Saturday, 31 August 2013

Ottery St Mary*

* not really, although this might help a little, although only if you don't watch the pictures, which will confuse you even more. We were at the recording of this show - it is a shame that this clip doesn't include Roger Allam singing 'magnificent men in their flying machines. Here's the script of the whole thing, but of course still doesn't include singing. The title, though, does refer to what Carrie called the place when we were planning the trip. Anyway...

We didn't go to Devon, we went to the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey. Once a dairy farm, it's been turned into a kind of zoo/educational centre - it is closed to the general public school term time, concentrating on school visits and special bookings, including photography days.

I have misgivings about zoos, but this seems a reasonable compromise between animal welfare & allowing us to get closer to animals that, whilst native, we rarely - if ever see otherwise. Most of the animals are, if not tame, used to people being around, but seem to be handled minimally, as far as I could see, at least. Most animals have 'keeper talks' that include a bit of feeding, ensuring the animals come out of hiding - with very impressive body clocks, the deer came over on the dot of 12.30 for their feeding, even though the keeper was actually a little late.

It was a real privilege to see otters & badgers especially, fairly close up, and be able to take photos - more of which follow after the 'read more', and a bonus otter video. We got there at lunchtime and could have done with more time - we barely looked at the birds and snakes (not in the same enclosure) at all. Recommended to all, especially those with granddaughters and new zoom lenses ;-)

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Names & numbers only

In a determined bid for blog obscurity, I'm following up a commentless post with an equally tedious one...

We met the (same?) boat spotting guy again, this time on Tortoise, and I had a better look at the book, remembering the publisher, so if anyone wants a spiral bound book containing only boat reg numbers & names, you can buy one from ST Publications here (note the excited observation that some boats have names derived from railways...).

I much prefer the extra detail the Jim Shead site provides.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Canadian Canoe

No, I'm not still lurking at the end of the Wendover, I'm just making the most of it, blog-wise...

Whilst there, though, an amazing two-seater open canoe arrived. A lovely, hand-made beast, built in about five months by Phil from plans from Bear Mountain Boats, a Bob's Special.

It is made from individual strips of wood laminated together - can't recall what, although he did say some of the edging was from old school desks, and then protected with a virtually invisible glass fibre layer. Light enough to be lifted on & off a car roof by one person. it's difficult to contemplate the patience and accuray required to build this.

here's Phil & Neil, about to head off again...

I'd never been sure of the distinction between canoe & kayak, and I was told that canoes have single ended paddles, and kayaks double... not sure if that's the whole story, but it's a start.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Wendover arm by night

The basin at the end of the Wendover Arm is as good a place as any to watch shooting stars, in the south east, anyway. Daytime too, there's various small birds* diving in the water for fish, must more satisfying to watch than the omnipresent human fish-torturers, certainly.

I had hoped to lie on the roof, but an earlier shower (when I was walking back from the reservoir, of course) left it wet and unwelcoming. Also, me being me, a tripod & decent camera weren't to hand; I didn't get any meteorite pictures, but did turn the camera around a little (Perseids meteor shower from the east, as any fule geek knows) to take a badly composed picture of the plough:

* terns, apparently

Monday, 12 August 2013

Locks & stuff

I must admit the thirty locks from Watford up to Cowroast aren't my favourite stretch - perhaps familiarity breeds contempt, or it is just the boring bit to get past before the nice bits start. Pleasant enough, obviously, but the state of the locks don't help.

Many of the locks have to be left empty, presumably due to the perilous state of the bottom gates - I'd worry if it was a barn door let alone something that's supposed to be holding back all that water. I don't see them being replaced in a hurry, either; a lot of the signs still have BW, not CRT on them.

Anyway, a genuine question; if old wooden boats are best preserved sunk, surely these gates would be better off wet? I assume that the leakiness of the lock gates takes precedence, and also the possible consequences of a gate failure - but I guess the top gates last a lot longer, due to always having water on at least one side (and also being shorter, I suppose.

Anyway, the general loveliness of the Tring cutting & Wendover arm more than make up for the tedious locking (and probably make the latter seem worse, in contrast).

Anyway - at Cowroast (now run by a friendly bloke called Darron) I got two new Yuasa batteries, and this morning I fitted a 50W solar panel - should hopefully last a while...