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, 26 April 2013

Finally Moved

It's been a while since I posted - mainly due to tidying up 22 years of living in the same house.  I finally moved out of my house in Brookwood today and am going to cruise on the boat for the next six weeks whilst the new house in Stoke Bruerne is renovated inside.

I shall be eternally grateful to my friend Sue who has been staying for the past week helping me get ready for 'D-Day' but it is over now and I am warm and cosy on the boat and my friend Sue is sound asleep down the back somewhere - well deserved in my view.

I shall miss Brookwood (my home in two houses for 28 years) and most especially my friends at Byfleet Boat Club - you know who you are!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Basingstoke Success

A welcome sign as Orion's Wey
and Zavala rise in Lock 1 whilst Hazell
and Leo No2 wait their turn
Having had time to sit quietly and contemplate the trip to Blacksmith's Bridge and winding hole on the Hampshire pound of the Basingstoke I think we can deem it and unqualified success.  We managed to get 22 boats up the four flights of locks (Woodham, St Johns, Brookwood and Deepcut) without any issues (well one boat had a bit of an issue getting into Lock 12 but I think that was more to do with the boat than the lock).

I am in no doubt that the two county councils (Hampshire and Surrey) pulled out all the stops to produce a canal that was eminently workable.  The Basingstoke Canal Authority (BCA) rose to the challenge and delivered everything we asked of them whilst at the same time dealing with the landslip in Dogmersfield - even though passage past the landslip was prohibited (quite rightly when I saw photos of it) we achieved the aim of using Deepcut which has been the challenge over the past four years.
Byfleet Boat Club at
Blacksmith's Bridge

We have raised a high level snagging list which I believe is no different to that which might be raised if any other navigation authority asked us to do the same thing.  The list contains issues such as dredging, adjusting the way the gates fit now they are wet and adjusting the paddle gear on some locks - nothing more than you'd raise elsewhere.

As I am moving to Stoke Bruerne shortly my only plea is for someone to take up the role of keeping the boating going on the Basingstoke - it really is a case of use it or lose it - if the Counties are prepared to invest in the canal I feel the boaters have a moral responsibility to use it.

The boats in the lower picture are (Back to front and left to right) Stronghold, Hazell Nut, ThatWey, Orion's Wey, Leo No2, Aqua Vitae, Zavala, Whisper, Barley Twist, Nexus No2 and Wattoo Wattoo

Sunday, 7 April 2013

In the true spirit of boating

Stronghold and Rowan waiting at
St Johns top lock on Saturday morning
When Rowan's engine made some rather awful noises on the way up Deepcut recently Mike and Lorraine Skeet on Winging It took Rowan in tow and delivered it to the Canal Centre at Mytchett as it was not known at that time what the cause of the loud noises from the engine were.  It was thought it could possibly be a loose flywheel.

Dave and Jane Brixey on Rowan called their contacts on the Russell Newbery Register and managed to arrange for an engineer to come and visit them on Easter Sunday morning - now that's what I call service.  Sadly the engineer was unable to provide a quick fix and diagnosed a very ill crankshaft.

So here we were with 22 boats at the top of Deepcut (a huge achievement) but with one of the 22 unable to move under its own power.

Hardly was the word on the street than Ray Oakhill on Stronghold stepped forward and agreed to tow Rowan back to the moorings at Pyrford Marina which he did starting last Friday, finishing on Saturday afternoon.  I think Ray has the admiration of all those who joined us on the Basingstoke trip and I know Dave and Jane Brixey are very grateful to him

We salute you Ray (now known as Tug within Byfleet Boat Club circles) - you epitomise the true spirit of boating.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

The quiet before the rush

A quiet scene at St Johns (Basingstoke Canal) this morning prior to the final push down the St Johns (or Goldsworth) flight of locks (5), through Woking (3 miles) and then the final 6 at Woodham.

It's been a fabulous week on the Basingstoke with outstanding scenery, especially above Deepcut.  Disappointing that we didn't get to Odiham but slippages of earth (especially after the last 12 months) are understandable. The land that slipped apparently wasn't on Canal property so there's a bit of discussion to take place about repairs but I understand that's already progressing and of course it is a reason to come back again and enjoy this delightful canal.  Anyone wanting to 'do' the Basingstoke should keep an eye on the BCA website for updates about their proposals for reopening.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Down Deepcut and Brookwood

A traffic jam at the top of Deepcut
Well we are down Deepcut and the 3 at Brookwood and all moored up at Kiln Bridge in St Johns (a village which is part of Woking).  Not too much trouble coming down apart from the two lowers at Brookwood bottom which both wouldn't open fully.

Ray Oakhill on Stronghold towed Rowan all the way down and
It's amazing what you find on the towpath
in Deepcut!
maintained his sense of humour despite getting some wire around his prop in Brookwood.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Back at Potters with the snow

Rowan and Stronghold
We are now nearly all back at Potters at Mytchett with the snow
Moored in Potters

Stronghold with Rowan under tow (Russell Newbery with a broken crankshaft) has left to spend the night at Deepcut ready to go down Deepcut and Brookwood first thing in the morning ahead of the rest of the boats.

It's snowing hard again!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

On the Hampshire Pound

Sunset at Blacksmith's Bridge
with Tundry Pond in the background
We've had a few days on the Hampshire and Mytchett Pounds enjoying the 'top end' of the Basingstoke.  We were restricted to going only as far as Blacksmith's Bridge winding hole due to land slippage in the Dogmersfield cutting.  I have seen pictures of the slippage and my choice would be not to go along there either by boat or on foot - it looks like a small earthquake (and I have experience of those having been brought up in New Zealand).

We spent a cold (sort of applies to everyone this Easter I suppose) but enjoyable time coming up from the Mytchett Pound, past the old RAE at Farnborough and to the Fox and Hounds at Fleet.  A few bits of damage for some on the very low bridge at Reading Road South - it really is low.

Spent a lovely 24 hours at Blacksmith's Bridge; we are now back at the Fox and Hounds and will head
Byfleet Boat Club at
Blacksmith's Bridge
back to Mytchett tomorrow with the descent of Deepcut and Brookwood on Friday and back on to the Wey on Saturday.

Not getting to the limit of the navigation has been disappointing but it was never the aim of the trip - the aim was to use Deepcut and that we have achieved.  Land slips will happen - just look at the issues on the Aylesbury Arm at the moment.  We are dealing with 200-year-old (plus) technology but perhaps a more appropriate maintenance regime may be more appropriate all round.

Monday, 1 April 2013

23 Boats to the top of the Basingstoke

We managed to get 23 boats up Deepcut over the last two days.  That's a huge effort by all the boaters, the Canal Authority and the Counties on this the coldest Easter for quite some time.

We are restricted to only going as far as Blacksmith's Bridge winding hole due to a land slip in the area.  It's right alongside the Gabion Wall (also know by some as the Great Wall of Dogmersfield) where there was a large land slip in the early 1980s.  So we can't go to the limit of the navigation as planned but we have proved, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Deepcut, Brookwood, St Johns and Woodham are 'open for business' - if you wish to enjoy the Basingstoke you will still need to book through the Basingstoke Canal Authority (BCA) on 01252 370073 and bear in mind that the at archilies heel of this canal is (and always has been) water.  The local branch of the IWA and the BasingstokenCanal Society in conjunction with Hampshire and Surrey County Councils together with Southampton University are running a Water Resources Team to try and find additional sources of water.

When I manage to obtain a better signal I'll publish some photos.

Some boats are now in Fleet at the Fox and Hounds and the rest of us are either spread out along the canal or about to set off from Potters.