Saturday, 30 August 2008


Thinking ahead a bit - I plan to leave Tortoise at Heyford (handy for the train) in a few days, to head back to my other life (well, a bit of work, but also a wedding and a music festival, actually two, one pedal powered one), then I'll sort out a week off to do the Thames.

What I'd like to do, though, is go up to Lechlade first - idle speculation has always been that Tortoise (several names ago) may have lived up that way, let's see if she picks up any familiar smells... I'll need to work out time carefully, and also suss out mooring possibilities if I need to break up the Thames trip a little. The Nicholson guides are particularly lacking in mooring information, not only for how long on canals, but also where I need to pay on the Thames. If necessary I'll have to stump up for a week while I do some work (for a change), but it would be very useful to know in advance. Any suggestions/recommendations (even friendly marinas) welcome.

Once I've done the run to Brentford, she can sit there for a few days while the washing machine gets a good thrashing with cushion covers and the like, and then the run back to Iver. Hmm. The Hanwell locks and all that muck...

Possible dates, should anyone be interested; 15-21st Sept (work dependent) and possibly 27th-2nd Oct (ditto). Anyone would think I didn't want this trip to be over...

30th - Napton to Cropredy

An early start to get somewhere by a time it turns out is actually tomorrow, but such is life...

I did think an early start would at least give me a bit of piece & quiet on the napton flight, but I was a couple of locks behind a boat, and another close behind me... it's a feature of single handedness that the closer a boat is the slower I am, as I have to stop, tie up the boat, close the gates behind me as I leave the lock instead of doing it once in the next one - which of course I'd have been able to set whilst leaving the boat in the previous one, giving me a quick transfer... I shouldn't let the pressure of a boat waiting behind me get to me, but it does. My problem.

Otherwise, all the idiots with boats were out today, and mostly on the north section of the South Oxford. Not even hire boats, they were too busy trying to wind to go back to the Bridge pub (well, the Folly was shit, but I felt guilty saying that whilst using their wifi they'd kindly mentioned). I'm wary of turn each post into a rant about other boaters, but I have to occasionally. All those bendy bits of canal mean lots of blind bridges - some of us drop speed and sound our horn, and some of us, apparently charge through at full speed on the wrong side of the canal, and look surprised to see a little red boat desparately trying to reverse to avoid a collision. In fact one such incident happened just north of Stoke a while back on a blind bridge - as they passed me after exactly that happening, the woman standing in the cratch said accusingly 'you didn't sound your horn early enough'. I apologised that I hadn't heard theirs at all - 'well we didn't sound it'. Ah. It's like roads - the rules of the road, and indeed canal, are rules of co-operation, to give predictable behaviour. Breaking them isn't 'sticking it to the man' in anyway, it';s just causing hassle for others, and inevitably yourself. One guy who passed me was at such a speed I rocked around on his wash, which was breaking against the soft canal sides in a way that would have got a cornish surfer's attention.

Other bizzare behaviour was a boat that tried to slalom between me and the boat in front, or perhaps it was a deliberate attempt to ram me. Favourite one today was whilst tootling past all the moored boats in bendy old Fenny Stratford, when another boat's prow appears beside me. I look around, to see a boat behind, or rather alongside. I ask him what he's doing' I'm passing you, you're too slow' he shouts. Ah, that would be too slow passing moored boats on a tight S bend, then? And passing another boat - without any indication, let alone permission, is perfectly acceptable behaviour at this point? Tempted to name & shame, Narrowmind World style, but life's too short. I'm sure people have complained about me under their breath at some point, probably for being too slow at locks...

Oh well. Now in Cropredy, having done the using mistake of going through the lock, hoping to find a mooring the other side... well, I did, actually, but only having gone past, winding, coming back to grab it, and then turning the boat by hand so it's pointing the right way...

Right. Will try to find a nice picture (or four, as it turns out) from today to cheer up this post...

A lovely boat spotted last night & this morning, proud new posession of the family - wooden top, lovely front room/cloths/conservatory type thing towards the front. I hope they really enjoy it.

Another Tortoise in Fenny Stratford marina, also spotted when I passed two years ago - I failed to photograph it at all last time, this is the best I got this one.

A poor photo of a lovely workshop/house (the latter built from an old workshop or boathouse?) at the top of the Claydon locks. Really appealing, good garden with it too.

Finally also from Claydon locks - a very sweet plea to show some respect, basically. Of course most boaters think they know better, but... step away from the computer, Simon, and go to the pub. NOW.

18 miles, 2½ flg and 18 locks

Friday, 29 August 2008

29th - Long Itchington to Napton

How did it get to the end of the month? Eeeek...

last night was lovely - tales by the fire, roast squirrel (no, I didn't try it), veg cooked over the fire, and a bit of music. I made my excuses at midnight, but others were up to 4...

In the morning again luck was on my side - was just heading out this morning when a boat came up the lock below me, so went up the flight with them, although I did feel I was working us both through at a couple of points. Those modernish side locks, built alongside old single ones, are entertaining - I tend to jump out with a rope & windlass on the way in & run up the steps, only to have to get the rope past the person waiting at the gate, even though I keep trying o suggest (without sounding ungrateful) that they could do the other side and I'll do this one...

At the top I moored and went back down the locks by bike to see Alison & gang again - after a bit everyone (4 adults and seven children) walked up to visit Tortoise, which was fun if chaotic - it turns out magnetic poetry may the best thing to happen to canal boats since, oh, the tiller. Or something. Eleanor turns out to be a natural trumpet player, player, too, and Alice lay back on the roof and grinned.

On the way up we spotted Whitefield, a ultra-modern boat as featured in a magazine a month or two back. Just as hideous as it looked in the magazine, to be honest, but each to their own. Five tellies, satnav and a joystick to steer the thing - and what happens when the fly by wire goes wrong and they call RCR...?

Then headed down to Napton, and back on to the Oxford, back in the land of narrow locks and winding canals... ;-) Did the Calcutt locks with Keith & Tim on 'Floss', who were convinced they'd seen me somewhere - we worked out where, they also have a home mooring at Iver. ;-) Didn't manage to hand over a card with the blog on, but I'll find them at Iver when I'm 'home'... ;-)

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Radford to Long Itchington

A short hop today, but suitably event-filled...

Colum & Cathi came over to the boat last night, and indeed brought dinner, eaten out on the front deck as dusk fell over the A425. Actually, we were looking out the other way, but call it poetic licence.

Colum then came back out this morning for a quick trip & and a lock - and stayed for three. He's only moving house today, after all... ;-) With us for those locks, and then the rest, was Steve on Canal Mania - being 40' we were able to squueze in a hire boat too for most of them. At the top I was able to sort out an electrical problem on canal mania - a permanently o/c circuit breaker - so feel I earned the assistance through the locks, although I did lose Kate Boats the work.. That and a beer together afterwards beat the scounts losing my second-best (actually pretty grotty) windlass... ;-)

Pretty soon I was in Long Itchington, so moored up to locate Happyhome - no space to moor up close, although Dave & co on Eva next door invited me to moor alongside them. I was a little wary of being bounced off by errant boats on the way in & out of the locks, so stayed where I was. Anyway, off shortly for fire, food and good company for the evening. I'd say good music too, but I'm taking my mandolin... ;-)

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

27th - Hatton to Radford

I was in the first lock, ready to go down on my own at about 9am when another boat came along.

Not only another boat, but a boat containing the Battersea Scouts, who very efficiently worked us down all 23 locks (including the ones by the Cape of Good Hope). Excellent teamwork, it sounds as if they do a boat trip every year or so, and a complete lifesaver. I'll still have the Stockton locks and others tomorrow, but I struck gold today. I then moored up in an attempt to help with a local plumbing problem, but we did manage beer & chips in the Cape pub before doing so. ;-)

I also got to pull a dog out of the canal - a couple were shouting & panicking, he leaning into the water, she hanging on to his legs... I leant in, grabbed the dog by the scruff of his neck, and pulled him out. I was more worried the people were drunk and likely to fall in themselves, but I think they just lost it a bit...

A Sign on the flight; it's like one of those ones they personalise at Lands End:

A couple more stops - Kate Boats for diesel (back up to 90p/l, and the 43l needed took just about all the cash I had on me as they weren't taking cards, then more excitingly by Bridge 43 to visit the Action 21 recycling warehouse, a marvellous place every town should have. They're next door to the council tip, and basically give people the option of despositing reuseable stuff there instead. I found what I was looking for - a pair of smallish decent speakers for a fiver, and a few books and a bag to put it all in for a pound on top of that... they also do bikes, furniture, bathroom fittings - I'd recommend anyone local, or passing, so see what they have (and take anything relevnat to them).

Speakers were connected up to a smallish 12v amp I 'happened' to have (I did, honest), and decent quality music out on the back deck... I do need to keep an ear on the volume, but it does sound great, and the back end of Leamington Spa didn't really feel as if it offered peace & quiet anyway.

On the way out to moor up close enough for local friends to visit (hopefully having sorted their plumbing), I spotted a ghastly looking pub (the Fusilier) and a 60s row of shops... these are mostly responsible for me having a mental picture of Leamington Spa being some sort of bland new town, as that's all I saw when I cycled through, and didn't investigate further. The impression also came from the number of punk/thash bands that seemed to come from the town a few years ago...

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

'Sarni' thoughts

It occured to me to look up the reduced size/scale boat I saw passing through the IWA - Sarni - on the Jim Shead boat listing, taken from BW registrations, and there it is - 18' long, 4' beam, 8hp engine - but curiously of all, buolders are listed as being Adelaide Dock, I assume the one in Southall, now reverted back to a BW maintainance yard, was pricvately run. This gives her a little kinship with Tortoise, as the overplating done on her for Jim & Mary when they first bought her was the last job down at Adelaide Dock before they closed. I'm still intrigued though - a boat of 4' beam would be big enough to sleep in, but how stable would she be? Embarrassingly my post of a few days ago was at the top of a google search, but I did unearth this page - so generally used as a butty (boat towed by another). Interestingly the boat she was alongside - Random - isn't the one listed as on that page, but anything's possible.

Anyway, my obviously underused imagination wanders back to the idea of a pedal powered boat with accommodation - a self-propelled tent, basically. It would probably be a very long way from a scale canal boat (after all, someone once said canal boats have all the streamlining of a brick in the water) , but the scientist in me wonders how the pedal/prop drive would compare to oars on a canoe - the canoe of course would present a lot less motion resistance. It probably wouldn't take much to add an electric/solar drive as an alternative... other idle thoughts would be how it would stand up to sharing locks - or indeed the wash from speeding hire boats ;-) (or could it be made light enough to carry round)...

random further reading:

Time to put daft ideas on hold, but perhaps only until I work out my carbon footprint for this year's trip...

26th - Catherine de Barnes to Hatton

Did the few miles to Knowle in the morning, to collect various friends, most of two familes - Kristina, with daughters Megan & Hannah, and also Andrew (birthday boy), Elly, & offspring Florence & Ralph.

Child lifejackets were pressed into service, and of course the first bit of the journey was the Knowle flight - strange to see wide locks again, especially these with their strange paddle gear and wide pounds - presumably part of the attempted 1930s modernisation. After that everyone on board again for a mile or two for a fairly disorganised (on my part) picnic lunch on the bloat; some walked back to collect car for more birthday activities.

The rest of us continued on to the Navigation at Lapworth for a pint (ok, not the girls) at the Navigation. After the rest left on a train home, I continued on to the top of the Hatton flight - no more guests to rope in thsi time, this one's down to me... ;-)

Monday, 25 August 2008

25th - Gas St to Catherine de Barnes

Poor Brigid - more locks, this time downhill and close together. We crept our way around the back of central Birmingham, including of course around the back of Aston University. On the Snow Hill flight, there's a huge cavernous railway bridge, which of course meant getting the trumpet out - I do hope 11am on a bank holiday Monday wasn't too antisocial. A couple of faces appeared at windows in the building adjacent - which turned out to be flats - with a wave and upturned thumb, so I guess I got away with it. It sounded great, though, like playing in a huge great hall, I wish I could think of more to play than a bit of Purcell and the opening bit of 'Papa's got a brand new pigbag'.

After finally conquering the camp hill flight we went for a walk to find the old Almshouses where I lived for a year as a student -amazing grouped bedsits around a central courtyard by a roundabout at the top of the hill from Digbeth. Lovely to see them still there, as in used as residential places for youths; still in the spirit of Almhouses, really.

We then headed on down the leafy (and mucky - had to clear the prop twice today of stuff that really shouldn't have been in a canal in the first place) arm of the Grand Union that escapes out of Birmingham. Sadly dropped off Brigid at Olton station so she could get back to London and the 'w' thing, but such things are due even to me soon enough... ;-(

Anyway, have managed to catch up on the last days blog posts, although I'll be going back to add more pictures in future - if you saw the minimalist versions, there's more now...

Saturday, 23 August 2008

24th Dudley to Birmingham Gas St

We breakfasted at the cafe by the Dudley Tunnel excursion boats, although we were very taken with the privately owned tunnel tug 'Sharpness' that was also moored there. We then spent a great few hours at the Black Country Museum in the morning, although afgter a couple of bad experiences we did avoid the costumed roleplayers. We did like the chainmaker, who after doing his formal speil for just us came over for a chat and turned out to be a moonlighting industrial history lecturer - excellent. Also excellent was the old tram - the fussing nimbies of Ealing who have objected wholesale to a tram route as they're worried they won't get their 4x4s past are missing out, although admittedly they wouldn't have got lovely old wooden framed ones, which of course are very boat-like... we also admired various old bits of ironmonghery around the site, boilers & suchlike - it's actually pretty moving, what was built with relatively little technology.

We then headed down to Gas St - a pathetic three locks, and lots of bumbling around under the M5, old canal bridges dwarfed:

We moored in Gas St basin itself, although there seemed to be plenty of other moorings along that stretch of canal, and also just before the junction down to Worcester. Being in the basin was of course in Homage to Cliff Richard in 'Take me High', although he did seem to rebuild a working boat into a bachelor pad with a mezzanine floor in a week (and invent fast food) in that film too. These things take longer, and I've yet to work out how to get the mezzanine floor in successfully.

Both of us were at university in Birmingham, I hadn't been back for a decade or so, so it was a pretty illuminating walk round that evening, working our way up to Aston University itself (some bits new, some bits decidedly old) and back down to Digbeth, both of us trying to find the old FoE building on Meriden St - we think we found it, but no longer the FoE. ;-( Selfridges & all that very dramatic, of course, but a big moment to consumerism, yet with the church in the middle, as ever. We then wound our way back to the basin via the Mailbox shopping centre, had a reasonable successful 'oriental tapas' meal and crashed.

My sleep was disturbed at around 3am by someone on the back deck - I looked out of the window to see him going round to the front deck. Thankfully my first 'p*ss off' from inside the boat sent him off, by the time I was out of the front doors he was on his way, a solitary pissed bloke who I assume was after a bike to aid his trip home. They were locked up, and anyway the upper one was the leek car boot sale one that wouldn't lock unfolded. A bit of a negative experience, but one of a random pissed guy trying his luck (at albeit theft) rather than anything nastier. City centres are strange places to have a boat in, though.

23rd Brewood to Dudley

Woke early, left early - a beautiful morning, mist on the canal surface and low morning light. A kingfisher sitting on a tiller arm looked so incredible as to be unbelievable, and the picture is in my mind rather than the camera. We found ourselves creeping through the the IWA festival moorings before nine - way too early to join Bones and posse in the beer tent - another time, though.

Was very taken with the minature canal boat 'Sarni' - not least as idle daydreams about a direct pedal drive boat as a scale model had suggested something similar, although it'll never happen (and look even sillier than tortoise already does in locks)...

Poor Brigid - first time on a canal boat, and first morning we're faced with the 21 lock Wolverhampton flight. She rose to the challenge magnificently, at first I was in & out of the boat single handed, but we slowly worked out ways of efficient working between us. Four hours later we stopped at the top for a trip to find food (reasonably successful) and recycling bins (less so - found paper & mixed glass bins almost randomly in the street, but not cans, and no-one knew where we might find one (or even why). I often intend to write letters that never get sent, but one to BW encouraging them to ask each local council to provide recylcing bins at each facility point. It can't be rocket science, hardly any more work for BW, but at the moment there are hardly any. Oops, editorial comment - I'll be having opinions next.

Then on through the fairly dull (to me, exciting to Brigid) black country scenery (mainly empty industrial sites) to the recommended mooring at the Black Country Museum. It seems a shame to have to try to moor behind locked gates, but since no-one moors anywhere else, it's pretty sensible. There Phil & Neil came to visit on the way home from the IWA festival. I'd warned Phil that if his boat was a floating cottage mine was more of a floating shed, but he was quietly amused... ;-)

Friday, 22 August 2008

22nd Tyreley to Brewood

The old wharf buildings at Tyrely are undoubtedly pretty, but marred by the owner advertising his political leanings;

Then lots of lovely deep cuttings and high bridges; still pretty wet and I was trying to dry out clothes, so a gentle plume of woodsmoke accompanied me. Passed the old chocolate wharf at Knighton:

Chocolate crumb from here was taken to Bourneville by boat; now the site makes powdered milk, the book says.

Got to the Anchor at High Offerley way before opening time, which still hadn't arrived five past midday, so I pressed on, did get to chat to the Mikron Theatre lot who performed there the previous night, though.

Finally reached the famous bridge with a double arch and telegraph pole in the middle; it may only be famous to me as it's on the cover of the old cana guide to the Shropshire Union I used when I cycled it ten odd years ago. I'm glad I'm not doing it now - the towpath is largely soft mud, some of which was virtually a pond with green alage growing on it. Of course cycling makes things worse for everyone else...

Just above Brewood (silent E, we're told) a friendly face stuck her head out of her boat and said hello - great to finally meet green boater (trite description, sorry) Carrie - a quick natter (not nearly long enough) and a coffee before I headed down into the village to meet Brigid, my guest for the weekend who had been in Birmingham anyway. Brigid is marvellously able, and was quite happy to find her own way to a village in the midlands by public transport - a trait I cvery much encourage. We went to the Swan (failing to spot the notorious landlady - Anne?) and then a lovely curry at the 'Curry Inn'. Not only do they have a Maplin catalogue as light reading in the hallway, but a copy of a local newsletter which featured 'Ed Inferno' the local drum teacher, Excellent.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

21st Audlem to Tyreley

The Audlem flight is fifteen locks; at eight I decided to make a start. Just as I was untying the ropes I spotted 'Drusilla', the crew of which I'd been chatting too at Grindley Brook queue, doing the same, so suggested they go ahead and I wait a few minutes so they weren't stuck behind a single hander. The hire boat moored between us obviously heard what was going on, and ran out and pulled their pins - so I found myself third in the queue that wasn't there minutes ago. I feel sorry for Russel & Lesley on 'Doris', who were very quickly behind me, but were not only lovely and helpful but stopped for water after three locks so I didn't feel rushed. Looking forward to a pint with you two.

Got through in around four hours, mainly single handed, only crossing a couple of boats, one of which stole an empty lock as I walked up to open the gates, opened the paddles then ran away back to the boat... my gain, I got to put the kettle on, and didn't help them work down the lock. ;-) Did I mention the rain? In fact a thunderstorm... Then the Adderley locks, another five.

Stopped in Market Drayton (after topping up 35l diesel at 68p/l) for internet for visitor planning & the usual charity shop & food run. ALso spotted Marmaduke, so got to chat with John & Cathy and meet the dogs. Decided a little too late to press on, and finished the Tyrely locks by headlamp, which was a bit daft, especially as I managed to get grounded on the rocks after the first lock - damn my habit of closing lock gates behind me (some people do seem to think it's optional, like the HB I ended following up Audlem).

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

20th Aug - Wrenbury to Audlem

I genuinely got a day out of sync today, thinking it was Thursday. I quite like that.

I'd acquired a bit of oscillation in the transmission of the boat, so got Mike of M&L Services to have a look first thing. The ring that clamps on the prop shaft was slightly loose, and off-centre; he tightened it up and it was still off centre; there's significantly less oscillation now, but certainly something to be looked at in the autumn when the boat's out for blacking. Mike was great - talked me through everything, we discussed the origins of the boat and all sorts of stuff, and the amount he wanted to charge me was so low I upped it a bit... like Mike who has already done a lot of the work on my boat, he works for himself so has to be good - he has to live on his reputation - and knows everyone. I was amused to learn that the 'L' in the name was Linda the lockeeper at Hurleston who saw us in; runner up in best lockeeper of the year 2007, too, a certificate there says.

Otherwise then, onwards and outwards - the kids/youths/whatever who'd been working their way from Llangollen to Swanley by rowing boat shared a few locks with me. They're doing a Duke of Edinburgh award, and are limited in the amount of help they're allowed to recieve, but sharing locks is of course fine - in fact to not do so would be antisocial...

Then down through Hurleston, behind a hire boat who sometimes remembered to close the gates behind themselves, sometimes not. The bottom one was quite tight, and at one point I thought Tortoise was going to get stuck; thankfully not, although I must measure the beam properly; I thought she was pretty narrow, but perhaps not, at the front, anyway. I then managed to lose the centre rope and she drifted away from the ladder, leaving me having to jump down on her roof - not something I'm keen on, but when it has to be done, it's done.

back on the Shropshire then - big, wide, straight and frankly a little boring in places. I stopped in Nantwich for my usual explore - charity shops, food, that kind of thing. When I cycled through a decade ago I found a great pub with loads of vegan food - one of the couple who ran it was vegan - and was working on a long shot they were still there. I'm pretty sure it was the Red Cow, the current landlord 'hadn't be there' long and 'had no idea'. The menu was fairly generic pub faire; had it been still as was I would have stayed for the night, but as it was I moved on, and am moored at the bottom of the Audlem flight - that's fifteen locks for me to do in the morning. Makes a change from long straight wide boring canal, 'spose. ;-)

The Nicholson guide maps are OS map based, which I like. On the map a label said 'secret nuclear bunker' which looked a little oxmoronic - when I saw brown tourist signs to it too, I guess it wasn't that secret. Then again I remember when a minor industrial plant called Sellafield I grew up next to was just a blank space on maps - crazy.

Looking ahead, it's funny to think I'm heading towards Birmingham fairly quickly, and could be there at the weekend. I'll hopefully find time for a walk round, they've tarted it up a bit since I was there last. I'll also be passing through Aston junction & Digbeth, both close to student housing in the late eighties, strange.

Another evening of no 3G coverage, by the way, so I'm writing this to be posted when I find some. It's an odd situation, I can often get a basic GPRS connection that allows websites (including reading email via webmail) but not forms (such as blog posting).

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

19th Blakes Mere to Wrenbury.

Spent half the morning stuck in an ever-lengthening queue behind a boat going at snail's pace - which they dropped to barely moving when passing boats - the're main speed would have hardly rocked anything anyway. It felt like a bit of a parade by the time we got to Grindly Brook at it's staircase locks (and huge queues, we were pretty lucky last time) A boat or two behind me appeared Andante, so we worked through together again. It was well after five by the time we got through - I didn't half feel bad for Bliss, the boat I'd shared a few locks with earlier - their mooring is at the top of the Grindley Brook locks, but at least they know the best times to go through. Lots more rain, too. At least we didn't get as much as Northern ireland.

In the queue though I was told the story of the boat pulled up on the bank from the other day - it had been lovingly done up by it's owner, kids got in and trashed it 'breaking his heart' and he abandoned it... it was thought the farmer had pulled it up out of the water to stop it sinking completely. That, and me supplying one of my 5l diesel stashed to a who's boat had broken down - he's checked everything until he realised the tank had been emptied while he'd left the boat in the middle of nowhere for a few days. Rare, islolated incidents, but good reminders that boats are happier left with a few friends for company around them.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Mon 18th - Llangollen to Blakes Mere

Ah, this is better. I'm sitting on the side of a small lake alongside the canal - I'd spotted it on the way up, and it's good to be away from everything, everyone. Well, I was away from everyone until two other boats moored up right next to me, so I moved a few hundred yards further on - they don't call me a misanthrope for nothing (in fact they don't, it's generally only me).

It's been an eventful day - I ws thinking of an early start anyway, so being woken by a boat going past at half past six wasn't the end of the world, and I was on my way myself half an hour later.Being single handed I've no-one to send ahead on the single boat stretches, so assuemd (correctly that I'd have the canal to myself, ansd if anyone was moving it would be in the same direction.

I'd used a little more fuel that I was expecting, so topped up at Trevor - had a look at the engine, but nothing obvious. Note to self - when looking for a fuel leak, look when the engine is running - which I did once over the aquaduct, and saw a broken pipe gushing fuel - it was amazing anything was getting to the engine. Noticeable amounts of white smoke (unburnt fuel) suggested the air mix was wrong, too (must look at Tony Brooks' notes about that).

Another brass olive on copper pipe was to blame, thankfully there was enoguh remaining pipe to be able to pull the broken section out, put on a copper one and carry on. Tortoise wasn't happy about going home at all, actually as later on the temperature started to rise - both sea cocks were a bit bunged up - clearing them (with a bit of thick wire, actually) did the job, thankfully.

Just near bridge 27 a face stuck their head out of their boat and said 'hello, Tortoise!'. The boat, Rosie May, I'd passed a couple of times previously (once a few evenings agho mooring up more or less where I am now, in fact). I couldn't resist stopping for a chat, and I'm glad I did - the lovely Mich is a food artist, works with respecting and honouring food, and in fact will be part of the festival of London food thingy on Southwark Bridge 13th Sept - sadly I'm already double booked that day. We chatted for far too long about food, anaerobic digesters, people we knew in common (inevitably) and life generally; sometimes it works out like that.

Also got to meet Bob and his boat 'Vital Spark' - I asked about the windows, and he started the sentence with 'well I had a steel rolling press at home'... there's two steering positions, one outside and one in a wheelhouse that rises up electrically... he was marvellously enthusiastic about showing me round, and it is good to see boats that are a little bit different, as so many are - well, look the same, really.

In the evening I made a basic wall shelf unit for the kitchen - it goes over the cooker and is 5 1/2 deep at the bottom, but good to have things in front of me rather than being tucked away.

Rain at dusk itself prevented a more photogenic shot, but once it was pretty dark I got the ga cyclinder brazier out beside the lake, and watched the flames, the surroundings becoming dimmer with the brightness of the flames, the noises of the wild around me. It's obvious to everyone bar me, I suspect, actually - this is my church.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

17th - still in Llangollen

It's all a bit bonkers on the canal at times, but mainly just due to the limited space available - the canal is half way up the valley side, after all. It's actually quite an achievement, the whole canal, the only locks being miles away, the canal staying at a flat level across hills & valleys. It's easy enough to get away from the tourist hell of the high st and canal, and I did.

The steam railway are having a week or so of Thomas the Tank engine - all the same bunting and branding I saw at Shacklestone on the Ashby. As the guy there had said, they have to hire in 'Percy' as well, even though it's a bit knakckered and doesn't work - so is on the other end of the tiny train attached to Thomas, being hauled around in a fauirly undignified way. At £12 for adults and £7 for children, there were more people watching from the bridge than on the platform...

The church was lovely & peaceful though, a long chat with the church warden type people, and the opportunity to light a candle for absent friends. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to light a separate candle for each individual, but in the end it's for my benefit anyway, a bit late for them.

Also for my benefit was the walk up to the Horseshoe Falls, basically a semicircular weir so they can extract water to feed down the canal - it makes the canal the worlds biggest millstream, basically. Replace the viaduct with a water wheel and they'd really be in business. The cvanal guidebook claims that no only did Telford build the canal, the viaducts and the falls, but also the A5 from London to Holyhead,which I cross paths with once again. I could have sworn it was the Romans, although they would have called it the AV, of course. I suspect there's a bit of both in it somewhere.

Off to the pub with Bill & Gwen from Andante tonight. Probably quieter than the blues band I saw in the Sun Inn last night, in the company of a couple from Lewisham on a coach trip. It was strange and yet perfectly normalt to be discussing the Amersham Arms in wales...

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Sat 16th - Ellesmere to Llangollen

Well, it may be p*ssing it down, but I'm moored in Llangollen, got the stove going and seem to have a sensible internet connection (which I haven't had for a couple of days), and I should be finding some live music this evening, so things aren't that bad...

The usual wander round town, bwfore I left Ellesmere - down by the lake I met two cyclists who'd left Wolverhampton at 5am, and were going to be very early to meet their partners in Llangollen for lunch...I told them about my trip along the canal that took three days, many years ago - to be fair they were using road bikes, and were the serious cyclist type. Horses for courses, or something.

back on the canal, a fairly inoffensive journey until it got to the fun bits... the first aquaduct is Chirk, alongside a railway viaduct, and reassuring ledges on either side:

further on, though, we have Pontcysyllte, which just has a metal trough with a towpath on one side, and nothing on the other...

so what I can see from the deck is this:

Crawled through the narrow stretches into Llangollen in the rain, winded, moored & paid (they provide water & power points, which I don't need, but I'm more accepting rather than grudging about the £6 a night they charge here).

Having already turned around, I'm facing home, in a way; Llangollen was my furthest destination, so although I'll largely be returning home a different route, I'll be returning rather than going. I've got two weeks, perhaps a little more, before I'm back at work, and then after that the rest of the journey will be in the bits in between work, weddings & festivals of on sort or another. canalplan suggests I can get back to Brentford by then if I put my metaphorical foot down, but that's not the point of the trip. I like to be in a place for a short while, rather than just pass it. If I didn't, I may as well get an air conditioned 4x4 for transport...

I'll post this then try to sort out the pics later, it doesn't seem to want to play at the moment. It's still heavy rain here, but I'll be heading into town whatever tonight, and tomorrow should be better (metcheck says so).

Friday, 15 August 2008

Fri 15th Wrensbury to Ellsemere

An early start - the boat in moored in front of me had been running engine quite late, which I'd ignored and assumed was a necessary evil - but started up again at 7.30 and woke me up. I was amazed to see it was a hire boat from the Alveschurch branch in Wrensbury. When someone put their head out I asked them if they were having problems, and they told me they had to run the engine to get electricity - and told,me as if I was stupid for not knowing that. Apparently it was essential to run 'the toaster and the children's games'. I muttered something grumpily, made myself a cup fo tea and then headed off as soon as I could - if I'm going to listen to an engine first thing in the morning, it may as well be mine.

Stopped off at Maybury to look around the village (proud of lots of best kept village placques - all very pretty but deadly boring, and the pub was closed all weekend for a wedding). The church was similarly immaculate but at least had comedy gargoyles, again photographed in un-blog-friendly Ilford film, and a wonky tower.

Getting back to above Maybury lock bumped into Andante again, so we (or they, I realised there wasn't much I could do other than stay on the boat that wouldn't slow them down) did the rest of the locks into Grindly Brook, including the staircase, where tortoise was unceremoniously towed up, which at least meant I got to do something useful with a windlass at long last.

I stopped to wander into Whitchurch, the short restored arm stopping long before the town. Of course they have great plans to restore access to the centre of town, and inevitably want a landmark set piece like an inclined plane... strikes me that since the Falkirk Wheel opened everyone wants one - what's wrong with a couple of locks? Nice basic technology, that will work as long as there's water. Whitchurch does indeed have a noteworthy church - the huge great windows make it look more like some kind of railway building from the outside.

How not to moor 'up':

Then just on, and on, got into Ellesmere around nine. It's wierd - I cycled Wolverhampton-Llangollen by canal a good few years ago - must have been ten or twelve - and unlike some sections of other canals I've cycled, I don't remember much about it - although seeing a family bump their bikes along the towpath did yield similar memories. I do remember Ellesmere, though,mainly as someone nicked my big hat off the back of my bike, and I was so grumpy about it I failed to investigate the rest of the town... ;-) I do remember the wharf being a bit of an forgotten bit of empty industrial ground, but of course now it's a building site, to be filled with flats and 'boutiques' - which in my experience of Brentford means a branch of Costcutter at the base of every building.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Thurs 14th - Middlewich to Wrensbury

I went for a wander around Middlewich before leaving - looked in the chandlers for a new front fender (mine is working fine, just has bits of rope hanging off and tyre exposed), but decided I can leave vanity purchases for another time. I did spot 'Savoy Hill' at the water point, though - the BBC Club boat - the only BBC connected person seemed to be Roger Stockton, who took redundancy some years ago and now is Southwark Council's cycling officer. More sadly I also spotted Felus Cattus III, the former home of the late Mike Stevens.

At Bliss had already left by the time I got back to the boat, but at the first lock I met Andante, 38', and I don't think I got a windlass out in anger until much later in the day. Caught up with Bliss at Cholmondston lock, who offered to share with me but had to have a comedy rejection moment when I pointed out my new partner... ;-)

At Barbridge junction there were lots of moored boats I followed andante through, a boat pulled out in front of me, kept going to left causing delays when met other boats, eventually rammed left side of canal & I passed them; Andante had waited for me at first of Hurleston locks. It turns out that they hadn't even pulled out of their own mooring in front of me, but had been doing similar antics in front of Andante - the kid was trying to fish straight off the side, at at one point when I was ahead of them the two adults seemed to be trying to see how much they could make the boat rock. It was good to be away from them, anyway.

Also went past yet another new marina being built:

I don't like marinas - I could have moored in the BW one here - but I do see that with more and more boats on the canals, they need to put them somewhere. I'm lucky that my home mooring isn't one, and also that I'm generally curious enough about other boats to not mind crawling past on-line moorings. Oh well. I could insert a rant about people preferring to build new boats than preserve older ones, too, but another time...

Somewhere along the way I spotted NB Marmaduke who I'd found via some mutual links and spotted were doing a similarish trip - I'd left them a couple of comments, but they weren't around so I couldn't say hello...

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Aug 13th - Rode Heath to Middlewich

>More locks this morning, but not quite as relentless as yesterday's session. Shared some with 'Bliss', who were one lock behind me, and managed to ask the length question - they were 40, so we both fitted through several; I stopped at Wheelock, they carried on (and coincidentally I'm now moored behind them at Middlewich).

I went into Sandbach (not the services)- quite a sweet small town with two saxon crosses (surrounded by pubs, the saxons had their priorities right) and a quite hideous brick 'precinct' that seems to have no formal entrance or exit. On the plus side they have produced town maps with all the shops on, sorted by type, so I could find all the charity shops they had. ;-) A few more books (including two Robertson Davies ones I don't think I already have), and in one marvellously random hospice shop, a box of magnetic poetry words for a pound, which are ideal for back bulkheads:

Oh - favourite interchange of the day was with a bunch of [older] cyclists at a bridge watching me work through a lock, while a couple worked their boat through the parallel onem the man on the boat, the woman up top. A bearded guy in his fifties says 'you need a woman with you to do all the work, like they do'. I looked at him - not actually over my glasses, but I should have done - and said 'my boyfriend couldn't make this trip'. They scuttled away as quickly as they could, leaving me with a big grin on my face...

ALl I knew about Middlewich, bar it being a junction, was that the boat hire place had a boat stolen - 'Holly' last year - the thief (who ended up with a suspended sentence) disguised it with a paint job and changed the interior, but it was nice to spot it on the canal:

I got into Middlewich latish again after a fairly dull run alongside a main road, then down a lock into the junction and straight back up one again, and moored up for the night. Gardens come down to the canal on the other side, and chatted to Nick & Sue across the canal, who have a 32' wide garden and are looking for a 30' steel boat to buy... not selling yet. Not for a while yet. ;-)

Phil tells me the IWA festival is at Autherley junction in Wolverhampton at the end of the month... I'll be passing through, and could be pretty close in timing, too, but like a lot of things this summer, time & place often don't line up. Partially depends on when they want me back at work...

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

belief in...

On Sunday morning I was back at the boat, and chatted to new arrivals Nick and Jackie on Gloriana - Jacquie wanted to go straight into town to find a Quaker meeting, I was on my way back in anyway so we walked in until we found a local to give directions. Interesting conversation, about religion, how we come together to celebrate religion, also gender balances. This I thought about for a while - my acquaintance with druidry (a very ethical, moral approach to life, no prescribed deities or dogma) has been leading me to think about spirituality/community within in, what for me is an atheist basis - and it works, it does. I've long thought that religious teachings can be taken as models, analysises and metaphors for a way to behave, which mainly all come down to 'let's be nice to each other, guys' - which I think is actually a Douglas Adams quotation. I've also been thinking about how religions treat gender - mainly preferentially to the male - after a discussion at Climate Camp, too - that tends to be tied up in history & dogma, though - thankfully druidry, and as it turns out Quakerism, is a very equal thing, working with the individual rather than the label. It is 2008, after all.

With all this in mind I walked into Cheddleton Church - I'm always fascinated by how much churches make me feel - and it's generally very little. Moved by the passion to build in the first place, moved in this case by all the colourful individual kneeler cushions (they really gave a warmth, a welcome to the place), but moved by the presence of people, not the holy spirit. As I experienced in a church in Kerala some years ago, I'm often jealous of those who have a strong, all-encompassing faith in something other - I'm left with a faith in my fellow humans, and to be honest I struggle with that, even on the canals. As I said in a conversation at a lock recently - 'it's a pretty much white middle class hobby (sad but true), but some of us read the Guardian and some of us read the Daily Mail'. ;-)

So yes, anyway, internal travelling as well as physical. A good time to mention friend (and artist, writer, teacher) Dierdre who is travelling in south America at the moment (without baggage, in various ways), and blogging it too. My trip is different, but in no way lesser or greater - just different. Each to ability & need. It's not a bad way to see life.

Stockton Brook to Rode Heath Tues 12th Aug

Rain & lethargy meant a fairly slow ten thirty start, through the boring bit of the Caldon again (and once again did one lift bridge solo, the other with offered help) and back to the Trent & Mersey. Filled up with diesel at the Black Prince boat hire base at festival Park, Stoke (36l in tank, 10l in cans, I'd put the remaining spare 5l in earlier in the morning). While moored there, a storm broke with thunder and an impressive hail storm; I set off again once I'd got waterproofs on as I wanted to make it to the Harecastle tunnel before four (passage guaranteed as long as you get there by then). The sun came out as quickly as the rain had started.

I didn't have much time to wait at Harecastle; David the BW lockeeper had been an electrician, gave it all up when there were more regulations & tests than anything else, and ended up looking after one end of a canal tunnel; not bad. It's narrow, so one way; they put a batch of boats in, then shut the doors (quite ominous) and pull air through with a big fan, which is quite odd. I played a bit more bad accordion in the tunnel, which the people in the boat behind me heard, surprising over the engine noise. Took me 34 mins, which the far end lockeeper said was fine; it's even harder to judge speed in a tunnel than out in the open air.

After the tunnel there's the junction with the Macclesfield canal & the north; then it's locks, locks and more locks. I managed two flights, and moored up at Rode Heath, which may be called Thurlwood, I'm not sure. On the way down met a kayak-er called Andrew who'd left from Manchester and was heading down to his daughter's in Worcester; my comment about him going 'the long way round' went unremarked, but I met him again on the way back when he admitted he'd meant to head south east towards the tunnel, not north west... interesting chap, though, was carrying camping gear, his kayak had a trolley to haul it past the locks, but they did seem nearly as much of a procedure as if on a boat. They're so much easier on a bike, I recall. ;-)

Without a drop touching my lips, I managed to get cheap white wine in my laptop keyboard, and it started playing up... me being me I removed it from the machine, lit the the stove and hung it up to dry. After a pint in the Bourton Arms (quiz night, I should have gone to the other one) I reinstalled it... working so far, but there may be long term effects. Oh well.

Llangollen is very much within reach now; I did here today that traffic is actually pretty quiet. I guess that canal boat hire - an expensive luxury - is an easily dropped expense. Good for me, less good for the hire boat companies...

Monday, 11 August 2008

11th Aug - Froghall to Stockton Brook

Ah, the lovely Caldon canal - some sections on the hillside way above the river are too narrow for boats to pass; I sound my horn and take them slowly, but didn't meet anyone anyway...

I filled up with water at Consall Forge, by the weir; normally water points are woefully low in pressure, this one you could use as a pressure washer, and of course I got soaked; at full the hose wouldn't even stay in the filler hole, leading to comedy hose wrestling exploits.

I'd promised myself a wander around Cheddleton, so moored up after the locks, and even managed to take a few black and white film pics of the flint mill, and explored the village a little - you can have a filling or buy a jacuzzi, even some stamps, but not buy a newspaper or food. We're only a few miles from Stoke on Trent, but capitalism strikes again.

On through the afternoon, and even doing the Stockton Brook flight in the evening again (even seeing the same couple walking through). The pound between locks 7 & 8 was low again; possibly not even entirely the fault of the hire boat crew coming up who didn't seem to know which order & when to open paddles (who also tried to close the lock gates I'd just opened as I cruised towards it. They seemed to be having fun, mind.

Moored up just below the last lock with an inspiring view, ready for a trip through Stoke tomorrow. Less inspiring was the fresh dogshit left behind by a few locals & pets in the few minutes it took for me to walk back to the lock and close the gates - I'm sure there has to be a country somewhere in which it's lucky.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Sun 10th Aug - Leek to Froghall

it rained most of the morning, but I made it out to the car boot (as documented) and to get more diesel (5l in tank, 5l in reserve) from the garage. The fuel gauge is now a lot more healthy than an extra 15L should have contributed - it's even more non linear than I thought, but still better than nothing.

Around midday it cleared enough to make it worth leaving (although I would have done by that point anyway, I think), back down the Leek branch, down the three locks and under the Leek branch towards Froghall. It's a lovely run on the canal, another steam railway competing with space (a station platform is on a ledge about the canal at one point - very close to where i nearly lost my chimney on a low bridge.

Very close to the end of the canal there's another tunnel, this one subject to historical subsidence and very low in the middle, passable to some boats but not others. At the last lock there's a profile gauge;

It's actually the new box handrails that met each edge, even with the chimney & boiler flue removed; I reckon if I'd removed (ideally moved) the headlight I may have made it through, but it didn't seem worth the risk (although the water point was on the other side, and I was dangerously low). So at least I've proved myself as a non-obsessive-completist, or possibly just a wimp.

I turned just before the tunnel mouth, moored and went for a wander, then cooked dinner, and ate out on the front deck.


Car Boot Sale Report

One undoubted advantage of having access to the internet is finding local events - specifically car boot sales (although I should try to do it with folk clubs too, but that would involve some kind of planning ahead on my part). So there I was, 9am, in the drizzle... quite a good haul, though, and have added to the menagerie of instruments on the boat (none of which are worth anything, if there's boat burgulars reading this). The new item is the tiny blue accordion; quite a handy beast, actually, 12 bass and 22 treble notes (not quite the ful two octaves, frustratingly). I'd been thinking abotu bringing one and hadn't, and this one is quite playable. I do wonder if anyone else has driven a canal boat along the Caldon Canal whilst playing 'Theives like us' by New Order on the accordion...

The guitar & mandolin also both came from car boot sales, I realise, the guitar isn't bad sounding (and a bargain at £8 a couple of years ago), the mandolin was £25 and is very beaten up, but also very old, possibly a century's worth. I've noodled occasionally, but I really should do some blasted recording, or learen some new tunes, or something...

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Leek Pub Report

It was Saturday night, after all...

First Stop was the 'Quiet Woman', which turned out to ber a fairly default modernised pub. The pub sign has a headless woman on it, but the landlord had 'no idea' of the real origins of the name - the current building is victorian. He's heard stories that it might come from a woman who was killed by the round table for telling their secrets, but doesdn't belive them., They had a covers duo - 'Red hot and Blue' who knocked out a fair range of songs - , Sunday Afternoon, Midnight Hour, Man in the Moon, all sorts- vocals, guitar & backing CD.

Next pint in the Wilkes Arms, a Proper Real Ale pub. Being vegetarian I get a pint of lager if I'm lucky, but it doesn't stop me liking real ale pubs - nice vibe, barstaff (dreadlocks & musician respectively) and jukebox (Freebird, then something by Hendrix). I would have stayed for another...

...had I not spotted a band (Bak A Gen - possible worst band name ever, I did wonder if they were a Genesis tribute band after seeing that) loading in to The Unicorn earlier. So third pint was with 60s/70s rock covers - more Kinks, of course, lots more R&B stuff. A tight three piece, both live acts reminded me of the fun of playing gigs with a band, and also how much better a musician I'd have to be to be able to do that. I've my niche, though, that's OK. A chat with the bassist/vocalist and he also plays mandolin in a folk band... there's definitely some connection about those upside down strings.

So sorry Phil, no detailed beer report, the best I can say is that the Grolsch was OK and the Stella (as usual) generally rank. But a fun night out, nevertheless...

Aug 9th - Stockton Brook to Leek (in the rain)

I managed a walk around Stockton Brook before the rain kicked in, apparently the
railway only closed eight years ago (according to a local, although wikipedia says the station itself closed in 1956) - the track is still there, even, albeit very overgrown. I had hoped to walked along the track through the village, so whilst I got up on to the track from the canal easily enough, the only existing tiny path being away from the village. If it was used for goods until recently they may be keeping it for possible reopening, but it's a shame the village ignore it rather than opening it up as a village footpath.

Once back I drank some tea, drank some more tea and decided that I wasn't going to bother to wait for the rain to stop before I left, and it didn't until well after I reached Leek, or rather a quiet little canal terminus just behind an industrial estate in Leek, which swallowed up the last half mile into town as soon as it could. It's marvellously contradictory, it feels like I'm in the middle of nowhere on the canal and yet a mile away there's a town centre and all that goes with it. I think I quite like it, although I could do without the desolate industrial estate route.

There's no boatyards for diesel on the Caldon, not that I can find; I bought 10L in Morrisons garage at 50% more than canal price, as things are looking a little low - I really should have stocked up when I could, or rather I really should have checked...

It's stopped raining for a bit. Time to go and look at Leek's nightlife... (quiter pubs have been recommended include 'The Quiet Woman' - I have fears about the story behind that one in sexual politics terms. ;-)

Friday, 8 August 2008

Fri 8th Aug - Barlaston to Stockton Brook

A lateish start (10am) and a definitely late finish (8pm). Did the run up & through Stoke; I had planned to stop once on the Caldon (and through my first ever staircase locks) for a wander around Hanley, but found nowhere good to stop - well, I did, but the towpath was closed for reconstruction, so I wouldn't have been able to get out if I had...

On the way into Stoke I spotted a boatyard that wasn't shy about diversification:

'Tacle [sic] & Bait Air Guns Boats & Engines Country & Western Line Dancing'

The Caldon winds out of the Stoke area - another shallow, slow canal, but lots of corners you have no idea what's around... hero had been one lock ahead of me on the way up to Etruria & the first few locks, but they waved me past later, struggling with draft. Not only is it shallow anyway, but appears to be low anyway - one pound between locks was very low, I filled it a few inches after leaving the lock and grounding as I pulled in to do the next one.

I'd been warned about the lift bridges - one walking couple offered to do one for me, but the next was down to me. They're hydraulic ones operated with a windlass, so not counterbalanced well enough to be lifted by heand and held up with a pole. Instead I took the boat close, crossed & lifted, and pulled the boat past by hand. Worked on this one, but may not always.

Tomorrow - up to Leek (somewhere that has to be visited, not least from childhood railway reading about the Leek & Manifold Railway), then back down towards Froghall, the end of the canal. There's some respectable contour lines on the map, I'm looking forward to them a lot.

Thursday, 7 August 2008


The Plume of Feathers in Barlaston is nowhere near as good as it's Weedon namesake - I fancied a quiet read, but in the pub; the lounge bar was closed, and the public bar was full of shouting, aided & abetted by jukebox, tv and quiz machine all blasting away. Certainly not the place to be reading 'Pip Pip' by Jay Griffiths, an extraordinary book that throws so many ideas & facts at you it itself can go at quite a frenetic pace...

It threw up the perfect concept, though. Along with Chronos, the greeks had Kairos (Choas?) - things happen when they should, you eat when you're hungry, and time goes slowly or quickly depending on what you're doing. Hence kairological time, which is very much where I'm living now (I suspect closely aligned to Pagan Mean Time) - canals, festivals and friends. I'm well away from chronological time, which governs my job, employment - from the nanosecond timing of colour subcarrier to timecode in hours, minutes, frames, to the count in to a live show. It's a fairly fundamental (and possibly obvious) part of a holiday, or travelling (at your own will), but I haven't seen it quite so well crystallised before. I've been told of another book by Jay Griffiths too, which I'll certainly be looking for at some point.

Thursday 7th Aug - Stone to Barlaston

This is the view out of the window - therw's a very picturesque field opposite, the bank has brokenm down either side of the tree and it's a general hangout for geese & ducks. With the main line to Stoke & Manchester a field away (which I myself used earlier) it may not be the quietest of nights/mornings...

I left London late lunchtime, thankfully didn't have to wait too long for the hourly bus to Stone, and was here in time to buy veg & perishables in the supermarket and an 8' pole in the chandlers to attempt to prop open lift bridges. I realise I could have brought along a spare 8' length of 2x2 timber I know I have at home, but wouldn't have been entirely practical... ;-)

Looks like there's more traffic around now than a couple of weeks ago - useful as there's more chance a boat will be coming out of a lock I want to go in to, but also more chance I'll see an empty lock be hurriedly filled as I approach it, as happened on the Meaford flight this evening. I'll assume they didn't look.

It's great to be back on the canal again - been away for a couple of weeks for guests, a festival and a couple of days at Climate Camp (welsh policemen friendliest, indeed nmost likely to treat you as a human being). Yes, leaving that early to get back to a diesel engine was kind of incongruous, but so was the extra driving involved by a very generous friend to get my pedal powered PA kit to the festival. In the latter case I tried (and failed) to get a lift with someone doing the same journey anyway, but I can't control whether people volunteer or not. Anyway, I digress... I'll be comparing CO2 emissions from the trip this summer to a flight, when I'm done, could be interesting.

Tomorrow - Stoke, I'll be trying to find some hidden beauty in there somewhere. Perhaps Etruria has an ancient meaning, but it sounds so much more appealing... I should be out the other side on the Caldon by the evening, anyway.

(this post brought to you by new web gadget. Turns out you get 3Gb on it to start with anyway - I'm still having fun & games woith setting up, after have to borrow a PC to get the text message on the SIM with the web password on, I find that for some reason the only website I can't get at when connected is the 'my 3' one that tells me how much data allowance I have left.)