Saturday, 28 February 2009

My how you have grown

My brother Robert's dog Ramsay, as a wee guy above and below nearly full grown.
He still has his puppy coat - fluffy and sandy coloured - over half of his body with his rich red silky adult coat over the other half - cute fella.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Government Speak

A quick synopsis -
In January we were in Loughborough, trapped by a flooded River Soar. In January I walked the town towpath which had ONE bin for dog waste and a severe dog excrement problem along its whole length. I sent an email to the Chair of the Council, I got a reply that said 'Nothing to do with us, try British Waterways matey.' So I sent an e-mail to the Minister for Waterways, Huw Irranca Davies the gist of which was; urban towpaths, used by local residents for recreation, good, urban towpaths abused by local residents bad. Local authorities should share the cost of keeping urban towpaths maintained, cue Govt Minister to enact a simple funding protocol, bash a few heads together and get things resolved.

Yesterday I received the Government response.
Two pages of A4.

Did you know that it was an offence to drop litter? This would be under the Environment Protection Act of 1990 of course. This Act was then bolstered by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act of 2005.
Then we have 'designated statutory undertakers' to consider... and, a Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse that states that in areas of high intensity usage the litter should be cleared within half a day...

Government speak at its best, extract below..

This is subject to the Litter (Statutory Undertakers) (Designation and Relevant Land) Order 1991, which states that land adjacent to an unpaved towpath or adjacent to a paved towpath where the paving extends for less than 1 kilometre is not treated as relevant land of a designated statutory undertaker. In areas where the origin of litter or refuse is external to the activities of the canal or inland navigation undertaking then the duty body may consider it appropriate to make clearance arrangements on a partnership basis which can involve the undertaking, local authorities and amenity groups.

And finally..
I hope that this letter addresses your concerns.

Eh, well no, it doesn't actually.
You see my little bureaucratic friend, there is still dog s**t all along Loughborough towpath (also Nuneaton and any number of others by the way) deposited by Loughborough dogs and Local Authorities still refuse to clear it up regardless of Environment Acts and Codes of Practice.
Just what is the point of all this legislation if it is not enacted for goodness sake?

Silly bloody question Lesley, it keeps MP's and bureaucrats in work of course.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Quarterly Review

When we left Caxton on Tuesday we brought away an ironing board -still in its cellophane wrappings and the accompanying iron - still in its box. After four months living aboard neither had been needed or used so off they came. Now how liberating is that?

We have replaced the original rug in the saloon as its colour, though harmonising well with Caxton's decor, did not cope with eight Labrador feet and the occasional tramp from two pairs of walking boots; after only four weeks it was looking decidedly manky and after four can imagine. We did consider buying two sets of canine house slippers but that kind of attire is more in keeping with Greyhounds and their matching pyjamas rather than our rufty tufty Labs. The new rug is darker, brighter, still harmonises with the colour scheme but hopefully will be more robust.

After two and half months cruising with the crew of Matilda Rose Joe soon learnt the value of free wood so the insistence on having the boat's roof clear of clutter went down the leg side. A chain saw of our own is now on the to-buy list.

We have used far less diesel than we budgeted for; you just haven't got a clue what the boat/lifestyle will require when you start out.

We have learnt that you get what you pay for with coal and it is worth getting the better quality stuff to keep the fire in overnight and use wood during the day.

We are planning to have a few modifications made aboard Caxton; extra shelves in the bedside cupboards and one in the broom cupboard, a door rehung on the opposite side, cupboards doors fitted to what was planned to be a dog space - one look from Fletcher and Floyd kicked that idea into touch - and a slight restructure of the dinette to open things up a little more.

Of course the most important thing we have learnt is that we truly love the lifestyle. People are friendly and pleasant and there is a rather unique community in this parallel world on the cut.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Oh Minister Dear Minister

On 24th January I wrote to Huw Irranca Davies the Waterways Minister, about the state of the towpath in Loughborough citing the trite response I had received from the Charnwood Council. Today, one month later, I have received a response - well not so much a response as a bit of a communications faux pas actually. I was inadvertently forwarded the contributions of a number of people that had been asked to comment on my e-mail so that the Minister could then reply but, I was not sent the final reply.

Below - no names, to protect the truthful - a contribution about Loughborough local authority from BW.

1. "The writer (that would be me) is correct in that dog waste bin provision along Loughborough’s towpaths is limited. I’m not sure whether this is something that we necessarily want to include in any response but BW will install bins where we can secure local authority agreement to empty them but in previous attempts we’ve unfortunately not been able to achieve such an agreement in Loughborough – which I guess reflects the issue that the writer makes."

And from a Defra person..
2. "It’s actually quite a good letter (praise indeed) and the response (Charnwood Council response) is a bit Sir Humphrey-ish!

There followed a number of comments about getting volunteer groups to clean up, getting into bed with Bill Bryson's campaign to raise awareness about litter and the need to change people's
behaviour etc.

And here is my rejoinder to Defra

Dear Pam
I have been sent this amalgam of attempts to wordsmith an answer to my e-mail to Hugh Irranca Davies. The final 'answer' was not attached by the way. There is nothing in these musings that leads me to think that the Minister has any influence at all in bringing about a resolution to the trite turf wars re funding of urban stretches of towpath. Reiterating the words and thoughts of the letter writer might work for some correspondents but it is clearly not the response I was hoping for. I wanted to hear of ACTION taken. I wanted to hear that the Minister had been able to influence Charnwood Council, or at the very least had spoken to Hazel Blears as the Minister responsible for Local Government, to get Loughborough to shoulder responsibility for their residents in this matter and that this approach has been rolled out to all local authorities that have navigation's passing through them. I guess I wanted to receive a can-do response instead of a list of carefully crafted but limp reason why things won't change.
Yours most sincerely
Lesley K


We now find ourselves back on land after four great months aboard Caxton. It is time to get our cottage ready for its transfer to new owners. So we have a task list as long as your arm; packing of summer clothes to go aboard Caxton, pack remaining clothes to be stored, dismantle wardrobes, pack spare bedding, clear out and clean assorted cupboards. A removal company is coming this week to give us an estimate for the move and we have made arrangements to take the caravan into secure storage nearby.
I am now sitting here with the fires lit in the kitchen and the sitting room. We have run out of heating oil - now on order and due on Thursday doh.. The painful thing is that I have had to buy 500 ltrs as a minimum delivery, bugger, bugger, bugger.
The two dogs are not in the least bit phased by the chaos around them, they are sprawled out in all this additional space, - hang on, who am I kidding? They still sprawl out in the confines of the boat, we just have to work our way around them - no change there then.
I'll tell you what though, even after just four months, this place doesn't feel like home anymore. Roll on getting back to Caxton for good.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Visitors come a calling

Number One brother, Robert, was taking Number One Nephew Jack, to Milton Keynes Snow Dome for a go on the ski slope, "That's not far from Brinklow, come and see Caxton" I says.

We arranged to meet in a pub in Brinklow village, have a quick pint and then lead them back to the marina for lunch and a tour of Caxton. We have been aboard Caxton for a little over four months now and Robert is the first visitor from my family to see the boat.
Nephew Jack was fascinated by how every nook and cranny is used, how the bed pulls out, how the dinette converts to a bed, how no space goes to waste but is put to use. Robert was impressed with the joinery and as a skilled carpenter and joiner himself that was some compliment to our boat builder!
Out for a stroll along the Nth Oxford canal, Joe, Jack and Robert.

Football crazy, football mad..

Floyd has possession, is there anyone to pass it to?
Not so much 'at the goal mouth' as at Floyd's..
Floyd dribbles on the ball.
Taking a firm grip in readiness for a punctured football - so much easier to carry don't yer know.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

You Poser

Fletcher's turn for a bit of web exposure!

Top Tip

I was given a top tip by Rae of Nb. The Old Bovine and it works a treat. Use a baby-wipe to clean the glass on your multi-fuel stove. Having bought the expensive spray cleaner and scrubbed and scrubbed the glass to get it clean it was a pleasant surprise to find that a gentle wipe with just one baby-wipe does the job brilliantly!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Playing catch-up

Having got ourselves back to Brinklow I have left Joe to fix the loo and catch up on some boaty maintenance while I have snatched the car and headed off on a round robin of family visits. Wednesday I was in Lincolnshire checking on our Cottage, Thursday I headed off to Norfolk for a flying visit to Brother No. two in Bressingham before travelling to Essex to visit Brother No. one and Mother.
Today I have been on-line sorting car insurance for Mum as these new fangled computety things are just not her bag and she is of the generation where loyalty to a company or supplier was the norm. These days people tend to go where they can get the best deal, especially if it is just pressing a few keystrokes on a PC to achieve your aim.
A new television was also on the to-do list so after a trawl around the web world I went and bought her a new flat screen and a stand. Tomorrow I will have to set the blessed thing up, not something I am particularly looking forward to - I may well be on the hunt for a stray five year old somewhere who will instinctively know exactly what to do...

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Plan C: Win or Loo

We slipped our mooring at 8.20 this morning and headed off towards Brinklow Marina, arriving at 11.10. Joe did a rather fluent pirouette and backed onto our mooring without any colliding with neighbouring boats or crashing into pontoons! We were given a cheery welcome back by a number of fellow boaters - thank you one and all. Then while I walked the dogs, Joe recovered our car and after lunch we all headed off to Lee Sanitation to buy parts for Plan C modifications to the 'exploding loo' . Actually it hasn't exploded lately but it sounds more dramatic. Anyway
I think we have identified the niggle and all will be soon resolved.

Fun and Frolics

We came through Nuneaton yesterday morning stopping at Boot Wharf Trent Marine (aka Tony Gallimore in Nicholson's Guide) for diesel and gas. No issues with self declaration and the pump price was 66p a ltr.
The Nuneaton yoof have been have fun and frolics over the weekend. Someone had got their jollies by letting off a fire extinguisher into the canal and dumping a settee in the same.

Now there is a sight for sore eyes, a police officer walking the towpath. You can just make out the 'slick' from the fire extinguishers in the mid ground.
Police talking to a local about the vandalism.
Caxton moored up at Hawkesbury Junction.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Hedge Mumpers

The crew of Matilda Rose have just returned from a successful trip TO the tip!
No not really... It was clean the boat time and the roofs of both Caxton and Matilda Rose were cleared and scrubbed down before being reloaded with newly cut wood.

Graham discovers that the roof of his boat is BLUE!!!

Whilst Graham and Joe cut up logs I was busy splitting them and Jill was tea making - NO cake though... poor show that.

Caxton's logs ready for loading on the roof.
And the inevitable help from Floyd and Fletcher.

Quarrymans Walk

Yesterday, Graham, Joe and I along with the four dogs, walked a section of the Quarrymans Walk here at Hartshill. This is a walk thru and around the now defunct quarries to give people a taste of the area's industrial heritage. Below is a photo of the now flooded Jees quarry.

Granite and manganese were the primary products. Granite went mainly for road building and apparently the manganese was used to bleach cloth. The Coventry canal had a number of wharfs that were designated to the loading and transportation of the stone, including the BW Hartshill basin.
Some of the going underfoot was pretty gloopy, especially the towpath between Harsthill Basin and the Anchor pub but much of the route up and around the old quarry's was fine.

We stopped at The Anchor for a pint before resuming our walk, a canal side pub that would have offered refreshment and stabling to boatman and their horses in the past. There was a fantastic vista from the top of the quarry at 440ft , looking out towards Derbyshire in the distance.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Mad as Hatters

Looking back down Atherstone flight on our way to Atherstone town.
We woke to a bright sunny morning and decided to take advantage of the fine weather and the lack of traffic to get up and tackle the eleven locks in the Atherstone flight. It was one of those mornings when you have the world to yourselves and you treasure the moment. In November we were coming through here on our maiden voyage and it was all rush, rush,rush to get through and reach Brinklow. Not so now. We intended stopping and having a look around Atherstone and we were not disappointed. Below the church occupies one side of the Market Square.

Originally a Saxon settlement that at the time of the Norman conquest it was in the gift of Countess Godiva; Yes, the Lady Godiva of legend. Atherstone was given to William's nephew, the Earl of Chester at the conquest and over the ensuing years developed into a thriving Market Town. From the 1600's Atherstone had gained the reputation as a Hatters (makers of hats)town and this continued right up into the 20th century. Specialising in the production of cheap felt hats that were exported to the colonies amongst other things. Apparently the hat industry here took a knock when slavery was abolished as Atherstone hats were purchased by slave owners to dress their slaves. Right up until 1931 there were 3000 people working in the hat making industry in Atherstone, now it is no more. The industry has gone;400 years of hat making kaput!
Below, Market Square Atherstone.

Market Square.

Above, Long Street Atherstone.

After a rather indifferent lunch in Atherstone we headed out of the town into glorious springlike sunshine. We are now moored in a tranquil spot for the weekend just past Hartshill.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Bridge 1 - Chimney 0

The remnants of a Nb Matilda Rose chimney after an assault on a bridge..

Alvecote to Bradley Green

Set off just before 11am thus morning from our quiet overnight mooring between Tamworth and Alvecote. The ground was frozen solid and it made for easy and clean walking. We pulled into the mooring at Narrowcraft boatyard to enquire about diesel but they were awaiting their supply so Joe and pushed on leaving Nb Matilda Rose to get their chimney mount fixed after yesterday's punch-up with a bridge.
We moored on the Polesworth visitor moorings and wandered into the village in search of a copy of the latest Canal Boat magazine which features our Caxton!
En route to the village we were passed by £15k worth of BMW trike that clipped the kerb and went skywards, landing on top of some concrete posts and rolling over on top of the unfortunate rider. I hared off across the roundabout, with Joe on my heels, to get to the poor guy who was conscious and just beginning to drag himself from under the wreckage of his machine. We called an ambulance and his wife to let her know what had happened, then Joe got the local garage to recover the man's trike before leaving a name and number with the responding Police officers. I hope that the gent is OK, I think he will be though he appeared pretty shocked and shaken by his experience.

Here Caxton is moored for the night at Bradley Green, just at the start of the Atherstone locks. We are undecided as to whether we stay put tomorrow or move but I would like to have a look at Atherstone; we will wait until the morning before making any decisions...

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

A load of old...

A load of old WOOD!!!

Between loading the wood on Caxton's roof, Joe and Graham practice their line dancing routine...

Now all they have to do is find a quiet spot to cut it all up.

Stop the Panzer!

Here at the side of the Coventry canal at the start of the Tam Aqueduct is a Pill Box.

And here at Hopwas Wood bridge is yet another emplacement protecting the Bridge, the canal and overlooking the River Tame flowing at the bottom of a steep embankment. During 1940-1941 twenty-eight thousand of these Pill Boxes were built to protect us from the threatened invasion of Hitler's Panzers.

Lichfield Too

Taking advantage of a good signal/connection here are the photo's I took in Lichfield on Sunday last.
Above, view of the Cathedral Close.

Above, again Cathedral close.

Pedestrianised 'medieval' street in Lichfield - lovely

Entrance to the former home of Erasmus Darwin, Charles' Grandfather.

Lovely Tudor black and white built in 1510.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009


We moved down from Fradley Junction today, seven and a bit miles to our mooring just north of Hopwas. We spent the afternoon gathering some wood which we will pick up tomorrow as we bring the boats pass our new stockpile. Unfortunately the sortie into the village to find the Post Office and shop was a waste of time as here is yet another village with NO shop at all; now had sad is that?