If there ever was an ironical situation in the battle between the British canals and railways, this is it! The photo shows the Loco or Locomotive Hotel or Inn (now the Galleon pub) alongside the Grand Union Canal at Old Wolverton, Milton Keynes. The irony of course, is naming a canalside pub, built to serve the working boatmen, after the very thing that caused the demise of the working canal system in the UK. The reason behind it though, was that Wolverton became the centre for repairs to railway engines for the London to Birmingham railway, and although the Hotel was quite a way from the railway, it was actually quite close to the workshops and sidings. It's nice to see the shape of the pub hasn't changed too much.
The narrowboat has since been restored and converted, and the owners blog gives more history and progress since restoration http://fmcbison.blogspot.co.uk/
Tuesday, 8 December 2015
Monday, 9 November 2015
|Puddled Clay's canal gift shop|
With Christmas coming up, I expect many people are struggling with ideas for presents for canal enthusiasts and narrowboat owners - particularly the latter as space is limited. So taking an oppurtunity to plug my shop. here are a few ideas!
|Traditional rose design close-up|
I ordered a clock, calendars and some greeting cards recently, and they took about two to three weeks to arrive as they come from America, though the clock came very quickly, and I'm very pleased with all of them!
|Digital paintings and vintage canal photos|
Friday, 9 October 2015
|Sunrise at Sauzay|
|Les Hâtes de Seia|
Once it was light enough we set off again. The canal is straighter now that it's left the hills, but the countryside is still rolling, and now and then you can catch a glimpse of the Morvan hills. A few kilometres further on you come to the only lift bridge on this southern part of the canal, the pont-levis du Tremblay, dramatically overlooked by the château of the same name. I believe the wooden bridge was built for the château and recently restored, but it's hard to find out much about it. In the background the Morvan national park is quite clear now, and reminds me just a little of the Llangollen canal - but with less traffic and more châteaux!
|The lift bridge and chateau at Tremblay, near Isenay|
|Roche - ooh look! A boat!|
It was about this time that we discovered our fridge wasn't working, it was a gas fridge, and with no instructions we had no idea how to start it. We found out later it was because they'd cut the gas to repair the oven and not reset it! Somehow a day or two later, by pressing various buttons, it started again.
7 kilometres and two locks later, we found ourselves in the port at St-Léger-des-Vignes (which is not as pretty as it sounds). This is the southernmost point and the next lock takes you into the Loire to crossover to the Canal Latéral à la Loire. By the time we'd moored, next to a much coveted powerpoint, it was getting on for 5.30, and yep, half a mile walk to the Mairie to find it's closed and you can't get a card for power or water. Luckily we met a lovely lady living on a narrowboat who charged our mobile for us.
|Port de St Thibault, St-Léger-des-Vignes|
Finally, it was time for a leisurely cruise back to base. Although the map says water at Champvert, there was nothing to fit an adapter to, so it was on to Cercy-la-Tour. Negotiating the stop lock was a challenge as most locks have a low bridge on the down side, which means having to get lined up before ducking at the last minute. I'm afraid to say we clipped that one! We made up for it though by perfectly mooring between two boats on the pontoon at Cercy (bowthrusters again) and filling with water. In to the lock, and the lock keeper said she could only allow two boats through, so drove down to the pontoon to interrupt a French group's lunch and commandeered them to go up the lock with us. We tested our speed between 2 kilometre boards before Cercy, and we were just on 8km/hour flat out (the speed limit), however, that didn't stop the French boat tailgaiting us all the way to la Saigne, where we stopped for the night (see pic, part1).
We woke to another lovely sunny morning, with Charolais cows peering through the mist at us, and another very pretty stop. Being well ahead of time, we set off and stopped for a long lunch just before Meulot while the French boat went on. It was so hot by now we had to put the parasol up. Having arranged to get to the next lock at 3pm, we set off as the lock keeper passed going in the opposite direction, so when we got to the lock, there was no one there. That gave me ample time to practise lassoing the bollard, which I managed on third attempt.
Then it was through the stop lock at Chatillon, then the final lock (lassoo'd the bollard first time!) and into the base - which was full, so we moored up on the bank after asking a fisherman to move. He wasn't too upset and shared a beer with us later - he'd been there all day and hadn't caught a thing - why do they do it?
A lovely trip, and it's only reinforced our determination to live on a Dutch barge one day, family responsibilities permitting! It's a beautiful canal, though not the place to go if you want a restaurant at every bridge, but we like quiet, and it certainly is that.
|The stop lock, Châtillon-en-Bazois|
Wednesday, 7 October 2015
|Ecluse de la Saigne in the early morning|
This was the first time on this canal, although we had a drive along it a few years ago, and decided it was a "must do". We picked up the hire boat from the base in Châtillon-en-Bazois, where the castle overlooks the wide basin. Fortunately, as every interesting building in France seems to be covered in scaffolding when I arrive, there was a handy clump of trees in front of the château.
When we started off again, the lock keeper at Mingot, a student holiday stand-in, asked us if we'd like to listen to his music, and of course for entente cordiale's sake we said yes. When the lock was full he picked up his vielle (hurdy gurdy) and gave us three marvelous traditional French folk tunes. A cheerful interlude after an annoying breakdown! He was a skillful player and the instrument was beautiful with hand inlaid mother of pearl. I forgot to take a photo, but here is one I took earlier at a show though it isn't nearly as pretty. It's quite a popular instrument in France and looks quite complicated to play.
|A vielle or hurdy gurdy|
|The wall separating the lake from the canal at Baye|
Setting off after a moment of relaxation on deck, we headed back South stopping above Bazolles overnight, a pleasant rural stretch surrounded by fields and not much else. Due to foreseen circumstances, we had to be back at the boatyard by Monday evening for a spare part to be fitted to the oven, and to hook up to power. Typical of French canals, it's quite hard to find a power connection - they're either not working, need a card or some such from the mairie which is closed by the time you get there, or everyone else has got there before you and there are no places left. This was the case when we got back to Châtillon, the only available spaces were too far from the power sockets, though we did try draping the power cable over a for sale boat which had been there for some time, it wouldn't quite reach. No matter, the engineer came and fitted the part while I walked the dogs, and we had tartiflette for dinner.
Next morning bright and early, we entered the lock out of the basin at Châtillon with another privately owned boat. We could see that they were concerned about the proximity of our boat to theirs, so we were using the controls to keep away, when suddenly - no forward or reverse! I went to the inside steering position and managed to get us gingerly out of the lock from there, peering through misty windows. We moored up again, still within sight of the hire base this time, so went and gave them the glad tidings. While there, I had time to get out my long lens and caught a black redstart on the fence.
Making up for lost time again, we pushed on through the winding section until we came to rest below Sauzay lock, operated by a very cheerful lock keeper so he got two bottles of beer instead of the usual one. The whole southern part of this canal is very rural but this part seems particularly isolated - lovely!
To be continued....
|Soggy doggy on the sun deck - Ginny and Raffles relaxing|
Monday, 10 November 2014
|Aylesford village and sailing barges|
|The stern of barge Onward|
Researching, I've found details of three similar barges called Onward, built between 1867 - 1874, unfortunately I don't know which one it might be, or indeed if it is one entirely different. The earlier two were built in Rochester and Frindsbury, so I think it's quite likely to be one of those.
These barges are also called spritsails - the main sail is attached to both the main mast and the angled "sprit" or spar. Wiki link that explains.
This is quite a common view of Aylesford, but possibly the best example that I've seen. I believe it was taken sometime around 1900 judging by the height of the trees and the fact that the bridge doesn't yet have the strengthening ties seen in later photos.
This reproduction is available on a wide range of gifts which would be ideal for sailing barge or social history enthusiasts, from keyrings and postcards to a 36" stretched canvas. See the complete range here.
Saturday, 1 November 2014
|Iona, the Shropshire Union Canal Co. trip boat|
The Oxford canal was very rural and seemed like being out in the wilds to someone born on the edge of London. Little did I know I would end up living about a mile away from it before emigrating to France - it really wasn't that far away at all. Napton is one of my favourite places, with it's hill and windmill that seems to be visible from the canal for miles. Unfortunately I still had a terrible camera!
|Napton with the windmill on the hill|
|Misty morning at Napton lock|
|Coming up to Foxton Top Lock|
|Looking down the flight in disbelief|
|The calf before the storm :)|
|The Wharf Inn, Shebdon|
|A British Waterways workboat carrying dredged mud|
|Roving bridge on the Macclesfield canal|
The intro photo shows Coppermill Lock at Harefield on the Grand Union Canal c1970. It's changed a bit now, as most of these old buildings have. This area was fun in a canoe as there were all the little river arms to navigate - you probably couldn't do that now. Near the Halfway House (now the Horse and Barge) at Widewater Lock, there was a one-legged lock-keeper who fortunately wasn't able to chase after us to see if we had a license or not (which I'm ashamed to say we didn't).
One thing I really regret from this era, is not having taken any photos of the working boats at Croxley Mill near Watford. They must have been some of the last commercial boats regularly operating.
We had a couple of forays onto the Lee and Stort, here's Parndon Mill lock with our canoe.
|Parndon Mill lock, Lee & Stort|