... 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.

Wednesday 31 August 2016

Chertsey at Chertsey

At last we have had the opportunity to take Chertsey to Chertsey  - on August 9th, the day after we left Woking.

Quite serendipitously, from the point of view of messing around taking photos, of all the Thames locks we went through (oh, except for one early in the morning), this was the only one that was unmanned.

I quite often get people noticing the boat's name and asking 'Do you come from Chertsey, then?', which is of course an opportunity for a potted history of the ambitious expansion of the Grand Union fleet, until their eyes glaze over or they're out of earshot, whichever happens first. But I was struck on this trip by people saying 'Oooh, you're a long way from home.'  Well, yes - but I was in Chertsey only four days ago, so not that far really.

Anyway, it was lovely to get the photo opportunity at last.

Tuesday 30 August 2016

How fate was sealed

This event is the stuff of legend, but until randomly browsing today, looking for something entirely different, I had no idea that the occasion had been pictorially comemmorated. It is 11.03 on Friday June 26th 2009. Warrior is tied up part way up the Braunston locks (probably in the Nelson pound) in preparation for the rally. I am on Warrior - that's its headlamp bottom right. Along comes a rather lovely looking josher so out comes my camera (Petrel, I always think, is a lovely advert for twenty+ years of annual varnishing).

Jim however, is out on the towpath, and at the lock he gets chatting to the steerer - who is not attending the rally, but making haste to escape its clutches. As he tells it, the conversation goes something like this.
Jim: That's a lovely boat. Be no good for my missus though, she only wants a big Woolwich. Can't find one though. Looked at loads, none of them are any good...
Duncan (for it is he): I know where there's one. (hands over slip of paper) Ring this number.
Jim: (heart sinks).

And Duncan steers Petrel off, little knowing what he has set in train.

Friday 26 August 2016

Croxley Script

Posting that photo of Chertsey being unloaded at Croxley Mill in 1970 leads me back to the recent trip, and an earlier post, and some wonderful photos sent to me five years ago which I don't think I ever posted... If only I had had a good look at them beforehand, I could have tried to recreate the angles. Anyway, here are three more photos that dg sent me back in 2011, taken I believe, by his dad. They show a pair of Willow Wren boats, Grebe and Wagtail (which the internet - I can't currently lay my hands upon Bread Upon the Waters - leads me to believe were FMC Antelope and Freda) approaching, in, and leaving what is captioned as 'Croxley' lock - formally called, at least now it seems, Common Moor.

Aren't they fabulous?

And here are Chertsey and Renfrew in the same lock on July 30th

This is the nearest to a direct comparison, with the middle one of dg's pictures.

Surprisingly, very little seems to have changed - other than a bloody great paper mill having disappeared.

Thursday 25 August 2016

One for the album

Inspired by my recent re-bonding with Chertsey, and in time for this weekend at Alvecote, I have finally finished compiling a new information sheet (twice as long as the old one and also available as a flier!) and photograph album. One of the reasons for producing it as a flier is so that people can take away my email address and send my any nice action shots they've taken of Chertsey on its travels. So often you see people snapping away - sometimes they even ask! - but by the time you've had a conversation and written down the email address the you're probably out of earshot. So if you've taken any nice photos of Chertsey.... my email address is the URL of the blog less the www. and the and plus

Over the years I've had Chertsey (seven now and counting) I have acquired some very nice photos. Many of these however came with the proviso that they not be put on the web, and some that they not be publicly displayed. Hence I have compiled an album for sharing privately (on request) which has the added advantage that I can include more pictures and put them in chronological order, providing a kind of narrative of Chertsey's life.

Looking back through the photos though I found this one that I really love, which I am allowed to share, taken by Richard Pearson of Chertsey loading coal at Gopsall Wharf on August 18th 1970

And this one, of the same coal being unloaded at Croxley Mill a few days later.

I'd still really like to recreate this journey one day.

Monday 22 August 2016

Woking 2016: The Illustrated Edition incorporating Pub of the Trip

Why this customer thinks the Nelson is the best pub on the cut

However, there are a few more contenders. Not many - this was a trip where we largely fended for ourselves, with serious on board supplies of food and beer. There are therefore just six nominees, and that's including the festival beer tent. In order of visiting they are:

The Samuel Barlow, Alvecote Marina
Always decent food and usually good service, but (special events apart) a limited choice of beer and not a great atmosphere - maybe as good as you could get in a big square room dominated by a close knit group of regulars. It was a good venue for my early birthday dinner though, as we had our own little group. Very dog friendly, and the steak was excellent value as always. Solid and reliable, but somehow for all that, not a favourite.

The Admiral Nelson, Braunston
Still seems to be keeping up its form - the latest revival must have lasted what, four or five years by now? Sadly we arrived there on a Monday, meaning that the full menu - quite understandably - wasn't available. The bar menu is perfectly good, although the charm of serving chips in miniature chip baskets and fish on ersatz newspaper is starting to pall a little. Mega super dog friendly; good beer, nice environment, so this one is still a favourite, and a regular stop.

The Old Crown, Weybridge
Four pounds thirty five, thank you very much. OK, it hasn't got any nasty froth on the top, but all the same. Weybridge is another world. Also in the Old Crown, we had steak and chips. And that was exactly what arrived on the plate. A piece of steak. And some chips. No peas, no onion rings, no tomato, no mushrooms, not even a salad garnish. It won't be giving too much away to say that this one comes at the bottom of the list.

Thurston Brewery Festival Bar
At three pounds a pint you can't knock it, so I won't. One nice flavoursome beer (Invader) which was alternately on and off with one less flavoursome one. Also a porter for those as likes that sort of thing. The head brewer was there serving and told me something interesting which I hadn't heard before, but which sounded plausible - that IPAs aren't supposed to be really hoppy. His take was that the problem with the long sea journey wasn't with the beer going off, as most beers then were matured for a year anyway, but with the flavour of the hops fading, hence the addition of lots, so that it would still taste normal when it arrived, rather than extra hoppy. I accepted his explanation, but added that I like it hoppy anyway. But not grapefruity or elderflowery.

The pub at Iffley lock (on the Thames near Oxford)

The rather useful Perfect Pint app told me that this was in fact called the Isis Farmhouse, which enabled me to check out its opening times (very specific) and dog friendliness (fine), but no one seems to know it as that. We turned up on a Friday which excitingly promised to be a folk night although that side of things was a little half-hearted.

I didn't garner much of the place's history, but it seems to be one of those places that's hard to keep going, largely because it has no road access. A few people (including most of the musicians) arrived by boat, and many more on bikes. In appearance, the place is best described as resembling - well, no, in fact being - a big dilapidated house, furnished with various old bits of furniture, stuffed animal, garden furniture and very tatty soft furnishings.

The ceiling is half painted; the carpet comes to an abrupt halt in unexpected places, and the walls are mostly bare plaster. One barrel of very local beer is available at a time. The menu includes beans on toast, ploughmans, and pork pies as well as a couple of more adventurous offerings. I had a pork pie, and it was excellent, and accompanied by home made bread, the freshest salad and a lovely home made coleslaw.

The Greyhound, Hawkesbury Junction
Another longstanding favourite, a canal pub that somehow manages to retain a tiny bit of a sense of  history and mystique (for all the Nelson's virtues, it sadly doesn't). We arrived early accepting that we would stand around for a while waiting for a vacant table outside in the sun, and our patience was rewarded. Ever reliable for Bass (which I find a bit sweet now) and something Robinson's quite nice and not too strong for me. The mixed grill caused no complaints (especially not from the dog), and we saw two people successfully execute the turn, one of them a hireboater with a broken arm. Neither was a particularly long boat though.

The Greyhound, I think, is the runner up this trip, but the winner is... You've guessed it, the pub at Iffley lock. Go there if you can.

Thursday 18 August 2016

And it's over

Day 26, Hawkesbury Junction to Alvecote, 9 hours.

And that's it.

Learning stuff off YouTube

Sat outside the Greyhound last night studying this.
This morning we'll see if I learnt anything

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Mixed grill in the Greyhound

Day 25, Hillmorton to Hawkesbury Junction 5 1/4 hours.

Most of it in me, actually.

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Stop 'n' shop

Day 24, Marston Doles to Hillmorton, 7 1/2 hours boating and a four hour sojourn in Braunston.

We were away early this morning as planned, and it was lovely. First down Napton (just) and we didn't get stuck at all, so that's good news. And it only took two hours. We stopped at Braunston for essential supplies of vegetables and chimney strings and treated Jim (as recompense for the six am start) to an all day breakfast at the Gongoozlers Rest, which was a very long time coming. We left Braunston at three and tied up here below Hillmorton at six. Jim steered nearly all day (except down Napton) and thoroughly enjoyed it, whilst I enjoyed sitting in the sun.

Monday 15 August 2016

We'm stoppin'

Day 23, Elkington lock to Marston Doles

Under six hours and just five locks - the Princess Lucy crew could have joined us today. Renfrew were off at 6.20 and we followed a couple of hours later. We got up Claydon very smoothly, and wound our way around the summit. We got word from Pete that they'd arrived at Marston Doles at 11.30 and waited two hours to go down. By the time we arrived, the queue to go down was fourteen boats long so we made an instant decision to stay put, and go down in the morning. I have even got Jim to agree to an early start. Not forgetting of course that we are not entirely certain that we're not going to get stuck in one of them. This means no stopping for steak at the Nelson but holding out for a mixed grill at the Greyhound on Wednesday. Today was another lovely sunny day. As the weather in June and July was so disappointing, I joked that we were saving it up for our holiday and this has turned out to be true; the weather has been fantastic very nearly throughout the three plus weeks we have been out and is promised to continue until we get back to Alvecote. Would it be too much to ask that it be nice for the bank holiday weekend too when we'll be there for their historic boat gathering.

Sunday 14 August 2016

Farewell to our travelling companions

Day 22, Lower Heyford to Elkington lock, 11 1/2 hours

Pete's photo of a bereft Chertsey... You can just see Renfrew's wake in the foreground
 Another eleven and a half hour day, and this time none of it was spent sitting on the bottom. Seventeen locks and a final day in the company of Renfrew. Tomorrow they will be home in Braunston. We'll also be aiming for there but might take it a bit easier. Apparently it transpires that eleven hours hard boating isn't Jim's idea of fun. Whereas for me there's nothing I'd rather be doing. Ah well. Today went really well. There was more water (mostly) but still mile upon mile of moored boats, especially at Cropredy of course where the festival has just finished. I hear that the Herbies waved to Jim as he steered past the marina while I was running down the towpath. Massive thanks to Pete and Irene for their company and to Pete especially for his patience and all the stuff I've learnt (and the things I've been reminded of that I really ought to have known). And for the snatches, and the pub at Iffley

The Living Room's Full of Coal, Mother; or A Trying Day on the South Oxford

Day 21 (Saturday), Iffley to Lower Heyford, 11 1/2 hours.

Including two hours in one pound, which was about fifteen inches down thanks to a log in the paddle at Pigeons lock. We crawled along the bottom until we could crawl no more, then moved a load of coal ballast forwards. Meanwhile some nice people walked two miles to let some water down. After that it was pretty plain sailing but the morning hadn't gone too well and over all this was the most trying day of the trip (so far). The South Oxford has less water than the Basingstoke and more moored boats than the lower GU. Still, we met up with Bones at Heyford and she restored our spirits just as she did on the day of the Great Osney Bridge Disaster of 2008

Friday 12 August 2016

Stunning day

Day 20, Goring to Iffley

A stunning day, sunshine and cloudless sky. Now in the Isis Farmhouse (properly known as the pub at Iffley lock) What a pub. Local beer straight from the barrel, excellent food from a limited menu, and later the prospect of folk music. And we have raised a glass to the memory of David Blagrove, having earlier today heard the news of his death on the waterways grapevine.

Thursday 11 August 2016

More sun, more river, more locks, more stars.

Day 19, Lashbrook to Goring

Another rivery day, unmarred by anything but the lightest breezes, and a lovely mooring tonight above Goring lock with a field where the dog could have a good run round and we could look at the stars again.

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Culture and cake in Cookham

Day 18, Boveney to Lashbrook, above Marsh lock. About 8 hours in total. But we stopped at Cookham to visit the Stanley Spencer gallery, which was well worth a look. Irene then bought us cake!We weren't on great form this morning but things picked up after lunch (cake!) and we're now on another lovely mooring from where we can look at extremely rich people's houses.

Tuesday 9 August 2016

Riparian revels

Day 17, Weybridge Town lock to above Boveney lock, 9 hours

An absolutely marvellous day on the Thames. Perfect weather. The platform in the fore end has worked excellently enabling us to easily get out at the front of the boat. Tied up in a lovely spot in time for tea and later lay on the deck watching the stars come out, and seeing an occasional bat. Oh - and most importantly - went through Chertsey lock!

Monday 8 August 2016

Slightly less good day

Day 16, Woking to Weybridge Town lock
5 3/4 hours

This was actually the worst day of the trip so far, with multiple getting stuck on the bottoms, messing up lock entrances etc - but would have been a normal day five years ago so I guess that's progress. We started well with Sebastian and Izzi helping us down the locks, but it was after they left us the trouble started. Renfrew got masses of stuff on their prop, and had to pull Lindsay (sp?) off a rock. We're still paired up with them and planning to remain so on the Thames. Thirty one Thames locks to go through to take us to Oxford! Jim and I are going to switch steerers at each one to stop it getting too monotonous/exhausting. Second lock of the day once we're on the Thames will be Chertsey and a not to be missed photo opportunity.

Sunday 7 August 2016


Day 15, Woking

Another brilliant sunny festival day filled with beer and sunshine, and prosecco and cake and not doing very much all day except thinking of a name for our quiz team. Being comprised of the crews of Chertsey, Renfrew and Purton, we settled on GUCCI GUCCI GU which we thought was obviously pronounced to rhyme with cootchy cootchy coo, but this had to be explained to the organisers. Anyway, we came sixth out of an exceptionally strong field of nine teams, which I was well pleased with.

Day 14, Woking (Saturday August 6th)
A long and fun packed day, beginning with watching Pete loading eight tons of massive oak planks into Renfrew and ended with Sebastian and Izzi stripping the willow, taking in the purchase of a new cabin shaft along the way. A lovely hot sunny day.

Friday 5 August 2016

Here at last

Day 13, Coxes lock to festival site, Woking, via winding hole. About 6 1/2 hours.

Yes, we have arrived. I fear further details, including the story of the winding hole where you're not allowed to touch the bank, may have to wait for later, as we have discovered the beer tent and enjoyed a very interesting talk on the history and dubious legal status of the Basingstoke canal, and I'm very tired and it's time for bed.

Thursday 4 August 2016

It moves!

Day 12, Weybridge to above Coxes lock, 1 1/4 hour

Thought to double check the time we're booked up the Woodham locks tomorrow and it's 1000, not 1100 as I'd thought, so it seemed prudent to make a start tonight as Jim doesn't really do early mornings. The Wey locks are quite demanding to operate as firstly the gates are left open on leaving and both these were against us. They're wide locks but you have to use both gates even for a single boat to avoid damaging the wooden gates; likewise you have to use ropes to keep the boat away from them, and you can only cross at one end. So I'm glad we've got two if the three required under our belt before the morning.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

Crown Jewels

In the Old Crown, Weybridge. Pint of Directors, £4.35.

Tuesday 2 August 2016

Resting in Weybridge

Day 10, Weybridge

Today was a day for a well earned rest. Renfrew left our side at seven to go up the locks at 9.30. Meanwhile we have stayed tied up above Thames lock. The BBC forecast was for a dull but dry day but it actually rained fairly persistently through the morning. We set off for a long walk to the festival site but aborted because of the rain and went into Weybridge instead. A great place if you want to buy a flashy fitted kitchen.

This is where we did some of our earliest boating, on Helyn, and where we worked our very first locks for ourselves.

What a day

Day 9, Hanwell bottom to Thames lock, Weybridge

This morning (or yesterday morning s it now is) seems so very long ago. Renfrew were on a schedule to get to Weybridge by 5.30 - six at the latest as that's the last passage through the lock onto the Wey, and they're due up onto the Basingstoke tomorrow (today, Tuesday) whereas we're not booked until Friday.

We set off at eight and were at Brentford by 9.30. Found a spot on the visitor moorings and used the services before going through the gauging lock and down to the Thames lock for 12.30. Then it was five hours hard river boating to deliver us to Thames lock on the Wey at 5.30 on the dot. We stopped at Teddington for a transit licence which worked out at two pounds an hour. At Weybridge, our Wey transit licence (included as part of the rally fee) would only cover us for a day so as we are here til Friday I bought a three day one. Whether we will explore much remains to be seen. Right now I just want a rest!

Once we'd safely tied up it started to rain heavily - what excellent timing - so the Renfrews came over to take advantage of Chertsey's being fully clothed up, and we played 78s on the wind up gramophone (and, admittedly, on Pete's iPad) and drank beer until midnight. An excellent end to a brilliant four days boating together.