An excerpt from Wind in the Willows

Nice? It's the ONLY thing, said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING - absolute nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing, he went on dreamily: messing - about - in - boats; messing----'
From 'Wind in the Willows' by Kenneth Grahame.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Volunteering for the National Trust

Taking down the old fence
One of the things I do to bring order to my week is to volunteer for the National Trust on the River Wey (technically the River Wey and Godalming Navigations).

The peaceful environment in which we work
We do all sorts of things from clearing the invasive Pennywort - the stuff that weighs a ton and grows at the speed of light it seems, clearing undergrowth, filling in dog holes, litter-picking *, painting the locksides (not forgetting the cill markers) and latterly putting up a fence.

The pictures were taken at Walsham Gates (a turf-sided set of double flood gates with telegraph poles for balance beams on the upper gates).

Walsham Gates
Mostly we look after the stretch of the Wey from Pyrford Lock to Thames Lock (junction with the Thames) but occasionally we work on other sections.

I meet lots of new and interesting people, other boaters and get out in the fresh air - very fresh recently.  The photos are of last Wednesday (28-March-2012) when we took down a rather crumbling old fence and put up a new one.

The Wey is a lovely waterway in a lovely county but sadly, this year, experiencing the same water difficulties as elsewhere on the network.

The new fence going up
* My friend Brian (NB Orion's Wey) and I litter-picked between Coxes and New Haw Locks (about a mile) a week or so ago.  We collected five large bags of rubbish.  Most of the rubbish seemed to us to be fishermen related (tins of Sweet Corn and the like) but the one thing that horrified us was the number of bags of dog 'poo' just thrown into the undergrowth.  Why the dog owners take the time to pick up the stuff and then throw it away in a plastic (biodegradable?) bag is quite beyond me.  We spoke to a number of dog walkers who complained that there were no bins to put their dog 'poo' in.  We pointed out that someone would need to pay for the bin and then pay to have the contents removed on a regular basis - why, we asked, could they not take the little plastic bags home and dispose of them themselves - nobody could answer that question.  The reason they throw the bags away is, I believe, just laziness and it appalls me.

A friend who moors close to me sent me a link to this picture - I think it says it all.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

New Captains for the John Pinkerton

The John Pinkerton
I have spent a bit of time recently helping with the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society training of new 'captains' (probably really boat managers).  They are examined by the Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA) who we find a little bit trying especially as their website is continually changing its links.

However we had great success today when five new 'captains' were passed by the MCA; there will be four more to go forward on Thursday and I see no reason why they, too, should not pass with flying colours.

Edit 29-March: The remaining four passed today - well done to all.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Updated List of QDJ Pageant participating boats

There will of course be changes from those originally invited.  Here is the link to the latest list. I expect the list of participating boats will continue to change for all sorts of reasons.

When I worked for BA we worked out that on average, 12% of people in the queue to check in, didn't go anywhere; the main reasons were, seeing friends off, incorrect day, visa, ticket, fell ill and so on - always used to make me smile.  It did of course mean the queue was always longer than it needed to be.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Lovely day for all those little things

The new turnbuckles
The scratches were the result of the thefts
I needed new 'turnbuckles' on my new front fenders (good deal from Amazon at £9.99 for two - we'll see how long they remain rust free but they do look the part) so I took the opportunity to fit them today - along with bits of wool round my wrist attached to the loose bits in case I dropped them.  Of course having taken precautions I didn't drop them!

Also took the opportunity to polish the brass after the long and cold winter - it does look so good when it is polished but I don't really look forward to doing the work to make it look good!

Leo No2 is now ready for her trip up the Basingstoke at Easter.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Confirmation that Basingstoke trip is on

Just had a phone call from Hampshire County Council (HCC) to say we can go to Brookwood Country Park over Easter.  I am so pleased we can start to use the Basingstoke again.  I suppose the boater's part of the charter is to use the canal if the County Councils invest the capital to bring it back into good order again.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

New Fenders

Front fender by Dick Snell
Some time ago (October 2011) I went down to the boat and found the front and rear fenders had been stolen. I was furious but with the passage of time became quite sanguine about the loss.  I didn't quite understand how I could improve on the security of fenders (they took everything including the chains and turnbuckles) and I just put it down to experience and that perhaps a passing boater thought they had more need than me.  They were very special fenders made by my friend Dick Snell and I am sure they would match the best found elsewhere on the cut.

Tipcat and button by Dick Snell
Standing 'erect' as my friend Mick insists
I purchased some 'off-the-shelf' fenders at the time which did the job but were not a patch on the Dick Snell fenders I had enjoyed previously.  I commissioned Dick to make a new set at the time and last week he delivered them to me.  I fitted them today and they fitted like a glove and look wonderful.

A special 'thank you' to my former Royal Marine friend, Brian, for giving up his day to help me fit them - Brian you are a star.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Basingstoke Trip

Anyone want to try out the lower reaches of the Basingstoke?

Byfleet Boat Club are organising a trip (we have now had conformation we can go) over Easter as follows:

  • Good Friday - Woodham Junction to Bridge Barn (pub) in Woking (walking distance of the centre of Woking) - 6 locks
  • Saturday - Bridge Barn to Brookwood Country Park - 5 locks
  • Sunday - return to Bridge Barn
  • Easter Monday - return to Woodham Junction
If you can come and are based elsewhere than the River Wey or the Basingstoke you can obtain a transit licence from Thames Lock which will take you through Thames, Town, Coxes and New Haw locks to Woodham Junction and return or you can purchase a River Wey licence (max 21 days) and enjoy the Wey as well.

No charge for the Basingstoke Licence but we will be asking for a donation of £10 for the weekend.

If interested please contact Kathryn (dot) Dodington (at) gmail (dot) com

Monday, 12 March 2012

More paperwork for the QDJ Pageant (Project Kraken)

Some more paperwork arrived over the weekend which seemed a lot to start with but on reflection it wasn't too bad and was all about security for the event.  I have known about Project Kraken for some time which is a Police initiative to improve security on waterways.

We had to fill in all sorts of information about the boats and the crew which didn't impinge too much on our privacy.

I assume the Metropolitan Police want to ensure, as early as possible, that the boats and the crews are cleared and they know who is going to be present on the day.  One assumes that if someone goes sick you can replace them.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Lease on Boathouse turned down

My friend Mick and I tried very hard to lease the boathouse on the Wey (between Parvis and Murray's bridges) but regrettably the owners, Anchor Homes, have decided not to lease it to us but will look at the possibility again in a year's time.

It seems it is something to do with access.  Looking at it from their point-of-view they are new to running a home in Byfleet but I think they could have let us try it.  Anyway we will get to know the local manger over the next 12 months and try again, in 2013, to see if we can lease the boathouse.  In the meantime, of course, the boathouse will deteriorate.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Trip up the Wey

Had a nice trip up the Wey and back today to introduce three friends to using locks as they are undergoing their Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA) licence exam to become 'captains' on the John Pinkerton trip boat on the Basingstoke Canal (and there are very few locks on the top section of the Basingstoke but the MCA will examine on the theory of them.)

We used Coxes Mill Lock (nice cross current below the lock), New Haw Lock (awkward lower gate balance beams and fairly agricultural paddles on the top gates which are a bit unforgiving if opened fully too early in the filling of the lock) and Pyrford (nice and benign apart from the gongoozlers who are always there - with beer in hand from the nearby Anchor pub).

Close to the road in New Haw Lock
with Bob in charge
We went on up through Walsham Gates (a turf sided stop lock with the upper gates having old telegraph poles as balance beams) to the Abbey Stream (just below Newark Lock) where we stopped for lunch, turned in the German Stream (never seen the flow so low which just bears out the low water flows in the southeast) and quietly came back down through Pyrford, New Haw and Coxes to be home and finished by 16:00 - a nice 7 hour day.  (In the map below the very small waterway just above the word 'Stream' is what we call the German Stream - it is about 4' deep where it joins the Abbey Stream).

The Abbey Stream
Coxes Mill with the tumblebay

All of us horrified at the antics of a canoe club (Addlestone perhaps - I think when looking at their website it almost certainly was them) who were jumping off the lower wing wall of Coxes Mill Lock (the deepest unmanned lock on the Wey at 8' 6") into the tail of the lock below the lower gates (who knows what's down there) and then later (probably because we were using the lock) coming down the tumblebay (perhaps 2 inches deep) four up in a two man kayak with two in the kayak and two astride the kayak.  Just asking for a fairly serious injury I think but luckily during the period we were there no injuries.

Friday, 2 March 2012

QDJ Practices

It seems that the practices will be a little difficult for those of us based on the River Wey and lower Thames because the practice will be downstream from Hammersmith and anything upstream will be a means of getting to the start of the practice.

I think we'll just stay with the following plan:

  • Thursday 31-May-2012 - depart Teddington at 11:30 on the high tide
  • Familiarise ourselves with the Pageant buoyage system at Chiswick Ait on the way down
  • Arrive Limehouse approximately 15:30
  • Attend briefing at 19:00 and supper in the Cruising Association
  • Friday move to West India Dock
  • Saturday - scrutineering and decoration
  • Sunday - the big event
  • Monday back to Limehouse
  • Tuesday home