Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Just another day

Bubourne to Circus Field with a break for lunch.
At the top of Marsworth flight of locks we picked up nb Fridiswide which we have travelled with before but I can't remember exactly where and when.
The first test of the to get into a lock when some idiot has moored their  yogurt pot in front of one of the gates.  Fridiswide entered first and took up the left position which gave me the interesting challenge of getting in next to him without crushing the yog pot.(which is what I really wanted to do)
I rose to the challenge and accomplished the task with panache. - YEH!

At Marsworth Jct all but one of the old canal buildings has been demolished and work has started on the residential development.
There will be twelve houses overlooking the canal and the boater services will be moved to the old BW building on the corner.  I wonder if C&RT will take the opportunity to improve the services - perhaps there will be a shower. (not holding my breath)
As we approached lock 8 on the Aylesbury Arm we met a boat which had been trying to moor at Wilstone but had found the pound too shallow.
When we entered the pound it was down about a foot.  We have a very slow tick-over on Gecko and by keeping it in gear at this speed I was able to make it to lock 9 by which time the water was down another six inches.

On exiting lock 9 we found the cause of the problem - one of the paddles was not closing.

This picture was taken with all paddles down but it is obvious that the one on the left is  not doing its job.

The corollary to this of course was that from lock 10 onwards there was too much water and it was a struggle to open the gates to get out.

The cormorant on the tree did not seem to be the least bit interested in our activities, presumably becasue we are not part of his diet.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Crick Boat Show

On Saturday we visited the boat show at Crick.  This is the annual opportunity to look around a selection of canal boats and spend money on accessories you have just discovered a need for. We also met several people we know which was unexpected and a lovely surprise.
The only people we had arranged to meet there went home early because of the weather without meeting us.

O yes, the weather

About mid afternoon we were enjoying a short spell of sunshine after fairly non-stop rain when suddenly it all changed.  ....thunder, lightening, wind and rain.
Whilst everyone took refuge inside the marquees  the rain and wind kept ratcheting  up through the  gears. I was expecting to see some of the stalls fly past our vantage point. As the storm continued the rain became so noisy we gave up trying to listen to the salesman on the stand we were at, deciding to try again on Sunday.

When it finally subsided, we discovered why it had been so noisy....
....there were 4-6 inches of hail stones around the marquees.

We returned to our vehicle to find that despite parking next to the roadway we needed four sturdy men to get us moving in the mud.

We abandoned our plans to revisit the show on Sunday.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Not in front of the kids

Further to my posting about the magic of canal life, it is only fair to mention that not everything on the canals is charming.

Although we have not yet spotted crocodiles in Casiobury Park we are always vigilant.

Fortunately Kings Langley Monster did not seem particularly interested ina Gecko

And this poor mother duck with her eight little ones was valiantly trying to avoid the attentions of the drake who persisted in trying to mount her.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Always read the small print

Yesterday we moved up from Apsley to Berkhamsted.

- or The Port of Berkhamsted as some style it.

Please note the nice shiny blacking and the bright  red and white tunnel bands on Gecko. A lot of effort went into achieving this finish.

We met only four boats in as many hours.
At Winkwell swing bridge we had to wait for C&RT who were repairing the bridge after it had again been hit by a boat. This occurs so frequently there ought to be a flashing orange light or something. It would be cheaper than constantly repairing it.

Winkwell lock can be a bid hairy as the River Bulbourne enters the canal just below the lock and is quite fierce. The best technique for entry is to open both gates and aim steadfastly for the gate nearest the river and keep the power on. Just as you reach the lock the river flow sweeps you over to the other side of the lock and with luck  you make it without hitting anything.

 At the penultimate lock of the day - the twelfth - my sharp-eyed wife , always seeking to please me pointed out that there was free beer at the Rising Sun.
Her more worldly-wise hubby reminded her to read the small print. What the sign actually says is:


Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The Magic of Canal Life

When the sun is shining we often receive envious comments from passers by on the towpath. I understand that this feeling is encouraged by certain programmes on TV.  Not having time to watch TV we are not au fait with these programmes. The first question asked is usually Isn't it cold in winter?   Apparently on TV the sun always shines and the birds always sing and the locks always work and the water is always crystal clear. None of those is true, bet there is a magic in living on the waterways. The magic comes, however, from inside: to quote my favourite artist, Vincent van Gogh:

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”

The freedom to stop where and when you want is an important element but the ability to find something interesting at every stop comes from within.  Whether we are in the centre of Manchester or Birmingham, on the outskirts of Tamworth, across the fields from Fleckney or Weedon Bec, Down below Withnell Fold or in the middle of nowhere we always find something interesting.
Let us consider last night as an example.  We left Gecko for a walk into the hamlet of Hunton Bridge just after The Archers.
After passing the boat with a cabin made from the rear end of a VW Tournan and the boat we had to resecure, we left the towpath and walked down the main street. 
From the bridge (the Hunton Bridge?) we had an elevated view of the old school which is no longer performing that function. And further down the street is what appears to have been a chapel in an earlier life.
And then we came to the King's Head (you knew there would be a pub somewhere, didn't you?)
The only  other curved door I recall is in a civic building in Coventry: I have never before encountered them between me and my pint of Pedigree.
The pub changed hands about a month ago and so far the kitchen has not been recommissioned but the interior is quite interesting.
Not only does it claim to be the only pub in England with curved front doors
It also claims that its minstrells' gallery is unique in pub circles.
I am not sure of the voracity of these claims but the presence of an old range in the saloon bar must be quite rare too.Put all these characteristics together and they may be right to consider themselves unique.
On our way back to Gecko the doors of the chapel were open and we accosted a man taking things into the building. This had  indeed been a Free Chapel in an earlier life but now it is the Chapel Stained Glass Studio
Here they both conserve and restore old glass and also create new commissions.  We were  priviledged to take a look round the workshop. Our guide had just completed a long job at Tower Bridge which he had carried out over many nights because the glass overlooked the road and the risk of anything falling on the highway had to be minimised.  The studios have also undertaken work at the house of Commons, Westminster Abbey and many churches and universities.
The window here is from Northampton Catholic Cathedral. In this picture  the lead is being removed in  preparation of replacement.


This could be  any town or village in the country: there really is something interesting everywhere.

Emblem of the Papacy SE.svg
Pope Adrian IV
And we didn't have time to walk up to Bedmond where the only English pope was born - Pope Adrian IV was born Nicholas Brakespear aound 1100AD and was pope from 1154-1159 when he died

Site of Breakspear Farm
A plaque at Brakespear Farm, Bedmond where Pope Adrian IV was born

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

How does this work then?

These are the Casio Park Locks with the short pound between them.  Above the top lock is a sluice to divert excess water around the  two locks, returning it to the canal below lock 76.  On the lower lock - visible in the distance on this photo - we are instructed to empty the lock on leaving.. The top lock, however, is operated in the orthodox manner. If these instructions are followed then every time a boat passes up the locks they empty two lock of water from the pound but only empty one lockfull in. There is no other supply of water to this pound as far as I can see.  So why doesn't this pound end up empty?

Monday, 19 May 2014

The VW Aquacar

We bad farewell to the Ricky Festival this morning, packed away the Xmas lights, folded up the flags and set off north.  At Batchworth lock the lavender boat waited for us to fill our water tank and we shared the lock with him. (A note for romantic ladies - Lavender Boat is not a floating  aromatherapy salon - it is a euphamism for the boat which pumps out toilets).  As we left Batchworth lock a wid-beam boat arrived to follow us up so we were on our own for the next lock. Then we arrived at a lock to find another widebeam in front of us .  It felt like Fat Boat Slim sandwiched between them. At Casio bridge we managed to share with the fuel boat - Hyperion. After that we were on our own again for the remaining six locks.

The journey was far from uneventful, however.

This is not a tragic accident.

I think it is a prefabricated cabin.

As we approached  the bridge at Hunton Bridge - near Abbots Langley - our passage was blocked by a loose boat.

We managed to secure it and moored up just round the next bend for a late lunch and rest.

Can Richard Parry Walk the Walk?

When Richard Parry came into office late last year he issued his manifesto  for the Canal &Rivers Trust.He inherited an organisation which had seen considerable change in the way it operated on the ground - experienced and dedicated employees replaced by third-party specialists. Meanwhile the management had entrenched itself in an attitude which appeared to boaters to be secretive, stubborn, inept and self-serving.  You only need to read   to gauge the feelings of the more vociferous boaters. Out on the cut the feeling has grown that some of Mr Parry's team were not really in the same team.However we have recently seen Sally Ash announce  her surprise decision to take early retirement and Jeff Whyatt's promotion from managing the SE waterways to head up BWML - the commercial marina division of C&RT. We attended Richard Parry's  meet the boaters session in Banbury . He was making the right sort of noises but as my American friends would say:
"He can talk the talk but can he walk the walk?"
Time will tell but early signs are promising.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

A successful canal festival?

Judging by the crowds coming past Gecko this has been a very successful festival. Attendees were being asked for donations to RWT funds of £2/head and I believe Saturday's total was something close to £20,000. Based on my observations, attendance on Sunday might have been greater. We have been to Ricky festival three times now over a period of seven years and I detected a shift in emphasis over this period.  There were many fewer old working boats than previously and there were no events exclusively for boaters.  The overall feeling I have is that the boats are just an adjunct to the festival, not a centrepiece.  If my feelings are correct I think it is a shame.  Banbury has a canal day in September where boats pay to moor on what is normally a free mooring and the public pay nothing to poke their heads in your windows.  I would hate it for Ricky to go that way. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the canal will feature more prominently in next year's festival.

Parry Power

I understand that Ricky Waterways Trust had been requesting the sunken boat to be removed for some months -see A Bit on the Side.  Apparently e-mails back and forth  had yielded no success: shortage of resources prevented its removal.  This was still the case three days before the Ricky Canal Festival. In view of their lack of success with the local C&RT management, RWT decided to take it up with the CEO of C&RT, Richard Parry, when he arrived to open the festival.
Next day the boat was removed.  Resources from heaven?

And yes, the picture of the speedboat was taken on Ricky Aquadrome, next door to the canal.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Tug-of-war at Ricky

One feature of Ricky festival which i always enjoy is the boat tug-of-war.
I was busy most of the day publicising Watford & District Industrial History Society but I did get  time to see one contest - between Banstead and Cleveland.
Banstead was the winner.
For this contest two young lads - about6 or 7 - were enlisted as judges.  After giving their verdict one very perceptive lad said "it doesn't matter how much smoke you make that doesn't make you the winner"

One change this year is the insistence of Health & Safety that Stop/Go boards be employed on the bridge where the River Colne crosses the canal.  Needless to say, they were completely ignored by the public who seemed quite capable of managing the way people have for centuries.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Boats arriving for Ricky festival

We have a bankside position from where we can do our bit for WADIHS

We were allocated a position three boats from the bank but the two boats on our inside wanted outside moorings so we rejigged the mooring plan to everyone's satisfaction.

Boats have been arriving for a day or two but the pace accelerated this afternoon.

Fulbourne appears to be undecided where to moor.

Raymond has arrived

Some people always seem to be in a hurry

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

A Bit on the Side

We are in Ricky awaiting the festival at the weekend. When we passed through here a month ago I was grumbling about the sunken boat just below Batchworth Lock.
Well it's still there today.

This afternoon whilst I was pottering about on Gecko - fixing pretty lights for the festival etc. - The Wood, Hall and Heward tug Weaver came past pushing a barge with HiAb.  Being a curious sort of fellow I grabbed a camera and followed on the towpath.
They pulled in against the sunken boat and prepared to remove it.
First they rigged up a pump to see if the boat would float.

After a while it was apparent that water was entering the boat as fast as the pump was extracting it.

So pump number two was set up which did the trick.

Once the boat was floating straps were put under it and connected with chains for the HiAb to lift it clear of the water.


With the boat loaded on the barge the remaining water was pumped out.

But this load is too tall to get under the bridges so it was lifted out again and towed off for processing.
The whole operation was carried out by two men who obviously knew what they were doing and executed it efficiently - well done guys!

The word on the towpath is that the owner had trapped the rudder between lock gates when descending a lock and that had been the start of problems with the boat.  The boat sank a few months ago and tragically he committed suicide a month ago.

He used to keep this boat alongside his main boat and so this friend of his named it for him -

A Bit on the Side