Saturday, 26 July 2014

The Easy Way Out

There has been much discussion recently of the problems caused by untended vegetation on the canals. Concern is that it is dangerous for two reasons.  Where it obscures the navigation, a tight bend or a bridge for instance, the chance of collision is increased. Where it overhangs the channel it also causes damage to boats, equipment and injures those driving the boat. Despite the veg pledge of a few years ago the situation is deteriorating: it seems to have died a death like the dredge-pledge. 
It has been  suggested that C&RT is reluctant to cut hedges for fear of contravening the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. According to RSPB, the act refers to "wilfully disturbing nesting birds" which seems very sound to me.   Birds do not nest all year but trees and bushes grow all year. So it would be quite possible to trim offending hedges out of the nesting season.  To a recent enquiry regarding  the exact legal position, the RSPB responded:
 "It's a grey area. If you are satisfied there aren't any nesting birds there, it's okay to cut it back any time. And if you feel there's a safety issue for humans, it's okay to cut it back—even if there are nesting birds, although you'd need to prove that it's a safety issue."
This reminds me of an experience we had a few years ago.
The childcare company M worked for had nurseries all over the country and after we moved onto Gecko she would  offer her services to the local nursery when we moored for the winter. To work with children a CRB check has to be made every three years.This has to be paid for and there are companies around who will administer this process for employers who do not have the expertise or staff in house. The childcare company started insisting that M had a CRB check for every nursery she worked in.  When we were in Bath, for instance, she worked at three different locations.  These requests came from the agency employed by the HR department. The requests became more frequent to a point that was ridiculous. Any question to the employer was referred to the agency who, presumably. were making good money inventing work.  I contacted the Home Office who confirmed that CRB is valid for three years and covers any similar occupation regardless of location.
This is similar to the C&RT situation - It is easier for inexperienced or ignorant staff to hide behind an over-zealous and erroneous interpretation of the law than it is to exercise any kind of skill or judgement. 


Friday, 25 July 2014

The Good, the Bad and the Coventry

On Sunday we left Atherstone and retraced our route down the Coventry Canal to Suttons Stop - or Hawkesbury Jct. to use its official name. The last family to man the stop lock here were the Suttons and so it became Suttons Stop to boaters. This is where the North Oxford Canal meets the Coventry canal. I have written before on the subject of stop locks and also on Coventry

To the right and top, beyond the stop lock is the Oxford Canal via Hllmorton and Braunston.

To the left and top is our route from Atherstone

Behind and left the Coventry canal continues to Coventry.

Behind and right is the Greyhound pub which stops serving food at 7pm on Sundays
Having heard a report of stones being thrown at boats in Coventry basin we decided to get down there to show that boaters are not intimidated by such behaviour.
First we had to meet up with Ali & Elaine from nb Ellie Mae who live nearby.  Unfortunately The Greyhound pub at Sutton's Stop does not serve food after 7pm on Sundays so we went foraging in their car. On Monday morning we set off around 8.30 and arrived in Coventry basin about three hours later.  We only met a couple of boats, one a hire boat now operating out of Coventry. We passed on the short straight stretch by Cash's 100 - soon after we had to go down the weed hatch to remove assorted polyethylene bags from the prop, presumably stirred up by their passage.Earlier this year J J Cash & Co the company making woven name tapes went into administration. However, their website is still operating so hopefully they have been rescued.

The 100 appear to be  undergoing some renovation.

A little further on the renovation is more drastic.

This area is destined for housing I would guess.

The only? three-storey jettied building in Coventry
We did not spend so much time looking around Coventry as on previous visits as I had an oil change to do and M was collecting a dress that had been shortened for our nephew's wedding this weekend.
Silver Stitches is in the Medieval district where an assortment of old buildings have been relocated to form a kind of open-air museum. Except that they are all in commercial use so Museum is not really the the appropriate  word.
Elsewhere in the city historic buildings still exist in their original locations and sometimes fulfilling their original roles.

The College of Bablake and Bond's Hospital has occupied the present site since the 13th century although the buildings are somewhat later.
Originally a hospice and school for boys it now provides accommodation for the elderly.

With all this attractive architecture in the city who on earth was crass enough to approve the behemoth of  IKEA ?

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Manners Maketh Man

A short run today from Brinklow to Hillmorton.
We did get to watch the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony until closing time at the White Lion in Brinklow.  When we entered the pub every one was watching darts on the TV or playing table skittle s- throwing cheeses at wooden pins. Our enquiry regarding our own choice of programme gave us a room and TV to ourselves. And the beer was good too.
As we approached the very short Newbold Tunnel the boat in front of us had nearly reached the other end and we could see a boat waiting to enter so we stopped.  In the event there were two boats coming through. Although the tunnel is technically wide enough for two-way traffic it is so short that a de facto one-way system has evolved.
When we, in due course, were about 20 yards from the exit a boat came racing up to the tunnel with no apparent intention of waiting for us to emerge. As I was driving in the centre of the channel evasive action was not immediately effective and five yards into the tunnel he hit us whilst shouting about it being a two-way tunnel.
It seems to me he would be happier in a car where that sort of behaviour is more common I understand.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Boat Loose

Soon after passing through Strettton Stop as we headed south on the Oxford Canal today we encountered yet another boat loose from its moorings. We seem to come across one of these every few weeks.

So much practice at retrieving them has allowed us to develop an efficient and effective system for easing them back into the bank to retie them.
And when the owners return to their boat they probably are unaware that a problem ever existed.

An Early Start

In order to avoid picking up rubbish disturbed by other boats we left Coventry basin at 6.45 this morning.  After about an hour nb Comet came up behind us and as they appeared in a hurry we let them pass.
The canal is still a mixture of derelict industrial buildings and housing brightened up with imaginative decoration.

Every bridge over the canal has a sculpture or mural. Disappointingly many exhibits have been defaced by the ubiquitous spray can.

The last bridge before Sutton's Stop, however, has escaped such graffiti.

I have never seen anyone sitting on this concrete sofa before so I had to snap this gentleman taking a rest.

After filling the water tank and emptying the toilet we made the S-turn into the North Oxford Canal on our way to Brinklow where M hopes to find a pub with a TV so she can watch the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A Boaters Town

On her visit to the launderette, she who must be obeyed picked up a very handy map and guide to Atherstone entitles  
Atherstone Welcomes Boaters.

On her way back to Gecko she did some window shopping and found two narrowboats advertised for sale in the window of an estate agent
See the details, bottom left

This is the first time I have ever seen an estate agent selling narrowboats.

Well done Mmark Webster & Co 

How you find details on Rightmove I am not sure as they do not have a property type that includes boats

By the way, I forgot to mention the Atherstone Shrovetide Ball Game. As the name suggests, this is a game involving a ball which takes place in Atherstone on Shrove Tuesday.(Mardi Gras)
There are no teams, no goals and the only rule is that you cannot kick other players. The ball is heavy leather to make it difficult to kick very far.  Watling Street is closed off and the shops are boarded up.  For two hours on that afternoon hundreds of people try to take possession of the ball.  At closing time whoever is in possession wins. And get s to keep the ball.
Seems like a good day for motorists to use the bypass.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Adder Town

We left the Ashby Canal on Thursday and turned right for Atherstone to sit out the thunder storms.
The locals claim that the town's name is derived from Adderstown.  The football team are called The Adders: images and references to the adder are found all over the town. However, I have been unable to find any historical evidence to support this premise. Furthermore, the name Adder comes from the German natter and was assimilated into Anglo Saxon as Nadder losing the initial letter N some time later. If we accept the local claim, one might suppose that the town is more likely to be  called Natherstone.
There has been a settlement in this area at least as far back as the Roman conquest when Mancetter, which is now almost absorbed into Atherstone, was established on Watling Street (A5) At the time of the Doomsday book the lands around here belonged to Couness Godiva - she of naked equestrian legend. Another legendary woman came to her end here too - Boadicea was finally defeated at the battle of Watling Street.  Although her Iceni  warriors were decimate d (80,000 perished whilst the Roamns lost 400 men) the queen herself was not slain. She committed suicide later by taking poison.
Despite the recent discovery of Richard III's silver boar pin near Stoke Golding and the subsequent revision of the location of the battle of Bosworth Field, many historians believe that the last significant battle of the War of the Roses took place nearer to Atherstone.  To support this view they point out that reparations were made after the battle to Atherstone, not Market Bosworth.
When we arrived  at the top lock we found that since our previous visit about four years ago the coal wharf has ceased trading

As has the Barge & Bridge pub near the canal
The town forms a ribbon of development along the A5 exhibiting a mixture of architectural styles.

The Old White Swan with its jettied upper floor appears to be the only building of this period and possibly the oldest in the town. The adjacent jettied building might have been part of the same structure as it shares a similar foundation line but at some time has been rendered  in concrete.

Other buildings we found interesting included The New White Swan in the cobbled Church Street which links the Market Square to Watling Street.
Note for boaters- the launderette is opposite the pub

The Hat & Beaver reflects a time when the major industry in Atherstone was felt hat making and beaver skins were used in that industry.  This all but died in the 1970s with the last factory closing in the 1990s.

Past affluence of the town is indicated by the size of the Conservative Club

No self-respecting town should be without its Albert for more modern needs now.

So what little treasure did we find?

This is Trinity LEP Church  which is quite pleasing on the eye.
As we were photographing it ,the assistant organist, a charming and elegant lady, arrived to rehearse for the Sunday service.. She offered to show us the hidden glasswork.

I think elegant and charming are equally appropriate   

Friday, 18 July 2014

The End of the Liine - For Now

It is five years since we cruised the Ashby Canal.
Despite its proximity to Hinckley it has retained a rural aspect.

The first five miles are rather shallow and with a draught of  2'9" we were polishing the canal bed quite a lot last week  C&RT have just announced that they will be dredging this week so let's see how we get on returning with an additional 100 litres of fuel in the tank.
Leaving the Ashby Canal
Because of the narrow entrance at Marston Jct, the Ashby-de-la-Zouch Canal is usually classified as a narrow canal but it was built originally for wide-beam boats. It opened in 1804 to carry coal and lime between the Coventry Canal at Bedworth  and Moira, near Ashby-de-la-Zouch. To protect its water supply a stop lock was located at the junction with the Coventry Canal.  For a reason I cannot fathom, the two canal companies decided in 1819 to convert the stop lock to 7ft gauge although 14ft boats still operated on the canal.   There are no lock gates at Marston Jct now but the function of a stop lock is maintained by inflatable bags on the canal bed which deploy and block the channel in the event of a difference in water level arising.
There were plans for the canal to connect with the Trent & Mersey Canal near Burton but, as with so many canal projects, the money ran out and it terminated at Moira.  This end of canal passed through the Leicester coalfields and when subsidence became too severe the last nine miles fell into disuse.
After four days in Shackerstone we ventured to the limit of navigation today - beyond Snarestone Tunnel which is remarkable for being only 250 yards long but managing  to be crooked.   
Limit of Navigation - for now

The canal is only navigable to this point at present but the  Ashby Canal Association
(ACA) has plans to restore the remaining nine miles.

The next phase

Work is under way on the next stretch with the towpath and piling already looking good.

I understand that this phase of the restoration will include the reinstatement of a bridge over the canal.  This raises an interesting problem for the ACA.  Much of the original construction was carried out by a local builder - Joseph Wilkes - who was notorious for his response to the Brick Tax of 1794.  Introduced to pay for the American wars, George III levied the tax on all building bricks. Wilkes was not alone in his response  by increasing the size of his bricks by 50%. This had two benefits for Wilkes: it reduced his tax burden and, as he paid his bricklayers piecework, it reduced the cost of each  house.  The production of the Cobs as they were known ceased in 1803. Local legend attributes this to the resisance of the bricklayers but as it co-incided with the introduction of a higher tax on bricks of over 150 cu ins this may be a little fanciful.

ACA has been fortunate in receiving support from Leicester County Council who sponsor the restoration.  When they granted permission for coal mining in the area they stipulated that the £1.5m environmental penalty be used for restoration of the Ashby Canal. A further penalty of £3.5m payable on costruction of 650 houses has been blighted by the uncertaintly surrounding the HS2 project.
Alongside the canal at its present terminus is this attractive former pumping station.

My apologies to the current residents for walking around their garden when they were out in order to obtain a picture which does justice to the fine building.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

He who pays the piper????????

It is often said that one problem in today's society is that people with money exert undue influence

Is that necessarily a problem?  How about this situation?
The All Party Parliamentary Waterways Group is setting up an enquiry to understand the challenges and role of C&RT. The witnesses to be called are:
the waterways minister
two members of C&RT
three members of the Environment Agency
a representative from IWA
a representative from the Canoe Association.
The only canal users who contribute financially to C&RT are:
So why are they not being invited to give evidence???????
It would be greatly to his credit if Richard Parry  were to decline his invitation until the boaters and anglers are invited.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Recycling Cornflakes

Recycling points on the canal system are sparse and unpredictable: if they accept glass they probably don't accept cardboard: if they do, then plastic or cans  are not accepted.When we were recently attempting to recycle some waste packaging and coming to the conclusion that I would have to take the bag of plastic bottles back to the boat for a future expedition I drifted back in time to my childhood.  I was thinking about what we did with  the, much less prolific, packaging  55 years ago.  In particular, I remembered the Kellogs Cornflakes boxes.

On the back there was always a mask to cut out....

Or  a model to make....

And  sometimes a free gift too...

The rest of the box, of course, was cut up to fit into our shoes to cover the hole  in the sole.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

And Alice Came Too

People become attached to their narrowboats so much so that when life circumstances change they are reluctant to part with their cherished boat. This adjustment is sometimes made by stretching or shortening the boat which is accomplished by cutting the boat in two and either inserting an additional section or removing a piece.  If you are stretching a boat account has to be taken of the maximum dimensions which any canal will accommodate. Crossing the Pennies, for instance, is not easy in a boat longer than 60ft.
These shorter locks are often  14ft wide but that introduces a problem elsewhere on the canal system where 7ft is the norm.
When we were in Fenny Stratford we  encountered a novel solution to this problem. 

Alice is a 56ft narrowboat  



Alice Too is a 14ft extension:  

On the narrow canals they become a 70 narrowhoat.

On the broad canals they become 56ft long and 14ft wide by unhitching Alice Too and breasting her up with the mother ship.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Timothy West at Braunston Boat Festival

The weather forecast for Saturday was  cloudy in the morning and storms after noon.
So we caught the first bus from Long Buckby Wharf into Daventry and changed there for a bus to Braunston. We had not put the Braunston Historic Boats gathering on our calendar as we expected to be in Stratford-upon-Avon by now.  Circumstances changed and we are now here and too close to miss it but too late to get a mooring in Braunston.
At 10.30 we arrived at the canal and so did the rain.  Reinforcements were called in to increase the precipitation to deluge  and then to super-deluge.  After this we returned to Gecko via the New Inn on the canal at Buckby. (where we enjoyed a nourishing lunch of faggots, mash and peas.

However we did see a few boats.

Derek  was there on the Stewarts & Lloyds tug Atlantic

As ws John on Pacific

Talking of tugs, I was quite taken with ths tunnel tug - Sharpness - from the Worcs & Birmingham Canal where it used to tow boats through Wast Hill tunnel

Of course, Raymond was there with his friends.

Before the Boat Festival commenced, timothy West was participating in a service at the church in Braunston to commemorate Armed Services Day.
Later he took the tiller of Vulcan.

As we made our soggy way home to Gecko, the steam boat Adamant accompanied us until we climbed the hill to Braunston village