Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Lock In

Apart from some issues with the depth of water at the first few locks our ride up the Wolverhampton 21 went well. We met a couple of descending boats which ensured that most of the locks were set for us and when we reached the last three another boater assisted us.
After grabbing some lunch we continued to the Black Country Museum to moor. We were too late to get fish and chips from the chippy in the museum which still used beef dripping to fry.

How things have changed here. Since the Dudley Canal & Tunnel Trust received funding from the Heritage Lottery  and others, they have built a  remarkable structure  which includes a cafe.
In the process they have built a new car park which is locked at night and a swing bridge which cannot be crossed after 5pm. The result is that boaters who moor on the side of the canal that we used are unable to get out of the area in the evening.

A man on the boat next to us had to catch a train back to London which he accomplished by swinging the boat over to the other side of the canal, and then we pulled it back and tied it up again.

10 miles / 22 locks

Monday, 29 May 2017

Chocky Horror Show

Weather is not so good today so we will push on to Brewood (pronounced Brood) which means we can climb the Wolverhampton 21 locks tomorrow, a little earlier than our original schedule.
At Knighton we passed the old Cadbury's factory where they used to make chocolate crumb which was shipped by canal to the  Bournville factory for conversion into Dairy Milk and Creme Eggs.
Cadbury's Knighton Factory 1925
This now belongs to Knighton Foods which is part of Premier Foods. It is still making powder products including Smash, Marvel,  Paxo, Angel Delight, Bird's Custard, Bisto, and Oxo in addition to many food products for other non-Premier brands.

Milk Churn Tower 1937
Since Kraft took over Cadbury's ( a deal that Warren Buffet called dumb) they have changed the recipe of several products including Fruit & Nut and Creme Eggs.  The CEO - Irene Rosenfield - became notorious for her high-handed management style:
-she stated that Kraft would keep the Keynsham factory open six days before they announced its closure and transfer of production to Poland
-she refused to attend a parliamentary enquiry as "not a good use of my time"
-she oversaw the avoidance of £10m of corporation tax by the company.
I have made a very good likeness of her from two creme eggs and am sticking pins into it.

21.5 miles / 6 locks

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Market Drayton

First thing Sunday morning we completed the remaining twelve locks in the Audlem flight.
At the top lock we rested by the farm kiosk where we bought home-made pork pie, dry-cured bacon and DIY cream tea.

At bridge 68 we entered the hallowed realm of an angling tournament.  Fifty anglers evenly spaced over a mile of canal bank.  Had I known about this we could have cleared out the farm kiosk and sold 50 bacon rolls, returning at 4pm to sell the same number of cream teas.
Progress is understandably slow and when we reached to last angler I told him we had just trawled the course and did he want to buy our catch. This was no more successful than the missed catering opportunities.

We have not been to Market Drayton for some years and were interested to see how C&RT is improving Toms Wharf mooring since the previous tenant handed back the lease.

We were less impressed by the diesel spillage which no-one seemed to be clearing.

And we discovered another pill box by the canal

6 miles / 17 locks / 1 fishing competition

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

And boy did the sun shine today! To borrow an old hack's oft-repeated headline:
Phey ! What a scorcher!
Yesterday  it took us two hours to negotiate four locks through Middlewich because there were so many boats on the move so today we set off at 6am to get back on schedule.Nantwich was so busy with boats needing water that we decided to forego that exercise and proceed to Audlem. Now the sun started playing hide and seek and the wind picked up to make things difficult for us. 
What we were unaware of was this >

Boats were moored up nose to tail, sorry, bow to stern, for several hundred yards before the bottom lock and all space in town had been reserved days before. With seventeen miles already under our belt we embarked on the climbing the fifteen locks. 

However we did find a spot three locks up, right behind the Cheese Boat.

And right next to one of the outdoor stages.

At 8.30pm we had to move into a pub for our musical entertainment because all the outdoor stages were closed down for the night.


The acts we did see were very good but we have to move on tomorrow so our prime mooring will be available again. 

And yes, there was some intrepid hay making under way in the hot and windy weather

17.5miles / 5 locks / 1 festival

Friday, 26 May 2017

Three Wiches

After topping up the water tank and emptying the toilet, we set off from Northwich to Nantwich via Middlewich. I have often been told that the suffix -wich - indicates the presence of salt mines but I believe it actually originates in the Roman term for a settlement outside the city walls.

Soon after setting off we passed through the former Brunner-Mond chemical plant ,which is now part of the Tata empire, where construction work is under way.

Not far from Orchard Marine, on the opposite side of the canal, there is a new marina also under construction -Park Farm.

Unusually, the only sunken boat we saw was not a plastic launch but a narrowboat. I think that boats seldom get scrapped: they are sold on and on at ever reducing prices, receiving inadequate maintenance, until they are of so little value they are just left to rot.

I was pleased to see Elizabeth on her mooring in Middlewich. Built in cast iron for Fellows, Morton & Clayton, she was a horse drawn coke boat until 1928 when she was sold for use in carrying gravel on the River Trent. In 1936 she was upgraded to sail and engine power  receiving a series of , mostly paraffin, engines  until 1988 when the current Gardner 2LN was installed. The mahogany and iroco cabin was also added in 1936 and she was named Elizabeth at this time. In 2002 she was given a double steel bottom.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

3 Tunnels; 1 Stop Lock; 1 Salvage

On our way from Dunham Massey, where we spent last night, to Anderton  we did indeed negotiate three tunnels - Preston Brook (1239 yards), Saltersford (424), Barnton (572 )
-and the peculiar stop lock at Dunton which forms the border between the Bridgewater  and the Trent & Mersey Canals.

 I am not sure whether the maritime law of salvage applies to canals, certainly boarding a canal boat without permission is technically piracy .

As we approached bridge 204 on our way to Saltersford Tunnel we encountered two boats performing some kind of dance. We soon realised that the couple on a hire boat were trying to re-moor a boat which had lost its moorings.

Putting M ashore with a lump hammer to assist, I tried not to get  in the way.

Until it was my turn to assist by pushing the loose boat to the bank

Job done, the hirers proceeded to return their boat and I tried to unstick myself from the mud .

22 miles / 1 lock / 3 tunnels

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Opening Time

Not much to say today because I have just deleted all the photos I took today and am gutted.
We set off just before 9am intending to arrive at Vicars Hall Bridge  on the Bridgewater Canal around noon when it was due to be opened. After three months closure we expected there to be a queue of boats waiting to go north to Liverpool or to escape south. As it happened the canal was opened yesterday afternoon so when we arrived spot on noon there were no boats. In fact we saw only four boats in four hours this morning. I know that those  of you south of Anderton don't believe this but since Sunday we have seen no other boats traveling. The custom of waiting in a broad lock for another boat to share it would result in boaters starving to death up here. 
So there you have it. The lovely picture of Gecko cruising through the (unfinished) bridge portals on the stroke of noon is not to see the light of day. And I can't start to tell you about the other more wonderful photographs I took.  
We have moored this evening near Dunham Masseyr with Anderton our target for tomorrow. 

23 miles / 0 locks

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Welcoming New Readers

Today we were overrun by a lovely crowd of youngsters with enquiring minds.
We don't know their names but are sure they will become regular readers of this blog
Best wishes guys with your end-of-year exams

The Road to Wigan Pier

Up early today.  Filled up with water and emptied the toilet and set off on the dot of 7am.

Soon after setting off we passed the entrance to the Rufford Arm which links the L&L main line to the River Ribble. This has become popular since the millennium  link near Preston  made it possible to cross the River and travel up the Lancaster Canal.

At Glovers swing bridge a C&RT working boat was hogging the bridge landing so M had to cross their boat to  get to the tow path.

The old lock at Appley Bridge

Long before the L&L was built the Wigan coalfields were already using water transport to move their product.
The Little River Douglas was  partly canalised through to the River Ribble at Preston .

Along this stretch  we passed three of the old locks dating from the early 17th century
The Little River Douglas flows to the right of the L&L lock

From Preston, coal was  taken along the coast to Fleetwood, Lancaster and Liverpool .

When the L&L was finally finished over a hundred years later the Douglas link became redundant.

Pillbox near Parbold

During the second World War the strategic importance of the L&L was recognised as was its vulnerability. Along its route pillboxes were built and manned by the Home Guard (aka Dad's Army) much as the Kennet & Avon Canal was defended

And we must not forget that coal was not the only commodity carried along this canal.

Grain, and, of course, flour were regularly moved.
This old windmill near Parbold is right alongside the canal.

On arriving at Wigan we made two attempts to moor. Our first choice was too shallow and  so we moved over to the ex BW bollards. Here we were more successful until a pair of boats went down the lock we developed a significant list.

So we left Wigan centre and found a lovely spot alongside Scotman's Flash.

13.5miles / 8 locks / 2 swing bridges

Monday, 22 May 2017

Dale Street

Today I had to go into both Southport and Manchester by train so I was able to not use the transport interchange at Burscough Bridge. With no ticket office at the station I endeavoured to buy the tickets for this excursion  on the train but by the time the ticket man reached me the train had reached Southport so I bought them at that station.
My meeting in Manchester was in Dale Street. Some of you might remember stopping here on the Cheshire Ring to buy the license to descend the Rochdale Nine from a little hut  in the car park.
After my meeting, therefore, I walked down to the bottom of the street, where it meets Dulcie St.

My train had brought me into Victoria Station and as I made my way I spied this pub with he odd name:

The Lower Turk's Head

I wonder how that name came about.
What indeed is a lower Turk's head?

Starting the Rochdale Nine in 2017

There is still a car park at the junction of Dale St and Dulcie St but the area does not have the aura it had in the 1970s. I always found it a little foreboding, like buying a ticket for hell.
The start of the Rochdale Nine always  seemed to be cloaked in dark mists and shadows but perhaps my memory is playing tricks on me.
Entrance to the Ashton & Peak Forest Canals in 2017

 And the Ashton Canal seemed never seemed any  more inviting.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

We're Off !

After two years of neglect, Gecko is off again.
At 2.30pm on the dot we slipped our moorings and battled our way out of Scarisbrick Marina . The wind direction prevented us heading directly for the exit so we reversed to the point where we could spin round and dash for the exit bridge.

We are only going three miles to Burscough Bridge as I have to take a train to Southport and to Manchester tomorrow . It took us an  hour and forty minutes to cover this short stretch of the L&L canal as we had two swing bridges to operate. 

The first, at the Farmers' Arms was a busy road which is always fun to see the queue of cars building up as we make our sedate passage. It might have been easier had there not been a plastic boat moored on the bridge landing.

Guess why it's called The Slipway
The second is also by a pub. When we passed this way relocating Gecko from Anderton to Scarisbrick last May, the bridge mechanism failed and we had to wait for the engineer to come out and fix it.  No such problems today but the Slipway pub is now all boarded up.

We moored just before the long term moorings so that we can call at the water point and Elsan on Tuesday as we head off towards Wigan.

Just to be sure the station had not closed down in the past year or so, I walked down to the railway bridge.

A few years ago a lovely transport interchange was built here with a cafe and ticket office. 

And it's right behind the Bridge Inn. How convenient.

Well, there USED to be a cafe and ticket office, also a toilet and bike store.

At least the trains still call here 

4 miles / 0 locks

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Josephine Baker Day

In 1963 the NAACP (The oldest and boldest civil rights movement in the USA)
 designated May 20
Josephine Baker Day

Very soon after I started writing this post I ran into a problem I often have - how do I do justice to the subject without boring everyone.  So much has been written by so many people and so much better than I could achieve that I  have decided to direct you to some of that material rather than trying to distill it for your consumption.

I first became aware of Josephine Baker and the place she has in the hearts of the French when I worked in Paris. Our office was in Neuilly and we often (too often by British standards) repaired to the local cafĂ©  which was named after one of her most famous songs - J'ai Deux Amours
See her perform it here  - J'ai deux amours

Baker is most widely known for her erotic and humourous dancing and singing and, in particular, for her Banana Dance where she wore nothing but a skirt comprising sixteen (artificial) bananas. The film clips of this all come from performances in USA where she wore more garments for local taste.

But this clip will give you an idea of her humour - Don't Touch Me Tomatoes
La Baker, as the French called her, was more than  just a singer and dancer.
This article entitled Dancer, Singer, Activist, Spy    goes a long way to explaining this.

But Josephine Baker was more than  just a Dancer, Singer, Activist & Spy
Growing up in USA she encountered ingrained racial prejudice which contrasted to her reception in France. Here the public took her into their hearts - granted her citizenship and awarded her gallantry medals for her resistance work. When she died in 1975 she was buried with full military honours - 21 gun salute included - by her adopted homeland, France.
Throughout her life she fought against prejudice which came from her belief that all people should, and could, live in harmony . She did not agree with the Melting Pot philosophy of racial integration. She believed all cultures must be celebrated for their diversity and by living by this doctrine the world would be a more peaceful and happier place. 
Her approach to demonstrating this was revolutionary : initially lauded but later considered an unfortunate mistake. 
In 1953 she embarked on a programme which resulted in her adopting, sometimes under dubious circumstances, twelve children from diverse cultures and raising them as cultural stereotypes. She is quoted as saying:
I will make every effort so that each shows the utmost respect for the opinion and beliefs of the other. I want to show people of colour  that not all whites are cruel and mean. I will prove that human beings can respect each other if given the chance.
Her adoptees included Akio (Korean), Teruya (Japanese), Jarry (Norwegian) and Luis (Colombian). Unable to obtain a child from Israel she adopted a French boy and brought him us as a Jew. Marianne and Brahim from Algeria she decided were Catholic and Muslim respectively. Others were brought from Ivory Coast, Venezuela and Morrocco. All were brought to her Chateau des Milandes in Perigord which was developed as a theme park featuring the children as hosts. 

Chateau des Milandes during restoration
Inevitably, the dream of a Rainbow Tribe became untenable and, penniless, Josephine moved to Monaco where she was provided with accommodation by her friend Princess Grace.

Chateau des Milandes as restored in 2016

Chateau des Milandes restored
Josephine Baker may have been misguided in the exercise of her quest for mutual respect across all cultures but I respect her for the strength of her belief and the commitment to try to achieve it.
And I enjoy her singing


Monday, 15 May 2017

How Nestle Hides Price Rises

NEW RECIPE - 8 sachets to a box

Nestle have been advertising their 
 "New Recipe"
Instant Cappuccino recently
(When was anything not 
NEW and/or IMPROVED??) 

10 Sachets but no sprinkles

Last week there were 
10 sachets in a box.
Now there are  8, 

That's 20% less


Originally each carton included a little plastic tube of chocolate sprinkles
Where did they go?

Sneaky , aren't they?