tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:/posts Ashton Boatman 2018-04-14T21:13:14Z Chris Leah tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1272768 2018-04-14T21:13:13Z 2018-04-14T21:13:14Z Churnet Valley Railway and Historic Narrow Boat Club AGM

I went to Whittington near Lichfield today for the Historic Narrow Boat Club AGM. On the way I called in at Froghall Station, just in time to see "Hotspur", a little Polish tank engine, set out with its train. A class 33 diesel was assisting in the rear.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1271932 2018-04-12T20:08:23Z 2018-04-12T20:08:24Z Staley Wharf trip 12th April 2018

Today we took some Airbnb guests for a trip up the 3 locks to Staley Wharf. We all patronised the excellent chip shop there, then worked back down to Portland Basin. A nice day and a chance for our trainee crew to get used to working the pair through locks.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1270534 2018-04-09T09:22:48Z 2018-04-09T11:28:58Z Recycling Trip Sunday April 8th 2018

The trip started a bit late because we found some Kittens aboard "Lilith" and had to move them. Good turnout and a lot to collect. Tameside Radio came along and did some interviews. Here's some pictures.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1265165 2018-03-25T20:36:24Z 2018-03-26T06:38:24Z Swans, Trees, Firewood and Trolleys.

I ordered a couple of fruit trees from the Henry Doubleday Research Association ages ago but they've only just turned up. don't know what took them so long. Anyway, I thought I'd better get them in quick before they start bearing fruit. At short notice I set up a tree planting trip to add them to the guerrilla orchard in Droylsden.

In the morning I pottered about on "Forget me Not" and found some important pieces of paper that I thought I'd lost (never give me important pieces of paper). The swan pair from Fairfield have been hanging around the basin a lot lately, probably because it's a good source of scrumptious but unhealthy white bread. I thought their last years cygnets had left home but one was in the basin today. Dad was not happy to see his prodigal and kept raising his wings to see the young whippersnapper off.


Cob and Pen swans.

Luke arrived and we set off. As we went through brewery bridge the rudder was lifted out of its socket by an underwater obstruction. We got to Droylsden and planted the trees, then on to Fairfield to wind.

The swans nest from last year is still there amongst the detritus. I expect they'll be using it again soon.

We headed back towards Ashton but stopped at Guide Bridge to load up some sycamore that me and Tony cut down last year to protect the oaks. They're now bone dry and will make good firewood. The level was about 6" down and the boat would go nowhere near the towpath. I had to use a plank. to get off. when we wanted to leave the boat was well stemmed and I had to unload a substantial sycamore to lever her back into the channel.

on the move again, we got back to brewery bridge and stopped to clear it. A bit of work with the keb brought out 3 shopping trolleys and a bike.

At Oxford Mill we passed a piece of floating furniture.

Back at the basin another cygnet had arrived and daddy swan was looking seriously displeased. These youngsters are supposed to clear off and start their own families and leave their parents alone. Swans are not alone in this problem, I know humans with the same predicament.

As the boat approached the cygnets didn't know what to do. One decided, shortly after the photo was taken, to try dodging round the bow, only to crash into the coping stones.

We winded ready for the next move on Tuesday and tied up, then moved "Hazel" over from the towpath, winding her too before breasting her up to "Forget me Not". A good enjoyable day.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1264198 2018-03-22T21:44:53Z 2018-03-22T21:44:54Z Now it can be told, The True Story of Filming Barging Round Britain. 2015

One Sunday we were passing the Ashton Packet Boat moorings on a recycling trip when someone called over, “Do you want to do some filming with John Sergeant”. “Possibly” I replied. “Ring Brian McGuigan” they said. Brian and Anne Marie McGuigan are the excellent couple who run our local fuel boat, delivering coal and diesel to boats around the Cheshire ring on the big motor Alton. Apparently the TV company had been in touch with them but they weren't interested.

A couple of days later I had a call from Oliver the producer and a long chat about what we could do with “Hazel”. He was a bit nonpluseed when I explained that the boat had to be towed. Knowledge of waterway traditions seemed to be a bit sketchy.

The timing was perfect. They wanted to film at the end of June and it was looking like Hazel would just about be ready to go by then. We were gathering a crew who needed some boating training and the project would need some publicity. A plan was hatched. We were to tow "Hazel" with "Forget me Not" to Bugsworth Basin where Mr Sergeant and the film crew were to join us for a 4 day trip back to Ashton.

A couple of weeks intensive work on Hazel had her just about ready to go and a merry band of volunteers, most of whom had not worked a lock before, bowhauled her through the centre of Stalybridge to join Forget me not, which I'd brought up from Ashton the previous evening, at Staley Wharf.

Working the pair down the next 3 locks with a team of green boaters was interesting. I had to be everywhere at once to make sure that everyone was following my instructions, and the occassional long distance bellow was required when someone was about to draw the wrong paddle. As we worked locks 2 and 3 a walker came over to me and said I should watch out for the following boat as it was in a dreadful hurry and had been ramming gates in their haste. Sure enough the boat appeared and its skipper asked to pass us as we were very slow. When I refused he claimed that it was the law of the cut that we should give way to him. I pointed out that in 45 years on the cut I had never heard of any such statute.

The Huddersfield Canal was unusually busy on this particular day. Usually, even in high summer, you can navigate these locks without meeting a single boat. At Whitelands Tunnel (opened out over 100 years ago but still very narrow) we had to hold back as an Eastbound boat emerged. They said there was another following, so we breasted up to wait. Inevitably our eager follower caught up and tried to pass, but was persuaded to tie up behind us and form an orderly queue. The skipper came along to chat and insist that they were very experienced boaters and the walker must have seen something that happened on the other side of the Pennines where they had to force the gates open with the boat because the leaks were so great that they couldn't get a level. I didn't want them breathing down my neck as I shepherded our trainees through the rather slow and awkward lock 1W, so, when the uphill boat appeared I let them go ahead.

When we were finally clear of this lock, hours later on our trip than anticipated, I sent someone ahead to get ready to strap us round the turn into the Peak Forest Canal. We went through the Asda tunnel and the awkward bit by Cavendish Mill where the retaining wall collapsed in 2002 and they're still arguing about who should pay for it, then into Portland Basin where Martin Gately was busy working on Lilith.

As we approached, someone on the bow threw a line to the person who had gone ahead. He took a turn on the strapping post that thankfully is still there (though the area is often occupied by anglers) and on my instructions tightened it at just the right moment to snatch Forget me Not's bow round into the narrow entrance to the Peak Forest Canal, releasing it again when instructed and passing it back onto the boat. It didn't go quite to plan as Hazel gave the copings a nasty bash, but that was my fault as i'd given her too long a line.

The 8 lock free miles from Aston to Marple allowed people to settle into the simple business of steering the boats. At Well Bridge we encountered a fallen tree, trimmed back but still almost impossible to miss with a full length boat. Forget me Not's engine was labouring as there was something on the blade that would simply not come off. In both Woodley and Hyde Bank tunnels we were accompanied by a following wind blowing at just the same speed as the boats. For some reason somebody always makes up the ranges when approaching tunnels, so we emerged red eyed in a dramatic cloud of smoke.

Its always tricky arriving at the bottom of Marple with a pair but not intending to work up the locks. There's a long low bridgehole with no towpath followed by a right hand turn into a basin that is usually lined with moored boats. Until you emerge from the bridgehole you cannot see if there is a 70 foot gap to slot into. On this occassion there was a suitable gap and our crew did well in breasting  and tying up reasonably neatly.

It was pleasant to wake up early in Forget me Not's cabin and revive the fire which I'd kept in overnight with sawdust. To lie in bed drinking coffee with the doors open to the early morning sunlight, listening to the dawn chorus. Soon people were up and about and bacon and eggs were cooking in Hazel's kitchen. Eventually we were ready to go. Maxine Bailey had her painting work interrupted by this trip so she had come along. She went with Andy  and a chap from one of the moored boats whose name I forget to work the motor boat on ahead while I showed the rest of the crew the techniques of bowhauling up Marple.

All went well except for a slight problem when the motor boat caught on a bottom gate, demonstrating that you have to be constantly alert whilst working through locks. Most lock accidents happen because no-one is watching the boat.

At the top of the 16 locks is the junction with the Macclesfield Canal. We were heading for Bugsworth* so the motor tied against a grassy bank just beyond the junction, having the first experience of the shallow rocky edges of the upper Peak Forest canal.

Working the butty up the locks I had enforced a strict rotation of duties, so everyone had their fair share of turns at drawing paddles, opening gates, steering and, of course, performing horse duty. By the time we reached the top and shafted across to breast up to Forget me Not they were all in need of rest and refreshment. I haven't yet explained to them that on future trips there may only be a couple of them to work the boat through the flight! It gets easier with practice.

The upper Peak Forest is narrow and shallow with rocky edges as already noted. It's also a lot busier than any of the canals around Ashton. When we were at last ready to set off we had to wait for ages for a suitable gap in passing traffic, then we had a struggle to get Forget me Not free from the shallow water.

The upper peak tested everyone's steering skills, especially on the deeper draughted motor boat. The slightest deviation from the channel would result in the motor stemming up and inevitably being caught up with by the butty. There are also numerous drawbridges, so a couple of our crew had some good exercise walking ahead to prepare these.

The previous night one of Hazel's two sets of gas bottles had run out, so I had hoped to replace them at New Mills marina. Unfortunately we could find nowhere to tie up reasonably near the marina, so we carried on. Eventually we reached the turn into the Bugsworth arm and plodded carefully up the narrow shallow waterway to tie, breasted, in the first of the extensive basins.

The next day was a Saturday and we spent the morning and a good part of the afternoon cleaning, tidying and waiting while filming took place elsewhere. We had been sworn to secrecy about the filming. A series of steel boats were taking water. I wanted to fill Hazel's tank but every time I prepared to move her, another boat nipped in. I went over to the water point to arrange a slot with the other boats. “Are you here to film with John Sergeant “ asked the man. “It's supposed to be a secret” I replied. “Oh, everybody knows, that's why we're all leaving”!

With the tank full it was time to wind. We started to do this at the entrance basin but were advised that most pairs couldn't get round there and we should go up to the wide a little further up. There was plenty of room to wind with Forget me Not powering the boats round nicely, then chugging back and backing into the lower basin to wait some more. I dropped Forget me Not astern of Hazel to facilitate our celebrity guest getting aboard, and carried on waiting.

At last they arrived, and instantly looked worried. "Who are all these people?" Asked Clive the director. I explained that they were our volunteers and not only were they interesting people but we were combining this fiming trip with crew training and they would be essential for working the boats down the locks and anyway we needed someone to steer the butty. They weren't happy but conceded that someone would have to steer Hazel, everyone else would have to stay inside with the curtains shut. Personally I think they'd have ended up with a much more interesting programme by including our volunteers, but what do I know.

We began filming with me introducing John to the boats and explaining why there were 2 of them. We got the cameraman and sound man on board then set off with Andy steering Hazel. Almost immediately we picked up something on the blade which made the engine smoke, much to my embarrassment. Regular applications of sterngear failed to throw it off.

John didn't seem too happy about perching on the gunwale and soon he was wanting to steer. We exchanged positions and carried on with our conversation, interspersed with constant reminders from me to stay in the middle. Inevitably, before long, we experienced the first of many stemmings up.

Secret crew members were surrepticiously unloaded every now and then to run ahead to drawbridges which magically opened ahead of us. We travelled on, with John acting a character that lay somewhere between the Queen and Paddington Bear. Behind us Andy was working hard to keep Hazel in a straight line while the motor boat zig zagged along the cut. “You know” said John “we've bumped into a few boats along here but I don't think they mind do they”?

The target for the evening was the Swizzels Matlow sweet factory at New Mills where they were planning to film on the next day. We dropped John off for the camera opposite the marina, then immediately filmed him getting back on again before continuing past the sweet factory to tie up in an elfin glade just beyond. We said goodbye to the TV crew and enjoyed the rest of the day making a meal and chatting.

Next morning Pauline cooked us all bacon and eggs as we waited for the film crew to arrive. They were a little late and there was some concern about keeping to the schedule. We soon resumed our leisurely progress, impeded by frequent encounters with the rocky bottom of the canal as John struggled to get used to steering a deep draughted boat. He seemed to be enjoying being treated like royalty by passers by on land and water.

At Disley some modern bungalows back on to the canal. John struck up a conversation with a man in the back garden of one of these. He turned out to be a chef who had just got home from his shift in an hotel. “Would you like some capuchinos?” he asked, so we waited and waved past a series of pleasure craft as he prepared the coffees. All grist to the mill for a lighthearted documentary.

The Peak Forest is not a canal that you can hurry. The director, hiding in Forget me Not's cabin, glanced at his watch with increased frequency and anxiety, for they had a busy schedule for the rest of the day.

John spotted some girls on horses and asked to stop. Being unable to get near the towpath, the only possible stopping point was in the bridgehole that the horses and their mounts were crossing. I held the motor in the narrows and hoped that no boats would wish to pass as the interview with the girls continued. When they were finished with, there developed a conference between director, producer and star. Sure enough, the top lock training boat came along and had to wait. Eventually I persuaded the film people that other people wanted to use the canal and we'd better get moving.

It had been agreed that we would tie up for the night at Brick Bridge, the last one before Marple top lock. Because the canal is fairly narrow there my plan was to tie up singly rather than breasting to make it easier for boats to pass. When we got there I struggled to find anywhere that I could get Forget me Not anywhere near the towpath because of all the rocks lying in the bottom of the canal. Eventually I found a spot, but Hazel, drawing about 2 feet along her length, would not come near. We had to pull her alongside the motor and hope that boats could get by.

Our TV friends went off to film at some nearby locations before John returned with the cameraman to stay aboard Hazel. Clive explained to us that for all kinds of complicated reasons the only people to stay on board were to be John and the cameraman. I had hoped that One of us could sleep in Hazel's back cabin, but the director said no. For “all kinds of reasons”, the only one that he specified was insurance, none of us could stay on the same boat as our celebrity guest. That left room for 2 in Forget me Not (none of us fancied sharing the cross bed or sleeping on the floor) but there were 3 of us. Luckily Tom and Pauline had brought a tent. The problem was, where to pitch it.

They said they would be back at about 6 pm, so we busied ourselves cleaning and tidying inside Hazel and making up beds for our guests. After much discussion we decided to try pitching the tent on Forget me Not's temporary deck. This worked very well, so we had our tea and waited, and waited, and waited. At one point our TV people showed up on the nearby road in a vintage car, then they went again. It got dark, and we carried on waiting. Eventually I decided that they weren't coming, so I went to bed on the motor boat's sidebed. As morpheus began to creep up on me I was suddenly brought back into the land of wakefulness by voices and lights outside. They had arrived. I got up and showed them into Hazel. John then acted out a rather Paddington Bear like scene of confusion and difficulty of dragging his suitcase through the boat.

The three of us crawled into our sleeping bags and spent the night aboard Forget me Not . I discovered that Forget meNot's gunwale still leaks. Andy discovered that I snore and John slept like baby in his tent. Aboard Hazel, celebrity and cameraman found their berths very comfortable..

In the morning I was expecting that we would enjoy breakfast with our guests, but instead they filmed Mr Sergeant making a big show of finding the cupboards bare (not true) and going off for breakfast in a greasy spoon. I was beginning to get concerned about the way that the film might portray Hazel and our society. Every time I had tried to talk about the boats on camera John had changed the subject. I pointed out to the director that we agreed to this trip on the understanding that the film would give good publicity to our project, reminding him of my lifelong hatred for Griff Rhys-Jones since he totally failed to mention the Wooden Canal Boat Society when he filmed a trip on Forget me Not. He told me not to worry, we would get a good plug in a voice over.

They said that they'd be back to film our descent of Marple locks in the early afternoon, so I decided to pop back to Ashton check on the other boats. Before I left a motorised River class boat, belonging to A &R Rothen, came along heading towards Whaley Bridge. The Rivers were some of the last working narrow boats built, made of welded steel they are rather like slimmed down Thames lighters. Only two motors were built, of a rather unusual and unsuccessful design. This one is a former butty that has been given a conventional motor stern and is now used for canal maintenance work. It was steered by our friend Fred who ran a recycling trip for us a few months ago when I was unable to be present. I was pleased and surprised to see that it got past our pair without difficulty. As I'd heard that the fuel boat Alton was heading our way I walked round on to the Macclesfield canal to warn them about the potential difficulty before heading for Marple station.

The railway from Marple to Guide Bridge (change at Romiley) is a very pleasant ride parallel to the canal. It's a surprising survival as most of the minor railways of the area disappeared in the days of Dr Beeching. With unstaffed stations and “nodding donkey” trains (Leyland buses mounted on wagon chassis) the line provides a good service to Woodley and Hyde and is quite well used.

Back at Ashton the boats were all floating happily and I had time to pop into the shop and call at home before getting the train back to Marple. When I got there our editor had arrived in the hope of having a trip down Marple locks.  Colin Scrivener had arrived to enjoy the trip down the locks, but it was not to be. We spent a pleasant afternoon chatting and drinking tea, but by the time that Colin had to leave there was still no sign of the celebrity and his retinue.

Their eventual arrival co-incided with a sudden deterioration in the weather as squally gusts of wind whipped up wavelets on the waterway and dark clouds threatened more than the few droplets of rain that actually fell. A plan was decided on and cameras set up accordingly. Celebrity John was now steering Hazel with me on the roof trying to direct operations. Andy was steering the motor boat. A couple of people had gone ahead to prepare the lock, my plan being for Forget me Not to go straight into the lock. John's straw hat blew off, much to his overacted distress (he had a spare in case of such an eventuality). As we a approached the lock I realised that I hadn't explained my plan clearly enough. Not only was the top gate not open ready but the paddles were not yet drawn to fill the lock. I gesticulated wildly to our lock team to prepare the lock whilst formulating a revised plan. This involved much use of the long shaft to control the boat in the vicious gusty wind and bring her reasonably gently alongside the copings above the lock. Butties have no brakes and so sudden changes of plan can be difficult.

Quite how all that will appear on TV I'm not sure. Mr Celebrity was mainly concerned that the cameraman should rush back up the towpath to get a shot of his still floating hat. The secret crew had emerged from Hazel and were now plainly visible as they started working the motor, then the butty, down the 16 lock flight. Andy got told off for smoking as he steered Forget me Not as tobacco use cannot be shown on TV nowadays lest it be seen as a cool thing to do

After a few locks the TV people met up with representatives from the Marple Locks Heritage Trust. They fitted the motor boat with Go Pro cameras, little video cameras that can be clipped on wherever you want them and will record until the battery runs out, and sent us on our way while they went off to film something else. I re-organised our crew, electing to work the motor myself whilst everyone else was to work Hazel down. I stayed one lock ahead to keep ane eye on things and ran back occassionally to give advice. All went well.

Because we had started so late on the locks it was a close thing whether or not we would be finished before dark. At lock 5 it was getting dusk when Oliver came to reclaim the Go Pros. By the time we reached lock 1 the last glimmers of light were fading. We roughly breasted up below the lock and those of us who were staying fell into bed, while others faced a drive home.

The main job for us on the final day of filming was to capture the crossing of Marple aqueduct. This was to be filmed by a drone. We crossed the aqueduct slowly with the drone whizzing about above our heads while John and I discussed the splendour of the scene. We then had to do it again, so I took a line from one of “Hazel”s stern end timberheads and dragged the two boats backwards ready to repeat the procedure.

Ashton under Lyne is an interesting town. It was a boomtown of the mid nineteenth century growing rapidly as the cotton trade expanded, the burgeoning mills being fired by local coal dug from local pits and in many cases delivered by boat. At one time it even had its own religious cult, the Christian Israelites, who believed that it would be the site of the second coming of Jesus Christ and at the height of their influence planned to build a city wall to join up their four gatehouses. It is also the Northern terminus of the Peak Forest Canal.

It was with some difficulty that I persuaded the TV people that they should actually bother with the lower Peak Forest canal rather than terminating their journey at Marple. There seems to still be a view widely held in the South that “dirty Northern towns” have nothing of interest. With the aqueduct filming over, the plan was for the TV entourage to go off to Hyde and film at boxer Ricky Hatton's gym. The boats were fitted with go pro's again and set off for a pleasant journey along the winding wooded water route, to tie up, as arranged, just before Dukinfield lift bridge.

Another long wait began as, it turned out, a conference took place in a nearby pub. Eventually the star and retinue returned to the boats, but continued their conference for some time. At this point I witnessed the downside of celebrity status as some people tried to but in to the private conversation that was going on, calling on John to pose for their cameras. He deliberately turned his back on them in a way that could be seen as rude, but if this sort of thing happens frequently it's difficult to see how one could deal with it politely without disrupting ones working day. He was, after all, at work.

With the filming soon to finish we had a group photo taken, all sitting on Hazel's roof with our feet on Forget me Not. With this done the drawbridge was lifted, the engine fired up and we carried on the last quarter mile, stemming up only once. A dogwalker on the towpath asked john if Forget me Nots decked over hold was for him to practice for Strictly Come Dancing. “Thank you” said John as he turned his head away from the towpath joker. Apparently references to his star performance on that programme don't go down too well.

Arrival at portland Basin from the Peak Forest is quite a tricky manouvre with a pair. You have to give a burst of power as you leave the narrow Tame aqueduct to give the butty some speed, then immediately go astern to avoid crashing into the moored boats and allow the butty to slip alongside. The boats have to be tied abreast quickly and neatly, again, to avoid collisions, then, if you're quick, the buttys momentum is used to help the pair to swing round more than 90 degrees to tie up alongside the wharf. All went beautifully until I pulled back the gear rod to reverse the stern ends alongside the wharf. It came right back and the boat carried on in forward gear. The linkage had come apart and I had to rush through into the engine 'ole to pull back the gear lever.

With the boats alongside the wharf a final piece to camera was fimed, there were lots of thank yous and handshaking and a promise from the director to arrange for a donation to be sent to us.

It had been an enjoyable few days and I looked forward to seeing the finished product on the television. It was eventually screened in May 2016, which would have been an excellent time to tell the nation about “Hazel” and her mission to help people with mental health issues by taking them into the waterway environment. I had, however, an uneasy feeling that, a verbal promise from a TV director might not be worth the paper it was written on.

My fears were confirmed when I saw the programme. The only mention of the Wooden Canal Boat Society was in the credits at the end. There was nothing to explain that our star was travelling on important historic wooden boats, in fact, to the uninitiated the boats must have seemed a bit of a mystery.

Far be it from me to tell an established TV director how to make a programme, but actually these boats are very interesting to most people. Whenever we travel anywhere with them we see people aiming their cameras and 'phones as we pass and people with only a passing interest in waterways come over to as about them. When I mention their project to give time in the waterway environment for people who are mentally unwell, this often strikes a chord, for even if the person I am talking to has not themselves suffered mental illness, they will almost certainly have a friend or relative who has. By reneging on our agreement the director not only made me very angry but he actually made a much less interesting programme.

Unsurprisingly, the promised donation did not immediately turn up, however, shortly after the screening someone from the TV company rang up to ask if it was OK to pass my number on to someone who was interested in the history of the boat. I said that was fine, then went on to explain how disappointed I was at the lack of integrity that had been displayed. He was very apologetic and said that he would pursue the matter of a donation.

After a little while a generous donation of £100 appeared in the society's bank account. That's £25 for each day of filming!  Shortly afterwards Beth and Arnold Allen, who have been great "Hazel" supporters, visited. Arnold said he would contact the company. He did so, resulting in a further £400 personal donation from the boss.

*The village referred to was the transhipment point between the Peak Forrest Tramway, which brought limestone down from quarries around Dove Holes, and the Peak Forest Canal. For centuries it was called Bugsworth but, during Queen Victoria's reign, the residents decided that they wished to expunge any suggestion that they may be troubled by small bitey creatures, so they changed the name to Buxworth. I prefer to use the original spelling.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1254019 2018-02-27T23:14:20Z 2018-03-20T06:35:39Z The Beast From the East

The media dubbed it "The Beast from the East", snow and freezing winds coming at us from Siberia. By the time it reached Ashton it was more of a pussycat. Despite this, Claire, our marketing person, had to drive her disabled son to school because the bus company had cancelled its services.

I woke in "Forget me Not"s back cabin at about 5.30 AM. I revived the fire to warm the cabin up. Outside was uniformly white. I had a lot to do as the boats were a bit messy after the tree planting trip and there was lots of  stuff in the van that needed unloading before it went to do deliveries for the shop.

At about 7, after enjoying coffee and muesli for breakfast, I went out and started lighting fires. Both the squirrel stove and the back cabin range feed into the central heating on ""Hazel". Our guest for the day hailed from hot places like Sudan, so I wanted the boat to be nicely warmed up. The van was unloaded, it was mostly firewood from Knowl St, then I started  rooting about in the snow on "Forget me Not"s deck  for bits of scrap we'd pulled out of the cut.

At about 9.20 I started to panic. No crew had arrived yet and the first guests had showed up whilst I was moving "Southam" out of the way. The guests went off to Asda and Aaron and Tony arrived about 10.30 and started clearing snow from "Hazel"s roof and salting the steps to make them safe.

In fact our guests, a group called Refugee Action, didn't arrive until well past 10.  The safety talk was translated into Arabic and Sudanese then, with everyone aboard, we set off. I steered the motor, Aaron steered the butty and Tony dealt with the lines. The floating snow had coagulated into thin ice which we cut through easily.

It was a shame I couldn't take photographs as many picturesque Christmas cardy shots presented theselves as we went along. Just after Walk Bridge a couple on the towpath photographed our passing. I invited them to come on Sundays recycling trip.  

Though only thin, the ice made winding at Lumb Lane difficult. On the outward trip the low sun shone brightly, but, as we winded, the sky greyed over and snow began to fall. Tony took over steering. As we headed into the East wind I began to regret not putting on even more layers.

As we passed the railway sidings at Guide Bridge  Tony pointed out a group of orange clad workers sitting in a minibus. He told me he had a friend who worked on railway maintenance but in bad weather they weren't allowed to do anything (elfin safety) but would just sit around chatting for their entire shift. The world's gone mad!

Our guests spent most of the trip indoors, not surprising really, but they came out all smiles saying they'd enjoyed it. After a short break we welcomed another dozen refugees on board. This time Aaron and Tony took the motor and I enjoyed a lovely quiet ride on the back of "Hazel", feeling the warmth from the back cabin range. We headed off into a snowstorm, then the sun came out again.

We finished the second trip at about 2.45. Our guests departed and we sat down in "Hazel"s warm fore end to have a brew, before shafting "Southam" back into the basin then going our various ways home. A good day.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1252885 2018-02-25T21:05:19Z 2018-02-25T21:05:19Z More Trees Planted

Today Tony and me got a few more trees planted, near the motorway in Audenshaw. I also cut back some sycamores that were threatening trees planted in previous years. We pulled out some shopping trolleys and a bike. Back at Portland Basin we tried to breast up to Southam but "Forget me Not" stemmed up in mid basin. The level is about 9" down but the water should be deep here. I poked around with a keb and managed to move something big but couldn't get it out of the water. It felt like a submerged tree trunk. Here's some pictures of "Forget me Not" around Guide bridge.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1251398 2018-02-22T19:45:43Z 2018-02-22T19:45:44Z Tree Planting Day

Today was supposed to be a canal clean up but CRT hit us with a load of paperwork that I haven't got round to completing yet, so I thought I'd get a few trees planted. All unofficial guerrilla planting. I only invited a couple of people as I'm not very sociable at the moment. Niether of them showed up as both were feeling ill, the winter lurgi that keeps coming back I think.

After waiting a bit and having trouble starting "Forget me Not"s cold engine I set off up the Peak Forest on my own. The level was down and almost immediately I stemmed up in mid channel. When I eventually got away a wheelie bin rose to the surface then sank again.

I got up to the site of our Solstice fire that wouldn't burn, removed the remnants of the bonfire then planted an oak in the ashes. From there I carried on to Hyde where I winded the boat and started heading back. Joe Hodgson, tree surgeon par excellence rang. He had just arrived at Portland Basin. He walked up the towpath and met me at Well Bridge.

At Globe bridge I got off and walked on to work the lift bridge. Joe successfully got the boat through the Great Central railway bridge and the lift bridge, both sources of trouble, then stemmed up un the same wheelie bin back near Portland Basin.

When we eventually got off this we turned left towards Guide Bridge and I got off to take these pictures. We planted more trees on spare land at Guide Bridge, winded at Lumb Lane and got back to Portland basin at dusk. A nice day.

Passing Oxford Mills.

Joe hides behind the wonky chimney.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1239323 2018-01-28T20:41:45Z 2018-01-28T20:41:46Z The Laird Saves The Day

I was worried when I got up this morning. I'd had no response to my request for help on the last day of "Elton"s docking. Though I'd got all the plates on on Saturday there were still a lot of bolts to put in and my drill mounted nut screwer upper had broken. This simple tool was capable of surprising a bolt so that it screwed up without turning. Without it I would have to use spanners, a much slower process, and, without the element of surprise, I would need someone on the outside to hold the bolt head.

About 7.30 AM I got a text from Laird Denis McGee Boyle. He was coming from Nottingham to help. We had an excellent day painting the hull with black sticky stuff, drilling and bolting up plates. The picture above shows Denis painting the last bit at about 5.30. The pictures below show the work done over the last couple of days. Fingers crossed for her floating tomorrow!

The last 2 pictures show the bits that were holed by Community Spirit 2. Now nicely plated over.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1238442 2018-01-26T19:49:52Z 2018-01-26T22:30:45Z Megabright Orb in Dukinfield Sky

Reports are coming in of an incredibly bright orb like disk in the sky over Dukinfield, Greater Manchester. It was so bright that ordinary cameras were unable to photograph it. Scientists claim that this is a natural phenomenon called the Sun, a huge thermonuclear reactor round which the Earth orbits at about 92 million miles (but who would believe that).

 Leading astrologer Lynda la Veritas says that this is the result of a rare conjunction of planets and it will ensure peace, love and prosperity for all who cross her palm with bitcoin.

A spokesman for the Flat Earth Society said that it was the return of the god Helios driving his golden chariot across the sky. A temporary break in the clouds of toxic chemicals dispersed in the sky by THE GOVERNMENT has enabled it to be seen. He expressed some concern that too much exposure to the light could affect the giant turtle on whose back the Earth's disc sits.

Donald Trump tweeted that it was Obama and the Clintons who had kept us in the dark and this beautiful orb was there because he said it would be. In a further tweet he suggested that bathing in the light of the orb was a cure all and so healthcare was no longer needed.

Boris Johnson welcomed the news of the orb's sighting and declared that this was just the beginning of a bright new future which we would all enjoy when brexit was complete and he was prime minister. His cabinet colleagues suggested that he stick to his brief as Foreign Secretary.

Islamic State (Dukinfield Chapter) claimed that this was a sign of the imminent return of the prophet Jesus on his white charger to turn the military tide in their favour and lay waste to the ungodly. The unbelievers must prepare to taste death, they added.

I just thought it was a nice day.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1238418 2018-01-26T19:11:09Z 2018-01-26T19:11:09Z "Elton" Nearly Done.

Though I wouldn't mind a hand over the next couple of days. She will float again on Monday (honest).

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1235187 2018-01-20T21:29:51Z 2018-01-20T21:29:51Z Progress with "Elton".

The damage is now largely plated over and the rest of the hull tidied up. We're even starting to apply some black sticky stuff.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1231123 2018-01-12T21:40:06Z 2018-01-12T21:40:06Z More Pictures of "Elton"s Docking.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1229969 2018-01-10T21:25:40Z 2018-01-10T21:25:41Z Elton on Dock.

"Elton" has always been the Cinderella of our fleet. It's years since she was docked but she's now got 3 weeks on the dock at the marina. Long overdue anyway but precipitated by the damage caused when she was rammed by "Community Spirit". It's pretty amazing that we've managed to keep her afloat since the damage was done in March. The damage extends below the waterline yet it didn't start her leaking. If she had gone down it would have been a struggle to get her up again with that gaping hole in her stern. It's now being plated up. Here's some pictures of Aaron shafting her across the basin and the damage.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1226649 2018-01-04T20:00:04Z 2018-01-04T20:00:04Z A Day at the Boatyard

Today we sold the wheelchair lift that we didn't use on "Hazel". It came from the old "Still Waters", built by Cammell Lairds apprentices, which sank and was sold off. The new owners donated the lift, but it needed a lot of work. We got given a better (unused) one later. It's gone to Lincoln to be refurbished.

As we needed some muscle to shift the lift I invited people to come and help. Aaron, Tony and Kim came along and we spent the rest of the day tidying and sorting out the yard. Still plenty to do but sales of surplus tackle are gradually clearing space.

We stacked a pile of cabin building timber on top of one of the containers. This is Leylandii, surprisingly, though I don't much like the tree, it produces good, rot resistant timber. This lot came from a friend's garden in South Manchester. It was felled by the excellent tree surgeon Joe Hodgson and planked at a local fence manufacturer. There's a pile of smaller wood to collect for keeping us warm when we get a chance, and Joe has another bug tree to fell there, which may yield more useful timber.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1222356 2017-12-27T08:30:04Z 2017-12-27T10:17:31Z Boxing Day train ride

It's become a bit of a Boxing Day tradition that we go for a trip on the east Lancashire Railway. This morning Em wasn't feeling well, so we thought we'd go this afternoon. By 2 PM she was still feeling grotty, though busy researching a friends noble bloodline on tinternet. She said I was getting like dog who's been promised a walk and more or less ordered me to go on my own. I decided to see if I could join a train at Ramsbottom but I was just too late. It was crossing the level crossing as I arrived. I parked up and watched it leave, tender first, towards Bury. I was puzzled by the locomotive. It looked a bit like a Great Eastern J15, but something about it didn't seem right.

The next train from Ramsbottom was a diesel multiple unit, which didn't appeal to me, so I drove to Bury where the train was still in Bolton St station waiting to leave for Heywood as I parked up. I photographed it leaving, volcanoing  black smoke into the fading light of the afternoon. I went to find a takeaway as I was getting hungry.

Having consumed my piri piri ratburger  I entered the station, all decked up for Santa specials. The booking office was closed and there seemed to be no staff about, though the platform bar was moderately busy. A man wearing a brown suit and brown trlby told me that trains were free today. He'd just had a free ride from Ramsbottom. This seemed unlikely, knowing the cost of coal, so I went back and dinged the bell at the booking window. I could hear voices inside but no-one opened it, then I saw the notice saying you have to pay on the train today.

Back on the platform the imminent arrival of the 15.45 to Rawtenstall was being announced. I decided to try to photograph it, even though the light was rapidly disappearing. The slightly shaky results appear below.

The brass worksplate on the side of the cab revealed the identity of this mystery engine. It said "Hunslet Engine Company 1943" along with its works number, which was also boldly displayed along the smooth, unrivetted tender sides, which betrayed its recent construction.

This loco is a bit of a pleasant fake. It started life in 1943 as one of the World War 2 standard design of shunting engine for the War Department, based on a design of 1937. These highly successful locomotives were spread around Europe after the war as well as being used by the LNER as class J94. Many went into industrial service and more were constructed up until 1964, particularly for the National Coal Board. In total 485 were built, not all by Hunslet, of which 62 survive on heritage railways, making them the most abundant surviving class. I must admit that I feel a little dismay when I show up for a steam train ride to find an austerity in charge, though, were I running such a railway I would be pleased to have one in my fleet as they are such reliable and economical locos.

Being so abundant, heritage railways have had no qualms about modifying these engines. One has been transformed into a replica of a Great Western broad gauge locomotive. One has been rebuilt as a side tank to play the part of Thomas the Tank Engine. This particular example has mutated into a tender engine and has sometimes played the part of another Rev W Awdry character, "Douglas".

On this occasion there was no nameplate or smokebox face. The engine was playing the part of an early 20th century goods engine. Only the purist rivet counter would be offended by the all welded tender and cab.

I boarded the leading coach and, hanging out of the window, listened to the hard work of the fireman as he readied his little engine for the long climb into deepest Lancashire. 5 BR mark1 coaches is no insignificant load for such a small loco and I could hear the injectors singing, the fire being stoked and the blower roaring as the crew worked to raise steam for the task ahead.

The engine made a spirited start away from Bury and I enjoyed its confident barking progress up the line. I like to be hauled by small engines that have to struggle a bit. A 9F, for example, would chuff along hardly noticing its rake of carriages while it quietly reminisced about hauling hundreds of tons of iron ore up from Tyne Dock to Consett. After each stop the engine hauled the train away confidently, its strident exhaust leaving a long white cloud in the still air.

Beyond Summerseat I enjoyed watching a firework display of red hot cinders as the engine hauled its train through the curving tunnels, the smoke reflecting the orange glow from the firebox door.

At Ramsbottom we met the DMU on its run back to Bury, carrying no more than a taxiload of passengers.

I had decided to gt off at Irwell Vale, the penultimate station, watch the train depart, wander about for a bit, then rejoin it for the journey back to Bury. I stepped down on to the dark platform and stood beside the engine as the fireman continued his constant stoking. The guard walked up to inform me that the train didn't stop there on the way back. I thanked him for saving me a long walk and resumed my perch in the leading vestibule to enjoy the ride through the pitch dark to Rawtenstall.

There was sufficient artificial light at the terminal station for me to get some nice pictures of the engine running round, its safety valves roaring with excess steam. The fireman had perhaps worked a little too hard. The singing of the injectors told me that he was now doing his best to quiet the boiler.

Still no-one had asked for payment. I mentioned this to the guard as he supervised the coupling of the loco to its train. He said there were ticket inspectors on board but they obviously hadn't found me yet. If they did I could pay, if not, it was on the house.

There were now few passengers aboard. Most had detrained to recover their cars at Rawtenstall. I, once more, hung out of the window in the leading vestibule next to the engine, though now at the downhill end of the train. The return journey was less exciting as, save for a few chuffs to get the train going after each stop, the engine had little to do and could leave most of the effort to the force of gravity on the gently sloping track.

This being the last train of the day it stopped in platform 3, the engine uncoupled and chuffed away to the shed. I took a couple of photos of this process then ascended the Christmassy steps and through the Christmassy corridor on to Bolton Street, my wallet still unopened.

Back home Em was still in bed. She was excited by what she had discovered about her friend via her laptop, having traced back through Norman nobility almost as far as the invasion itself. Ironic as the lady whose noble roots were being explored is an ardent socialist.

Neither of us felt like cooking so I went out to Al Bilal, the best takeaway in Ashton. As usual the proprietor and his bearded friend were watching Pakistani TV behind the counter. I watched too, trying to guess what was happening in the televised game show as I don't understand Urdu. The news came on with pictures of politicians. Someone had resigned. The only person that I recognised was former cricketer Imran Khan.

The bearded friend ducked under the counter to leave, then turned to me and vented his frustration about the corruption of politicians. Apparently, recent hacking of accounts have revealed that 540 Pakistani politicians have between them salted away countless billions in tax havens whilst the national infrastructure languishes for lack of investment. I tried to acquaint him with the concept of the psychopath. "Yes" he declared "they all psychopaths, they not Muslims". With that he left. The gentle old proprietor brought me my lamb bhuna. We wished each other goodnight and I returned home where we enjoyed our excellent meal.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1215724 2017-12-12T21:33:30Z 2017-12-12T21:33:31Z One Side Done ]]> Chris Leah tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1212788 2017-12-07T19:44:22Z 2017-12-07T19:45:11Z Hazel on Dock

"Hazel" is on dock for a fortnight for a general overhaul. On the outside she's getting extra ice plates as some of the original ones ended up underwater. Seams are being repitched and the caulking hardened up on one seam, a bit of damaged shoeing repaired and a general tarring. Andrea came and helped on Monday. Inside Tony and Aaron are repainting and we've taken the floorboards out to be oiledAaron and Tony busy inside the boat.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1204529 2017-11-12T07:59:01Z 2017-11-12T22:17:44Z Busy with the Boats

I've had a tiring couple of weeks.

On Monday 23rd October we started our canal clean ups. We were expecting two groups to join us and I was a bit concerned that there would be more people than I could find jobs and equipment for. It was drizzling. Phil Smith from CRT arrived with lots of litter pickers, grappling irons etc. Luke arrived and we decided to hang on to wait for others. No-one showed up, so me and Luke set off for lock 1W. We hauled out a few shopping trolleys then went up the lock.

Aaron and Kim joined us and we looked for the obstruction in Whitelands tunnel. I think it's mostly stone, which we're unable to get out, but Aaron and Kim pulled out a huge lorry tyre which couldn't have been helping things.

(This series of photos by Luke Clarke)


At lock 2 we used the boat to access an area covered in rubbish that had been annoying me for ages and cleaned it up. Kim had to leave above lock 3 and time was pressing so we moved on to Stayley Wharf.

 It had been a bit disappointing but we had a respectable haul. I cycled down to Portland Basin to get the van and, as dusk fell, me and Aaron loaded the van with scrap iron, piled cut foliage in a neat heap and piled non recyclables on the bank.

Being a Monday I was fasting, so I enjoyed a bit of solitude aboard “Forget me Not”, reading a book. I went to sleep early but was up again well before dawn. I drove to the boatyard to pick up batteries and more scrap, then to Portland Basin to pick up even more scrap and change batteries on various bilge pumps. From here I went to Mullaneys scrapyard up near Hartshead Pike, unloaded the scrap, then back to Portland Basin where the van was to be collected for shop deliveries. I cycled up the towpath to get back to the boat about 9.30 in time for Phil to pick up the rubbish.

Tuesdays team were mostly volunteers organised by Peter Hawley, the Stalybridge Town centre Manager. About half a dozen arrived. I suggested backing up to clear the narrows near the aqueduct as this is a favourite place for getting stuck if the level is down a bit. Trainee skipper Alan took the controls as I steered the reversing boat with a shaft from the bow. We got plenty of road signs, bikes and trolleys out of the narrows. Some of the trolleys were so embedded in mud that we had to drag the grappling irons with the boat to get them out. One raised concerns that the iron might be caught on a plug to drain the canal, but it was only a trolley.

Some of the volunteers preferred litter picking, and there was plenty to find. They dragged bulk bags along the towpath to contain it all. Above lock 4 Phil met us with the CRT pickup to take away the rubbish. As I pulled away with the boat I noticed that the grappling iron that I was towing was causing much disturbance and globs of oil. I'd hooked on to a motor scooter which, with much effort, we dragged on to the bank, then pushed to above lock 5 to load it. I informed the police of our find.

The mess on the counter after landing muddy stuff with the grappling iron.

The narrows below Armentierres Square is a happy hunting ground for shopping trolleys. “Forget me Not” stuck on one, but we soon had it out.

With the deck well loaded with soggy smelly scrap again everyone left at lock 6 and I travelled on alone through 7,


then winded and backed up to the boatyard. This wasn't easy as a wind had sprung up and there was stuff on the blade. A passer by helped me remove some clothing from the propeller and I told him about recycling trips which he says he'll join us on. With the boat tied at Knowl St I was off home for the night.

Wednesday was a sorting out and repositioning day. Tony and Aaron arrived to help unload the boat, filling the boatyard with dripping smelly bikes and trolleys. We loaded on to the boat foliage from the boatyard trimming of the previous week then set off back down the locks, collecting the brash that we'd left at Staley Wharf. At the railway bridge behind Asda there was a stack of trolleys that someone had previously fished out, rusting in the undergrowth, so we stopped and loaded these up, then ferried them to the inaccessible space under Cavendish St Bridge, where they were exchanged for more foliage which someone had left there and some bags of rubbish.

At Portland Basin we turned left into the Peak Forest canal and unloaded the brushwood at the intended site for the Samhain fire, a patch of himalayan balsam next to the Great Central railway bridge.

We haven't used the winding hole at Jet Amber Fields for a few years, since a huge raft of american pennywort prevented us from winding. However, this seems to have subsided, so we decided to try it, rather than carry on to Hyde to wind. “Forget me Not” just managed to get round, though I doubt if we would succeed with “Hazel” as she is deeper at the bow.

We tied the boat at Portland Basin to await the next days adventure.

Thursday was the day for dibbling for rubbish in the Peak Forest canal. As well as the usual suspects we had Albert and Adam from the shop and a couple of new volunteers who had seen it advertised. We started right at the exit from the basin, looking for whatever the boat had bounced over there the previous day. We found nothing, it must have moved. Slowly we worked our way through Dukinfield to the lift bridge. Our new volunteers tended to hang back, constantly and mostly fruitlessly casting their grappling irons in the same spot as the boat left them behind.

I managed to gather everyone together at the lift bridge, a known trouble spot, and do some intensive grappling. The results were disappointing, though we did pull out some tyres. I found a clue to the problem here when I pulled out a brick with the keb. I think someone has tipped a load of rubble in here, which will need one of those rare and fabulous beasts, a dredger, to remove it.

I was eager to get to more problem areas further up the canal. The Great Central railway bridge was the next one. Some homeless people were camped on the old pit loading wharf there. It had been adopted as park land but appears to have been abandoned by the council as a result of funding cuts.

“Forget me Not” frequently touches the bottom along here but my hunch was that the problem was mostly railway ballast, carelessly cast into the canal by the railway authorities. This turned out to be the case, though we found quite a lot more debris in the water which we were able to remove. This included quite a lot of scaffolding, I suspect lost by contractors painting the bridge girders, and several more tyres.

I had an idea about the source of the tyres. Some time ago I had noticed a load of tyres dumped near Dunkirk bridge. These had now disappeared. My hunch was that they had found their way into the canal, which would explain the difficulty sometimes experienced in traversing this narrow bridgehole.

Tempus was busily fugiting so we hurried on to the afformentioned Dunkirk bridge, which “Forget me Not” frequently struggles to get through. Here, as anticipated, we pulled out lots of discarded tyres as well as the usual bikes, trolleys and what looked like the remnants of a pottery kiln.

A grappling iron got hooked on something that all the huffing and puffing of volunteers couldn't shift. I followed my usual procedure of attaching the line to the dollies and towing it out, but this time the line parted, so, we were one grappling iron down.

At the M67 motorway bridge there was a line of items that someone had clearly pulled out before us leaning against the concrete (there's a You Tube video of someone fishing them out with a powerful magnet) They included a large number of wheelclamps! We went through the bridge and winded. I would have liked to have backed up to Manchester Road bridge, another trouble spot, but time was pressing and volunteers were ebbing away. Returning through the motorway bridge we picked up the wheelclamps etc and enjoyed the trip back to Ashton in the fading light.

Friday was spent clearing away the spoils of the week and preparing “Hazel” for some overnight guests.

Early on Saturday morning I started getting “Forget me Not” ready for the trip. Our guests were a family from the North East, though coming originally from Chelmsford and all round the world. One of them was celebrating a milestone birthday and his wife had booked the stay on the boat and a trip to Roaches lock and back as a surprise.

Some were dubious about our ability to get to Roaches in a day. Though it's only about 5 miles and 14 locks it's on the difficult and unreliable Huddersfield Narrow Canal. As well as the usual suspects, myself, Tony and Aaron, Luke joined us again and I had recruited tree surgeon Joe and leaflet deliverer Andy.

We started at 9 and were soon starting to work up the locks towards Stalybridge. The weather was dull and drizzling. Things went smoothly at first, though I was a little concerned that, though the water levels were OK, there was no water running over the weirs. This made me think that there may be trouble ahead.

Trouble presented itself in the pound above lock 8, Grove Road. The pound was well down. This was a surprise as several substantial streams feed this pound. I've no idea where the water was going but it wasn't feeding down the canal.

I walked on to set the next lock, but, before I reached it, I got a call from Tony to say that the boats were stemmed in mid channel.

The affected pound is long by Huddersfield canal standards. The next one up is short. I virtually emptied it supplying enough water to bring the boats up to the lock. This meant I had to run down water from the pound above to get through this pound, thus lowering the next pound up. Going uphill, if you get a low pound you are constantly robbing Peter to pay Paul in this way.

Between 11 and 12, through Scout tunnel, the pound is slightly longer and I hoped to get through without robbing any water from further up. Sludging carefully along the middle it looked like we would succeed, until the boats firmly stuck just a few yards from lock 12. This meant stealing more water to get into the lock.

The next pound up runs through Mossley and was the longest that we would pass through. Despite this, getting the boats those last few yards took enough water to drop it a few inches below weir level.

Still, things looked good and we made steady progress until the second bridgehole, where “Forget me Not” got firmly stuck. It was only after much hard work that we got her moving again.

By the time we got into lock 14, Woodbank lock, it was dark. Some of our crew were getting anxious about getting home and our guests were expressing anxiety about their 6.30 booking at the Roaches Lock pub. There was only a short distance of winding canal to traverse and Tony made a good job of steering the pair through the pitch black.

As we reached the wide below Roaches we breasted up and, as a moored fibreglass cruiser loomed up ahead of us, tied rather clumsily just short of it. Our guests hurried up the bepuddled towpath to the pub whilst our crew trudged off down the road towards Mossley station, where the trains turned out to be buses, so they got a bus instead.

With the boats secured I went out in search of food, which I found in an Indian takeaway. I sat on the balance beam of lock 16 in the continuing rain, eating my meal and listening to the water running over the weir.

That night, the clocks changed. I used the extra hour to tidy up and organise firewood. I wondered if the crew would arrive on time. It was important to get moving early to avoid running on into the night. I walked down to the lock and got it ready so that, if necessary, I could start the boats moving with just a little help from our guests.

Today the usual suspects were to be augmented by Keith and Elsa Williamson, who gave some people lifts from Ashton. I'd just got the engine started when they began to arrive. A towpath walker warned of a low pound in Mossley.

Soon we were winded and on our way, working smoothly through Woodbank lock. A short pound brought us to lock 13, where we saw with dismay that the walker had not been exaggerating. The longest pound of our trip, through the centre of Mossley, was nearly empty.

We ran the motor down the lock and she sat, with her counter well out of the water, on rubbish in the bottom. We drew the top paddles then rushed to jump aboard at the tail of the lock as the boat, carried by the rush of water, shot out like an express train, only to stem up and sit awkwardly across the canal.

I walked to the next lock to see if I could find the reason for the problem. Elsa was ahead of me. We found that a top paddle was up and the bottom gates were leaking badly. I was worried that it could be our fault, did we leave a paddle up? Thinking back to the previous day I recalled that, at that particular lock, I had repeatedly asked one of our crew to shut the paddle until he eventually did, so clearly the problem wasn't our fault. This is why I try to drum into new crew members to shut the paddles as soon as the gates are open, otherwise its so easy to forget.

Later we heard that , the previous night, a dog walker had chased off some kids who were messing with the lock machinery. On this particular paddle the anti vandal lock was broken.

Our crew began running water down, but the short pound above the lock would soon be depleted so I walked up to Woodbank lock to steal some water from the longer pound up to Roaches. Eventually, Tony rang me to say that “Forget me Not” was afloat again. I shut the paddles and, after working the butty down, the pair set off, carefully, slowly, sludging along the muddy middle of the canal. Aaron stayed at lock 13, alternately filling and emptying the lock to send waves of water along the canal to lift the boats over any obstructions.The boats stuck solid in the same bridgehole that we had had problems with on the way up.

I ran down more water from Woodbank to help the now nearly empty short pound then, when I dare take no more, returned to the stuck boats. Elsa, who had stayed at lock 12 asked if she could bring an uphill boat up the lock, then we could use the same water to take our boat down. I asked her to hold the boat below the lock. Taking a lockfull off the pound would delay getting our boats unstuck, we wouldn't be able to pass each other and the leaky gates would soon empty the full lock anyway.

Eventually, with the pound nearly full and the ballast tanks emptied, we got moving again. Elsa rang again. The Eastbound boater was getting impatient. I explained that we were nearly there, as we stemmed up again. This time it just needed a bit of work with the shaft to get the boats moving . We reached the lock, worked the motor through, the impatient boat came up then the butty followed down and we carried on through Scout tunnel.

We were now on a waterway well supplied with water. Things went smoothly for a while but it was already well into the afternoon. At lock 7, near the boatyard in Stalybridge, some of our guests had to leave to catch a train. They thanked us profusely for the trip and said they would be back.

The procedure for working the pair down a narrow lock is as follows:- First the motor is worked down while the butty lies against the top gate. The lock is then refilled and the motor backs up, tiller removed, to sit with her fenders against the bottom gates, ticking over in reverse gear. It's very important that the boat is in contact with the bottom gates. When the bottom paddles are drawn to bring the butty down a powerful eddy holds the motor in place. The steerer can do nothing so they can go into the cabin and attend to the range. If the motor is not against the gates it will be brought back and crash into them with tremendous force. When the lock is empty the reversing boat simply pushes the gates open, the steerer picks up the towline and attaches it to the dollies and the pair steam on along the next pound.

As we approached lock 7 I had been preparing 6 bacon and egg butties for the crew. 6 rounds of bread were buttered on the table and the fillings were cooking on the range. I asked the motor steerer to back up to the gates and finish making the butties (sandwiches). We worked the butty (boat) down, but when I went to see about distributing the butties (sandwiches) I was told we had a problem. The swans neck was pointing in completely the wrong direction. The rudder had got turned far beyond its normal arc of operation and was now jammed under the counter, where it had hit the propeller and stalled the engine.

Clearly the boat had not been against the gates when the paddles were drawn and the rudder had caught on something as the power of the eddying water hammered the boat backwards. Our attempts to untangle the ironwork only resulted in bending the tiller. As I tied up the motor to allow the butty through the butties (sandwiches) were distributed. I was rather miffed not to get one.

There was nothing for it but to bowhaul the butty for the rest of the trip and leave the disabled motor where she was. Me and Aaron took turns at bowhauling, Tony was suffering from a bruised leg as a result of being hit by a flying pallett during the cleanup, so he steered. Luke lockwheeled without a bicycle.

The remaining locks were dealt with quickly and efficiently in the gathering dark. At the Asda tunnel some of us lay on the roof and stretched our legs up to walk upside down along the smooth concrete, then we shafted the boat along the towpathless stretch past Cavendish Mill to tie up at Portland Basin at about 6 PM.

I had been a little concerned that our guests may have been disappointed with their experience. They had spent most of the trip inside the cabin and didn't seem to be taking much interest in the boating activity. As they left, however, it was quite clear that “Hazel” had worked her magic on them. They told us they had really enjoyed the trip. They had rather stressful jobs and had appreciated the relaxation afforded by their time on the boat.

Once everyone had left I headed back up to Stalybridge. There had been some young scallywags hanging around the town centre as we passed through so I wanted to make sure that “Forget me Not” was safe. After spending a pleasant night in the back cabin I started shafting the boat down the locks. Near the Tame aqueduct she stemmed up in mid channel. A little work with the keb brought out a tyre, one that we missed during the cleanup. At the Clarence St moorings the boat stemmed up again, this time on a submerged tree trunk. It took the efforts of myself and several of the residents to dislodge the boat then recover the offending log. One of the moorers caught me up at lock 3 offering to help, but I turned him down, partly because you can't really have 2 people shafting and partly because I was just enjoying doing it on my own.

As I neared my destination I got a 'phone call from Janet, our neighbour at Knowl St. She thought that someone had climbed into the boatyard. As soon as I got the boat tied abreast of “Lilith” I cycled post haste to Stalybridge. There had indeed been an intruder as I could see that things had been disturbed, but I couldn't identify anything as missing. I collected the van and drove home for a good rest.

Tuesday night should have been the night of the Samhain fire, but I was too busy to organise it so the brushwood will have to wait until the Winter Solstice before it is ignited.

I had arranged to meet a police officer on Friday morning to hand over the motor scooter. When she arrived at the boatyard I led her to the place where we had unloaded it. There was nothing there! Perhaps this was the target of our Monday intruders.

On Friday evening I shafted “Forget me Not” to Ashton Packet Boats boatyard in Guide Bridge. On Saturday morning they pulled her out on the slip and we found that the damage was nothing that a few good blows with a sledgehammer wouldn't put right. With the rudder untangled “Forget me Not” was ready for action again, just in time for the November recycling trips, which were excellent.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1198211 2017-10-14T07:59:24Z 2017-11-14T11:51:07Z In Oxenforde

 Em has long wanted to visit Oxford. Previous attempts to visit have been frustrated by illness. We usually go away somewhere for our birthdays so I decided to surprise her with a visit  to Oxford for a few days. I booked us into Browns Hotel on Iffley Road and got cheap advance tickets through https://wcbs.trainsplit.com/main.aspx

The journey was an uninterrupted ride on a Cross Country Voyager. Oddly, our reservations were for seats some distance apart, but the reservations system on the train had broken down anyway. The seats we sat in claimed to be reserved from Bristol to Cheltenham, a route the train wasn't taking today. The random seat allocations caused much confusion among passengers boarding along the way, but no-one challenged us in our choice of seats.

Voyagers can be very fast  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail_Class_220 but this one seemed to dawdle all the way. The seats, crammed into the limited bodyshell, become uncomfortable after a while. At Wolverhampton a stylish young Muslim woman sat opposite us. It amuses me to see someone adopting a style of traditional dress intended to prevent over excitement among males, then tweak it to make it as sexy as possible within the constraints given.

Between Leamington and Banbury we passed through my childhood trainspotting territory. Our train was a far cry from the Great Western Kings and Castles that used to thunder along this way back in 1962.

We were pleased to get off the train at Oxford. Em took a taxi to our hotel (never again at that price) and I cycled. the taxi driver asked about house prices in Manchester and was shocked that you can buy a 2 bedroom terrace for under £100,000. In Oxford they cost around £350,000. No wonder he charges so much!

I didn't know the way but I had glanced briefly at a map. Inevitably I fook a wrong turn, so I asked someone. Either the residents of Oxford are deeply ignorant of local geography or, like the natives of Bootle, they derive a perverse amusement from sending strangers the wrong way.

Eventually I reached the hotel, via the Thames towpath and Iffley Lock. At each entry point to the towpath the council have put up a big notice warning people not to use the towpath when it is flooded. It seems to me that only the terminally foolhardy would do such a thing. Presumably their legal department is worried that, should someone drown on the flooded towpath, they could be sued for not being there to stop someone doing something stupid. Such is the craziness of the modern duty of care.

Em had already checked into the hotel when we got there. She was not impressed by the stairs up to our room and I had to explain that when I booked I had to take the only room available that was affordable as they were being booked up rapidly. Browns Hotel http://www.brownsoxford.com/  is pleasant with a really good, if expensive, cafe downstairs. We found the bed uncomfortable though and I was disturbed that I kept having to unwedge the fire door at the top of the stairs, only to find it wedged open again later. Oh, and the shower on our floor didn't work.

Em rested and I went out to explore Oxford. I enjoy the amazing architecture, all built in honey coloured stone, but feel more at home in more plebeian places like the covered market. I like the cosmopolitan atmosphere. As you walk along a street you hear many languages spoken and see people from different cultures mingling happily. In Lancashire I'm afraid we have a sort of unspoken apartheid and, while there is cultural diversity, intermingling is, at least in my age group, limited.

My internal homing device failed again so I asked a group of mixed race teenagers hanging about outside a park. They spoke in the poshest accents imaginable but had no idea of local geography. Their best suggestion was to follow a bus.

At a right angle turn in the road I decided to follow a footpath/cycleway that went straight on. It led me into meadows and a crossing of the Cherwell. This seemed good as I needed to cross the Cherwell, but I was a little upstream from where I needed to be. The busy path led to a 1970s estate. A young cyclist had stopped so I stopped to ask. He said he'd had an accident and was trying to make a running repair on his damaged front carrier. I helped with the repair. He didn't know where Iffley Road was but suggested I travel with him back to the city centre. Back at the start of the path I veered off left and soon found my way back.

Back at the hotel, Em had rested. She'd discovered that nearby was an Anglican convent who host 'pay as you like' retreats. She's interested. Most retreats seem to be only for the wealthy. With rye bread bought from the cafe below we ate a simple picnic, then scoured the TV channels for something interesting to watch.

Next morning was Em's birthday. I dug out her present. She had mentioned the need for a better camera, so I got her one. She wanted to explore Oxford. We went to catch a bus, but it was rush hour and the first one to come was full, so we started walking. Em hadn’t brought her new camera so she asked me to photograph this wooden tower on top of a building.  


Eventually we got to the City centre. Em was keen to see Christ Church. We walked slowly down pretty stone streets until we found it. Tours were available but Em thought sh would get too tired to complete one. She wanted to rest so I went exploring nearby streets. When we met up again she was keen to see the Bodleian Library, an impressive place and we paid a pound each to be admitted to a bit that was used in the Harry Potter films with an amazing stone ceiling.

It was dinner time and Em had read about the Vaults & Gardens restaurant which was nearby. A sort of healthy posh Hogwarts themed fast food place. We went there and enjoyed middle class portions of healthy but nice food.


Em was tired so we got a bus back to Iffley Road. She needed to rest so I went out on my bike.

My plan was to repeat the route of a walk that I remembered from last time I stayed in Oxford. This would be about 1985. I had a friend called Julia who lived on an old wooden joey whilst studying at the university. I visited to help and advise on repairs. Julia shifted the ballast to one side to attend to problems below the waterline on the other side. A sensible strategy, but with its dangers. In the early hours I was woken by an agitated Julia shouting my name. I got up and followed the calls to find Julia sitting naked on the toilet, which happened to be next to the bilge pump, pumping like mad. A niagara of water was pouring through the side of the boat behind her. It was lucky that she had needed to get up for a pee in the night, otherwise we may not have noticed that the downward side of the boat was steadily filling up until it was too late and we woke up underwater.

It almost was too late. Julias frantic pumping was no way fast enough to reverse the sinking process. I picked up a newspaper, opened it out and went out on to the sterndeck. I was able to reach round underwater and plaster the paper over the porous area. This slowed the leaks sufficiently so that, taking turns at pumping, we were able to empty the bilge and eventually return to our slumbers.

My idea was to follow the canal towpath up to the Dukes Cut then follow that across to the Thames, perhaps, if there was time, go upstream a little, then back down the Thames to rejoin a refreshed Em.

The Oxford Canal terminal basin was filled in in the 1930s to provide a site for Nuffield College.

Now it simply peters out at a road about 100 yards short of its former end. When I was there 30 years ago this dead end was full of unofficial residential boats that British Waterways were trying to get rid of. At one point they even hired a private detective to spy on people. Their case was boosted by complaints from a local resident who said the boats were spoiling her view. It was later discovered that to see the boats from her house you had to stand on a chair and open the bathroom window. The compromise solution was for BW to provide official serviced moorings that the existing residents said were too expensive.

The smart new moorings are still there, now looking a bit run down, but the boats on them are less interesting than they used to be. As well as Julias boat there was a wooden tug with a huge Gardner engine and the Josher motor “Aster”, now on the Kennett & Avon with an uncertain future. At that time she was occupied by an American couple.

The lock to the Thames under the bridge. Straight on are residential moorings and a dead end.

A new development is taking place at Jericho. I believe a boatyard has been destroyed here to make way for more upmarket waterside residences.

Beyond the lock through to the Thames I was pleased to see that an anarchic jumble of boats survives, no doubt to the chagrin of the various autorities and snooty residents. The Thames backwater that runs parallel to the canal is a particular hive of anarchy. The chaos of cheap old boats is fascinating to me, though I can see that those of a tidy and tiny mindset will be hugely offended that such disorder is allowed to survive.

The towpath was busy with walkers and cyclists. Interesting looking people predominated. As I progressed the individuality of the moored boats seemed to increase, away from the standard welded steel boxes towards vessels that would have brought joy to the heart of JRR Tolkien himself.

I stopped to photograph one rather attractive boat. As I was doing so I noticed two cats perched on top of the next boat. This looked like it would make a good picture so I turned, aimed my camera at them and zoomed in. As I did so I heard a growling shooing noise to my left. I glanced that way and saw, some distance off, a very hairy man heading my way making angry noises and waving a stick. I wasn't sure whether he had a problem with me or with the cats, but I thought I'd get my picture before he arrived. I made chushing noises to get the cats to look my way and pressed the shutter. Unfortunately, in the split second that it took to activate the shutter the cats detected oncoming danger and turned their heads to look at the noisy man, before scarpering into the hedge.

The man was not angry with the cats, he was angry with me. He told me, loudly, that he was fed up with tourists coming here taking photographs. He kept repeating that this was private, not council. I decided not to engage with him for he was speaking nonsense. Bizarrely, he asked if I was here for the beard competition, one that he would surely win.

Rant apparently over he carried on his walk towards Oxford. More cats appeared wide eyed from the hedge to join the original pair. Probably they were psychically asking each other 'what the**** was all that about?'. I saw another photo opportunity so I raised my camera and pointed it towards the cats. The angry man must have had eyes in the back of his head for he detected further photographic activity, turned and ran back towards me with his stick raised. I turned from the cats, who were once more beating a hasty retreat, and aimed my camera at the approaching man. Once more he berated me for my allegedly papperazzi like behaviour, then left, muttering.

A River Class butty. Built for British Waterways 1958-62 of all welded construction they saw relatively little use before the nationalised fleet was disbanded in 1963. No name visible but they all had 3 letter river names, "Ant", "Axe","Exe" etc.

This Grand Union butty "Banbury" was also tied along here.http://www.workingboats.com/gucc%20butties.htm

I rode on. A sort of smallholding occupied the strip between canal and railway, with corrugated iron barns and old caravans bursting at the seams. The Oxford bypass crossed overhead on stilts.

I came to the junction with the Dukes cut. The entrance lock, which prevents the Thames from flooding into the canal, had a boat working through it. I soon found the towpath to be almost impassible woodland. At one point an old willow arches low over the path and you have to almost kneel down to get under it.

I found the entrance to the mill stream, where once number ones delivered boatloads of coal from Coventry. The motor and butty would go down the stream tied stem to stem, using the flow of water for motiive power and the engine to steer. After unloading the motor would reverse out, hauling the butty forwards.

From here on the route is a winding backwater populated by what, when they were promoting the British Waterways Bill, the authorities chose to call “colonies of illegal houseboats”. Actually they're just people who refuse to be boxed, doing their best to survive in an over regulated land. I entered one such colony in search of a path. I was greeted by a man with a friendly facade who wanted to know my business. After complimenting me on my T shirt, depicting a bicycle towing the Tardis, he directed me towards the Thames over a soft mown field that was hard going. I dismounted and walked as it was easier. The water route turned back on itself and I began to wonder how far it actually was to the main channel.

I examined my Ordnance Survey map. Close inspection showed that there was no way through on foot or bike to the Thames towpath. This was at odds with my 32 year old recollection, but, knowing the way that memory can be embroidered over time, I decided to believe the map.

I dragged my bike straight across the middle of the huge soft field and joined a noisy trunk road. I followed this until it crossed the canal where I carried my bike down a steel staircase to regain the towpath. A short ride brought me to a lock, where I left the waterway to take a pleasant little lane through the picturesque village of Wolvercote.

Where the lane crossed the navigable channel of the river I went through a gate to join the towpath, or Thames Path as it is now referred to. There's no way you could do any towing from this path nowadays for the actual waters edge is lined in many places with substantial trees and the path often travels through fields some distance from the water.

I came across the ruins of Osney Nunnery, then on to Osney lock, where I lingered to eat some bits and pieces of food I'd brought with me.

Some young rowers appeared from the weir stream and went off down river. Shortly afterwards an odd looking catamaran, with an outboard motor and a single seat, followed the same course. I later discovered that such craft are common on the Thames and I think are used to carry coaches for the purpose of shouting at rowers.

Looking downriver there were the wide flood plains of Port Meadow and in the far distance the city.

With food consumed I headed downriver on the rough but busy path. I passed a converted barge moored randomly in the middle of nowhere.

At Medley Marina the path crosses the river on a long arched footbridge. I crossed this and realised how my memories had got confused. I had conflated two different walks, one to, and partly along, the Dukes Cut and one across Port Meadow then down the Thames towpth back into Oxford.

I carried on down the Thames path until I reached the bridge nearest the hotel.

Em was recovered, so we headed into town on a bus and, eventually, found the Odeon cinema (there are two just to confuse people) where Em had booked tickets for “Blade Runner 2049”. This was very good and raises all kinds of questions about our relationships with the non humans.

Back on the bus, and so to bed.

Next morning Em was suffering for the previous days exertions. She decided to stay most of the day in bed, so I went off on my bike to explore downstream towards Abingdon. Beyond Iffley lock the

path was good and busy with bikes and walkers, then, where the Princes Risborough line crossed on a long girder bridge.

This line once served Cowley, an industrial suburb of Oxford, and Thame on its way to join the direct Banbury to London route. Closed under Beeching, only a freight spur now survives to serve the car factory at Cowley, where they make the new Minis. There is some agitation to get the route revived as an alternative commuter route into London. Recently a new link has been made through from Oxford to join this route via Bicester, but the Cowley line would be much more direct.

Onward, the path deteriorated into a rutted line across the fields.

I came a cross a rather Enid Blyton house built on an island in the river, Rose Island. A beautiful place to live, but you wouldn't want to keep anything nice on the ground floor because it must flood from time to time.

I noticed one of the famous College Barges moored in a short backwater.

At Sandford lock there was a mill. An information board gave its history. It's last use, unil 1970, was as a paper mill. At one time it recieved rags by boat upstream from London and coal downstream via the Oxford canal. It must have been an interesting task getting a loaded horse boat down through Oxford. Latterly of course the mill was serviced by road. Now it is upmarket housing.

The path deteriorated so that I had to put my full concentration into keeping moving and staying upright. This was a pity as I had been enjoying the wide gentle valley with its mixture of open fields and woodlands.

As I got nearer to Abingdon the railway crossed over. A branch line once served the town but it was long ago culled by the infamous doctor. The towpath veered away from the river and wound its way through willow woods with wooden bridges over muddy streams.

I have often chuckled at the mountain bikers brown stripe as they ride mudguardless through merde of all varieties. I like to have proper strong mudguards. This time the laugh was on me as my front wheel ground me to a halt, the mudguard clogged solid with sticky mud and autumn leaves. I got plastered with the stuff as I patiently unclogged it so that I could ride on.

Where I stopped I noticed a blue tent among the willows. Nowadays, just like the 1980s, there are homeless people wherever you go. Despite Oxfords prosperity there are people who fall through the net, can't work, often because of addiction or mental health problems, and can't deal with the fathomless and uncaring bureacracy of the benefits system. They end up begging for their sustenance and hiding away in tents. At least this tent is in a nice place.

I was about to get moving again when I noticed two strange machines, like alien hoovers, moving towards me. They were cutting the grass along the path. I stood back to let them pass, then carried on.

The approach to Abingdon lock is by footbridge across the weir. The lock and its buildings are immaculate, like all Thames locks. At the ancient bridge downstream I left the path and crossed over into the town. A pleasant old place with lots of upmarket shops. I veered off to the left as I wanted to find the entrance to my old friend the Wilts & Berks Canal.

I found the stanked off entrance and saw the road that now occupies the route of this long defunct water route. The riverside here was once busy wharves for both canal narrow boats and the West Country barges of the Thames.

Next to the old entrance was a narrow boat that appeared to be attempting to hide from the authorities

Information on the old wharf said that a new link to the Wilts & Berks had been built from Abingdon Marina as part of a very active restoration project. I peddalled along the riverside road in search of this new canal. The Marina is predictable, ranks of white fibreglass surrounded by expensive housing.

There are people who dream of making the whole network like this, but I like the canal entrance, creeping away unobtrusively under houses and into a tunnel as a narrow canal should.

I returned to the town, hoping to find interesting shops where I could buy interesting food for my lunch. I was disappointed in this, so I bought some provisions at the co-op. The museum building, presumably the old town hall, was impressive.

Back at the river I pressed on down the towpath but, to be honest, I was starting to get a bit bored with it. The river was wonderful, the boats interesting, the scenery pleasant, the path variable but it was a bit like an endless loop, constantly repeating itself. As I neared another perfectly prim lock at Culham I noticed repetitive 'No Cycling' signs along the path. I decided it was time to head back by getting a train from Culham station.

Leaving the river at the lock, I was soon riding rapidly along a main road. I passed a private school called “The European School”. I wonder how that will fare if the current climate of Europhobia.

The station still has a Station Inn, now functioning largely as a restaurant I think, and an original, elegant, Station building, no longer used by the railway, a new platform with bus shelter has been built to allow it to be let out, presumably as an office.

I was disappointed to see that there was no train for an hour and a half but I sat in the bus shelter to eat my lunch anyway. With my stomach recharged I considered riding back to Oxford. Apart from retracing my tyremarks back up the towpath the only sensible way involved a lot of unpleasant riding on main roads. The only positive seemed to be that it would take me past a crossroads which, according to the Ordnance Survey, is called “Goldenballs”. I wonder who lives there.

I decided to spend my time photographing trains. Unfortunately i managed to miss the freights, which I find more interesting.i

The platform gradually developed a congregation of passengers. I think they were mostly from the nearby science park. Those who were speaking had foreign accents, mostly Spanish. The train arrived and soon I was back in Oxford.

By the magic of telephonic communication I had arranged to meet Em in the covered market. We had coffee and flapjack then she wanted to visit the Eagle and Child pub where CS Lewis, JRR Tolkein and their mates used to meet for a drink. It's still a proper old fashioned dark pub and we sat where the great authors of old used to sit.

It was time to head back to Iffley Road. We had hoped to go to a folk night at a pub by the river but Em was too poorly so we stayed in and I started to read an interesting travel book about visiting Iran and Afghanistan in 1933, having redeemed a book token I was given at Christmas.

Next day was Saturday. We met once again for coffee and cakes at the covered market. Em then made her way slowly to the Pitt Rivers Museum while I went down to the river, perched myself near the railway bridge and enjoyed watching trains and boats and writing. Eventually I was summoned and rode up through the town centre to meet her in the picturesque Lamb & Flag alley.

After eating a meal unremarkable except for its price per 100 gram at a little cafe we continued down to Folly Bridge. This is the starting point for Salters Steamers who have been operating passenger boats on the river since the mid nineteenth century. Our boat was shaped like a traditional Thames launch but was made of fibreglass and powered by electricity. We whirred down the busy river, passing punts and rowers and all kinds of craft.

Another college barge.

The variety here is amazing. We passed “Pamela”, the butty that used to run horse drawn hostelboat holidays. I like boats that are non standard and I particularly enjoyed the bizzarre conversion of an old British Waterways work flat.

View downriver from Folly Bridge.

The little electric launch.

Back at Folly Bridge Em was getting tired, so we made our way back up to High St for Em to get a bus. I went off to the station to check on trains as I had seen warnings of disruption due to electrification work. They said our train would be OK, it was trains to Paddington that were disrupted. Another nice ride along the towpath brought me back to the hotel. We spent another evening reading. Downstairs the hotel owners were having a party, entry by ticket, in aid of the local poetry group. We were invited but decided not to go. Instead we enjoyed the excellent jazz singing and saxaphone playing.

Sunday morning we had to leave. While Em slumbered I went out at first light and rode down to the river. I went exploring a bit and found a delightful backwater full of boats at Iffley Meadows. Unfortunately I'd left my camera behind. One of the boats was “Mafeking”, a converted iron dayboat which I remember on the Oxford Canal in the 1980s. A friend of Julia's lived aboard.

Back at Browns Hotel we quickly packed and headed for Oxford. Once more we met up in the covered market but, it being Sunday morning, hardly anything was open. We breakfasted at a cafe across the road, then made our way to the station, hours early. I was sent on an errand to find something for lunch.

As we approached the station we passed a sea of bikes. this is how things need to be, those who can cycling rather than everyone using motor vehicles.

The station was busy with people hoping to be somewere else. There were lots of extra railway staff standing about wearing different coloured plastic tabards saying things like 'customer service'. They didn't seem to be doing much servicing. One young lady had a pink tabard which said “Customer Service Ambassador”. She was lolling against a post with a vacanthttps://www.northernbelle.co.uk/northern-belle-train/ look on her face and didn't seem the least bit ambassadorial. Em pointed out that 2 good looking young customer service chaps were behaving with each other in a rather sexualised but somewhat unprofessional manner. Someone asked them what they were doing there and they said they'd been drafted in from Worcester as extra security.

As we waited the Northern Belle luxury train drew into one of the through lines and paused for a while.  https://www.northernbelle.co.uk/northern-belle-train/  

Diners on the train, who had paid at least £250 for the privilege, watched us waiting as they ate. At each end was a 3000HP class 57 locomotive belonging to Direct Rail Services (a subsidiary of British nuclear Fuels)  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail_Class_57  Why the needed so much power I don't know, though possibly the train was due to reverse somewhere that there were no run round facilities so they needed an engine on each end.

Our Cross Country Voyager arrived and we scrambled aboard the crowded train which was soon whisking us through the pleasant undulating countryside. At Birmingham New St we had to change. Why bdon't they put information about which platform trains are going from actually on each platform? We caught our next train, which was also crowded.

At Manchester I cycled up the towpath, Em got the tram. I stopped at Portland Basin to check on the boats and change some batteries, then got told off for being late back.

That night we both enjoyed being in a comfortable bed.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1195226 2017-10-01T20:31:52Z 2017-10-01T20:31:53Z Tameside Radio Trip, followed by a Recycling Trip

September 30th was the 10th birthday of Tameside Radio and they chose to celebrate it by having a ride on our boats. On Friday 29th we got the boats ready and took "Forget me Not", "Hazel" and "Lilith" down to Fairfield. Some people from the radio station joined us in the morning and we set off. This went a bit embarrassingly. I put "Forget me Not" into gear and turned the speedwheel, but it stayed on tickover. A nut had dropped off the linkage and disappeared into the bilge. I rigged up a length of string to control the engine. The boats were now all over the place but I tried to start off again. Immediately she picked up something big on the blade. After a lot of struggling I got it off, it was a big thick onesy. We got going at last with the 3 boats in a train. "Forget me Not" pulled well. I connected the bit of string to the cabin slide so if you pull the slide back t speeded up and push  it forward to slow down. It worked well.

I was aware that arriving at Portland Basin with 3 boats would be tricky and there would be a lot of eyes on us. It turned out to be busier than I anticipated as it was also the official launch of "Community Spirit 2" so there were lots of civic dignitaries about. As we came into the basin I signalled to Tom, steering "Hazel" to throw off "Lilith"s towline. Aaron shafted "Lilith" across the basin to breast up to "Southam" while we breasted "Forget me Not" and "Hazel" and tied on the towpath side. As soon as we were stopped "Community Spirit 2" came through, loaded with dignitaries.

Terry the Lion appeared to present us with a cheque for Marple and Romiley Lions Club's annual sponsorship. along with a plaque celebrating their long term support. We were interviewed on radio, photographed, then spent a bit of time meeting different people and showing them round the boat, before setting off with just "Hazel" in tow to work up the 3 locks to Stayley Wharf.

It's rare to work up these locks with adequate water. This time all the weirs were running hard and we didn't even stem up in Whitelands Tunnel. At Stayley Wharf we winded the pair and tied up. Our guests left and we stopped for a brew before setting off back down to Portland Basin. The trip went very smoothly with everyone working co-operatively with little need for advice.

We had had some problems getting "Lilith" out of the arm ready for this trip. The water level had dropped, leaving her sitting on something solid. I didn't want to put her back in the arm so we dropped "Hazel" alongside "Lilith" and I put "Forget me Not in the arm alongside "Still Waters", the trip boat.

Sunday 1st October was recycling day. I was concerned that we might not get enough people as the weather forecast was bad. In fact the weather was mostly OK and we had a good team, including several new people. Everything went smoothly and we got quite a good haul. A couple of good days.

I didn't take many photos but these are they.

The 3 boats waiting at Portland Basin to set of for Droylsden.

"Lilith" and "Hazel" being winded at Fairfield.

The 3 boats at Fairfield.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1193685 2017-09-25T04:26:44Z 2017-09-25T04:26:44Z Marple Trip 23rd September 2017


Took an excellent bunch of people to Marple and back.  We struggled a bit as the level was down but everyone enjoyed it I think.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1190784 2017-09-12T20:19:18Z 2017-09-12T20:19:19Z Boatsitters Log Book

When we first brought boats to Portland Basin it was necessary to have someone on board every night to keep the boats safe from vandalism. This is the transcript of the log book that boatsitters kept. Some of it was almost illegible.

Lilith Night Watch

This is a kind of diary for what occurs on and around Lilith. Please write something

For each day you are on board. It’s good to be able to see what’s taken place since your last visit.

Tuesday 17th September 1996 at Portland Basin.

Lynn and Colin with Lilith & Forget Me Not at Macclesfield, en route to drop off

Scrap. Also moored Huddersfield Canal Society Trip Boat; Medana, with Marion and family; an Anderson hire boat out of Middlewich, with an adult group of four; also Two dredgers,

Poynton ( Q.E.2 ) and Pennine.

It’s a mild evening, we’ve seen a pair of Swans and the family of Canada Geese.

The other Thirty Six in the group don’t always come to the Basin. There are no problems,

Although the gas bottle is empty, the range is firing up well and cooking a curry. We didn’t know the gas was gone until we tried to use it around 7.30 pm. Too late to get another and we’ll be away too early tomorrow. The sky is clear, I’ve seen a young crescent moon and there are plenty of stars in sight. The phone is charged up and ready, should we need it. THANK YOU, whoever cleaned the lamp glasses, It’s not a struggle to see to write this.

Wednesday 18th September Captain’s Log ( Ooooheerrr! )

Arrived at Lilith early with Glen, sat outside for a bit because I didn’t have a key,

Then I remembered that the museum had a spare, so I didn’t have to sit outside anymore.

Chopped wood for fire, filled lamps, brewed up, then Robin arrived in van ( with new Device ? Drum ), so I played my drum and felt happy.

Morning arrives all too soon once again. We throw the bedding back into the van and move it into the car park, ( a little late - It’s now 09.40 am. I black the stove, Paula washes up, the three dogs do their best to get in the way. Now we have to leave. Vivienne has taken the gas bottle to refill.

Thursday 19th September

New gas bottle £11.30. I had Great difficulty manhandling it into gas locker! Vivienne.

Thursday 19th September 1996

The leaves are blown by the wind outside, Autumn says “Hello It’s me again”, I light the lamps on arrival and realise how long it is since I was last on Lilith, and that I love the dear old thing. This evening I spoke to Chris and said I wouldn’t be doing the boat anymore as I feel that gangs of armed rapists may arrive, ( one hears such stories, or knows people who do ). Now I’m here though I’m glad that I’ll still be able to stay on board with company. Nowhere have I smelt anything quite like the interior of this boat, a mixture of polish, paraffin, wood smoke etc. Love Jan

More likely to be a lone cannibalistic psychopathic serial killer. M.S

Friday 20th September 1996

Thanks Jan I was staying on Lilith on my own with Samuel tonight and started to think of gangs of rapists, but it’s really hard not to just chill out on this boat, and that’s exactly what I did. But anyway Jan if you ever want company to stay on, just give me a ring, anyway I didn’t hear anything going on round about except geese chatting, so I will sign off now. Lilith stay warm and cosy. Sharon

Saturday 21st September 1996

Hello, this is Chris. I think this log book is an excellent idea. I’ve just dodged back from Bosley where I left ‘Forget Me Not’. I’ll be going back in the morning to carry on to Longport where the scrap will be unloaded on Monday.

‘Freya’ from Braunston and the icebreaker ‘Shackleton’ are staying in the Basin overnight before going down the locks in the morning. I’ve just heard that B.W. Are closing Lumb Lane bridge until further notice. I don’t yet know why but it’s a bit of a problem as it means that the recycling trip will have to be done by road until it reopens.

Can someone get some paraffin please, we’re nearly out. It’s about £1.90 per gallon from Seymour Wilson on Old St, get a receipt for it and Marilyn will reimburse you. There was no paper or cardboard in the tin box of fire lighting stuff when I arrived. I found some when I walked up to the Late shop in Dukinfield.

It would be nice to use the Tilley lamp but I don’t know where the Tilley lighter is. If you find a strange metal object in a jar that’s probably it. Has anyone seen the flask? It’s really useful for that first cup of coffee in the morning.

I had a play on the Internet a few days ago, there were 264 entries under “Lilith”, unfortunately I didn’t have time to explore them. Enjoy Autumn Chris.

PS up at 4 am I saw Mick who was out watching stars but disappointed there were no meteorites. It’s a beautiful starry night.

PPS Keep an eye on the lads camping across the river.

Monday 23rd September 1996

We arrived sevenish ( Marilyn is our witness as we collected the keys from her ), parked up, left stuff on board, then went to ASDA to do some shopping, ( we trip on Antony next week ), Hours later ( ! ) Realised we’d need the car to get everything back here, ( You’ve heard the story of the person who built a boat in his garage ! ), I came back to fetch the car, we loaded up and arrived back at the Basin to find Chris looking for an “intruder”- Imagined He now thinks - Whoops !. I felt I’d deserted my post, anyway it’s a very nice evening and hopefully will be a peaceful night. It’s been fun reading the other entries and making the acquaintance of the other brave Lilithians. I feel less alone, though I have doughty company tonight in the form of Sue. Sara from Stockport.

PS Matches and paraffin needed now!

Dave can you please, please, please take the stereo for Tony, ( in the hold on left just past spare range )

Nick Please take the vacuum Cleaner for your mum. Chris

I’ve brought another box of fire lighting paper - Chris 23.9.96

Wednesday 25th September 1996

Arrived sixish last night. “Midama” has gone since last week. Stayed in the van, didn’t come into the boat except to write this on Thursday morning at 9 am ish. We’ve done Wednesday nights for over a year now every week, but now we must change to another - maybe Monday? I’ll call Chris before next week to try to arrange it. ( The drumming night at Tom Duks has changed from Monday to Wednesday ), Robin, Paula, Roadie & Chakra.

Sunday 29th September 1996

Dal & Karen came down to boat at 4 pm. Cleaned out larder cupboard noticed a lot of water on shelves ( Chris check roof where I’ve put the board, there is a slit and rain leaking in badly ). Back to larder apologies to anyone who had food in there, we donated a lot of it to museum facing, for posterity!

PS found movie equipment in larder so anyone having “Hanky Panky” on board it was recorded, tapes after watching, were sent to Walt Disney! ( Joke ).

Heavy rain all day not ceased even now 7 pm.

Monday 30th September 1996

Nothing to report except we have “ Weeks to find another mooring ( Re museum closure ), there is a Police dinghy moored alongside as I leave 9.15 am Love R

Wednesday 2nd October 1996

Arrived at 11.50 to find museum gates locked and small poster telling all who care to read, that the museum is closed for refurbishment from Wed 2nd Oct. Went to back door and spoke friendly like to one of the staff who allowed me to enter through the museum. Later they decided to open the gates and said these would be open for the next few days.

The weather was really good, warm October sunshine, light breeze and the smell of oak shavings as I planed and spoked the top panels. Finished off the port rear panels which now need taking off and paint & sealer applied to the rear of each piece. Left at 4.25 pm quite pleased with the progress made. Joe Brindley

Wednesday 2nd October 1996

Don’t Panic!!!

I arrived this evening and was impressed by the way the boat was looking.

Sorry I’ve not been around much lately, I’m fully occupied in salvaging what I can of the trust’s gear from what I now regard as a disaster area in Runcorn. It’s Very distressing ( and stressful ). I don’t know yet whether or not we have to move the boat. Eamon and his colleagues do not necessarily have the full story. If we do have to move, that is not a big problem. This situation has been expected for the last 12 months. It’s a bit of a pain that it comes at a time when I’m preoccupied elsewhere.

The panelling looks excellent, as does the paint work. It’s good to be able to delve into the food cupboard with confidence. I suggest perishable food now goes in the stern cupboard at the very back of the boat, ( The proper place ).

Important - Always blow lamps out, lift the glass with lever provided and blow.

Never, ever extinguish them by turning down the wick. We’re now down to two lamps because one of the wicks has fallen into the fuel bowl, because it was extinguished incorrectly. Another had been turned right down but was still alight from the previous night when I arrived. I got some paraffin last week, could someone please please get some fire wood from C.P.S on Bentinck St. We all rely on each other to keep things maintained and stocked up. I simply cannot make good any shortfall. I’m struggling with my present work load. Keep up the good work, sorry I’ve been whining a bit. I think an excellent bunch of people involved with the boat now. We could do with getting together more often, when I’ve got everything shifted out of Runcorn. I should be able to find enough time for things in a while.

Have a good time. Chris.

Thursday 4th October 1996

Mid afternoon - Called by, saw the note about the wood and got some - there’s loads more. Anyone with transport should have no problem filling boot / van space, Winter here soon get now while stocks last !!

Friday 4th October 1996

Arrived about 10.45 am, forward door of cabin had been forced. The bolt on the top half had been bent, so I straightened it and made it secure.

I am now leaving at 3 pm and I have locked up the top half. This door will have to be made more secure, in someway.


Saturday 5th October 1996


I had an unscheduled Stay last night. The thieves have had the phone and some valuable tools. This shows how important it is that there’s someone here each night.

‘ Raymond ‘ has mysteriously sunk, so I am trying to organise pump to raise her. That’s why I’m here. The plan was to set out or bring her to Braunston on Monday.

Thanks for getting the wood Tom, I’ll get some more if C.P.S are open. If everyone else who can do the same we’ll avoid the traditional Christmas fire wood crisis! Chris.

Later Saturday

I’ve got another lock for the back end door. The key for this is hanging over the work top. Please take great care not to leave any inflammable liquids; ( paraffin, white spirit etc ) ;or breaking in tools in the hold. Can someone have a go at working out the non working lamps please, and polish the brass!

Have a good day Chris.

Saturday evening

Spent most of the P.M trying to organise another mobile phone. BT mobile absolutely useless since their computers went down. We have to stay with BT mobile at the moment, our contract requires us to give 3 months notice. Will phone them again tomorrow & hopefully arrange another phone reconnection of our service. We’ll probably have a phone in working order again by Wednesday or Thursday. Worried about people staying on the boat so got my act together and bought a large torch, a small torch and a panic alarm. ( boat sitters please make yourselves familiar with the latter), ( Chris came home and said he doesn’t want to move ‘Raymond’ to Braunston anymore. “It’s sunk I don’t care anymore”. Actually he does but is overwhelmed by work & worrying about this and that).

Now - back to burgling - it was bound to happen at some point or another, and at least they did little in the way of damage. If anyone fancies keeping an eye out for the nicked phone on the Tuesday flea market or at Cash Converters let me know- I have the said number.


Sunday 6th October 1996.

I’ve arrived armed for trouble - mobile phone and ‘Big Boss’ self defence gas! ( Yes I know It’s illegal, but personal safety comes first! ). But as always peace reigns. Lilith’s looking good ( even in the dark ).

I think it would be a great idea if all us boat sitters could get to meet each other, maybe then we could organise our own rota, making Chris’ burden one job less, anyway I’d love to put faces to names.

I would like to wax lyrical about the canal scene but It’s dark, there are no geese, It’s overcast and I’m surrounded by B.W boats and digging machines! I’ll pick up a few bits of wood tomorrow. Vivienne.

Monday 7th October 1996.

Arrived sixish, took dogs for walk.

8.49 pm The kettle boils...

( The cups sit, motionless, on the work surface.

Tea for two ?

Ah yes, yes please.

But oh the sorrow

No Barley cup today

And doubtless none tomorrow. ).

Just managed to fit van inside gate today by careful manoeuvre of the gates. Wish the lights were brighter in here as the log book makes great reading - I like the evolving style of poetic to factual in one breath and have tried to continue this theme here. Next week I intend to furnish the boat with another jar of barley cup- watch out Chris!

PS this ‘log book’ is a con - I have yet to find a single log in it - so have been using the bagged wood in the hold.

7.30 am Gates unlocked by J.C.B men. The van is in the way, so I get up and move it before being asked. By 8.00 am the place sounds like a building site - glad we weren’t hoping for a lie in.

Tuesday 8th October 1996.

I arrived at 5.20 pm. (Wet, in fact soaking); cycles down from wet Werneth (Oldham).

I chopped wood ready for this eve, now sitting comfy having a drink, ‘ Oh by the way! Who is Captain S Log? “ I’ve yet to meet “

Inside the cabin there’s more weapons than I’ve ever seen. A nifty torch that screams, a pick handle ( without axe ), oh and a mouldy onion which I’ve thrown away.

I didn’t think it would scare anyone, well except me. It was hiding and snarling at me from the veg rack - so with fork in one hand and a large pick handle in the other - with one quick prod it was gone. ( Ah time to relax ).

The eve went well, I awoke early with the sound of engines ( builders ). Made myself a brew & went for a walk. Well It’s nearly time to go. Oh this book is a fantastic idea. NICE ONE It’s a great read. TONY

PS Chris Thursday eves I’m busy with study, and Tues is Jans’ Yoga class, if you don’t mind me nipping off for an hour ‘n’ half I could commit myself to Tues, Mon or Sunday ( not all of them - you know what I mean )

See you soon

Or if you’re stuck give us a buzz.

Wednesday 9th October 1996.

Arrived 10.55 expecting to meet Tom & met Tony, who was just about to leave, another face to a name. Somebody had taken off the side panels and painted the rear of them.

I counter bored them the holes ready for screwing back and plugging.

Unfortunately the weather was quite awful, drizzly wet, not really rain but welting just the same, ( The Scots have an excellent onomatopoeic word for such weather ‘ DREICH’ with a lot of catarrh at the end ), so I didn’t put the panels back. I have taken some timber home & will make up a side support for the ‘ settee, bed, couch ` on the starboard side. Left about 2.00 pm. Still dreich !!

Joe Brindley.

Wednesday 9th October 1996. ( Later )

I must have just missed you Joe, as I got here about half two, led by Tom who met us at the station ( exactly on time! ), and walked down to show me the ropes, ( & keys, & lamps, & wood and wow. ), thanks Tom have an ace time in France.

I’ve not stayed on ‘Lilith’ before, but tales from years before from friends, and cross winds, brought me from Sheffield to stay and play, and chill in a wooden boat stylee.

Stepping in from the ‘dreich’ ( or the mizzle, as they say they say round where I’m from ); the warmth of the cabin, the tarry breath of the timbers and the sweet scent of wood smoke hit me round the back of the neck, like an old friend at a family wedding - I’ve not spent a night on my own in a boat for near on nine year, ‘ The Kreta’; home for a season.

I got here as a blob of stress, and an hour later I felt human again. I love being on water, even locked behind large gates! Not even ASDA could shake my calm, and when I got back, Andy from up the way who was tied up on the corner, filled his water butts. A bunch of kids were jumping around on the B.W.B boat opposite. They gave up and left after twenty minutes or so. Evening fell, I cooked a casserole in the oven, ( It’s such a good wee stove ! ), drank me ‘rusty rivet’ and played on the whistle. Nice one, whoever left it; I’m warm and happy. I’ve read the ship’s twig and realise there’s quite a community of you watching and working on ‘Lilith’, I hope I’ll meet some of you sometime. With no watch, It’s only time as it feels, and it feels like bedtime.


Thursday 10th October 1996.

Woke up late (11.00), B.W.B Poynton tying up alongside. I spoke to the fella on board, who said we could take the logs and wood he’d picked up; so after lunch I did, and split them with that strange but excellent axe - like thing behind the bin, ( is it an Adze or a Mattock ?), and did a few bags of fire wood . Sorry too, I couldn’t resist trying out the bilge pump, so I sat on the steps and read my book and pumped for an half hour or so. An oldish couple from between the bridges came along asking for Chris, and stopped for a chat, telling horror stories of Rochdale kids steaming people going through locks.

I’d got the fire going and was starting dinner on dinner when Marilyn came along with the new mobile, so we’d a brew and a natter, when Jip and Dave ( friends from Bolton ), and their dogs turned up at the gate - so the evening carried on, fried parsnip & broccoli & spuds ( I’ve left some spuds & broccoli on top of veg rack - should be OK for a few days).

We never got to play any music, just revelled in the warmth & red wine, a lovely evening. And six wild ducks flew past at dusk, five in front and one behind. Mellow.

Friday 11th October 1996.

I don’t believe I’ve got to go today, but It’s true. I was kind of expecting Chris to appear , as Marilyn thought he’d be in by last night, but It’s about 2.00 pm and I’m ready to head for Shropshire. Thanks a lot for the restful holiday, I’d love to come & stay again ( and do some work on the building side too). Thanks to Lilith for beautiful dreams and making time vanish. The winds are up again, time to do a Mary Poppins.


Monday 14th October 1996.

Just the usual stuff going on down here. There’s a Funk Rock band playing on the other wharf through about 8k complete with lighting rig, smoke machine, flame throwers and film crew. We’ve been warned that they’re going to explode a gas bottle under the water in the basin and we can expect to see flames rising out of the canal. A Viking burial for ‘Elton‘?

Tue. am. Fell asleep to the gentle sounds of a metal distorted guitar and rap vocals- no explosion maybe due to rain, they’re still here though, so maybe later?

The boat has taken on an interesting slanty pose, due to the removal of concrete ballast on one side. Never a dull moment.

Wednesday 16th October 1996.

Lynne with ‘Lilith’, Dougie with ‘Forget me not’, ‘Elton’ on her own.

Also moored Hudd’s canal boat ‘Greater Manchester’, B.W boats ‘Poynton’ & ‘Pennine’.

‘Midama’ is still on her travels and no doubt will be shocked by the sight of ‘Elton’ on her return. A pretty shocking sight is ‘Elton’, although magically tidied up by Dougie, since being

Picked up from Runcorn earlier this month. I can’t believe no one noted ‘Forget Me Nots’ absence. After the scrap trip, she was taken up to Runcorn, aiming to bring ‘Raymond’ back down to Braunston, But a late change of plan - ‘Raymond’ sank and so after discussion was left for the moment and ‘Elton’ picked up instead. On that trip, Chris, Dougie, Lynne and Colin followed the Bridgewater, Trent and Mersey, Macclesfield and Lower peak Forest Canals to Portland Basin, Monday 7th to Friday 11th. A slow and peaceful trip, with ‘Elton’ behaving pretty well, after all, It’s not her fault she’s spread in the middle ( and bow ) and needs chains to pull her shape in for locking. I began to find out how much I didn’t know about boats on this trip and can now occasionally ask the right questions. Arrived to stop over today, finding ‘Elton’ filling up with water due to all pump batteries being flattened during the night and Dougie concerned enough to have used a telephone to try and find Chris, after noticing Chris’ car and trailer, but not finding Chris!. The decision was made to use ‘Forget me nots’ engine to charge it’s batteries, without her moving. This hadn’t been done earlier as it’s not too good for the engine. The batteries began to charge, the pump got ahead of the water, and I was left aboard after a quiet refresher course on how to turn it’s engine off later. Dougie and I spent a happy evening aboard ‘Forget me not’, after chatting with Chris and Marylin who had returned to see how ‘Elton’ was doing. Also the railway sleeper ballast has now mostly been moved from ‘Lilith’, ( it was only temporary ), and on Thursday morning Joe arrived to begin fixing ‘Liliths’ side bed in place.


Friday 18th October 1996

Arrived early Thursday eve. Lit stove, brewed up, ate, went to bed, fell asleep. Woke up this morning, brewed up and left.

Paula x

Saturday 19th October 1996

‘Lilith’s hold is now getting fairly sorted, my trailer is loaded with scrap iron. Had a cup of coffee with Alan Castle from ‘Roland Bardsley’s today. He will be in charge of the site while the building work is underway, we can stay and will have a 4 metre width of wharf for access. We can help by keeping an eye on the site for them. There may be time when we have to move off temporarily but will just have to play it by ear - especially when they’re pile driving!.


Wednesday 23rd October 1996

At Portland Basin

Lynne & Colin with ‘Lilith’, ‘Elton’, ‘Forget me not’. Also Hudds boat, 2 * B.W boats and ‘Midama’ has returned with Marion and Pete ( ? ). When ? - since Saturday I guess.

A quiet night at the basin, no groups of lads on the bridge or gate, climbing for the hell of it, only one passing soul, a woman with a cat and stormed off friend called Stephen. She didn’t call him for long. Stayed on ‘Forget me not’, as the range was fired up and the ‘temporary cross bed arrangement’ on ‘Lilith’ looked a right pain to me. Swept the range and washed up on ‘Lilith’ however. Has someone had incriminating documents to burn? Loads of paper ash. The ‘Lilith’ head was peaceful again so as I left, she seemed to frown before; taking a bit of care of les cabin etc., settled les down. Shopping. We need bin bags & washing up liquid on ‘Lilith’, I’ll try to remember. Colin has chopped firewood, there’s plenty more to get to size tho. The museum is being stripped out - there’s sisal matting upstairs going for a song, altho’ come on only let Chris sing about two lines for his trailer full. Viv - we should help sort out this rota for the nightwatch, yes. See you on the next recycling trip. BFN.

Friday 25th October 1996

I’ve decided to keep ‘Elton’ company tonight. The old gas bottle stove is roaring away cooking my tea/supper, It’s been ( probably ) the final day of stripping the museum today. Tomorrow the site is handed over to ‘Sanctuary Housing’. I anticipate that there may be some complications regarding key’s etc in the next few weeks, until everyone gets to know everyone.

Me & Tom had a very encouraging meeting with ‘John Vare’, the Tameside National Lottery officer, today. He’s very enthusiastic about a ‘Heritage boatyard project’.

There’s a beautiful full moon shining tonight. I feel quite energised, my tilley lamp is chuffing away and outside it sounds like the afghan army is approaching as fireworks Explode around and about.

‘Elton’ has been a bit of an unloved boat, someone used her for carrying retail Coal until about 10 yrs ago, when she finally refused to stay afloat, loaded he put her on dock and filled all the holes with fibrocem ( Cement mixed with glass Fibres ), did a cosmetic job and sold her. The cosmetics soon wore off and she went into the cheap boat syndrome - changing hands at more and more frequent intervals for less and less money.

She was abandoned at Southall in 1994 and we moved her in 1995. The idea is not to include her in the long term collection as we already have ‘Southam’ ‘Elton’s sister..

Hopefully someone with the enthusiasm and cash to take her on will be found before too long.

Adrian arrived on his bike today. He set out for Alderley Edge but came here to find that one of the doors Recovered from the museum is exactly the sort he needs. Funny how things happen.


If you’re staying on ‘Lilith’ or ‘Forget me not’ can you check that ‘Elton’ pump is working strongly and that the filter is not blocked by leaves. I Hope to have a back up pump fitted soon.


Saturday 26th October 1996.

Came to see Chris & had a wonderful dinner; ( very impressed with all the work that’s going on ); feeling ill and run down when I arrived; ( apparently I have anaemia ); but I soon improved, good food, nice atmosphere etc. Kids; ( adults? ); in distance setting off bangers - we’re in the silly season again. All the kids have all the holidays mixed up at the moment. They’re trick or treating, penny for the guying & carolling all at once. I’m not really bothered so long as they keep their fireworks away from the boats.


Marylin ( in her role as miserable old sod ).

PS Chris has given me Indian Ocean Tea which he says will be a bit salty ? Ms

PPS I recently bought a corkscrew for use on the boats ( on FMN ), what else do we need? Ms

I’ve just found two bin bags and put them in the covered cupboard opposite the bin. I Don’t like to moan ( but I do anyway ), but why can I never find a funnel when I want to top up the lamps on ‘Lilith’, luckily there is a spare one on ‘Elton’ so I’ll go and get that. I’ll leave it with the paraffin as usual, please note that allowing the lamps to run out of paraffin damages the wicks


Sunday 27th October 1996.

It’s 8.30 am and I’ve just about surfaced after a rather disturbed night. It was very windy and I kept being woken by things Being blown over. Then at 3.39 am; ( I know the time because I switched the phone on ); a couple of young burglars decided to check if there was anyone in by clanging on the bridge and firing what sounded like an air pistol.

They buggered off when I came out but their uniform of dark clothes, rolled up balaclava's and discreet little flashlights were a dead give away for their trade.

It’s a miserable rainy morning. I’ve just lit ‘Liliths’ range as I’m expecting Vivienne and Marilyn at 10 O’clock and I expect they’ll appreciate cups of tea. We’re going for a walk down Amra street to see if we could turn it into a canal again. Roads into canals, that’s the thing of the future. Today Alma St, tomorrow the M6.

PS They’ve changed the clocks so my times are an hour out.


Sunday 27th October 1996.

Dal & Karn came down about 4.00 pm spoke with Chris and a new recruit, Wasyl,. About 5.30 cleaned another cupboard and generally tidied around. Very windy and also raining tonight. Hope we have no trouble tonight. Went for a Chinese meal to cheer up the night.

Monday 28th October 1996.

Chris already hear when we arrived so the place seemed very warm and welcoming. Rain was quite heavy last night also very windy, discovered the roof had leaked a little during the night. Left Tuesday morning, weather fine.

Paula, Robin, Roadie & Chakra

Monday 4th November 1996.

Has no one stayed on ‘Lilith’ since last Monday, or maybe nobody could be bothered to write anything? Chris if you’re reading this I think the axe could do with sharpening. Needless to say; ( with it being the night before bonfire night ); it sounds like there’s a bloody war going on here. Roadie ( dog ) is extremely unhappy.

Wednesday 6th November 1996.

No probably no - one did stay on ‘Lilith’ in that period as Dougie was on FMN.. I’m now here on ‘Elton’ cooking my tea and wondering where Tanya has got to. I’ve been trying to sort out ‘Liliths’ hold most of the day, with limited success. Dougie has gone home now having done some excellent work in the engine room. The fireworks have stopped at last, yesterday we helped a pair of wandering homeless junkies who Sue ( who lives on the ‘Ark’ ) sent down here under the impression that we ran a night shelter !. Letting them stay on the boat would have been inviting trouble but we sorted them out with food, got their bags dry and found them a better dossing place than the towpath bridge where they stayed Monday night.

It’s been wild wild weather all day and looks like being much the same all night. I must have a walk down to Asda soon to make some phone calls.


PS Sold the ex-museum chairs today.

Thursday 7th November 1996.

Came down to check ‘Elton’ was pumping out about 10.30 pm, no - one here, stayed on ‘Forget me not’. Please if you can’t come for any reason please ring up to let us know.


Friday 8th November 1996.

A Quiet, clear, slightly chilly night. I’m staying on ‘Forget me not’. It’s nice to have such a choice of boat. I feel like a bit of comfort tonight. This morning Vivienne and I had another meeting with Yvonne Cartey in the council office, I can’t believe the help we’re getting toward setting up a base here.

‘Midana’ is over the other side of the arm, I took ‘Forget me not for a trip up to Eli Whalley’s earlier to charge the batteries and collect an Asda trolley. No trouble with rubbish in Bridgehole this time but I picked up a nasty bladeful Which won’t entirely come off yet.


Saturday 9th November 1996. Wasyl Strutinskys.

Expected to share night watch but was on my own, and drunk a whole bottle of wine!.

Went to bed early on ‘Forget me not’; by early I mean before 7.30! Awoke a few times, Chris came to check. Colder than I anticipated, bumped my head a few times and cut my index finger on the wood.

I look forward to the scenery tomorrow morning, and to sample once more the delight of Chris' cooking.

Sunday 10th November 1996.

I arrived at about 6 pm boy it’s chilly! So before anything else I lit the fire it’s now beginning to warm up yummy a night for resting.

The batteries seem a little flat on the FMN I’ll try and recharge them in the morning when it’s daylight; ( I foresee disaster if I stumble around in the engine room at night! )

Bugger - I forgot my bottle of ‘Baileys’- Oh well I’ll save it for next time.

Monday 11th November 1996.

Engine running, things are looking good in there with the batteries on the new switch and new levers and pulls. Somebody’s done a good job.

Well my sister’s just come for a cup of tea so bye for now.


Tuesday 11th November 1996.

Here I am again on ‘Elton’. My tea is cooking, the tilley is roaring. I’ve just ripped some of that horrible tongue and groove off the shearing so that I can see what’s what behind it. Mostly lots of Fibrocem. Well food’s ready. Bye.


Wednesday 13th November 1996.

A nice sunny cold chill day today, I’ve tinkered about with various little jobs. This evening I took ‘Forget me not’ for a trip up to Eli Whalleys and collected an Asda? trolley on the way, that's three ready for taking back. Bedtime I think, Goodnight.


Friday 15th November 1996. Alex, James & Frodo

Quiet night not much to report at all really, except to say this is Alex's' and my first night together on a boat and It’s lovely.

Saturday 16th November 1996. Alex, Frodo & me

We; ( Nick, Rick, Alex & me ); started this evening with good food and plenty of Nick’s home made wine. It all started well, but almost turned into a boat sinking party when ‘Elton’ decided to get a closer look at the bottom of the canal. Help was only a handful of clay away when Chris turned up with Marilyn. I am going to get some sleep now, it is late and the police and their hounds wouldn't let me out to walk Frodo.

There’s trouble at mill, with that I look forward to entering my next log, sleep easy.

James & Alex & Frodo.

Oh Chris, we are off to view a boat early on the morrow so won’t see you, thank you for everything we’ll be in touch very soon bye.

PS please let us know of any scrap trips on the canal.

Monday 18th November 1996.

Cold, cold, cold! Very cold indeed. Lit fire straight away and the place soon warmed up. Nick called round to see if Chris was about, only visitor so far. Went to make mug of coffee with 'Co-op' instant, only to find it wasn’t very instant. Robin has gone to pick up stuff & Roadie from house, hopefully he wont be very long. Oh and by the way, I think Alex, James & Frodo might like to know that canal is spelt with one ‘N’ and not two as they seem to write. Please feel free to point out any spelling mistakes I may have made.

Friday 22nd November 1996. At Picnic Bench

Quite cold night, lots of horrible white stuff about midnight, but fortunately gone by morning. Chatted last night to two lads skidding up & down car park on bicycles and trying to ride down steps from bridge - must be masochistic; ( tell me if I spelt it wrong Paula!!! ); they seemed quite harmless if not a little mad. Was a pile of dirty dishes on ‘Forget me not’ when I arrived - they are still there - I have left the boat as I found it!

Lynne stayed Weds night but couldn’t get into ‘Lilith’ as doors frozen up, so she couldn’t get to log book. Anyway clouds threatening more snow or rain so I’m off home for a nice soak in a hot bath!

Bye for now Nick

PS Key for middle door on ‘Lilith’ is on ‘Forget me not’ keys. Mick

Friday 22nd November 1996.

1) Please can we stop the picky remarks NOW.

2) If everyone leaves the boats slightly worse than they found them, then they will soon be a complete sty. I am constantly doing other peoples washing up, but sometimes leave some if I have to leave in a hurry. Please leave the boats better than you found them, if possible. The alternative is to descend into nasty petty arguments.

3) In ‘Lilith’ there is plenty of firewood and bags of empty bags. Please, when you empty a bag DON’T stuff it in a corner of the cabin but put it in a bag of empty bags. If you get a chance on a weekday go to C.P.S on Bentinck St and get a wheelbarrow full of wood from their off cuts, IT’S IMPORTANT TO KEEP STOCKS UP AT THIS TIME OF YEAR.

Sorry to be so ratty, Chris.

PS 4) Things are usually where you find them for a good reason, If you put them back where you find them the next person can find them too.

Monday 25th November 1996.

Turned up at the boat around 4.30 pm. Robin was already here, the stove was going and the place felt cosy. We have acquired some squatters, moored on the offside of ‘Elton’.

Can’t think of anything witty to write so I think I’ll go to bed. Robin feels like burning the log book. Paula.

Tuesday 26th November 1996.

Well, having moaned about other people leaving things all over the place I left a complete treasure hunt for Paula & Robin yesterday. Just goes to show that even I’m not perfect sorry.

It’s been a beautiful sunny day here today and I’ve actually got some work done, I made another section for the engine hole floor on ‘Forget me not’. Tom was here too , painting and decorating, and Andy returned from his Pennine house building adventure.

It was good to be able to get swiftly on with work as I’ve been feeling a bit drained lately.

Wednesday 27th November 1996.

Arrived 10.30 nobody around, lit the fire in ‘Forget me not’ & then set to finishing the starboard side bed. Had a good day, well half a day, Chris arrived for about half an hour at lunchtime. Weather was cold but dry, ‘Lilith’ has about 1” of water in the bilge's, I did some pumping but after half an hour I decided to carry on the wood work. Tom arrived & he did half an hour on the pump & various good husbandry jobs, then left about 2.30 pm. Nick arrived about 3.00 and then we went off at about 4.00 pm. Not much happened, nothing sank, nobody drowned - just like “Albert & t’ lion”.

Joe Brindley.

Thursday 28th November 1996.

A quiet frosty night last night. Lovely sunny day today. Pity I can’t stay around, ran the engine for a bit to charge the batteries. Fetched fire wood & saw dust. Washed up, cleaned up, 10/10 Time to go.


PS Vivienne if you run the engine, ( good idea ), switch master switch to battery 2 for starting. If battery light does not come on before engine, then stop engine again and restart. Keep doing this until the light comes on, ( then rev engine to turn it off again! ) And turn master switch to battery 1 to charge cabin battery.

Thursday 28th November 1996.

A lovely clear cold evening. The canal has frozen - about three quarters of an inch thick, I felt a little like an Eskimo breaking the ice for water!.

I broke down three times on my way here. Each time on a main road; holding up loads of traffic; all in all very embarrassing. I may call the AA before heading back tomorrow; so I could be here a while.

I triggered the pump on ‘Elton’, at least that water doesn’t seem frozen yet; I haven’t checked the bilge's on ‘Lilith’, best done in daylight ( all the gunwales and steps are extremely slippy ). I think I understand what you’re saying Chris, did I not do that last time? I think I charged on ( 1 + 2 ), oh well whatever, I’ll get it right next time.

Well I’m off to read my book now, I look forward to a frosty morning.

See you soon Vivienne

Friday 29th November 1996.

Brought a friend; ( Anthony ); down to stay over with me as he was really stressed out. A night on the boat really did the trick, I think he is addicted & wants to join the trust; ( I think we can get him therapy for it!! ), It’s difficult having to explain everything to someone who hasn’t been on a boat before; ( I wish he’d stop calling them barges! ). Anyway it’s now Sat am and I’m off to take him home. Am staying again tonight & Alex, James, Frodo and possibly Rick are coming down. See you later


Sunday 1st December 1996.

9.30 am Too tired to write much in book, lots of excitement last night, will have to wait to hear of my adventures with the Fire brigade!


Monday 2nd December 1996.

05.30 am Up early this morning, at least it’s my own choice this time Nick ( Grrr ).

A wet & windy night, I enjoyed staying on ‘Forget me not’ , the battery master switch has broken, so we may have problem with flat batteries soon. I’ll get a new one A.S.A.P. The use of paraffin lamps in F.M.N are causing singe marks on the woodwork, I’ll get something to hang them from but in the meantime don’t hang lamps on what they are leaning against wood.

We had a good recycling collection yesterday. It took a long time though because there was only Wasyl and me doing it, with a bit of help from Evelyn,. Lumb lane bridge will be opening soon, we need a jumble sale, ‘Liliths’ fore end is getting very full.

Thursday 5th December 1996.

Firstly, Chris - could you please read your comment No 1 of 22/11/96 enough said!!

Back to last Saturday, Anthony joined me at 8 p.m., had a quiet peaceful evening. A beautiful swan has been hanging around, hand feeding him bread off back of boat at about midnight.

Got up about 3.30 am to water the canal and noticed large ball of flames coming from mill, dashed to the gate & snapped my key in the padlock! ran back to boat. Woke Anthony while undigging da mobile phone, Anthony kindly told me to sod off and went back to sleep. Phoned fire brigade & explained where fire was and asked if they could call here after the fire out, I was told I would have to ring the police. In the event they sent me a fire engine & 6 firemen just to cut the chain. Rang Chris who came down & was a bit miffed that the fire wasn’t a little more spectacular!!

Have scrubbed some of the cabin today & have made a casserole as Anthony is coming after school for his tea, ( He’s a teacher ), Am here till Sunday, looking forward to the peace & quiet.

Semi- sub B.W.B boat ( 89512 ) moored next to Gtr Manchester, ( Hopefully it will sink! ). A lot of kids shouting outside, went to investigate - ‘Maria’ trip boat moored under bridge; covered in fairy lights & full of kids. Father Christmas stood on bridge, by the time I got there with my list - he’d gone!.

Friday 6th December 1996.

Everything quiet and peaceful last night, Chris & Tom came down today & worked on boats. Chris says someone has been over the wall in the night because there’s a slate loose on the roof and they’d crapped behind the wall - as by way of a “ Calling card “, I would have thought it was easier to get one printed! Less effort.

Scrubbed back deck on ‘Forget me not’ & pottered about, Anthony didn’t turn up last night, so more stew for tea tonight. Went to ASDA for some shopping, the place was choc a block with plastic people buying plastic present with plastic money. A geriatric, alcoholic, psychopathic father Christmas graced the entrance, looks like he could be a mass child murderer; ( given half a chance ). Well it reminds me , only 19 days to Christmas- it’s depressing- be glad when it’s over. Only 14 days to my birthday ( Hint! Hint! ).

Well all's quiet, Chris is coming at about 5.30 am to pick his trailer up, to go away for the weekend. I wonder whether he’ll get his own back and wake me up!! ( OOPS! Sorry Chris I forgot, no picky remarks! ), well I’m off to bed now - goodnight


PS swan has been 4 or 5 times today for bread, I’ve named him George, if you see him please give him a piece of bread.


Saturday 7th December 1996.

Had an extremely early start this morning. Someone; ( who shall remain nameless to save being picky ); called to pick their trailer up at 6.00 am and also wanted a pan of stew off ‘Forget me not’. Geese started fighting about 7.00 am so I gave up and got up. Went home about 11.30 am, had a shower & came back about 1.00 pm. Filled the water tanks on ‘Forget me not’. While I had hose out I hosed down the land to get rid of bits and geese shit, ( OOPS! Are we allowed to swear in this book? If not I’m sorry and I’ll wash the pen out with soap. ).

Changed the mattress cover on the bed, great fun kneeling outside wrestling with a cover and pieces of board on the floor outside. Polished brass rings on chimney outside, even though it’s against my religion to clean beds! The swan Goerge hasn’t been round today- hope I’ve not given him too much bread & has sunk!!

Well it’s just going dark now, I’ve lit the fire & am going to ASDA in a bit - it will make me realise how nice the boat is!

‘Maria’ ( Trip boat ); has been up & down all day, doing trips with kids & father Christmas, people have been wandering around asking me where to get on the boat. I know I’m the same build as father Christmas & we share the same name, but do I really look like him ?


My mother and Dudley came for a cup of tea about 9.30 p.m. I invited mother to dispel some of the myths she had, before she thought I was staying on a floating garden shed!

Well you know what mothers are like. George has turned up, he’s probably been looking for a mate, I’ve explained to him there’s one or two good night clubs in Ashton.

I soppose swans are a bit like humans, they’ll come home when they’re hungry.

A freezing fog seems to have enveloped the world; ( Well, this bit of it anyway ), everything is quiet and white and misty - a bit spooky and eerie. Just read on the board outside about people who drowned themselves in basin in the depression. Perhaps I shall see some shadowy figures floating across the icy, glossy misty water - who knows ?

Well I better change the subject, I don’t want to scare the more faint hearted who might be reading this; whilst staying on the boat alone. Off for a little walk and then to bed. Sweet dreams. Nick

Sunday 8th December 1996.

Just spoke to Marilyn off 'Midama'; apparently police & ambulance turned up at

7 p.m looking for a baby in the canal; I was having a doze & I must have slept through it.

Well, cleaned up, blacked the range & I laid a fire for Vivienne, please use rest of my coal in ash can, must pup down to say hello later Viv.

Well 5 pages of waffling later I’ll sign off for now.


Sunday 8th December 1996.

I came down early today so that I could have some daylight to charge the batteries over on ‘Elton’. Thank you Nick, the boat was lovely - all clean and the fire set.

Nick popped down in the late afternoon - but was called over by ? On ‘Midama’ to jump start the boat. I’ve just eaten 2 wonderful bacon butties; ( sorry if I offend those vegetarians amongst us ), so I feel ready for anything.

I hope that my evening here will be event free, as I have an early start tomorrow.

Bye for now.


Monday 9th December 1996.

Robin, Paula, Roadie, Chakra. Kate called, Nick called,pen too big.

This ones a bit better. Checked ‘Eltons’ pump - Humming, Singing & Pumping away - sounded like a happy pump to me. Collected some wood from CPS - I was the 4th person today - it must be winter. I’ve just eaten a wonderful bean roast ( sorry if I offend those meat eaters amongst us! ); so I feel ready for anything ( especially a trip to the toilet !)


Tuesday 10th December 1996.

Colin & Lynne.

Usual suspects around ‘Forget me not’, ‘Lilith’, ‘Elton’, Gtr Manchester Midama and B.W hulks, ( plus George the swan ).

11.15 p.m Just about ready to settle down for the night; sleeping on ‘Forget me not’; as Nick had a roaring range going when we arrived and construction work still carrying on apace on ‘Lilith’.

Very quiet evening up until now - still and frosty; but no chance of skating ducks just yet. Nick stayed with us until about 7 p.m and entertained us with stories of planes, trains, automobiles and the back seats of double decker buses!. Great meal prepared by lynne of ‘Libyan braised shark’ followed by triple chocolate layer cake; ( £1 off at ASDA at moment ).

Tried some bottled ales; ( Bishops finger, Fuggles, Fargo and Waggle dance, the latter made with real honey ); and briefly entertained Chris, who dropped his trailer off, and Nick who returned to pick up a book - something about a ‘Boddies’ pub in Derbyshire, I think.

Lynne wishes to thank Nick for bringing along a cafetiere, knowing her as I do, this will get a lot of use.!

We have also brought along a can of de-icer for those tricky moments in the morning when the padlocks are frozen solid. We have decided to leave it in the forecabin of ‘Lilith’ on or nearby the loo; so that it can’t be locked in, on one of the boats ( and in case of emergencies when going for a dump in the early hours, I suppose )

Time for bed, I think, especially with the promise of freshly laundered pillow cases and mattress cover etc - Cheers Nick

Probably all for this visit as we have to leave early tomorrow.


PS (8.50 am Weds); This coals handy stuff isn’t it? Warm all night, no waking up by 4 with odd bits, enough coke left in to get a boil on for the coffee, ace!. One problem tho’ - where’s the poker? You can manage a wood fire without a poker, as I did on Wed 20th, but not coal. This is not being picky - WHO’S REMOVED THE POKER FOR THE FIRE? And more to the point RETURN IT PLEASE. Lynne

Friday 13th December 1996.

Chris, Tom, Doug & myself. Doug playing in engine room, Tom playing on ‘Lilith’ & Chris playing on the roof of ‘Elton’. Came down to clean fore cabin of ‘Lilith’ ( toilet ). Got to cleaning the floor and found you needed a floor to be able to clean it.

The floor seems to have gone rather brittle and crumbly when you walk on it, ( a bit like the ice on puddles ).

Ripped old floor out and created a new one with some old steps, fire wood, sheets of ply, our old door, some sticky back plastic and 2 washing up liquid bottles!! ( Only joking about last 2 items!! ). Lit a fire in there, it’s now lovely & warm and clean. Better not make it too nice or people will want to use it!. Brought a rag rug down which will make 2 rugs for floor of F.M.N Lynne to kindly sew these ( thanks ). Clear blue sky & warm sun.( something wrong with weather I think )

Bye for now Nick.

Monday 16th December 1996.

Came down & cleaned ‘Lilith’, Work being done is much appreciated but could people possibly clean up after themselves - sawdust-tools-paint tins etc. Sorry to winge! Well kettle boiling & boat warm, just waiting for Robin & Paula.


Tuesday 17th December 1996.

Lynne & Colin; ‘Lilith’ - ‘Elton’ - ‘Forget me not’ - ‘Midama’ - ‘Pennine’ - ‘Termite’; ( B.W ) Gtr Mcr. The boats have swapped position once more, we’re back to the original arrangement of ‘Elton’ in the middle and F.M.N, where as last week; ( I’ve been here eight nights consecutively ); F.M.N was against the bank, with ‘Elton’ on the outside. I’m now used to this arrangement again and it’s a lot easier to put slops in the cut from the outside position. It’s also easier to keep an eye on ‘Elton’ , moored against you, than with ‘ Lilith’ between. I kept wondering how ‘Elton’ would be each morning, as I looked out, instead of knowing. I would notice during the night if anything went wrong. On Friday Termite was raised from the water at the stern and by one of the machines by the mill, to clear the propshaft of something major I think. I now understand why they think the depth of the canals is inadequate - the boats have a pretty shallow draught, not more than 1.5 - 2 feet under water, maybe less. I don’t know where Poynton, Its dredger QE2 has gone, in fact I did not notice when. I’ve gone off coal for the range now - it covers everything in muck, Its smoke is horrible and it slows the kettle down.

Sunday 22nd December ( 1996 just ) ( Dave and Ree )

We came , we saw, we conquered. We survived the near freezing temperatures by lighting the stove and making a meal. Twas good. Nick dropped in and tried desperately to put us off it, ( the food ), to no avail. Now my cheeks are rosy, and so are my toes, I’ve just noticed the clocks stuck at 25 minutes past seven, which suits me. Love the swans.


Wednesday 25th December, Christmas Day

After a day of helping Marilyn entertain her parents, I left them all falling asleep in front of World War II video and walked down to check everything ok.

No one about, no geese either, but It’s a favourite time for burglars so I’ll stay until Nick arrives or Marilyn calls me to take her folks home, whichever is the sooner. Listening to radio 4 and eating Nicks peanuts. The range is very slow burning because the chimney needs cleaning. I’m not doing it now though as I’m not dressed as a chimney sweep - just for a change.

The engine is drained at the moment to prevent it freezing, so please don’t try starting it. I’ve re-sealed the part of the slide which was leaking, I hope it won’t next time it rains, I’ve also planed the slide runner on ‘Lilith’ so that should work easier. I’ve spoken to Dave & Nigel about the battery charging problem. I’ve had a look at the control panel but I can’t get to the bits I need to. I’ll have to unscrew it and take it off.

Ps Forgot to say, I moved ‘Midama’ over for safe keeping.

19/12 > Nick

20/12 > Nick

24/12 > Robin, Paula, Nick & Dogs

25/12 > Nick >

Sorry I’m not in a writing mood at the moment.


Saturday 28th December

Visited Chris who was staying, working on ‘Elton’, ( brave person ). Stripped dirty mattress covers etc from F.M.N to take home to wash - could everyone remember to let me know when this needs doing - I’m happy to wash mucky covers/linen etc.

All the best

Marilyn !!!

Sunday 29th December

Came down & topped fire up so smoke coming out of chimney. Looks like someone’s on boats. Checked on ‘Elton’ , ( had rather a spurt in front yesterday, but now all is fine ). Boat should be warm & fire still going for whoever is on next. Took both kettles home and gave them a good ‘ doing’, with Mr Muscle & bleach. Green kettle is fine to use - just looks a bit tatty. Bleached inside of it to dispel myths of it being filled with canal water. Off to manchester now to pick up people for meeting. Will call later to check Elton


Friday 3rd January 1997

Live Long and Float Free

Adrian and Thai

Saturday 4th January

Well, I tried to get F.M.N floating free this morning but without success.

I broke some ice and got the bow under the bridge, but that’s about it. It’s 2 inches thick in the middle, ( 50 mm for anyone under 35 ).

Monday 6th January

6.30 ish The snowball six are here being sad for a while, I ignore them, Pavla outwits them and they go away with the “We’ll be back” routine - we are terrified and are going to hide in the food cupboard behind our handbags.

Tuesday 7th January

The snowball six didn’t return as threatened, SURPRISE SURPRISE!


Tuesday 7th January Lynne & Colin

F.M.N, Lilith & Elton. Midama back in position. G.M as ever, The 2 B.W boats with graffiti seemingly painted out.

Arrived about 3.30 pm to find Chris ploughing up and down in F.M.N to break up the ice so Midama could get home. Mission was accomplished without mishap and Lynn and I stoked up the fire and settled in for a cosy evening. The best bit about staying on the boats in winter is thawing out, getting warm, getting hot and ending up in T-shirts whilst listening to the sounds of brass monkeys in trouble outside.

Sampled the rest of the ASDA bottled beers with some decent food. And chatted ‘til’ far too late for an early start on Wednesday morning. As it was so cold, we put some coal in the stove to see us through the night - still just faintly glowing at 7.45 am. Thanx to whoever provided the freshly laundered duvet. Shear luxury’


Managed to ask Chris with a straight face the whereabouts of the milk, the blue kettle and all the torches.

Saturday 11th January

Oh dear, I’ve spent a quiet night nursing a hangover. We’ve had no visitors tonight, a little bit of howling at 10pm from across the water, but the perpatrator does not have Jesus qualities and as such cannot reach me, good!

The broken ice in the cut is reminisent of the antarctic ( albeit not so dear ) maybe it will not look so romantic by day.

I didn’t get a chance to check the pump on Elton tonight si I’ll see tomorrow , well nothings sunk yet tonight.

I have organised a jumble sale to get rid of some of our clothes and bric a brac. Collected on the recycling trips. So as much help on the night and in collecting before as possible is needed.

If you can collect jumble in your street(s) in the next few weeks give me a call after 6pm and I will send you some small notices to post through doors. Your help and support is needed.

Sunday 12th January

Everything more or less running smoothly, two hours into the evening. Just waiting for my pizza to cook. I find I eat a lot on F.M.N, the evenings fly by here, must try and arrive earlier next time. Think I’ll hit the sack.

Monday 13th January

Robin, Paula, Roadie & Chakra hereby announce that they will not be staying on Lilith until either (a) The weather is better, or (b) The stove is better. Another smokey, sleepless night despite cleaning out chimney yesterday. As nobody else stays on Lilith, this will presumably help with work on cabin and the ‘stove’ ( for want of a better word ) can be removed. One or two of us will stay on F.M.N next Monday.

I have been in touch with Arlene at Westend Centre re opening up / clothing on Feb 7th and giving Arlene a lift which will cut our costs of hiring the place.

Tuesday 14th January

F.M.N, Lilith, Elton, Gtr. M/cr, 2*B.W, Midama, Lynne to stay. You’ll be glad to know I can now find the pumo switch, just beyond the engine bulkhead in its’hold on the portside. A quiet night no worries about batteries or toches now, though a torch with a long beam would be useful for shining on potential vandals across the cut,.residents With headlights were out last night, doing their version of ice breaking and having fun. Beautiful sunshine on Weds am, plus birdsong. Glad to be alive.

Monday 20th January

Have removed blockage from Lilith’s range. Has someone been dropping coal down the chimney?

Monday 20th January

Robin, Chakra & Roadie on F.M.N ( no room for Paula ). Nothing to report.

Tuesday 21st January

F.M.N, Lilith, Elton, Midama, Gtr M/cr, usual 2 B.W + 1 guest bw watcher up alongside Gtr M/cr.

Pshaw! As they used to say, Chris and I decided totake F.M.N up to Ely Whalley, ( up past/under ASDA ) to charge up. All went well on the way there even with me steering.

Tuesday 28th January

Lynne + Colin on Forget Me Not, all other usual suspects in basin.

We came, we saw, we stayed, we left. Oh and Lynne did a lot of cleaning and tidying


I’ll try and work out which of this boats visitors ( since Jan 20th ), left the lurking knives as a joke. HO HO HO. In fetching cutlery out of the drawers, firstly I ended up with what seemed to be orange marmalade or apricot jam up my arm. I wasn’t going to lick it to see, and yes lurking knife number 2 got me as well. The large one covered in engine oil or something. More unacceptable than expected, had to be binned because of that one. Well done. My turn to get you next.


Tuesday 11th February

F.M.N, Lilith, Elton, Midama, Gtr M/cr, 2 * B.W

Rain, rain, rain,. Luckily Chris has completely solved the problem of the leak on the chimney/ cabin roof # not a drop of water. Spent the early evening doing some cleaning and polishing whilst listening to the Estonia v Scotland football match on the radio~ the cleaning was by far the more interesting occupation.

A quiet night. No one would have been mad enough to be out on a night like this~ ok, Chris came round at about 10pm to clock the boats!

The only winged beasty in the piles treatment was that f*****g alarm at the mill, which went off twice. Surely we should be provided with ear protection or else the WCBT will be sued for loss of hearing!

The rain seems even heavyer this morning and there is much lapping and gurgling of water under the counter, so the wind must be up as well. Ok well, must get moving as I have a bus ticket relay to perform.

See you all Saturday Colin

Thursday 13th February

Well I got here late and missed Chris ( who was here at 6 o’clock to meet me sorry!), so I guess It’s pretty much my own fault, but I had a right time of it tonight - last night by now, but here it is for amusement of seasoned boaties.

I picked the keys up from Midama about half past eight, ( childcare - don’t you love it ), and was thinking of stopping on Lilith, as I’d not been on Forget Me Not before, and didn’t know if I was up to sussing the whole thing out. It would have been easy if I’d noticed the ‘Guide to staying on Forget Me Not ‘, in the big envelope with ‘Connor’ written on it, that was on the side bench in Lilith, but no, I was too busy hunting for a light, and two or three trips between the boats I finally got a torch and a bit later the matches. So after getting the lights going, ( and then getting paraffin to fill up F.M.Ns’ hurricane lamp ) I had time to admire the beauty and neatness of the cabin. I guess Lilith is on her way to this but for me it’s a joy to check mout all the little cupboards and hatches and playing spot the wasted space.

So then everything was sound!, got the fire going, brewed up and listened to the end of the last of Mark Radcliffe Thursday night ( with the wonderful divine comedy). Not a lot else to do but de-stress and read the exploits of Captain Slog (I did decide to keep entries shorter though, so I’ll stop here. A lovely night ), Late though and whats the siren about ?

Friday 14th February

Straight outta dreamsville! Hello + knock on the door from Tom. Him, Chris and Bill were down to start work and I was still abed. When I finally got my act together I got round to trying to make a brew , but the gas rings in Lilith are now inspectored out, so Chris advised us to try the paraffin - double wick - thingy; I did, and it eventually got the kettle to boil, by which point I’d had enough to make sandwiches and grapes to wake up. Sat and had a brew with Tom, who was fitting wood, gunge and red sedant/ paint in Lilith.

Then a trip with the barrow to C.P.S and back, and a quick emptying out of half sacks of wood to clear the back of the hold. There’s lots of matches now on Forget Me Not; ( from Tom ); and when Chris came back with some trees to plant, we went for a quick brew ( which entailed getting the primus out and going, I’d never used one before and sad trainspotter that I am was quite excited to be doing so. And we also found where the missing Tilley starter was - in the biscuit tin, ( I think it’s now on Elton ).

Planting the trees ( mostly Elder ); was excellent, sun still out and warm, the easiest soil to dig in and finished in time to walk back in the light. Beats chocolate hearts any Valentines day of the week.

Then it was a quick lesson on starting the engine:( and a quicker one on how to stop it ), to change the battery, and Chris was away. So I’ve been at my own devices for the last 4 hours; ( time flies here, I’ve had leek and bean casserole with baked potato, Black sheep ale ( gorgeous! , and I’m now halfway through a waggle dance. So if the boats rocking.....

It’s environmentally aware radio clockwork tonight, which is brilliant!, I do love it, but when you’re in the middle of something and it goes off in the most dramatic point of ‘The Archers’, I’ll tell you It’s skin your knuckles time.

Now though It’s the essential selection and the essential contradiction of why Techno and Housey groups sound best in an almost electric free zone, with paraffin lamps and a woodstove! I’m not bothered, I’m happy to enjoy and probably crash soon . No hassle to report, all the kids’ll be off at the local clubs tonight, no doubt, It’s a clear, starry half mooned night, I’m glad to be here. Goodnight


Sunday 16th February

Help! I’ve got 10 minutes to get to the station - and I want to write it all down. But Saturday was good, a mellow walk by the canal, Gtr Mc/r being parked up and Chris and Marilyn brought round some tea aah!. And then today I got to take F.M.N up to the first lock and back. Brilliant! I’ve had an ace time, love and thanks to all concerned, and I promise to empty that compost toilet next time - swear

Monday 17th February

Eltons’ pump not working , back in a bit!

Chris arrived as I was working out what to do and tried F.M.Ns’ batteries to pump Elton out - It’s a good job he did actually, I didn’t realise Elton took on water so fast. Another leak revealed Itself near the stern during the process, which Chris plugged with clay.

Well so much for the excitement.... Back to tidying the cabin!

Tuesday 18th February Lynne and Colin.

Boats in basin: F.M.N, Elton, Lilith, Midama, Gtr M/cr and 2*B.W

A pleasant but breezy evening. Didn’t see a soul about - they breed ‘em nesh in Ashton. We looked for the comet with no luck. F.M.N was quite bad shape. Most things were in their places, including a pile of washing up which Colin says was also there when he stayed a week ago. So I’ve embarked on a rationalisation plan ( again ). All bar 4 large plates, 4 small plates, 4 small bowls and 5 mugs ( with handles ), have been removed to Lilith. There are not usually more than 4 people to use crockery at once. Wash up after yourself, rather than bringing in extra from another boat. If extra has appeared remove it to another boat. This leaves room in the cupboard for food. Also, if you check that the bowls etc, stack together well, then they won’t lurch all over the cupboard when the boat is moving. Thanks for the amber incense beneficent one.

Awoke to storm force winds and damp wood for stove lighting. However, mission finally accomplished and coffee for Lynne at last. Sounds of honking geese in the early morning - and I mean serious honking. Something must have been worrying them but too cold and wet to check it out. Unbelievably Lynne appears to have slept through this.

Have changed the covers on the mattress on the double and side beds, off for a wash in hulme for the old ones, same with pillow cases.

Would whoever borrowed all the little torches, lease bring them back. One should always be hanging just inside the door of Lilith so that it is possible to find the keys for F.M.N without the barking of shins, bumps on the head, and general foul language that results.


Who are you calling an old one? Bumps to you too. This P.s is to point out that the much vaunted free curry powder ( see Chris’ entry 29/01/97 ), has been in Liliths’ larder cupboard since before that date, as it was silly having it take up room in F.M.Ns’ bijou table cupboard.

Note on torches.

Sorry there were no working torches that night. One of the wall ones has broken. I replaced the batteries in the other but some clever clogs left it turned on and flattened the new batteries. I bought re-char gables which were getting their ritual charge yesterday. This should be back in It’s proper place tonight, as long as I remember to take it out of my coat pocket, I probably will as I’ve just remembered I’m staying here tonight.

The batteries were also flat on the large torch yesterday. They’re now being recharged. Several weeks ago I bought a good old fashioned rubber cased torch on Oldham flea market. I left it at Marilyns house and she hid it in the proper place for torches, I eventually found it whilst looking for something else that she’d hidden. When I’ve bought some batteries for that it will help solve the torch shortage.

Please, everyone. Take jar of curry powder home with you wherever it is.

Thanks for changing the covers Lynne. They needed it, wonderful tea towels too. Has anyone seen my clockwork radio?

Found it! And Nicks binoculars.

I’m working on new operation manual for Forget Me Not, Which should make things easier for new people, except those who don’t read instructions on principle

Friday 21st February

Arrived at about 6.30 great to be down on the boats - haven’t been down for ages.

Chris seems to be a bit ‘Pissed’ at people poking fun at Elton, so I’ve stuck a Comic relief nose on it to cheer it up a bit. Also thinking of starting an ‘I love Elton’ campaign!!! Have enclosed leaflet telling you about Red nose as apparently it can be dangerous if used wrongly!

Well I’m going to finish the last of the membership mail as I have an early night

Got to sleep about 10pm. Bloody alarm at mill woke me in night. My alarm went off at 6.45, looks like it’s going to be a nice day. New pump on Elton seems to be working a lot?

Well must finish cleaning up - off to look at office furniture at 9am. The boat is really clean and tidy and everything is in its’ place - thanks to whoever is working hard to keep it like this - a pleasure to stay on the boat. Bye for now


Forgot to mention, engine ok again, but water intake moved. Can you all start taking the piss out of ‘ Elton’. I don’t think I could afford an ‘I love Elton campaign.


Tuesday 25th February

Boats in basin: F.M.N, Lilith, Elton, Midama, Gtr Mcr, 2 * B.W

It’s somewhere between 10.30 and 11.30 pm and I’ve just seen a man dancing in the car park outside the gates. An amazing site - something between a ‘Pas de deux’ and a clog dance.

Of course the singing was unintelligible. His friend, quickly tired of the event, got back into the red car. They are still there as I write.

I have the hatch wide open, the stars are looking in on me. I believe winter to now be over early, as my arms are bare in my silk camisole and my feet over - warm in my wool M & S Wellington boot Arran socks.

From chopping wind and lashing rain earlier this evening, that chimney drip has restarted and presently serves to stop rice getting over dry in the pan - a tantalising breeze now brings the sound of the Tame to my ears, as Orion stands tall behind the Junction Mill.

Another sign of spring perhaps - earlier this evening I was doing the washing up, using the bowl on the back step. Mesmerised by the sound of water lapping under the counter as I worked, I began to sense a series of words as I brushed the steel scourer round and round the bottom of the saucepan. What could they be? Fascinated, I moved the steel scourer more meaningfully and soon, I repeated the words to myself and found the meaning clear - there in the centre ‘ SWAN ’, writ twice. Perhaps George will soon return with a new mate.

The mattress in the cross bed had a big wet patch - perhaps your special heater leaks VW? . Oh where, oh where, is the cafetierre and the poker.

Friday 28th February

A wonderfully peaceful night, with more stars than you could paint, and the first I hope of many. I write too soon of a quiet night. That I assume is the factory alarm . Sounded shortly about midnight.

Sunday 2nd March

Recycling trip - Lynne, Dave, Chris, Wassyl, Alan and myself. Clear but cold and windy, A good trip down with no major problems, left Lilith with Elton. Just getting lunch underway while everyone off foraging.

Monday 3rd March

After the above was written, ‘ Forget Me Not ’s prop shaft coupling came apart and she had to be bow hauled back. Bill took the battery box off to get proper access to the problem.

So please don’t start the engine as everything a bit barearsed, I don’t know how long it will take to get fixed.


Tuesday 4th March

Boats in basin, F.M.N, Lilith, Elton, Midama, Gtr M/cr, Termite and Pennine.

I’d forgotten how peaceful it could be here. For the last few months my visits have coincided with either storm force winds or rain which has fallen in such volume that small dogs have been afeared to leave their kennels. Tonight, however , I have rediscovered the mirror like quality of the cut when not a ripple mars it’s surface. The reflection of the stone bridge is truly remarkable - hence my remark upon it.

It seems that I am also safe from the shattering scream of the Junction Mill alarm. Now that most of the outbuildings have been demolished, it seems that they are not bothering to set the outside sensor which covers the immediate surroundings. Thus the cat can wander in peace and the earplugs can be consigned to the back of the cupboard.

Tut tut Chris. You must Challenge this tendency to accept the stereotype. It was I , not Lynne, who washed the bedding and towels, and if a battery needed changing in the night, or a pump primed, - it would be more likely Lynne than I who rose to the challenge.

Thanks to Nick for the Comic Relief warnings, although if Elton were tested to 80 mph, the loss of a red nose would probably be the least of my worries. The bit about taking care when hand washing the vehicle was , however, valuable advice indeed.

Live long and prosper


Wednesday 5th March

If you believe like

That you are what you eat

Then why on this earth

Do you eat meat.

It’s a modern misconception

You need it to live

And that’s true of the milk

And the eggs and the fish

Think for one moment

What’s contained in that flesh

It’s not wholesome, nor healthy

Especially when not fresh

For when an animal is killed

Be it sheep, pig or cow

It dies screaming and frightened

But we don’t think of that now

We just eat up our meat

Sometimes leave all the meat

And our parents approve

And of course they know

See, some people say

Meats a protein thing

And you can’t get nowt

From carrots or greens

But with me that don’t

It Just another excuse

To avoid mans own

His guilt and the truth

For then comes the illness(?)

The illness, beware

That spreads through

Like bacteria in cheer

Salmonella, Lysteria a cholesterol heart

When you over indulge in beans

You just fart

So after all the debate

And scientific report

I’m left feeling hungry

For the real food for thought

Fruit and veg, beans and pulses

I’ll eat off the land

And the animals can return

To what nature had planned

Just remember man’s big enough

To stand on his own feet

But that’s not for all creatures

So please don’t eat meat

One very important point my poem doesn’t mention is poor land management. Rearing animals for human food and use ( ABUSE ) is far far less efficient than growing food for humans. I know some people enjoy eating animals but then some people enjoy weird sexual practices. ? Upon consenting victims and some really enjoy shooting guns at others but I don’t believe any of us would accept the argument ? Pleasure as justification for that worst of ?. So why then for this? Why allow millions go hungry and many die, while ? And waste the land growing unwanted food.

Some of you are probably wondering why I chose to / / on the boats log, well I’ve noticed more and more animal products working their way onto the boats, ( eggs, milk, Campbell's meat balls etc ), and periodically for quite some time now. The sight and smell of cows milk offends me severely as the dairy industry is particularly disgusting and barbaric and it was in fact this that caused me to adopt a vegetarian ( pure vegetarian not lactose vegetarian ), diet and not the meat.

Some will now think I’m trying to tell everybody what to do and how to be, well I am, you don’t need it to live on and just because you like it , really really enjoy it even, that’s not sufficient reason for contributing towards the mass suffering and sometimes horrifically painful death of millions of animals, ( that includes humans ).

This is 1997 it’s nearly the 21st century for crying out loud and we claim to be civilised and intelligent and environmentally conscious and yet we behave as we have for thousands of years and for the right of world greed we allow the world around us to suffer.

To end on boats!

If you float on a boat

Then please take note

There’s a saying that you might want to hear

It wont take very long

It’s not right and It’s not wrong

It’s just my way of wishing you good cheer

Be it a working boat or paddy

Gleaming bright or dull and shoddy

Or the type that you can even take to sea.

Stop and listen for a while

As I tell you with a smile

To remember to live long and float free.


Friday 7th March


I thought the log book was to report incidents, etc on the boat, not to act as a soap box at speakers corner!. Personally I have nothing against vegetarians and I do not pass comment on what they do or do not eat.

I get really annoyed when people ( as you state ) try to tell people what to do. I do not complain when I come down to the boat and have to dig my way through beans & lentils and jars of strange concoctions to find my tin of corned beef, I wade through gallons of milk free milk to find my real milk. I thought we were all meant to live and work together, and surely that means a little give and take, not forcing any opinions and views on other people .

On the whole, the meat eaters within the group tend to buy & cater for the vegetarians / Vegans e.g. stews for meetings trips etc, we are not forcing the veggies / vegans to eat meat etc, so please do try to force your views on us. This is not a personal have a go at you Adrian, but at what you have you have written. Can I suggest that we all think before writing in the book, and if we think it will offend and upset DON’T WRITE IT IN.

This is meant to be a ‘nice’ book, I enjoy reading it I’d hate to see it turn into a slanging match.

Anyway off my soap box, nuff said

A nice quiet evening, ( so far ), Gtr Mcr, F.M.N, Elton, Lilith, Midama, B.W, lots of fencing, 3 Picnic benches, Chris’ trailer & museum still here. Chilling out after a hectic couple of weeks It’s great to arrive stressed up and half an hour later relaxed again. Thanx to whoever for leaving fire in & kettle boiled. Well I’m going to settle down with a good book and a few G & T’s. Bye for now.

Chris called at 11.15 pm to check on Elton. Apparently she’s been rather ill this week, drinking too much water and threatening to sink herself.

Tongue in cheek:- I think we should all have same sex relationships to cut down the population and stop world suffering! ( and perhaps I might get a few more offers !!!) ( any offers )


Saturday 8th March

An absolutely gorgeous morning, a clear blue sky, The canal like glass, the birds are slimming & the sun is shining. Well I feel brill, off home to do some spring cleaning.


8th March ( cont. )

Arrived around 8.45, met Chris and learnt a bit about the project. Fine night on Forget Me Not, Lucy missed out on a pleasant evening, plenty of food and a relaxed time enjoyed both by passengers and passer bye's. No hassle, range lit first time, although the boiling of the kettle left a lot to be desired, “ Oh Caffeine at last ”, well I’m sure we will be back, hope to meet others in the future. It’s a dry calm day in Ashton.

Chris and Mike

Ps Where’s the bog....

Tuesday 11th March

Boats present, usual suspects minus Pennine, Midama slightly round the bend.

I usually start with the well worn phrase ‘ A peaceful evening’, and last night was no exception. However at 2.45am we were awoken by two youths coming in through the cabin doors of F.M.N . A quick roar from me and the back one took fright and made for a rapid escape over the gate. The other one was slower to leave but finally made it over the gate also.

Lynne observed this from the open hatch - no attempt was made to stop them leaving as we were a little underdressed for a winters night. We decided to give ourselves the hassle of phoning the police, when they went on the other side of the towpath and started lobbing bricks at us. Lynne kept shining the torch at them which made them duck and managed to get a better look at them, one had dark trousers, a tricolour jacket including yellow and purple and sandy hair with fair skin. He was solidly built with a roundish face and swaggered. The other one had light trousers with a dark jacket and had dark hair and fair skin, he had a narrower face and build and, when they finally moved off , seemed to have developed a limp!

Following a second call to the police and a moment or two to get the stove going, the police arrived about 10 to 12 minutes after the youths had given up and walked off to Guide Bridge. The police took down the details whilst we reattached F.M.Ns box line which had been undone.

What was most worrying was that they had managed to scale the fence, climb over the bow ends of Lilith, Elton, and F.M.N, undo the line, come to the stern of F.M.N all without us hearing anything. Also, we had to wait 25 minutes for the police to arrive, if they had come sooner they would have a chance of catching them as they were throwing rocks for a good 10 minutes - and the Guide Bridge exit is over half a mile down the towpath.

We then saw a fox, running on the towpath behind the aqueduct bridge and the wall between the two bridges. It went into the wood on the bank of the Tame and seconds later came the cry of another creature . Next day I slept again, after we returned to bed between 4.30 and 5 am, Colin got up at first light and I saw him sitting on the fire box, reading the new boat building file, in sunlight.

About a previous entry - I strongly object to people interfering with what others have written - it amounts to an invasion of private space, a kind of harassment, as tho ‘ someone had broken into your home and shat in the room - log entries should be left as finally composed by the writer, not interfered with by others. There’s plenty of room and usually time to refer back to previous entries and make rely in your page / s of the book.

Have rationalised the bijou food cupboard once again - unopened and ‘use once’ type packages are in Liliths larder cupboard, together with a range of pulses and spices. Open packages , spreads and sauces are in F.M.N, veg is in F.M.Ns stern cupboard. It is now once again possible to reach / use both the breadboard and the mobile phone. There is only room in F.M.N for stuff that will be used, not stored.

Thanks Lynne

Ps I sent some very small children up the chimney of F.M.N on Tues evening and so it is the proverbial whistle. Hope this makes fire lighting easier.


Thursday 13th March

At 2 am, I was woken by unidentifiable noise outside. I leapt out of bed and emerged from the hatch armed with a pickaxe handle, to find only waking ducks.


Ps Lilith going on dock at Guide Bridge this evening.

15th March

Filled coal box with wood and moved toilet and m into Eltons’ back cabin. Plenty more firewood in F.M.Ns hold, Can’t find any bog roll - ? ? ?

Usually crowded with the stuff.

Room Service.

Monday 17th March

Quiet Night

Nick X

Please note from 1st April there will be a work book with log book.

Please log any work/sleep overs etc, you do also work for the society off the boat, if we get grant we can ?? With voluntary hours also time counts as working parties - no time in book = no parties



Ps called back to pick something up and have lit range for whoever is on tonight.

Tuesday 18th March Lynne and Colin

F.M.N, Elton, Gtr Mcr ( breasted to ours ), Midama, Termite

With refurbishment to the mill gathering pace, the Hudd’s Canal Soc boat has been moved to our side of the fence. If rock throwing burglars - vandals re-aim we’ll hear the steal boat ring a warning! Found the torch batteries were run down, so have put the rechargeable in the little top cupboard, across the stern from the ticket drawers. Have bought a set of Duracell, as there was no way we were going to do without a beam of light, after last week.

I am very thankful that Colin has come here too, as I was due to stay on my own, and have not generally got a spare fiver to loan stuff. Also bought wash - up liquid, sponges and pan cleaners. These are in the monkey box. Found that someone had left their washing up here - were astounded to discover that one item was a polystyrene shrink - wrapped ( empty ), rump steak container! Not only is someone with access to the boats taking no account of other boat - sitters wholly sensible views, they are being actively offensive by leaving meat containers here and causing health risks to themselves and others by not cleaning and clearing after themselves. Words now fail me.

A peaceful night. No burglars or even towpath walkers. It was on the way to nasty weather, perhaps I’ll be happy to stay here alone again soon.

Oh- I’ve lost an ear ring - it might be here - It’s a green plastic drop earring with gold rim. Quite nice, please put in the electric store cupboard if found TA.

Wednesday 19th March

Lynne looked for your earring didn’t see it, having read through the log we are terribly boring. Nothing happened, only peace, quiet and more peace with visits from ducks, swans, and cheerful birds singing all night.

Thursday 20th March ALL PLEASE READ

Firstly can I ask, when and where was it agreed that time spent minding the boat counts towards work parties?

As far as I was last aware, before any idea or condition became effective, it has to be agreed on, at an official meeting and as I was at the last meeting I can confirm that this suggestion was not even talked about, let alone agreed upon. So I must correct a previous entry and state that at the moment, time spent boat sitting does not count towards works parties until agreed on at the appropriate meeting. I’m not saying here that it should or shouldn’t, all I’m saying is that the society is an organisation , which has defined codes of practice, one of them being that proposed motions are passed by a majority at official meetings and not by a few individuals discussing it amongst themselves.

So time spent on boats does not count towards voluntary work ( yet! )

This will be discussed at the next meeting.

Sunday 23rd March Marilyn

Oh dear! I haven’t been here for a while. Hasn’t this book got controversial.

There’s veggie / non veggie and don’t interfere with my entries (ENTRIES not ENTRAILS ),

And Vivienne wants some land ( see 23.2.97 ) . Also I certainly hope it wasn’t Viviennes’ special heater which wet the bed. ( If it is we’ll have to get him an alarm ).

Now perhaps I can shed some light - the cafetiere which was commented upon.

I’ve made some discreet enquiries and apparently this belongs ( personally ) to Nick. He’d just left it on the boat for a bit.

The issue of working parties and sleep overs. This was discussed at the last WCBS Management meeting. I Haven’t had the minutes yet, but there was some sort of decision made at this time, can’t ?? the details. We must remember that the WCBS has an interim council of management which is meeting on a monthly basis to make decisions on our behalf.

Anyway it will be important to record your sleepovers and the hours worked after 01/04/97.

When we apply for grants etc, some bodies will want to know no’s and voluntary hours put in. Also, hours have a monetary value and can count as a donation and some bodies will / may give money based on this.

Next - Can’t help noticing that the personal alarm/torch which, I put on the boat is missing.

Anyone seen it?

As for weird sexual practices - I’m intrigued - answers on a postcard please. 1st prize is a rubber suit.

Seriously - I don’t think that wading through kidney beans is shocking to a meat eater as sausages are to veggie, ( although sitting next to someone who’s been eating the beans can be somewhat distressing ).

I think we need to look calmly and compassionately at the veggie / non veggie issue and try to be objective .

Anyway - I’m off now. The boats still floating and all’s well.


Ps sorry if I’ve offended someone/everyone ..The cat still loves me.

Monday 24th March

I’ve been working on the dock at Guide Bridge all week. The boats change over and Forget Me Not goes on, Lilith will return.

Apologies in advance for the ? By primitive ?

We seem to be slipping into a period of ‘chaos’ ( See “The Different Drum” on the bookshelf. This is OK and inevitable, my concern is that people might leave because they feel that they don’t fit in, please stick it out everyone we’re all human, we’re all valuable and we’re all irritating to somebody.


Tuesday 25th March

About 7.15 on Tuesday morning, I have to leave to start work on ‘Lilith’ soon.

Lots of tips on health on the radio. Please note, eating Watermelon regularly will stop you getting Lung Cancer, 5 portions of fruit or veg a day keeps the rest of us health, they didn’t mention meat !

Last night was beautiful. A clear starry night, the comet Halle Bp hung like a frozen firework in the Northern sky. I’m the south east a full moon rose to illuminate the night.

I hot up at 6am to buy the right soil, I’d just gone over to the towpath side with my spade when that bloody police helicopter came over and circled me! I stood still , innocently whistling to myself until it buggered off to circle Dukinfield.

The engine starting key room to be ?. You can turn the switch by inserting the end of the engine room key or a pointy pair of scissors.


Tuesday 25th March Lynne and Colin

Peaceful. Water level dropped, moved F.M.N to Ashton CC on Weds. A struggle see you later..

Sunday 6th April

7am slipped Forget Me Not yesterday; now preparing for ? Recycling trip.


1) Meths is now in bottom of food cupboard along with tilley lighters and red meths squirter can, ( they could fall if left on shelf ).

2) The only tilley currently working properly is the green army surplus one. This MUST ONLY be primed by lifting the glass and using meths squirter can to fill bong, DO NOT Rearrange glass with broken part at bottom.

3) Would whoever extinguished a hurricane lamp by turning down wick please fish the wick out of the fuel bowl and re thread it ( An hour or twos’ really frustrating work.

Please, please only extinguish these lamps by blowing.

4) Some kids got on Elton on Wednesday, the axe had been left out so they used that and a caulking mallet to try to break in to Lilith. They didn’t get in but we lost these tools. Please take care not to leave such tools where they are accessible.


Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1186067 2017-08-23T21:54:26Z 2017-08-23T21:54:26Z "Hazel" is a boat to raise people's spirits.

Today we took "Forget me Not" and "Hazel" to Marple. Our guests were people who have been dealng with depression. It was wonderful to see them enjoying the positive ambience of the boat and the waterway. That's what "Hazel" is for!

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1185093 2017-08-20T06:36:46Z 2017-09-22T19:04:14Z Make a future for "Aster"

It was day one of my annual solitary cycling trip. The plan was to pick up last years trail atSwindon, carry on across the Cotswolds to Banbury, then turn South East, my new destination being Neasden.

First though, I wanted to visit Jaqui near Bath. Jaqui has lived aboard and lovingly maintained the wooden Josher motor “Aster” for many years. Some time ago she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She was determined to stay aboard her beloved boat to the end. As she's got weaker however, she's started to review that decision. Last winter was difficult and she doesn't want to spend another winter afloat. I was going to visit her to discuss the future of “Aster”.

Eventually I spotted "Aster" on the outside, a little way short of the Dundas aquedct and the junction with the Somerset Coal Canal. I crossed the swing bridge to the moorings, which are run by a co-operative. I picked up wonderful friendly vibes as I rode down the path towards "Aster", with smiling adults and laughing playing children.

Jaqui invited me aboard. Inside was a lovely cosy hobbity space with lots of real wood fittings and a big range to keep the place warm. Over a cup of tea we chatted about what could be done with Aster.

Jaqui plans to move on to the bank in the Autumn. The boat will then have to move from her mooring as the co-op has made an exception to its r4ule that only co-op members can moor there because of Jaqui's ilness, and they're not accepting more members. Jaqui showed me pictures of substantial replanking work being done by the previous owners. She had docked the boat too, but had only been able to tingle over the suspect bits, and she'd had to sell the engine to pay for the work. Nevertheless, Aster is in pretty good nick, but she will need some real planking work done soon.

The Wooden Canal Boat Society can't take any more boats on, we're overstretchede with what we've got.My thoughts were going towards getting mine and Jaqui's friends together to form a charity to look after the boat, possibly raising funds by letting her as accommodation via online platforms, something that's working well to subsidise “Hazel”s charitable work. In the Bath area this should do well, though she would need a suitable mooring, with planning permission if she stays in one place, a higher spec boat safety certificate and suitable licence.

We chatted on about the difficulties of getting people working together, but it's worth the effort. I began to notice that Jaqui was looking tired and wondered if I should leave soon. She pre-empted me, explaining that she'd been to the hospice that day and she was getting pretty tired. I climbed out of the boat and said goodbye.

I have over 1000 Facebook friends. I've never met most of them, but they are mostly people who support the work of the Wooden Canal Boat Society, though, generally it's only moral support. If rather than likes whenever I post something they would all join the society, which has a ridiculously small membership, then the WCBS would have another £12000 a year to spend on restoring boats.

Jaqui also has a long friends list. Now, if Jaqui's friends and my friends in the South got together to form a Save Aster Society then it would be a pretty powerful group. Money could be raised, work done on the boat and Aster could be given a long term future, hopefully doing something useful to society. I don't know Jaqui well, but she strikes me as a really wonderful woman. She's facing something that we all dread. It will help her a lot if she knows that the boat she's loved for so long will have a bright future. Over to you!

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1184232 2017-08-16T18:27:49Z 2017-08-20T06:38:04Z Cycle trip day 1, Bath and Swindon.

It was day one of my annual solitary cycling trip. The plan was to pick up last years trail atSwindon, carry on across the Cotswolds to Banbury, then turn South East, my new destination being Neasden.

First though, I wanted to visit Jaqui near Bath. Jaqui has lived aboard and lovingly maintained the wooden Josher motor “Aster” for many years. Some time ago she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She was determined to stay aboard her beloved boat to the end. As she's got weaker however, she's started to review that decision. Last winter was difficult and she doesn't want to spend another winter afloat. I was going to visit her to discuss the future of “Aster”.

Buying cheap advance tickets online is a great way to set up your train journeys. The only snag is that, if you're taking a bicycle, different train companies have different rules about carrying bikes. It's wise to book your bike on the train, which is free, but has to be done at a booking office. I got caught out with this on my last journey as Great Western had brought in compulsory bike booking on their Inter City 125 sets, how was I supposed to know?

When I tried to book my bike on my train from Manchester to Bristol I found that all the bookable slots were taken, but there was one first come first served slot left. I determined to be there as the train arrived to be the first comer.

My ticket was from Guide Bridge but I decided to cycle to Picadilly. Emily works at Bridge 5 Mill, the environmental resource centre. She had stayed aboard Hazel recently and left her jumper, so I was going to deliver it on the way. I loaded my bike handlebars with two bags for life full of stuff and put my rucksack on my back, then set off down the Ashton new road. Near the velodrome I diverted on to the towpath to stop at bridge 5 and deliver the jumper. I followed the road again until I came to the new basins that almost connect the Ashton canal with the Rochdale, where I followed the empty Ashton canal basin back on to the towpath.

This area, always known as Ancoats, is now being renamed “New Islington” by the regeneration experts. Presumably Ancoats wasn't upmarket enough.

The basin accessed from the Ashton Canal is empty of boats, purely ornamental. The one accessed from the Rochdale is full of boats, but they are being chucked out with nowhere to go. Despite living afloat now being seen as a deeply cool lifestyle, anti boater prejudice remains high among bureacrats.

Soon I was at Picadilly station, an hour early for my train. I went through the automatic ticket barrier and sat down at the platform end to enjoy watching the coming and going of trains. After a while my train arrived and, once it had disgorged its passengers, I hung my bike in the space provided and locked it in place, before seeking out my reserved seat in the next carriage.

Voyager units are not for the claustrophobic. They are tilting trains, leaning into corners like a motorbike. While this allows them to go a lot faster it means that the upper part of the body has to be relatively narrow to fit into the loading gauge whilst leaning. Added to this you have as many seats as they could cram in and limited luggage space. This particular unit was also excessively hot, though it's allegedly air conditioned.

Despite this, and the fact that none of my co-passengers could be tempted into a conversation, I enjoyed the journey, watching the towns and country whizz by. Stoke, Stafford, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Cheltenham then into Bristol with me standing by the door ready with my rucksack and heavily laden bike.

Besides the rucksack on my back I had a supermarket 'bag for life, slung from each handlebar. As I pushed the bike along the platform, both straps on one of these gave way and the bag dropped to the floor. A helpful passenger picked it up for me. I tied the straps together and carried on, though it was clearly not going to last very long with half its fixings gone.

A huge crowd had gathered on platform 11 to await the 15.20 to Portsmouth, which I had to take as far as Bath. The sign flashed up that the train was only 2 carriages and was full and standing. A helpful platform manager (or whatever they call porters nowadays) suggested that anyone for Bath could take the Inter City 125 in the next platform.

My bike was booked on the 15.22 Portsmouth. I was once arrested at Bristol Temple Meads for unauthorised loading of a bike onto an Inter City 125. It cost me £40. I didn't take up the offer but instead I stood, holding on to my bike, for the short journey.

Bath is, of course, a beautiful city.This attracts tourists, so, the city cetre is pretty much geared fgor tourists. It's not the pace to find a cheap shopping bag. For the first time in my life I entered a Waitrose store, where I was able to purchase an organic fairtrade jute bag, which certainly is strong, if costly.

The next task was to find the canal. This isn't easy as canals tend to sneak into cities by the back door rather than proudly announcing their presence. Eventualy I tracked it down and set off at speed aong a wide and tarmacked towpath, busy with wakers, runners and cyclists.

The inside of the canal was dotted with moored boats of every description. Wide beam, narrow beam, steel, wood, fibreglass etc. Most were in some way or other personalised by there owners. Some were works of art. There was clearly a vibrant and creative waterway community here, just the thing that bureacrats hate. This is a waterway of The Shire, not of Mordor.

Eventually I spotted "Aster" on the outside, a little way short of the Dundas aquedct and the junction with the Somerset Coal Canal. I crossed the swing bridge to the moorings, which are run by a co-operative. I picked up wonderful friendly vibes as I rode down the path towards "Aster", with smiling adults and laughing playing children.

Jaqui invited me aboard. Inside was a lovely cosy hobbity space with lots of real wood fittings and a big range to keep the place warm. Over a cup of tea we chatted about what could be done with Aster.

Jaqui plans to move on to the bank in the Autumn. The boat will then have to move from her mooring as the co-op has made an exception to its r4ule that only co-op members can moor there because of Jaqui's ilness, and they're not accepting more members. Jaqui showed me pictures of substantial replanking work being done by the previous owners. She had docked the boat too, but had only been able to tingle over the suspect bits, and she'd had to sell the engine to pay for the work. Nevertheless, Aster is in pretty good nick, but she will need some real planking work done soon.

The Wooden Canal Boat Society can't take any more boats on, we're overstretchede with what we've got.My thoughts were going towards getting mine and Jaqui's friends together to form a charity to look after the boat, possibly raising funds by letting her as accommodation via online platforms, something that's working well to subsidise “Hazel”s charitable work. In the Bath area this should do well, though she would need a suitable mooring, with planning permission if she stays in one place, a higher spec boat safety certificate and suitable licence.

We chatted on about the difficulties of getting people working together, but it's worth the effort. I began to notice that Jaqui was looking tired and wondered if I should leave soon. She pre-empted me, explaining that she'd been to the hospice that day and she was getting pretty tired. I climbed out of the boat and said goodbye.

I have over 1000 Facebook friends. I've never met most of them, but they are mostly people who support the work of the Wooden Canal Boat Society, though, generally it's only moral support. If rather than likes whenever I post something they would all join the society, which has a ridiculously small membership, then the WCBS would have another £12000 a year to spend on restoring boats.

Jaqui also has a long friends list. Now, if Jaqui's friends and my friends in the South got together to form a Save Aster Society then it would be a pretty powerful group. Money could be raised, work done on the boat and Aster could be given a long term future, hopefully doing something useful to society. I don't know Jaqui well, but she strikes me as a really wonderful woman. She's facing something that we all dread. It will help her a lot if she knows that the boat she's loved for so long will have a bright future. Over to you!

I pedalled away through the lovely wooded moorings and over the swing bridge. I decided to have a look at the Aqueduct and the Coal Canal. The aqueduct is an impressive classical structure built in the local Bath stone. The Somerset Coal Canal, a narrow waterway built to tap the Somerset coalfield, was mostly converted into a railway in the 1870s. This, in turn closed down, but shortly after closure was used as the location for the classic Ealing comedy The Titfield Thunderbolt. A short length of canal at the junction has been restored as moorings.

Having ticked these two off my list, I set off back down the towpath towards Bath. I had noticed some intriguing derelict buildings across the railway line on the edge of Bath, so I manhadled my bike and luggage over the footbridge that led to them. I couldn't make out whether they were originally residential or industrial, but it looks like they're beenig refurbished as houses anyway.

At Bath railway station I sked for tickets for an old codger (senior railcard) and bike to Swindon. Armed with my ticket and cycle reservation I waited at the designated spot on the platform for the 125.

There was no fuss and no-one checked my ticket. The guard was a cheerful felow with a west country accent, a beard and his dark hair tied back in a pony tail. Dressed differently he could have been a pirate.

By the time we reached Swindon I was seriously hungry. It was getting late so I didn't want to go to the trouble of loighting a fire to cook my tea, a takeaway was in order. I went looking for a chip shop but, finding none, I thought I'd try a carribean takeaway.

I ordered jerk chicken with fries and home made coleslaw. That's £7, said the man “It says £5 in the window, I replied”. “Oh, that's the lunchtime meal deal” he said. OK, no problem, my mistake I said handing over a £20 note. “Have you got a pound” he asked. “Yes” I said, giving him a shiny new coin. He gave me £15 change. A quick calculation told me that I'd only been charged £6. I handed over my flask, “Any chance of filling this with hot water”, “i'll see if they'll do that” he said, taking it into the kitchen.

There were quite a lot of people sitting around waiting. A steady stream of polystyrene clad packages emerged from the kitchen, were wrappped in carrir bags and handed over to waiting customers. I was in no hurry as I was enjoying the reggae music. The lad wrapping and serving had his jeans hanging below his arse, which, thankfully, was covered by a sturdy pair of underpants. I wonder if he realises what that style of dress signifies.

My charged up flask returned, so I wouldn't need to light a fire for my morning coffee. Shortly afterwards my food came through the hatch. The man with the hanging pants apologised for it taking so long, “it was because of the fries” he said “we had to send out for them” (?!!!!?).

I cycled off back along the route I had followed into Swindon a year ago, along the filled in line of the Wilts & Berks canal. I knew this was crossed by thr Midland & South western Junction railway route, now a cycleway. I thought I would follow this to where it crossed the active Great western main line and sit there watching trains and eating my meal. Unfortunately the railway bridge is gone and the cycleway diverts down a rough lane that went under the railway through a concrete rathole. I found myself in one of those urban fringe area that are resrved for the less salubrious functions like rubbish tips and sewage works. This secluded lane is ideal for those people who shun the official disposal methods and creep away in the night to unload their rubbish unobserved.

My food was cooling so I gave up looking for a pleasant spot, instead, opening my meal on a barren mound surrounded by discarded foam mattress fillings. As I ate I thought there was something missing. The chips were OK, the chicken was good, the jerk sauce was very tasty, but there was no coleslaw! I liked that takeaway shop, but it was very random!

I needed to find a campsite for the night as dusk was a near prospect. With my takeaway container added to my burden I carried on up the cycleway, but had no idea which way to go when I reached a junction. Swindon has an excellent network of cycleways, if you know where you're going. There are signposts but many have been vandalised, some have been turned round (to confuse invaders perhaps) and if you set out along a route signposted to a likely sounding place you can guarantee that at the next junction you will be given a completely different menu of options.

I was aiming for the Swindin & Cricklade Railway, laid along the Midland & South Western trackbed and starting in a country park just North of Swindon. For added interest, it ran parallel to the North Wilts Canal, which there are ambitious plans to re-open.

I found myself on a cycleway that looked like it was a railway trackbed, so I followed it. At one point I had to cross a busy road. Someone leaned out of a passing car and shouted “hobo” at me. I'd rather be a hobo than a motorised prick!

Sure enough, the path led me to a country park and the rather bleak Southern terminus of the Swindon & Cricklade. The gate was locked, the information boards blank and no scope for camping, so I headed off into the country park.

I passed a fishing lake but plunged on through young woodland following the wandering path. I kept seeing likely spots but carrying on to see if there was anywhere better. I passed a bunch of teenagers carrying skateboards, then came to a road. I went up the road, thinking it would take me back to the railway line but, after several twists and turns, there was no sign. It was getting dark so I turned back and returned along the cycleway. I left the main route and went deep into Purton Wood, a young Woodland Trust plantation, and hid myself deep in the closely spaced young poplars.

It was spitting with rain, so I unfurled my pop up tent and unrolled my sleeping bag inside. Soon I was deep in the land of Nod.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1183051 2017-08-12T20:18:10Z 2017-08-12T20:18:57Z Ecclesbourne Valley Diesel Weekend.

I've been down to Rugby to visit my brother and family. On the way back I thought I'd visit the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway that runs between Duffield and Wirksworth in Derbyshire. It turned out to be diesel weekend, which was a bit disappointing for me but I nevertheless enjoyed the ride. There were classes 26, 31 and 33 in action and I enjoyed the sound of their growly old diesel engines. The class 31 was hauling a 3 car Metro cammell DMU (class 101). I don't know if its engines don't work or if they were just short of coaches. From Wirksworth a short line carries on up a 1 in 29 gradient to Ravenstor, the old limestone loading point. This was being worked by a Derby Lightweight railcar from about 1956, the sort that was used to try to save the Banbury Buckingham line. I don't think it's engine is in very good shape. As it climbed the incline it left a trail of blue smoke hanging in the air.

Diesel events attract serious railway enthusiasts. Megabytes of video and still photos were being generated, some people were writing things in notebooks and there was an atmosphere of serious study.

Opposite me on the railcar sat a fat man and a thin man, both in their 60s and dressed for a 1950s locospotters club outing. The fat man said in a disparaging tone "I think one visit is more than enough for me",. "Oh" said the thin man, the fatty continued wth a disapproving air "this line wasn't even part of the branch". "It was used for mineral traffic" the thin man ventured. "Yes" continued his friend, now sounding a little angry, "but it never had a passenger service"!  Clearly he will refrain, on principle, from the delights of the Foxfield Railway, the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway and the Nant Gwernol extension of the Talyllyn Railway.

Class 31 arriving at Duffield with the DMU set

The Class 33 "Crompton" at Shottle, the crossing point for trains, viewed through the rear cab of the Metro Cammell DMU.

The Derby Lightweight waits for passengers then sets out up the incline to Ravenstor.

Serious railway enthusiasts mill about in the shade of the railcar at Ravenstor.

An industrial diesel with permanent way train in a siding at Shottle.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1174145 2017-07-16T20:44:38Z 2017-07-16T20:55:56Z Lovely Day on the Ashton Flight

The 18 locks of the Ashton Canal between Manchester and Droylsden are not the best loved locks on the system. Many are the tales that go around of boats fouled up by rubbish, faulty locks, empty pounds and occassional ambushes. We've certainly had some difficult passages in the past. Not the kind of place you'd think to go bowhauling a butty for fun, but that's exactly what we did today.

"Hazel" had to be moved from Ducie St up to Ashton. We had an excellent good natured team of Tony Hewitson, Aaron Booth, David Basnett, Mary Francis and myself. We set off at about 10 AM and steadily worked up the locks with no fuss. Everyone worked as part of the team and needed next to no direction. The weather was dry and sunny but not too hot. We stopped above lock 7 to eat some excellent vegetable chilli supplied by the wonderful Em. At the summit we were met by our friend Fred who towed us the last couple of miles with his steel boat.

Aaron shafting the boat back towards the winding hole. We discovered that you can't wind a full length boat in the entrance to the private basin in Picadilly Village, but you can in the silly litlle arm on the towpath side.

David Hauls "Hazel" towards lock 8 under Ashton New Road.

Mary steers into lock 8.

Approaching Clayton Lane.

Crabtree Lane.

Passing the entrance to the Stockport branch.

Droylsden swing bridge.

Water sports adventure centre.

Entering the final lock.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1171702 2017-07-08T21:04:11Z 2017-07-08T21:04:12Z Down the locks to Sport City 8th July 2017

"Hazel" needs to earn some money so that she can do more good work taking people who need their spirits lifting away up the cut. We decided to try taking her to Manchester as we earn more for overnight stays down there. Today Tony, Aaron, me and new volunteer (though he helped dig out the boatyard years ago) Lee, bowhauled her down the locks to the velodrome. On Tuesday she'll carry on to Ancoats.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1159949 2017-06-02T10:48:16Z 2017-06-02T10:48:17Z Trip for People First Tameside May 2017

We did a trip with "Hazel" from Portland Basin to Lumb Lane and Back for People First Tameside on May 31st. Here are some pictures. Everybody enjoyed it.

Chris Leah