Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Would you like a leaflet?


I've just printed another little batch of  Chertsey information sheets. These started out as my A3 display 'boards' but I thought it would be nice to have something people could take away. It's also useful for quickly giving people information or contact details - or when asking for photos. And as it's been a while since I've posted any information about Chertsey and her history, I thought it wouldn't go amiss. The original has a photo, but you can just substitute the one from the blog masthead.

CHERTSEY (GUCCCo. 130)

HISTORY

Chertsey was built for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company (GUCCCo) by Harland and Wolff at their North Woolwich shipyard, and delivered in January 1937 with the fleet number 130. This was part of the last big expansion of the Grand Union fleet, eighty-six pairs of boats, built between 1936-8, at Woolwich (motors and butties), Northwich (motors) and Rickmansworth (butties), with a deeper (4'9”) hold than their predecessors, and Chertsey is therefore a Large Woolwich motor boat. All the large motor boats were built of riveted steel (although Woolwiches originally had wooden cabins) and all 86 are still extant in some form. It is likely that the names for these boats were more or less randomly selected from a railway gazetteer, and they are sometimes referred to today as 'Town Class' boats.

Chertsey would have carried a variety of loads for GUCCCo, between London and Birmingham, the East Midlands, and also to Northampton and beyond onto the River Nene.  These would include coal from the Midlands to London, and imported raw materials such as timber, metals and grain which could be loaded directly from ships in the Regents Canal Dock (now Limehouse Basin). When waterways transport was nationalised in 1948 Chertsey passed into the British Waterways South Eastern Fleet, and continued carrying into the early 1960s.

Chertsey was sold into private ownership in 1962, and for a while was registered as a houseboat, although there is no evidence that she was ever converted. During this period, she attended a number of rallies, and apparently had an organ in the hold, which was played at gatherings. We would particularly like to fill in details of what Chertsey was doing 1962-69.

In 1969, Chertsey was purchased by Richard Barnett, who owned the boat until his death in 2009. Under his ownership, Chertsey undertook some short term carrying contracts, including being one of the last boats to bring coal (from Gopsall on the Ashby Canal) to John Dickinson's paper mill at Croxley on the Grand Union, in August 1970. From the 1980s however, Chertsey was more or less abandoned at Valencia Wharf, Oldbury, although Richard Barnett was never willing to sell her.

Chertsey's engine is an air cooled Petter PD2 as fitted by British Waterways in 1960 to replace the original raw water cooled National DM2. One battery charged through a dynamo (rather than a modern alternator) powers the electric start, and lighting in the back cabin. The cabin was rebuilt in the late 1970s in solid oak (reclaimed library shelves) on the original frames, and later skinned in steel by Les Allen. The engine room is original as far as we know, and its roof shows the scars of previous exhausts and the G.U. toilet vent.

CURRENT OWNERSHIP
 
Since purchasing Chertsey in 2009, the following works have been undertaken to restore and improve the boat:

·        Steelwork repairs to the hull (particularly the knees, chine angle and counter) and overplating to the back end/engine room baseplate by Keith Ball
·        New oak gunnels, front cants, handrails, other woodwork, top planks and cloths by Pete Boyce.
·        Paintwork by Martin O’Callaghan and signwriting by Dave Moore

Chertsey's unusual livery represents the brief transitional period between British Waterways taking ownership of the Grand Union fleet, and the development of their own distinctive yellow and blue colour scheme a year or so later.

Chertsey has now retired as a working boat, and is used purely for pleasure. The hold is not converted with any permanent structure, but camping arrangements under the cloths provide plenty of flexible space for summer boating, which has evolved over time. Most recently we have built a platform in the cratch to provide additional sleeping/storage space and easy access to the fore end, and begun ballasting with concrete blocks rather than coal.

PHOTOS

I have a number of photographs of Chertsey at various stages of her history which can’t be publicly displayed for copyright or other reasons – please ask if you would like to see the album. And if you have taken any nice or interesting photos of Chertsey – either recently or in the past – it would be greatly appreciated if you could share them by emailing to  
[my email address] – please also get in touch if you would like to know more about Chertsey in particular or historic narrow boats more generally.
You can also follow my blog at www.chertsey130.blogspot.co.uk

Friday, 8 June 2018

Gone for a... oh, has that one been done?

Revisiting day 2 of the trip, which was the Sunday. I had to go back into work on the Monday, so we stopped as planned on the Shobnall Fields mooring in Burton. Strangely, we'd never stopped there overnight before, but it was ever so nice, and a short walk to the station.
There's no denying that despite still being a centre of the brewing industry, Burton has the run down air of a post-industrial town. Nowhere have I been that felt more like a company town. Whichever way you turned, it seemed you could see the brewery dominating the horizon. In the past I'm sure you would have smelt it as well, but perhaps the modern plant does away with that.

On the way back from the station on Monday evening I spotted a poignant ghost sign:

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Almost feels like home

Day 10: Foxton bottom to Watford top
Day 11: Watford top to Braunston

On Monday we were up early and waiting at the bottom of the Foxton locks at five to eight. As it turned out, there was no competition - there's been surprisingly little traffic over all this trip - but I suppose it's early in the season yet. We didn't start up the locks until 8:30, but were finished in the advertised 45 minutes and celebrated with an ice cream (me) and a bacon cob (Jim/Ricky) at the top. Sadly there is no photographic evidence of me tying up the boat with one hand whilst holding a large and precarious cornet in the other, but I assure you, my talents multiply by the day. It was a much cooler, overcast day, and we sailed serenely through the green green world to tie up at the top of Watford locks just after five.
Watford has an amazing book swap. I took about ten books over, and came back with as many, that I really wanted to read (rather than 'that'll do if I'm desperate'). After the lock keeper had gone for the night we pretended that their little cottage and garden was our very own, although Ricky had to be confined to the boat to stop him digging up their lawn.

In another 45 minutes (starting at 8:35) we were down Watford and on the last leg of the journey to Braunston. I was pleased to note that we beat CanalPlan's estimate - on default settings - by eleven minutes. We tied up by the ladder bridge, but were a bit perturbed that the mooring suspension for the show only starts a week in advance - I'd expected a fortnight, so thought we'd get away with plotting up there.

Pete came to the rescue though (again) and offered us the use of Renfrew's mooring, while he prepared Renfrew for the show. The offer was made over dinner at the Boat House - definitely my second choice Braunston pub, but the Nelson, it transpires, don't do food on Monday OR Tuesday :-(
The trouble with the Boat House is that it's not dog-friendly (you wouldn't think it would be hard, a place that size) so we had to sit outside. Despite the afternoon having warmed up, we anticipated the evening becoming chilly again, so Jim brought two jackets, which he put down on the bench beside him, and we brought Ricky's jumper (that he'd been wearing all morning) as well as his fleecy bed. Ricky decided that the bed alone wasn't wholly to his satisfaction, and that he could do better for himself:
Jim was so engrossed in conversation he didn't notice his garments being purloined and repurposed.

On the way to the Boat House last night, we met Kevin and Vicky, former Star- and then Harry- Man and Woman, who have a new boat. So this morning, after moving Chertsey down to the turn we went and had a cup of tea with them, before finally setting off in the car to Alvecote.

And so ended a fairly uneventfula nd very enjoyable holiday. The weather has been brilliant throughout, wioth lots of sun, and only the occasional rain - and never while we were boating. The do at Langley Mill was great; I actually enjoyed the Soar (and of course the Erewash, but that's not so newsworthy) and we had a lovely sociable time - all the better for boing unplanned - on arrival in Braunston too.

Back to work for me now, until the weekend of the show.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Pressing on

Day 8: Sileby Mill to Bush Lock
Day 9: Bush Lock to Foxton

Well, it's still been nice, but a fairly heavy couple of days. Two of the pounds today - shallow at the best of times - were down as much as eighteen inches. I'd done really well, creeping along the middle, until I got firmly stuck just short of Pyewell lock, trying to go in on the right to let a hire boat join us. In the end they had to help get us off, and went up before us.

Today has been wonderfully hot and sunny, almost since we set off at 7:30. When I washed my hair with the solar shower at about five, it was almost too hot.

But we pressed on, and made it to Foxton tonight as planned, so hopefully two more, slightly shorter, days should see us to Braunston.

And talking of hot water.... we're currently in the Foxton Locks (because we needed CHIPS! And very nice they were too) and like many establishments, there's a sign in the ladies saying 'caution: very hot water'. But this time they really mean it. The water coming out of the taps is scalding; you could not wash your hands in it. Which means they might as well not have it. Now, what I wondered is, rather than going down the cash and carry and buying 'caution: very hot water' notices, why don't they just turn the boiler down so that their customers can wash their hands in suitable hot water. Just a thought. Also, £4.10 a pint. Only place I've paid more than that is London. Or possibly Brighton. But - especially considering how busy they were - the food wasn't bad at all.





Friday, 1 June 2018

Hold the front page: enjoying the Soar!

Day 6: Langley Mill to Sheetstores
Day 7: Sheetstores to Sileby Mill

Today I had a nice day on the Soar. I did not get swept away by the current, not stuck on a bridge pier. We haven't got to Leicester yet. It has actually been rather lovely, and I have had a good upper body resistance workout (a.k.a. river steering) to boot. I'm getting a taste for shorter days now and was itching to tie up by four o'clock (we didn't leave until 8:40 this morning though) so ended up on the lock moorings at Sileby Mill which is lovely. There is a weir (over which water is rushing quite impressively), which is my favourite sound for getting to sleep to. Last night we were between two railway bridges, which was OK - I don't mind trains - and would have been very interesting I'm sure to anyone with a train passion. A weir is better though. Today has been yet another which started overcast but became sunny at lunchtime and really hot later - enlivened this evening by a sudden and very heavy downpour which occurred, of course, while Jim was taking Ricky for a little walk. On the whole so far the weather has been really great. I'll post retrospectively in more detail with pictures when I get back.



Thursday, 24 May 2018

A bit of a scrape

Day 5, Hallam Fields lock to Langley Mill

It all felt much harder work without Doug's assistance! An extra pair of hands really comes into its own when the locks are wide and other boats few and far between.

Still, we plodded on today (well, Jim and Ricky plodded while I boated) and we arrived at Langley Mill at about quarter past one. By the time we had winded and tied up next to Trout it was nearly quarter to three and the really rather cold morning had given way to blazing sunshine - so much so that we had to erect Ricky's sunshade (a Wilko's child's beach sun shelter fashioned around the folding picnic table) and drape him in wet cloths.

Of course I was prepared for the low bridges of the Erewash. Of course I was. I had the titch pipe on and had taken all the cans, flowers etc off the cabin top. The trouble was that at bridge 19 (Potters Lock) I was so concerned about getting the headlight through the middle of the arch that the cabin slewed a bit to the side by which time I was crouching down and not steering very effectively, and impressively scraped the paint kettle chimney cover, and more upsettingly, bent the tiller pin and, just grazing the corner of the cabin, snapped one of the old hooks that holds the doors open. Boo.

The legendary Indian restaurant here at Langley Mill is under new management since we were last here (OK, that was five years ago) and sadly they no longer offer the curries with strawberries etc in that Jim really likes. We had a takeaway from there and it was fine (not as good as Walkley's Rajput) if on the dear side. We ordered online, which was very simple and convenient. I've tried that a couple of times before but this was definitely the simplest and clearest.



Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Short and sweet

Day 4, Trent Lock (above) to Hallam Fields Lock (below)

Another short but sweet day's boating today, but for once we have more time than we need to get where we're going so have the luxury of taking it a bit easy.

This morning we were joined by Doug, fellow Foundation Year practitioner who works at Nottingham. He'd cycled down from his home in Ilkeston because a few weeks ago I'd gone over to Nottingham to talk about setting up a journal for the Foundation Year Network, and over a coffee had mentioned the boat and the fact that we were going up (and indeed back down) the Erewash, and he sounded interested, so I roped him in.

For someone who hadn't narrowboated before Doug was a natural, getting stuck straight into the locks (which was a real blessing as they are even heavier than I remember) and taking instinctively to steering too. Within about four hours we were almost back at Ilkeston, so we tied up for a pub lunch and decided to stay here until the morning - a good decision, as this afternoon has been really hot.

I know I like the Erewash but I tend to remember the mills and buildings and forget that much of it is quite rural, and we're in a very attractive setting tonight, next to woodland and wild flowers, and hopefully far enough out of Ilkeston not to be bothered by any people. The towpath here is most popular with cyclists, apparently quite a significant through route. Can't complain though as our newest crew member is one of them!