changes in the river conditions from affecting the canal.

Tomorrow we will pass through this stop lock at Fenny Stratford.
This was not built to protect one company's water supply from another: it is in the middle of the Grand Union Canal.

When the canal was built, work started at various points on the route and each team of navvies worked towards the others.  When they met at Fenny Stratford it was discovered there was a discrepancy in the level of the two navigations.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Where are they now?

When we first moved onto Gecko we spent two winters moored on the canalbank in Stourport. There were a number of liveaboard boats there who we came to know and who would meet for curry night at the local  J D Wetherspoons each Thursday.
Where are they now?
Dream On is in France and for sale (see details below).
Cloud Nine went to France, came back and was sold
Rainbow Lorikeet was sold and we see it around from time to time.
L'Attitude Adjustment was sold last year but we have not seen it again since
Manama has been sold twice and we have seen ita couple of times.
Plum Crumble was sold. We saw it last week on its new mooring.
Uisce Beatha we saw last summer on the SU.
Puddleduck we believe is still around but our paths have not crossed.
Dolly Day Dream was sold and we saw it last week re-christened DayDream by painting out Dolly.
Free Spirit we think is still in the original ownership and we have seen it from time to time.
Max Babe we think is also still in Stourport
We are coming to the end of our eighth year on Gecko. Perhaps we will visit Stourport next year for a Wetherspoons curry.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

I Don't Understand

The new director of the Football Association, Greg Dyke, has set up a commission to consider how to improve English football. Yesterday the only female board member of FA made a public criticism of the commission's composition because it is comprised exclusively of white men.  She says that the FA is letting down black and ethnic minority people by doing so. Heather Rabbatts felt she had to make her views public because there had been "a refusal to understand" her position in private.
Well, I don't understand, either.
Is she implying that white men will not consider players on their merit but on their skin colour or ethnic origin?  Can she see the irony in her exhibiting the racial prejudice she is condemning? Does she want black and  ethnic members on the commission because they will not be biased in any way?  Or does she agree with the new sports minister, Helen Grant, that "sports governing bodies must reflect the makeup of the diverse society that we live in "?
I hereby put myself forward for membership of the commission as a representative of those in our diverse society who know nothing about football and have no aptitude for picking good players.
Who could you represent?

Saturday, 19 October 2013

I Don't Understand

On 26th March 2013 a fourteen-year-old girl named Jade Lomas-Anderson was mauled to death by four dogs at a friend's house.
Yesterday the owner of the dogs was given a 16-week suspended sentence for causing suffering to animals.
Why was the owner not locked up the with four mad dogs for life?
1)     Apparently there was "insufficient evidence"  to prosecute a case of manslaughter.
2)     The much-criticised Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 did not apply because:
                a)     The dogs were not  a banned breed under the Act.
                b)     The attack took place on private property and the dogs were not "out of control in a public place"
I do not understand how a so-called civilised society can do nothing to punish someone obviously responsible for the horrible death of a young lady but can hand down a derisory sentence for the causing suffering to animals.
Am I the only person who finds this 
impossible to understand?

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

A Female Genius

In writing the blog this morning about Ada Lovelace I came accross reference to a recent book about her.
ada, lovelace, book, lord, byron, daughter,
I have not read it but it may be woth investigation if you would like to know more about our Ada.

For the Love of Ada or Was Babbage a Cabbage?

Today is Ada Lovelace Day

To understand why Ada Lovelace, nee Augusta Ada Byron, is celebrated on October 15 each year it is important to understand a little of the history of computers.
Until the end of the 19th century the term computer applied to a person who calculated things. During that century the work of Charles Babbage caused people to realise machines never get tired and can perform calculations much faster and more accurately than any team of human computers ever could.
If we ignore the abacus then it is generally accepted that the first mechanical computer or automatic computing engine concept was Babbage's Difference Engine of 1822.Unfortunately, because of funding he was never able to complete a full-scale functional version of this machine. 
Analytical EngineHowever, in June1991  the Science Museum in London completed the Difference Engine No 2, using Babbage's plans, for the bicentennial year of his birth and nine years later completed the printing mechanism. 

Babbage went on to propose the first general mechanical computer, the Analytical Engine which contained  an Arithmetical Logic Unit, basic flow control and an integrated memory.In layman's terms, this was the first machine which could hold a programme and process calculations using that programme. (If my  simplification of this is inaccurate please forgive me).  What I mean to say is: this is the first machine which I would call a computer rather than a calculator. Once again Babbage was unable to fund the construction of his theoretical designs and it was left to his son, Henry, to have a stab at it in 1910.
Now we can consider our friend Ada.
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, was born Augusta Ada Byron on 10 December 1815 as the only legitimate child to the poet Lord Byron and his wife
Anne Isabella Byron. All of Byron's other children were born out of wedlock. Byron separated from his wife a month after Ada was born and left England forever four months later, eventually dying of disease in the Greek War of Independence when Ada was eight years old. Ada's mother remained bitter at Lord Byron and promoted Ada's interest in mathematics and logic in an effort to prevent her from developing what she saw as the insanity seen in her father.  Ada, however, remained interested in him despite this and was, upon her eventual death, buried next to him at her request. Ada was employed by Babbage to translate a report on his Analytical Engine by the Italian Menebera which she did whilst adding 20,000 words of her own commentary. Her notes reveal that her understanding of what computers could do and might be capable of was much greater than her employer's. These notes on the Analytical Engine include what is recognised as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine: because of this, she is often considered the world's first computer programmer. to illustrate her foresight consider this extract from her notes:
The Analytical Engine] might act upon other things besides number, were objects found whose mutual fundamental relations could be expressed by those of the abstract science of operations, and which should be also susceptible of adaptations to the action of the operating notation and mechanism of the engine...Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.

This view of Ada as the superior intellect of the relationship is not without its detractors but when the USA Department of Defence asked Honeywell Bull to design a computer language to replace the hundreds currently in use the name it was given was ADA.  This is an international standard recognised by the US Military.  The Military Standard reference manual was approved on December 10, 1980 (Ada Lovelace's birthday), and given the number MIL-STD-1815 in honour of Ada Lovelace's birth year.
Babbage had some understanding of her ability as demonstrated in his description of her to Michael Faraday as:
 An enchantress who has thrown her magical spell around the most abstract of sciences and has grasped it with a force which few masculine intellects could have exerted over it.

Ada went off the rails a little later in life as she had numerous affairs and took to gambling with some of her men-friends. Her attempts to create an algorithm which would beat the odds failed, leaving her with large debts. She died of uterine cancer aged 36 and during her lengthy  suffering her mother prevented friends from visiting her until Ada embraced the Christian faith.

Notwithstanding her personal failings her significance in the development of computing should not be underestimated.
It is a shame, in my view, that the date chosen to celebrate Ada has no significance  to her life but was selected by the Women's Lib movement and hi-jacked by them thus detracting from the glory which should be Ada's.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Talk Talk can't Write Write

Q:   Why is Talk Talk telling us that
 BT is beating deals from Talk Talk?

A:   Because the copy-writer has adopted the slovenly attitude to grammar that is currently the fashion. If this matter is raised the response is usually something along the lines of "grammar doesn't matter, people know what I mean"
Well, do they sunshine?
If I were to stereotype the copywriter I would expect him or her to speak Estuary English, dropping Hs and adopting the glottal stop.
A hyphen between BT and beating would reverse the current meaning and perhaps please the client more than the competitor.

Why Should I Pay Road Fuel Duty on my Central Heating Oil?

Our home is on the canals and at present we use red diesel for heating and lighting - just like we did when we lived in  a house.
The EU wants to stop this and force all 'pleasure craft' to pay fuel duty and full VAT as we currently do for propulsion. Diesel used in central heating boilers  for houses do not pay road fuel duty and attract a reduced rate of VAT - 5% instead of 20%. Since moving on to Gecko eight years ago propulsion fuel has TRIPLED in cost for us. We have no gas  or solid fuel on Gecko and so 80% of our fuel is used for generating electricity and to heat the boat.When the EU proposed removing the red diesel allowance for propulsion a few year ago the government said they would fight it but they ended up horse-trading it for something to please more voters.
This time they must stand up to the EU.  I do not see why I should pay road fuel prices for heating my home because it is on the water not  on the land.
Please read the following petition and sign it if you agree.

Last day to sign

Friday, 4 October 2013

Kissing at Kingswood Jct

When we pulled in to moor near Hockley Heath on Wednesday there was a young lady sitting on the towpath with her mountain bike. Five miles from home this recent graduate in sports science had a puncture and no  repair kit.  So our good deed for the day was to repair the puncture and send her off home. The spot we had selected to spend the afternoon and evening was sunny and fairly quiet although adjacent to a small road.  During the night, however, we realised our mistake.  Acorns and crab apples make a heck of a noise when they fall on a steel roof in the middle of the night and our sleep was disturbed quite frequently. 
Last night we  made a better choice. We moored outside a house with a sign hanging from the eaves: 
A restful night was  guaranteed!
Since joining the Stratford-on-Avon Canal at Kings Norton we have seen more boats than in the previous month.  Mostly hire-boats from Alvechurch or Tardebigge, they all seem to be headed for the Bard's abode.  

Another canal feature we have not encountered for a time is lift-bridges.

This one is operated electrically.

Others require winding by hand.

Here we helped the single-handed  ex-working boat Aldgate through the bridges on his way home from the Historic Boat Gathering at the museum.

Today we descended the Lapworth flight of 20 locks to Kingswood Junction.

I always think of these as well-behaved locks and then get caught out by the giant by-wash which throws the boat off course as you exit the lock.  Just when you get the hang of coping with these they switch sides and catch you out again.

Kingswood Jct is where the Stratford-on-Avon Canal and the Grand Union kiss on their separate journeys south from Birmingham.

And this is where we switch allegiances taking the short connecting channel to continue south on the Grand Union.

Barrel-roofed cottages are a feature of the southern Stratford Canal but this is the only one we will see this year.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Landmark Trust Wins RIBA Stirling Prize

 The RIBA Stirling Prize for architecture in UK has been won this year by 
The Landmark Trust
for the restoration of Astley Castle in Warwickshire

The Landmark Trust rescues properties of architectural and/or historical importance which are under threat of demolition or unsympathetic development.  It restores them as closely to the original design as possible, adding modern facilities, and makes them available for holidays. 
A few years ago Astley Castle would have been left to collapse as it was too dilapidated to accomplish a restoration but a bold decision was made to make the remaining structure safe and build a modern house into its fabric .  This has been accomplished so wonderfully as to impress the judges at the Royal Institute of British Architects. 
(all photographs are from The Landmark Trust)


For more information aboout 

Saturday, 28 September 2013

A Busy Busy Busy Day

Two weeks ago we packed away our summer clothes and put the heating on.
Today the sun was shining again and we went out for the day.

Our first stop was the Balsall Heath Library which is an impressive Victorian structure  with equally impressive helpful staff. My mission was to borrow some books on the contemporaneous Moseley Road Baths next door. These were opened in 1907 and share many design features with the Victoria Baths in Manchester. See my blog from 2010

There are three doors for 
1st Class Men 
2nd Class Men

Second class pool is the only one in use since 2003
Unlike Victoria Baths in Manchester where there were three pools, Moseley Road only has two. Women, both first and second class, shared one entrance but went their separate ways once inside the building. As with the men, slipper baths were provided for each class.

Next stop was Birmingham city centre to visit the first floating market comprising roving traders from the canals.
No cheese boat or fudge boat but Pam's fused glass jewellery appeared popular

After a coffee and sandwich we took the train to Tipton (£2.95 return!) where we popped into the library to view all the photographs entered  for the John Whitehouse Memorial Competition before walking along the canal to the Black Country Living Museum. We had two reasons for visiting the museum for the fourth time this year.  Firstly we won a voucher for free entry to the Dudley Tunnel Trip and secondly the Historic Boats Gathering was taking place there.
About a dozen boats were moored outside the museum  in the Dudley Tunnel arm.

For other boats to enter the museum wharf and lime kiln arm the lift bridge had to be raised which I have not seen before.

This also allowed boats to escape too.

John Pattle executed a remarkable turn  in his tug Pacific towing a butty of passengers which drew applause from the onlooking visitors.

Tunnels under Dudley Castle were dug to extract lime for the iron smelters before they were linked up to form a canal link between Tipton and Netherton

Originally 13 construction shafts were sunk but all but three have now been filled in.  Water percolating through the limestone creates colourful deposits in these shafts and down the tunnel walls.  

By the time we had taken the last tunnel tour of the day we were getting tired and we walked back to Tipton Station for the train to Birmingham New Street.

The station entrance for platform two  is spanned by an arch depicting local industries.

Platform one - for Birmingham - is approached under a similar arch where the sculptures recount the life of William Perry, the Tipton Slasher.

Once we arrived at New Street we decided to eat out as we would arrive back at Gecko rather late for cooking.

Behind New Street station is Chinatown where we have eaten a few times.  On this occasion we did not fancy the buffet and chose instead to try a little noodle shop which was half full of Chinese diners which we felt augured well for the food. If you have eaten in China, as we have, the usual fare of sweet sauces is rather jading.  The Cafe Soya  on Cathay Street is quite unlike this. The food is simple, authentic and served with quiet competence. Quite a revelation and a splendid close to our busy day.