... 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 24 October 2014

Favourite book

With my mind turning to travel plans for next year, I've dug out one of my very favourite books. Arteries of Commerce is a facsimile, published by Belmont, of a 1930s promotional book for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company. It contains contemporary diagrams and decsriptions of the company's waterways, extensive puffs for canal carrying in general and the Grand Union in particular, and a host of 1930s adverts. The waterways diagrams poignantly state which companies could be found at each wharf and arm.

If you are anything like me, you will love it. Best of all, it's a 120 page, A4-ish size, hardback book, full of treasure, and it's only £5.99.

... I wrote that a week or so ago, and I was browsing Amazon to see whether It was available there (and it's actually much the easiest and cheapest to but it from the Club shop), when I came across  what purported to be an original, 1930s, copy. I emailed the seller to make sure that it didn't have the (subtle) facsimile imprint on page 121 and took the plunge and bought it - sixteen quid in this case. Mad, I know, but I am pleased to have it. And I can report that, if this is an original, then the facsimile is a very accurate one.

Still haven't make much progress planning the trip though.


Sunday 12 October 2014

Long Rocky road

 Still on last weekend, on the Sunday we took Rocky for a walk, This was with some trepidation, as we had no idea what sort of levels of stamina he had. When I go on 10+ mile walks with the Ramblers, we are often accompanied by a dog or two, and they all seem to love it. One spaniel in particular runs back and forth and must cover twice as many miles as her owner, who is himself a keen long distance walker and runner. Another one is a little terrier, with very short legs, and never seems to tire either.

But I'd heard that greyhounds are most definitely built for speed rather than distance. Gallop like a mad thing for two minutes, then sleep for twenty two hours. This would have been a bit of a downer, as Jim has just joined the Ramblers too and started walking with the Beachy Head group in Sussex.

I think all will be fine though. We set off from Ladybower reservoir and, making it up as we went along, with the help of a map, walked pretty much all the way around one of its two arms. The e-trex sat nav thingy told us that the total distance covered was seven miles, and that included a couple of decent climbs. Rocky kept going steadily (on the lead all the time of course) showing an interest right the way through and not appearing to flag. So that's a relief.

He was obviously a bit tired when we got back...

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Cutting edge technology

Jim and Rocky visited this weekend and on Saturday we met up with Adrian to visit the Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet. This is a small open air museum site on the outskirts of Sheffield, which is, basically, a water-powered steelworks founded in 1785. It houses the only remaining crucible steel furnace in the world, apparently. The site was donated to the city council in (if I recall correctly from a long and very interesting chat with one of the curators) in the 1960s or 70s. It had been operated as a museum since then but has recently received lottery and other funding which has enabled further development - largely in the form of a shiny new 'education centre' on the periphery of the site.  The old buildings themselves are wonderfully, marvellously, under-restored. It looks as if the workers just downed tools one day and walked away. The whole site was powered by damming a river - I think it was the Sheaf - and using water wheels to turn a giant and many smaller shafts, to power a range of tools including these mighty hammers, one of which struck 126 times a minute

as well as the bellows that kept the forge hot.

Then, in a workshop that looked as if it hadn't changed in a hundred years, we met a man who was making swords for the Household Cavalry. He had just completed the blade for a ceremonial sword for the coronation of the King of Tonga.  He was working for a company based in Shoreham, where the finished blades go on to be made into complete swords, including, for his Tongan majesty, gold embellishment. It turns out that the Shoreham firm, Robert Pooley, took over the designs and machinery only in 2005, when the previous manufacturers pulled out of the sword-making business. And the previous makers were... Wilkinson Sword. Nowadays known largely, if not exclusively, as the manufacturers of disposable razors, I was amazed to learn that a history of sword making stretching back to 1772 had ended less than ten years ago. Having taken over part of the business, Robert Pooley originally had the sword blades forged in India, but recently brought this process back to the UK, to Sheffield. I'm sure the city's name can only be good for the weapons' reputation.

Friday 26 September 2014

Very English

A memorial plaque on a bench outside the Packhorse Inn, Crowdecote.
You'd go a long way to find a better summing up of the typically English attitude in four words.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Asinine charms

One of three seen on Sunday's walk.

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Hearth and home

Or, in the absence of on open fire or a solid fuel stove, the next best thing - my new cosy corner, focal point of my front room for the winter months.

Complete with Nobby the wooden cat.

Monday 22 September 2014

All things being equal

I don't believe in any gods, not even pagan ones. But I do have a liking for the pagan calendar. It divides the year into eight seasons, each one long enough - longer than a month but shorter than a quarter or a conventional season - to start a new project or achieve a goal. The year is marked at its quarter points by the planetary phenomena that most directly influence our lives - the summer and winter solstices (the longest and shortest days), and the spring and autumn equinoxes, the mid point between the solstices when day and night are the same length. There is an intuitive logic and rhythm to the pagan seasons, and with the year being seen as circular rather than linear, it stresses the eternal cycle of life, death and regeneration - even without gods, somehow a more comforting thought than a linear one way journey through life or through the year.

So, tonight is the autumn equinox (it's a late one this year). The next half of the year will be more dark than light. This could be a depressing thought. Few people prefer the cold and dark to warmth and light. But could we really appreciate one without the other? I have always been one of those people who curse the dark and huddle in the cold, but thinking of things in pagan terms, I'm more inclined to embrace it and try to accept it on its own terms. There is a problem though - that is a lot harder to do these days than it was when the pagan worldview held sway.

In winter it is natural to store fat, be less active, sleep more. It's a time when all of nature rests and gathers its strength for another year and cycle of life. Many animals take this to extremes by sleeping the whole winter through. In the cold we want to conserve our energy. Our minds and our bodies alike long to be less active. Yet modern society expects us to ignore and defy this, as if electric light and central heating is all it takes for us to ignore the seasons altogether (ironic when seasonality of food is all the rage). Many people are able to cope with this. They may not be functioning optimally but they struggle through, and, most importantly, get the job done. For those who find it harder though, there is a label: Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD (all too neatly) for short. Those people whose lives are more attuned to the natural rhythm of the seasons, less able to be conned by electric light, are labelled as having a disorder because they can't keep up with the requirements of modern society and economy. I would like to argue that it's society's crazy expectations, not people who would quite reasonably prefer to be hibernating, that is disordered.

I'll not be having any big ceremony to mark the equinox, although I do think one of the good things about the pagan calendar is the punctuation it gives to the cycle of the year. I will however be thinking about things to be thankful for - the christian ritual of harvest festival has been imposed/draws on the celtic/pagan mabon, marking the end of the harvest season and is traditionally a time of thanksgiving. Taking time to think of things for which to be thankful has been shown to be good for us psychologically; in short, to make us happier. The autumn equinox is the penultimate festival of the pagan year - although its beginning and end point could be seen as far more arbitrary than in a linear model. Nonetheless, this is a good time to be thinking of finishing outstanding projects and tying up loose ends in preparation for the new year which starts at the beginning of November.

Most importantly, though, the beginning of the dark months means that we'll be spending more time indoors and will need cheering up. So my most important equinox ritual will be to brighten up my living space, in particular my front room, to make it warm and welcoming, cosy, comforting and cheerful. It's already predominantly decorated in reds and oranges, but I might look for a new throw for the sofa, swap some of the curtains and throws around, and find a safe place where I can have a few candles - in red and orange glasses and lanterns - to represent a hearth - something I sadly lack here. I think just doing this, and looking back on having done it, will help me face the winter with greater confidence and equanimity.

Sunday 21 September 2014


Of course the one thing I failed to consider when introducing Rocky to Jim is the effect it would have on Jim's burgeoning walking activities. Dogs = walks, no? Well, no, I have learnt; not if the dog is a greyhound, in which case the equation is more like dog runs around like a mad thing for two minutes and then sleeps for twenty two hours. Still, he is taking Jim on lots of short(ish) walks, taking full advantage of what the immediate area has to offer, as the 740 has thrown another electrical wobbly. Anyway, more or Rocky another time.

This is about me, me, me and the walks I've been on lately. Lots of 'em, including a sixteen miler - my record so far - last week, which I was pleased to accomplish without any ill effects. Often, when walking with the group, there's hardly time to admire the view, let alone stop and take photos. Also, as stunning, breathtaking and other-worldly as those views can be, once mediated through the camera they become, well, just pictures. Pretty pictures, sure, but the faintest shadow of the real thing, poor enough to be a misrepresentation. You'd think, so what is all the fuss about then. There's only so many arty shots of posts and barbed wire, and wry ones of hills that look like nipples (and many do; there must be some sort of geomorphological explanation. I asked a colleague last week what limestone's made of and she just threw a book at me (Rock Identification in the Field or something) so I Googled it. And so can you, if you really need to know).

Anyway, today I went for a walk with another colleague, her partner and their friend, and there was time to stop and stare, particularly at some sheep with sticky-up rabbit ears, and take some photos of the View.

We went from Hartington to Crowdecote (I'm guessing at the spelling here) for lunch, and back. This is further afield than I usually venture and entailed a longish, although not unpleasant, drive. I am told that at one point we had actually ventured into Staffordshire.

We stopped to admire the site of Pilsbury Castle, a motte and bailey construction of the eleventh century or thereabouts. I remember learning about motte and bailey castles at school; in particular being perturbed by the utter lack of any context and thus comprehension of their purpose. I hadn't given them another thought until today, when I learnt that this one might have been a Norman fortification to subdue rebellion (resistance?) from the north. Or it might not. No one knows really when it was built, or why, although we do apparently know that everything was made entirely of wood, presumably because there's now nothing to show for it at all.

Sunday 7 September 2014

Chertsey has a boat dog

Yes, who'd have thought it?  To be honest, although Jim and I had been toying with the idea of perhaps acquiring a dog when the cats were no longer around - we had got as far as discussing optimum leg length for embarcation and requisite degree of hairiness - all this has happened rather suddenly. The story in brief is here, and now Rocky's former owners have blogged about it, I feel OK to.

I first met Rocky a few months ago, and he immediately struck me as that rare beast - a dog that I like. Gentle, friendly and undemanding, (him not me) we hit it off straight away and he let me sit on his sofa and hold his paw, and stroke his lovely velvety ears.

However, it turned out that the wilds of the Peak District, with sheep at every turn, wasn't the ideal environment for a greyhound - at least, not this one. After one scare too many, his mum feared that he would either die of frustration, or at the hands of an angry farmer. She determined that he needed a home away from the the tantalising temptations of what he could not help but see as prey. Because I'd grown rather fond of Rocky, I made a suggestion that might not otherwise have crossed my mind: perhaps Jim could provide that home. The area around Newhaven offers a wide range of walks, and while there are sheep, they tend to be enclosed and in predictable, avoidable places - unlike here where nearly all land is grazing land and animals are moved - or move themselves - into places where only they day before there were none.

So last weekend Jim came up to Sheffield, met Rocky on the Monday and after a walk and a pub lunch decided that they got on well enough to take him back to Newhaven that very night. I have to say that his previous owners were very brave in seeing this through, and it's obvious that they have put Rocky's welfare above everything. Rocky meanwhile has settled in well, attaching himself devotedly to Jim. Willow the cat has of course had his nose somewhat put out of joint, but seeing as he had more or less moved out to live on a part time basis with a number of little old ladies who fed him on best mince and kidneys braised in milk (I kid you not) my sympathy for him was slightly limited. The other cats just ignore him and hide themselves away.  Jim has built a special fence to give him a garden all of his own.

Rocky is rather exercised by cats, sheep and, it transpires, swans, but we can work on this. On the (very much greater) plus side, he is absolutely lovely with people, children and other dogs. He has already palled up with Aaron's dog Elmo and they are now walking buddies.

Rocky is three years old, and is a smallish greyhound (possibly part whippet). He's never raced (too small?) and has always been a pet - first to a single man, then to the crew of Princess Lucy, and now to Jim. As a bonus, he is an experienced boat dog. While he is longer of leg and smoother of hair than the fantasy boat dog we envisaged, I can't, of course, imagine any other now. I am sure he is looking forward to meeting everybody (human and canine) when we next get the chance to go boating on Chertsey.

If this works, you can find lots more pictures and stories of Rocky here.

Wednesday 13 August 2014


 As everyone else started packing away and leaving, we were left feeling very special on our marvellous mooring.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Farewell to Holland

 After the disturbances of Saturday night, Ian and Tina weren't keen to hang around, so we said goodbye to them as they took Holland back up the canal - we of course were heading in the other direction, down the river.

A beautiful boat (well, for a josher...) and excellent travelling companions.

Monday 11 August 2014

Stratford nights

One night in Stratford, it poured with rain. Another, we were disturbed a fair bit by local youth. And on the Saturday, there was the illuminated boat parade (pathetic by any standards I'm afraid, with about three boats taking part. And anyway, haven't LEDs taken all the inventiveness out of it...) and the firework display.

Following the illuminated parade we made our way back to Chertsey thinking that it would be a good vantage point to watch the fireworks whilst entertaining Sean and Dawn. Well, it would have been if there hadn't been bloody great trees in the way.

It was a pretty spectacular display...

But we saw more of this

Than this

Never mind though, we enjoyed the atmosphere and the company was excellent. Earlier in the day we'd met up with Colin and Annie from Eli, and the following day, Adrian and Linda of Warrior joined us.

Saturday 9 August 2014

Some steamy pictures

... of Laplander, who joined us on the 'particular significant and historic' moorings after escorting the VIP opening party on Swift with the brief of, in Sean's words 'making a lot of noise' - which they did, with a steam driven siren.

Sean and Dawn provided excellent and entertaining company for much of the weekend. The photos demonstrate one of the many skills required for steam powered navigation. Historic narrow boat owners like people like Sean because they make the rest of us look relatively sane.

Friday 8 August 2014

A view of the river

As we were there for the River Festival, and not just to commemorate the re-opening of the canal (well, supposedly), we thought we had better go and have a look at the river.

Yes, very nice.
I am glad we didn't end up in the middle of one of those great rafts though.

Thursday 7 August 2014

A funny

I've just whiled away a happy hour here.
Highly recommended (and quite safe, as long as you don't mind people hearing you laugh)

Tuesday 5 August 2014

The plaque wot we've not got

Chertsey came with four plaques, from between 1970 and 1981, under Richard Barnett's ownership.
These were the IWA National Rally at Guildford, 1970, the NBOC Christmas Gathering at Fradley, 1973, The re-opening of the Upper Avon Navigation, 1974, and a Black Country Museum Gathering, 1981.

Sadly, she is lacking the magnificent, massive, plaque from the Stratford-on-Avon rally of 1964. This was during the period (1962-69) when her ownership is still a mystery. I have heard talk of a defrocked vicar, but no one has ever been able to attach a name to the person who reputedly travelled with an organ in the hold. Even the records of the 1964 rally show only the boat's name for Chertsey, and not an owner,s, as was the case for nearly every other boat.

This plaque belongs to Tavy Cleave, the plywood cruiser built at Stourport in 1964 and recently restored (probably not for the first time). If anyone has or comes across one for sale, I would be very interested.

Monday 4 August 2014

Grand Union vs. Josher

For anyone who has trouble telling the difference...

Here are Chertsey and Holland on the very exclusive moorings in Bancroft Basin, Stratford-upon-Avon. The flapping signs say 'Reserved for particular significant and historic boats'. Naturally once tied up we each quickly tidied one away as a souvenir.

You can see why we thought we might have more trouble than most getting through a bridge that narrows towards the top - Chertsey's fore end, and thus the full width of the boat, is as high as many boats' (far narrower) cabin tops (including, sometimes, its own) - and this was before we'd moved the coal back.

Thursday 31 July 2014

Avoiding the void

Even if I can get Chertsey through Hurleston bottom lock, I have had cause to rethink the attractions of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

Pontcysyllte may be the longest aqueduct in the UK, but the longest in England is the Edstone or Bearley aqueduct, which carries the Stratford canal across a road, a railway and the and the trackbed of a former railway. It is unusual (but similar to the other two, shorter, aqueducts on this stretch) in that the towpath is level with the bottom of the cast iron trough which carries the canal. It is like Pontcysyllte in that on non-towpath (the right hand side as I crossed it) side there is no buffer, no handrail, no nothing. Just, maybe, a lip of a few inches above the surface of the water.

I have a lovely photo (given to me by his widow) of Richard Barnett steering Chertsey across Edstone circa 1970. My biggest concern as we approached the aqueduct was that Jim, from the towpath, should try to recreate this picture. I meanwhile sailed on into the trough, looking down on him from my perch on the counter, itself well out of the water and thus a good couple of feet above the lip of the trough.

And suddenly, unexpectedly, found myself terrified. Jim's pictures (which I don't have here) show my left arm hanging instinctively onto the cabinside and my gaze fixed upon the towpath. I was standing inside the hatches and thus had no chance of falling off the boat, but the (completely irrational... I'm sure...) terror was that the whole boat would somehow tip over the edge. Early on there was a 'dong' as I nudged the trough on the right hand side... After that I, frozen to the tiller, kept the boat at an angle - as far as the narrow canal would permit - scraping along with the fore end rubbing up against the towpath side and the stern the other. My instincts simply would not allow me to steer towards the void.

I suspect the sensible thing to do would have been to retreat into the cabin and let the boat find its own way across.

It did surprise me slightly, given some of the unnecessary things done in the name of safety, that  there were no notices forewarning people, along the lines of 'terrifying aqueduct ahead, get your kids off the roof.'

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Sticking point

This is the bit of Chertsey - and the only bit - that caused us to get stuck in two of the Stratford canal locks, 45 and 47.

You can see it here just to the right of the muddy patch, in line with the rearmost cross plank.

We will shave a bit off it in the hope that it won't cause so many problems in future, there or elsewhere. Overall it was good to see that Chertsey is good and straight with very few lumps and bumps. Our difficulties at Morse lock on the Chesterfield last year were more likely due to depth than width, with hindsight. Napton and Hurleston still to try!

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Pretty tight

The southern Stratford canal is very pretty...

And its locks are tight - lengthways as well as widthways.



Monday 28 July 2014

A quick transformation

Here is Chertsey looking smart (well, as smart as you can look with window cloths in) on display in the arm at Braunston...

... shortly before we removed the cloths, dropped the top planks down onto the cross planks, took the stands out and replaced them with boxes, removed the deckboard, put the top planks back on the boxes and clothed it all back up again, far less tidily, with enthusiastic help from the Herbies' friend Rick.

This was all part of our cunning plan for getting through the low bridges of the southern Stratford Canal. The bridges are not only low, but narrow - they have no towpath so are only a boat's width wide. One of them, we were warned, was especially narrow, and more worryingly, narrowed sharply at a height that would be well above the gunnels of a modern boat, but which might catch the sides of Chertsey's very high fore end.

To try to reduce the chances of this happening, we made the decision to acquire some extra ballast in the front. Thus the Sunday parade saw us pause alongside Southern Cross and transfer across a tonne of coal in what was surely record time (definitely a record for us, anyway). With the invoice in the ticket drawer, we were on our way in minutes, fore end lower by some inches, and arse end correspondingly raised, with the propellor burbling away merrily.

So you don't suffer too much suspense, I will tell you now that we made it through the bridge (58) in question. On arrival at Stratford I mused that before going out onto the river, it might be an idea to shift the coal back to the back end of the hold, to give the prop a fighting chance of engaging with the water. This was not terrifically well received by Jim, but to his great credit, and with the help and encouragement of Holland's Ian, he did shift a good proportion of it, with the result, I think, that Chertsey is now as well ballasted as it has been for a long time.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Brightening up dark corners

I didn't buy any new shinies at Braunston this year, though a purchase or two was made in Stratford (which I fear I have omitted to photograph, but all will be revealed eventually)

However, I did polish up the existing brass (of course) and here it is looking a treat.

You can also see the plates that were part of my Christmas present from Jim last year. They all have some sort of connection - one is Droitwich, where we went for the HNBC gathering in 2012; one the Houses of Parliament (I have lately taken to coming home from work and flopping on the sofa with my knitting, in front of live coverage on BBC Parliament. I am a fan of Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle.), and local ones Brighton, Hastings and Portsmouth (where I once worked). Long time readers may recall that I once professed a hatred of lace plates, so why have they grown on me after all? Put simply, I suppose, they serve a purpose - like everything else in a back cabin. The brighten up a dark corner where nothing else really could.

At Christmas I also received a new (old) headlight for Chertsey - a thirties CAV headlamp. Having finally tracked down a bulb, Jim fitted it before we left for Braunston, on the bracket that he had already made. It was tested in Braunston tunnel and did an excellent job.

Tuesday 22 July 2014

When it rained on our parade

Now I've sorted the photos out, hopefully a few retrospective - illustrated! - holiday posts.

The weather was on the whole magnificent. When it did rain, it was good enough to do so at night (and on at least one night served well in keeping disruptive local youth - yes, in Stratford - away.

There was one exception though. Braunston, Saturday June 28th, on the morning parade. The only time I have been wetter while fully clothed was when I fell in at Droitwich.

Thanks to Sarah of Algonquin for the photo

Never mind. It was a good opportunity to don my sou'wester in front of an appreciative audience and demonstrate general indomitability.

Because it was a Grand Union year, we got to tie up in the Arm, where it was still raining.

We'd feared we might be disturbed by the loud music from the beer tent, but avoided this by going to the pub.... Actually, I think we went to the Nelson with the Herbies on Wednesday, and the Boat House with the Owls on Friday, so perhaps we did go to the beer tent on Saturday... Yes, we did - crowded in to get out of another downpour and by sheer luck managed to get a table near the front. And the music, though quite loud, was worth listening to.

When we got back, the rain had just about stopped.

Friday 11 July 2014

Tonight's view from the stern end

In Worcester, showing the fenders not yet properly replaced following their forced rearrangement on the Lower Avon.

Worcester also has good charity shops.

I had not expected to like the Severn - even Nicholsons, which likes everything, describes it as featureless. But, so far at least, it has charmed me. It helps that it is wide, so the ubiquitous trees are not overwhelming. It has flowers, relieving the monochrome verdancy, even if they are mostly the hated interloping Himalayan balsam.

It even has some aggregate traffic (I'm told that this has now ceased on the Trent).

So the Severn, so far, is a hit. If there is a pattern emerging regarding my riparian preferences, it seems to be that I like 'em wide.

Onwards to Stourport tomorrow and all being right with the world, supper in the Holly Bush.

Oh, and here's last night's view (possibly this morning's)

Thursday 10 July 2014

Just right

Tewkesbury has got it just right. A genuinely historic town, proud of its history, but living with and in it, without being a theme park.

Some good charity shops too.

Wednesday 9 July 2014

Turn, turn and turn again

Apologies, I have been most remiss in not posting. I will try to catch up, with photos, later. Tonight finds us in Tewkesbury. We left Stratford yesterday morning and made good time to Evesham, where we spent last night. A strange town, not what I expected, but perhaps I should have done, given its main industry. Yesterday went well, though the weather was changeable. We were warned that we would have to descend Evesham lock backwards, which we did, aided by a rather splendid female lockkeeper in a polka dot dress. We knew too that we would have also to come down Chadbury lock backwards, which was our first lock this morning. What we didn't know was that we would have to repeat the feat at both Nafford and Strensham. I have got very good at turning round in weir streams. In Evesham we could only get down at all backwards; in the other three it was a question of getting the gate open once down.

Today we have also had a broken gear linkage, fortunately when approaching a lock rather than turning round in a weir stream, and, annoyingly, unshipped the rudder in the process of mooring. As it has been rather a trying day, I am feeding Jim up in Wetherspoons before he attempts to right that in the morning.

The Avon has lots of trees.

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Made it!

For now I will just paste in the post I have just put on CWF -

'Chertsey is currently tied up below lock 50 on the south Stratford - so we made it!

Bridge 58 was not a problem; we got through easily. We did take it very very slowly, dead square, and the ballast in the front *might* have helped. Apparently this bridge has received attention from the local canal society and IWA since 2012 and has been restored to something like its proper dimensions.

The ballast may have helped also at lock 40 where the wing wall does come in a bit but we got out without any trouble.
In lock 42 we wriggled our way down but got out with no problem.

We got stuck in locks 45 and 47. In both cases it was at the bottom and on what appears to be Chertsey's widest spot, the top gaurd on the starboard side adjacent to the rearmost crossplank. In lock 45 this was just below a widening of the lock wall. We could have flushed it out except we couldn't get the gate open as I couldn't move back. So we refilled it a bit, held the boat back, emptied it, opened the gate and flushed out.

47 was trickier as the sticking point was higher above the waterline in the lock. We got over that by Jim jumping down onto the port side, though I guess any moveable ballast would have done.

Lots of CRT volunteers, only one of whom opened the top paddles, chucking the boat around and bashing the rudder against the cill.

Most thanks to Ian on Holland whose experience and quiet authority saved the day.'

Apologies to all those willing volunteers who would have turned out later in the week. We didn't expect to get here so quickly, and having done so thought we would try as soon as possible so that we could call out reinforcements if necessary. Look forward to seeing some of you at the weekend though!

Monday 30 June 2014

Queens of Hatton

Two big boats, two blokes on bikes, and two women who can steer in perfect accord = Hatton heaven! Two hours fifty without even feeling like we were hurrying.
We left Blue Lias at 0700 and are now tied up three locks down the Stratford canal, where we arrived at 1745, having travelled most of the way with Tina and Ian on the josher Holland.

Very quick update

Sorry for the silence... sometimes you just don't feel like getting the iPad out at the end (or even the middle) of the day. Had a lovely sunny relaxing weekend at Foxton last weekend, then a leisurely run to Braunston and a few more sunny daysnat Braunston before the weekend started. A lowish key Braunston. It rained heavily on Saturday and I got soaked in the parade. Yesterday was nicer, with the Herbies playing on the deck. We sought advice about getting to Stratford and have decided we have to try - lots of people want to know how we get on! So on Sunday we dropped thenplanks before the parade, put a ton of coal in the fore end during it, and have borrowed a blue barrel from Fenny. Last night we filled it and our tanks with water at Blue Lias, having left Braunston at 3.30.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Holiday plans

The start of the Big Trip approaches at last!

The trip itself is dependent on almost split second timing, but with stops and festivities built in. The plan is this...

On Friday I have a work meeting at the British Library, so that will be handy as it takes me half way (in terms of time; a lot further than half way in terms of distance) back to Newhaven, so I will then go up with Jim in the car to Foxton, to rejoin Chertsey. Once we've unpacked the car, Jim will take it to Stretton to await our return there and come back to Foxton by train and bus. We plan to spend this weekend enjoying the Foxton Locks Festival and meeting up with the Herbies before departing for Braunston. The following weekend (27/28/29) will of course be spent at the Historic Narrow Boat Rally at Braunston, but we have to leave sharpish as we are due in Stratford upon Avon for the River Festival on Friday 4th. We'll be making the journey there by canal, but when we leave it will be by river - our (but not Chertsey's) first time on the Avon and on most of the Severn. When we get to Stourport we will stop to enjoy the delights of the Holly Bush, before continuing via the Staffs & Worcs and finally the Shroppie to Stretton.  If I've Canalplanned this correctly, it's 171 miles and 149 locks, six tunnels and one major aqueduct (which I have a lovely photo of Chertsey traversing circa 1970).

The first week's travel will be very leisurely; the second less so! Hopefully we will be accompanied for part of the way by Herbie, and for another part by Bernard with Enterprise (in case we get stuck in one of those narrow bridgeholes...). New territory includes the Avon, the Severn, the southern Stratford canal and Stratford itself.

So far I fear we have not managed to secure an organ for the hold. But at least we will be there, fifty years after Chertsey's pioneering appearance at the IWA Festival of Boats and Arts in 1964.

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Orange and date cake

I fancied baking on Saturday when it was pouring with rain, but I didn't fancy going out. So I came up with this rather gorgeous vegan variation on Delia Smith's 'marmalade cake'.

You will need:
8 oz self raising flour
4 oz marg
4 oz caster sugar
grated rind of a large orange
heaped dessertspoonful of marmalade
1 teaspoonful orange juice (possibly not vital; the original recipe has vinegar!)
6 fluid oz milk (soya works fine)
4 oz chopped dates
generous teaspoonful demerara sugar.

I did it all in the Magimix, but the theory is this:

Rub together flour and marg. Stir in caster sugar, orange rind, then marmalade. Gradually add soya milk and then orange juice. Finally (especially if using Magimix) stir in dates.

Pour/scrape into a lined 2lb loaf tin and sprinkle the demerara sugar on top. Bake for about an hour at mk4/180 until you can poke something sharp into the middle and it doesn't come out gooey.

It's rather crumbly at first but firms up a bit (and the crust softens) if you keep it for a day in an airtight box. I kept it in the fridge as I thought it might be prone to mould, but then I ate it so that became academic.

Really, well worth a try. I thought it was lovely and it doesn't scream 'vegan' (not that there's anything wrong in that of course, but sometimes the most appalling stuff gets passed around in the name of vegan cake and you're supposed to make allowances - with this, like Kath/Carrie's banana cake, you certainly don't need to.)

Monday 2 June 2014

Random record

Randomness is a great aid when one is paralysed by trivial choices. I often enlist an online random number generator to, for example, choose which CD to put on. The day before yesterday it selected the Tom Robinson Band compilation 'Winter of 89' which I'd almost forgotten I had. Being a rather old and probably inferior CD, it skipped alarmingly on 'Atmospherics' but other than that it was a lovely bit of time travel back to my not very misspent youth (although I did miss the last train home after going to the TRB 10th anniversary reunion at the 100 Club in 1987 and ended up rather embarassingly getting a lift home from Lewes in a police car). I still have the T-shirt!

Last night I enjoyed a compilation of Elizabethan anthems and organ music. However, the system cannot be relied on not to occasionally throw up some late Scott Walker, which as everyone knows, is only for decoration. Tonight I could be listening to 'The Drift', but despite having bought it when it came out, I haven't quite gathered the mental strength to actually play it yet.

Monday 12 May 2014

Looking over Ladybower

That was the title of this weekend's walk, and here we are doing just that.

This week's walk was a bit of a contrast to the previous two.

For a start, the weather was very different - far more bracing, with frequent heavy showers, wind, and occasional horizontal rain.

Secondly, the scenery was different too; heather moorland for the most part, in contrast to the green pastures and twinkling waters of earlier walks.

We set off from (in not necessarily in) Hope and started with a fairly serious climb up towards Win Hill. Skirting the very summit, we stumbled and paddled our way down the other side, where the rocky footpath through the heather had become a brook.

We agreed to curtail the planned walk slightly on account of the weather, and finished off in the very welcoming Woodroffe Arms back in Hope.

Wednesday 7 May 2014

A walk in the woods

This week's walk, on Saturday, was titled 'The hidden bluebells of the Peak' - hidden they may have been, but we tracked them down, on a splendid walk taking us fro the Grouse Inn at Grindleford via Grindleford station, through Rough Wood, the Derwent Valley Heritage Way, Hazelwood, Mill Wood, Stoke Ford, Eyam Moor, Froggatt and back to the Grouse for a very well earned pint. The walk was nine miles, but with quite a serious climb at the end.

With much of it on narrow rocky footpaths, opportunities for photostops were even more limited.

The weather was fabulous

And here we are having lunch

We were accompanied by three dogs. Wolfie was my favourite.