How to Leave a Comment on Our Blog

1. Scroll to the end of the post.
2. Click on the phrase "0 comments" or, if there are comments it will indicate how many, for example, "8 comments." Clicking on this will open the comment option for you.
3. Type in your note.
4. Choose your Profile. If you don't understand the choices under Profile then choose Anonymous but PLEASE type your name and location at the bottom of your comment so I know who you are!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Freedom At Last!!!

"Freedom is never given; it is won." ~ A. Phillip Randolph,  U,S, labor organizer, civil rights leader, 1917-1979

   Last Tuesday was the beginning of week eight post-op for my Left knee replacement. It was also my fourth physiotherapy class at Warwick hospital, and Les had an appointment at the Royal Free Hospital in London for a scan and blood tests. We left Radford Hill Farm moorings Monday mid-day--which after four months of being stuck here in the five mile prison--we've come to think of as our country estate.
   We cruised back into town, stopping at Tesco to top up our groceries. I decided it was a good time to try shopping on my own so I took one crutch and our personal shopping trolley and went on my way while Les headed out across the street to buy diesel and top up the boat. My list wasn't long but it took me awhile to pull out a shopping cart, hang our shopping trolley on it so it wasn't in my way and steer the shopping cart with one hand while I stumped along with a crutch on my right arm. About forty five minutes later--job done! I was back at the boat with our trolley full of groceries and no one was maimed or endangered in the process.
   We continued on to moor up at the Warwick Hospital moorings--just near the footbridge over the canal about 850 feet before the bottom of Cape Locks and the water point. We set the alarm for 6:30 a.m. and both of us had a restless night's sleep. While my left knee doesn't hurt anymore, I am still keenly aware of the artificial part of it, and after a long day it is difficult to relax, let go of that awareness and fall into sleep. So Les and I tossed and turned...
   Up with the alarm and Les was out the door at 7:30 to catch three trains and one bus to arrive at the RFH by 11 am. He started the engine before he left and I washed a load of clothes and did some work before pulling myself together and heading off for the fifteen minute walk over the footbridge, up a short side street and through Warwick Hospital to the physiotherapy department to wait for my class to begin. I decided it was also a good time to try making this walk without any crutches at all.
   Physio class for the five of us women with knee replacements, consists of twelve stations in a circuit; sitting in a chair with a small ball tucked between one's ankles and lifting one's legs, standing on a balance board, sitting in a chair and getting up and sitting down repeatedly without using one's hands (bends the knee), peddling a mini set of pedals while sitting in a chair, up and down stairs, sitting in a chair with one's leg resting on another chair just across the way and a set of three pound weights draped over the replaced knee to make the leg completely straight, bicycling on a BIG bike, standing on a trampoline and doing deep knee bends, and other assorted tortures. Each exercise must be done for one minute and forty five seconds. Rock ballads from the 1950's provide background music: Why Do Fools Fall in Love, Wake up Little Suzy, There Goes My Baby, Kansas City--you get the drift.
   After completing the circuit we take a five minute break, drink water, have our incisions inspected, our knee circumference measured, along with demonstrating one's ability to straighten the leg, lift and hold it for ten seconds and offer a general report of how we're doing. Then we five spread out around a set of parallel bars for the "dance" portion of our show. 
   To a bit more rousing music we walk heel and toe, march with knees
Morecambe & Wise Dance
high, do football kicks (bring a leg back and bend it, swing it forward and high like kicking a ball), back flicks (bend a leg, bring it back and try and tap your bum with your foot), Morecambe and Wise come on, singing Bring Me Sunshine and we "do" the M & C dance to their anthem.

   Americans will probably not have a clue who these guys are or what the dance looks like. The still picture of the duo will give you an idea--a sort of alternating skip with arms back and forward. Just picture five women with recent knee replacements ranging in age from 58 to 76, dancing around in a circle like the guys in the picture. Les got such a kick out of the idea he wanted to come video us but it isn't allowed. 
   Finally we finish up to Sinatra belting out "New York, New York" while we do alternating high kicks, held for three seconds and then really high kicks with jazz hands.  TA-DAH!!! Are you knackered yet?? Well the upshot of all this is....all my hard work has paid off and I was released to go a week earlier than planned. WOOT!!
      Wednesday morning we slept in. I rose first, and jumped out of bed, and while my Best Beloved remained wrapped in the warmth of the duvet, I threw on my bathrobe and some flip flops, climbed out of the boat and started the engine--all without giving my knee or leg a single thought! I swept out the bow and the stairs, emptied the ash out of the stove and brought the fire up, and we sat grinning at each other like mad cats while we ate breakfast and talked about the power of suggestion. I wondered if it was merely the fact the Physiotherapist said, "Great Jaqueline! You are discharged. See you in September," that suddenly made me feel like Tigger on my new knee.
Manually turning a boat involves pulling it around from the stern.
   We cruised to the bottom of Cape locks, where Les turned the boat manually with the stern rope, tied up, we filled with water and off we went with me on the back beside him, coffee cups in hand. The weather was calm and windless but the air had a wet, cold, clammy feel to it. Who cares? We are cruising--and we are not turning around and coming back!!
   I've spend four months in Warwick and the nearby smaller towns and I've seen virtually none of it other than a couple of restaurants and the hospital. Good friends dropping by kept us sane as did our ability to move albeit only five miles total. So Les stopped and moored up in Royal Leamington Spa and we walked into town to see the Sights!
A view of the Royal Pump Rooms as it was originally in 1814 when it was first built by the River Leam,courtesy of
A photograph courtesy of the, of The Pump Room Baths on the right, in 1914.

Current picture of the Royal Pump Rooms looking back to St. Nicholas Parish
Once the Royal Spa where wealthy folks came to take the waters, this is now a lovely museum  offering a glimpse into the town of Royal Leamington Spa, the spa itself, and an art gallery with a  nice small collection of paintings, several of which date back to the 17th century.  There was also a fascinating exhibition  titled through the Shop Window, offering a glimpse at what shopping in town was like from 1880-1980.
This is part of the museum's bit about Taking the Cure which was so popular Queen Victoria visited the spa as a young woman--hence the title "Royal" added to the town's name.
Outside and across the street from the Pump Rooms is Jephson Gardens and grass park where the well-to-do took the air to see and be seen. Originally farmland, the owner set aside 10 acres for public access to locals from 7-10 a.m. and paying patrons of the spa and bath house for the remainder of the day. In 1836 the site was expanded to a total of 18.5 acres and a right of way was sunk through the middle to provide access to anyone who wanted to walk through the lush and lovely scenery without trampling the gardens. Over the decades the boating lake, the fountains, a tea room and an aviary were added. The later two are now gone. The Gardens were named after Dr. Jephson who promoted the town's healing waters and built homes for the poor.
The right of way today. I have to tell you the air was magnificent! Although it was cold, clammy and overcast, the air smelled divine with a base note of fresh moving water, green grass, spring flowers, finishing off with a sweet top note of licorice from some Sweet Cicely growing in the wilder corners.I call it Parfum for the spirit!
The lake now sports a fountain in the middle. Once upon a time visitors played croquet, practiced archery, oohed and aahhed over fireworks displays, and sailed model boats here. I love how many benches there are everywhere! This is a park that invites one to step out into a bit of human contrived nature to relax and enjoy one's self.
Children frolic along the edge of the lake with the spires of All Saints Parish church rising across the way. While the church in its present form dates from the 1800's there has been a church here since the 12th century-back when the tiny hamlet was called Lamintone. In 1349 The Black Death visited the village and three successive vicars were laid to rest due to the plague. Today the church is a thriving and vital presence in the center of town. NighLight is a weekly project offering free hot drinks and a listening ear to those out and about at night. It's based at All Saints' and runs every Friday night from 10.00 pm, closing normally by 2.00am on Saturday.
The Glasshouse is a conservatory or hot house as we say in the States. What awaits us inside?
Fantastic Bird of Paradise flowers greet us as we enter.
Airy walkways wander amongst coffee, banana and other exotic trees and ferns.
I don't know what species this is but I was captivated by the white flowers.
Bright Clivia stand near a hidden waterfall.
A goldfish pond offers tantalizing views of the bright fish along with reflections of the glass plated ceiling and the sky. 

The black pipe is a bee portal! It is blocked in winter and opened in late spring so bees can come and go, pollinating the plants and carrying some back to their hive to make honey. What a brilliant idea!
This is the doorstep for the bees on the outside of the building, leading into the black pipe along the wall inside. I wonder what the bee dance offering instructions to this little paradise looks like!
There are outdoor walkways and all kinds of fascinating places to walk, bike, rollerskate, jog, climb, and discover.
The Mill Bridge over the River Leam. The glass house is directly behind me as I took this picture. the gardens are out of sight off to the right.Below is an inlet allowing river water to flow unimpeded. Great for fish and other wildlife.
The view across the river from the Mill Bridge.  One can just see the boat ramp in the foreground on the left immediately past the closest house .
Noted Leamington artist Fred Whitehead painted this scene in 1844 from the bank of the river Leam. The garden is in its infancy on the right, only created a decade previously. The Mill Bridge would be behind the artist. The three arched bridge and the Royal Pump Room spa is in the background on the right upper side. Courtesy of Leamington History Group.
The church tower from my short perspective.
Looking up at a vaulted window.
Gothic spires were added in the late 19th century
...but the original square tower is still there.
This is an 1810 water color of All Saints in the town of Lymington Prior as it was then known. The house in the back ground backs on to the river Leam. Courtesy of Leamington History Group.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Airhead Composting Toilets U.K.: New Distributor

For those of you who are considering an Airhead composting loo for your home--floating or otherwise, over here in the U.K. , I wanted to alert you that Richard at The Canal Shop at Hillmorton Wharf and the Online Canal Shop web site is no longer the U.K. distributor of Airhead toilets, according to U.S. Airhead company owner Rob Cimitile. I received this comment from him a couple of weeks ago:

We wanted to let you all know that we are temporarily transitioning to a new distributor in the UK. In the meantime, you can contact us directly for purchases at or through our website:

Ask about discounts on UK orders. Happy travels!

Air Head Composting Toilet  

I will keep everyone posted when I hear about a new U.K. distributor.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Who cut that tree down

There`s a nice little wooded area near Radford lock with a few trees down and signs that boaters had been foraging - piles of tree limbs on the towpath alongside boats.
 The wooded area is to the left and runs down to the towpath. The building is a typical country estate gatehouse and I decided to knock and ask about the wood. As it happens I had got chatting to the resident a few days earlier and he mentioned he let boaters get a container of water from his back garden, nice fella. Anyway he said it belonged to the estate and everyone had been taking wood and he saw no problem in me doing the same.

About a week later we cruised the boat down and I started cutting some of the wood and carrying it back to the boat.
Next thing I know the estate manager had driven down as he had received a phone call from the gate house that trees were being cut down!
He was pleasant enough as he could
see the only trees down were by his hand and that he could clearly see from fresh shavings what I had been doing. "Help yourself, it`ll save me some work" he said and after a chat he went to the gatehouse.

 So another load of wood on the roof to be cut and split.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Prison release date.

Jaq was in her element this week as visitors from America stopped by. Our friends Sally and Joe Horton from Pullman, Washington were over to visit Sally's brother Peter and his wife Rhona. Sally is Scottish and her husband Joe is American.  It was Joe that took me on the air boat ride up the Snake River back in 2011 while we waited for Jaq's spouse visa to arrive.  Sally and Jaq worked together for a decade at Washington State University. Over the years we've become good friends and while Sally wouldn't mind a narrow boat holiday, Joe is totally nuts about narrow boats.

So it was with great joy that we finally met Peter and Rhona, and caught up once more with Sally and Joe at dinner on Tuesday night at the Kings Head Inn in Warwick. The next morning they all came over to NB Valerie and we went for a short cruise. Joe reminded Jaq of a dog with its head out the window of a car going 60 MPH. He was over the moon to be out back even in the rain--and the huge smile on his face made us happy indeed. Many thanks for dinner and for the care package of Constant Comment and Good Earth tea for Jaq.
Around the table: Jaq with a bottle of Pear Cider (Perry), Joe, Peter, Rhona and Sally. Slainte!!
It`s that time of year again and the swans are nesting. This section of towpath at Radford like many others is a very busy walking and cycling
 route but Swans will nest wherever they please. I have seen nests built in worse places and at least here there is some room to pass by
although when the male is around it is a question of timing your walk by. I watched fascinated as the male picked up twigs and placed them close enough for the female to reach without leaving the nest. I found a few hand fulls of long dry grass that I placed next to the nest and watched her gathering it all around her.

Not tried video on the blog for quite some time so hope it works. Just 15 seconds. Thursday was a day of flooding with the river Leam bursting it`s banks and flooding the park in Leamington town centre. The point the Leam flows into the Avon can be viewed from the aqueduct carrying the canal over it and all the surrounding fields had become a lake.
The video is the water flowing off the canal at Radford. At several points along the canal the towpath had become slightly flooded.

Jaq had one of her many physio sessions today and now has 100 degree bend back in her knee. Two more weekly physio classes and her treatment is completed. 
She has a return appointment in six months to talk about a right knee replacement. Say this quietly: 6 months to go cruising.

On the left not the latest Tesco shopping trolleys but wheelchairs in the hospital. £1 in the slot refunded when you bring it back. Receptionist said it might stop the selfish idiots leaving them in the middle of the car park. Mmmm perhaps a £5 deposit would guarantee the return.

Friday, March 04, 2016

A boat trip to the hospital.

In prison but we still get the choice of transport to Jaq`s physio classes. By boat beats the bus or car and we are always guaranteed a mooring space, no charge. At Warwick hospital a two hour car park charge is £3($4.50). In London at the Royal Free it`s double that. 

I guess we have two prisons here say Dartmoor and Brixton, U.S. readers that`s rural and urban. So our trip begins in rural Radford Semele and ends in urban Warwick with little snatches of rural along the way.

There is on this post a heck of a lot of pictures, think of the numbers 5 and 8, possibly multiplied, added,subtracted, showing our trip but i make no apologies as being stuck here in the five mile prison blogging subjects are few and far between and this one just escalated. Just to emphasise the prison aspect this is the same route we take to go shopping or to get water and diesel but if you pick a bright sunny day it can be a mini holiday from clink. Click here if you don`t understand the word clink.

 Leaving the fields in front of the church and Radford Hall we
 pass under the main Leamington to Southam road.

Through the bridge and immediately on the left is the site of the Radford Hall brewery that closed in the 1960`s.

I would prefer that the old brewery building was still there. The canal is to the right.
 Windows on Warwickshire

 Now we are passing through Sydenham Farm housing estate and the bridge ahead was the access to a wharf cottage on the left perhaps to serve the farm or nearby sewage beds, maybe both.

 The tickle family were farming here in the 1920`s and in 1954 purchased the farm for £12,000($18,000). Not sure of the size but today 2,000 homes, 3 schools, 2 pubs and some shops occupy the site. With the industrial area it must as far as i can measure total 80 acres or more.  I wonder what it all sold for in 1959.

 Moving on we are now entering the outskirts Leamington Spa and housing like these streets of terraced houses stand as if defeated of any further advancement by the canal.

 Then comes our first winding/turning hole. This was once an arm built in 1892 so that boats could tranship cargoes to the railway. It was about a 120yards long.
A 1934 view of the arm from the Britain from above site.

 Before we go any further let`s just take a look at this 1885 survey map with 1923 revisions of our journey so far.
A is the mooring at Radford Semele. Look to the right here and you can just make out a narrowing of the canal and a footpath. Earlier maps show a Drawbridge here and in the hedge along the towpath is what looks like the original stonework for it.
B is the 1st. bridge we came under with the site of the brewery on the left.
C is the access bridge to the wharf cottage.
D is the canal basin/arm.
Sydenham farm buildings are in the centre and you can see the size of the farm enclosed by the railway and canal.
Maps from national library of Scotland.

Housing now almost on the towpath facing the old arm entrance.

More terraced housing standing like soldiers waiting for orders

Gardens reaching down to the waters edge.

All that remains of the old L.N.W.R. Leamington to Rugby line that ran past the brewery and the Radford mooring crossing the canal again at Radford lock.

After crossing the canal the railway went through here.

Start of the Rangemaster factory
Now we are in Leamington and this was the location of Eagle Foundry built in 1833.
Flavel took over Eagle foundry in 1856 and one of it`s early products was the Flavel Kitchener.(left)  Flavel became Rangemaster/Aga who still manufacture here and on the right is pictured the one millionth stove to be produced about a year ago.

Eagle foundry from the canal about 1850.
Flavel factory 1937. Notice the footbridge over the canal still part of the present day scene.

Passing under bridge 40 that leads to the old high street area of Leamington and the main town centre. Could do with a lick of paint.

On the left after bridge 40 was the site of Leamington gasworks built 1819. Canal boats delivered coal and Thomas Clayton boats took coal tar away.
Same view showing the Gasworks about 1930. The gas holders can just be seen behind the White building but were dismantled in 1982

Now starting to move away from Leamington

Even a place like Royal Leamington Spa has it`s share of litter louts.

The last of perhaps what might be rentals, identical chairs on each balcony, before the canal takes on

a rural feel in this cutting.

One of three canal side pubs within the prison limits.

Plenty of housing along here but looking at old maps reveals just fields.

An aqueduct takes the canal over the London-Birmingham tracks.

Now we have snatches of open fields although distant housing can be seen. At times we have seen sheep grazing here.
Across the canal again a hint of openness. A 100+ years ago just Jephson`s farm is marked here amongst fields. 

Next the canal crosses the River Avon on yet another aqueduct. This is where some modern day canal builders want to have locks down to the Avon to make another route to Stratford on Avon and onto the River Severn at Tewkesbury. I did read the idea of using the R. Leam and joining the canal at Radford. Not in my lifetime but who knows what the future might bring.
Aqueduct over the River Avon.

A now and then shot of the canal at Emscote road bridge 46. Tesco is to the right if that helps those having boated this way. The working pair are just about to go under the bridge. Picture dated pre 1960.
In 1805 Emscote corn mill was established here with the grinding wheels powered by canal water. It was altered in 1885 and 1905 and ended life as the Fleur de Lys pie factory that the flats are named after.
Late 1880`s maps show a boat building yard and slipway next to the bridge. Also at this time a tramway is shown crossing the bridge. This turned out to be not something to do with the canal but horse buses.
The horse buses were replaced by electric trams in 1905 when the Tesco site became a power station and a Tram depot.
The 3 mile route between near Leamington and Warwick ended in 1930. Boating would have been much more fun to see these going over the bridge.
 Electric Tram in the depot on the Tesco site. The power station was fed by coal delivered by canal and used water from the  River Avon.

This is the site of Emscote Mills where the Nelson family made Gelatin from hides, calves hooves and animal tissue all of which came by canal boat. This is the same Nelson family that had quarries and lime kilns at Nelson Wharf that I blogged about here. Lime came from Stockton to Emscote to be used in the gelatin production. As at Stockton the Nelson family built housing here and a social club(right) for it`s workers and it`s all still there today.
 Emscote mills in 1900. A good place to start if you are like me a history buff is HERE. The first picture you will see is an aeriel view of the works. The canal bridge to the right in the aeriel view is 48. The works stretched almost up to the present base of Kate Boats. At bottom of page there are a large number of links with some interesting reading.

 To the bottom right the canal crosses the two aqueducts then passes the corn mill and tramway depot. Under Emscote road bridge and a very short distance brings us to the Emscote mills gelatin works. Mills with similar names, the other mill was originally called Emscote corn mill and went on to be called Navigation mill.

OK so by now you might be tired of this epic blog but I can only apologise but I got carried away as i kept finding out bits and pieces of the route to the hospital. Just about there now so we can just cruise past what was mostly the gelatin works

A bit tight, about 8 feet.

Kate Boats hire base.

Good sign, summers on it`s way.
Here we are this is our mooring opposite the hospital, the footbridge is just ahead. Unlike Radford we are near to housing but that is a small price to pay for the convenience. We have to come this far for water, about quarter mile further on. Every opportunity we always return to Radford which has become our country estate.

All that remains is to make sure our cell door is firmly shut before we settle down.
All finished, all readers having kept going to to this point deserve a medal, well done. That number of pictures I mentioned at the beginning was correct...58.
I am now going to lie down....for a year.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs