Friday, 31 July 2015

Overtaking in Harecastle Tunnel

It has been suggested to me that as we currently use the second tunnel to be cut through Harecastle Hill that perhaps a a cut through to Brindley's original tunnel might provide a solution for impatient prats. Seems a good idea to me, especially if there is no exit.

Prat of the Day

After we all had a shower at Etruria yesterday we headed on to the Harecastle Tunnel. This is about a mile and a half long and passage takes about 45 mins. In the past southward passage was permitted in the mornings and northwards in the afternoon. This has all changed. Now batches of boats are listed and despatched in one direction wiht two minutes between each boat. Boats are logged into the tunnel with the details being phoned through to the other end for checking on exit.
We set off as number three in our flotilla of eight boats. Somewhere around the half-way point the tunnel narrows and the headroom is reduced. We found we were catching up the boat in front and slowed down to maintain a safe distance. The boat behind us, however,  kept steaming on until he was less than one boat length behind us. I shouted to his to slow down to which he replied "speed up" We have been passing through this tunnel for forty years and I have yet to find a way of overtaking.

After leaving the tunnel we joined the queue to start the descent of the Cheshire Locks, often called Heartbreak Hill, I know not why.

Whilst in the queue nb Smoko caught up with us and deliberately rammed us from behind.

If you see this distinctive livery with the unusual flag keep well clear
- he's a prat of the lowest order.

Image result for flag of falklands The flag?

Falkland Islands

If the population are like this guy then Argentina is welcome to them.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015


Before 7.30 this morning when we set off two boats passed us heading towards Stoke. We followed on through drizzle with short spells of heavy rain and even shorter spells of sun.

Just before the Stoke locks we passed this derelict bottle kiln

Two pints please

Shortly after these two kilns have been preserved in amongst a residential estate: standing like two giant milk bottles

Access to several of these locks involves  crouching down to avoid being wiped out by a low railway bridge

Sometimes the railway is so close it encroaches onto the canal and interferes with the lock operation.

It is really quite difficult to get away from the railways on the climb up to Etruria.

Around 10.30 we tied up at the service block opposite the statue of James Brindley, the surveyor and engineer for the Trent & Mersey Canal.

The pottery has long since gone but I remember when the lower stretches of the Caldon Canal were teeming with catamarans with outboard motors moving part processed pottery from one plant  to another.

Monday, 27 July 2015


The 2015 cruising season has officially started! Last night Dave the Rave and Margaret arrived and this morning we moved Dave's car to Anderton to await our arrival in Gecko. We returned to Stone by train - Northwich-Stockport-Stoke-Stone.  After lunch we set off for the first cruise of the year. 
We had thought of visiting the Wedgwood museum at Barleston but it now costs £15 which  is outside our entertainment and education budget. So we pressed on to Trentham Lock.

Since our last visit a panel has appeared welcoming us to Stoke-on-Trent. That was nice of them.

The locks on this stretch of the Trent & Mersey Canal have a footbridge across the lock at the bottom end. These have a split in the deck for the horse drawn boaters to drop the tow rope through.By doing this the horse could tow the boat into the lock without being unhitched.

The last renovation of the split bridge at Trentham Lock fitted hand rails which would prevent any tow rope from dropping through the split
Well done that man!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

What Kind of Duck?

During our search for somewhere to live we passed through Tarleton en route for Southport. On the return journey we broke off and looked around the village. Although not suitable for us, we went down to the Rufford Arm of the L&L to see the new houses being erected near the swing bridge.
Amongst the small flotilla of ducks congregating around the bread dispensers were two birds we could not identify.

It does not sport the regulation tuft of the tufted duck brigade but a sort of pom-pom

If anyone can identify it for us we would be very pleased

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

First Recommendation

I have just received my first recommendation on Google +
I am not sure what it means but I assume it is good news.
Thank you for your support

Hot or what?

When we leave Gecko or Murvi unattended we monitor the temperature with a max/min thermometer. When we visited Gecko in Aylesbury last time the maximum recorded was 106.5F which is 41.4 C for foreign types.Whilst discussing this with a fellow boater he recalled a rhyme his mother would recite when she took his temperature as a child. It went thus:
99 - Doing fine
100 - (he could not recall this one)  Any suggestions? *

101 - Just begun
102 - He'll pull through
103 - Wait and see
104 - Death's knocking at the door
105 - Barely alive
106 - Pushing up sticks
107 - Up in heaven

* how about - 100 degrees, on your knees

Monday, 20 July 2015

Second Longest Narrowboat Journey in the World

We have been on Gecko for less than 12 hours and have nb Dorcas moored in front of us which we have not seen for three years.  Late in the morning nb Fern passed us heading north. They were on the BCNS Explorer Cruise which we did a couple of years ago.

Returning from a foray to Lidl in Stafford I noticed that the boat behind us is Formerly Unspoilt by Progress II.

Those of you have been following Gecko's Progress for  three years or more should remember this post:
Longest Narrowboat Journey in the World

This was an attempt to cruise a boat and butty from  the Black Country to the Black Sea.  The butty (currently moored behind us) sank somewhere in the Danube and was later recovered and returned to the UK by road, I believe.

Who organized this show for our return to Gecko I do  not know but today has been a truly wonderful one.

BOB for a short while

After nearly eight months living ashore and almost a year since we last cruised any canal, we are Back On Board Gecko. Malcolm & Annie late of nb Xillion Rose, brought her up from Aylesbury for us and we drove down to complete the journey to Anderton where Gecko will sleep for a while.
So what has been happening over the past year?
We came into Aylesbury Circus Field at the end of August, rather early for the winter. This was because we had so many commitments including an organized walk along the Wendover Arm. We had already decided that this would be our last winter aboard Gecko and that we would look for a land base. Relative property prices drew us north and with six grandchildren in Lancashire (all under 7)  that side of the Pennines rose to the top of the list. To accomplish this we needed to sell the house we had in Bath which we had been letting for holidays. Completion of the sale is next week. In the meantime we moved most of our stuff into storage and the remainder into a rented flat in Preston. 
This flat is one of 180 in a converted cotton mill and is a wonderful place to live but not suitable for our land base.
In October I had a fall in the car park at Aylesbury and my 22 year old prosthetic hip broke through the polythene cup. Thus we had to move off Gecko and take up  residence in Bath whilst trying to sell the house. Later that month four American friends came over to walk the Cotswold  Way. This we organized, taking them out each day from our base camp in Chipping Campden and picking them up about 16 miles later. This was supplemented by a few days walking in The Lakes, guided by our son Douglas, and followed by some tourism in Oxford and Bath.
In March the collapsed hip was revised and I am now walking without a stick again. About a month after the hip op grandchildren numbers 5 & 6 arrived up in Lancashire drawing Margaret
So life has been anything but quiet! Unfortunately things became  too much for me to cope with the blog so I had to suspend postings for a while.
We have rejoined Gecko in Stone and will be here for a few days before setting off north.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Gecko Power !

Back in March I wrote about the Scandal at Stoke Manderville Hospital

I revisited the audiology department a couple of days ago and found that the roller blind had been fixed within 10 days of my blog posting.

A coincidence or what?

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Not Yet BOB

Over the next few weeks you may observe Gecko making its way from Aylesbury to Anderton. This is being carried out by friends of ours and we are not yet Back on Board.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Sunday Trading

It has been suggested that in the Budget this week that local authorities will be given the power to extend or relax Sunday trading laws. I don't know if they will also be able to tighten the restrictions.
I have pontificated on this subject several times in the past  but that does not deter me from repeating my views:
  • The Sunday Trading Act was introduced to satisfy large supermarket companies and was never justified. 
  • The experience during the Olympics in 2012 when a temporary relaxation of the regulations was introduced proved there is no demand for extended hours on Sunday from shoppers. 
  • Shoppers are turning away from large supermarket expeditions in favour of  smaller and more frequent purchasing.
  • This has been reflected in company performance - Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury, Morrisons and Coop have all lost market share over the last three years.
  • Waitrose, Aldi, Lidl have all gained market share. Aldi has even overtaken Waitrose.
  • Shoppers are not starving because of the shorter trading hours on Sunday: 20% of all food purchased in the UK is discarded.
  • Life is hectic enough and I think  we should have one day in the week for relaxation and contemplation.
  • One in three of our supermarket bills is incorrect. This is almost always a difference between shelf prices and tills.  Tesco are the worst. All supermarkets need to improve their service.
My previous posts on this subject can be found here:

Market share
2015                              2012
Tesco 28.4%                              29.9%
Asda 17.1%                              17.5%
Sainsbury's 16.4%                               16.7%
Morrisons 10.9%                               12.3%
The Co-operative 6.0%                                  7%
Aldi 5.3%                                  3.5%
Waitrose 5.1%                                   4.3%
Lidl 3.7%                                   2.5%
Iceland 2.1%                                   2.1%

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Narrowboat For Sale

nb  Mary  Russell
58ft  Semi-Trad
boat photo
Fully equipped, true live-aboard boat
 We have spent many a happy hour on this boat and she runs like a dream
After ten years living aboard our friends are moving ashore

Fabrication:    Neil Hudson

Fitter-out:     Big Fish

Style: Semi-trad

Year registered: 2005

Engine:   Barrus Shire 45 diesel

Bow thruster:   Vetus 12V 55kgf 4hp

Plating:   10/6/5/4

Last out of water: 2013
 Water tank: 150 gallons (approx) stainless steel

Headroom: 6ft 4in

Fit-out materials:   all lined in ash -faced ply

Insulation: Cellotex foam slabs 

Berth sizes: 6ft 0in x 4ft 0in permanent double, 6ft 0in x 3ft 9in double on convertible dinette
 boat drawing
Fridge: Shoreline 4cu ft 12V

Washing: Indesit WD14 washer dryer

WC: Thetford swivel seat cassette wc

Shower: in laminated cubicle with doors

Cooker: Vanette built-in hob, New World oven & grill

Water heating: Central heating & engine & 230V immersion heater to calorifier

Cabin heating: Alde gas central heating to rads, solid fuel stove

Other: Attractive ash paneling with oak quadrant trim, whilst the floor is of durable easy to clean maple laminate. Washer/dryer & microwave make good liveaboard & long term cruising additions

Location: Grand Union Canal. Warwick

Price:   £59,500

boat photo
Solid fuel stove keeps saloon cosy
boat photo
Gas oven and hob in neat walk-through galley
boat photo
Dining room converts to double berth
boat photo
Semi-trad stern
boat photo
Lined out in Ash-faced ply