... 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 31 May 2019

Sunbathing in comfort

Both the dogs enjoyed laying in the sun over the weekend.
They just had rather different ideas of how to get comfortable.

Thursday 30 May 2019

Purton snapped at last

I've finally added Purton to the Sticker Album - so often seen, so rarely - it turns out - photographed, but I finally remembered to snap it at Hebden Bridge.
Always looking loved and well cared for, Purton is of additional interest to me now as it's effectively a sister to Naburn - similarly shortened, similar Waterways cabin, same mysterious hole drilled through the stempost (couldn't do that to a Woolwich) ...

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Heading for Reading

Alf was right - I guess the geographical clue was pretty conclusive - the next Big Day Out witll be to destination no. 163, Reading. I'm strangely excited about this simply because it isn't too unfamiliar or intimidating, and a quick look at Wikipedia suggests there'll be plenty to do, not least with rivery themes.

It won't be until after Braunston, though, that I'll be able to get away - at least, I don't think so.

Tuesday 28 May 2019

Where to next?

Yes, it's time for a little excitement - where will the next random Big Day Out take me? Will it be sonmewhere I can get there and back in a day? Will it be somewhere I can nip to on a whim, or will it require detailed planning? Will I know where it is? Random number generator set up, here goes...

Oooh, what were the chances of getting two places in a row on the same waterway? This is pretty much at the opposite end...

I've been there before - I've even boated through, on someone else's boat. I've helped out on a large Northwich trip boat with a PD2 in the vicinity. It has a university - I've been to a conference there. And I seem to recall being shown some pretty decent pubs off the beaten track when I first visited. I have a boaty contact in the area, which is good. It'll take around three hours to get there, so I think that just about makes it a day trip.

So although it might not be the most obvious choice for a Big Day Out, I'm sure this destination has plenty of interest to offer...

Monday 27 May 2019


I think I'm getting quite into gardening. I certainly like having a nice space to sit outside, and I'm enjoying planning, and planting, and watching things grow. I've found a nice local garden centre, and increased their cashflow by a healthy (for them) amount. In just less than a year, I've gone from this:
to this:
I paid someone to tear up the feral lawn and lay the flags, but the rest has been done with a lot of help from Jim, especially with the digging.

Sunday 26 May 2019

Hebden Bridge the easy way

Yesterday we did make it to Hebden Bridge. By car. It took about an hour and a half. There were apparently thirty three boats there, although I don't think we saw that many.
By most accounts, the journey there had been a real struggle, with very little water and vast amounts of rubbish. Competition for the worst thing on a prop seemed to have come down to a final between a mattress and a tennis net, that kept Marquis stationary for two days. I can't in all honesty say I'm sorry to have missed it. I love my boat, I love boating, and I love the canals, but I don't think I'm made of that stern stuff, sadly.

There were boars there that I hadn't seen before, because dsome of them don't make it south very often. And there was a large contingent of wooden boats. Here are Joel and Maria:
Daphne (with Swan, immaculate as always, on the outside):
And Hazel and Forget-Me-Not from the wooden canal boat society:
Chris told me that when he bought Forget-Me-Not in 1977, for £25, Chertsey was engaged to tow her from Chester to Ellesmere Port - but Chertsey broke down en route and he ended up bowhauling them both.
The scenery was stunning - I'd been to Hebden Bridge before but Jim was suitable impressed by the houses clinging on to the impossibly steep hillsides above the town (not featured in this scenic photo).
It all felt fairly low key, but we were there quite early (just as well, as it turned chilly later and was thinking about raining as we left). There were a few stands in the park, which was very pleasantly and handily adjacent to the canal. There was fizz and nibbles, in which we were very generously (given that we hadn't made any effort or suffered and hardships to be there) when a rather low key local mayor popped along to do a low key formal opening.

Jim and I wondered around the town, which itself seemed a bit subdued. Evidence of flood protection measures is everywhere, from the building of a big new wall along the riverside, to each shop's individual doorway flood gate. Last time I was here was before the devastating floods of Christmas 2015 had happened. We did a bit of charity shopping and then set off for a walk along the towpath, but didn't get far before deciding to turn back - the path was just a bit narrow with the dogs and growing numbers of pedestrians and cyclists. Ricky and Geoffrey lapped up loads of attention, as each of us waited outside a shop while the other had a rummage.

We ended up for lunch in a painfully hip craft beer bar (where the beer comes out of taps set in the wall) negotiating a menu of tacos and burritos. The beers ranged in strength from 2.5 (which Jim had - it was really nice, in an orange-juice-and-lemonade-tasting sort of way) to 10.4, which I didn't have. And then, as there wasn't much else to do, we came home, defying the stanav and driving through Halifax and Huddersfield. I still have a very soft spot for West Yorkshire, although I'm very happy living here in the South.

Saturday 25 May 2019

Just what I've always wanted

This is what we went to pick up on Thursday. At 30" x 21" and too heavy for me to move, the only question is where I am going to display it.

Friday 24 May 2019

Four ways to have a pint - and a handful of gravy

Today I took advantage of Jim's presence, and the 740 estate, to collect something that I bought a month or so ago (and to make a couple of other purchases while I was there). The item in question needed to be collected from Church Stretton in Shropshire - somewhere I had heard of, but never been near. In fact, the whole of Shropshire is a bit of a mystery to me. The Shropshire Union canal was our base for a while, and was where Warrior started from when we first bought it, but that was in Cheshire and Staffordshire - we somehow skipped the Shropshire bit. I did go on a school trip to Ironbridge, with the bonus - only realised decades later - of also visiting the Shropshire tub boat canal and the Hay Inclined Plane, and that basically forms the entirety of my experience of the county.

So we set off today on a road trip. We chose the shortest (106 miles) but slowest route, eschewing the M1 and the M6 toll for the A53 and the A49 and a glorious run through the Peak District and Cheshire hills. It took nigh on three hours each way, but the journey was a joy in its own right. Acting like a proper grown up, I did some prior research and found somewhere for us to have lunch - the Old Coppers Malt House pub, which proved to be a good choice. We had the dog-friendly bar to ourselves, and - this is a first - I was given the choice of having my beer served four different ways. I could have it as it came with a sparkler, or pulled through extra hops (and was given a generous taste of each to help me decide), and when I said, actually, could I just have it as it came without the sparkler, I was asked if I'd like it on gravity straight from the barrel. I said I wouldn't put him to the trouble, but he had genuinely meant it. I get the impression that this is an establishment that has only recently turned itself around, and the care and genuine commitment to having happy customers must be a big part of this. Good beer and impressive food help too. I had a home made steak and ale pie - because this had had some good reviews on Tripadvisor - and it was really excellent, with proper shortcrust pastry top and bottom, and beef that was apparently cooked for nine hours in Reverend James bitter, and nice chips too. It came with extra gravy (which I never really want), but I knew someone who did...
Obviously we didn't have a dish or anything with us, so I had to improvise. I think it was appreciated.

Thursday 23 May 2019

Tin opener

Ricky and Geoffrey are visiting, and whilst Jim was digging the garden, and I was watching (and picking out couch grass roots), unbeknownst to us, Geoffrey was mountaing a raid on the kitchen cupboards.

He found a tin, and must have thought, mmm, that'll be Fido Meaty Chunks or some such.
But it wasn't, so he abandoned it on the living room floor.

Wednesday 22 May 2019

Not in my backyard?

After negotiating the collapsed Norwood tunnel, the restored canal can theoretically pick up its former course, through four sets of staircase locks (three threes and a four) at Norwood.  Following on from the closed portal of the tunnel, the canal is quickly in water - but looking at this point more like an ornamental lake.
I will confess that I was quite surprised then to encounter some clearly rather prosperous dwellings
with their gardens backing right up to - and in some cases incorporating - the old locks.
Maybe it will turn out to be easier to build some new locks a few yards to the right...
Although I guess the name of the house is a bit of a clue.

Progressing on our way, the canal continued to be in water on and off...

 Here at Bridge 30 it presented a typical canal scene:
But the towpath was very overgrown with brambles and nettles, necessitating a brief detour (especially as I was wearing shorts) - captured for posterity on the map:
We finally stopped for lunch near Killamarsh, and ate our picnics overlooking a large lake, which it is planned to incorporate as another brief detour from the canal's original line. Unfortunately I was sat there so long I forgot to take a photo.

Only a little while later we left the canal just after bridge 25A -
this disused railway bridge, which Paul was somewhat mystified by my enthusiasm for (but look! Rivets!), and made our way through a housing estate to the unimprovably named Halfway tram terminus, whence we whizzed back to Sheffield at speeds of up to 67.4 km/h (yep, I left the tracking running). Considering it's £2.50 from the station to my stop, this lengthy (18.4 km - I will reset my copy of the map to miles!) run at the same price seemed excellent value for money.

Thanks to Paul for another great walk, and of course, for Fun With Maps.

Tuesday 21 May 2019

Chesterfield ramble continued

This may take a few more posts, as I've quite a few photos. Hopefully though for once this is actually interesting stuff, as we continue to trace the proposed route of the soon-to-be-restored Chesterfield canal.

The Chesterfield Canal Trust's survey showed, as they has hoped, that the first section of the Norwood tunnel (from the Kiveton Park end) is sound and in useable condition. To get around the blockage though, the canal will come up out of the tunnel about here
and then continue in a cutting that will diverge from the original course.
Here the old course of the tunnel is the broken grey line, and the proposed new cutting outlined with the broken red lines. The broken blue line is the proposed re-opened tunnel section, and the yellow line shows that we walked directly along it.  The map also shows a proposed new marina, which at the moment is doing service as a fishing lake. A few anglers are going to be diasppointed when the boats finally arrive. And here is the marina car park:
Another significant obstacle will be the M1.
Somehow this bridgehole will be adapted to take both the farm track and the canal.
Shortly after the motorway, the proposed detour rejoins the old line, at the other end of the tunnel.
Where I will pick up the trail again tomorrow.

Monday 20 May 2019

What was, and is yet to be

So, to continue our journey along the present, past, and future course of the Chesterfield canal, testing out Waterway Routes on Memory Map as we go. Memory Map is an app, which Paul uses as a platform for his waterways maps, but can also do all sorts of other things (and comes complete with some other maps that also look like they'll be fun to play with). It costs £15 after a free thirty day trial, but that's a one-off payment. Paul has given me, free, a whole country's worth of Waterway Routes maps (there's probably something in the bloggers' code of practice, if such a thing existed, that says I should declare that), and I am very impressed - not only with how they work and the things they can do, but - even more so - with Paul's dedication in compiling and keeping them up to date, not to mention his extremely patient (non)customer support.

For those unfamiliar with the Chesterfield canal, it is one of - if not the - most successful of current ongoing restoration projects. From the Trent at West Stockwith it is navigable as far as Kiveton Park, where it encounters the long-collapsed (since 1907) Norwood Tunnel.
The new brickwork in the bricking up of it is the result of the Chesterfield Canal Trust making an exploratory survey into this section last year. We got this far with Warrior in 2009, but might not be able to repeat the feat on Chertsey. Although the extremely narrow Stret lock has now been remedied, when we tried in 2011 Chertsey was unable to get through the earlier Morse lock.

Starting at the other end, in Chesterfield, restoration is creeping onwards and there are now just nine miles to go to join the two sections. These are, of course, the nine most difficult miles. Nonetheless, the Trust - which is certainly one of the liveliest canal organisations I have encountered - have recently committed to completing them in time for the 250th anniversary of the canal's opening - a mere eight years hence.

Because of the foresight of the Trust and its predecessors, and thanks to long term support from the local authority, most of the land required for the restoration has been secured. There are, however, some insuperable obstacles, not least the collapsed - and in parts, unstable - tunnel - meaning that part of the joining section will follow a new route. This is where the map was invaluable, both in tracing the proposed new line, and identifying places on it subsequently.
Roughly here, for example, will be the top of two triple staircase locks bringing the canal back to its original line after it has passed under the M1.

I know this because I took the photo on my phone and it therefore has an accurate timestamp of 1157. When I got back, with Paul's help. I downloaded the 'track' of our walk from the tablet into Memory Map on my computer. It's the yellow line. Hovering the cursor over any point on that line tells me the time I was at that location. So by hovering until I found 1157, I could see just where I was when I took the photo.
Waterway Routes map, used with permission.
It also tells me how far I'd walked to that point, the speed I was walking, and how high I was above sea level. Hover slightly differently and it gives the OS grid reference.

More tomorrow...

Sunday 19 May 2019

Walking a canal that doesn't yet exist

Well, up to a point. On Thursday I walked along a stretch of canal that does, most definitely exist, even if it's a while - very nearly ten years, in fact - since I managed to visit it by boat. Thanks to Paul, I then continued to discover bits of canal that are not navigable, but soon will be again, and even more excitingly, just about trace where there has never previously been canal, but soon will be.

Yes, we were on the Chesterfield. I met Paul at Sheffield station and we caught the train to Shireoaks, where we quickly found our way onto the towpath. Paul had brough along a Samsung tablet with his maps on for me to try out, to get feedback from someone 'who's not good with maps.' On the other hand, I'm not bad with satnav, which is how I was using the Waterway Routes maps with the Memory Map app. I can report that I found it very easy and pretty intuitive to use, and its benefits are not so much in the course of navigation (although this does come into its own when following a canal that doesn't yet exist - and for which the map exists only because Paul has made it) but the things you can do with the data afterwards. But I'm getting things out of their correct chronological sequence, so I'll come back to that later.

Saturday 18 May 2019

A new route

On Thursday Paul (of Waterway Routes) was kind enough to invite me to accompany him as he re-surveyed another stretch of canal route as he regularly does to keep his maps up to date. I've been too busy to write it up fully yet, but here are a few photos of the route, which Paul hopes to be boating within the next decade, whereas I'm not sure I'll ever get that far ...

Friday 17 May 2019

Why I love my job

... challenging ... variety ... blah ... blah ... changing lives ... yep ...
But no, why I really love it is that when I'm doing things like drafting the plagiarism and unfair means policy I get to make up stuff like this:

An occurrence will not be counted as a second occurrence if it occurs concurrently with the first occurrence.

Now, that's what makes it all worthwhile.

Wednesday 15 May 2019

Another week, another riverside...

Sunshine, and a pint of Landlord (yeah, with sparkler, but I didn't want to be churlish).

Hard work, this research business.

Tuesday 14 May 2019

On not washing

... of clothes, that is, not self.

Reading the Flamingoes' blog about doing the laundry - a mere day and a half into the trip! - brings home how easy it is to take for granted the washing machine and efficient spin drier, and indoor drying space if the weather is inclement, none of which is available on a historic boat, even a big one. Flamingo has a battery bank, and a washing machine, which is more than Chertsey has, and while I enjoyed playing around with the posser on the Trent a few years back, it's certainly easier not having to do washing on a long trip.

So how, you may ask, can I go a boating for a month without doing any laundry? The answer is, firstly, by never throwing away any knickers, and secondly, by redefining 'dirty'.

Chertsey may not have electricity, running water (still less hot running water), or a washing maching, but what it does have is plenty of space. And I have plenty of clothes. However, I have learnt over the years that I actually get through far fewer clothes than I expect.

So, had I gone on a month-long round trip to Hebden Bridge, what would I have taken?
30 pairs of knickers - yes, I do possess that many, if you include the ones that live in the attic and are tactfully referred to as 'boating knickers'.
15 pairs of socks, of varying thicknesses
15 bras - this might once have been the trickiest item, but I have now stocked up on £3.50 'sports' crop tops from Primark which, again, only come out for boating.

These are the things one wears every day, and are thus easily predictable. The rest is a bit more flexible, and weather-dependent, but for this trip I would have taken all the shorts I possess (i.e. 3 x walking pairs, and 2 x lazing around ones), probably four pairs of trousers (2 x walking; 2 x hippy) - plus the emergency quick-drying ones that live on board; 6 t-shirts, 4 long-sleeved t-shirts, 6 sleeveless vests; 2 shirts and 2 fleeces, to be worn in various combinations (and this would turn out to be too many, but which would be superfluous would depend on the weather). 4 nighties (but could get away with fewer if I had to). I usually take a nice-ish jacket (actually always my brown cord Levi's jacket from the RSPCA shop in March, circa 2007) and a skirt, in case of going anywhere posh, but I usually wish I hadn't, because they're the one thing I can't just stuff in the cupboard, and after a few day's boating, anything that hasn't yet been worn counts as posh.  This nearly all fits in the cupboard over the cross-bed.  As things become dirty, they get stuffed in a succession of bags in the side bed.

So, what does dirty mean? On land, at work, it means 'showing any sign - visual or olefactory - of having been worn.' When boating, it's a bit different.

Dirty from the inside is still dirty, exactly the same. Hence the multiple undies. But I do usually manage to give myself a good scrub every night, which sees off the worst of it. Getting food or drink down something - that would still mean I definitely wouldn't wear it again, but fortunately, I mostly manage not to do that. Mostly.

But when boating, the following on clothes do not count as dirt:
  • dust
  • coal dust
  • soot
  • ash
  • oil
  • grease
  • lock wall slime (in moderation)
  • grass stains 
  • lichen
  • sunscreen
  • small quantities of mud
Because if they did, you'd be changing your clothes every hour, for a start. They are accessories. (You may be able to add to the list.) And as Quentin Crisp didn't quite say, after the first two weeks, they don't get any worse. And that is how I manage to go boating for a month without doing any laundry.

Monday 13 May 2019

Bath in brief

As in Saltaire, this Big Trip featured First Ice Cream of the Year
Finally, I hear you sight with relief, we come to the end of the Bath posts. We are very wrinkled, and the water is distinctly chilly, but here is the final round-up of all the Big Day(s) Out to Bath posts:
First impressions

Temple Meads Station (yes, I know it's not in Bath but it was part of the trip)
Stations in Bath

River Avon
K&A in Bath
Big Woolwich in Bath 
Bath Deep Lock

Holburne Museum extension
Ghost signs
Ladymead Fountain 

The Star
The Old Green Tree

Museum of Bath Architecture

Fifteen posts - if felt like more! And I don'r feel I did it particularly well; they're mostly superficial, photo-led, and not that interesting. Still, plenty of time to practice. Wonder what the next destination will be...

Sunday 12 May 2019

The path not taken

In a parallel universe, in which we were still going to Hebden Bridge, I'd have spent yesterday chugging up the Trent and Mersey.  In this one however, I walked five miles (in three separate walks), did a big and long overdue Tesco shop (and found my parking space still there when I got back), went to the garden centre (and didn't), washed the ousdide of my front room windows for the first time in two years, tidied the front garden, and festooned it with troughs of geraniums.
I wonder what I'll do today instead of waiting to go through Harecastle.

Saturday 11 May 2019

The Museum of Bath Architecture

I didn't visit the Roman Baths (been before; have actually had dinner in there, courtesy of the Political Studies Association) nor the Pump Rooms (been before, albeit in 1977), and neither did I grace the Jane Austen experience with my presence, not least because, dear reader, she is one author I have never been able to love, despite numerous attempts.
However, my visit was not devoid of improving cultural influences, because in passing I spotted the Museum of Bath Architecture, and thought, 'that might be interesting', and it was. Not so much the Bath bit, but the architecture bit - or, more precisely, what it had to teach visitors about Gerogian design and building techniques and technologies.

It's only a small museum, and I had to go round twice to get my money's worth, but it was very interesting and I learnt a lot. There were models of houses, builders' pattern-books, surveyors' tools and the tools of various trades,
and a couple of really interesting videos showing the old techniques of plasterwork
and - my favourite, glassmaking - in action.
This started off as a sphere of blown glass, and through being trirled like a boater's mop, ended as a flat circle for a window.

There was a shop, with a good selection of architecture-related books, and knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers, making it well worth a visit.

Friday 10 May 2019

Bath tap

Almost the final Bath pun, I promise. A fabulous - and fabulously inconcruous, now - Victorian drinking fountain.
Rather than copy or paraphrase the information plaque, and pretend that I'd actually done some research, I'll just bung in a photo of it.
There. Now you know as much as I do.

Thursday 9 May 2019

Plughole end

Perhaps slightly unkind, but too good to pass up - and anyway, those who know me will know that I was very pleased to find this slightly less salubrious part of central Bath when I went for a Sunday morning stroll (and I've actually forgotten what the area was called). But here I found some charity shops, and generally felt rather more comfortable.
I did a double-take when I saw this, then realised the shock was because it was built of red brick.
And here were some fabulous glazed bricks, another weakness of mine.
And waht you can't really see in the photo, a sturdy scaffold shore holding up the building at the back (although not nearly as impressive as the one I saw holding up a facade on the way to Bristol).