... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Friday 30 September 2011

A change of scene

Having a lovely holiday... Picked up Singapore yesterday, took her from Thorpe St. Andrew to Brundall where we arrived ten minutes too latebto get diesel, but that meant we could spend all night on the diesle wharf, so that was ok. We went to the Yare pub for dinner which was not at all bad, and had a shower, which wasn't bad either, but nor should it have been seeing that it cost a pound, as it seems do most things on the Broads.

We set off this morning after filling up (at £1.21 a litre!) while is was still magically misty, and after a gorgeous day we are now at Reedham, Where the Lord Nelson was pretty dreadful but the Ship was OK, and we have just celebrated Jim's birthday there. Tomorrow onwards to Lowestoft where we are meeting Moomin tomorrow, and then on Sunday, Graham, who is going to pilot us to Walton.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Where's that porridge?

See the warm glow in the little right hand window...
This morning the time had come to try out the Rippingilles stove. Last night we half filled the tanks with paraffin, and left them sitting on newspaper overnight. As I had feared, we discovered this morning that the left hand one has a slight leak from one corner, but hopefully Jim will be able to solder it. It really does seem as if this stove has never been used before.

The tanks/burners fit in so tightly under the oven that it would be impossible to light the wicks and then slide them in, so although they seemed pretty immoveable, we reckoned that the mica windows inside the oven must slide open for lighting, and after a drop of WD40, this proved to be the case.

The porridge was very slow to cook; slower than on the double Beatrice at least, but that's hardly surprising. I think it might be slower than a single Beatrice burner too, but I'd have to test it out further. The wick is the same size but I suspect the Beatrice has a more efficient chimney arrangement. I put a small tin of water in the oven and that was definitely getting warm, but then I had to turn out and remove the leaky tank so gave up on that experiment. This chap has baked bread rolls in his though. I wonder also if there's scope for putting some insulation inside, between the burner chimneys and the outside casing, directing more heat into the oven and keeping the outside cooler.

In The Riddle of the Sands, which I have now finished, they move the stove into the saloon to keep warm, where it covers everything in soot and oil, and smells. Can't wait!

Monday 26 September 2011

Getting into West Stockwith: The illustrated version

Here, thanks again to Kate on Ding, we are actually getting into West Stockwith Lock. We'd got there a bit early while the tide was still flowing reasonably fast, and turning straight in, it quickly became clear, was a non-starter. so Jim turned Chertsey around in the river and we crept in against the tide. It was at this point that I was worried about getting too close to the bank, but sitting later watching other boats come in, they all seemed to hug the wall like this.

Then there was the effort of getting the back of the boat round against the flow before being swept past the lock. We made it, but it was harder than it was on Warrior.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Chertsey on the Trent

When we were at Torksey we met a lovely little tug called Ding, built from scratch by its owner. They set off the same time as us, aiming to get all the way to Keadby, whilst we were stopping at West Stockwith. They set off before us, but we'd got the wind in our hair and some water under the prop, and reckless of the danger of arriving at West Stockwith too early, we found ourselves overtaking them. As we passed, someone was taking photos of us through the side hatch. Oh, I thought, how I wish I had a way of contacting them; I'd love to see those photos.

Then a couple of days ago I got involved in a CWF thread about going beyond the official head of navigation on the Chesterfield and right up to the tunnel entrance. I mentioned that we'd tried it too years ago on Warrior, but had very quickly given up. Hairy Neil posted that he'd just done it - and it turned out to have been with Ding! So I asked if he could put me in touch with Ding's owners, which he did, and Kate very kindly sent me these photos, and said that I could post them on the blog. Thank you Kate.

Tomorrow: proof that we did actually get into West Stockwith Lock!

Saturday 24 September 2011

Hellish road

Today we decided it would be a good day to go into London by car and clear my office. I would be interested to know whether any other road route into central London beats the hellishness of the A23.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday 23 September 2011

This season's fashions

We are now well into the throes of preparing to vacate the house in favour of No. 1 Son and bugger off boating for a year or two (that being the current, open-to-change-as-circumstances-dictate, plan). In pursuit of this, I spent the day going through my wardrobe. This is something that usually happens a couple of times a year - nothing to do with the seasons; I'm not that sort of organised person who has a winter and a summer wardrobe, with a little black dress, a signature handbag (whatever one of those is) and little furbelows for when you have to straight from the office to a party (oh, you don't either?). No, what I have is an addiction to charity shops, and before that, jumble sales. My wardrobe tends to grow at the rate one one or two items a week, on average, which means that roughly every six months, when I can't get anything else in, I have to have a sort out and send half of it back to charity shops again. Obviously this is something I am going to have to work on once I'm living in a back cabin.

Todays sort out was, therefore, far more radical. All those things that I don't really love, but are 'too good to throw away', no doubt bought because they were a bargain, I have bitten the bullet and put in a big pile if not for selling or freecycling, then taking to the posh charity shop where they will hopefully acquire appreciative owners. There are two other bags of less posh stuff destined for the local Sense shop - not because I have any attachment to that particular charity, but because it's a nice shop and, most importantly, they don't overprice things. I hate the way charity shops are getting greedy and pricing stuff as if they're a posh dress agency. When I give stuff to a charity shop, it's nice to know it's contributing income to a good cause, but that's not my main motivation. I do it to recycle, and because I remember when I had no money, and the charity shop represented a chance of getting good quality clothes at a price I could not only afford, but justify. To me that is still an important function.

So, a big pile of stuff for giving away, but other, smaller but significant, piles of stuff that I love too much to get rid of; or that is too pretty or special or irreplaceable; or that will come in useful in the future once the others are worn out. These have been packed into five big boxes. Then there is the smallest pile of all, stuff for actually taking on the boat. And I don't know how I'm going to fit that in.

However, I also have one new garment for future boating. A lifejacket. Now, I hate the very idea of putting on a lifejacket (for the same reason as I hate gym equipment; I don't expect anyone to understand). I have always thought that people who wear them on rivers are somewhat over-cautious (yes, it would be nasty if you fell in, but that's not very likely to happen), and people who wear them on canals, downright odd. But apparently at sea they are all the rage. As we will be moving Singapore from Lowestoft to Walton-on-the-Naze utilising that rather unreliable medium, I thought that for once I would follow the fashion.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Purple patch

This is where I start to go through the photos from the last trip, and without the aid of the log, try to remember where we were on any particular date. This one is from the 20th and we must still be on the Trent and Mersey. Me having a bit of fun with the new camera (but no tripod).

Monday 19 September 2011

Can I have a flake in that?

The trip in beer

Goodness, they like their sparklers tight up there in the East Midlands. I really don't like beer pulled through a sparkler; for me it ruins it.

I got involved in a discussion about this on CWF, where I said:
My personal bugbear is 'sparklers' that put an artificial head on the beer at the expense of robbing it of its texture and flavour (and half an inch of beer). Some beers are brewed for this treatment but most aren't (certainly no southern beer that I know of is; it's a midlands and northern thing) and you might find it interesting to taste the same beer served with and without.

To which someone for whom i have a lot of respect replied:
Sparklers, interestingly, have far more effect on Southern beers, than Northern, reducing the harshness of an inferior brew. (That was sort of a joke... I think)
And he explained:
[T]he sparkler is like a shower head, on the end of the beer engine's swan neck (the narrow pipe, through which the beer is dispensed).
It effectively takes CO2 out of the beer, reducing it's harshness but making the head more bitter.
Drinking bitter through the head is much like drinking a good coffee through the crema.

I thought this was interesting, and made sense; although I could never prefer beer this way (to me it tastes like dishwater and might almost as well be John Smiths) I can now see how some people could, especially if that's what they (poor benighted souls) are used to.

Most importantly, Carl (for it was he) confirmed that beer served without a sparkler IS NOT FLAT
On the contrary, because the sparkler extracts CO2, from the beer, the liquid underneath tends to be flatter, than the headless pint.

So we have arrived at some sort of north/south detente. It was also pointed out that if you are being served three quarters of an inch of froth on top of your pint, it ought to be in an oversized glass, so as not to loose out on the beer. I am ambivalent about this. Oversized glasses just don't look right, and if you are daft enough to want your beer to look like a Mr Whippy then frankly you don't deserve a full pint. Also it gives pubs an excuse for not taking the sparkler off. Finally, beer is cheaper up north so it all works out the same in the end.

So, having set the scene, here is my round up of the pubs we visited on the latest outing. The grand total is only eight, which I was convinced must be a misrake, but I have checked with Jim and he can't remember any others either (he probably doesn't remember the White Hart at West Stockwith, actually). This is probably because we didn't actually cover a lot of miles, spending longer periods in one or two places. Here anyway is the roll of honour:

The Coopers Tavern, Burton upon Trent
Formerly the Bass brewery tap, this is a splendid and atmospheric traditional pub, but friendly with it. A wide range of different customers all seemed at home. Beer is served straight from the barrel (iirc) and there is just a small counter, no bar as such. Although it's owned by Joules I think it's a free house. Bass is available of course, and this is where I got my introduction to Thornbridge Jaipur IPA. A good start to the trip.

The Fox and Crown, Newark
Just popped in here for a quick drink with Dave and Izzy one evening. Perfectly OK pub, but not outstanding, and certainly outshone in Newark. I didn't see any evidence of the 10 beers promised by the website, more like three.

The Prince Rupert, Newark
I'm swooning just thinking about it. A stunningly restored fifteenth century building, great range of beer served by people who really know and care about it, and to cap it all, wonderful food too. Despite being new, it had a really nice feel about it; everyone was friendly and the surroundings very pleasant with lots of nice old signs and adverts.

Just Beer, Newark
What it says, basically. People who are dedicated to serving good beer from as wide a range of breweries as possible. The staff were welcoming and friendly but there's no getting away from the fact that it's basically a shed. One for hard core real ale fiends. I'd be a regular if I lived there.

The White Hart, West Stockwith
A very ordinary looking pub hides its own microbrewery producing some potent beers (just ask Jim and Adrian!). Good food too. The place to unwind after getting into the lock. (And out of it again, obviously. Sue wouldn't like it if you left your boat in the lock and disappeared into the pub for five hours.)

The Bricklayers Arms, Clayworth
Apparently renowned for its food and packed out on weekend evenings, but not so impressive for a lunchtime pint.

The Rum Runner, Retford
Surprised this place doesn't have its own website - it looked like that sort of enterprising outfit. Regular (mini) beer festivals, an antiques market... It promised a lot, but was disappointing. The Batemans beer was nothing to write home about; there was annoying background music and maddening, soulless halogen lighting. During the 'beer festival' there was a band on so a large crowd of us were shown into another room, where there were no tables and we sat in a circle like an encounter group. Jim and I and Adrian and Linda upped sticks at this point and finally went off to check out...

The Turks Head, Retford
Which was a pleasant surprise. Tatty thirties mock tudor on the outside, on the inside it was beautifully maintained and highly polished thirties mock tudor, with a warm and welcoming feel. And Youngs Special - the sparkler was definitely coming off that!

So, for the prizes... For atmosphere and history.. The Coopers Tavern. For dedication to beer... Just Beer. But the overall winner, for beer, food, surroundings and service, by a mile - The Prince Rupert.

Hope to be back soon.

Sunday 18 September 2011

Into West Stockwith

As I mentioned at the time, Adrian and Linda were waiting to welcome us at West Stockwith, Adrian armed with his camera (lucky it wasn't video!). We subsequently discovered that all the other historic boats had stopped on the wall and been pulled in on a rope at slack water. We hadn't really thought of mentioning that we were a historic boat, and none of the lock keepers further upstream had said anything, so we just attacked it as we had on Warrior two years previously. Now, that went remarkably smoothly - a combination I guess of luck and Warrior's powerful engine - but we were still approaching it with some trepidation having heard many tales of how difficult it is; worse than Keadby, some say, and there was no way I wanted to repeat the Warrior Keadby experience, especially in a rivetted boat.
We set off downstream on a falling tide, and once again arrived earlier than expected (it would be helpful actually if the lock keepers told you when to arrive, rather than when they think you should leave, as there is such a range of different possible speeds) and it was still flowing fast; it was a big tide anyway. With less power than Warrior, and more length to be caught by the current, it was always going to be harder on Chertsey to repeat the feat. Trying to steer straight in, we were swept past, and so had to turn into the flow and come back upstream into the tide. The worst bit about this was worrying about getting too close to the bank and running aground. The other danger of course was hitting the wall. Fortunately we did neither; Jim held his nerve and after a bit of a struggle got us into position to get into the lock without hitting anything. Sadly, by then Adrian's camera had run out of memory so that small triumph was not recorded for posterity.

Many thanks to Adrian for the photos here; just a small selection of the ones he took.

Friday 16 September 2011

That paint job... at last

Blogging on the iPad is great, but it's really only practical to post photos taken with the iPad itself. When you look at these in the blog on an ordinary computer, they look terribly low-res; click to enlarge them and the resolution actually improves. No, I don't know how that works either.

Of course this trip was the first boating outing for my new Canon EOS 500D digital SLR. I've been umming and ah-ing about getting one for years, as I loved my old film SLR, and Jim took the decision out of my hands by buying me one for my birthday (and I'd only asked for a Beatrice stove and a mangle). But it is so new and precious that I didn't dare get it out as much as I would have done the (now tatty) old Canon compact; an irony which I shall have to overcome.

Rewinding to August 17th, and we arrive at Alvecote to pick up the newly painted and signwritten Chertsey. Exciting if not nerve-wracking for me, so hard to imagine how Martin must have felt as he delivered it from the dock at Grendon under our waiting gaze.

As you can no doubt tell from the photo, I was delighted with Martin's paintwork, and Dave Moore's signwriting. The overall effect is everything I'd hoped and more.

There is evidence and sound reasoning behind the unusual combination of signwriting and colour scheme which I chose - inspired by a comment from Paul (Capricorn) at Braunston last year. This represents a very short lived paint scheme (probably used in 1948 only) from the period immediately following nationalisation when the GU boats (because they were directly owned by the canal company) has passed into the ownership of the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive (who were already branding themselves 'British Waterways' although the British Waterways Board as a body didn't come into existence until later), but before FMC had sold out to DIWE and before the yellow and blue BW colour scheme was developed. In short, boats that were repainted at this time were painted using existing stocks of GU paint, in its wartime 'austerity' colours, but with a different layout, and signwritten 'British Waterways'. If you have a copy of Sonia Rolt's A Canal People there is a photo on page 96 which shows this clearly.

I leapt at the chance to use this scheme because the austerity colours are my favourite, and if Paul hadn't made his suggestion I probably would have gone for that livery - but the layout's not the most aesthetically appealing with its lack of coachlining. The GU/BW scheme also had the attraction of being original, and thus interesting, and it seems appropriate to be memorialising the British Waterways name as it seems likely to disappear next year (though whatever the new charity is called, to some I guess it will always be 'Waterways' as it has been for the past sixty plus years).

There is no evidence that Chertsey was ever painted in this scheme and to be honest it is vanishingly unlikely. The only photo I have of Chertsey prior to being sold by BW in the early 60s is the very early one that is reproduced in The George and the Mary, in spanking new GU two blues. All else is guesswork, so that guess is as good as any.

There are a couple of non-BW touches: the heart on the cabin slide, and the diamond on the deckboard. Both of these are aspects of Richard Barnett's paint scheme (it would be stretching things to call it a livery) which Chertsey has carried for more than half its life, from at least 1970 to the current repaint (in fact, I still have the old deckboard with its paint intact). So like the boat itself, the paint scheme is something of a pastiche, different areas representing different phases of its life, which I think is OK.

And it doesn't half look nice.

The colours by the way, as recommended by Phil Speight, are Craftmaster Union Blue (not, he was insistent, the darker Oxford blue often seen in austerity schemes), S. C. Crimson (gorgeous), and Cream.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Ripping yarns

Oh, we have been buying some things (I know I never posted the promised photo of the inappropriate bling, but we'll get there in the end. This is even more exciting).

It was Jim MacDonald, on Elizabeth (a fascinating boat) who said, when I was complaining at Alvecote about the Primus, that we should get a Beatrice stove. So we did (although not as nice, or indeed as cheap, as this beauty, albeit the same model). When our paths crossed again at Retford, I mentioned how pleased I was with it. Jim (M.) then said that he'd spotted a Rippingilles stove at Newark antiques market the previous week. Too my shame, I had never heard of one of these, although they get a (relatively) famous mention in Erskine Childers The Riddle of the Sands, which I immediately downloaded onto the iPad and began to read. I also Googled a few pictures and decided that this was definitely something worth looking at, so as Jim had just collected the car from Alvecote, we hopped in and set off from Retford back to Newark last Thursday. The market was somewhat denuded as there was a big event on somewhere else, and I though that we wouldn't see it after all, until Jim (C.) nudged me and whispered 'behind you!' and there it was. Having seen it of course we had to buy it.
It's in astoundingly good condition and looks as if it's never been used, although I suspect it's lost its original hotplates. It is, of course, paraffin fired. It has two tanks/burners, each with a 4 1/2 inch wick, two hotplates on the top and an oven in the middle. They were made by the Albion Lamp Company of Birmingham, from around 1880 onwards. Not many were sold in Britain as by this time most households (at least those in the market for this sort of thing) had gas - at least, so Wikipedia tells me. But they were a big hit in the colonies as you might imagine. My reproduction 1907 Army and Navy Stores catalogue carries four or five different models, as well as some gorgeous enamelled heating stoves. None seems to have the ornate cast iron sides of ours though.

It is destined for Singapore, where it should look absolutely gorgeous. As to whether it will cook, that remains to be seen. It seems a shame to put a match to those wicks after all these pristine years. Isn't it wonderful though.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Another twelve hour day, but rather more miles covered

Here I am back on my Newhaven sofa, after another day of travelling, only mostly by road this time.

We left Retford on Chertsey at eight this morning, setting off after Aquarius, Thea and Elizabeth - and after Jim on Elizabeth fished a shopping trolley out of the canal just above the lock and thus solved the mystery of the recently appeared lump. Progress was much faster today than inthe opposite direction last week and we were back at Clayworth in three hours. It took us another half hour to tie up as we fought the wind to find a place where we could get reasonably close to the bank, and then rather longer than we had envisaged to transfer a surprising amount of luggage back to the car.

Then we were off at far higher speed, on our way to Norfolk, where we met up with the marvellous Keith from Boatshed who handed over Singapore's keys, and a box file of information and history - she's a well documented boat. Then it was back on the road to home, where we arrived at about eight pm - another day of twelve hours travelling, but rather more miles covered than yesterday.

Tomorrow I'll get on the big computer and take a look at the photos I've taken with my new big camera, and no doubt they will inspire some more posts. In the meantime, here is one of the less nutritious meals enjoyed on the trip.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday 12 September 2011

Sticking point

It's been such a busy few days I'm afraid I've failed to post and now probably can't remember the best bits. I'll try and update about the weekend later, at home, when I can post some decent photos. For now, let's stick to today.. And a bit of yesterday.

Part of the HNBOC mission for this little gathering was to see which boats could and couldn't get into Stret Lock, and where and how they stuck. All the locks on this canal are narrow (except the wide ones, if you know what I mean) but Stret it particularly so, having been rebuilt to accomodate boats 6'10" wide, snugly. HNBOC are very active on preserving the ability to navigate the canals and in my view this is very valuable for everyone, not just owners of historic boats. If we can get through, then everyone should be able to; if navigations start to get narrow, or shallow, or obstructed, historic boats are the early warning system. Someone on CWF a while back asked if it was really so important to maintain canals to accomodate seventy foot boats (as the issue under discussion was mooring near bridgeholes, this included modern seventy footers too), as these represent a small minority of canal users. I wonder if he will be saying the same when it's no longer possible to navigate his sixty foot boat...

So, I was very keen to contribute in whatever small way I could to this project, which meant leaving at lunchtime yesterday in the company of Bath, Aquarius, Petrel and Aegir (not an historic boat but a lovely old one with beautiful aged varnished paintwork). As usual we were the slowest by a mile, and got stuck a few times. Below Retford the problem was mostly mud, but up here there are more rocks and other hard impedimenta. We stopped at Osberton at eight, and set off again at quart past seven this morning.

Bath and Petrel (and Aegir) know they can get through Stret and were planning a jaunt to the head of navigation (so far); Aquarius is on the Chesterfield for the first time, I think. We had been up the year before last on Warrior, so sort of knew what to expect, though you only ever remember a fraction of it. Now though we were six inches deeper and the canal was six inches shallower. And we were a couple of inches wider, of course.

Of the boats that tried last week, Thea was unable to get into Morse lock, the one before Stret, so we knew this would be the first challenge (apart from the bends, the lack of water and the wind, of course). We were leading the pack this morning and so were the first to try. At first it looked as if we would get in; the lock looked no different from the previous ones and Chertsey was sailing in quite smoothly - so much so that I thought I should
slow down a bit so I engaged reverse... and stopped dead, three quarters of the way into the lock and unable to move forwards or backwards. We looked all around and there was no obvious sticking point, suggesting that it was most likely below the waterline. There were no crunching or grinding noises either; it was all very gentle and graceful. After walking round stroking our chins and taking photos for a bit, Chertsey was extricated by flushing some water through. We reversed back to the nearby winding hole, turned round and set off back to Retford, duty done. I don't think our sticking in Morse was entirely conclusive, and suspect we may have been stuck on the bottom rather than the sides, but it seems that discretion was the better part of valour as we heard later that Aquarius successfully got into and ascended Morse, made an unsuccessful attempt at Stret, but then got firmly stuck in Morse on the way back down, necessitating sending for the support boat (Petrel) and a Tirfor.

We had enough adventures of our own on the way back as it was very, very windy. Mostly this wasn't a problem directly, but if we did get out of position, it made it hard to redeem the situation. It was also very tiring and drying of the throat, leaving me croaking my despair at points. Now of course, when we got stuck (which happened twice, seriously) there was no friendly travelling companion in the form of Bath, and no welcome sight of Dave approaching on his bike. We were on our own. Both times we managed, eventually - each took a good half hour and the second time we jettisoned a fair proportion of Chertsey's 100 gallon fresh water supply. I'm not sure that made the crucial difference as the level in the canal seemsd to rise slightly too, but as that water weighs a ton in total it might have helped. It's quite a simple process anyway, just turn on the taps and after a while, switch on the bilge pump.

We did get back eventually of course, exactly twelve hours after setting off this morning. It was a rainy night and a damp early morn so I lit the stove. The day soon brighetned up but I kept the fire going and finally made a plum and apple crumble with the plums Val gave us and the apples from Izzy. It cooked as we went along and was done to perfection when we tied up. I'm so stiff now I can hardly sit up to write this. Obviously I am getting rusty and need to do more boating!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday 8 September 2011

Tired of life?

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, Samuel Johnson famously said. I can only guess that London in 1777 was rather less tiring than it is now...

Although, looking that up to check the date, I see that he said it before he'd actually moved there.

I spent the afternoon in London yesterday, and I couldn't wait to get back to the boat.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Can't complain

We arrived in Retford at quarter to three yesterday, having left Clayworth at ten fifteen. I make that four and a half hours for a journey of about five miles, with two locks. Add this to the nine and a half miles and four locks that it took us over eight hours to cover on Monday, and it becomes clear that the Chesterfield is not a fast canal. This is almost entirely because it is very shallow. The level in the long pound between Gringly Lock and Whitsunday Pie Lock is well down, and the whole canal (as far as we have got) is lower than it was two years ago when we came up in Warrior, notwithstanding the difference in draft.

In one regard it would be churlish to complain (not that I would anyway; we got here, and that's good enough for me): the Chesterfield Canal was built for boats that were wooden, round bottomed, 2'6" draft, and horse drawn. There has never been motorised commercial traffic on the canal, although horse drawn boats were being used into the fifties. In short, it was not built for boats like Chertsey, or, indeed, modern narrow boats. On the other hand, however, it has been restored with modern leisure traffic in mind, and as such should be able to accomodate deeper drafted boats. Indeed, until recently, I'm sure it could, with far greater ease. The problem is one of maintenance, not original design. In any case, because the banks are now so overgrown, it would be impossible to navigate with a horse boat, so it would be disingenuous to argue that as that's what the canal was built for, that's all it should be fit for now.

The other issue here of course is the width of the locks; in particular Stret Lock, which was rebuilt to a width of only 6'10". Some width has since been gained by 'shaving' the stonework above the waterline, but it is still relatively common for modern boats with protruding baseplates to get stuck or be unable to enter the lock. Old boats which were built wider to start with (Chertsey's specified beam as built was seven feet and half an inch) and which have spread with age, tend to have difficulty also. However, as their width tends to be higher up, within the wider part of the lock, this isn't guaranteed. Following the Retford Heritage Weekend, for which we are gathering, a posse of historic boats is setting off for Stret, with BW in attendance, to see who can and can't get in, and where they stick. We were planning to join in with this, but now realise that we really won't have time, with pressing matters to sort out at home. Yesterday we followed Elizabeth and Thea, who have gone on to try out Stret in advance of the weekend. If I'd known this was possibility, we might have done likewise, but as I've arranged to go into work tomorrow that won't work either.

As Elizabeth and Thea have gone on, we are the first historic boat to be tied up above Retford Town lock, and it's not a bad spot; certainly very handy for ASDA, and we have restocked all our tins. We've had a good walk around the town and have just visited the museum, which was a very good example of a local museum. Small and compact, with lots of local interest, particularly regarding local businesses and industries, and well presented without too many technological bells and whistles. Last night we went to the Ghurka tandoori restaurant, which was very good. They have only been open eight weeks and it shows in their enthusiasm for what they are doing. Long may it last! Then qe went on to the Rum Runner, a Bateman's pub which is in the Good Beer Guide and which is hosting a beer festival at the weekend. It was a bit disappointing; both the beer (Bateman's Equinox in my case) and the place lacked character. Still, we were tired and it was a Monday night, so we will give it another chance at the weekend.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday 4 September 2011

Recovering from my holiday

Well, the party's over for the time being, most people have gone home and all is quiet again. But for a weekend of such gentle activities, it's been quite exhausting. I guess it's the unaccuatomed socialising. And possible the beer.

After our lovely tea (most definitely not dinner) yesterday evening, it was off to the beer tent to be entertained by the East Riding of Yorkshire Brass Band. They were very good, but it was a bit disappointing that they performed more show and film tunes than traditional brass band pieces. Jim wanted to hear a good stirring march. There were three beers on, and a fourth in serve, and by the end of the evening they we all gone. We were gone befo that though; after Friday's late night we could scarcely keep our eyes open.

This morning, a full English breakfast was served in the clubhouse, all cooked in a tiny kitchen by the clearly much loved (and for good reason) 'Nana'. By the time that was finished, it was time for the duck race. This was rather entertaining, not having been attempted before. The plastic ducks were launched into the canal, with the finishing line being the bridge. As there's no flow, it was decided to provide some assistance by the nearest two boats running their engines in gear. This provided an interesting lesson in hydrodynamics as the ducks all graciously described a 180 degree turn and set off up the canal instead. The three that got the furthest in the right direction (about two yards) were awarded prizes, as was the one which got furthest towards Retford. They were then gathered up in a big net by some boys in a rowing boat.

Then it was time for the raffle. My carefully purchased tickets failed to win anything but it was exciting nonetheless. The we decided to give the bingo a miss and came back for a cup of tea and a slice of Linda's coffee cake, which also unaccountably hadn't won a prize. The drizzle which dampened the morning's activities (but not our spirits, oh no) cleared just as everyone went home. We said goodbye to Adrian and Linda, who have been such marvellous hosts, and spent the afternoon sitting quietly recovering. Although Jim did adjust the throttle and I put some Fablon on the table flap and the top shelf above it. Tomorrow we set off for Retford. Thanks to everyone at the Retford and Worksop Boat Club for making us so welcome and for putting on such a splendid weekend's activities.

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Foriegn food

One of the joys of travel of course is sampling the diffent local cuisines. Last night Linda served up an absolutely splendid meat and potato pie that she'd made, together with mushy peas (NOT out of a tin), gravy, pickled red cabbage and Henderson's relish. And all washed down with some bottles of beer from theSheffield's Kelham Island Brewery. It was stunning.

They were horrified to learn that I was forty before I'd ever tasted mushy peas.

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Saturday 3 September 2011

En fete

Even Chertsey is wearing bunting! I really must make some proper, cloth, bunting to match the paintwork. I have never seen so many boatwomen's bonnets before. The ladies of the Retford and Worksop Boat Club have had a bonnet making circle and today they are all sporting their magnificent creations. There has been an old fashioned fete with coconut shy and various other throwing activities, and a very good celidh band. Tonight the beer tent opens and the will be a brass band. We have been made tremendously welcome here and there's a lovely atmosphere.

Last night about twenty boats set off for Drakeholes. Some of them had returned, illuminated, by midnight... Others decided to give up and continue the return journey in the morning. We still got stuck into the bread and dripping though, and the quiz, which, ahem, our team won. The prize was a big box of Maltesers which I am looking after. So far the rest of the team haven't been by to eat their share.

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Friday 2 September 2011

To market on the bus

It's very easy to get the bus from Clayworth into Retford, so we did, particularly as I'd read in my first mate guide that Friday is bric-a-brac market day. It's not exactly what I'd call cheap though, at four pounds eighty return, each. Maybe I'm behind the times. Retford has a spanking new bus station, with a coffee bar, dedicated doors for each bus... And toilets: one each for ladies and gents, with loo, washbasin and handdrier all behind one door. Yep, one loo each, and people had to wait for the occupant to wash and dry their hands too. A long queue formed. Why on earth couldn't they have put in three or four while they were at it? I had time to observe this phenomenon as the bus that was due at 2.30 failed to turn up. Unlike on the railway, there was no announcement, no source of information, it just disappeared from the parture board to be replaced with the time of the next one an hour and a half later. Was it cancelled, in which case we could go off and do something else for an hour, or was it just delayed? No way of knowing. No one else seemed at all peturbed so we assumed this was normal. Just as Jim asked someone we recognised from the boat club, the bus rolled in, twenty minutes late. Entertainly, the driver make up some time on the way back. Nice as the bus and the bus station were, this reminds me why I mistrust bus travel.

Never mind, it was worth the trouble if not the £9.60. Retford's no Newark, but it's a decent enough shopping town, and it does have a market. We were able to pick up a few more tots - a nice old filter funnel that can be seen in the engine room (unlike the current plastic one); a big porridge (or, indeed, plum crumble) bowl for Jim; an old cornflour tin, and a rather super brass semi-perpetual calendar, if the could be such a thing. Wriggle its dials and ypu can read off what day it was on any date from 1943 to 1970. A niche market you might have thought, but I later saw another one, covering 2003 - 2032. The first one's dates fit nicely with the boat though, and it's just the right sort of decorative tat.

The plum crumble is in the oven, and lots of boats have set off from here to Drakeholes, the original site of the Retford and Worksop Boat Club when it was found fifty years ago, from where they will parade back, iluminated, and enjoy a celebratory supper of bread and dripping in the clubhouse.

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Location:Retford,United Kingdom

Rush to judgement

A rather worrying report has come from a HNBOC member that BW have embarked on a programme of planting reeds, and are even recruiting volunteers for the task. A lock keeper has apparently said that this is part of a policy to discourage 'casual mooring' and shepherd boats onto official visitor mooring sites. This would be bad enough if it was just a case of not being able to tie up in any safe, quiet spot you liked... part of the greatly valued freedom of life (whether full or part time) on the canal.

But more worrying is the fact that reeds and rushes are very tenacious, invasive plants. You only have to look at the Northampton Arm, and indeed parts of the Chesterfield canal, to see this. And these are just the ones I've seen for myself - the canal reduced to a single boat width by eight foot deep banks of reeds either side.

Not only does it hinder navigation in the immediate term, the fact that reed beds become established as official wildlife habitats means that it is difficult, if not impossible, to clear them once established, and thier existence could also hampre other maintenance activities such as dredging.

Of course, big chumks do break off - or are hacked off by fishermen - to form floating islands to get wrapped round your prop or wedged behind lock gates.

There is also a concent that so much vegetable matter, rotting in a relatively shallow canal, will upset the ecological balance, using up oxygen to the detriment of fish and other marine life. Reeds growing naturally can of course be a delightful sight, and a valuable wildlife habitat, and I'm all for leaving well alone provided they don't repsent a hazard or a hindrance to navigation - which does include being able to stop for the night. But they need to be monitored and controlled, and deliberately planting them, other than in areas where there is a good specific reason, seems to be a scheme of dubious wisdom, undertaken - if that lock keeper is to be believed - for the worst of reasons. HNBOC are going to take the matter up with BW, so lets hope a sensible outcome results. Sometimes I wonder whether HNBOC, which nominally represents the owners of historic boats, is actually the most clued up and pro-active organisation when it comes to defending the waterways as a navigation - the purpose for which they were built, and also for which they were restored.

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Thursday 1 September 2011

Kind of slow and weedy

Well, we've just spent a few hours in the clubhouse of the Retford and Worksop Boat Club, and a very friendly bunch they were too. We didn't drink too much... but may make up for that when the real ale beer tent opens, promised at £1.50 a pint. We're tied up next to Warrior in its new home. Nice to see them together.

We left West Stockwith this morning at 9.30, reckoning that five and ahalf hours was a generous allowance for a trip of nine miles and four locks. At quarter past five, we arrived. There were no particular hold ups, barring a brief chat with Steve, our friend from Newark, as we passed. It was just very, very, slow, because very, very, shallow. The Chesterfield is a beautiful canal though; you can watch the fish as if in an aquarium. If you have to travel slowly, there's no nicer scenery to travel through. Apart from Steve, we met only one other boat - ok, two, as one was towing another, with a JP2 with its big end gone. Fortunately we met them at one of the places where it is just possible to pass.

Earlier, I think between the second and third locks, we saw on the towpath a tree laden with russets, and another with plums - I guess they must have been the remnants of the orchard or garden of some long gone house. So we stopped in the bridgehole and picked some. The russets are lovely, and the plums will go into a crumble tomorrow. Getting supplies he means getting a bus into Retford - the shop mentioned in Nicholsones is gone three years since - but apparently it isn't too difficult.

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