Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wow–just look at this !!

Some of you know our boater friend Carrie and her Blackbird blog.  Those who have met her will also know what a nice person she is.  Well, she’s an amazingly talented illustrator as well.  She has just launched a new blog featuring her artwork, all created for the free use of those who are active in fighting injustices of various kinds.  Go take a look here.  The images are brilliant.  I feel humbled.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pride comes before a fall for the not so lone ranger

Hi Ho Silver! The lone ranger and Tonto rode the Slough Arm yesterday, bravely laughing in the face of the mud and mire and clearing overhanging boughs and protruding bushes.  Well alright, it was me and my Towpath Ranger pal Tonto (aka Alan ). Here  he is.


Anyway we did the whole lot, from here where the arm leaves (or joins) the Grand Union at Cowley Peachey,


to here five miles away at the charming (?) Slough Basin where, strangely, I have never seen a boat moored.


  For those who have never experienced this Mecca of the waterways, a couple of yards away there is somewhere to turn your boat


so if you can tear yourself away, you can go back the five miles to the GU.

You can imagine that after all the rain we have had, that we were expecting to get up to our necks in mud.  However, in the end we were pleasantly surprised.  The towpath from Cowley to Iver was muddy but not too bad at all considering the recent weather.  I have seen far far worse at Braunston.  Then after Iver the towpath steadily improved until we reached this wondrous section at Bloom Park, Middle Green where they hold the annual Slough canal festival.


Impressive eh? Yes that picture was actually taken yesterday.  The adjacent playing field was waterlogged, but the towpath was, well, perfect I would say.  And look, an actual bend in the canal!!!  Not many of them down the Slough Arm. In fact only two I think.

There is a new housing development nearby towards Langley and that has good towpath too


(Keen observers with large enough screens may spot the red kite in the above picture.)

By the time we headed back I was feeling pretty pleased with Silver, my trusty old  steed bike which has narrow road tyres and is definitely not built for off road work. Then shortly after I took that last picture I got a front tyre puncture and had to push all the way back to the car parked at our boatyard.  Never mind, we had a very good day and we can declare the arm open for business whether by towpath or water.

Should you be boating in the area, now would be a good time to explore the arm as the water is high and there is no weed and very little rubbish around.  I think many would be pleasantly surprised.

Monday, January 27, 2014

London visiting

Now, what was I saying before Christmas? Ah yes, all that stuff about London visitor moorings being full up. Well, we’ll be putting it to another test very soon as we hope to take Herbie up there later this week.  My general impression though is that things are perhaps not as bad as I thought when I got grumpy about Paddington basin in late November.  Since then Doug and James on NbChance have on two occasions found moorings in the basin.

My meeting with Sorwar Ahmed at CRT was quite positive in so far as he and his team did seem to be making inroads into the problem of London mooring generally and he was quite keen to get ideas as to how they could better get boats moving after their allotted time was up.   I suggested a return to the previous practice of mooring wardens (or it used to be the Merchant Square security guys in Paddington basin) giving each boater a welcome letter when they arrive, making clear the terms of their stay.  If I remember rightly, some years ago they would also have a word with you the day before your time was up to let you know they were expecting you to go.

Meanwhile, things are still looking pretty hairy on the Thames.  The other day we had occasion to go to an event at the Compleat Angler hotel in Marlow (there’s posh!). A week before it might have been called off because their car park had been flooded, but now the waters had receded enough to let us venture out across the grass to view the weir pool.


Out at the front of the hotel, which looks at the navigable part of the river, the speed of the flow was scary to say the least.  I think Herbie would have been going backwards fast even at full revs pushing against that current.  I’m very glad we can cruise to London on still water!

A couple of things about responses to my post about cheaper broadband (for which, thank you folks).  Yes you can get good deals on a longer term contract, but as we only use mobile data when we’re out boating we don’t want to pay every month because some months we would use none at all, or very little. For that reason we have until now been using versions of pay as you go.  It seems to be a fast moving market at the moment so I guess the thing to do is to keep looking for the deals.  Anyway, for the next three months we’ll be with mobidata and see how we get on.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Kath finds Cheaper bandwidth

Well hello again! Yes. I am still alive. So sorry to have been away so long but I have a) been busy with all sorts of stuff and b) not been doing anything connected with boats or canals. However further Herbie excursions are coming real soon and we have plans for some engine bay improvements in the next few weeks.

Now that I'm back I have something you might need to know, and it concerns the growing number of us using mifi internet routers on board our boats. We've been very happy with our Huawei thingy on board Herbie as I have written in the past, but there has been a growing problem, which is the rising cost of buying the band width. Over the past year the price of the 3 mobile ready loaded sims has virtually doubled. A 3gig one now costs nearly twenty quid even from eBay suppliers.

Never fear. Kath has been on the case and has discovered a new service called mobidata who are an outfit that supplies only data sims at a lower cost that anyone else. They do a range of tariffs depending on how much data you want, but they are all on a monthly rolling contract so you can cancel anytime. We got a free trial sim from them and tried it out in our gubbins today, and after a bit of configuration it works fine. The good news is that the network they use is the 3 mobile one, so connectivity is fine. Depending whether you want 1, 5, or 10 gig per month you pay just under 5, 15, or 20 quid. At the moment you get double at the same price for three months if you sign up before the end of Jan. That beats 3 quite comfortably especially I'd you use a lot of bandwidth. We'll let you know how we get on with it.

I'm towpath rangering on Tuesday so maybe I'll have a tale to tell.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Water water everywhere

One of our dreams has always been to have a house with it’s own moorings outside.  Well this week we came close!  Even though we live half way up a hill, our back garden patio collects water as it is sunken into the slope with the house on the downhill side.  Rain water can’t get past the house so it has to go into a soakaway, but a soakaway can only take so much when the ground is waterlogged so our patio flooded and was lapping at the conservatory door. ( if all this talk of patios and conservatory sounds a bit posh, believe me it isn’t, the conservatory is ready to fall down).  Admittedly the water wasn’t quite deep enough to float Herbie but we did have to resort to wading out into the garden in the rain to bail out the water in bucketfuls which we carried out the gate to a drain outside on the road.

At least we are not too worried about Herbie getting washed away in the floods, the Slough Arm is not noted for excesses of water as you all know.  We are just hoping that our next door neighbour at the moorings has captured anything that might have blown off the roof.  Weather like this confirms our belief that long term mooring on a river is a risky business.  We think of our friends who keep their boat at Tewkesbury. The pictures I saw on the news makes it hard to see where the town begins and the river ends  I guess the Severn and the Avon merge a good way further back today than they did a few weeks ago.  Still it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good and I suppose that the narrowboat we saw stranded atop a wall in Tewkesbury is back afloat now.


I’d love to see some pictures showing how far up the poles the mooring pontoon has risen at Diglis in Worcester.  Here we are there in the summer.


I wouldn’t mind betting it’s pretty near the top right now.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Quiz answers illustrated.

Alf wrote to complain that I hadn’t given the answers to my picture quiz. Sorry Alf, all you needed to do was to look at Adam’s answers at the top of the comments because he got them all right, but for you and any others who didn’t have a clue as to how you would know the answers, here is a bit of an explanation for each.



The funfair gives the game away.The lock is at Stourport where the canal basin exits to the River Severn. Hence the signpost points down river to Worcester and up the canal to Wolverhampton. So the answer is W.

Here’s a nice picture of my shoulder and the signpost as we exit on to the mighty Severn




is also at Stourport.  The basin has both narrow and wide lock exits to the river, even though wide boats cannot  out of the basin and up onto the canal proper because that has only narrow locks.



Is the chain ferry at Hampton on the edge of Evesham (where I went to school). My Mum and Dad are buried not far away on the other bank of the river Avon.



This unusual French manufactured paddle gear is used on the locks on the upper Avon navigation.  I haven’t seen them anywhere else. Actually despite my earlier grumbles about the locks, the paddle gears are actually quite good and light to use.  Most of these locks were built by working parties from local prisons and the like and according to the notices at some of the locks, they were built in incredibly short times, like a couple of weeks. IMG_2715_edited-1

Quite an achievement. A pity the design makes them such a swine to use!




Is on the little 100 yard Lapworth link which allows you to hop across from  the Grand Union to the Stratford canal.  If you go under the little bridge, you head down to Stratford and if you go right, through the lock you can see, you go towards Kings Norton and Birmingham. So the signpost says Stratford and Kings Norton.  ust out of the frame on the right is the lovely little grassy area with picnic benches where we lazed away a sunny afternoon after a heavy morning’s locking.



We look through the bridge to see the stop lock at the southern end of the Shropshire Union canal at Autherley junction where it meets the Staffs and Worcester. More or less Wolverhampton really although you wouldn’t know it from the canal which is very attractive thereabouts.



The blue paddle posts give it away. They are painted that way so you can follow the correct sequence of paddle opening at the unique Bratch locks where the locks are so close that there is much less than a boat’s length between them.  Here we go out of one lock and into the next.



I don’t know of anywhere else where they use blue paint in that way.



A hard one, and one that some got wrong. Just through the bridge is Norton junction where the Leicester Arm leaves the Grand Union main line.  It’s a place we know well as we often pass through on our return to Crick.  I’m not surprised Adam knew it because its just a few yards past a place he (and we) like to moor for the night.  There is a lovely view out across rolling farmland to the left of the picture., and a super cottage just through the bridge on the left.



Is Tewkesbury.The lock entrance you can see on the right is where you leave the Avon to go down to the Severn.



I’m pretty sure this is a White Park. What a handsome beast.  We spotted them an the bank of the Avon somewhere between Tewkesbury and Eckington.


The black ears. nose and feet and the horns and the general build are all indicative. Not long ago this was an endangered breed, but rare breed farmers have pulled them back to reasonable numbers.  They are supposed to be easy calvers and give lean beef.

Well there you are Alf and others.  Now you know.  Hope you enjoyed it and a happy new year to all Herbie readers.