... 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.

Thursday 28 February 2019

Spring interlude

It was over a week ago now, but spring was already making its presence felt along the canal.
This shows the advantage of taking the proper camera...
There you are nature lovers. It's not all post-industrial gloom.

Wednesday 27 February 2019

I thought I saw it move

So, you're thinking, it may have all that, but I bet one thing that a four mile stretch of litter-strewn canal, crossed by graffitied bridges and lined with decaying factories won't have is a big ugly wide beam restaurant boat...
But that's where you'd be wrong. The only boat I have ever seen moving on this canal, and there were three people on board giving every impression of enjoying a meal.

The LB Hardfeet (what does the 'L' stand for?) is built to the same dimensions (although sadly not the same aesthetic standards) as a Sheffield keel (so presumably has to be careful getting under Bacon Lane bridge) and has a fairly extensive website (although I was itching to rewrite it).

Tuesday 26 February 2019

A canal with everything

Bridges? Check. Litter? Check. Graffiti? Check. Derelict industrial buildings? Check. Check. Check.

Aqueduct? But of course.
Officially (apparently) the Worksop Road aqueduct, this takes the canal over Darnall Road (or what at the time, in 1819, was the Attercliffe to Worksop Turnpike (p. 40).

And from which can be seen a building that gave Margi the serious creeps:
At some point I will try to explain my fascination with industrial decay, but not right now as I have recently drunk a pint of beer and half a bottle of rose with the First Mate of the Princess Lucy (because, as you might have guessed by now, I am not actually writing this at six a.m.)

Monday 25 February 2019

At last! Rivets!

Attercliffe Railway Bridge, built in 1864 for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway which owned the canal company from its establishment in 1847. The MSLR was formed by the amalgamation of the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway, the Great Grimsby and Sheffield Junction Railway, and the Sheffield and Lincolnshire Junction Railway.
Until 1927 there was a station at Attercliffe, not to be confused with that at Attercliffe Road, which was on the Midland Railway line (Sheffield's one remaining station now being the Midland Station, whereas trains through Attercliffe ran into Sheffield's Victoria Station, closed in 1970, which gave the nearby Basin its new name.) Traces of Attercliffe Station can apparently be seen from the canal, but I shall have to look for them another time.

Sunday 24 February 2019


And lo, here is the tram - I was going for the effect of one of those pictures they put on jigsaw puzzles, with a horse-drawn boat in the foreground while a steam loco thunders across a viaduct behind. OK, not quite the same.
This is a winding hole (had terrible trouble convincing Margi of the pronunciation), which also, supposedly, offers the possibility of stern-on mooring, though I'm at a bit of a loss to see how you'd get to the bank from one of the little pontoon things in the middle, other than by stepping across other boats, in which case you wouldn't need the pontoony things at all.

Saturday 23 February 2019

Local colour

To be honest, it would probably be a lot worse without the Friends of the Blue Loop's regular Wednesday litter picks.

Moving on from the almost organic forms of the Victorian works buildings, we come to a couple of more modern bridges, decorated in a more contemproary fashion, shall we say...
Now this, I'm pretty sure is the Supertram Bridge:
 But it's the one you can see in the distance behind it that bears this sign:
And that one is, I believe, the 'new cycle bridge' (p. 38), built around the same time in the early nineties. There is a photo of it on page 38 looking very new - as does the towpath, and the trees.
No Supertram yet, it would appear.

Friday 22 February 2019

What works

In the last picture of the last post, adjacent to Bacon Lane Bridge, is the rear of the Baltic Works, a massive quadrangle built around 1850.
If I've followed the book correctly, the next site along is the remains of the Fitzalan Works, founded in 1839.
Possibly weirdly, this free-floating fragment of facade is one of my favourite sights on this canal.
Especially with the light behind it.

Then we passed a former brickyard and wharf, before passing between the two halves of the Spartan Works.
Every window bricked up, suggesting a building repurposed, rather than simply abandoned. At the time the book was published, the Spartan Works were 'newly cleaned', and the front face of the building on Attercliffe Road had 'recently been refurbished.' (p. 37)
That blue sign bottom right identifies this as 'Attercliffe Footbridge 6A', which I'm slightly sceptical about. To me it looks like a works bridge, linking the two parts of the site, building to building, and I'd have expected it to be called something like 'Spartan Bridge' or 'Spartan Works Bridge'.
I don't know about you (well, I do, probably), but this is just the sort of scenery I look for in a canal.

Thursday 21 February 2019

The eye of the needle

So, we set off along the towpath, guided by the 1997 East End History Trail guide to the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal. Margi carried the book, while I wielded the camera. It wasn't always easy to match the buildings to the numbers in the book, and even less so to remember which was which, but it was also very noticeable that most of the landscape has changed very little in the last 22 years.
This former bone mill was, in 1997, 'part of Bedford Rolling Mills' - presumably no more, but save a few more broken windows, looking identical to the photograph in the book.
No photo of this in the book, but fairly obviously the former Firth's Iron Wharf, described thus: 'In its heyday before the First World War it would have been stacked to the roof with Swedish Dannemora iron bars, unloaded from keels through the archways, and later transported by horse and cart to Savile Street to feed the hungry furnaces of the Atlas Works.' (p. 32)
Not quite on the scale seen on the further reaches of the BCN, but still an indication that an unloved waterway is being put to the traditional use...
Here is an example of the older bridge signs, presumably - I have yet to find anyone to tell me - dating from the restoration in the late 1980s. Nowhere on this waterway do we see anything like 'traditional' bridge numbers, and I have never spotted anything older than these signs, though I'd love to know if any older ones do survive.
Bacon Lane Bridge, which is one of the canal's original bridges, was notoriously hard to negotiate and was apparently known as 'the eye of the needle'. Do you fancy steering a 15'3" beam boat through there? When the water level was high, boats sometimes had to be worked through with crowbars. Until 1987 the water here was as orange as at Harecastle - not because of local pollution, but because it was supplied with water pumped from local mines. After 1987 the canal was supplied by pumping from the River Don, which flows adjacent to the canal for much of its length. (p. 33)
Also from 1987, a crop of rather nice - but extremely underused - bollards, identifying the canal as merely the tiny terminal portion of the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation which leaves the Trent at Keadby.
When we came up this way on Warrior, in August 2009, we got as far as Sprotborough, before reluctantly conceding that - thanks to recalcitrant Tinsley lockies - we'd run out of time. Note the comment from Dr Duct (who emailed me only last week!): 'Shame about missing Sheffield; you'd have loved the industrial landscape, and actually the "regeneration" architecture is a bit thought-provoking. Good pubs, too.' I got there in the end, Dr. D., and you're right on every count.

Wednesday 20 February 2019

A sea of blue

I was rather disconcerted on arriving at Sheffield Basin (nothing will induce me to call the place 'Victoria Quays') to find that the rebranders had been out in force.
I hasn't realised, to be honest, that CRT's 'sinking tyre' rebranding was going to be quite so blue.
Or quite so all-pervasive...
I'm not sure that Margi really understood my small cries of distress... 'But it should be black and white. It's always been black and white. Black and white is just what it is... What next, blue lock beams? (Ssshh - I wouldn't put it past them). I was going to paint my front garden railings black and white, because...

And not only has a rash of blue broken out around the basin.
They've clearly been out on a boat
And labelled up some bridges (although it stops before you get too far out of town)
But I'm pretty sure - though I'd have to go back and check - that they've labelled some of them wrong. For a start, that one above, labelled Supertram Bridge 7B is, I'm pretty sure, a footbridge. Put it this way, I never saw a tram go over it, but I saw at least three crossing the adjacent, far more robust-looking one.
Is Shirland Lane footbridge 7C or 9?
Or 8?
Is bridge 9 Shirland Lane Bridge, or Attercliffe Railway Bridge?

It's possibly just as well they gave up before they got much further.

Tuesday 19 February 2019

If only they'd known about silent discos in 1819

Two hundred years ago this Friday, Sheffield apparently saw the biggest party ever witnessed in the city, before or since. According to Simon Ogden's book on the subject, 60,000 people lined the streets and cavorted in the pubs to celebrate the opening of the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal on February 22nd 1819. This is an extraordinary figure, given that the City Council's website gives the population of the entire city as only just over 60,000 in 1801, and 161,500 in 1851. Even if it were nearer the latter figure by 1819, that would still represent a good half of the entire population.
They had boat trips, processions, brass bands and a cannon; 200 years later we get a giant igloo and a silent disco.

I shall be celebrating in my own way, with a week - at least - of posts on my local waterway; a waterway so unloved that it even has to share its friends with the (far more glamorous) Five Weirs Walk along the River Don.

Dragging along my neighbour Margi, I walked the canal on Sunday, from Basin to river - all four miles of it - and back again, accompanied by the aforementioned The Sheffield and Tinsley Canal - Sheffield East End History Trail guidebook No. 1, published in 1997 - which made for interesting historical context in its own right. I took the big camera, and lots of photos, so stand by for a virtual trip along just the sort of canal I like.

Monday 18 February 2019

A hundred years or two

Next weekend I shall be celebrating a centenary,
and a bicentenary

Sunday 17 February 2019

Clock(not)watching update

So, how did I get on with my attempt to escape the tyranny of the clock?

Well, in the end, my need for routine won out over my desire to rebel against chronological authority, and I didn't notice any particular benefits to allowing myself to be ruled by nature.

Partly this is because I've started really wanting to go for a run in the morning, and I like this to be early, before too many people are about - and also to allow time for a decent outing and to be back in time to do all the other stuff I need to before work. I want to be able to do this at least semi-regularly to get into a sort of routine, and relying on whether I woke up at the right time by chance isn't going to work - I was waking any time between 4:30 and 8:00 - but somehow the later mornings seemed to be working days. Naturally or not, I do like to be up bright and early, and I'm at my best then. I didn't notice I was feeling any better for not waking up with a regular alarm, and wasn't settling into any predictable pattern naturally.

It's really, really hard to avoid knowing what the time is, and thus subconsciously - or consciously - being influenced by it throughout the day and evening. And the more you try to avoid it, the more aware of it you become.

I have found, though, that I tend to spend less time lying awake worrying about the time without the radio alarm clock's display beaming out at me, so I won't be fetching that back down from the attic. I've been using the iPhone, but rather than just using the alarm, I've sussed out the 'bedtime' function. It's easier to see and change the time and days the alarm's set for, and it has much nicer sounds (I'm favouring 'Helios', which is a lovely gentle introduction to the day). I'm trying to resist the temptation to look at it still if I wake in the night.

So I'm back to regularly waking up at six - and actually getting up then now, rather than lying listening to the radio for twenty minutes - or five thirty if I'm having a run, and I think that regularity suits me better. The early morning is definitely my most productive time, and if it's one of those days when I do need to be in the office for a 9:30 meeting, I can be there at 7:30 and get more done in the hour and a half before everyone else arrives than the rest of the day put together. On the days I didn't get out of bed until eight, that felt very much a wasted opportunity - and I didn't feel any perkier for it.

So - with a few tweaks - it's back to the old routine. Which, I think, is definitely better than no routine.

Saturday 16 February 2019

Spring spotting

Can you see it?

Friday 15 February 2019


Tuesday lunchtime, in the Red Deer. The nachos were particularly good.

Thursday 14 February 2019

Where did he go?

A couple of weeks ago, No.2 Son started his new job as a paralegal, the next step, after many years of hard work and studying, on the route to qualifying as a solicitor.
I'm immensely proud of him, of course.

But part of me misses this little chap

Wednesday 13 February 2019

All a bit W1A

When I was writing yesterday's post, I realised that it's all a bit W1A sometimes when we talk about where we're timetabled to teach. The denizens of the parallel BBC meet in 'Frankie Howerd' (in fact, a bit of Googling suggests that the real BBC may do likewise), we meanwhile have conversations like 'I'm so sorry, I sent you to Henry Stephenson when you wanted Sir Robert Hadfield'; 'I'm in Pam Liversidge', and 'Ella Armitage used to be the Bioincubator'. There are dozens more. Mathematicians and chemists seem quite happy to just be known by their surnames (Hicks, Dainton) whilst baronet industrialists like Sir Frederick Mappin and the aforementioned Sir Robert get their full titles emblazened in TUOS Stephenson (yup, Henry, and his relatives) typeface across the front of their buildings. Not only do we have buildings named after worthies, but also of course rooms - and at least one person has a floor.

This is going to peter out a bit here, but while I'm on the subject of W1A can I just note how inappropriate it is that they used the theme music from Animal Magic which as any child of the seventies kno was never anywhere near W1A, but was BS8.

Tuesday 12 February 2019

On the nail

In researching this post, I have for the first time encountered the concept of a 'nail house' - originating in China, this is a property whose owners have refused to sell to a developer, forcing the development to be built around them.

The most famous example round here - at least as far as the University is concerned - must surely be the Henderson's Relish works, who for decades refused to sell up while shiny (and now not so shiny) university buildings mushroomed around them. Inevitably, a few years ago the University finally did purchase the site - but at least now the building has become so iconic they've promised not to knock it down. I took a couple of photos of it the other morning as I was struck by seeing the back of the site for the first time.
The surroundings have changed since I wrote about it  a couple of years ago, but nothing much seems to have happened to the building - nor to the University Arms...

However, what really prompted this post was another building, even more starkly surrounded by new build, and considerably more stubbornly untidy and working.
I've seen the big house on Broad Lane, of course, but it was only from floor E of the Pam Liversidge building, where I'd not been before, that I noticed McCague's garage behind it.
I love these stubborn relics, making the place untidy. I reckon there are probably a fair few more clinging on, so I'll be keeping an eye out for Sheffield's 'nail businesses'.