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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Grand Union - northern section

 We have left Napton after a very nice 6 days visiting friends and made the short journey to Napton junction and turned onto what I always refer to as the Grand Union northern section.
This is now for Jaq virgin territory but for me perhaps the description might be hazy not having cruised here for about 6 years.

After I had shown Jaq the different lock paddle winding gear we were going to face for the next 46 locks we set off through the first three at Calcutt. Now as I try to think back six years I`m having doubts about this same lock gear being in place all the way through to the top of the Hatton flight.
As you can see in the picture on the left it is a bit different from the type Jaq has been used to pictured to the right.
These tall lock paddle mechanisms are made by Ham Baker and the internal mechanism is geared so that a large number of turns are needed to raise the paddle that empties/fills the lock. Despite some people calling them hydraulic, they are not. Also they are designed to lower by gravity and not be wound down. A lot of folk tend to disagree about the winding down so let`s just agree to differ on that point and enjoy our boating. Some good pictures here of the Ham Baker gear and an empty lock chamber.

We found a quiet spot and moored for a couple of days not really wanting to do the Stockton flight of ten locks that would take us down to Long Itchington until the rain had passed by.

This is lock 12 and we have two more to do before Long Itchington our next mooring. These double locks still have signs of the single locks. This one over to the left is being used as moorings.

The boat painting is progressing and the stern locker covers have now been replaced. I have used exterior ply that has been stained the same colour as the wood/solar panel box on the roof. All the edges have been sealed with three coats of PVA glue and finished off with three coats of gloss yacht varnish.
Jaq and I used faux leather over foam to create a soft seat for us both. Each seat top lifts off for storage.

To the left the generator is housed below the seat while the right hand has a lift off lid to gain access to a large locker where we keep the water hose and a host of other bits and pieces including 40 litres of spare winter diesel in case we get frozen in.
I did manage to move the forward/reverse control a few inches that gave a bit bigger seat but any further movement was not possible without some major work involving removing a metal tube containing the cables.

Having finished this time consuming part it`s time to get some more coats of paint on the cabin sides. Two coats one side and one of four on the other have been applied and this is without the stern and bow decks so if you could all wish for some nice weather it would be appreciated.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

North Oxford canal as built at Clifton Dunsmore

The original route of the Oxford canal between Braunston and Hawkebury Junction has always fascinated me. 
It fully opened in 1790 and followed the 300ft. contour which meant straight was not an option for it`s route. 
In the 1820`s it was straightened by about 11/14 miles depending on what articles you read and on the Northern section this was approaching 50% of the original twisting route.
 Now the section I`m featuring here is at Clifton Dunsmore approaching Rugby and is a perfect example of distance saved by the canal being straightened. On the map above, dated 1883-89, the original route turned across fields at what is now Clifton Cruisers (D). It meandered past Clifton Old wharf(C) that served Clifton Dunsmore village. After the canal was straightened the wharf was relocated to what is now Clifton Cruisers, still serving the village. The old route then turned left after the corn mill to cross the R. Avon (B). 
The saving on this section by the new route of A to D eliminating B/C is .75 of a mile. Of course as you travel this new section you`ll notice the canal has been built on an embankment something the original canal builders battled to avoid. Less work but more mileage and slower freight movement.

This is a Google eye view that I have marked to help locate the following pictures. The old route I have marked Red. The present route enters from the lower left corner crossing the Avon on an aqueduct
A is where the old and new join. 
B is interesting in that it was the route of the Great Central Railway built in the late 1890`s, 100 years after the canal, from London to Nottingham. It had to span first the River then the canal. The latter is now a footpath so you can walk on and below history. The rail track bed can clearly be seen cutting through the trees.
C is the old canal route crossing the river. 
D is the site of the old Clifton Mills station on the Rugby Peterborough line that opened in 1850 with passenger traffic ending in 1953.  Also here is the bridge where the canal bed now passes under station road and the site of the old wharf. There is a building here that to me looks very much like an old canal building but being on someones land made a closer view impossible.

 This is the old canal bed that was bridged by the Great Central railway, A on the Google map. 
You can easily get to this point from the moorings at Rugby Tesco. From bridges 58 or 59 just follow the path on the offside as it hugs the canal. Stay on the path and you will see the above view. Under the arch to the left the canal bed is amongst the trees.
 Keep walking and eventually you come to a children's play area, swings etc. Just past this you will see the trees going off to the right. 
Don`t look at this high ground and think the canal could not have flown through because this area was a ministry of defense rifle range and my guess is the high ground was artificially created for the range. Follow the tree line and you will come to the river and the view pictured below.
Site of the old canal crossing the R. Avon. B on 1880`s map.      
Another view of the crossing.
Bridge in station road the canal flowed under. C on 1800`s map.
Old route from Clifton Cruisers. D on 1880`s map.
Approaching Rugby after the long straight past Clifton cruisers. Seeing those two houses the old route came from the right just across from them.

 The old ordnance survey maps come from Warwickshire Archives HERE and there are many tools to use giving measurements and maps of different years.
Just to end this one above shows the area around Barby it saved about half a mile. 

Out of interest follow the canal to Braunston and notice some of the old routes still shown. Get to Braunston marina or reservoirs as the 1883-89 map will show. Follow the route of the old canal as it goes across the fields crossing the puddle banks before turning back to the same.

I hope you enjoy as much as I do not just boating in the modern day but taking an interest in the history of our modern day hobby and for some of us where we live.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Our recent movements.

I should have put boat in that title. Yes i could have changed it. But you didn`t really think the post was about.......did you!
Just sitting here thinking about the past month or so and noting we haven`t traveled great distances. We set off north from Milton Keynes some time back and on the map that would be through Weedon Bec.
 The end of the first week in July we entered Braunston waiting for post that should have been there within two days, to this day it has never appeared either at it`s destination or returned back to sender.

Royal Mail suggests something grand, it sends out vibes of the Queens mail will get there this is the service to beat all. What a load of tosh. Now sold off to be another national institute that is making money for financiers.
Oliver Cromwell in 1654 granted a monopoly of the mail service to the Office of Postage. I wonder what he would think of my letter not arriving, heads would have literally rolled.

 One of the most tragic happenings in the Royal Mail, other than the sell off, was the allowing of private courier company`s to collect mail and sort it and re enter it into the system for postmen to deliver. I have seen this happen and personally dropped mail sacks into postal sorting depots.
Let me explain briefly what happens. A private parcel courier company collects say ten sacks of mail from Boots head office. The mail is sorted into destinations across the UK and travels overnight on the parcel company`s trucks. At each delivery area the sorted mail for that area goes into the local delivery office and the postmen deliver it. Not sure quite how the fees charged stack up but for sure Boots got a better deal and the parcel company made a profit. How much Royal Mail received is not known but it must eat into their profit not doing the full job. Jaq says back home the likes of Fedex or UPS would not be touching United States Postal Service mail.
Anyway the missing letters, just paper with writing on, seem years back so lets move out of Braunston and get on with life. We moved halfway to Napton and worked on the boat painting and relaxed. Onto Napton visiting friends then back to Braunston and a bus for a few supplies in Daventry.
Now a slow journey towards Rugby stopping off to do more work on the boat. Clifton Dunsmore would be home for a while as the nearby Rugby train station is handy for the journey into London and the latest surgery on the 29th. So following the surgery a rest and move into Rugby itself. That was when the tree came down and a couple of days more rest and I managed to follow part of the old Oxford canal route and find the aqueduct or the remains that crossed the Avon river. I`ve started that blog post but it needs finishing.

Next move was back towards Braunston stopping off at Onley to start on the rear deck

locker lids that after six years were beginning to give up. Now need to construct a storage box /seat. The  Morse control has been moved forward about 4 inches and this will give a bigger seat. For the record the lids are exterior ply with edges sealed by four coats of PVA and three coats of exterior gloss varnish. All this over a coating of wodd preserver the same colour as the woodbox on the roof.
On the way we had a shout from NB Tricia Helen who enjoyed the blog, thanks. While at Onley Tom and Jan on Nb Waiouru stopped for a chat and tea taken on the tow path in the sunshine. Just about the same time Arthur on Nb Dabchick stopped to say hello as he passed.

Now we are back at Napton visiting friends and will in the next few days set off up the Grand Union towards Stockton and onto Warwick and possibly Birmingham.

A lot of coming and going but we now have some cruising time with just  scan and clinic appointments in September that trains from Warwick and thereabouts will used to attend.

Just leaves a few pictures taken in this short distance over a longer time frame.

Steam powered Laplander


 Have a nice weekend everyone hopefully the rain will pass and I can get some more coats of paint on the boat. Took a chance Thursday morning and gave the first coat on the Port side. Rain was forecast for the afternoon but by the time it came the paint had dried.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Pure Retail Therapy

Bridge 58 at Rugby, the Tesco stop, was also home to a retail park called Elliotts Field. It was a bit tired and not much of a fix for the retail therapy seeking boater. It was after all

 a mix of pure retail, Next, T K Max etc and the industrial side with the likes of DIY stores and Carpet Land. Above is the view from the towpath entrance, the car wash was to the right. Now with some 19 units  of nothing but pure retail dominated by 30,000 sq ft of Debenhams closely followed in size by Marks and Spencer this could be a future stopping point for boaters. Dare I suggest fellas give the other half the plastic and let them hit the shops while you watch the boat while partaking in a sherbet or two. Of course you must not confuse this with a Sherbet Dab which is a cab. There is no "r" but Londoners say it that way. Oh and by the way probably because of legalities over lease Halfords is still on site at one end. Lads don`t let her tell you there`s a shop selling man bits because as you know H is fine if you want to buy a bike or fluffy dice, stick to the sherbet plan.

They can build 300,000sq ft. of retail units costing multi millions but the tap is out of order. I do hope CRT don`t need the stop planks in a hurry.

All due to open by Christmas and to Jaq`s delight it has an ED`S easy diner. This LINK will take you to a piece Jaq wrote about her childhood memories of an American diner.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The Willow that will weep no more.

This is Rugby and as boaters would describe it, the little park on the offside by the Tesco moorings. Not a normal mooring for us being absolutely full of boats on both sides but Jaq needed to be here for a couple of nights. So I find myself with a whole day to fill I have spent the time going off and with great success tracing another section of the original Nth Oxford canal route. Would have been better getting on with the boat painting but I promised to have no more exercise than a walk.
Off walking I came across the tree surgeons further along on the offside cutting down an Ash tree. They were quite happy to let me have some but not willing to leave it until we pass by tomorrow. Council policy the site has to be left clear. So arriving back at the boat I was just in time to capture the action.
The ropes are being attached to the highest point in the tree.

 The rope is pulled taunt by the movable shredder. Watch the trees behind on skyline.

 The guy at the tree base is cutting through with a chainsaw. The tree has moved slightly.

 Watch the skyline. It has moved a lot. The rope is slack.

 Nothing more to say, I think we all agree it`s moved.

 Almost flat, just a tiny bit more.

Excitement over and life resumes on the Warwickshire canals.

Within 2 hours it had gone.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Our five seconds of fame and that battle continues.

“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Andy Warhol’s famous quote predicted fame’s fleeting nature in our celebrity-saturated culture

 Perhaps not 15 minutes but for sure at least 10 seconds of an absolutely superb film along the Grand Union canal features Nb Valerie and her crew. I might just add we had no need to spend time in make up and we used no stunt doubles.
These screen shots are from the latest DVD produced by Paul and Christine Balmer of Waterway routes.
Paul kindly dropped our copy off to Jaq recently while I was off the boat. We had no idea we would be included in the final production fully expecting to be amongst the clippings on the cutting room floor.
It is one of  many DVD`s and maps available and if you look at the selection I`m sure your favourite canal will be there or perhaps the canal you cruised on a holiday hire boat.

The  popular DVD is like a TV programme with commentary showing the highlights of the cruise. The latest two DVDs are Both of the Grand Union but split into North and South. The one featured here is the South version. It starts off exiting the River Thames onto the Grand Union at Brentford. Not only is the main line covered as far as Leighton Buzzard but also the arms and branches leading off.

 At the London end it includes the Paddington arm plus the Regents and Hertford Union canals.
 Heading away from the metropolis the Slough arm is covered and into the home counties the Wendover and Aylesbury Arms are also cruised.

We also have the Bowcam DVD that covers the whole cruise and not just the highlights. Both the popular and bowcam are 60 minutes in length so two hours of enjoyment.

A sample of Waterway Routes popular DVD can be viewed here. Sample of Bowcam is here.

The battle continues.
I went into the Royal Free Hospital on Wednesday and underwent Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) to have lesions burned off my left lung. The procedure was successful however two more microscopic lesions were found--one on each lung. The medical team at the RFH is going to watch and wait, reviewing scans one month from now and then in three months.

From our end of things, Jaq has on her warrior's face and her combat boots. We believe the dietary changes we've made along with the supplements I am taking have certainly slowed the growth of the cancer and so far it has not returned to my liver as it is want to do in cases like mine. So we will keep experimenting on our end, trying our best to make my body an inhospitable place for cancer to reside.

It is so good to be back home. Jaq is spoiling me and I am in the good hands of the woman I love.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Friends, Old and New!

"In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed." ~Kahlil Gibran
     We've been steadily moving along with short periods of mooring up and chilling out--our life as it was pre-cancer. In Braunston several weeks back Les and I walked up to the local shop for a Saturday paper. On our way back to the boat we had the pleasure or running into Jim from NB Chertsey. He was out with the dog on a lovely sunny morning, while waiting for his wife Sarah to return from her work week in the city. Sarah writes one of my favorite boat blogs. Sorry we missed you Sarah, but we did enjoy our short chin-wag with Jim who looks no older than when we saw him last up on the Shroppie several years ago. I didn't have my camera so Bill remains semi-incognito for now.
Andy and Tina of NB Ytene. Just looking at this picture makes me smile!
      Whenever we are anywhere near Braunston, we always take a turn through the double bridges and head south for Napton to meet up withfriends Andy and Tina on NB Ytene. We had a lovely handful of days in the area walking to the local windmill, which will feature in a longer post to come, and visiting with the Elfords.
     Dinner, drinks and hours of hysterical laughter ensue every time we get together as we introduce them to yet another new game (the British Railroad Game this time, thanks to our friends Ken and Sue Deveson of NB Cleddau who introduced it to us). No one tells a story like Andy and Tina--no one. I nearly lost control of my bladder several times and laughed so hard tears poured from my eyes. Thanks mates, for bringing us the joy of your company.
Sue and Colin next to their boat NB Carrie-Ann. Winnie the boat bunny is napping inside.
     As we cruised past Napton Narrowboats and under the Tomlow Road Bridge, I spotted a familiar red and blue boat we had not see in almost a year. Moored up by the bridge were Susan and Colin of NB Carrie-Ann. We first met them in June 2014 at Cassiobury Park and we really hit it off. They are also live aboard continuous cruisers who choose to live a low tech lifestyle and don't blog but they do travel with a whimsical pet--Winston the boat rabbit! He's large, grey, and soft as thistle down. We called out to the boat and up popped Colin with Sue behind him. We breasted up, sat on their stern deck with cups of tea and enjoyed a lovely warm summer afternoon catching up. We hope to cross paths with them again soon. 
Marilyn of NB Waka Huia and her trusty old hiking boots.
     Les and I continued on toward the Napton lock flight, turning at the winding hole before the top lock, to settle in for a day or so of boat restoration work (scraping, filling, sanding, etc.). The late afternoon heat was getting the better of us so Les and I decided to have a mosey down the lock flight--but first we stopped at the local lock shop for two ice creams. We sat in the shade eating our naughty snacks and then we walked back up to the towpath. A woman and a young boy had come across the top of the lock and were walking ahead of us. Les said, "Jaq I think that's Marilyn (NB Waka Huia). I'm sure that's her hair (short, spiky and silver.) I told Les it couldn't possibly be Marilyn as she and David had gone up the Calcutt lock flight towards Warwick only days prior. My far sight is not good, and Les was not sure so we continued to follow behind. As the short, silver haired woman slowed to allow her young companion to keep pace, I notice her boots--sturdy, well worn hiking boots and it was then I knew Les was correct--it was our Kiwi mate Marilyn!
     We called out, she turned and walked back to offer big hugs and an introduction to her grandson Olek who was visiting from Scotland. We spent several pleasant hours sitting alongside the towpath drinking wine and eating nibbles while catching up.
     Les and I were mightily impressed with young Olek who is thoughtful, smart, and helpful. He also has excellent manners and can hold his own in a conversation with old farts like us. He reminded me of my grandsons Micheal and Matthew back in the States. 
     After all this jollity and frivolity we cruised back to Braunston where Les filled the boat with water and dumped the rubbish while I walked up the high street for a Saturday paper, checked on our Post Restante mail which has still not arrived after a month, and we turned and cruised...North!
Hi Handsome!
     As soon as we passed the second service point at Braunston, just north of the two white bridges I let out a whoop and hugged Les tight. "That's it baby. We haven't cruised this far north in two and half years!" We had in fact been moored up at Braunston on New Years Eve 2012 when Les experienced the first bout of bowel trouble that signaled our decent into his cancer journey. For the first time in two and half years Les' eyes sparkled and shined with life and his laughter echoed across the cut. He pulled me close and we kissed as we cruised--gratitude deep in our hearts for making it thus far.
     We enjoyed the slightly windy afternoon, with sun coming and going behind fast moving clouds. We ate tuna sandwiches on fresh baked bread and drunk hot cups of herbal tea from the back of the boat as we carried on. Rain was forecast for later in the evening and all the next day, so boats were passing us at a fast pace attempting to make time before the rain began. We stopped at Hillmorton Chandlers to pick up some Owatrol and say hello to Richard--the shop owner and the only U.K. distributor of Airhead Marine Composting toilets. Richard was out so we missed saying hello.
     NB Valerie was moored adjacent to some outdoor tables by the pub next to the chandlers. As we walked back to our boat, a man in a blue T-shirt approached and said, "You're Jaq and Les aren't you? " and he held out his hand. I was caught by surprise. I shook his hand as he introduced himself: "I'm Tony and this is my wife Julie." Well knock me over with a feather!
     Tony and Julie have been corresponding with me for months about their new boat build and their desire to have an Airhead composting loo on board! They had traveled down to meet Richard and look at toilets only to find him out. We chatted about boaty things and then they said good bye and we were off again. It was wonderful to meet you both in person and we hope to cross paths on the cut when you are aboard your lovely new boat NB ChasBella. Thanks very much indeed for stopping to say hello. New friends are often people you haven't met yet.
     We are moored up again in a quiet stretch of canal as rain beats a rhythm on the roof. A pot of fresh chicken noodle soup simmers on the stove and fresh baked bread waits on the counter for dinner. A container of homemade coconut yogurt will be finished and ready to make into parfaits with granola and fresh strawberries by 11 p.m.--just right for us night owls.