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Wednesday, December 23, 2009


a lovely Christmas and thanks for reading my blog.


Monday, December 21, 2009


Well i`ve talked about it for long enough so being moored at Paddington was the ideal time to make my first trip on Eurostar to Paris.

So into the booking hall at St Pancras International and faced with several choices i chose the
package that gave me breakfast on the way out and dinner on the return trip, no expense spared this was a one off that would reduce my list of things to do before i die. Morbid, sad, spooky call it what you want but remember we`ve all got life but for sure it`s not forever.

The ticket came out of the machine at 7.16 and i was on board as the train departed at 7.27 with the aid of a personal escort to the head of passport control and the metal detector/bag search right to my own table seat in less than 11mins.

Took this pic on the way back as no time on the way out.

Gare Du Nord station.

This must be what Boris has planned for London.

One of the many trip boats on the R. Seine

Bridge decoration

Eiffel Tower had heavily armed police on patrol.

Arc de Triomphe

Looking from the Trocadero with Christmas stalls and ice skating stretching down to the Seine with the tower on the other side.

More Christmas stalls along both sides of the Champs Elysees. I consumed several cups of hot wine as i walked around to keep out the bitterly cold weather.

These vents must have been ventilation shafts from the Metro as many people gathered to take advantage of the warm air coming up.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Turning off the main line at Bulls Bridge the Paddington Arm is lock free for 13 miles into Paddington basin. Now i was born in this area and so the cruise became a journey back to my childhood with memories coming back as more and more water passed under the boat. So i`ll just dig out a mince pie to go with my cup of tea before i share my memories with you.

This is the arm that went into the Gasworks at Kensal Green and as kids we swam in the canal here as the water was always warm. Must have been something to do with the works.

The Flora pub where Mum worked part time on top of her full time job elsewhere. Not until you grow up with a family of your own that you appreciate what your parents did to give you holidays and everything else that gave me a happy childhood.

On this site was Askey`s factory that made ice cream wafers and cornets and the doors would always be open because of the heat from the machinery so we would get the broken cornets from the ladies sitting at the packaging tables.

This was my local library where we as kids would go to not only get books but attend film shows. One memory was a tank of Tadpoles that everyone checked on each visit as they developed into frogs.

Behind the Library was Queens Park Estate comprising some 2000 plus terraced houses one of which was my home for 17yrs. There was about 100 homes in each street built around the 1870`s and you can see how big by the picture with just 2 up 2 down outside loo(they did get upgraded so a tin bath in front of the fire was bath night for quite some time) and a 20` rear garden. I remember i could just get my motorbike in the front garden and also remember when very young dad got told off for having his bike in the short narrow hall and almost divorced when mum found the engine in pieces in the back room.
Now they change hands for around £479.000 to young professionals and as the estate agents blurb says they are cottages with a village feel. I #######.........or words to that effect

Lets drift on now i`ve stopped laughing at the estate agents and this is halfpenny steps, well not the original. The old high sided girder twin walkway bridge has gone but they can take away the bridge but not my memories. The toll was long gone when i was a kid but on the right hand side was the Harrow Road and i used to sell the evening Standard and the Evening Star for pocket money mostly to people making their way by Trolley bus to White City greyhound track. The punters would wait by the stand for the latest edition to arrive so they could study form on the bus journey. Most nights the Standard and Star vans would come round the bend racing each other to get their paper on sale first the bundles would fly out the door with the vans hardly stopping.
The flats on the left replaced the public baths and swimming pool where i learnt to swim while at junior school. It was also on this side of the canal i did my morning paper round the last call i remember was a cafe where a hot breakfast was always ready for me on the house after which a short walk along Harrow road took me to school.
EDIT: Just remembered it was the Evening News not the Star.

On this site before these flats were built stood the Paddington General Hospital and my memory is being taken by mum on the Trolleybus from the doctors to the hospital where i spent 2 weeks in isolation suspected to have Polio. I remember visitors wore masks and i spent hours looking out the window as working boats went past on the canal. I got the all clear(false alarm) and got out just in time to go on holiday the same day. Must have been a Saturday as in those days everybody started holidays on a Saturday.
Just a bit further along and my old school still stands although nowadays it`s an Adult Education Centre. The small outbuilding in the centre of pic was the Woodwork classroom and we would queue on the steps and watch the boats waiting for Mr. Gibbons who on letting us in would shout "on your perches" meaning sit up on the wooden workbenches while he called our names to make sure none of us had dodged off the lesson.

Turning into the basin at Paddington the station platform canopies can be seen and memories of trainspotting all day long with drink and sandwiches in a duffle bag.

Further round into the main basin away from the trains but surrounded in this night time shot by office blocks this is the base for my trip abroad.

Different sort of blog to my usual but that last 2 miles of the Paddington Arm was a bit nostalgic so i hope you enjoyed me sharing a few memories with you.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Below the snow started as i approached Rickmansworth yesterday on my way back from Paddington but soon stopped.

This morning i woke up to snow everywhere but i needed to move to be in my chosen location
for the Christmas break with the grandchildren. Only did 3 locks before deciding it was to dangerous on the lock sides plus the ropes were frozen making it hard to wrap them around bollards. If it snows much more all my plans are going to be changed so a bit of rain to wash this lot away will be welcome.
Have a couple of blogs in the pipeline including my venture abroad but thought i would just slip this one in between.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I was watching Question Time on the BBC the other night that was broadcast from Wootton Bassett a town who`s residents turn out and line the streets when an RAF plane lands bringing back not just bodies of soldiers but sons, daughters,dads, brothers.......................

I don`t personally know anyone involved in the conflicts of present or past and being born in1948 my dad had returned from WW2 thankfully alive never speaking of his years at war even into my adulthood but he would never ever buy anything Japanese made so i can only imagine.

Personally, and this is my view to which i am entitled so comment by all means but bear that in mind, i think dads war had more purpose it seemed clearer what was happening and what needed to be done to stop it. I listened to the politicians reasons for why our boys and girls are there but wasn`t convinced.

Perhaps we should just step back and defend our island from invaders use our soldiers to defend our sea and air ports, be a bit more inquisitive of the reasons of those that enter. We seem to have a good team routing out the bad apples already here.......oh i won`t go on as this video was meant to be a tribute to those fighting so far away from home but i got carried away to much time on my hands or maybe old age gives me time to think and reflect.

Play the video and listen to the words, no countries, no religion, living as one etc. All sounds great but would it work?

Anyway it`s dedicated to all the soldiers away from their loved ones.

Friday, December 11, 2009


The Rickmansworth Arm, Salters Cut, Gasworks Arm call it what you want but it still remains a canalised section of the River Chess starting at Batchworth Lock.
As Samuel Salter made it navigable in 1805 to reach his brewery perhaps he should have the honour of it being called after him after all he was the first as the Gasworks didn`t arrive until 1845 followed by the Railway (LNWR) in 1862. Don`t confuse this railway with the present day one that arrived in 1887 courtesy of the Metropolitan Rail Company. The line that was a branch from Watford to Church St. Rickmansworth was intended to connect to Uxbridge but this fell by the wayside with the result that goods were transshipped to canal boats for the journey.
The LNWR station in Church St now demolished.

Before we carry on with the walking cruise of this very short arm just double click the map below
and you can see just after the railway crosses the arm and before the gasworks another arm went further into the town centre and although i can`t be sure (still searching) it`s probable the brewery was located along or near this arm, sadly it seems to have been filled in
Also note Sabey`s Wharf, they used the lock constructed in 1903 to bring out gravel extracted from the meadows that stretched across to the main line.

It starts below with the arm entered by the left hand lock under the footbridge while the main line north is to the right. The building on the left was once two pubs and stables, canal side was
the Boat and in the same building but above on the roadside stood the Railway Tavern.

Use your imagination as taking the boat up here would i think have meant reversing out. So from the first and only lock just a short run to the first bend.

Around the bend and just the one lift bridge for access to a couple of houses.On through the lift bridge all along this left bank was Sabey`s wharf. The arm now goes right.
giving this view up through Chess Basin, up ahead a footbridge.

From the footbridge, the next bridge carried the railway into Rickmansworth

but is now a footpath(Ebury Trail) that crosses the canal mainline at Lot Mead lock. Makes a nice circular walk returning along the towpath at Lot Mead.

Looking back from the footbridge just by the bow of the boat was the lock that was used by Sabey`s to bring out gravel.

From the rail bridge the arm turns right past the now filled in Town Wharf and onto
the Gas Works.
All that remains are two gas holders. The Station and sidings, the Town Wharf all built on.
Looking back the Gas works site behind me and i would guess the Town Wharf arm went off to the right of picture. Still i enjoyed sourcing the map and information and walking around what must have been a very busy scene in working boat days.

Saturday, December 05, 2009


Quiet time of the year is winter as i tend not to move around so much so not a lot to blog. Being down south here on the Grand Union is a regular thing this time of year for me with Christmas fast approaching and all the family are close by. My usual strategy is to stay a week then move on a few miles.

Recently Del & Al on Derwent 6 stopped by on their way north after cruising the Lee & Stort rivers and a nice coffee and chat was had on board D6. So with family visits, meals out and a few other boaters stopping by for a chat my social diary has been busy.

I think i mentioned some time ago i have purchased a solar panel and recently my daughter in laws father Alan has made me a mount for the panel that tilts and swivels so when i get around to setting it all up i will blog the results.

Today started off warm and sunny so i forced myself to change the fuel filters, one on the engine and the other on the electric fuel pump. Maintenance of any machinery is obviously important and with the open engine hole exposed to the weather when a decent day surfaces it`s best to get the job done.

Another little job that needed doing recently was the calorifier(hot water tank) pressure release valve pictured below. It had been dripping for quite a while but with it being located under the
bed and my back not to clever it had been put on hold with a dish catching the drips. I purchased a replacement in a chandlers some time ago at a cost of £10 which didn`t include the threaded adapter or the long pipe tail. After fitting it i went into a plumbing merchants and was surprised they stocked the same fitting and including the 2 extra fittings i paid £7.80!! So i now have a spare ready to fit without the bother of changing the adapters. The tank is mounted horizontally and removing the valve without draining the tank can be done with just a slight seepage of water so having the valve assembled ready is easier. Now not being a plumber i can only guess the water doesn`t gush out because of a vacuum effect a bit like the science lesson at school when we put a glass tube in water then put a thumb over the end and the water stays in the tube after lifting it out of the water. Am i right anyone?

So after filling with diesel and taking on coal from Peter on Bletchley & Argus (07984 900613)
it was time to move away from Hemel Hempstead. By the way as i`m sitting doing this blog Archimedes & Ara(07973 915146) have just passed here near Watford at 5pm heading north in case any boaters are interested.

I took this picture while sitting at Kings Langley waiting for the lock to fill and how tranquil it all looks but not for long. First came the Geese followed by the Swans and bringing up the rear a lot
of ducks all of them about 30 in total ended up by the lock gates tolerating each other until a mum and small child started to feed them and all hell broke out with the Swans chasing off the others with wing flapping and pecking Ducks and Geese were flying everywhere, a typical "what happens next" picture.

Just doing a bit of washing up and saw this boat arrive at the marina opposite completely
blocking the main road until the gates were finally opened. Looks like the type of boat i used to hire many years ago on the Norfolk Broads about 40` long and 12` wide.

Watford and district primary schools carol concert and with 2 of the grandchildren due to sing i had to attend. Twenty one primary schools took part with Jordan and Jack due to take the stage

but at the last minute Jordan was not to well and couldn`t attend but if you double click the picture i have circled young Jack amongst the Blue sweat shirted pupils of Highwood school. On the way out a collection was made for the local children's hospice.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Here`s 3 websites that may be of interest although i would be surprised if the first 2 are not already well known to boaters. Double click on all images on this and all my blogs.

First up is Canalplan, LINK HERE, that i recently used to get an idea of my post Christmas escape from the southern Gd. Union Canal.
Let me explain to non boating readers the problems experienced by Continuous Cruisers such as my self at this time of year. During the winter months (Nov-Mar) British Waterways put in place a maintenance programme of which the greater work is lock gate replacement/repair plus third party requests to close a section of canal, for example railway company`s wanting to work on bridges.

My problem is that i wish to get past some closures some 50 miles from where i intend to spend Christmas with family so i used the above page (use link first) to calculate the time needed to reach the closure. My deadline was 4th January and the calculation using my entries of 3mph, 15mins per lock/swing bridge and 6hrs per day travelling came out at 6 days. So if i left on the 28th Dec i would have a day maybe two to spare. Sounds ok but i don`t like being under pressure to cruise every day and what if it rains, the cold i can handle but rain is a no no NO!
Options are to leave the boat further north and travel to family by train. Something to think about over the next few weeks.
Give the site a try yourself, use say Apsley as a start point and Leighton Buzzard as a finish. Leave the standard settings as they are and you should get 1day 6hrs at 9hours a day, have fun.

Next site is Jim Shead waterways, LINK HERE, that enables a search of boat names listed on several navigation authorities. I typed in the name VALERIE highlighted the BW section and hit find. Result only 1 Valerie is listed so it seems i have a pretty exclusive boat name. Even if you
select` All` the search only brings up 3 boats but only 1 narrow boat......mine. Give it a try by entering the name of a boat name from any blog you read. Enjoy

The last site that might have escaped the notice of a lot of my fellow boaters is Muddy Waters,
LINK HERE, it is the start of a collection of books aimed at children by author Dan Clatcher who was inspired by his grandson to write them. Three books are now available at a special post free price (hit the special offer button top right) with more on the way.

I sent away for the 3 books that arrived within 3 days and below i have opened one up so you can get an idea of the wording for age compatibility with your offspring. Thomas the Tank the boat version is what came to mind when i opened them, why didn`t i think of that idea. Great to
keep on the boat for when the g`children visit. Well done Dan and i`m looking forward to the next set.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I have cruised through Apsley near Hemel Hempstead many times intending each time to visit Frogmore Mill the last of many paper mills, Apsley, Two Waters, Croxley among others, that stood along this mixture of canal and river in what is called the Gade Valley.
Frogmore is now run by the Papertrail so perhaps it might just avoid the bulldozers and not end up as another supermarket.
In the picture above can be seen a trip boat with a school group on board coming from the Mill along an arm that once would have been used by work boats carrying coal to feed the steam powered engines that powered the paper making machines or to carry away the finished product. The building behind the boat is Sainsbury`s built on the site of John Dickinsons the paper makers known worldwide.

The 110yr old steam powered paper making machine pictured below now stands silent in the mill the cost of producing paper on it becoming to costly for the dwindling demand but at least it still
forms part of an interesting mill tour and has not been re-cycled into modern day consumables, too much history has been lost already in this area.

Below is another part of the mill where the waste paper is pulped and treated before it was
fed into the paper making machine downstairs. The nice thing about this tour is you get up close to everything with no viewing from behind glass screens or metal barriers until of someone slips on a wet floor but in the meantime Health & Safety bods eat your hearts out.

This is where the original water driven mill wheel was located, well on the left of the brick pier
in fact, the river water seen flowing is the diversion channel that could be used to slow or speed up the wheel by allowing more or less water to flow into the wheel itself. Note also the indentation behind the brick pier and also the hole in the wall on the right this is where the wheel shaft passed into the mill to power machinery.

Also within the mill is a Letterpress print shop that still produces documents for the House of Commons the old fashioned way and memories of my time spent in this section of the print trade 40 plus years ago came flooding back, which reminds me i didn`t mention this is a guided tour and the guide rested his voice through the print dept as i was the only one on the tour.

I mentioned near the beginning of this blog about the work boats bringing coal to the mill and following the tour whilst looking at the exhibits i came across an original book in a display case opened up at entries for the 1930`s.
Boatman J. Nixon coal from Newdigate Colliery.
Gauged weight passing thru Coventry, Oxford & Grand Union canals was 52 Tons.
Tolls paid were £o-10-6d, £2 -12-0d and £3-15-5d respectively.
Coal un-loaded at Frogmore 52tons-19cwt.
At 13/6d per ton cost to mill was £35-14-10d.

For the younger readers these are pre decimal figures of pounds shillings and pence with 20 shillings to the pound and a shilling being the now decimal 5p with 12d (old pence) to the shilling and the weights are 20cwt to the ton. Ask dad or perhaps grandad.
I can handle the money but millimetres and metres can go back from whence they came i measure in yards, feet and inches, again youngsters ask some old gent like me.

Frogmore Mill like all the other paper mills had it`s own fire dept and this machine still runs and pumps water at many shows around the country.

Below is a short video i made on the tour showing paper making by hand. The chap is using a mould which is a sheet of fine wire mesh with a wooden frame on top called a deckle. The mould is filled with the pulp mix the water drains through the mesh is then tipped out onto a piece of felt and the pile will then be placed in a press. In days gone by the sheets of paper would be hung up to dry but nowadays they are hung in a drying cabinet.
Various things such as re- cycled banknotes, grass cuttings, finely cut foil even coffee can be added to the pulp to give different effects the mix in the video contains wild flower seeds. A lot
of the hand made papers produced here are used by artists.
So press the button on the video and see an ancient craft still being performed in this high speed world we live in ....well you lot live in my world is a lot slower and stress free.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs