Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Life on the straight and narrow

The Slough arm is straight, narrow and five miles long, and there always seems to be something interesting to see. Take this week for example. We've been staying on the boat the last few days but not going anywhere. That's partly because the Arm is cut off from the rest of the canal network for a fortnight. At the end where the arm meets the Grand Union at Cowley Peachey, they are inspecting and refurbishing the ARP gates.

"And what are ARP gates?" you rightly ask. Well after some research, (i.e. asking the good folk on the uk.rec.waterways internet newsgroup), it turns out they are Air Raid Precaution gates that can seal off sections of the canal if a major breach occurs. In that way a major loss of water from a huge area can be prevented. My guess is that our ARP gates are installed because the Slough arm passes over three aqueducts, which if breached would empty the canal between there and Ealing, where the next ARP gates are. On that section there are no lock gates to trap any water loss.

We went to see the repairs 9 days after the work commenced and all we could see was the fabric dams in place either side of the gates, so we don't know if the work is nearly finished or hardly started, or just stalled. Contractors boats were around, but it was lunchtime so no workers were to be seen.

There are at least a couple of hundred boats moored (i.e. trapped at the moment) in the Arm. You can see some of them in the picture. These are the ones at Packet Boat marina. The rest are with us down at Iver. To be fair though I doubt if more than half a dozen would have been out at this time of year anyway.

The previous day we walked from our boat to the other end of the Arm. The "basin" at Slough, five miles from the junction at Cowley Peachey. It would be fair I guess to describe the basin as unimpressive. Somewhere to turn round and go back.

There isn't even a good pub there :-( . Previously we had been only as far as the winding hole about 2 miles from the basin.

The rest of the Arm is OK and worthy of a cruise or a walk. Straight, narrow, and surprisingly quiet. The immediate edges are mostly reeded and there is plenty of wild life in evidence. According to an angler we met, there are plenty of fish, including pike to over 20 pounds.

At intervals there are also industrial sites, the biggest being the giant ICI paints factory at the Slough end. I guess this is where Dulux comes from. Surprisingly, it doesn't smell of paint, although there where one or two nasty niffs as we passed.

On the way back we detoured into Langley village with its old almshouses and the inviting looking Red Lion pub, which looks cottagey at the front but has a huge dining extension at the rear.

Back at the boatyard, Wednesday was the monthly craning day when boats are lifted in and out of the canal for hull surveys, blacking, repairs etc. Craning is expensive, over £200 per boat, but it does need a huge crane and a lot of manpower to sling and steady the boat. I wouldn't like to think of the consequences of a boat being dropped!

Watching the lifting is entertaining. It appears to need eight people. Four on the boat to adjust the balance. The boat swings alarmingly if the straps aren't in the right place. Two on the bank to hold the boat in line with fore and aft ropes. One to operate the crane, and one to supervise and give commands. The guy in the silly trousers is the marine surveyor waiting to do his bit once the boat is safely lowered onto the yard.

1 comment:

Martin said...

Interesting to learn a little more about the Slough arm.
(Brought to my attention today by GrannyB)
BTW, could that be 'hard', rather than 'yard'?