Thursday, 22 December 2016

Season's Greetings

I am sorry the posting have been rather thin for a while due to circumstances beyond my control.
Thank you for returning to read my meagre output which I will try to improve next year.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Whitechapel Bell Foundry to close

We learned this morning that Whitechapel Bell Foundry is to close. This I find very sad and hope that as much of the foundry as possible can be preserved as a historic monument. If you are unfamiliar with the oldest manufacturing  company in the country I urge you to spend some time reading their website whilst it exists. Below is my post from June 2007
Loughborough boasts the largest bell foundry in the world - Taylors - where Great Paul, the 17ton bell at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, was cast. Local residents may also tell you that Big Ben was cast here but this is another of the many stories which surround this bell. It was actually cast in Stockton-on-Tees and weighed 16tons. As the tower was unready Big Ben was first hung in Palace Yard but it cracked in use. The metal was recast at the only other bell foundry now existing in England - Whitechapel Bell Foundry in the east end of London. In this process it appears to have lost 2.5 tons. Along with most natives of this country and all tourists - I have never seen Big Ben but I am very familiar with its sound and with The Elizabeth Tower which houses it.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Boat Accidents - I blame TV

Since our enforced (but temporary) absence from the canals we have been sampling the novelty call Television. This is amazing! I did not realise until I watched John Sargeant that it never rains on the canals. Nor did I understand that bashing every bridge and boat in sight was the main aim of canal boating. It took Timothy West and wife Pru to show me this. When we get back on the cut next year I shall have to modify my cruising mode from Dodg'm to Bumper.. 
Last time we cruised down into London we shared a couple of locks with a bridge-hopper relocating for his next 14 days half a mile further up the Regent's Canal. He employed a novel method of stopping his boat which did not involve reversing the engine. What  a great fuel saving we have been missing: I must try jumping off with a rope in future. Stopping 18tons of steel can't be all that hard, can it?
So, with all these educational canal programmes   on the TV (that's the short name for television apparently) why have boating accidents more than doubled in the last year? River and Canal Rescue (the AA of the waterways) reported that within the 4331 call-outs they attended in the 12 months to 1st November 2016 there were 179 major and 31 minor accidents compared with 65 major and 16 minor ones the year before. It can't be lack of instruction, can it?

Top of the list for major accidents is still boats getting caught on lock cills or gates

This happens every year

There are other accidents too.....


 But most are down to human error

Like not fastening the weed hatch properly...

Sometimes accidents are just waiting to happen...

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Earthquake in New Zealand

If you are following the news of the earthquakes in New Zealand here are a couple of links you may find interesting

TV footage

Maps and aerial photos

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Boat Fires

Our roving photographer, Erica, who usually covers stories further afield, was on hand to snap this spectacular fire at Barton Turns Marina recently.
No cause has been identified to date
C&RT closed the Trent & Mersey Canal to avoid pollution
Apparently four cruisers were destroyed 
The fire service was well represented
Although Air Ambulance attended there were no injuries

Monday, 14 November 2016

Trash Puppies

A few years ago I bought two pairs of Hush Puppies - one brown and one black. These I kept for special occasions, which don't occur very often on the canals. So they lived at the bottom of a locker  until we emptied the boat for the winter.  Last Monday we went into London for a number of events - the V&A exhibition of  Medieval embroidery, a talk on Charles Voysey  and to meet Margaret's sister. That seemed special enough to warrant wearing my smart shoes. When we left the tube at Charring Cross station (which used to be more appropriately called Trafalgar Square) I found myself hobbling  like walking on cobbles. It transpired that Hush Puppies have an affinity for tube trains and my right shoe had been reluctant to leave the train despite being laced up. That which could - the sole - stayed continued its journey to the Elephant & Castle whilst the uppers came with me. I do not recall seeing a Best Before or Use By date on the box when purchasing these shoes and I have never considered shoes as perishable but obviously Hush Puppies are. I have to admit to ignoring the adage Never wear brown in town and acknowledge its sagacity in regards to such footwear.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Good Morning America !

I seem to have picked up considerable interest form USA over the past couple of weeks.
If you would like to say hello and let me know what brought to Gecko's Progress please leave a comment on this post.  I shall not publish it unless you ask me to.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Slide Show to go

Google has just informed me that they are withdrawing the programme which I use to present the slide show in the right hand panel of this blog. apparently it will disappear on Sept 29.
So if you have nothing better to do why not sit and watch it for a while.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Someone IS Listening

A few days ago I wrote a piece entitled Preston Lesson in Wasting Money     where I suggested some  attention could be directed at clearing up the detritus in New Hall Lane instead of erecting signs saying that the council was improving the local area.
Well, Preston Council may be deaf, but Friends of Fishwick and St Matthews have announced they will make funds available for local businesses to smarten their shopfronts. See this report in the local paper.  
Grotty Shops in New Hall Lane
I don't suppose I was the only person to entertain this idea but  this is not the first such coincidence.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Beer for Breakfast

There are parts of London which live in different time zones from you and I and the wholesale markets are some of them. Back in the 1980s I worked in Goswell Road, London which is close to The Barbican and, more relevant to this story, Smithfield Meat Market Through the night lorries arrive from all over the UK with carcasses of beef, lamb, pork and more exotic fare. And in due course this meat is shipped out again to butchers and meat processors all over the country.  This is tiring and thirsty work which is recognised by the local licensing laws  which allow the pubs in Smithfield to open at 3am. From time to time colleagues of mine would arrive a couple of hours early for work and go to the pub for (a very meaty) breakfast. This usually included several pints of Guinness.  Work output on these days was always rather suspect both in quantity and quality.  I was reminded of this by two events: Farnborough Air Show which opened to the trade this week (our work in Goswell Road was defence electronics) and the line-up for the Saturday night ceilidh at Scarisbrick Marina Festival was a band called Beer for Breakfast.  To accompany this Irish group there was a hog roast. There was not much dancing but I guess that was because most of us had had a busy day around the marina.
In addition to the usual bouncy castle the army had brought their assault course version for the larger kids. Unfortunately they said I was ineligible.After being rejected by the army I made my way to the marquee where I could hear music emanating.. This turned out to be a troupe of Morris dancers (is that the correct collective noun?) Very entertaining but a little too  stressful for my artificial hips.
This was not an issue for some of the audience who were encouraged to join in.

Even er indoors was tempted to trip the light fantastic.

I think she was attracted by wielding a stick.

The vigour and enthusiasm she put into whacking the staves had me worried.


So I withdrew and went to admire the 1915 Ford parked up by the craft marquee.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Scarisbrick Marina Festival

Four years ago the crews of  a dozen boats moored in Scarisbrck Marina got together one summer's evening. This year the   number of boaters has been restricted to 200 and the Scarisbrick Marina Canal Festival runs from Friday evening July8 to Sunday July10.

For the past couple of days there has been a steady stream of visiting boats arriving and many have remembered their bunting and lights.

Friday night kicked off with  a boaters-only evening with music and food.

Over the weekend the Marina will be open to the public with a ceilidh and hogroast on Saturday night. Craft stalls and visiting bands will keep the public entertained  in the two marquees.
2016 is the 200th anniversary of the completion of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and this promises to be a worthy start to our celebrations.

In two weeks time we will be attending the Blackburn Canal Festival which is also in its fourth year.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Pop Goes the Weasel

Last week I underwent an annual checkup at a hospital in City Road , London. I have been attending this hospital for 52 years and during that time many changes have taken place in that area of London. As I had a little time in hand I jumped off the 205 a stop early and walked down the road.

These buildings weren't here 52 years ago. In fact I don't think they were here two years ago.

There is a space between them which has existed for over 200 years but has only recently been opened up for the travelers on City Road to see-
City Road Basin of the Regent's Canal
With the sun shining, a tune came into my mind (and has still not gone a week later!)
It is a nursery rhyme:

Half a pound of tuppeny rice
Half a pound of treacle
Mix it up and make it nice
Pop goes the weasel

Up and down the City Road
In and out of The Eagle
That's the way the money goes
Pop goes the weasel

Every night when I go out
The weasel's sitting on the table
I take a stick and knock it off
Pop goes the weasel
There are various claims for the origin of the rhyme but all agree on the last line.  It refers to the habit popular since the 1700s,  of East End workers popping or pawning their best coat (weasel and stoat is Cockney rhyming slang for coat) in order to enjoy some luxury.

Almost adjacent to these new apartments is -

The Eagle pub.

With great self control, I resisted the temptation to pawn my coat and spend the proceeds on beer.

Of course you have spotted that this building is not 18th century. It was built around 1900

and replaced a music hall of the same name.

Whatever your view on the merit or otherwise of these changes I have experienced one change which has not been an improvement. With all the new technology and medical research it takes twice as long to carry out the same checks that I had 52 years ago. Such is progress!

Those of you unfamiliar with the rhyme might like to listen to Anthony Newley's rendition from the 1960s 

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Preston Lesson in Wasting Money

Budget cuts in Lancashire are currently threatening to close the world's only steam-powered weaving mill at Queen Street, Burnley and the spinning mill at  Helmshore.  Both were due to close in March but have received a stay of execution until September.

Meanwhile Preston Council has seen it fit to waste money erecting these signs all along New Hall Lane.
From our flat we can see three on this side of the road and more on the opposite side

If they really want to improve the local centre how about clearing up this mess?

Joey Found

You will be please to know the Joey stolen in Birmingham recently has been found at the top of Brades Locks

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Canal Boat Stolen in Birmingham

Sometime in the last few days the boat in the right of this picture was stolen. If you are in the Birmingham area please go for a walk on your nearest bit of canal and keep a look out for it
Contact Mike on
if you see it

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Gecko's New Home

A fairly lazy morning ahead. We are only 4 miles from our destination with a couple of swing bridges to negotiate.
As we passed through Bursgough we admired this old mill, now converted into flats - sorry, apartments.

Away at 6.30 and ready to open the bridge an hour later. Unfortunately Crabtree Bridge did not want to play - the wedges had stuck and we had to call an engineer out.  Two hours later he had it open and we resumed our passage.

The chap who lived opposite the pub was not impressed."when we had the wooden bridge, they came twice a year to remove the weeds and give it some grease. This broke down three times last week"

It seems that vehicles over the 7.5 tonne limit (what's wrong with an English ton?) damage the sensors.

By 11am Gecko was safely moored in her new home which is only 10 minutes by bus from Southport.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Whio Meet Again

Bank Holiday Monday. After three days of peaceful cruising today is something else.
A charming setting with abundant  blossom. This is a long and deep lock with attitude. Much of the lock gear is inoperable and it took us 45 minutes to fill it.  Usually, if conditions are still,  I sit in the channel and wait for Margaret to prepare the lock. Here I moored up and had a cup of coffee. If there had been any bacon on board I may have made a second breakfast.

When the lock was ready, the boat was not. The lock had taken so much water that Gecko was now aground.
At one time an alternative pair of shallow locks had been built to accelerate passage  but these are now defunct.
At Parbold the world seemed to wake up and we found ourselves in the middle of a parade of nine boats all headed our way. This made passage through the swing bridges interesting as the first boat crew would operate the bridge for all of us  and then rejoin the flotilla at the back.

Along the Kennet & Avon Canal there are a string of pillboxes built in WWII for defense from invasion. I did not realise that invading forces were anticipated so far north as to require such preparation along the L&L.
This two-storey pillbox reminded me of another war-related construction.  Whilst seeking out prefabs in Hertfordshire in the 1980s I discovered some two-storey ones which was a surprise to me.
As we progressed boats joined our flotilla: some out for the day, others headed for Liverpool to attend the IWA rally.
When we reached the junction with the Rufford Arm we decided to call it a day and moor up .
This is the route for those wishing to navigate the Lancaster Canal.  The canal joins the River Douglas before its confluence with the Ribble which has to be crossed to enter the Millenium Link on the north side of the river. As soon as you turn into the Rufford Arm you start your descent  to the Douglas valley.

Hopefully with more success than this cruiser.

This  junction shows evidence of being a busy commercial site in the past. This derelict dry dock was large enough to accommodate two Liverpool Long Boats simultaneously.
Maneuvering  such craft  in through the entrance at the far end of this picture must have been quite tricky. Once inside the dock, the first boat in could not leave until the second boat moved.
We picked a spot to moor and started washing the salt off Gecko whilst the Bank Holiday gongoozlers  strolled past with ice creams.

Later in the day we were accosted by Don, a kiwi we know who moors his boat in Aylesbury. He and Val cruise the summer over here then return to New Zealand for the summer over there. In all the activity of extracting ourselves from the flotilla and mooring we had not noticed that their boat Whio was moored 25 yards behind us (the blue boat in this picture) And so we spent a pleasant evening with Don & Val before they set off for Lancaster Canal and Liverpool.
Whio (Blue Duck) at Staglands, Akatarawa, New Zealand.jpg
The WHIO is a blue duck from New Zealand

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Gecko on the Move - Plank Lane to Crooke

Another bright and dry morning. Away at 6.30 heading for Wigan. Not to climb the daunting flight of locks towards Leeds but to turn left towards Liverpool. This is new territory for us.

The first lock we encounter after our left turn has a fairly new road bridge over it. There is no footbridge on the lock so to get from one side to the other Margaret has to climb up to the road, cross this bridge and descend the other side. I can't imagine it would have added much to the cost of the road bridge to add a footbridge to the lock, but who cares about canal users?

As we descend the three locks in Wigan we pass Kennet, an original Liverpool Short Boat which worked the canal in its commercial days. It now belongs to the L&L Canal Society and is used as a floating classroom. As 2016 is the 200th anniversary of the canal opening it will be busy this year. The locks between Wigan and Leeds are 60ft long and Kennet was built to operate this route.

Immortalised by George Orwell, the legendary Wigan  Pier occupies a tight turn for us and we head westward out of the town, descending more rural locks.

Here and there the May blossom is pink

In this fine weather and lack of boat traffic we are making good progress so decide to moor up early enough to explore our locale.
As we approach Crooke we pass this extraordinary construction. It appears to be a communal area for three houses providing a sheltered quayside retreat. Notice there are doors in the back wall - beach huts?

Cruising through the village, we find a lovely peaceful spot just out of sight round this bend and tie up before noon.
There is no traffic in this area o f the village and the whole atmosphere is somnolent which, after our early start, is tempting.

Our exploratory walk reveals that, away from the main road, it is indeed a charming village with a small marina and a substantial pub - The Crooke Hall Inn. We decide to treat ourselves to Sunday dinner here later.

When driving on roads we have learned that it is pointless asking directions from service station staff as they are all clueless. Being unsure of our actual location, we asked in a local shop which village we were in and the shopkeeper did not know! He printed off a till receipt with the address of the shop for us but this, I think, was the registered office address.
The meal and service at The Crooke Hall Inn was excellent. I was immediately impressed by the bar staff who recognised the intention of another customer to jump the queue and deftly ignored him until his allotted turn. Margaret had the roast sirloin whilst I had liver and bacon. Both meals were generous and perfectly prepared, as was the selection of vegetables. The rich gravy on my dish had whole mustard seed in addition to the traditional onion. Very tasty.
Out in the pub garden the Liverpool Long Boat Ambush was moored. This operated between Liverpool and Wigan but is too long to take the route to Leeds. It is now owned by Derek who plies his trade of fuel supplier along this section of the canal. The sister boat, Victoria, is permanently moored on his wharf at Bursgough.