Wednesday, 31 July 2013


OK, so you want recipes.
I cannot adjudicate on these as I have not tried them and suspect that there has been an element of cross-fertilisation between the various cakes over the years.

Delia's Eccles cakes can be found here.

The BBC version is here

Chorley cake recipe

Jamie Oliver's version of Banbury Cakes

And the BBC version

Good cooking.
If you need someone to sample them just let me know

Monday, 29 July 2013

Banbury, Chorley or Eccles

I am rather partial to Eccles cakes;

or are they Chorley cakes;

perhaps they are Banbury cakes. 

Anyway they are not really cakes but pastries.
Unless you shop at Greggs where they do not exist in any incarnation.
I know what I like and don't like.  I like them full of currants and peel and spices: I do not like them full of brown cake and dotted with currants. I prefer them with  flaky pastry but am content if they have short crust.  They are great with a wedge of Lancashire or Cheshire cheese but are acceptable solo.
Yesterday there were essential engineering works being carried out on the tram system in Manchester so our planned journey to Oldham was aborted and we went, instead, to Eccles.
There we had a cup of tea and an Eccles cake baked in Eccles.

O what a delight - warm and fruity .

This was not in Starbuckets or Costa Packet:  tea was 65p for a cup or 70p for a mug

This cafe - The Larder - had probably not been modernised since the 1960s

It was obviously built to last with solid wood furniture designed to facilitate the broom and mop.

Further up the street many shops had closed down and so we were pleased to be able to support an independent trader providing an essential and popular service.

Sunday, 28 July 2013


What a storm last night!
This morning the canal had a flow on it like the River Mersey.  The canal had risen so much that our centre rope was holding us down so that we had a serious list.
I fixed that and then could not get back onto the boat as it was too high for me.
Photo:  C&RT

I have been reminded by Graham of nb Jannock that lock 20 of the Wolverhampton flight is still being repaired and may disrupt our planned itinerary.
We are hoping it will be repaired in time but if not, we will make a detour.

This is what the repairs looked like a few days ago.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

More Fun in Blackburn

More pictures from the Blackburn Canal Fest showing the range of dancing which was being demonstrated.
The Lancashire Wallopers Clog Dancing

Belly Dancing

The Great Gatsby

Strictly come Dancing

The Dapa Divas

Friday, 26 July 2013

Old Friends

We saw more boats yesterday than we had in the previous week. This takes some getting used to.
When we moored near Astley our neighbour was Fizzical Attraction who was on the BCN Explorer Cruise with us last year.
This morning as we passed through Leigh, Rainbow Lorikeet was moored on the bank . This originally belonged to Janet & Craig who  sold up and went to Oz a couple of years ago.
On the last leg of our journey into Manchester around 11 o'clock we met Andrew and Wendy on Lord Toulouse who, you will remember, participated in the Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant last year.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Wigan Locks

We descended the Wigan flight of 21 locks today.  This is our sixth passage in as many years but the first time completely alone: no boat to share locks with and no additional labour.  We anticipated this taking seven hours  but we completed it in 5 hours 40 mins.  We set off at 7am and did not meet another boat until about three locks from the bottom. The locks on this canal are 60ft long and 14ft wide. 

Gecko is 58ft long without the fenders front and rear, so is about the maximum length possible. In order to open the bottom gates to exit the lock, Gecko has to be backed right up to the top gates. 

Wigan locks are so neglected that this manoeuvre takes me into a cataract which crashes onto the counter and sometimes down the steps. There is, however, one lock which has no leaks and all its paddle gear working: it is by Kirklees Hall Inn where non-boaters sit outside to spectate on the idyllic canal life.  Is this a co-incidence or am I a cynic?

With this contemptuous attitude by the authorities it is hardly surprising that the local population treat the canal as a rubbish tip.
This was just part of the rubbish retrieved from this lock.

Presumably it has been left on the side so that it can be thrown back in.

The original location of Dover Locks, now moved to Wigan
After lunch and a brief shopping trip we decided to press on along the Leigh branch towards Manchester.  We first encounter two more locks!  These are by way of a bonus as they were moved four miles from Dover Bridge when the canal subsided so much due to coal mining that they were redundant in their original location.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Last of the Summer Whine

For the past few weeks we have been enjoying a heat-wave similar to that of 1976. 
Is that true?  I seem to have been hearing an increasing frequency of moans about it being too hot. Yesterday was the hottest day in Britain for seven years, we are told: We slept with the side hatch open and portholes removed. 
Fortunately when the rain came it was accompanied by thunder and so we woke quickly enough to replace them all. 
On our journey today -  ten miles and seven locks - everyone we met was complaining that the hot weather had gone.  We are starting to sound like a nation of farmers, rather than shopkeepers as Napoleon opined.
Tomorrow we have to descend the 21 locks at Wigan which will take us anything up to eight hours and will result in us mooring tomorrow night three miles from here, having consumed £10 of diesel in the process. 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Blackburn Canal Fest - don't miss the fun!

Sunday morning - sun is still asleep but that has not stopped the fun here

Even the local police have been dancing

Blackburn Canal Fest

Every town in England seems to have a canal festival and they often follow the same format: a village fete with boats added. I can't help feeling a little peeved when boaters are charged for mooring where it is normally free whilst visitors pay nothing to gawk at the boaters.

Blackburn's first effort at staging a canal festival  this weekend scores on both these points.

Located at the old canal wharf  near bridge 103, the two businesses on site are fully supporting the event.
The Wharf Pub and Calypso Restaurant roasted a pig.
Dapa Dance School demonstrated various forms of dancing with all age ranges.

In the evening the junior actors presented an open air production of Whistle Down the Wind.
The programme for Sunday looks interesting with a variety of musical and dancing contributions.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Activity at Aylesbury

Last week we popped in to Aylesbury Canal Society to collect some post and see some friends.

The Travelodge and multi-storey car park are progressing and now dominate the basin.

At Circus Field where the new basin is being constructed, the testing has revealed some leaks  near the dry dock.

The remedy is to inject grouting at very high pressure until it appears in the basin which should indicate that the leaks are sealed.

Meanwhile, the repairs of lock 12 are progressing slowly: CaRT have postponed the repair completion date from Aug to the end  of October. Boats booked in to Aylesbury for the winter will be lifted in by CaRT.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

All Bends and Bridges

Gecko has been stationary for nine weeks and it felt a little strange driving today: yes, we are moving again!
We left Reedley Marina this morning and, after topping up the diesel and water tanks, we set off towards Blackburn.  As usual in July, the canal was low so our speed was below our customary 3mph..  We moored at one of our favourite spots near Clayton-le-Moors.  On this occasion we arrived at what we believed to be our private spot to find another boat already moored. Being generous folks we did not evict them. In the ten miles we cruised today we passed through 42 bridges and negotiated bends too numerous to count. We had no trouble counting the boats we met - zero.  Not one moving boat did we meet all day.  This was nothing to do with the broken cill at Johnson's Hill locks or the almost immovable swing bridges at Church: there is never any traffic on this canal.
We are heading for the Canal Festival at Blackburn this weekend so will make an early start tomorrow as we have the swing bridges ath Church to cope with before wwe get there.

We're Back

After two months visiting friends and celebrating our ruby wedding anniversary we are now back home aboard Gecko.  The weather reminds us of our time in USA and is very welcome.
I will resume blogging tonight:  thanks for waiting.