Friday, 27 May 2022



I don’t think anything looks nicer than a properly dressed back cabin with all its brass, lace and especially hanging up plates.

Some call them ribbon plates while some call them lace plates but boaters called them ‘hanging up plates’. 

  Many people have said to me that they don’t like them because they rattle and ‘ching’ (not if they are hung correctly) So that brings me on to today’s chosen subject (background Mastermind Music) that of decorating a traditional back cabin. (You will note: back cabin – not boatman’s cabin as that’s a modernism 

Quite a lot of people with both ex working and modern ‘traditional’ boats have plates hanging in their cabins, but how many actually know how to hang them in a back cabin, and while I do not profess to be any sort of expert, I feel that I did learn from one back in the 1970’s when I was decking out the then, new back cabin of my large Woolwich butty Bingley. 

 Like many, I tied a loop of white ‘knicker elastic’ through the top of three or four of the slots in the chosen plate, decided where I wanted to hang it, and screwed a small brass cup hook in that position then hung the plate on it. Next a second plate would be hung in the same manner on another cup hook, then, when all plates were in position, they would be tied to each other with further pieces of ‘knicker elastic. ( Or something similar) The result was untidy, random, had no order to it and left large areas of cabin sides showing.


One evening whilst sat in the back cabin of Bingley on our moorings at Tipton we heard a boat approaching from under the bridge ‘ole, both myself and Clive and Pat Stevens came out of our respective cabin hatches, to see that it was Roger and Jean Hatchard with Keith Christie’s josher motorboat Lynx and their small Woolwich butty Hyades. At this time the moorings were shared by myself with Bingley, Cliff Sherwood’s small Northwich motorboat Belatrix, his blue top butty Lynne ( being converted to a motor and a trip boat) Clive & Pat Steven’s pair of large Woolwich’s Battersea and Barnes, Keith Christie’s Josher Lynx, Glyn & Rose Phillip’s small Woolwich motor Aquarius as well as a steam dredger and a small iron iceboat.
Roger and Jean had come over to stop for a couple of days visiting Pat and Clive Naturally, they were invited over to their butty cabin of the evening, along with myself we spent the evening chatting about ‘boaty things’ and consuming several pots of tea. During the conversation the topic of hanging up plates sarcastically came up. Straight away Roger stated “Jean will show you if you want” and so the next night the lesson began. This involved the purchase of a ball of white cotton string and green plastic coated gardening wire.

I thought I would share with you how I was shown to hang both plates and the lace in between them. This method can apply anywhere in a back cabin but I am describing the section of cabin side behind the range.
Start by sorting your plates into groups, types, size etc. have a good idea in your mind how you want to lay them out. See how many plates it will take to go across the area you are covering, then how many rows it will take from top to bottom of cabin side. In the case below five plates in a row and three rows

Remember that the top row of plates will be set down half the depth of your lace from the top. Screw a cup hook in at the top of where each column of plates will be. As shown below.

Start with the bottom row first and hang each plate in turn with a length of string through the ribbon slots, ensure each string length is identical so the plates are all in a line. Then tie each plate to each other with short pieces of string going between the ribbon slots. At this point the row of plates will probably hang away from your cabin sides, don’t worry this will be fixed later. Then fix two more cup hooks at each end, above the bottom row of plates and at a height above the row of plates equal to half the depth of your lace. As shown below

Now form a loop with a pencil in the end of the gardening wire and loop it over the one side cup hook.  Now stretch the wire across the front of the plates/strings across to the other side cup hook, and twist it round the cup hook then cut it off with snips.

And now to the lace. Start by tying a loop in each end of a length of string equal to the exact length between the two side cup hooks (remember this string has to be tight between the hooks. When you have this right (after a bit of practice probably) thread the string in and out of the top of the length of lace you have cut. Now put the string loops over the cup hooks. As shown below

The tight wire behind the top edge of the lace holds all the plates back close to the cabin sides, while the string holds the lace.. The process is now repeated with the next row up being tied back to the same cup hooks at the top. As shown below

This is then followed by two more cup hooks and another line of wire and stringed lace. As shown below.

And finally the top row is fitted in the same manner and the finished panel is as set out below.

Well that’s all folks, just to finish off here is a couple of photos of inside my back cabin and her anging up plates.


and so if you follow this simple method of hanging up your plates you will not

'bang 'em about



Sunday, 3 April 2022



In October last year, Jason Gallop, Four Counties Fuels Limited, asked me if I fancied loading Darley to help him out with deliveries.  Canal and River Trust had a scheduled stoppage for work on Longford Lock, Penkridge.  This meant he would not be able to complete his usual deliveries between Longford lock and Audlem locks as part of the four counties ring, where another stoppage was also due.  Upon telling Dawn she spoke to Jason with some proviso’s

1.    1.    He had to make sure that I ate regularly ( due to my Diabetes).

2.     2.    He had to make sure I did not drink too much (I don’t know what ‘too much’ equates to).

3.     3.    I was not to lift any bags of coal (Due to my medical conditions).

Of cause I said yes, any excuse for boating.  As a result, we had to load Darley before the stoppage came on and get her north of Penkridge and so the plan was hatched

On the 3rd November 2021, I moved Darley from her mooring at Great Haywood down to the services at the junction to await the lorry.  At approximately 10.00am it arrived and Jason, Kat and the two lads from the Bryn Coal Company proceeded to load the first 9 tons onto Darley which put her down in the water a bit.

Kat, Jason & Bryn Coal Co lads lo         (copyright J Gallop)
 Darley's bow empty 
     (Copyright J Gallop)
 Darley's bow with 9 ton on
         (Copyright J Gallop)
Upon completion of this, I reversed Darley back to her mooring but, as I expected, it was a struggle to get in on Darley’s mooring with this weight on.  Jason followed up with his boat, Bargus, and between us we put the side cloths up to reduce the amount of rain and also for security.

 Darley loaded with 9 tons and clothed up on her  mooring. (Copyright Blossom)

A week later I again moved Darley down to the service point to await the arrival of the coal lorry.  After unfastening the side cloths and loosely rolling them up, again Jason, Kat and the two boys from Bryn Coal loaded a second 9 tons onto Darley, making a total of 18 tons and putting even further down in the water.

Again, I reversed back to the mooring but this time I couldn't get Darley anywhere near her mooring and so I pulled her alongside Chris Shenton's boat Dubhe on the next mooring.  Upon securing Darley alongside Dubhe we fastened the side cloths back up. Darley was going to stay like this until the beginning of February. During which time several trips down were made to pump out rainwater.

 18 tons on and sitting level
            (Copyright J Gallop)
 Moored alongside Dubhe
(Copyright blossom)
On the 1st Feb Both Darley and Bargus left Great Haywood made the tun at Haywood junction and headed off up the Gailey cut heading for Penkridge. Even with only 18 tons on Darley was struggling dragging here arse all the way until we got to the wides at Tixall when with a bit more water under her she motored on normally that is until we reached Tixall lock.  As we approached the lock, Darley came to a halt with her bows in the lock tail. With Darley at full chatt and sequenced flushes from Kat we slowly inched our way into the chamber.  In fact, we struggled into most of the locks all the way up to Gailey.  As we approached the aqueduct over the river Sow a familiar figure appeared on the towpath.  Armed, as always with his camera, my good friend and photographer, Kev Maslin
Approaching the Sow aquaduct
(Copyright Kev Maslin)

 Darley crossing over the Sow
               (Copyright Kev Maslin)

 Darley at Baswich with Bargus following
(Copyright Kev Maslin)
 Darley other side of Baswich bridge
(Copyright Kev Maslin)
We finally tied up above Penkridge lock for the night.  We walked down the town to the re-opened Horse and Jockey only to find they were not doing food but we stauyed for a few pints before returning back to the boats and a delivery order of burger and fries.

 Bargus with Darley behind at Penkridge
(Copyright J Gallop)
Next day (Wed 2 Feb) saw us heading off towards cut End and on up through Filance, Otherton, Rodbaston, Boggs, brick kiln and finally Gailey top.  I can honestly say of all the canals I’ve travelled, I hate the Gailey cut for just as you get going, you reach the next lock.  It was not long before we were heading through the chemical works at Four Ashes where the canal is straight and quite deep (compared to the Gailey cut)  Dawn always calls this factory the ‘Sonic the Hedgehog factory because of all the pipework.  With that past we were making the turn at Calf Heath, whenever I pass the club house here I always think of Ernie Thomas, his hire fleet and trip boat. 

We were soon going under Forster bridge and into the Autherley narrows where although not dragging the bottom progress was slow due to width restricting the flow of water past the boat.  Luckily we did not meet any boats through the narrows and were soon making the tight turn at Autherley Junction and onto the Shroppie.  Had to lift the back button to get through the stop at Cut End as the foot board is on the wrong side of the gate reducing the lock length considerably.

 Autherley narrows
(Copyright J Gallop)
 Making the turn at Cut End
(Copyright J Gallop)
Going to be quite a short day today as only going as far as Stretton and leaving Darley there for a couple of weeks. After an uneventful three hours boating saw us tying up at Industry Narrowboats at Stretton wharf.  Jason and Kat carried on with Bargus. On the 4th Feb, Jason transhipped 7 tons of coal from Darley to Bargus(now 11 tons)

Monday 7th Stretton to Wheaton Aston. March saw me setting off from Stretton as I was meeting Jayson and Kat at the services at Wheaton Aston.  They arrived by van at about 12 noon and worked me down the lock to the services where the van was parked.  They then proceeded to load 1000 litres of diesel in 20 ltr containers (1 ton) Logs and Kindling (another ton) and about 30 gas cylinders (1 ton) and about another ton of aged coal. (4 Tons total making load now about 15 tons).

After loading and with the van now empty, Jason took it round to the Hartley Arms and left it, with the Landlords permission, on the car park for the week.  I moved Darley to the other side of the bridge and moored up in readiness for the pub.  Went to the Hartley Arms and had a lovely meal (Butchers faggots mash, chips peas etc) and a few pints of Guinness to swill it down.

Tue 8th.Wheaton Aston to Gnosall We had originally planned to get to Norbury, but the Junction Pub at Norbury is closed on a Tuesday so we decided to go to Gnosall instead. This is normally a 2 ½  hour journey but having to stop every 10 minutes to serve customers  with three or four bags of coal here a cylinder of gas there made the journey a lot longer.  Tea time saw us tying up on the services at Gnosall and a trip up to The Navigation pub where fter ordering beers were told they were not doing food so we left and walked down through the village, past the open chip shop to another pub recently re-opened The Royal Oak who made us very welcome but were also not doing food.  We stayed and had several pints  planning to walk back and collect fish and chips.  Not to be as they were shut.

Wed 9th Gnosall to Market Drayton.  Much the same as yesterday with deliveries every 10 minutes or so.  One of the problems with delivering to boats tied up on off side moorings such as at Shebdon and Soudley is that over the years of boats passing at tickover the mud has build up alongside these lines of moored boats making it difficult for loaded boats to get alongside.

 Darley Northbound on the Shroppie(Copyright Kat McCullough)
Soon we were at the top of Drayton locks (Tyrley)so a break in the proceeding for Kat and Jason to set the locks.  About 40 minutes later we were at the bottom and heading for Market Drayton, tying up at the services opposite Talbot Wharf where photographer Stuart France was moored.  An evening walk up the hill to the town and a visit to Joules brewery pub The Red Lion where we had a nice meal and a few pints of Guinness.

 Darley descending Drayton locks
(Copyright Kat McCullough)

 Moored in Market Drayton
(Copyright S France)
Wed 9th Market Drayton to Norbury. Left Market drayton and we had one customer north of here and as a result had to travel to the winding hole at the top of Adderley to wind and return.  As we had served customers on the way up there was little to do except a couple of boats at Market Drayton visitor moorings then a clear run back to Norbury, arriving there in time to tie up on the services and use the showers before going to the Junction Inn for a tasty Junction steak pie and chips swilled down by several pints of Guinness.  We were joined by Dave and Sarah Ray owner of Norbury Wharf and a good catch-up evening was had.

 Darley coming up Drayton locks
(Copyright S France)
Thur 10th. Norbury to Stretton. A late start as today is only 3 ½ hours away and with no customers it made for an easy day.  We stopped at Wheaton Aston to load the diesel, logs and gas back into the van which frog hopped up to Stretton to help tie up and cloth Darley.

 Daley after all coal was removed
(Copyright J Gallop)

On 30th April Jason emptied the remaining coal off Darley onto the passing Bargus as he made his deliveries back as normal with the stoppages lifted.  On the whole I enjoyed my little ‘delivery trip’ although I was surprised with how I struggled even with only 18 tons on compared to back in the 70’s.  I also managed not to :-

Bang ‘em about