Saturday, 28 April 2012

I see a red floor and I want it painted black.

Now that the sap is rising, as you can tell from the blogs, I am finally getting round to completing some of the jobs that should have been done during the winter months when the hold was clothed up, had it not been for the broken leg.  One job that I am desperate to get done is re painting the inside of the hull and bottoms, re-black the shuts and get all the running gear red oxided, but as you all know the weather for the last fortnight has not really been suited for painting, in fact the weather has not been suitable for anything, apart from filling the cut up.  I know that traditionally and I think probably about 99% of all steel ex working boat owners red oxide or red lead(well the equivalent) both the inside of the sides and bottom of the hold.  The ‘weather conditions’ under working boats shuts are not ideal for the upkeep of painted surfaces and certainly red oxide paint doesn’t last, in fact, within 12 months of painting, rust spots usually start to appear.  This has always been the case and back in the 1970’s when I owned the large Woolwich butty Bingley, it became quite popular amongst the crowd of working boat owners that I mainly associated with to treat the bottoms differently.  It was discovered that by applying a coat of good quality bitumastic paint to the bottoms they would last a lot longer between repaints and were not affected so much by the damp conditions.  Bitumastic paint never actually ‘going off’ and remaining flexible.  The same treatment was given to the lower half of the footings showing about 6” above the shuts as can clearly be seen in this 1972 photo of my mom and me dog on Bingley.

And so, between the showers over the last week or so, I have made a start, having red-oxided all the panels on one side and about a quarter on the other, along with about four of the bottoms blacked.

As I said, the conditions under wooden shuts are not ideal and under Darley’s were no exception, to say that it has only been just over a year ago that she had a complete new bottom which was freshly oxided.  And so I set about them with an old plane blade as a scraper and a wire brush and without too much hard work all the rust spots have been removed and a generous coat of black bitumastic paint applied.  The knees, however were a different story for although they had been red oxided at the same time as the new bottom,  the old rust/scale etc had not been removed first, simply painted over and si these have been set about with a chipping hammer and all offending scale scabs removed before receiving the same blacking treatment.

These were completed last week and since then it aint stopped dry long enough for me to do any more, but I’m sure over the next couple of weeks we will have some nice sunny or dry days and I can get it completed.

As the weather has been quite dry today I have been down the boat and completed some more, another three bottom panels chipped, wire brushed and blacked, four more sides red oxided and three shuts re painted with Creosote mixed with bituastic paint. 
Finally the plan is coming together, and it needs to as the boat gatherings season fast approaches with our first show at Etruria only about five weeks away so we need some more days like today if I am going to get on with the jobs.  So till next time, when I hope this drought ends! As always.
Don’t bang ‘em about

Thursday, 26 April 2012

It’s a safe life on the cut

As a result of yesterday’s posting, I thought it apt to post the following which is an account of a trip down to Wendover to bring boats back.  I had posted this before elsewhere but I just thought it worth re-posting here.

With the start of the collapse of the Braunston based Willow Wren Canal Carrying Company in 1966 many of the craft, which they had had on hire from British Waterways, were repossessed by BWB for after many years of hard work, some were in a very poor condition.  At this point they were taken into Braunston reservoir for storage and to await disposal.  During their stay here their condition further deteriorated by having almost anything that was loose --doors, hatches, planks, stands, masts etc., etc. removed by third parties.  Until such time as BWB made a decision to have all the boats removed and transferred to the Wendover arm at Tring near Watford to be sold off by tender.
The successful purchase of three of these craft by friends of mine-- Battersea, a large Woolwich motor boat,    (with half a Petter engine) Hyades, a small Woolwich butty and Carina, a small Northwich butty, resulted in me spending nearly a month of my school holidays on the Grand Union Canal.  Traveling down to Tring on a single motor, staying aboard alone on the Wendover arm for the two weeks prior to removal, so as to ensure nothing else was removed, in fact also to purloin anything else that happened to be lying around!
The purchase of these boats brought about other new experiences for me ‘deep water’ ‘wide locks.’  In fact most of the ‘day boating’ techniques I had so far mastered now no longer applied for I was now in places I had only read about such as ‘Cow Roast’ and ‘the dreaded steps to heaven‘ Hatton 21, all of which soon became ‘every day’ for as have already mentioned, I was keen to learn and I was boating with ‘hard taskmasters’ who insisted on things being done ‘to the book’ except there wasn’t a book!.

I had arranged to meet for the trip down to Tring by Fishers Bridge in Oldbury and so by 4.00pm on the Friday all was ready.  So we set off three handed (well two adults and me a 9 stone wimp) on a single motor for the 150 mile journey.  In fact according to Bradshaw’s 151miles and 152 locks all to be completed that weekend for both Cliff and Clive had to be back at work by Monday.   I often smile to myself now when I read of cruising guides which talk of ‘out and back’ trips or ‘such and such rings giving time scales in WEEKS--and complete it we did, arriving at Tring by tea time on the Sunday--now that’s boating!
In the main the trip down went off without any ‘major events’, apart from taking great delight in stopping the traffic to open the many swing and lift bridges south of Kings Norton.  It was in the middle of the night and pitch black when we arrived at the top of Hatton and a decision was made to stop long enough to have something to eat and drink.  We tied up and stopped the engine, silence descended and I walked 100 yards down to the top lock to take a look at the view in the half light. I sat for a moment on the end of the balance beam and soon fell fast asleep.  “Blossom --tea” The call woke me and I returned to the warmth of the back cabin to swill down the cheese and onion crusty cobs with a huge mug of strong sweet tea----proper food!
No sooner had the three of us finished our food and drinks we felt the boat start to move from the forward swill of an oncoming boat. Cliff arose from his perch on the cabin step and standing on the coal box, poked his head out of the hatches. In the distance could be seen the feint glow of a boats headlight and in the silence could be heard the engine ‘hammering on ahead’. As the boat got nearer we could see it was another single motor so the engine was fired up in readiness. When the boat finally pulled into the now open lock friendly greetings were exchanged as it was ‘Brummagem motor boat’ the Otley, a large Northwich motor operated by its owners, Doug and Jane Greaves along with their Woolwich butty ‘Bodmin.’  They were also on their way down to Tring to fetch motor boats ‘Beaulieu’ and the ‘Aquarius’ back for Glynn and Rose Phillips.--
This chance encounter with Otley made the work down Hatton a lot easier with six of us to work the breasted motors through.  In the last lock the boats were un breasted in preparation for singling out and as the water levels equalled, with both Doug and this other guy pushing on their gate they opened their side first.  As soon as it was open Jane opened up the motor and filled the chamber with smoke and rattled off at a ‘right old pace’ while I was still struggling with my gate. As he jumped onto the rapidly disappearing motor Doug turned and with a wry smile shouted “see ya down there “ One thing I learnt over the years was that Doug hammered everywhere and always had to be in front.

When we finally arrived at Tring the motor was winded at the junction and reversed up the arm to the start of the moored craft.  Cliff and Clive walked down to Tring to catch the train back to the midlands, I, on the other hand collapsed into the bed ’ole with exhaustion.
Next morning I awoke and after a cup of tea, (I was still dressed from the previous day/s) emerged from the cabin to start the chores I had been set. That was to get the three boats we had come to collect down the arm ready for the return journey.  This was going to prove harder than I first thought as boats were moored from bank to bank as far as the eye could see.  I had never seen so many proper boats in one place before, except perhaps for the first time I went by boat to Coombs Wood Tube Works on the Dudley No 2 canal where there were hundreds of open day boats of all descriptions being used to move and store tubes about the works.
The first week at Wendover was spent shuffling boats around trying to release the three I was after.  It was a bit like playing a giant version of that game where you have a board containing many moving squares on with a picture on the face of the squares when you have them in the right order with one empty space and all the other squares are juggled around! The next weekend I met up with another chap who had come down to fetch boats back.  He was a large, deep voiced, fiery red haired captain with the Anderton Company called Georgy Page, who I had met about a year earlier delivering piles to the BWB workshops at Norbury aboard the motor boat ‘Grenville’ but more of that later.  During the second week he showed me how to ‘sort ‘em out’ armed with no more than a cabin shaft.
As Tring reservoirs are pumped into the canal at the end of the arm there is a continuous, quite fast current which flows back to the main canal so “Those you don’t want just untie them and let ‘em go.”  This I suppose was logical as all the boats would eventually have to be taken back to the junction! And so it was that between us, over the next few days both his and my boats were moved down the line of boats in the arm and tied up together at the start of the queue.  From here I could keep an eye on them and be ready for Cliff and Clive’s arrival on Friday to start the return journey. I only left the boats once the whole time and that was one evening to find a pub to get cigarettes for all the time I was there an almost continuous stream of people arrived day by day removing what little was left of value, so I hate to think what would have happened to the full complement of running gear all three boats in my care had!!! (plus a few spares even.)
I had everything prepared for our departure just as Cliff had told me with the two motors breasted first and the two butties breasted up behind.  That is until the arrival of Glynn Phillips on the Friday morning.  He took over the situation saying it would be a good idea to get all the boats (including his of cause) down the arm to the junction.  Although I tried to say that Cliff had given me exacting instructions as what to do it made no difference.  With Glynn being an adult I had no say in the matter and he proceeded to start the motor up untie her and reverse into the remaining boats and fix ropes to both Aquarius and Beaulieu and extract them from the huddle.  By this time I had untied all three of our boats and fixed a line from Battersea’s stern to the bows of the Hyades. I went and stood on the bows of the Battersea as Glynn approached with the RN going ‘full chat.’  As the back end of Aquarius came past me I dropped a turn over the rear stud and off we lurched.  I immediately jumped down into the hold of Battersea and ran the full length of her hold ducking under straining chains and stretchers on the way, then climbed out at the back end.  Round the cabin and onto the counter, from where I jumped up onto the bows of the Hyades and repeated the monkey run all the way to the back end of Hyades.   All this was performed at breakneck speed and without a safety net and with Glynn now heading off at full belt resulting in me getting to the back end of Hyades just as we were passing the back end of Carina.  I just about made the jump across to Carina with only a cabin string in my hand, between the rapidly separating butties. I knew that if I just threw turns around the dolly the string would snap like cotton so, at full speed I tried to let a single turn slip and gradually take up the strain.  Unfortunately for me I was unable to stop the rope slipping and instead of letting go I held on and my hand went round the stud causing severe pain as well as abrasions. As I ran out of rope I finished off by dropping the spliced end loop over the stud and thinking ‘F**k it’ if it breaks it breaks.  And so our train of six boats headed off closely strapped together down the arm with the last butty on about a 20 foot line and me nursing a very sore hand.  All went well until we came to the 90-degree turn in front of the flourmill. All boats played following my leader in the footsteps of the previous tow, that is except the last butty which I was on.  As she hit the turn, the 20 foot tow line meant she just carried on in a straight line towards the blue brick edging of the canal while the rest of the tow headed off at right angles and the pull was now sideward.  Carina heeled over then there was an almighty snap as the tow gave way.  Completely out of control and unable to do anything, I just held on ready for the bang as we hit the mill wall directly in front of us.   It was at this point that I realised that the mains electrical supply for this flourmill ran along the outside of the walls on the edge of the building and canal in cables as thick as my leg.  As Carina’s stern post hit the wall it trapped one of these cables I remember hearing a bang and seeing a bright flash.  This was followed by all the lights inside the buildings going out and the sound of heavy machinery winding down.  Obviously we had blown the lot and I for one was not going to hang about to face the consequences.  And so I ran to the bows of the butty, which were now against the towpath side, and jumped ship.  Running the 100 yards to the next bridge I jumped onto the back end of the last butty thinking “I’ll go back for it after when it’s drifted down the arm a bit further! 
On arrival at the junction with the boats, Cliff and Clive who had just walked up from Tring station greeted us with cheery smiles as they came round the corner from the main line.  Cliff smiles soon disappeared as he took stock of the scene.  He was absolutely livid and his anger was directed at me when he saw that Carina was not there.  I tried to explain the events and how I had tried to tell Glynn but all to no avail as now he had become volcanic as he realised that he would have to reverse the motor all the way back up the arm to fetch Carina.  By the time Cliff returned, Doug had arrived from Bulbourne yard with Otley and their two boats had gone which made matters even worse as it meant we now had to follow their ‘bad road’ all the way back.

The return trip back to the Midlands was more of a leisurely affair with six of us working the two pairs back over the next fortnight.  In fact with Clive’s wife Pat ensuring that we all ate properly (and washed!) things could not have been better. Mind you it was hard going when we got to locks where we had to bow haul the two butties through.  One thing of interest worth noting as well which we found out when working the two motors breasted towing the two butties I think around the Stockton area. As we passed the Blue Lias pub we found out that you cannot get two empty Grand Union bows through the bridge whilst breasted up. We tried, and there was such a clatter as the boats bashed into the brickwork of the bridge, only to be bashed moments later by the following butties.  All this in the dark too for it was about 10.00pm at the time.  In fact, it caused such a clatter that the landlord of the pub came out to see what was up.  By this time we had decided to call it a day and were set about mooring up outside the pub.  A quick scrub up and we were all in the pub enjoying a pint and a trusty cheese and onion crusty cob.  One thing of note about the pub that I remember was the landlord had what I can only describe as a Biggles type RAF moustache and smoked cigarettes in a short bamboo cigarette holder and spoke just like on the old films.  The room we sat in had walls that were adorned with pictures of old bi-planes and flying ‘things’ and just before closing time the gaffer came over and asked “would any of you gentlemen require further liquid refreshment before I close up”.  So a final round of drinks were ordered, after which he came over and asked if we should be requiring any bread, milk, eggs etc. in the morning before we left.  But we explained we would be off very early in the morning.
For most of the return journey, Pat all but mothered me all the way back as I ‘was onny a babby’ and the men used to pick on me ‘making me work too hard’.  A lot of the time on the way back was spent in the well of the butty Hyades gas bagging with Pat.  I had all the time in the world to observe the goings on at various points of our journey which up until now I had only read about, passing pairs running coal to the ‘Jam ‘ole’ for Blue Line.  The ‘Bray’s, on Roger and Raymond I remember thinking how big Ma’ Bray appeared in the hatches of the butty as we passed, the immaculate Ian and Lucy in the charge of the Whitlocks, even their cloths were scrubbed almost white!  We laced our way through the remainder of the Willow Wren fleet tied up at Braunston with pairs lining both sides of the canal.  We stopped here for the night as I remember for the next morning Keith Steel sneaked onto one of the hire boats that was awaiting new customers for the week and had him a shower and a shave. Eventually we finally finished tied up at Worcester bar lock on the Saturday dinnertime.  From here everybody left, Keith Christie, who had left his car at Farmers Bridge, ran Pat and Clive back down to Wendover where they had left their land rover, while Keith Steel went off to New Street to catch a train back.  This left just Cliff and me and we went up Gas Street, over Broad Street to the ‘Tow Rope’ cafe for a ‘Truckers’ style all day fry up then back to the boats for the night.

By 10.00 am on the Sunday we were up and off ready for the four-hour trip back to Tipton along the New Main Line.  With the boats all close towed on cross straps and the canal as straight as a die for most of the way, there was no need for a steerer so I stayed on the backend of the motor boat with Cliff.  Half an hour into our morning trip, as we approached Rotten Park Road, we were greeted by a group of ‘ boys in blue’ on the towpath one of whom,  on seeing us approach, raced along the towpath towards us shouting.  Unable to hear anything above the engine exhaust, Cliff cupped a hand around his ear, pointed to the exhaust and shook his head.  The copper, in response to this gesture, stood almost to attention, raised one hand vertically with palm towards us and yelled “Stop”--Now Obviously not a sea faring fellow and not being informed that narrow boats are not fitted with breaks in fact a motor boat towing three others has virtually no ‘breaks or steering’ for that matter.  Straight away Cliff chucked the engine astern and the ‘caravan’ of boats zigzagged wildly across the width of the canal pushing us a further 100yards to finally halt just short of the main group of  ‘Brummagem Bobbies’.  Boats secured, we both wandered up to find out what was going down.
What appeared to be going on was a police Land rover had been backed up to the towpath, the rear of which was loaded with all sorts of oddments of rope, about half a dozen coppers were hurling a grappling hook, big enough to anchor the Titanic, three parts of the way across the cut, then retrieving it very slowly only to remove all sorts of scrap iron and rubbish.  “What have you lost?” Cliff asked of one of the officers who looked in charge. ”It’s all right” was the reply “It’s nothing to worry about” again Cliff asked “Is it a body?”  “No sir, it’s really nothing to worry about, we’ll try not to hold you up too long. If you’d like to go back to your barge” So we did, made a cup of tea and sat on the cabin top watching the carry on and discussing the possibilities of a body being spiked on one of the ‘prongs’ of this huge grapple!
After about an hour of further furtling and dredging, one of the ‘dredgers’ came over to us and enquired “excuse me sir, have you got a barge pole we could borrow?” “No” Cliff replied “but I do have a narrow boat shaft!”  Cliff disappeared into the hold and returned with a long shaft and asked again “what’s it for “  “Oh, we are just trying to find something that’s been thrown into the canal.  We followed him back to the group assembled on the towpath as they proceeded to furtle about in the channel  at the full length of the long shaft away, about 20foot away.  Again Cliff asked “If you told me what it was I might have some idea of how to get it out.”  The copper with all the ‘pips’ on his shoulders who appeared to be in charge came over, looked all round to ensure nobody was about to hear him, and whispered into Cliffs ear “Actually sir it’s a safe.”  Several thoughts sprang to mind:-
No 1 -- Safes are usually made of metal
No 2 --Metal safes are heavy.
No 3 --Heavy metal safes cannot be easily projected 25foot across to the middle of the canal
No 4 --Safes are usually dumped straight off the edge of the towpath from the back of van or lorry.
A quick prod about by the edge of the canal resulted in a metallic ‘clunk’.  “Blossom, go and get a keb” Returning with the ‘made for the job’ rake, Cliff soon managed to get a grip on one corner and move the safe.  Immediately a curtain of bubbles popped on the canals surface followed by a flotilla of invoices, cheques and other paper work (but no money Bah!) which were eagerly fished out by the ‘dredging crew’ and laid out on the copings to dry.  Eventually a rope was secured around the safe and with a combination of shaft, keb and rope the safe was hoisted clear of the water onto the towpath to reveal it had no back. Within minutes it was loaded into the rear of the police Land rover and the happy bunch of Bobbies ready to depart. Finally, the police chief turned to Cliff and said “Thank you very much for your assistance and I hope this will cover your delay” He had handed Cliff a fiver which within 2hours had been converted to liquid in the ‘Old Bush’ at the top of Factory Three.  All in all a very rewarding trip over the last month what with all the new skills like --thumb lining, breasting up, double locks, and  new friends like --Georgy Page, new territory like --The Grand Union and it’s double locks and lots of opportunities to:
bang 'em about

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Wendover Boats 1960’s -70’s

Although I have been down the aisle twice and in total have been married for forty years, I still don’t properly understand the female sex, in fact I don’t think any man really understands women.  I am however after all this exposure to them beginning to pick up on one or two things like when out shopping you hear “those cushions would look nice in our bedroom” really means “ get ready because you’re about to re-decorate the whole bedroom, paper, paint, curtains, carpets etc. etc.  or another example being “ I’ll have to get a new hat if we are going to soandso’s wedding/christening/birthday etc.” really means Get your wallet out boy cause I’m having a new dress, blouse, bra & knickers, coat/jumper/cardigan, shoes and handbag and all to match the new hat.  However I did not see this one coming.  For my birthday earlier this year, Dawn bought me a new computer with wireless keyboard and mouse and a lovely massive flat screen.  A week or so after my birthday I unpacked it all and set about setting it up.  My old computer had been on an a computer desk purchased from somewhere like PC world or Staples, as I put the monitor up on the desk, disaster!, it would not fit, it was too big.  I should have known------ “Don’t worry, we can call over to Ikea tomorrow night and get a new desk”  Not too bad I thought something cheap and cheerful but how wrong I was.  Four weeks later I am putting the finishing touches to our ‘new office. Worktops, cupboards, shelf units, bookcases, desk lamp as well as complete re-paint and rug, that will teach me……….Anyway as a result of this epic saga, I had to empty all my existing draws and cupboards of Junk, as Dawn calls it, and find space for it while the transformation took place.  I stacked all my bits and bobs into another cupboard in the spare bedroom and, as you do, I came across a file I had not looked into for years, in fact I had forgotten all about it.  It contained lots of more canal related ‘junk’ which I amused myself reading such as letters to and from British waterways,  Birmingham & Midland to purchase Linda (Victoria), News letters from the 1960’s – 70’s from Dudley Canal Preservation Society (Dudley Canal Trust) etc. etc. but one small note book took me eye which contained all sorts from the 1960’s newspaper cuttings about canals, a map I drew of Dudley tunnel and a hand written description, along with lots of notes about my purchase and restoration of Large Woolwich butty Bingley.  One thing that did amuse me was this.

When once I did receive confirmation that my bid for butty Bingley had been successful I went down to her to get her ready for bringing back.  This involved taking measurements of various bits that were missing like doors, slide, cross bed table cupboard etc,so I could make temporary ones for the trip.  As you can see from the scan of my notes it is simply a set of directions to get there (pre sat-nav days) nothing unusual there I hear you say but you have to remember I was only 18 at the time and still an apprentice, on apprentices wages and without transport, other than a push bike! And yes I did cycle there, a journey of 100 miles.  What the scanned note says is: 
Little Tring
Tring A41
Aylesbury A41
Bicester A41
Banbury A41
Warwick A41
Birmingham  B'ham New Road
Dudley Port

The rest is a list of things I took with me in an ex-army rucksack:
Pencils & paper
Parrafin & bottle
Samo's (Sandwiches)

 I set out at about six on the Saturday morning and got there at dinner time,  spent a few of hours on the boat bailing out about two foot of water, measuring up, cleaning out, and then, not willing to face the bike ride back, cycled down to Tring station and travelled back, with my bike in the guards van to Moor Street Station in Birmingham then cycled back home along the Birmingham new main line getting home at about ten in the evening, absolutely shattered.  Another page in this little gem was this one

This was a sketch I made of the boats and their positions up the Wendover Arm ready for the sale by tender in 1971.  And so to the purpose of this evenings blog,  I thought some of you may be interested in the full list of motors and butties that were sold by British Waterways on their 1968 and 1971 tenders.  In 1971 I paid £400 for Bingley (on average selling nowadays for 60 times that) which to me was a fortune and on the 1968 tender, motors Aldgate, Greenlaw, Stratford and my own darling Darley were all sold to Alfred Matty and Sons for £150 each! (on average selling for over 300 times that figure now)
1968 Wendover Sale
1 Aldgate                                           (Large Woolwich)
2 Aquarius                                         (Small Woolwich)
3 Ascot                                              (Large Woolwich)
4 Bainton                                            (Large Woolwich)
5 Baldock                                           (Large Woolwich)
6 Bargus                                             (Small Woolwich)
7 Barrow                                            (Large Woolwich)
8 Battersea                                       (Large Woolwich)
9 Beaulieu                                          (Large Woolwich)
10 Bicester                                        (Large Woolwich)
11 Birmingham                                   (Large Woolwich)
12 Bletchley                                       (Large Woolwich)
13 Bognor                                           (Large Woolwich)
14 Comet                                            (Large Woolwich)
15 Darley                                           (Large Woolwich)
16 Elstree                                          (Large Woolwich)
17 Greenlaw                                       (Large Woolwich)
18 Greenock                                       (Large Woolwich)
19  Hampstead                                  (Large Woolwich)
20 Nutfield                                       (Large Northwich)
21 Petrel                                            (Josher)
22 Renfrew                                        (Large Northwich)
23 Shirley                                          (Large Northwich)
24 Stirling                                         (Large Northwich)
25 Stratford                                     (Large Northwich)
26 Towcester                                    (Large Northwich)

1 Argo                                                (Small Woolwich)
2 Argus                                              (Small Woolwich)
3 Balham                                            (Large Woolwich)
4 Betelgeuse                                      (Small Woolwich)
5 Brighton                                          (Large Woolwich)
6 Carina                                              (Small Northwich
7 Hyades                                            (Small Woolwich)
8 Moon                                               (Small Woolwich)
9 Puppis                                              (Small Northwich)
10 Titania                                           (Small Woolwich)
11 Vela                                                (Small Woolwich)

1971 Wendover sale
1 Halsall                                             (Large Woolwich)
2 Tarporley                                        (Large Northwich)
3 Alton                                               (Large Woolwich)
4 Belfast                                            (Large Woolwich)
5 Sudbury                                          (Large Northwich)
6 Coleshill                                          (Large Woolwich)
7 Nuneaton                                        (Large Northwich)
8 Badsey                                            (Large Woolwich)

1 Satelite                                           (Small Woolwich)
2 Toucan                                            (Small Northwich)
3 Bingley                                            (Large Woolwich)
4 Baildon                                            (Large Woolwich)
5 Alperton                                         (Large Woolwich)
One other butty was on this sale but had no name on it and can’t even remember the type.  Well there you go another load of rubbish and one thing you can say about all these boats was that they had spent a long hard life when they were all shunted up the Wendover Arm and during that time they:
Had banged ‘em about

Monday, 23 April 2012

The Great Haywood Pier.

As I mentioned in the last blog,  We have made a start on the moorings.  One of the dangers of our mooring since we first moved here has been the poor condition of the decking  which obviously has been down for a good many years and was completely rotten, in fact it has been true to say that the only thing stopping you going through it has been the heavy duty rubber sheeting laid over the top spreading the load.  This can be clearly seen on The first two photos.
 The section to just in front of The engine ‘ole was repaired last summer with some timbers I had left over from making the new shuts and was laid over the top of the existing rotten boards.  It has been our intention to replace the whole lot ever since we moved here but our biggest problem has been sourcing reasonably priced second hand scaffolding battens.  I have been on the lookout for the last year but they have always been either too expensive or collection only and too far away, averaging between £6 & £12 each board and and we need over 100 boards!  As I had already said in the last post, Simon, who had borrowed some of my 3” x 2” supports, brought some old scaffold battens down to our mooring on the Sunday and Chris Shenton and myself had been talking about how we were going to re board the decking etc. He said he would probably pop down in the week and make a start and that we would need some 4” nails and some long cable ties to fix the bearers to the scaffolding under frame.  After work on the Tuesday I called into Wickes and purchased 100 plastic cable ties and 4 bulk boxes of 4” nails, then popped down the mooring to put them in Chris’ bow stank.  God bless him I say for when I got there I was greeted by ‘no decking.  He had already ripped out all the old decking and supports and stacked all the old rotten timber at the back of the mooring ready for recycling.
 The following Saturday (the 14th), we were both down the mooring quite early and we made a start sawing up the battens into 4‘0” lengths, By late afternoon we had sawed all the full length battens up and managed to produce 30 usable lengths which we loosely laid on top of the bearers that had been cable tied to the framework.  By this time it was 2.00pm and I had to leave as we were having the two granddaughters over this afternoon to take them to the circus.  I did not go down on the Monday but went down on the Tuesday after work and again to be met with all the boards we had cut on the Saturday, Chris had been down and laid and nailed them during The daytime.
 And so there you are, the first 25 foot of our new decking is down and solid and sheer luxury, just the ability to step on and off Darley without the fear of going through is brilliant.  We are now just waiting on Simon to come up with more battens and we can complete the Job.  So in future when we are returning to our mooring on Darley we won’t have to worry so much if we,
Bang it about.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Grand Staircase

On 31 May 1911, SS 401, Titanic,  slid down Slipway No. 3 at the Queen’s Yard of Harland & Wolff and settled on the waters of the Victoria Channel in Belfast Lough.  In her brief life she would be the largest vessel ever built.  Titanic had been built with some really super facilities and probably one of the finest was the Grand Staircases which were designed to be used only by first-class passengers. The fore Grand Staircase descended five levels down from the Boat Deck to the E Deck
On 29 January 1937 Harland & Wolff delivered the Large Woolwich motor boat Darley to its owners the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company.  I thought to myself “if Titanic can have a grand staircase then so can Darley” And so it is now that the rich and gifted (well Dawn & Bruce) can make their grand entrance, down into the hold.  For the last 12 months, since we bought Darley we have been using a 6 foot length of aluminium scaffold ladder to gain access to and from the hold which, to be honest was not the best means and so it was time for action.  The prompt came in the form of the required materials which turned up at the mooring.  On Sunday 8th April, Dawn and I went down to Darley to do some work, Dawn to clean back cabin etc. and me to start painting the hold.  When we got there we noticed that some of the 3”x2” timbers we had on the back of the mooring ready for when we replace the decking (more on that later) was missing.  To ensure no more disappeared, we loaded them into Darley’s hold and counted them.  On arrival back down the mooring the following Saturday, Chris Shenton, who moors next to us, came running down and explained that Simon, someone who moors higher up, had borrowed seven lengths of our timber on the understanding he was going to replace them.  Chris offered to take me up to him, introduce him to me so he could tell me himself.  On the way up to Simon’s mooring Chris explained that Simon owned a scaffold company and that he would probably get me some scaffold boards for our decking.  After a half hour chat we returned back down the mooring to Darley and sure enough Simon came down with his wagon and offloaded about 12 full length scaffolding battens, with the promise of more.  Brilliant I thought now I can make The Grand Staircase.  So I have spent the last three days/evenings dodging the rain and sawing, screwing and painting and here is the end result. 
New, extended back end boards and a new set of strong steps into the hold.  Next time I will blog about what the rest of the scaffold battens have been used for, so till then,
Don’t bang ‘em about,

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Gypsy Stew

I have probably moaned before about some of the drivel that Dawn watches on TV what with dancing on Ice, strictly come dancing, dancing with the stars, big brother, I’m in the jungle, dine with me, my big fat gypsy wedding  etc. etc.  But last month she was watching something about gypsy, Pat Doherty who had politician Sally Bercow live with him for two weeks as his wife.  The one thing I did find interesting about the program was that he had her cook him a traditional gypsy stew, Basically it was a stew made using a boiled bacon joint, and it looked really tasty so I thought I’ll have a go, and so I did, and the result was really nice and one I will be having on many more occasions.  I have had boiled bacon or a boiled gammon joint before on many occasions but have always lifted it out of its water, thrown that away then allowed the joint go cold before carving it for salads or sandwiches, but with this gypsy stew, the bacon joint is cooked in the stew so all those tasty juices, gelatine, salts etc. are cooked into the stew and not thrown away as usual.Both Dawn and I really enjoyed it so I thought I would share my version with you as it is so simple, cheap and easily cooked on a range.
Ingredients. (Enough for four)
1 gammon joint (whole)
1 small cabbage(roughly chopped)
2 medium onions (sliced n diced)
4 carrots (chunky chopped)
4 medium potatoes (chunky chopped)
Handful of Whitworth’s Soup & Broth Mix (split peas, pearl barley etc.)
Water (2 pints)
Black Pepper to taste
Throw everything in a large covered casserole dish and wack it in the range until the potatoes start to dissolve.  Add extra water as needed.

We cooked it at home in the oven and had it simmering for two days, but it was well worth the wait.
and as always, and especially if I have just eaten a couple of bowls of gypsy stew
don't bang me about.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Making a star sparkle.

Last November, when we took Darley up to Stone for the fireworks we moored just below Star Lock and as I reported in my blog Nightboating, fireworks & eating out  we did spend a little bit of time in The Star with friends Viv and Si off Monarch & Grimsby.  A conversation must have struck up at some time in the canal bar which probably went something like VIV “you know what you could do with in this canal bar, some canal decorations”  GAFFER “that would be good, do you know anybody who could do that?” VIV “yes we will” GAFFER “If you do I will close the canal bar for the day, supply you with drinks, and cook you a dinner”, and so the seed was set.  so it was then, that over the last couple of months, I have been busy painting all manner of things to include a Seat board, a GU butty table cupboard, two enamel jugs out of The Star cellar, some old uprights and much more, as well as other old canal paraphernalia such as windlasses, ribbon plates etc.  And that’s not including the stuff Viv & Si painted and brought including a GU butty tiller, a small button fender, jugs, a mirror, buckets etc.
Viv & Si turned up at 9.00am last Sunday and after a quick coffee we loaded everything into the back of Viv’s Volvo estate and we headed off to The Star.  We arrived at about 10.00am and after unloading everything into the canal bar was met by Jamie & Lindsey,

the gaffer and his missis, who greeted us with a “two pint of Hobgoblin is it then”  (a bit early in the morning for me but it would have been rude not to) and so the day rolled out hanging, screwing, drinking, painting, more drinking, splicing, picture hanging, more drinking etc. Etc. 

I did notice that the longer the day went on the slower the work rate became.  Don’t know if that was fatigue or alcohol!  By mid morning we had been joined by Paul Barber, boat builder and owner of big Northwich Whitby, and Viv’s upholsterer, wife & their daughter India. At about 12 00am, Jamie said it’s about time for dinner and disappeared to return minutes later with a huge lamb stew and huge rough cut bread noggins.  “Eat as much as you like there’s twice as much as this left.”  We all sat down and proceeded to devour this most beautiful lamb stew.  When we had all finished Jamie stated we could have a second lot later in the day.    So well fed and certainly getting well watered, we continued to dress the bar out with more hanging, screwing, drinking, painting, more drinking, splicing, picture hanging, more drinking etc. 

This continued until about  5.00pm when Jamie said are you ready for some more stew and disappeared into the kitchens, he returned minutes with a most apologetic look on his face “ The staff thought you had finished with the stew so I’m sorry but they ate it, there’s only a bit left!” We sat dawn to have another bowl only to find that what the staff had done was picked all the lamb out of it leaving just the broth and vedge.  Jamie offered India some chicken nuggets and viv said “can I have some please” 10 mins later Jamie  appeared with two very large trays of chicken wings, garlic bread, battered mushrooms and cheesy natchos.  Another feast for a king.  By 7.00pm, and many pints of Hobgoblin later, we were all finished both all the jobs and tired out

 and so we piled all our tools in the car, bid our farewells to Jamie and Lindsey and made our way home.  So, any of you out there reading this, if you find yourself  in Stone, please call in The Star and have a look at our handywork.  PS another trip up has been arranged for later in the year to put more stuff up, so till next time as always
Don’t bang ‘em about.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Herbaceous Borders

Well I’ve finally managed to get my first fix of the year, that’s the first time I’ve been boating since I broke my leg back in November last year, and what a cracking weekend we had.   Viv Scragg phoned Dawn in the week to see if we fancied going up to the Lamb & Flag in Little Haywood to see a band.  I suggested to Dawn that we take Darley out to Little Haywood and stop on her on Saturday night then bring her back on Sunday so we could both have a couple of drinks.  I went down to Darley on Saturday morning and lit the range to air the cabin out and I fired up the Petter and pumped the rain water out the hold as well as a few other jobs.  By two o’clock I was locking up and returning home ready for Dawn’s return from work.  A quick shower and a change into ‘going out’ clothes and we were both ready and so set off from home, stopping off in the town for fish and chips which we took with us and sat in Darleys, now very snug, back cabin.  By half five we were fed and watered, and with the Petter fired up we were off into a grey damp evening, dropping down Haywood lock and by six we were tying up next to bridge 72, Meadow Lane.  We got Bruce off and took him for a walk down the towpath to Cowshit Lock and back before leaving for the pub.  Before I left I banked the range up and closed it all down to smoulder away so that it would be nice and warm on our return.  A quick stroll up the lane saw us sat in the window seat of the lounge and enjoying the first of many pints of Guinness and by 9.00pm we were joined by Viv and Si  and enjoying the company and the band, Herbaceous Borders playing a good mix of rock.  The pub was absolutely heaving especially as a wedding party had decided to join in the fun who had obviously been enjoying themselves most of the day buy the ‘merry’ state of them.  The one female guest, and I’m guessing the maid of honour, insisted in putting her £50 hat on everybody in the room and taking their picture. 
All too soon the evening was over and we were wandering back down the lane to Darley where my plan of having the back cabin as warm as toast had failed!  It was that hot you could have cooked toast.  Got into bed but could not sleep as it was far too hot so had to get up and open the back doors and cool it down. A 10.30 start saw us off down to the boat turn at Taft farm and two hours later saw us back at our mooring at Great Haywood.  The rest of the day was spent cleaning and tidying, Dawn in the back cabin and me in the engine ‘ole, oh how much better I now feel for it.  Another seven weeks and were off to the first show at Etruria and there is a lot of little jobs to be done to get rid of Darley’s winter coat, so if your passing give us a hoot but
Don’t bang ‘em about.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Well worth a trip out.

Now the hour has gone on the clocks, and the days seem longer and a bit of sun on my back, my mind is turning to this year’s boating season so I thought I would list the shows we are taking Darley to this year.  Before I do that though, my mind drifted back to the great fun we had last year, and some of the memories that it left us with, so I thought I would start off with a pictorial remembrance of the shows we went to last year.
In the shade from the blazing sun outside the museum.
Captain and his mate
Another Captain and his mate, Henry and Phyllis.
Leaving Etruria
Flying through Salt on the return journey from Etruria
The Sunday Parade and Darley heads out towards the turn with previous owner Keith Browne for company.
Descending Atherstone with 4 ton of bagged coal on board which had been transferred from Kangaroo at Griff due to the bridge parapet being in the bridge ‘ole.
Fading light as a convoy travels back to Alvecote with loaded pair Kangaroo and Australia, loaded motor Tench and Darley bringing up the rear.
8-10 July ALVECOTE

And on the lay-bye boats awaited orders---
For the weekend the marina was filled with working boats.

Being buzzed by a Lancaster bomber
Steam roller up through the village
Steam tractor through the village
Windmill End 2011
About to leave
Cans and flowers
Chewing the fat
About to leave the Museum and head for Tipton show.
Fun and frolics.  Andrew, off Dove, knew something was going on but did not realise I was wearing his cap!
The boat parade
Winding Darley
The railway children!. (Dawn & Viv)

And so to this years shows.  It is our intention to take Darley to :
Etruria Canal Festival, Middlewich Boat & Folk festival, River Weaver Festival at Northwich, Audlem Transport Festival, Alvecote Historic Gathering, Shackerstone Family Festival, Black Country Boating Festival at Windmill End, Tipton Canal Festival, Park Head Gathering and finally That Fuller Do.  That should be enough to keep me going I think so if you see us out and about give us a wave, buy me a beer but
Don’t bang ‘em about