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.

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.


A Long Weekend Trip on "Hazel"

At the end of March we organised a trip from Ashton to Bugsworth and back over a long weekend, Friday to Monday. Unfortunately only one couple, Mary and David, booked a cabin, but we ran the trip anyway.

The weather was glorious, if a bit chilly at night. The Friday took us to Chadkirk, where lovely gardens run down to the canal and there's a mediaeval chapel, holy well and is handy for access to Romiley. On Saturday we worked up the 16 Marple locks and along the upper Peak Forest canal, turning off up the Bugsworth arm where we tied in the former interchange basins.

Sunday was an easy pootle back as far as Strines, where we tied under magic oak trees, then on Monday, down the locks again and back to Ashton. Our guests have now signed up as crew.

"Hazel" between Hyde and Gee Cross.

Woodley.

A moorhen.

Aaron dozing.

Kim steering at Romiley.

"Hazel" at Strines.

Phil demonstrating where not to stand when steering "Forget me Not".

A tight turn on the upper Peak Forest.

One of the drawbridges.

Peak Forest scenery.

Joan steering "Hazel"

Declan enjoys sitting on the roof.

while granny steers round another turn.

Furnace Vale.

Bugsworth basins.

David tries motor boat steering.

While Mary steers the butty.

Magical oak at Strines.

Brewing up on Monday morning.



Aaron works the drawbridge.


Woodley again.

Woodley railway bridge.

Collecting "Hazel", and saying goodbye to Hazel.

Thursday 9th February. "Hazel" the boat was in Stalybridge but we needed her in Ashton for the Valentines trips (still undersubscribed if you and your lover would like to book a place). Anyway, it was an excuse for a training trip.Tony had invited his friend Joe who found us after a mystery tour of Ashton.  We took "Forget me Not" up the 3 locks to Stayley Wharf, Kim Tranter having his first go at boat steering, which he took to like a duck to water. We then left her in the care of Joan Wainwright while the rest of us walked up to Knowl St Heritage Boatyard to collect "Hazel".

 

Nigel Carpenter shafted the boat down to the winding hole and winded her, before working down lock 7.

Jannice Brown and Barry Atherton joined us Tony Hewitson bowhauled down the locks through Stalybridge town centre. George Hewitt took on her usual role of lockwheeler in chief.

It was a dull cold day with occassional flurries of snow so everyone was well wrapped up but in good spirits.

Back at Stayley Wharf, Joan had been heating up some delicious soup that had been donated by Bev Ackford who was unfortunately unable to join us for the trip. This was shared out and consumed as Joan steered us along the long pound to lock 3.

Then down the two locks and along the next pound to lock 1.

From lock 1 it was a level run through the Asda tunnel to Portland basin, where our crew made an excellent job of breasting up with minimal instruction from me.

It was an excellent trip. Everyone worked well together and enjoyed themselves, mostly just seeing what needed doing and doing it without having to be told.

When we were tied up, some had to go, but the rest of us went up to the shop as it was Hazel the person's leaving do. After a little mix up we found her in the nearby Station Hotel where she organises a Knitting and Crocheting session on a Thursday afternoon. For the last 2 years Hazel Mayow has been our volunteer organiser but, now that the funding has run out, we'll have to organise ourselves or return to anarchy. Hazel has a liking for cake, so we covered the pub table with extreme ceam cakes from the Polish shop. Poles seem to excel in the art of cake making. Luckily Hazel hasn't completely gone as she wil be coing back as a volunteer. I took my camera with me but clean forgot to take photographs, sorry.

All in all it was an excellent day. Thanks everyone.

Bollington Trip

We decided to take "Hazel" to Bollington near Macclesfield for a gathering of historic boats. I tried to get some paying guests to help subsidise the trip, but without success. We had the usual problem of concessionary guests dropping out (to be expected when people have depression and similar conditions but very frustrating when you're offering something wonderful for free). At the last minute we got a couple of guests from Greystones  http://greystones-ashton.org.uk/ who seem to have benefitted from the trip enormously. It was a lovely sunny trip up the Peak Forest canal. At Hyde we were stopped briefly by a shopping trolley which can be seen in some of the pictures being carried on "Forget me Not". We spent the first night tied near Marple Aqueduct    http://www.marple-uk.com/aqueduct.htm   


Andy takes an early morning walk over the aqueduct.

Getting ready to move on to the locks.

Crossing the

aqueduct.

after a really pleasant trip from Portland Basin up the Peak Forest canal. We had a really good group of volunteers to get us up Marple locks where "Hazel", being a butty, has to be bowhauled (pulled by human power) up the 16 locks.  http://www.marple-uk.com/aqueduct.htm

Andy in a lock. Waiting for the lock to fill. Hazel (the person) bowhauling "Hazel" (the boat) Mick bowhauling, Andy steering.

At the top of the locks we turned into the Macclesfield canal and, unusually, there was plenty of room on the visitor moorings, so we tied up there.

Tony steers through the old stop lock.

Breasted at Marple.


Next day we had a very pleasant, if windy, run along the Macclesfield Canal to Bollington. http://www.macclesfieldcanal.org.uk/


http://www.happy-valley.org.uk/index.htm


















Caen Hill Beckons.


Go by train, buy your tickets here  https://wcbs.trainsplit.com/main.aspx

I hadn't travelled as far as I intended on Wednesday so I decided to stick mostly to main roads on the Thursday. The road towards Purton was busy with morning commuters as I pedalled along.

I turned off to go through Purton the back way, through an industrial estate, over a level crossing then up a steady hill on a narrow lane past hobby farms of miniature goats, rare breeds and ponies. I came across a horse all done up like it was ready to go jousting. It was busy scratching its bottom on a fence post until it saw me and enquired if I had any carrots.

I waited at the level crossing for a London bound HST to pass.


It was an easy undulating ride along main roads to the next town, Wooton Bassett. Famous for its townsfolks all too frequent spontaneous tributes to dead soldiers returning from Afghanistan, this town has a lovely old wide main street, probably a former market place. I was tempted by the town museum, located in the old Town Hall, but great magnets were drawing me on towards the end of my line.


http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/3989429.Wootton_Bassett_pays_silent_tribute/


http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/things-to-do/town-hall-museum-royal-wootton-bassett-p1572593

I did stop briefly at the railway bridges for Wooton Bassett junction, to have a drink and look at the junction where the direct route to South Wales via the Severn tunnel diverges from Brunel's original London to Bath and Bristol railway. One way traffic was being imposed on the road as preparations were being made to rebuild the bridges ready to electrify the railway. I took a picture of an HST from Wales, still in front line service after 30+ years but soon to be replaced by Japanese trains which actually go no faster.



http://www.hitachirail-eu.com/super-express-iep_57.html


Up to the 1980s Britain led the world on high speed train technology, then government indifference ( Margaret Thatcher was known to hate railways) and slavish adherance to a free market ideology largely destroyed our train building industry.

http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/culture/2013/01/meeting-our-makers-britain%E2%80%99s-long-industrial-decline


There was nowhere to get away from the parade of growling lorries and impatient motorists so, after quenching my growing thirst, I remounted and went in search of the Wilts & Berks canal, which also ran this way. I found it down a lane, deep in a wooded cutting at the back of someone.s garden.



Lyneham was next on my itinerary, mostly famous for it's RAF base, where the sad cargoes from the Afghan war were landed. The airfield might have been interesting if I could see any aircraft. It turns out that it is no longer an airfield, just a maze of grey buildings and high security fences.  I plodded on towards Calne.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MoD_Lyneham


At a field used for weekend car boot sales there was a huge sculpture of a motorbike made entirely from scaffolding.


http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/10571599.Bikers_heading_for_monster_bike_meet_at_Calne/


Calne seemed a nice busy old town. My map showed a branch of the canal terminating near the river bridge, so I went to have a look. The terminal basin has been built on with modern flats called, unsurprisingly,

“The Wharf”. A new gate into a park on the canal route depicts a modern steel pleasure narrow boat. Perhaps one day such craft will be able to navigate to the town.


http://calne-castlefieldspark.co.uk/


nehttp://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/towns-and-villages/cal-p462553


After Calne I had decided to diverge slightly from the main road, partly to move nearer to my line but largely because I wanted a break from the traffic. I turned down a pleasant lane towards the farming settlement of Broads Green, then on through the nicely unpretentious Heddington Wick and on to a place where my only route was along an alleged public footpath. There was no signpost but there was a very overgrown stile to show where the path should go. I lifted my bike over the gate and followed the field edge to an electric fence, near to which a herd of big cows was gathered.


They were clearly surprised to see me limbo under the wire then drag my bike after me, forming a defensive circle to face me. To say that I was scared of cows would be an exaggeration, but I am uneasy in a field full of them. One nightmare that I still remember from childhood was of being in a field full of cattle that were running about madly and kicking their back legs in the air. Suddenly all went black and I woke up very frightened. As I walked towards the herd it broke it's defensive line and the cattle began to behave just like the ones in my dream before once more forming a circle, this time all round me, shoulder to shoulder. The herd was treating me as a predator. As I walked forward the ones ahead of me shrank back and the ones behind advanced, so the circle moved across the field until, as I approached the far gate they melted away and went back to the serious business of grazing and filling their udders with milk.


Beyond the gate a narrow strip of woodland ran off to the left. Beside the first trees was a pen of young game birds, being raised to be released then shot for expensive fun. To the right was a mayhem of felled and uprooted trees, trunks and wrenched off limbs lying higgledy piggledy like corpses on a battlefield. Ahead was Bromham House Farm, where I could hear tractors manouevering. According to the map the footpath went to the left of the farm buildings, but there was no way through there. I had to pick my way between grey concrete buildings and slurry pits before finding the driveway out on to the A342. The farm workers either studiously ignored me or stared like I had just landed from another planet.


http://bayntun-history.com/BromhamHouse.htm


A turn at the village of Rowde brought me on to a straight fairly level minor road to my destination, Caen Hill Locks. They looked very neat with mown lawns and recently painted balance beams. I had joined the locks at the bottom of the spectacular straight line of locks that is so often photographed. I stopped at the first of these to enjoy the last of my rations, aiming to buy more food in Devizes.


Two steel boats were working down the locks and I fell into conversation with the lockwheeler. She was a woman in her fifties, stylishly dressed with a red hat. She had a grumble about lack of maintenance because the full lock had partly emptied and she had to let some water in so that we could open the gates. I told her she should try the Ashton Canal. She was not happy about the way that the Canal and Rivers Trust (CRT) run the canals, particularly the office based culture that is ignorant of the waterways and their people and will bully mercilessly those who cannot move on because of illness or other unforseen circumstances. There are some good people working for CRT but unfortunately this is the kind of story I am hearing a lot of and experiencing myself to some extent. There is a disconnect between the lovely being nice to everyone and everything surface gloss and the heartless reality on the ground.


We talked about historic boats. It turned out that her son had just bought an 1890 iron butty. She took a leaflet and we went our ways. My way was uphill on the neat towpath, the, leaving the canal, into the centre of Devizes.


It was market day and the town was busy. I had promised myself a meal in a cafe when I reached Devizes, so I locked my bike on the market place and ordered baked sweet potato and vegetable chilli in a cafe' next to a vegetable stall, I sat outside, watching the people and listening to the, often unintelligible, calls of the stallholders.


http://www.devizes.org.uk/index.php/shopping/markets


One call that I did understand was “Five creamy avocado pears for just one pound”. I thought that wasa good deal so I purchased some. I explored the busy town centre and did some more shopping so that I could cook myself a meal. Feeling the need I followed the signs to the public toilets and though it cost 20p I was amazed to find such clean and pleasant facilities with an attendant. I took the opportunity to have a good wash. Such facilities in towns around my area were closed years ago because of spending cuts, but here there seems to be no austerity. I’d even noticed that some villages have public libraries while we’re struggling to hold on to our main libraries.


It was time to move on. My new line to Banbury I would follow as far as Swindon. The first part would involve gaining altitude by following the bridle paths up Roundway hill. The first part was so straight and even in its slope that I thought it must be an old inclined plane. I can find no record of such though. The chalk quarries on the hill were presumably disused well before the coming of the canal as they were used to bury the dead from the battle of Roundway in 1643. A strong parliamentary force was unfortunately routed by a smaller royalist army. The parliamentary cavalry ran away, many of them perishing as, in their panic, they plunged headlong down an escarpment. The poor bloody infantry got left on the hill. They in turn tried to retreat  but ended up being massacred.



The hill was steep and I had to push my bike most of the way up, stopping on the seat above the Millennium White Horse to enjoy the view and use the last of my flask with its foul tasting water for cocoa. I ate the first of the avacados. Camper vans were discreetly parked beside the wooded old quarries. I set off along a white chalk road through arable fields, travelling mostly down a gentle hill with the site of the slaughter to my left. A combine harvester trailing dust rose gradually above the hilltop like a ship breasting the horizon in a dry sea of wheat.

After crossing a main road my route lay along a bridle path through a golf course. I’m wary of golfers. I know a place where golfers (who pay a lot of money to be there you know) regularly attempt to intimidate walkers on the public footpath across their course. I was pleased to see a clear sign for the path, skirting the edge of the course. I followed it up the hill and searched for a gate. The golfers were not hostile, but not helpful either. I eventually found a stile, bridle paths should have gates for horses to go through, and carried my possessions over in several vourneys.


The field I had entered was one of unkempt rough grass which I will not dignify with the title of hay. The only way out seemed to be through a gate to my right into a sheep field. From this I had to scale a steel gate into a wheatfield atop Morgans Hill. I crossed this, keeping to the tramlines left by tractors to avoid damaging the crop, then lifted my bike over a fence and a gate in quick succession to find myself at the ancient Wansdyke which follows the contours of the hills.




http://www.wansdyke21.org.uk/wansdykehomepage.htm

I consulted the map to regain my bearings. To my left were two pylons, to my right Furze Knoll, toped by trees and grazed by black beefy cattle. I should have gone the other side of the pylons but it didnt matter, I was on a footpath again and if I follwed ot I would hit the old Roman road that I needed to traverse. All around me was history and prehistory etched into the landscape.


http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3102173

The Roman road was nicely surfaced in fine chalk.


I rode confidently along it for about a mile, then turned off up another bridleway towards Cherhill Down, topped by a great needle of a monument. A combine harvester was making the most of of the dry weather to work late into the evening gathering the grain.


I began to push my laden cycle up the steep path on to Cherhill Down. This is a National trust site and the grass is varied and speckled with wild flowers. The monument was passed some distance to my left and I headed for woodland where my map marks Tumulus in gothic script. A family were out enjoying he hills, calling to a daughter who wanted to go a different way.

http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/24/cherhill_down_and_oldbury.html


https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/calstone-and-cherhill-downs/features/the-lansdowne-monument?awc=3795_1471467793_48d9652c7ec96a37fd98256df63ab483&campid=Affiliates_Central_Mem_AWIN_Standard&aff=78888



Evening was drawing on and I wanted to eat, but fires were to be “avoided” on this land and there were lots of walkers and runners about who I thought might grass me up. I found a nice spot between two mounds, which I think were ancient burial mounds, parked my bike against a tree and sat looking out at the amazing view. I soon went to get my coat as, despite the sunshine, there was a constant cold North westerly wind. I ate a couple more avacados as I was getting peckish, then the cold wind forced me to take shelter behind a mound and did some typing.


When I got bored with typing I climbed the fence into the wood and collected dry sticks. In the middle of the wood was a concrete surface that could have been the top of a water tank. I carefully laid out the things that I would need to cook a meal. By about 7 PM the hill was devoid of people, so I scrumpled up some paper, covered it with sticks and set light to it. In order to do minimum environmental damage I positioned the fire on a small area anready trodden bare by animals.


Soon I had a good blaze going and I began cooking. When my meal was ready I braved the wind to go and sit looking at the wonderful view. A whistling roar to my right drew my attention and I watched in amazement as the RAF Red Arrows aerial display team flew past in formation, barely higher than my hilltop perch.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DE-A4rLyWW8


By the time I had tidied up and put things away it was getting dark, so I laid my tarpaulin in the gap between the mounds, rolled out my sleeping bag, rolled up my coat as a pillow and wriggled my way into the warm soft envelope of my sleeping bag.

I didn’t know it was the night for the Perseids meteor shower. I woke in the middle of the night and opened my eyes to a wonderful panorama of stars, then one moved. As I watched, pinpricks of light would flash across the fly, the heavens putting on a free firework display for me. I watched for a while then dozed off again.


http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/everything-you-need-to-know-perseid-meteor-shower































Resuming at Tile Hill

Every now and then I take to my bike and ride as near as I can along a line drawn on the map. At night I sleep out at whatever discreet spot I can find. My last trip, 5 years ago, ended at Tile Hill near Coventry. Recently I resumed the trip, following the line previously drawn to Caen Hill locks near Devizes in Wiltshire.


My train wasn't until 12.07 from Piccadilly, so I spent the morning with the usual running about making sure everything was in place for me to go, then went home to say goodbye to Em. She's been quite poorly lately so she was in bed communicating electronically with friends around the world. I left most of my keys at home lest I should lose them, but took keys to the boats as there were a couple of things to pick up there on my way. What I forgot was that it was Monday, so the museum wasn't open and, without the gate key, I couldn't get in. I had to ring the bell on the museum door and ask one of the staff to let me through on to the wharf.  http://www.tameside.gov.uk/museumsgalleries/portland  A couple of them came and they said they enjoyed the fresh air.


On my way at last, I pedalled off down the towpath with an hour to my train. I immediately began to wonder if this trip ws a good idea. A gusty North Westerly wind was impeding my progress and I was already finding it hard going despite the recently tarmacked towpath. My museum friends had remarked on the amount of stuff I was carrying and my rucksack was feeling mightily uncomfortable. Things got easier as I descended the locks and gained more shelter from the buildings, but I was still wondering what it would be like to pedal through the Cotswolds with all this weight as I arrived at Piccadilly with 20 minutes to spare.http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3235897


My train was the 12.07 Cross Country to Exeter St Davids, a four car Voyager set.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1uSnLJnPtk    It was already in the platform so I found the bike rack and hung my bike in it, then got stuck behind 2 old ladies faffing about with their luggage while I sought my reserved seat. The train was uncomfortably crammed, in fact one young passenger nearly got off again as she was suffering from claustrophobia.


The Voyagers are very fast and futuristic looking diesel trains. They can go faster round bends than traditional trains as they lean over like a motorbike. The drawback of this is that to allow for tilting within the restricted British loading gauge demands a very narrow body profile. Coupled with a commercial imperative to insert as many farepayers as you can into as few carriages as possible and you have a recipe for sardines.


Shortly after sitting down, the guard announced that “an item has been found”. I looked for and failed to find my camera. This was worrying as, though the camera isn't worth much, the SD card contains important photographs. I made my way to the end of the train and, after some carefully chosen security questions, the guard handed me my camera.


I had booked my ticket through Raileasy, which has the clever option of finding savings by booking your journey in several chunks rather than as a single trip. My tickets were separately Manchester to Stoke, Stoke to Birmingham and Birmingham to Tile Hill. I didn't have to get off at Stoke on Trent but my reservation from there to Brum was in a different carriage, so I said goodbye to the family I had been sitting with and moved to Coach F. Here another luggage drama took place. It was announced that we should all check our luggage as someone had left the train with the wrong bag. A middle aged punk lady started to panic when she couldn't find her suitcase and went to get the guard, only to have the embarrassment of discovering that she'd stowed it at the other end of the coach.


From a crowded New Street I got the London Midland local train and alighted at Tile Hill.    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tile_Hill    

Before setting out I adjusted my rucksack straps which made it much more comfortable, but my previous concerns returned as I struggled up the incline over the railway bridge.

My map, though old, was clear. I needed to take the second left, immediately before Burton Green and immediately after the abandoned Berkswell to Kenilworth railway. The second turn left was just before the sign announcing Burton Green, but i could see no sign of the old railway. As it was at the top of a hill I shrugged and turned. Perhaps the railway had tunnelled under. Sweating like a pig, I stopped to remove my coat and roll it up on the handlebars, then enjoyed some nice downhill freewheeling.


After a while I found myself in Warwick University, which is in Coventry (!?).   http://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/warwick

The road that I should have taken should have turned right, so I took the next available right tun and, once clear of the university, went through a pleasant undulating country of oak woods and fields. I came to a crossroads that shouldn't have been there. I realised that I was on completely the wrong road, but one direction was signposted to Kenilworth, so I went that way.

The Kenilworth that I first entered was unlike the place that I have been to before.   http://www.kenilworthweb.co.uk/          

It was ancient and quaint but horribly overwhelmed with upmarket tweeness. Over the brow of the hill I came to Kenilworth Castle. I recall being unimpressed by this monument on a childhood visit and had no wish to repeat the experience. It was indeed one of the ruins that Cromwell knocked about a bit.


Another dip and rise brought me to a different Kenilworth, a high street of normal shops and cafes selling stuff at normal prices. I stopped to buy vegetables. I needed coffee but I didn't want a jar that was heavy and might break. A refill pack would be better, but vulnerable to damp. When I was a kid coffee was unknown in our house. One day, probably prompted by my older siblings, mum brought home some coffee. It was Camp Coffee in a bottle. Sainsbury's still have it, still with the same colonial label but in a lightweight plastic bottle. I decided to buy some as I am camping. I don't know how much of a caffiene hit I'll get from it as it is mostly chicory.


Leaving Kenilworth, I soon found the little turning towards the village of Beausale, then kept an eye out for the track leading to the delightfully named Goodrest Farm. This turned out to be a good concrete road. From the farm a footpath is marked towards Hatton. I was pleased to find that this is a good well used and waymarked path through woods and wheatfields. Lovely Warwickshire as I remember it from my childhood. As I rode along a hawk hovered ahead of me, then suddenly dropped on some hapless mouse or vole, which it carried away in its claws as it flew off to enjoy its meal.




I grew up not 20 miles from here. All I knew about Hatton then was that it was the local "loonybin". Any strange behaviour would prompt a remark like 'you'll end up in Hatton if you're not careful'. One of the little jobs carried out by number one boaters was to deliver coal to Hatton for the asylum boilers. The footpath headed straight for the asylum but was marked as turning right to Turkey Farm. I could see some of the old buildings and wondered if it was still in use as a hospital. When I got there I found that the footpath led straight into a new estate of upmarket housing. At least one of the old buildings is still standing, though this turns out to be the Chest Hospital and appears to be being converted.


The old mental asylums had their drawbacks. There were some very bad practices in them which led to a movement to get them closed down, spurred on by films like “One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest”. Margaret Thatcher's government seemed to be doing something progressive when they brought in “Care in the Community”. In many ways it seemed a better idea, but the resources deployed are totally inadequate. The problem with the old asylums was not that the idea of asylum is inherently bad. In fact a lot of people need asylum, if only on a temporary basis. The problem was partly the moralistic attitudes of the time, but mainly the lack of resources and the perception that it was a cinderella service. Thatcher and her pals seized on the care in the community option as a way of saving money and as a result many mentally unwell people find themselves living in cardboard boxes or prisons.

http://openbuildings.com/buildings/central-hospital-hatton-profile-21766


Partway up the Hatton 21 lock flight my route crosses the Warwick and Birmingham canal.  http://www.warwickshireias.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/THE-WARWICK-AND-BIMINGHAM-CANAL.pdf


I stopped here and found a camping site in the bushes beside a lock. There's plenty of dry brittle wood here so I lit a fire, cooked my tea, boiled a kettle to make a flask for the morning, then sat, leaning against a bollard to type this.


I've had a few funny looks from dogwalkers and a brief shower prompted me to put up my pop up tent, then it went sunny again. Shortly I'll be riding down the locks for a pint at the Cape of Good Hope in Warwick.


Book your tickets this way     https://wcbs.t rainsplit.com/main.aspx












The Best Laid Plans (4th June 2010)

The Best Laid Plans!

Having "Southam" and "Lilith" stranded at Scarisbrick has been very inconvenient. At long last the gearbox was ready and me and Frank travelled over there on Tuesday to instal it. Once everything was connected up we gave it a try and, once we were satisfied that it was adjusted properly, I set off with the boats breasted up.

Frank had to head home. I said it was about time he came for a boat trip as he does loads of work but has never actually been out on the boats. He said canal boats are too slow for him. He used to own a powerboat that would do 60 knots! Funnily enough, though speed has its excitement, I think I'd soon get bored with that. Each to their own.

Alan, the very helpful owner of Red Lion Caravans who had kept our batteries charged during the long sojourn at Scarisbrick, gave a parting gift in the form of a little used battery for our bilge pumps.

The only difficulty in taking both boats singlehanded was the swing bridges. It would be hard for me to operate these and handle the boats at the same time. I rang my friend Cookie who lives at Burscough. As the first swing bridge hove into view I spotted a little girl on a pink bike on the towpath. It was Cookie's daughter, Cara. She enjoyed a ride on the bridge as Cookie swung it out of my path, then the two of them whizzed past on their bikes to operate the next bridge.

At Burscough we met Keith and Elsa Williams. Keith, formerly a very active man with a building business, had been struck down with some obscure life threatening illness. After ages in a wheelchair he is now walking again with the aid of a stick, and coming on his first boat trip since his illness.

We tied up next to the boat where Cara, Cookie and her partner Kenny live. I got on my bike and rode back the 4 miles to Scarisbrick to collect the van. I drove back to Ashton to make arrangements to keep the rest of the fleet afloat in my absence. At Portland Basin I met Joe and took him through the various pumps that need to be checked regularly. With that organised I went home and flopped into bed.

Next morning I was up with the lark to feed Captain Kit and check the boats before catching the 7.34 AM train from Ashton station. I was joined by Ian. I had been expecting Bex too, but she rang me later to explain that her dog had had a crisis with his ear and she'd had to take him to the vet.

The crowded train took us straight to Burscough, and a short walk along the main street brought us to the canal. I set to work with the aid of Kenny and Cookie's generator to repair some damage done by an overconfident trainee steerer in Liverpool. We sorted out the food kitty and Elsa went out to stock up on provisions.

It was about 20 to 12 when we set out. Ian steered the butty. He hadn't done this before and was on his own, but he took to it like a duck to water. Some people seem to learn instinctively. Others seem to never learn to steer, however much you try to teach them. Cara enjoyed watching the passing scene from the foredeck under the watchful eyes of Cookie, Keith and Elsa. Cookie took care of the swing bridges again, which involved a lot of running as she was now bikeless. Keith and Elsa kept everyone supplied with sausage butties, cups of tea etc.

It was a beautiful blazing hot day as we chuntered along the wide canal, busy with pleasure boats, walkers and cyclists. I steered "Southam" and listened to the engine note for any trace of the gearbox slipping. Many people asked about the boats, but the noise of the engine made it difficult to hear. I would tell them that the butty was 108 years old as that was the answer to the most frequent question. A cyclist stopped as we approached, took out his camera and videoed our passing.

Sausage butties and brews distributed, Elsa came to take over steering and I just stood on the gunwale and kept an eye on things. We swung round the tight turn at Parbold and followed the canal up the narrowing Douglas valley. The flatlands were now behind us and the outside of the canal became a thickly wooded bank. Below us to the right was the wandering course of the Douglas, once navigable by Mersey Flats, but later superseded by the canal.

The engine revs began to oscillate, a sure sign that the gearbox is slipping. This was not surprising. Frank had said that it may need adjusting again when the clutch plates had bedded in. We breasted up the boats and tied up on the towpath. I removed the gearbox inspection plate and unscrewed the locking bolt on the adjuster. I was afraid of dropping a component and handled the hot pieces of metal very carefully. About a quarter turn on the adjuster was plenty and then I had to screw in the locking bolt again, taking care not to drop it. The bolt had to be tight and Frank had left me a socket to screw it down with, there being no room for a normal spanner. As I went to put the socket on the bolt it slipped out of my fingers and dropped into the gearbox. I put my hand in to look for it, but it was still too hot.

I went forward for a cup of tea to wait for the heat to dissipate. On my return I found that the temperature was now bearable and plunged my hand into the warm oil. Though I was now able to get it deep into the machinery, there was still no way I could reach down into the sump to retrieve the socket. I decided that it was too heavy and compact to become a literal spanner in the works, so I abandoned it to its oily fate. This left the problem of how to tighten the locking bolt. I rooted through the toolbox and made a lucky discovery of a bicycle spanner that fitted perfectly and was short enough to turn inside the gearbox.

With the locking bolt tightened and lid re-fitted I started the engine and we carried on, staying breasted as it was only a short distance to Apperley lock, a huge deep chasm of a lock with badly leaking top gates that flooded "Lilith"s stern on the way down.

This time there was less of a Niagara, largely because the level above the lock was about 2 feet down. Some of Cookies friends on one of those big wide steel boats that are now so popular round here had tied up next to the lock in the entrance to the abandoned locks that used to run parrallel. We worked up and gingerly pushed forward into the half empty waterway, singled out once again. All was well as long as I kept "Southam" right in the middle. The waves that our passage created at the sides betrayed the shallowness of the water.

A good crew seems to work by ESP, everyone knowing what is required and just going ahead and doing it. It takes ages to reach that stage though, and, in the meantime, there is manifold scope for things to go wrong through misunderstandings. Verbal communication is difficult over 140 feet of boat with the steerer standing next to a noisy engine. A series of misunderstandings led to the arrival at Dean Lock being a little embarrasing.

Between the village of Apperley Bridge and the lock I remembered that there were some swing bridges locked open out of use. These would make excellent places for Cookie to get off and run ahead to set the lock. As we approached the second of these I made sure that it would be easy for her to get off, but she made no move to do so. Assuming that there was a third bridge, Cookie knows this canal better than me, I carried on, only to see the locks come into view with no handy narrows. I gingerly moved "Southam" towards the bank and Cookie jumped off with her windlass. As I started to ease the motor away from the bank, thankful that she had not stemmed up, I began to wonder why Ian had the tiller pushed hard over on the butty. "Other way" I bellowed. In reply he indicated the abandoned lock that we were passing. As at Apperley, in the 1890s traffic on this canal was so heavy that they doubled the locks. The second, parrallel, set were abandoned years ago but are still complete, though unusable. Ian didn't know this and couldn't understand why we were passing the lock.

As we approached the operational Dean Lock, Cookie was still preparing it. I tried to breast up the boats to wait, but got "Southam" into shallow water. As I tried to get her into the channel again, and breast up the butty at the same time, things got worse as we drifted into the shallow entrance to the arm that hundreds of years ago connected with the River Douglas. The boats came to an ignonimous stop as "Southam"s stem impacted the copings.

After much thrashing about in black silty water we got the pair into the lock. As it filled I remembered that we should have stopped in the tail of the lock to fill the water tank. "It doesn't matter", I thought, "we can fill up later today in Wigan".

Above the active lock there is a wide channel leading to the abandoned lock. In this was a small fibreglass cruiser with two men aboard. They asked for a jump start as their battery was flat. I asked them to move their boat alongside the head of the lock and, as "Southam"s engine room drew level with their boat, I stopped the pair and set up jump leads. The two sets that were on board combined just managed to span the distance to the little boat and soon its little engine was whirring away again.

Above Dean Lock the M6 motorway crosses the valley on a high viaduct, its constant roar the only detriment to the peacefulness of a winding, wooded, tranquil waterway. We chugged through a stone hump backed bridge and were hailed by the inhabitants of a moored pleasure boat. They told us that the next lock was closed through lack of water and it would be best to stay here. I agreed as the next lock I knew to be in a slightly grim location. I signalled Ian to breast up and we brought the boats into the towpath. Cookie said that it was a common problem of vandals draining the canal in an area known as Hells Meadow.

It was a pleasant spot where the canal is bordered on both sides by young woodland. Opposite a marshy area in the woodland indicates the mouth of a small stream, perhaps the reason why this pound remains full of water while all around are empty. When I first travelled this way in 1977 we spent a night in this spot. At that time a spindly wooden viaduct spanned the canal and river. It carried a narrow gauge railway that transported the products of an explosives works to the station for transhipment and onward travel by rail. Now the works is gone and wagonload rail freight a thing of the past.

http://www.care2.com/c2c/photos/view/186/483743566/Liverpool_trip_April_2010/Gathurst%20Southam%20Lilith%20sun%203%206%2010%20pixie.JPG.html

A boat passed towing our friends who we had jump started. They had now run out of petrol.

The nearby station of Gathurst makes this an ideal spot for people to join and leave the boats and I was soon on the 'phone making arrangements. After an excursion with Keith and Elsa to the pub at nearby Crooke,Cookie and Cara caught a train home. At various times through the evening Ian's partner Lesley (Lel)and Bex arrived separately by train and Russell Evans arrived by bike, having cycled the towpath from Manchester. Bex brought her dog Satan. The name is ironic,a less satanic hound would be hard to imagine.

http://www.care2.com/c2c/photos/view/186/483743566/Liverpool_trip_April_2010/Gathurst%20Bex%20Russell%202%206%2010%20pixie.JPG.html

Elsa cooked us all an excellent meal which we enjoyed on "Southam"s fore end in the evening sunshine. A discordant note spoiled the evening a little. What I took to be friendly banter as we sorted out the food kitty suddenly turned into a noisy confrontation between two people. I hate it when my friends fall out, especially on a boat trip. I recall a trip back from the potteries many years ago when I had to do my best to keep two people 140 feet apart! Luckily, in this case, both parties realised that it was important to minimise the acrimony, though I had to spend the evening walking on a carpet of eggshells.

As we approached the operational Dean Lock, Cookie was still preparing it. I tried to breast up the boats to wait, but got "Southam" into shallow water. As I tried to get her into the channel again, and breast up the butty at the same time, things got worse as we drifted into the shallow entrance to the arm that hundreds of years ago connected with the River Douglas. The boats came to an ignonimous stop as "Southam"s stem impacted the copings.

After much thrashing about in black silty water we got the pair into the lock. As it filled I remembered that we should have stopped in the tail of the lock to fill the water tank. "It doesn't matter", I thought, "we can fill up later today in Wigan".

Above the active lock there is a wide channel leading to the abandoned lock. In this was a small fibreglass cruiser with two men aboard. They asked for a jump start as their battery was flat. I asked them to move their boat alongside the head of the lock and, as "Southam"s engine room drew level with their boat, I stopped the pair and set up jump leads. The two sets that were on board combined just managed to span the distance to the little boat and soon its little engine was whirring away again.

Above Dean Lock the M6 motorway crosses the valley on a high viaduct, its constant roar the only detriment to the peacefulness of a winding, wooded, tranquil waterway. We chugged through a stone hump backed bridge and were hailed by the inhabitants of a moored pleasure boat. They told us that the next lock was closed through lack of water and it would be best to stay here. I agreed as the next lock I knew to be in a slightly grim location. I signalled Ian to breast up and we brought the boats into the towpath. Cookie said that it was a common problem of vandals draining the canal in an area known as Hells Meadow.

It was a pleasant spot where the canal is bordered on both sides by young woodland. Opposite a marshy area in the woodland indicates the mouth of a small stream, perhaps the reason why this pound remains full of water while all around are empty. When I first travelled this way in 1977 we spent a night in this spot. At that time a spindly wooden viaduct spanned the canal and river. It carried a narrow gauge railway that transported the products of an explosives works to the station for transhipment and onward travel by rail. Now the works is gone and wagonload rail freight a thing of the past.

http://www.care2.com/c2c/photos/view/186/483743566/Liverpool_trip_April_2010/Gathurst%20Southam%20Lilith%20sun%203%206%2010%20pixie.JPG.html

A boat passed towing our friends who we had jump started. They had now run out of petrol.

The nearby station of Gathurst makes this an ideal spot for people to join and leave the boats and I was soon on the 'phone making arrangements. After an excursion with Keith and Elsa to the pub at nearby Crooke,Cookie and Cara caught a train home. At various times through the evening Ian's partner Lesley (Lel)and Bex arrived separately by train and Russell Evans arrived by bike, having cycled the towpath from Manchester. Bex brought her dog Satan. The name is ironic,a less satanic hound would be hard to imagine.

http://www.care2.com/c2c/photos/view/186/483743566/Liverpool_trip_April_2010/Gathurst%20Bex%20Russell%202%206%2010%20pixie.JPG.html

Elsa cooked us all an excellent meal which we enjoyed on "Southam"s fore end in the evening sunshine. A discordant note spoiled the evening a little. What I took to be friendly banter as we sorted out the food kitty suddenly turned into a noisy confrontation between two people. I hate it when my friends fall out, especially on a boat trip. I recall a trip back from the potteries many years ago when I had to do my best to keep two people 140 feet apart! Luckily, in this case, both parties realised that it was important to minimise the acrimony, though I had to spend the evening walking on a carpet of eggshells.

As we approached the operational Dean Lock, Cookie was still preparing it. I tried to breast up the boats to wait, but got "Southam" into shallow water. As I tried to get her into the channel again, and breast up the butty at the same time, things got worse as we drifted into the shallow entrance to the arm that hundreds of years ago connected with the River Douglas. The boats came to an ignonimous stop as "Southam"s stem impacted the copings.

After much thrashing about in black silty water we got the pair into the lock. As it filled I remembered that we should have stopped in the tail of the lock to fill the water tank. "It doesn't matter", I thought, "we can fill up later today in Wigan".

Above the active lock there is a wide channel leading to the abandoned lock. In this was a small fibreglass cruiser with two men aboard. They asked for a jump start as their battery was flat. I asked them to move their boat alongside the head of the lock and, as "Southam"s engine room drew level with their boat, I stopped the pair and set up jump leads. The two sets that were on board combined just managed to span the distance to the little boat and soon its little engine was whirring away again.

Above Dean Lock the M6 motorway crosses the valley on a high viaduct, its constant roar the only detriment to the peacefulness of a winding, wooded, tranquil waterway. We chugged through a stone hump backed bridge and were hailed by the inhabitants of a moored pleasure boat. They told us that the next lock was closed through lack of water and it would be best to stay here. I agreed as the next lock I knew to be in a slightly grim location. I signalled Ian to breast up and we brought the boats into the towpath. Cookie said that it was a common problem of vandals draining the canal in an area known as Hells Meadow.

It was a pleasant spot where the canal is bordered on both sides by young woodland. Opposite a marshy area in the woodland indicates the mouth of a small stream, perhaps the reason why this pound remains full of water while all around are empty. When I first travelled this way in 1977 we spent a night in this spot. At that time a spindly wooden viaduct spanned the canal and river. It carried a narrow gauge railway that transported the products of an explosives works to the station for transhipment and onward travel by rail. Now the works is gone and wagonload rail freight a thing of the past.

http://www.care2.com/c2c/photos/view/186/483743566/Liverpool_trip_April_2010/Gathurst%20Southam%20Lilith%20sun%203%206%2010%20pixie.JPG.html

A boat passed towing our friends who we had jump started. They had now run out of petrol.

The nearby station of Gathurst makes this an ideal spot for people to join and leave the boats and I was soon on the 'phone making arrangements. After an excursion with Keith and Elsa to the pub at nearby Crooke,Cookie and Cara caught a train home. At various times through the evening Ian's partner Lesley (Lel)and Bex arrived separately by train and Russell Evans arrived by bike, having cycled the towpath from Manchester. Bex brought her dog Satan. The name is ironic,a less satanic hound would be hard to imagine.

http://www.care2.com/c2c/photos/view/186/483743566/Liverpool_trip_April_2010/Gathurst%20Bex%20Russell%202%206%2010%20pixie.JPG.html

Elsa cooked us all an excellent meal which we enjoyed on "Southam"s fore end in the evening sunshine. A discordant note spoiled the evening a little. What I took to be friendly banter as we sorted out the food kitty suddenly turned into a noisy confrontation between two people. I hate it when my friends fall out, especially on a boat trip. I recall a trip back from the potteries many years ago when I had to do my best to keep two people 140 feet apart! Luckily, in this case, both parties realised that it was important to minimise the acrimony, though I had to spend the evening walking on a carpet of eggshells.

As we approached the operational Dean Lock, Cookie was still preparing it. I tried to breast up the boats to wait, but got "Southam" into shallow water. As I tried to get her into the channel again, and breast up the butty at the same time, things got worse as we drifted into the shallow entrance to the arm that hundreds of years ago connected with the River Douglas. The boats came to an ignonimous stop as "Southam"s stem impacted the copings.

After much thrashing about in black silty water we got the pair into the lock. As it filled I remembered that we should have stopped in the tail of the lock to fill the water tank. "It doesn't matter", I thought, "we can fill up later today in Wigan".

Above the active lock there is a wide channel leading to the abandoned lock. In this was a small fibreglass cruiser with two men aboard. They asked for a jump start as their battery was flat. I asked them to move their boat alongside the head of the lock and, as "Southam"s engine room drew level with their boat, I stopped the pair and set up jump leads. The two sets that were on board combined just managed to span the distance to the little boat and soon its little engine was whirring away again.

Above Dean Lock the M6 motorway crosses the valley on a high viaduct, its constant roar the only detriment to the peacefulness of a winding, wooded, tranquil waterway. We chugged through a stone hump backed bridge and were hailed by the inhabitants of a moored pleasure boat. They told us that the next lock was closed through lack of water and it would be best to stay here. I agreed as the next lock I knew to be in a slightly grim location. I signalled Ian to breast up and we brought the boats into the towpath. Cookie said that it was a common problem of vandals draining the canal in an area known as Hells Meadow.

It was a pleasant spot where the canal is bordered on both sides by young woodland. Opposite a marshy area in the woodland indicates the mouth of a small stream, perhaps the reason why this pound remains full of water while all around are empty. When I first travelled this way in 1977 we spent a night in this spot. At that time a spindly wooden viaduct spanned the canal and river. It carried a narrow gauge railway that transported the products of an explosives works to the station for transhipment and onward travel by rail. Now the works is gone and wagonload rail freight a thing of the past.

http://www.care2.com/c2c/photos/view/186/483743566/Liverpool_trip_April_2010/Gathurst%20Southam%20Lilith%20sun%203%206%2010%20pixie.JPG.html

A boat passed towing our friends who we had jump started. They had now run out of petrol.

The nearby station of Gathurst makes this an ideal spot for people to join and leave the boats and I was soon on the 'phone making arrangements. After an excursion with Keith and Elsa to the pub at nearby Crooke,Cookie and Cara caught a train home. At various times through the evening Ian's partner Lesley (Lel)and Bex arrived separately by train and Russell Evans arrived by bike, having cycled the towpath from Manchester. Bex brought her dog Satan. The name is ironic,a less satanic hound would be hard to imagine.

http://www.care2.com/c2c/photos/view/186/483743566/Liverpool_trip_April_2010/Gathurst%20Bex%20Russell%202%206%2010%20pixie.JPG.html

Elsa cooked us all an excellent meal which we enjoyed on "Southam"s fore end in the evening sunshine. A discordant note spoiled the evening a little. What I took to be friendly banter as we sorted out the food kitty suddenly turned into a noisy confrontation between two people. I hate it when my friends fall out, especially on a boat trip. I recall a trip back from the potteries many years ago when I had to do my best to keep two people 140 feet apart! Luckily, in this case, both parties realised that it was important to minimise the acrimony, though I had to spend the evening walking on a carpet of eggshells.

As dusk approached I decided to try to take an arty photograph of the canal. A couple walking their dogs turned up at just the right time to animate the scene, but, when she saw the camera, the female party started to antic about, rather spoiling the image that I was trying to create. http://www.care2.com/c2c/photos/view/186/483743566/Liverpool_trip_April_2010/Gathurst%20evening%202%206%2010%20pixie.JPG.html

She was a small lively woman with a cheeky freckly face and a barmy hat. Everything about her spoke of a rejection of convention. She insisted on being photographed with her poodle. http://www.care2.com/c2c/photos/view/186/483743566/Liverpool_trip_April_2010/Gathurst%20menagerie%20woman%20poodle%202%206%2010%20pixie.JPG.html

As her partner hung about looking embarrassed, the woman took great interest in our boats and suggested that we should leave them there so that she could live on them. After some discussion of the idea she concluded that it would be impractical as she and her partner had a huge menagerie, including a massive tank full of fish. They walked on, but shortly afterwards returned asking if we had seen one of her dogs. Russell said that it had run down the towpath. She left me in charge of the huge bunch of keys to her private zoo to facilitate an olympic sprint in pursuit of the canine, shortly afterwards returning with the offending animal in tow.

Next morning dawned bright and shiny. I hauled myself out of "Lilith"s little forecabin and went for a walk to explore the area a little. I was particularly interested in the old Douglas Navigation, abandoned in about 1780, but little is to be seen of the old navigation works as the river has been improved for flood prevention in recent decades.

I decided to cycle up to have a look at the waterless stretch of canal. The area is well named as it is a bleak stretch of post industrial wasteland, now encroached upon by the ugly new buildings of a football stadium and retail park. The canal was certainly well down. I could climb down the copings and stand on the bottom in places without getting my feet wet. http://www.care2.com/c2c/photos/view/186/483743566/Liverpool_trip_April_2010/Empty%20canal%20Wigan%203%206%2010%20pixie.JPG.html
I carried on to find a huge branch of Asda where I stocked up on provisions. On the way back I chatted with boaters stuck at the lock. They said that something was going to happen at 1 PM.

After an excellent cooked breakfast I once more cycled into Wigan. This time my aim was to visit the British Waterways offices. As I waited in reception I could overhear a conversation between the manager and a representative of boats mooring below the locks, now restricted to 30 miles or so of canal between Apperley and Liverpool.

The overheard conversation answered most of my questions. There was a severe water shortage exascerbated by leaking lock gates and vandalism. Water was being pumped into the canal from the river but it would not be open today and there was no date set for it's re-opening. I had a talk with the manager, which confirmed all this, then cycled back down the towpath. I spoke to the boaters who were held up at the lock. One of them played the part of a self important middle class **** by getting all aereated because the manager had not come down to personally apologise individually to each boater. I imagine she's too busy trying to solve the problem. Though I am often irritated by British Waterways bureacracy, bungling and arrogance, I really do sympathise with their task in dealing with so many boaters who think themselves the centre of the universe.

As we talked a BW pickup arrived and I recognised the driver. Robert is the brother of my friend Tony who set up the timber deal. He had been sent to rack the gates. This involves throwing sawdust or ash into the water above the gates. The flow of water through any leaks will draw in the particles and so block them up. Robert got an earful of moans about his bosses from the boaters, which only served to delay his task of reducing leakage to aid their passage up the lock.

Back at the boats we discussed the situation. It was now Thursday, but it seemed unlikely that we would be moving before Saturday. On Sunday I had to run a recycling trip, but there was now no way that "Southam" would be back in time to provide a tow. This meant that I would need to arrange a tow for "Forget me Not", which meant that I needed to get back and start begging. We decided to leave the boats at Gathurst. Bex and Russell would stay overnight while Keith and Elsa popped home to Bolton. The following day Bex and Russell would go home and Keith and Elsa would return to mind the boats until Tuesday when we would attempt again to get through Wigan. Elsa expressed concern about water supplies, so we decided to go back to Dean Lock to top up the tank.

Leaving "Lilith" behind, we set off towards Crooke, where it is possible to wind in the entrance to an arm. Elsa steered us round the meanderings of the waterway under low flying tree branches. Approaching Crooke we passed the long shortboats "Ambush" and "Viktoria", originally built to serve Ainscoughs flour mill at Burscough but now used for retail coal. As we passed the moorings there was some human activity around one of the wide steel boats. Elsa wanted to hand over to me for winding, but I insisted that she do it. I talked her through the procedure which she accomplished faultlessly, though needlessly panicking when our stern came within 6 feet of a moored cruiser.

With the boat facing back towards Gathurst I shouted in Elsa's ear "forward gear and wind some power on". At that moment the wide beam craft, low in the water like some early monitor, slid into view with barely 6 feet to spare between it and the moored craft. "Reverse?" asked Elsa. "No" I replied, and took over. In sterngear (reverse) "Southam" lurches to the left, which would take her right into the path of the leviathan. I carefully pushed the bow forward into the tiny gap which semed to widen as we moved into it. Though the boats touched slightly there was no damage and no crisis.

We plodded back down the winding canal followed by a green Dawncraft cruiser. Passing "Lilith" we went on through the hump backed bridge towards the motorway viaduct. There is a winding hole above the lock but it was partially blocked by a wide beam maintenance craft. I asked Bex to take a line on to this and take a turn on one of its forward bollards. This sprung the boat round across the canal. Elsa and I on the stern end were plunged into substantial foliage on the outside of the canal. I asked Bex to give the line some slack. She did this and our bow slid forward up to the coping stones, which just gave enough room to get the stern end round. I drew the paddles to fill the lock as the green cruiser, shortly after followed by the huge wide boat that had caused such consternation at Crooke, slid behind us into the channel that once led to the other lock, joining other pleasure craft already moored there.

My plan had been to work "Southam" down the lock, back out to the tap, fill up then work back up. As Elsa backed the boat into the lock I noticed that the pleasure boats beside the lock had rigged up an extended hose. I asked if we could use it and permission was readily granted. The tank took ages to fill, which suggested that this little jaunt was a wise move. http://www.care2.com/c2c/photos/view/186/483743566/Liverpool_trip_April_2010/Southam%20watering%20Dean%20Lock%203%206%2010.JPG.html

With the tank eventually refilled we chugged back up the valley to tie just behind "Lilith", which we then handballed back on to the outside of "Southam". Though it is conventional to breast up with the butty on the inside, this arrangement would make it easier for Keith, who had struggled to climb over "Lilith"s forecabin.

I organised my possessions, locked my cabin and walked to the station. The train was crammed with returning seasiders and I struggled to get my bike in. As it was going to Picadilly I decided to use the connection from there to Guide Bridge, then ride the short distance to Portland Basin to check on the boats before going home. All was well and I enjoyed having tea with Emuna.