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.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

More rain .....

Walsham Gates weir in full flow
I think I am on record as saying that mother nature generally balances things out over time. Well she is certainly doing that with some vengeance at the moment with the Wey in flood and the Thames with either Red or yellow (increasing) boards all the way down. Monday 30-April-12 all sections of the Thames are on 'Red Boards'.

There's a couple of boats 'marooned' above Town lock on the Wey with a least one expressing an interest in finding some drinking water. NB Tacet will should be able to get some about 500 meters back up the navigation but they will have to practice their reversing to get there.

One of the blessings of the Wey is that the 'canalised' sections don't flood (never say never of course) so there is room to navigate a little bit but anyone wanting to boat in this weather, unless a necessity, may need their heads examining in my view.

Byfleet Boat Club have their Weyside 2012 festival next weekend with boats from all parts of the navigation booked to come.  I do hope the navigation is open by then. I met a gentleman at Walsham this morning (Mon 30-April) who said that in 40 years of walking the area he had never seen the EA and the NT weirs both fully open as they were today.

There are more photos of Walsham Gates in flood here.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Basingstoke backpumping back on again

It seems it should not have been switched off however this is the text of the situation 'I spoke to Tom Rolls at the EA this morning regarding the pumping. He was a little bit surprised that our abstraction was already on the list of restricted abstractions. He confirmed however that we were, and the effect of us being published on the list was that clause 9 in our licence had been invoked - to cease all pumping (Hands Off Flow).  He is not sure why Ian should have been advised something different, but thought this might have arisen from someone in the EA call centre. He undertook to do some further research and came back to me earlier this afternoon saying that we should not be on the restricted list as the constraint conditions have not yet occurred, and has confirmed that in writing. He has also added my contact details for future communications about both our pumping licences. '

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

River Wey in flood conditions - updates available

What a funny old spring we have.  Dry as a bone and then flood conditions on the Wey and the back pumping for the Basingstoke switched off.

However perhaps the main reason for this post is to advertise the excellent updates the National Trust at Dapdune are now providing via Wordpress. 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Basingstoke Backpumping switched off

Regrettably in these times of drought (surprising when I look outside) the Environment Agency have revoked (that hopefully will be temporary) the water abstraction licence that enables the Woking pound on the Basingstoke Canal to remain open.  The abstraction licence allows back pumping from below Lock 1 (effectively the River Wey) to above lock 6 (the Woking pound). I believe this is the first time the licence has been revoked in the 20 (or so) years that back pumping has been in place.

I suppose it is inevitable in these times of drought and no matter how wet and cold it looks through my windows this morning there's no doubt we have had two very dry winters one after the other.

I am a firm believer that nature balances things out over time so despite it being wet and miserable there is a benefit to everything from the wet (and I believe soon to be windy) weather we have at the moment.

I do wish the EA would make their revocation order a bit more 'user friendly.  See this link.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Byfleet Boat Club - New Commodore

Byfleet Boat Club held its AGM yesterday (22-April-12) and I was elected Commodore.  It's a bit daunting but I have kept reminding myself that it's a boat club and that we will all work together to achieve what needs to be done.  It's a club for the benefit of members and I think that my main aim will be to ensure the club is run according to its Memorandum and Articles of Association (and that the rules of the club apply to all notwithstanding that where can provide flexibility that helps a member without inconveniencing another we should do that).

I know the committee are there because they want to be, I am sure all members will help run the club and I am sure everything will be fine but at the moment it all feels a little daunting. 

Monday, 16 April 2012

Television and the (not so easy) Digital 'revolution'

I have always struggled with TV reception on the boat unless the signal is very strong and then it is fine but as we probably all know we don't always moor in areas of great signal strength.

The Status 315
I have had a Status 315 aerial for quite some time and have failed on innumerable occasions to get a decent signal - a signal yes but not one that doesn't break up.  It seems the height of the aerial above the boat made little difference. Those around me with other aerials types were receiving excellent reception with a huge choice of channels.

My friend Brian on Orion's Wey had much the same issue but his aerial was a bit useless and it was analogue.  He bought an Omnimax aerial from Abingdon Boat Centre and his viewing was transformed.  I struggled on with the Status; when relaxing in the evening I spent far more time watching DVDs than live TV - probably at a ratio of 1 hour of TV to 25 hours of DVD (over a long period of time I hasten to add!). Also friends Mick and Suzanne on Aqua Vitae have recently changed their aerial from the Status to the Omnimax with, I understand, great success.

On a trip up the Basingstoke recently I noticed one of our number was using an Avtex aerial so I asked if I could try it out.  I just plugged it in (no retuning) and managed to receive over 80 channels (spoilt for choice) whereas my Status received nothing viewable.  I borrowed the Avtex (STH2000) for a couple of days whilst I stayed on the Basingstoke and the owners of the aerial went home.  I ordered an Avtex on line the first night.

The Avtex
It helps that my TV is also an Avtex and the TV can send an electrical  booster signal to the aerial.  

I suppose it is possible that I just bought a dud Status aerial but talking to others they too have struggled with them. The only issue with the Avtex is that it is not multi-directional and you do have to rotate it but as it is less than half the price of the Omnimax I'll take that risk for the time being. Also the cable (F-Type and one end and Co-ax at the other, could, for me, be a little longer).

There's some interesting information on digital aerials for boats here.

22-April: Just back from a weekend on the boat - the Avtex aerial was fantastic.  Small issue when the boat next to me moved up and down and their chimney went past my aerial and I lost reception - easily fixed by moving the aerial.  I stupidly left the pole mount at home so only had the suction mount but still managed 130 Digital stations - such choice.  That number needs to be balanced with the huge increase in power output from the transmitter (Crystal Palace).  Still very happy though.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Some Wey Updates

The Herringbone moorings
To help those of us on the Wey the National Trust has set up a 'River Wey Conditions' website which can be found here. There's a function whereby the website will send you an E-mail when the site is updated which will be during normal working hours working days.  It's a big step forward; I am sure the National Trust would appreciate any feedback you may have.

There's a written request at all locks to share if you can in these times of drought - whilst water may be flowing round the locks and down the tumblebays if you can share I am sure the Trust would appreciate it.

Following on from the theft of my fenders back in October the Trust have kindly offered Leo No2 a new mooring on the herringbone moorings in Hamm Moor Lane.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

All boats back on the Wey

I came down Woodham this morning - started down at 09:15 and was out of Lock 1 by 10:40 - many thanks to Mike Adams for lock-wheeling for me and to the two BCA Rangers (Andy and Chris) for caulking up the locks.
Leo No2 in Woking - taken from
the CX's office window

I feel the return to Brookwood was a success - challenging in places but a success and I'd like to take Byfleet Boat Club back to Woking in the autumn perhaps for an evening at the theatre.

I had a meeting with the Chief Exec of Woking Borough Council on Tuesday and, as it was about the canal, I thought a boat in Woking may be helpful.  The picture is taken from the CX's office - he was quite impressed.

The yellow hoarding in the background is where the new World Wildlife Fund headquarters is being built - just started in April 2012.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Almost all boats back on the Wey

A tight fit for Orion's Wey and
Thatwey in Lock 1 going out
A most successful weekend.  Six of the boats are back on the Wey after leaving Woking this morning.  Winter Lilly moors in Woking and Leo No2 is staying until Wednesday - the last day I can go down Woodham before three sets of upper gates are replaced.

It's been a great weekend,  sadly Indigo Blue could not make it this time but I am sure they will be here with us when the drought breaks and we use the canal again.

My thanks to all who came along - Aqua Vitae, Orion's Wey, Thatwey, Nancy Bell, Stronghold, Zavala and Winter Lilly

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Back to Woking

Aqua Vitae and Thatwey
coming down St John's
The 'Easter Bunny' somehow got wind that we were in Brookwood and every boat had a card, a bottle of wine and a little canal related present on their deck first thing on Sunday morning - very many thanks to Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society.

We are now all back in Woking (Bridge Barn hotel) after a wonderful evening spent in Brookwood Country Park and at the Hunter's Lodge - great evening and magical morning in the mist.

Down St John's this morning without the pumps to refill Hermitage Pound being switched on overnight - that's really good news.

All boats are now safely back in the Woking pound with all but Leo No2 going back onto the Wey tomorrow - Wednesday for Leo No2.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

To Brookwood Country Park

The team in Brookwood Country park
We managed to get all eight boats to Brookwood Country Park today.  The only 'pinch' points was the St John's flight (5 locks).  There are the five locks over a shortish linear length of ground so the pounds are short.  The pity is that the pounds haven't been dredged and so there is an accumulation of decades of 'muck' of all shapes and descriptions.  It is also quite  struggle to get from Lock 11 (top lock) to Kiln Bridge some 50 meters away - it shouldn't be like that!

Considering we have brought eight boats up to Brookwood and there is no water coming down from Deepcut the water levels are amazingly good especially in this year of such drought.

Success all round I think - tomorrow we are off back to Bridge Barn in Woking.

Friday, 6 April 2012

First 6 Locks on the Basingstoke

Nancy Bell waiting for White
to exit Lock 2 Basingstoke
Well here we are at Bridge Barn in Woking with the seven boats that left the Wey this morning plus another one which joined us in Woking.  Unfortunately Indigo Blue was not able to join us. We worked the six locks of the Woodham Flight under 'Open Access' conditions.  I've just been back to review the state of the locks with the Basingstoke Canal Authority Canal Ranger and we've only had to caulk two and those were the two that were controlling the water levels for the houseboats so we erred on the side of caution.

In my view, unless something happens tonight, it should be regarded as an unqualified success.

Update on Saturday morning - no call from the Canal Ranger overnight and the water levels have stayed up in the Woking pound overnight so it does look like success - well done to everybody - Aqua Vitae, That Wey, Zavala, Orion's Wey, Nancy Bell and Stronghold.  We are off up St John's at 10:00 this morning with one more boat (Winter Lilly) which joined us in the Woking pound so that's eight boats to Brookwood.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Off up the Basingstoke

Queueing at Lock 1 on the Basingstoke
last time we ventured into the unknown
We are off up the Basingstoke on Friday just as far as Brookwood Country Park - still closed above Brookwood (Deepcut) due to lack of water - the Basingstoke has always been short of water which is somewhat exaggerated this year with the water issues which we all know about only too well.

We have eight boats from Woodham Junction and will be nine from above the Woodham flight of locks with the following boats booked to go - Leo No2, Aqua Vitae, Indigo Blue, That Wey, Orion's Wey, Zavala, Stronghold, Nancy Bell with Winter Lilly joining us in Woking.

We will be testing the Woodham flight under 'Open Access' conditions - Open Access is best described as using the Basingstoke in the way you would use any other waterway - turn up with a licence and go. Since the reopening in May-1991 the Basingstoke Canal Authority have insisted on assisting boat passage through locks which has had a huge financial implication for them and tended to irritate experienced boaters.  There was a reorganisation recently which leaves the 32 mile canal with five rangers who cannot possibly support assisted passage hence the work done by the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society, the IWA, the Basingstoke Canal Boating Club, representatives of the houseboat residents at Scotland bridge with assistance from Byfleet Boat Club in having an 'Open Access' process agreed by the Joint Management Committee of the Canal (that's the two County Council owners - Surrey and Hampshire - and the riparian local councils).

We have arranged for the National Trust to be able to sell licences at Thames Lock (junction of the Wey and Thames) and at their property at Dapdune Wharf in Guildford.  Additionally TLC (The Locker Co) will be authorised to sell Basingstoke Licences from their premises at Parvis Bridge.

In my view it is high time that anyone can use the Basingstoke as they would any other waterway. 

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

One of my favourite pictures

This picture is one of my favourite ones, taken by the then Ministry of Information on 14-April-1942 (so some 70 years ago) of my Mum's cousin Daphne March (later St Joseph) on her brother Christopher's boat Heather Bell  stowing the cabin strings.  I just love the way the picture is framed and the Church in the background.

There was a series of approximately 12 pictures taken for publicity purposes at Tipton in the West Midlands (sadly the location has now been filled in and built over).  The pictures can be viewed here.
This just puts the 1st photo in context

Heather Bell (the last wooden boat built by Frank Nurser) is, I understand being restored on the Aylesbury Arm.  I have the original water barrel on Leo No2.  If anyone knows anything about the current restoration will they please leave a comment.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Leo No2 on the Thames

No 1

A number of people have asked me about the picture of Leo No2 looking like it really is taking on the Thames.  The photos were taken on 10-September-2011 by Herbie during a practice for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant.  Leo No2 is an Orion Narrowboats shell (sadly no longer being built I understand) and as such has a very low front deck designed to look like a loaded working boat - there are two (soon to be three) such shells on the River Wey and you can see them coming at quite some distance because they do look like a well loaded working boat from a distance.

No 2
No 3
The angle the photograph is taken from shows the water pushing out from the side of the boat - there is some water on the top of the deck, but not a lot - hopefully the pictures (in the order they were taken) shows how it was.  I think the front doors were open but not a drop got inside.

No 4
The pictures were taken below Westminster Bridge, where the Thames invariably becomes a lot rougher as it flows faster because it is narrower and because there is a huge increase in the number of boat movements caused mainly by the Thames Clippers. In practical terms I am not sure that I agree with their contention that they have an ultra low wash design!

Let's hope life is a lot quieter for the real pageant - the plan is to close the barrier for its annual check at the time of the pageant so hopefully there will not be quite so much water rushing out into the Thames estuary.