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.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Old dog - New tricks

David Blagrove on the
counter of Sculptor before
leaving for the A508
winding hole
I have always wanted to learn the art of handling a former working boat.  I had a little try with the Canal and River Trust's small (Star class Northwich) GUCC boat Sculptor just before the Stoke Bruerne Illuminated Boats evening but had a greater chance yesterday as there was a need to wind Sculptor in order that it was facing towards Blisworth Tunnel.  It is kept this way round so that, in fine weather, the rear doors can be left open, for the public to look inside, but still be seen from the Canal Museum.  So it was down four locks to the pound above the A508 bridge (first place you can wind a 71' boat) in the company of Rob Westlake with our lock wheeler for the first two on the way down and that last two on the way up being David Blagrove - thank you to both of them.  I took the boat down and winded it (yes without touching the edges) and Rob brought it back (after fishing a very wet boater out of the cut just below the long pound) with me helping with the locks.  It was a baptism of fire for me pulling and pushing levers (whilst trying to keep a hand on the tiller) and understanding that Sculptor has quite a bit of inertia and is not particularly well ballasted at the moment. I also had to learn how to start it (reasonably easy) and to stop it (fine when you know where the off lever really is!).  I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I suspect if I were 20 years younger I might consider selling my current boat and buying a former working boat but that's not going to happen!  My thanks to Rob and David for the opportunity to learn.

The history of Sculptor, as provided by David Blagrove, is here.  Sculptor is still one of the very few (only 2?) remaining composite boats (Steel with a wooden bottom - sadly not Elm but I understand it is either Oak or Eke).  I have a nice small bowl made from some of Sculptor's original Elm bottom.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Bob the Blacksmith - Stoke Bruerne

Bob Nightingale, also known as Bob the Blacksmith, in Stoke Bruerne has endured a tough time this Autumn.  Two of his diesel generators have failed and with the restriction on mooring in Stoke Bruerne his footfall has been particularly low.  Please may I encourage you to support Bob if you have a need of his services.  All the details are here.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Right place, right time, right equipment

It happens sometimes that everything comes together as it did this morning when I went out in search of a photo to help support the work that Bob The Blacksmith undertakes at the southern portal of Blisworth Tunnel.  There's a bit more to that story here.  As I walked up to the tunnel I turned and saw a most beautiful scene which I managed to take a photograph of.  I don't think it does what I saw justice but near enough.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Shell advertising using Stoke Bruerne

During the 1960s the oil company Shell undertook an advertising campaign using various locations as their theme under the byline 'Off the beaten track'.  One of them was Stoke Bruerne.  I was having a look on EBay recently and saw the Stoke Bruerne advertisement (Illustrated London News 1968) was available to purchase but it was in Whitewater, Wisconsin.  I took the risk and bought it (£7:90 at the current exchange rate with about the same for postage).  It arrived yesterday.  I was expecting an A4 version but it seems to be much closer to A3.  It is quite delightful and 'of its period'.  Louise in the museum tells me that the sign illustrated on the building is currently stored in the museum.

The wording on the advertisement is as follows:

Take the A508 from Northampton, and after a few minutes' drive you'll see a signpost to Stoke Bruerne, home of the Waterways Museum.  In its placid canalside setting, opposite a picturesque inn much favoured by narrow boat people in the early nineteenth century, you can reminisce over colourful souvenirs from long-ago days when the canals enjoyed unrivalled supremacy over any other industrial transport.

This is canal country.  The Gand Union Canal (pictured above), joins up with the Oxford Canal some fifteen miles west of Northampton; near here you can seek out the 'Napton Flight', an intriguing flight of locks running through delightful countryside.

And while you're in the area, there are other features worth exploring.  Wellingborough's Church of St. Mary, a modern masterpiece of ecclesiastical architecture by Sir Ninian Compur, is only 15 miles from Stoke Bruerne.

If you enjoy discovering new places by car, Shell is all ready to help you. Most Shell stations can provide you with local maps; and there are many Shell books available to help you find out-of-the-way spots all over the country.  And Shell even arrange 25% discount holiday insurance to cover you against accidents, illness, theft, and breakdowns. For more details of maps of Western Europe, books or insurance, please write to Shell Touring, 11 Dingwall Avenue, Croydon, CR9 2UN.

And when you are exploring, please remember to leave the countryside as beautiful as you found it.

Bernard Carter, London-born, studied at the Goldsmith's College of Art, and now teaching.  Has exhibited with the London Group, the Royal Academy RBA and has three one-man shows at the Portrait Gallery.  Features in a Los Angeles Exhibition this year.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A cold and foggy day

After the brightness of the Illuminated boats event on Saturday evening today has been one shrouded in mist and fog but still very beautiful  The sun did make an appearance at lunchtime but, seemingly embarrassed by its performance this morning, went off and hid this afternoon.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Illuminated Boats - Stoke Bruerne

Stoke Bruerne at night
(Copy-write James Rudd
Towcester News)
I became introduced to the Illuminated Boats 'scene' by Byfleet Boat Club where things were very competitive.  Having moved to Stoke Bruerne I became involved with the Illuminated Boats evening but was initially disappointed by the number of boats taking part - soon dispelled when we all had to manoeuvre outside the Boat Inn in the darkness!  We had four boats,  the Friends of the Museum boat Sculptor, Hoperidge, Inchy and Leo No2.  There was a Christmas market at the Navigation Inn.

What a lovely evening it was.  The boats foregathered at the southern portal of Blisworth tunnel - a very dark and quiet place - and titivated their Christmas lights to the sound of Guildford Cathedral choir singing traditional carols.  We were awaiting the Stoke Bruerne trip boat Charlie to make a trip to the tunnel and then lead us back into the village - it was very dark!  The children from Stoke Bruerne primary school sang (and marched) beautifully and we had a most enjoyable evening brought to everyone by the Friends of the Canal Museum.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Stoke Bruerne as was

I came across this postcard on EBay; I bought it and have scanned it in.  It shows Stoke Bruerne as it was - I understand the chimney was demolished in the early 1960s.  The bridge on the towpath led to a dock on the land that is now the Museum Green.  You can see the lines of each side of the dock on the Green. The remains of the chimney now fill the old dock.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Christchurch (Cardboard) Cathedral

My sister travelled down to Christchurch with her daughter recently and kindly sent me a postcard of the new 'cardboard' cathedral which she says has wonderful accoustics.

This image is of the Cathedral as I remember it.

This image is of the Cathedral after the devastating earthquake

And this is the visually stunning new 'cardboard' Cathedral.  He does give you hope I feel.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Now safely tucked up in Blisworth Marina

Leo No2 On the way from Braunston
Photo Rob Westlake
Leo No2 is now safely tucked up in Blisworth Marina after a (very) expensive annual service at Grand Junction.  I'll not say any more about the annual service until such time as I have had a response from the company who serviced it in 2011 and 2012.  To say they found a shortcut or two may be the understatement of the year.  I have written to the Managing Director and await a response.  Depending on the response I may publish my letter.

Leo No2 will be on the move again soon and will definitely be in Stoke Bruerne for the annual illuminated boats event on Saturday 7-December.

What is quite strange is that I am just two boats away from a boat called Zindagi - I shared the whole of the Deepcut flight with Zindagi just after I bought Leo No2 all those years ago!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Blisworth Tunnel now open for normal operations!

This huge (Czech built) widebeam / dutch barge thingy (in Stoke Bruerne top lock) making its way from Braunston to Hertford for sale - understood to have cost £180k - it may be lovely inside but outside it really doesn't cut the mustard for me.

From the ridiculous to the sublime - about half an hour after this vessel went through what should turn up but the Pinnock boys with Clover looking and sounding wonderful.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

A little bit extra

Having brought the boat back from Baxters in Yardley Gobion I thought it would be sensible to fill with diesel before the winter.  Jules Fuels (Julia and Richard) were due in Stoke Bruerne yesterday and arrived as expected.  What I didn't realise was that their diesel comes with anti diesel bug formula already added.  I think that's a real bonus and would encourage me to buy from Julia and Richard whenever I can.

The boat is due at Grand Junction for its annual engine/gearbox maintenance on Monday at 09:00 - I was planning to leave Stoke Bruerne on Monday morning early, as it is on an hour's run to the junction, so that the boat arrived with a nicely warmed engine but the weather forecasters (they with the pessimistic view of things) say it is going to awful on Monday morning (but the tunnel would be a refuge I think).  I shall wait until Sunday morning to see what things are like and then make a decision.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Back from blacking

Leo No2 in dry dock
A quick trip back up from Yardley Gobion this morning with some CRT employees from London to give them an experience of boating.

A really quick trip up the Stoke Bruerne 7 in the company of Aber (a 1936/7 GUCC boat) with Mark and Lesley followed by a very enjoyable hour or so in the Boat.

Leo No2 is now safely moored in Stoke Bruerne courtesy of Roy Sears - thank you Roy. 

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Blacking time again

Leo No2 is in for blacking again - it hardly seems 2 years since she was having it done last time at Laleham on the Thames.  I am pleased I have had it done for two reasons:
  • It gives me the opportunity to look at the boat in the whole and see how it has fared over the previous 2 years
  • It seems the previous blacking was just one coat (I paid for 2) and it also seems that it went back in the water whilst the one coat of blacking was still wet.
No lasting damage was done thankfully, but it makes you wary of who you entrust with your boat. I am bringing Leo No2 back to Stoke Bruerne next Monday.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

A final couple of hours to Yardley Gobion

I had one final move of the boat to make which was to deliver it to Baxters at Yardley Gobion for blacking which will take place next week.

I had a lovely trip down the Stoke Bruerne seven and a couple of miles to Baxters.  Now all I need to do is to go and collect the car from Addlestone!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Moving Leo No2 back to Stoke Bruerne (Day 8 - final day)

Braunston and the promise of
a lovely day
Quite a cold night in Braunston but made up for by a beautiful morning and day.  My friend Bob arrived promptly at 08:00 so we had time for a tea and then off.  There were quite a number of boats heading up to the tunnel.

We had some trouble with Lock 4 with the off-side lower gate blowing badly but we made it in the end.  Bob left me at the top whilst he moved his car from Braunston to Whilton.

The weather was quite glorious and we had an enjoyable trip down Buckby in the company of a hire boat and crew made all the better by a 'breakfast' baguette at Buckby bottom lock - bacon, eggs, sausage and mushroom - so naughty but very enjoyable.

Leo No2 is now moored safely on the Stone Wharf in Stoke Bruerne and I am at home without the car!

I am really quite proud of the achievement of moving the boat virtually single handed all the way from Addlestone.

Next week Leo No2 goes in to have her bottom blacked.

Miles: 20 (144)
Locks: 13 (84)
Tunnels: 2 (2)

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Moving Leo No2 back to Stoke Bruerne (Day 7)

The final destination for tomorrow
Stoke Bruerne
A fairly easy day today.  I set off from Marston Doles top lock at about 07:30 and was grateful for the help given by the crew of Zulu who followed me down.  Once I had done three locks the boats coming up made it far easier by leaving the upper gates open.  I was down by 09:10 which is exactly six days since leaving Weybridge.  The trip across from Napton to Braunston was easy and uneventful save for the last mile or so when the boat in front refused to let me past but insisted on travelling at tickover - fine when we were going past moored boats but the whole distance - no not on.  Thankfully, at the junction, they turned north and me south.

Braunston is very busy and I only just managed to find a mooring - about 100 yards short of the first of the Braunston flight of locks.

Tomorrow Bob is joining me and we should make Stoke Bruerne without too much problem despite the Buckby flight of locks and the two tunnels - and yes I have checked the tunnel light!

Miles: 10 (124)
Locks: 9 (71)

Friday, 4 October 2013

Moving Leo No2 back to Stoke Bruerne (Day 6)

Still not much colour around
but this one stood out - it was at
Fenny Compton
A nice comment on my blog today from James and Doug on Chance who I am going to miss on their 2nd trip through Stoke Bruerne since I moved there.  Thank you for the comments James and Doug.  I will be there next time.

Another early start today (07:00) mainly because the mooring I was on in Banbury last night was required for the Banbury Canal Day this weekend.

I had most of the locks in my favour on the way up to the summit pound.  It was a fairly uneventful day apart from the boring summit pound until I met Nuneaton and Brighton of the Narrowboat Trust.  I knew to expect them but I was surprised how much water they took from me - I reckon I heeled over to about 30 degrees but I just kept going forward and just slid off the side when they had gone.  They were fully loaded so must have had about 20 tones of coal each.  I imagine they are moored outside a pub by now!

I was going to go down Napton to the Folly but when I saw three hire boats at the top lock in front of me I decided to call it a day and enjoy a leisurely late afternoon in the sun at Marston Doles top lock - I'll tackle Napton tomorrow morning and then it is just a short hop to Braunston.

Miles: 18 (114)
Locks: 13 (62)

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Moving Leo No2 back to Stoke Bruerne (Day 5)

Industrial lock waiting areas
Off early (07:00) again today with the aim of getting to Banbury for a food shop and to moor early on the moorings above the lock.

It was with some trepidation that I approached Somerton Deep lock - it has a fearsome reputation for the lower gate being difficult to close.  I had all sorts of ideas as to how to close the gate but in reality I just leant on the gate and it closed.  Got to be lucky sometimes.  I found Anyho Weir lock more challenging as it is an odd shape (to give volume from the river Cherwell to the canal).  No problem in the end and I arrived at Bridge 168 (Morrisons) at 11:15 and on to the first mooring above Banbury Town lock just as the rain came - lucky again - I expect I shall get wet tomorrow!

I think some of the lock waiting areas are just a little industrial for a narrowboat - this one the last swing bring on the Wolvercoat section at Dukes Cut.

Miles: 9 (96)
Locks: 6 (49)

Moving Leo No2 back to Stoke Bruerne (Day 4)

The 7 day moorings in Oxford at 07:15
Unable to post last night due to a 2G signal just below Sommerton Deep Lock.

A long day again today.  I spent last night on Christchurch Meadows just downstream of Osney Lock.  Off at about 07:00 this morning as I was awoken by the rowing crews training in the dark with very bright lights on their skiffs.

The first decision was to use the Sheepwash Cut, which was very last minute - I almost went up to Dukes Cut.  I was surprised how empty Oxford was - one of the 24 hour moorings was completely empty - I wonder if that is because of enforcement, or just, maybe, a sign of the times.

The Agenda 21 moorings looked much tidier than I remember them but I suppose we all acquire huge amounts of ‘stuff’ – I know it applies to me as I have just moved and became good friends with the man at the dump!

I also noticed that CRT has been addressing the issues with overgrowth on the Oxford and cutting some really nice boat sized mooring slots. There area some areas though that need addressing before the spring nesting season as the overgrowth makes the channel quite narrow.

I had trouble with Mill Lift Bridge as the mooring is on the left hand side of the canal, the hinge for the bridge on the right and there is nothing to hold the bridge in the open position.  I fiddled it in the end but it really wasn’t easy single-handed.  I understand the best way is to use a Banbury Stick.

The plan for tomorrow is to move on to Banbury (and have a break) and post this as I have a shocking connection at Somerton this evening.  No TV and almost no connection – I’ll dig put my DVDs!

Miles: 18 (87)
Locks: 12 (43)

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Moving Leo No2 back to Stoke Bruerne (Day 3)

Painted Lady - see information at
bottom of today's blog
Well quite a lot happened today. I set off at 06:45 just as the moon was setting in the West and the sun showing behind the clouds in the East.  The first three locks (Whitchurch, Goring and Cleeve were all on 'Self Service') and then there was the long haul to Benson.  On that reach I saw a number of skeins of Canada Geese setting off for their days food gathering and a ballet of swans (yes that is one of the many collective nouns for swans and one I quite like) heading down river.  At Gatehampton railway bridge there were three EA mud barges but two had been loosed off on their front ends and took up at least half the waterway and put a huge strain, I would think, on the rear ropes.  I rang the EA and they were seemingly unaware of the issue.  Goodness only knows what would have happened if there had been any sort of stream running.

I bought some local honey at Benson, and made my way towards Clifton but at the same time my friend Steve (who looks after my car) rang about an alternator issue I have and I missed the turning into the lock cut but luckily managed to easily find a winding place and was back on track quickly despite my red face!

On to Abingdon for some diesel (it's a tad expensive there) and then on to just below Osney ready to either have a day off tomorrow if the promised rains come or start to tackle the southern Oxford.

I am surprised how little water there is in the river and how very few boats are enjoying what, has been so far, a lovely autumn.

I am quite pleased with having made Oxford in three days from Weybridge.

The photo shows a narrowboat called Painted Lady - many years ago Painted Lady was moored on the Woking pound of the Basingstoke Canal, ran public trips and was beautifully looked after.  She seems to have sunk recently but is such a sad sight.

Miles: 32 (69)
Locks: 10 (31)

Monday, 30 September 2013

Moving Leo No2 back to Stoke Bruerne (Day 2)

The autumn colours are
I was up early and off by 07:35 knowing I would have to work Cookham lock myself but what I didn't bargain on was that the last boat through had left the upper gates open, the sluices up and of course the lock full.  Never mind I had a volunteer operate Sonning for me during his lunch hour so what you gain on the swings you loose on the roundabouts!

I was a funny day weather wise.  Jacket on, then off, then on, then off and I eventually lost count of the number of times I put it on and took it off.  It was a lovely still day but I find myself quite tired so called it a day at about 17:00 at Pangbourne.  I still feel as if I am way ahead of my orginal planned (GU) schedule.

Miles 15: (37)
Locks: 12 (21)

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Moving Leo No2 back to Stoke Bruerne (Day 1)

The Autumn colours are coming but
they will be better in a week or so
For all of its life so far, in my ownership and Mick's and Suzanne's Leo No2 has been resident on the Wey, then the Basingstoke and then the Wey again. With my move to Stoke Bruerne the time has come to move Leo No2 to close to my new home and to that end will end up in Blisworth Marina.

I was hopeful that friends may be able to help crew with me up the GU to Yardley Gobion where Leo No2 has her periodic appointment with the 'bottom blacker' but it wasn't possible to fit things in with moving off the Wey at the end of September and the appointment in Yardley Gobion so I changed my mind after consultations with friends and am taking the more circuitous route up the Thames and the Oxford and 'over the top' through Wigram's Turn, Braunston, Blisworth and Stoke Bruerne.  The narrow locks of the Oxford and the 'operated for you' locks on the Thames are very appealing so it was that this morning I set sail from Weybridge, having spent the night on the wall and find myself tonight in Cliveden Deeps just down stream of Cookham Lock.  I don't think that's too bad for one day single-handed.

I was surprised how quiet the Thames is both in terms of flow of water and number of boats - it is almost as easy going upstream and it is down!

If anyone is interested I timed the lock movements and the times between the locks and the results are below.

Miles: 22 (22)
Locks: 9 (9)

Lock In Out Time In Time Between
Shepperton 09:00 09:10 00:10
Chertsey 09:55 10:05 00:10 01:05 01:05
Penton Hook 10:35 10:50 00:15 00:55 02:00
Bell Weir 11:30 11:40 00:10 01:05 03:05
Old Windsor 12:25 12:50 00:25 01:20 04:25
Romney 13:40 13:55 00:15 01:30 05:55
Boveney 14:30 14:35 00:05 00:55 06:50
Bray 15:20 15:35 00:15 01:05 07:55
Boulters 16:05 16:10 00:05 00:50 08:45

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Lovely Heritage video of our Waterways

Not much more to say really but enjoy.  It is on YouTube and it is here.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Village at War

This weekend is Village at War weekend. It is difficult to describe but suffice to say that it supports the Canal Museum and is an amazing experience.  Photos are available here.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Village at War Weekend

Whitby (L) and Darley making a
breasted up approach under
the Stoke Bruerne bridge
In the Stoke Bruerne top lock
It's only just starting but the boats are turning up thick and fast.  Whitby and Darley came down, winded, and then back up again as the mooring line between the Museum and the southern portal of the tunnel starts to fill.  No wonder I have no time to do any housework!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Sonning Bridge Postbox

Photo credit - Ian and Helen Wright

It seems to be in the news today.

Information about it is here (and on other news sites)

Sunday, 8 September 2013

New mooring Restrictions at Stoke Bruerne

A picture is always worth 1,000 words
There's been a lot of discussion recently about the new mooring restrictions implemented at the 'honey pot' sites on our waterways, one of which is Stoke Bruerne.  Since the announcement came from CRT I have been walking the mooring line between the Museum Green and the southern tunnel portal each evening and trying to work out how many 70', 60', 50', 40' and 30' boats there was still space for.  In other words have the moorings been full as is the inference from Canal and River Trust.  The simple answer is no apart from the Bank Holiday saturday evening.  They will probably be full again this coming weekend when we have Village at War weekend.

Does this mean I am against the 48 hour restrictions - no I think the fact that boats should move on after a short stay is good for the area and good for local businesses.  But is it right to slap a £25 charge for over-staying?  I am not convinced by that approach. The same view applies not just to Stoke Bruerne but to anywhere else.  By all means monitor the moorings, relax the the time limits during the winter; perhaps make the 48 hour and 7 day moorings all 14 day moorings but insist the boats move on - that's what Continuous Cruising is all about.  Winter should be winter - i.e. the time our clocks are set to GMT and not some fuzzy logic of 01-November to the Thursday before Easter - Easter moves so much that's a difficult date to follow.

The notices explaining the restrictions are complex,  more so if English is not your first language (as is the case with a number of hirers).  I don't understand why maps have not been used to show the restrictions with a 'You are here' arrow.  I'll update this post with links to the CRT website with their updates on the situation at Stoke Bruerne but please bear in mind that these rules also apply to the other sites where the new restrictions have been implemented; Foxton, Thrupp (Oxford) and the like.

Links - CRT View is here
Stoke Bruerne Visitor Mooring information is here

Just to reiterate - I am not against restricting the mooring times provided it is done in conjunction with the boaters (how many of those CRT people implementing the restrictions are boaters I wonder) and seeks to keep Continuous Cruisers as Continuous Cruisers (for that's what they sign up to) and not, using the recently applied euphemism, continuous moorers.  There will be, of course, aways reasons why someone cannot move on, sickness (of person and boat), and all manner of genuine reasons which I think everyone accepts.

I walked up to the tunnel in the rain last night.  There was a trading boat that had been there since the previous night - nothing wrong with that, other than they had left their chairs on the towpath, I very nearly walked into them and fell over - no not too much vino!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Blisworth Tunnel Geology

I was lent this diagram today which I had permission to scan.  I find this kind of information most interesting and it explains why you always get wet to some degree when in the tunnel.  I understand it takes 2 months for the water to make it way from ground level on top of the hill through to the tunnel.

A season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

With apologies to John Keats.  However it did look particularly

beautiful from my bedroom window this morning so I hurried downstairs and took a couple of photos to record a rather pleasant scene.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Byfleet Boat Club weekend at Boveney

Just back from a lovely weekend at Boveney Lock Island with Byfleet Boat Club (the other BBC).  Went up to Runnymede on Friday and then on to Boveney on the Saturday - there was a good turnout of boats and club members in a delightful setting.

Poured with rain on the Saturday afternoon but we did have a large gazebo available which was great.  A lovely meal in the Greyhound at Eaton Wick with skittles beforehand.

Home yesterday before the crowds really got going on the Thames - very slow through Thames Lock on the Wey but I understand that in the afternoon some of the Thames Locks had a 2 hour wait!

Back home last night and out volunteering for CRT and the Friends of the Canal Museum tidying up the duplicate lock at the top of the Stoke Bruerne flight.

The photo is from Easter 2011 as I was enjoying myself so much that I forgot to take any photos this time!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Stoke Bruerne at War

The weekend of 14/15-September is Stoke Bruerne at War weekend.  It looks
150 people in my house?!
like it will be a fun weekend but perhaps quite crowded.  I am certainly going to get involved - I have a sign which says 'Air Raid Shelter, max 150 persons' and I have won a red fire bucket on E-Bay.  Those two items along with putting masking tape on my windows should ensure an authentic look.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Some thoughts on the new mooring restrictions at Stoke Bruerne

Mooring on the change in Stoke Bruerne?
An E-mail this week has got me thinking about the new mooring restrictions that are being imposed at Stoke Bruerne, Foxton, Thrupp (Oxford) and other 'honey pot' sites around the network.

My thoughts are as follows - they regard Stoke Bruerne but may equally apply to the other seven sites (I understand there has been extensive consultation on the restrictions but communication is always, in my view, whatever industry you are in a real challenge - I am always reminded of the words in the Simon and Garfunkel song which is 'He hears only what he wants to hear and disregards the rest' - I think we all hear what we want probably more often than we care to admit!):
  • There was discussion with representatives from Canal World Discussion Forum prior to any announcement - most of the 'agreement' struck at these meetings may have been ignored.
  • The formal announcement was made just two weeks before the imposition - that's just not enough time to communicate fully and effectively in my view
  • The imposition stinks of 'we know best' and is, in my opinion, a 'heads in the sand approach'
  • This morning (Saturday 10-August) is right in the middle of the school holidays - prime time you would have thought so I undertook a little survey this morning during a 'before breakfast' walk to the tunnel mouth and back.  There was space for two 60' boats on the disabled moorings (you can use those if they are not required for disabled boaters), there was space for a 40' boat just above the old wharf and space for a 70' boat just a wee bit further on.  The area between the winding hole and the tunnel mouth was empty but there was a hire boat in the winding hole!
  • There are no 'regulations' in place for boaters to view the restrictions less than 14 days before they become active
  • I don't understand why this restriction was not trialled at one site first and then reviewed (with feedback from the boaters) before rolling out to the remaining sites
  • On what basis are they going to make a £25 charge for overstaying and what is the process to challenge that charge if they get the index number (for example) of your boat wrong and you have a charge on your record when the boat wasn't anywhere near that location
It strikes me as a situation where some people in CRT have a requirement to achieve something on mooring restrictions in their personal review and come hell or high water they are going to impose something.  I would prefer to have seen a 'proposal' put forward with each licence application/renewal with a date of say 01-January-2015 to put the restrictions in place to give everyone tine to understand and digest the new 'rules'.  Likewise do it at one place only, refine it and get it 'right' and then move the idea to the other 'honey pot' sites with whatever local amendments may be deemed necessary.

It strikes me that this is change for change's sake and to achieve what we used to know in BA as a 'key result area'!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Stoke Bruerne Visitor Moorings

Just received this from CRT - some fairly major changes to visitor mooring in Stoke Bruerne and surrounding areas which everyone needs to be aware of I think.

Map is here
Ts and Cs are here

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

And yet more visitors!

Clover (with Fazeley just visible)
fully loaded at the IWA
festival at Watford
It's getting very busy here in Stoke Bruerne!

I walked outside yesterday morning to be 'accosted' by Sue on Cleddau - we had a very pleasant chat as they went into the top lock.  Hope to see you on the way back.

I then saw the unmistakeable shape of Sculptor returning from the festival at Linslade sharing with Galatea so had a nice chat with Ollie Brown and Denise as they made their way north.

Later in the afternoon my friends Mick and Suzanne (and Holly the spaniel) on Aqua Vitae and Rod and Val on Hazell Nut moored in the long pound and came to see me - perhaps more to see how the house was - Rodney has been so helpful with my move here.  In the evening we had a lovely meal at the Navigation.

Today I am taking Suzanne and Val to Tesco in Towcester whilst Mick and Rodney kindly put my bathroom cabinet up.

I am not sure I am ever going to find the time to sort the house out completely whilst I am distracted by the goings on outside my front door!

I did notice when my four friends were with me in the house yesterday that the boys suddenly disappeared to talk to a chap on a Norton Canes boat which was passing!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

A visit and a view from my front door

Raymond and Nutfield singling
out at Stoke Bruerne top lock
I had a very enjoyable visit last night from the team (Trevor, John and Ray) on the Narrowboat Trust pair Brighton and Nuneaton who were able to moor on Sculptor's mooring as Sculptor was away at Linslade.  We had a very enjoyable evening in the Boat Inn whilst the summer storms hammered down outside.  I saw them off through Stoke Bruerne top lock at about 08:00 this morning.  In the meantime they have passed my friends Mick and Suzanne (Aqua Vitae) and Rod and Val (Hazell Nut) so I'll have more visitors tomorrow unless they decide to slip through under cover of darkness!

The picture is of Raymond and Nutfield (again) taken from my front doorstep this evening!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Stoke Bruerne Boat Weighing Machine

The Boat Weighing machine that has stood in the disused duplicate top lock at Stoke Bruerne for 50 years was removed last week to go back to the place of its manufacture and become part of the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea collection. 

The former station boat May, which resides in the lock will be moved further down the flight and the lock refurbished to enable visitors to see how a lock works.

All information is on the CRT website here.

Friday, 19 July 2013

IWA Festival

I decided to have a break from the house and attend the IWA Festival at Watford so on Monday (very early) I left Stoke Bruerne (in the car) and headed to the boat at Addlestone.  The traffic was appalling - tail backs started almost immediately!

Met my friends John and Anne at Addlestone and we headed off to the Thames and had a very leisurely trip to Kingston. Tuesday and it was off down the tidal part of the Thames to Brentford (for the second time just arrived at Teddington and straight into the lock).  An uneventful trip to Brentford and then we attacked the Hanwell flight.  The plan had been to breast up with John and Anne on Angonamo and try and make Hanwell easier.  As luck would have it I just happened to check my battery charging and after three hours it was 45 amps - not good.  Shortly afterwards I smelt the classic 'rotten eggs' overcooking battery smell so the engine and batteries were switched off and John's Angonamo did sterling work in getting us to Bulls Bridge.  On inspection one battery was too hot to touch so I called River Canal Rescue - typical that they don't cover the domestic side of things but they did call and engineer for me,  Ralph came and replaced all four batteries the following day - the hot battery from the previous day was still too hot to handle!

An uneventful (apart from the heat) trip to Black Jack's Lock for an overnight mooring (having left Bulls Bridge around 13:00) and then on to the festival site to moor with Byfleet Boat Club and relax. The batteries are working well.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

It's taking longer than planned to settle in

The Morris teams at the top lock
But that is because there are so many distractions!

On Sunday a number of Morris teams (is that the correct collective noun?) or is it 'sides' arrived at set up on the far side of the top lock.  It was sorchingly hot but they all danced for a couple of hours in rotation and then marched into the pub (the Boat Inn) in strict line to the very loud beating of a bass drum.  I am not sure that Morris dancing is my 'thing' but I did enjoy seeing a traditional English pastime being enjoyed by so many and some of the team's turnout was a credit to them.

Nutfield and Raymond being breasted
 up prior to the Stoke Bruerne 7
Then in the evening Raymond and Nutfield moored (temporarily) right outside my front door as they waited to lock through the Stoke Bruerne top lock.

I didn't get anything done in the house that day I am afraid.

In the evening a had a chat with a delightful couple (Katherine and Tony) who were renting No4.  I talked to Katherine about curtain poles and she suggested talking to the blacksmith at the tunnel mouth. I walked down to see him and he would be very happy to make curtain poles to fit in with the style of the house - great and it puts money into the local economy and not into some amorphous corporate!

Friday, 5 July 2013

The reason I moved to Stoke Bruerne

Well one of them anyway.  The view this evening from my front door is just wonderful.  On the left you can just see the back of Bideford, (Towcester's butty), then there's the butty Moon then Lamprey, Kestrel and Sculptor (the Canal Museum's boat) and a hire boat making a valiant (and successful) effort to squeeze through the only available space.
Without the hire boat 

It could almost be a picture from years gone by! 

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Concentrating on the Stoke Bruerne house

I am concentrating a bit on the new house at Stoke Bruerne at the moment as I moved in last Thursday (27-June-13). I have set up a blog (see link under the words Stoke Bruerne above) which I'll try and keep up-to-date until normal life returns!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

And what happens when I am gone?

Well apart from everyone celebrating as I am moving house and tidying up the loose ends, wills and things like that, I wondered what happened to all my stuff that's on line.

Most of my stuff is with Google (I loved them initially but recently have become less than happy but things are so intertwined on Google I suspect I'll stay).  I googled what happens if my accounts are not used and found this which I have set up.  It will detect no account use after one month of inactivity and after six months will delete all my data - I would imagine that if I haven't used the account(s) in that timescale I am probably past it and may be pushing up daisies somewhere.  The last thing I want is for 'me' to stay on-line once I have shuffled off.  It may not be for some time but we never know when our time is up so in my view it is better to be prepared!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Date for house confirmed and a fleeting visit

My builder has just confirmed that next Thursday is definately the date I can move in to Stoke Bruerne - that's a huge weight of my mind and now I can really start working towards that date.  The removal firm and the storage company have been informed.

This morning Doug and James on Chance chanced by - it was good to meet both of you.  You will enjoy the Barking Creek trip and no you are not barking mad to go - it'll be great.  Hope to see you in Stoke Bruerne before too long.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Another visit to the new house

The bathroom
I chose Saturday as it appeared to be the best day of the weekend and I wanted to see what Stoke Bruerne was like during a festival.  Well it wasn't the best day of the weekend so I am not sure if the crowds were representative or not.

Progress continues and the painting is going ahead at pace.

The bathroom was probably the worst room in the house but it now looks lovely (even though not finished) but the shower tray and loo are in place and it seems as if there is going to be plenty of room.  I had to make a quick decision on the phone about whether the tiles should be horizontal or vertical.  I chose horizontal (also known as 'brick' pattern) and pleased I did as it appears to be very pleasing to the eye and meets with the approval of the tradesmen.
The dark line on the ceiling
was where the wall/door was

The kitchen looks like a bomb has gone off in it but I am sure it will tidy up very quickly.  The removal of the door and wall at the bottom of the stairs has been a huge improvement.  I would have liked the stairs to come down and finish by the front door but there was a problem with headroom.  It looks so much better than it did and seems to have so much more room.  I have been thinking about a table for the kitchen and rather liked the idea of one with a glass top - I saw one last night in the Pelican at Addlestone and now know I don't want one with a glass top - it was messy (despite the best efforts of the staff to keep in clean) and showed numerous scratches.

The wall between the bathroom and No1 bedroom has been replaced (it was just two bits of hardboard) and no further work has been undertaken to bedroom No1.

The loo will be behind the
workman's stool
Bedroom No2 is one floor up and in place of the old wardrobe a stud wall has been erected over half the width and behind that will go a handbasin and a loo - just so that whoever sleeps in there doesn't need to go downstairs in the middle of the night.

The carpet (for the bedrooms and stairs) has been ordered and will go in soon.

I enjoyed the festival but found the boats difficult to view but I don't suppose the gusty showers helped.

I have made arrangements to have my furniture moved in on Thursday 27-June.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Why does nothing in this country work as it should?

I am moving house at the moment and temporarily living on my boat.  I have to change a number of things none of which seem to work.
  • I couldn't change the address on my driving licence because ideally the DVLA would like me to use Internet Explorer - I don't use Windows at all so why are they being so prescriptive and why isn't the EU prosecuting them for promoting one operating system over another?
  • I wanted to change the address for my mobile phone contract; we don't need to know your address they said.  OK I thought I'll see if I am due an upgrade for my phone.  Please enter your account the web site said but that kind of stuff is in storage.  The web site suggested to text the word 'account' to 12345 so I did that and the system responded with please text 'account plus your postcode' to 12345 - oh so they don't need my address but they need my postcode.  After much fumbling around their awful website I managed to change my address but it left one word (the name of the village) from my old address as part of my new address.  Expensive phone call to the provider to get them to change the address because they do need it.
  • Phone call from the window company this afternoon asking where their payment was - I sent it a week ago - it's not been received but then they only did half the job they were contracted to do! I now have to rush around dealing with the bank (the cheque has not been presented).  And where's  the cheque - probably some lowlife as stolen it.  Updated at 18:45 - it turns out that the window company procedure is to do the bit they haven't done (secondary glazing) after the builders have finished but, as with everything I have experienced in this world, the issue is lack of communication.  Now I know what's happening I am happy but all it would have taken is a quick phone call or E-Mail and I would not have been concerned about it.
  • And who got it right - Network Rail with my Senior Railcard - 30 seconds on line to change my address.
  • And don't start me on the complete inadequacies of the Conservation Department of my new Local Authority - hopeless doesn't even start to describe them - my experiences of local authorities has worn very thin of late - too much pay and not enough delivery of that which the individual pays for and no idea of customer service - I suppose they get paid if they deliver or not.
  • And as for my bank - well they wanted to send the bank statements for two clubs I am a cheque signatory to to my new address but failed to change my personal address - something to do with the processes they follow but they continually tell me they are the 'Helpful' bank - not sure I agree with them.
There's lots more that's not gone according to plan most of which is due to poorly developed web sites and lack of staff who do give a damn about customer service.  They all seem to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.  This country is not alone in going to the dogs but it is up there with the leaders.  Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg please get a grip and allow Great Britain to once again use the word Great with pride and don't contract everything offshore where they might understand how to code stuff but don't understand the business.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

A visit to the new house

The kitchen which is below
towpath level
I paid a visit to the new house in Stoke Bruerne today and had the lovely company of my friend Brian (Orion's Wey).

Progress is amazing with the bottom two floors tiled, the kitchen well on the way to being installed, the bathroom completely different (and so much better).

Unfortunately the suggested date of 21-June is no longer achievable due to delivery issues with some of the bits and pieces needed for the new house - I am told this is quite common practice in the current economic climate so we have agreed on 26-June as the 'handover' date.

The waterway was full of boats with Russell Newbery engines (still there from the previous weekend) and some lovely historic boats ready for the coming weekend which is the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the Canal Museum.  I think I may well go up to the house again on Saturday to see what a 'full' Stoke Bruerne (boats and people) is really like.