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Saturday, 26 November 2016

Catch up.

Still very busy with everything here in Hull. More training, more volunteering slots and more History and Ghost walks. Fortunately not the enormous numbers of the  first Ghost walks, but much more manageable and fun with smaller numbers.

Helen and I volunteer at the City of Culture Pod at the Travel Interchange, (bus and train station to normal folk) and it  is always fun. You get the 'nay sayers' who tell that City of Culture' is a waste of money etc. and I then like to play the 'What did the Romans do for us' Game. I may not always convert them but it is nice to try. There are lots  of folk who just want a natter, and they are lovely too. My favourite is when somebody comes and says they have several hours to kill and they don't know Hull, so you can help plan their day and send them off to the best places to make sure they come back. The most strange  question I have been asked is 'why are there two tides every day?'

Hull City of Culture 2017 Information Pod at the Travel Interchange.

Helen has discovered she enjoys jazz after a couple of trips out to the Hull Jazz festival and we have both addressed schools full of kids as every school in Hull is getting visit from volunteers and the outreach have got City of Culture activity packs into every school to get them involved. It is somewhat daunting standing up in front of over 200 small children.

On the boat front I think I have already said that we passed the MOT and so could get the licence with no problem, and with the discount. The next thing was the blacking. We still haven't been able to fit in a trip to the boat yet, but Streethay (and it is pronounced Street Hay, not Streath Hay, as I was told it was on the cut, a couple of times), have kept me well informed. They recommended that we fit a few low profile anodes along the middle length of the boat as there was evidence of pitting the further we got from the anodes at bow and stern. I had seen this for my self in clear water through the year. As we knew that we were having the boat painted this year I didn't get the blacking carried out last year so it has gone three between coatings. I thought the galvanic isolator wasn't working or something but then realised that  it will only be active when the boat is on shore power, or at least I think that is how it works. We had a very battered propeller with two very bent blades for the full years cruising so it will be interesting to see how the fuel consumption works out when I calculate it for the end of the year. Mind you we have been on the rivers quite a bit so may not show to much. I felt that the prop must be the thinnest scantlings as not only have we bent the blades every year, but I have been able to partly straighten them with just a mole wrench and whilst in the water. I asked them to source one for me and they reckon that they wont be able to find me one until January. They said also that they could get me one made for £950!!. I think we can wait. Whilst they were down there they have replaced the rudder cup bearing and the top bearing too. I am assuming that they have started on the repaint job now so we will have to pop down and see her with her skirts lifted.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Not stood still.

Well it is over three weeks since we left the boat and arrived back 'up north', and it doesn't seem like my feet have touched the ground at all. It makes me realise why I enjoy the boat so much when we are away. After arriving home I decided to head back the very next day to collect all the rest of the stuff as we were unsure when we would be able to go down next, so 'rather be safe than sorry'. The trip down was in torrential rain for a while but it soon brightened up and I arrived back at Streethay quite quickly. I soon had the jobs done and the car loaded and heading back to Hull after checking that the yard had the keys. When we left they were very busy and I was just checking that the keys got put in a safe place and labelled! I had left Helen cleaning the house as we had very important visitors on the Monday.

Yes it is David and Marilyn bloggers from 'Wakahuia' who are over from new Zealand for a flying visit to family and managed to fit us into their schedule for a night and a bit of a catch up. David and I talked politics late into the night, which is something you can't say happens too often. Their visit was too short and they were off again on their circumnavigation of the country, or so it seemed.

Helen and I have been pretty busy with training and volunteering for the Hull, City of Culture 2017. I must say always after the training we are geed up once more. We have done a couple of sessions volunteering at the 'Pod', and information centre at the travel interchange (read bus and train station). It is quite good fun, despite the regular doom mongers, and I think folk are really getting interested more and more now.
Image result for hull city of culture
I have been attending two choirs a week since being home and with one of them I have already appeared on stage at the New Adelphi in Hull. It is a club where my kids would hang out, and I had never been before, but I have now sung on stage where the best rock acts in the country have sung. Mind you it is only a couple of semis knocked through in a residential street, but it is iconic!!

I have also carried out my normal History Walks around Hedon where we live and have spent ages compiling a Ghost Walk for the season. It took me lots of research etc but it was great when 36 turned up at the first one last Wednesday. The next is Halloween Night, this Monday.

It has also been my birthday and Helen took me out for the day. We left the car at the foot of the Yorkshire Wolds, at Market Weighton and walked up to the village of Goodmanham. These must be the first lambs of the year, or more likely the last of the year! The pub in the village has their own brewery All Hallows. I had a couple of pints of their liquorice stout 'No Notion' that at 5.2% went down a real treat. After the meal, as it was my birthday I had another pint of their lovely dark mild 'Peg Fyfe' at 3.8%, just to wash the lovely meal down you know. Good job there are plenty of  hedges on the walk back to the car. That evening we went to the Hull Truck Theatre in Hull to see a new play by Janet Plater (daughter of Alan) called 'The Gaul' about the sinking of the freezer trawler from Hull in 1974. I wondered how on earth they would stage it, but it was a really great play, excellently acted and staged that had us laughing and crying in equal measure. A great end to a birthday.

We decided to have a walk by the Humber today. You used to be able to walk right past Alexandra Dock but as they have built a new Siemens plant for building off shore wind turbines there they have diverted part of it round the land side. It was beautifully still today and you got the full effect of the big skies today, with a view of the ferry terminal too.

As part of the permission for diverting the footpath they had to place several pieces of public art on the new path. The first is this 'The Rebar Goodwit' by Jason Heppenstall. It is largely made out of chains by the look of it.

The next one is 'Packing the Gaps' by Luke Beech. Not quite so lovable!

A little more user friendly perhaps is 'Sheepshank' by Holly Lawson. I'm sure that you knotters out there will recognise the sheepshank knot used to shorten a rope!

There was a ship in discharging the towers for the offshore turbines. At the right hand end of the suspended lift, on the deck, is a crew man for scale.

This one reminded me of the poems on the lock beams around the system. It is by Debi Kebble and is titled 'Ebb and Flow'.

This one is 'Past and Present' by Peter Ronald Coates and appears to be made up of the arms that were attached to bucket grabs used suspended form cranes to discharge bulk grains.

There was a lonely curlew having a nice paddle in the low water mud  just off the dock.

Another big sky and the remains of an old wooden keel off Victoria Dock that is now a 'village' but retains alot of the features of the old dock.

Believe it or not this is the River Hull, and I used to take ships up here! Looks a bit better when there is a little more water in it though, plus it is easier to get the ships in!

The fences around the port, and almost the first thing that passengers on the car ferry will see have been disguised by a complete run of banners like these that promote the City of Culture year. It is all set to go off with a bang on New Years Night when we will have a firework display that has been promised to be better than the London one the day before. Not long now. Book your train for hull as it is going to be great, something happening everyday of the year.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Left all alone.

We set off on Saturday in rather dull weather but it wasn't cold as there was no wind.

This is the external part of our new flue. The proud lining will fit into the new stainless steel chimney that Kym is providing soon. They are so busy that they are a little behind but as we wont be on the boat there is no rush for it. We lit the fire to 'cook' the new flue. It didn't make much smoke at all and I was able to black it whilst we were waiting to go home. It has all been done to try and prevent the tar that can be seen on the collar and roof doing the same once we have been repainted.

It was a heavy heart that we set off and we went along almost at tick over to prolong the agony as much as possible. The dull weather was matching our gloomy moods at having to 'abandon ship'.

There is little autumn clour in the hedges and trees but the farmers have been converting green and gold fields to brown ones so that the cycle can restart.

Approaching Streethay it appears to be a very busy yard. So it proved  as there was lots of work going on on boats, engines etc.

It was great to 'Starling' and butty 'Ethel' moored up looking really tiddley in Cowburn and Cowpar colours. 

We went alongside and filled up with fuel so as to minimise the air in the tank so hoping to prevent the diesel bug taking hold by allowing water from condensation occurring over the winter. It was 59p/litre too. We were directed to the berth we were to occupy for now. No sooner had we lashed her to the pontoon than the rain started and it didn't relent until we left, further adding to our dour mood. Our son and his partner finally arrived and we were able to fill up the space left in the car once four people, a budgie and a cat and accompanying paraphernalia were loaded.

We arrived home and had to go for fish and chips as there was nothing else in the house. Helen has a bit of a rule that we don't have fish and chips, well fish at least, south of Stoke, as we have had some horrendous experiences. She will also not buy them from anywhere that also sells pizzas, kebabs etc. 

We will not have much time to feel sad as we have a very busy few months coming up and I need to get into the habit of making a weekly and daily lists so that I don't waste time and get through the long lists. As we will be busy I got up early'ish and went to get the paper and then jumped in the car and headed back to the boat. I filled it up with everything else we were bringing home, which was most as the boat will be having the windows etc taken out when it goes for it's repaint. I also had a few little jobs to do before leaving her.

We will be going back nearer the time and take down the curtains etc but for now the dust sheets are up.

I brought everything off the roof inside and covered the pullman with a n old blanket

I pulled all the soft furnishings away from the bulkheads and set a couple of green house heaters to come on at 2C just in case there is a cold snap.

I cleared the roof but looking at the photo I have remembered that I didn't take the rope tails of the plank rack.

We will be going down to the yard prior to the job to finalise the colours we want etc. I thought I would take a picture of the sign writing as we want something similar to this when the new writing is completed. When we told some people we were coming to this yard Streethay ( as in a road and cut grass) they looked at us puzzled and then came up with 'Oh, you mean Stre th ay', with a 'th'in the middle. How on earth they managed to be convinced that that was the pronunciation is beyond me. Then again I am a PATH, BATH bloke rather that PAFF and BAFF type. By the way the Streethay is pronounced as the road and mown grass way.

There will be occasional blogs from now on so keep looking out for them.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Nice and bright last day.

The day started cold but the sun was nice and bright. I am pleased to say the Hurricane worked extremely well and he got up toasty warm. Minimum temp outside last night was 8.3C. We were soon ready for the off putting fenders away and got everything else ready.

We popped over to see Tracey and Kym of the Little Chimney Co. moored ahead of us to thank them for their service and had another great chat about this and that. We will see them before too long I'm sure. They were on the move later today too.

The buttery yellow autumnal light was filtering through the still green leaves. You get the impression though that as soon as the first frost comes it will be a veritable blizzard of leaves. Maybe it wont only be the railways that are brought to a stand still due to leaves!

I'm afraid my photo doesn't do credit to the lovely scene as we passed through the wood.

We were soon passing Fisherwick and the asparagus farm. I noticed that there were more distant fields planted up and ferns showing nice and busy but a a large part of the field near the canal appeared to have been dug up. This photo was from the first day of our cruise this year. It seems the asparagus farm is part of the New Farm at Elmhurst, north of Lichfield. They grow soft fruit and have been supplying Sainsbury's with strawberries and raspberries since 1987 after doing pick your own from 1970's. There are 50 acres put to asparagus largely at Fisherwick and this was started in 1985. The normal season is from the end of April, beginning of May to 21st June as the asparagus will only grow when the soil temperature at 15 to 20cm is 20 to 22C. They invested in poly tunnels that they erect in January, also covering the soil with extra plastic. They have also invested in underground heating by running water pipes under the poly tunnels through which they pump water that is heated by an air sourced heat pump. This means that they can extend the season by six to eight weeks. They supply around 80 tonnes to Sainsbury's and about 300 are employed to process it all at the height of the season. Maybe they have grubbed up some of the ferns to lay more underground pipes?

I noticed this well maintained weather vane on the farm just past the asparagus. Not much wind today, so far!

We went past fields with cattle grazing and this one taking advantage of the canal. Do the farmers get charged for the use of the canal? I also noticed that the animals had 'brands' on their rumps as well as ear tags. I wondered how they did it these days. Apparently it is now done by freeze branding where the branding iron is cooled to -160C to -200C. When applied to the cow it changes the pigmentation of the hair so it grows back white. On white animals they leave it on a little longer and the hair drops out and doesn't grow back.

Just in case you don't know what a cows backside looks like here is one supplied by Wikipedia. It is apparently less painful that hot branding with a slight inflammation going down in a few days, it is clearly visible at any time of the year and the figures are usually much clearer. It does take more specialized equipment and takes a few days to show properly. Who would have thought!!

I love these windows in the club house of the Lichfield Cruising Club at Huddlesford Junction.

Looking on the Lichfield Canal restoration website they aim to have the canal open from Huddlesford to Ogley by 2026. With a little luck I'll still be able to go and take a look on a boat. My own worry is that it will open up the W&E and Walsall Canals and they wont be the lovely quite and secret place they are at the moment.

We moored up not far from the Plough at the junction as we are going to treat ourselves tonight to 'celebrate', commiserate, our last day this year. 

Thursday, 29 September 2016

The day flue by.

We haven't moved today as we are having our chimney flue replaced. We are moored in Hopwas Wood close to The Little Chimney Company boat and butty 'Molly'. Yesterday Kym came over to measure up and see what was required and see if he could get the materials. The outcome was that he was able to collect the required pipe and this morning he had it cut and tacked welded. He was then round to check that it all fitted in situ before fully welding it up. By 1600 he was back to fit it up. It didn't take long to get it roped in top and bottom and then siliconed on top too and it was completed by 1700. I must say that we think that it does look better with a bend in the flue rather than the straight run. However the main reason for the new flue is so that we can have a new double skinned chimney to keep the new paint job pristine next year. Unfortunately the chimney is not yet available. Kym has had a major run on chimneys and is waiting for the next lot of plate to come. We are not in a hurry as we wont need a fire until after Christmas. We will arrange to pick it up at a later date.

The original flue was a straight pipe that was wedged in the collar on top of the stove and poked out of the roof, cut flush. At the stove top being wedged in meant that it wasn't easy to get a good seal round the flue as the gap is uneven round the collar. At the top the angle of the flue means that there can not be a seal between the flue and the double skinned chimney. Therefore any tar that condenses in the chimney drips down the side of the chimney and onto the roof of the boat.

The new flue has the 'kink' in it. This means that at the stove top the pipe sits right in the centre of the collar vertically, and does not rest , jammed in, to the collar. When jammed the differential expansion could mean that a crack could be caused in the top plate of the stove or the flue wouldn't seal. At the roof line the second bend ensures that the flue pokes out of the roof line vertically through the collar on the roof so that the chimney sits over the collar and the internal double skin also locates properly over the flue so that firstly been double skinned the tar remains in the smoke and not condensed so easily as it is insulated. Any tar that does condense will be inside the double skin that will then drop down the inner skin into the flue and reburned. We have to let the silicone dry so we will light the fire tomorrow as we have to burn off any grease/oil of the pipework and bed everything in. I am looking forward to seeing it lit and with the posh new chimney on.

As we couldn't really leave the boat as Kym may have had to pop in at any time to offer up the work or double check measurements etc, we were unable to go for a walk round Hopwas Wood. We therefore started packing stuff and sorting cupboards etc. I got to grips with the gas and battery lockers as we have a BSS to pass in October. We also sorted the planters out and tidied up around the boat. Whilst I was doing this a noticed that there were several ducks making quite a noise diving down to the bottom of the canal by the boat. Eventually I saw that they were bringing up acorns! I didn't know that they ate acorns. I have seen them eating rose hips and blackberries on the way up here.

Hopwas Wood is actually bigger now than it was in the past, and that can't be true of many forests in England. In 1086 when the Domesday book was compiled there were around 180 acres. In 1834 it had grown to 375 acres. Many things seem to have happened in the Wood. There was a big fire in 1976. There have been escaped cattle in the trees and large black cats, and lion like animals have been spotted. In 1984 a police raid captured 16 naked people taking part in an occult ceremony. They were the Silver Star Society and £2000 in fines for possession of cannabis followed. Many occult objects have been uncovered in the area. There was a threat to a large amount of the wood when Tarmac wanted to excavate for a sand quarry. Eventually planning permission was denied and the wood has been saved for longer.

Hopwas Hayes Woodhouse was built around 1775 in the centre of the wood. From the tower you could see all round the horizon and so was a good spot for fire watching. There were five bedrooms and three AGA's in a huge kitchen etc, but there were no real mod cons. It was finally demolished in 2010 as it had been very badly vandalised.

I would really recommend Kym and Tracey of the Little Chimney Company as they are such nice and friendly folk and very accommodating. Their work is first class and not off the shelf but entirely made to measure so you can be sure of a good fit. Over the winter they are round and about somewhere on the Coventry Canal so stop by for a chat when you pass them.
Last day of freedom tomorrow.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Last lock.

We set off about 0930 and were enjoying the sunshine, but cool breeze. It seemed quite quiet but we were trickling along.

As we passed through Amington we saw this little area that seems to make good use of a corner by the bridge, and was a good place to place stuff that nobody else wants.

We stopped at bridge 73 where there used to be a pub but is now a Co-op. It was a good little spot with moorings just through the bridge. A little further on is the old canal/railway interchange basin and was the base of Hudsons.

As we passed the arm I saw 'Futurest' on the moorings in the sun. It used to be owned by another blogger who died last winter. It seems strange to see it here rather than down near Banbury. The sun makes for a lovely colourful picture.

This is looking back at the bottom Glascote lock which is more than likely to be the last one we will do this year. Mind you that is the 558th of the year.

We seemed to meet boats at every bridge thereafter on the way to Fazeley. It was our turn to go first over the aqueduct over the Tame.

At Fazeley Junction we popped out after having spoken to a lady down the arm to Glascote who was feeding the ducks. It seems there is a turf war here abouts as she was quite scathing about the lady feeding those pesky geese! She only wanted to feed duck so had come down away from them. This is the lady feeding the geese that seemed to be coming from far and wide. There was nobody on the water point just past the junction house so we pulled over and topped up before heading off again.

As it happened there was nobody on the Peel's Wharf services so we pulled over and dropped off the rubbish before setting off again. This is the TV mast at Hints which used to be the ITV mast. Further west is the BBC mast. I have my fingers crossed that we will be able to get a signal, BBC, as it is 'Bake-off' tonight and I need to keep Helen sweet so that she will try out some of the recipes on me.

This mountain ash or rowan tree looked great on the outskirts of Hopwas. We were rendezvousing with Kym and Tracy on the Little Chimney Boat oot the other side of the village in the wood.

Kym had soon been to measure up and quote. All was agreed and he was soon removing the old flue so thought I had better get a picture for the before and after shots.

Flue gone and a hole in the roof. I thought that we would need a double skinned chimney as I didn't want tar from the chimney ruining our new paint work next year. The flue was a straight run so couldn't be to fit into the base of the chimney. Plus it would be a better and easier to seal join on top of the stove itself if it was perpendicular to it. Steel work ordered and with luck all should be completed for Friday.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Arriving at Atherston, Alvecote and Amington.

We were off by 0930 but it was a bit dull but not too cold really. Mind you all the other boaters coming in the opposite direction were well togged up as they had the wind in their faces.

I quite like this stretch of the Coventry. It is nice countryside and the canal provides a good test of helmsmanship. There are plenty of bling bridge holes and sharpish bends.

Hartshill yard is very photogenic and it is not easy to ignore it with the camera. I was a little worried as we approached as there was a very slow boat in front of us. Luckily they pulled in for water so we could make our own time.

This is the wharf near Mancetter. The quarry is actually to the northeast of the canal and was brought down by a tramway to the canal for loading. The product was, and still is diorite that is a granite style rock and very good for road building. Theses days the quarry is run by Tarmac and it is transported by trucks. You can see there is also a railway bridge that also used to take the graded material away.

The top of the Atherstone Flight was quite busy, also with C&RT repairing the brick facing in the winding hole by the water point, as a boat had gone at high speed into it and caused lots of damage. It was one up one down at the locks with lockies at the first five locks.

There was a boat behind us in abig rush so we stopped for water at No.5 lock and let them go past. Mind you when we got to the bottom of the flight we were coming to the top as they were leaving so didn't get too far ahead. I like this flight as you have the close locks down to the Kings Head and then out into the country. We like to moor in the long pound between Locks 9 and 10, but not today. The only trouble with these locks is that the top gates down want to stay closed which takes a bit of running about. Helen and I swapped over half way down. She is looking at Nicholson's rather than a normal book as I have caught her doing in the past.

Grendon Wharf dry dock has had a new corrugated roof put on and was busy with three boats in. It is a shame the cottage hasn't had a make-over.

Just past the Polesworth (Stiper's Hill) Motocross track the canal once again crosses with the West Coast mainline. I may have said it before but I do admire the design of the Pendalino trains used by Virgin. They give a real impression of power and always seem well turned out and business like.

This freight train made much more noise as it came past hauling a load of vehicles. I thought that EWS stood for English, Scottish and Welsh but checked just in case. It seems to have a fascinating story too. When some of the British Rail freight division was put up for privatisation in 1995 it was bought by a consortium that traded under the name North and South Railways for £225 million. This was soon changed to English Scottish and Welsh in 1996 and they had 1231 locos plus much much more rolling stock. They carried 6% of the freight in the UK, rather than road/canal/air that is. In 2007 Deutsche Bahn bought EWS for £309 million and they later have become DB Schenker and now DB Cargo UK. I'm not sure why, the locos haven't had livery changes, or if they will. That is the very short version. You can wake up now though!

After Polesworth the canal passes through an ex mining area which must have seen the canal extremely busy in it's day. This style of bridge gives a good clue to mining areas as it was simply constructed so that if, or rather when, subsidence occurred it was a simple job of lifting the girders and adding a few more bricks to compensate

There are several other clues as the canal passes Pooley Hall Collier such as this head gear wheel and the spoil tip close to the M42 bridge.

As we passed Alvecote Marina we saw steamboat 'Laplander'. She is looking as though she has had a long summer. As always there seems to be many free berths in the main marina, but maybe it is due to them not having electricity on the narrow pontoons.

Over on the other side, by the bridge into the little basin stands proudly a lovely little Bantam Tug. I haven't managed to find out yet which one this is, but I just love these little working tugs. Mind you nothing seems to have been done since last year. Just next door is the yard of the Heritage Narrow Boat Foundation that has one of it's aims is to have apprentices so that the skills can be passed on to them for the future. I couldn't see if they have a project boat in at the moment.