Irish Boating 2002

I recently read an item on Narrowboat World by Tony Haynes, where he mentioned that he had been boating in Ireland, and discovered that he has just started up a blog. Having had an Irish boating escapade in 2002, I looked up Tony's blog and discovered that this year he appears to have hired the same boat that we did almost seven years ago. Tony appears to have hired dutch barge Deirdre from Riversdale on the Balliconnell and Balinamore Canal (otherwise known as the Shannon-Erne Waterway).

Although the weather was "Irish", when we took out Deidre for week in the summer of 2002, we had a great time exploring the loughs, rivers, canals, towns and pubs. We went to Balinamore via Dublin with our friends Anne & Edward Winter. Boated to Lough Key, visited Boyle, and then went downstream to Carrick-on-Shannon. We then returned to Ballinamore, via a short detour up to Lough Allen, before going on to Garadice Lough and returning Deidre back to Riversdale. All-in-all it was a great trip.

I have added an album to our blog covering pictures of our trip, but below is a selection images that show why we can recommend boating on the Shannon and Erne.

The Crew and Deirdre

Automatic Lock on the Shannon-Erne Waterway

Lough Key, Rockingham Estate

Sunset over Haughton’s Shore Mooring, Garadice Lough

Historic Thames by Hilare Belloc

About a year ago, in my efforts to widen my waterways-related library, I purchased the Historic Thames by Hilaire Belloc on eBay.

Other than knowing that Belloc wrote some witty verse and that he had a "literary" reputation I knew nothing of the author. Historic Thames was first published around 1907 and my copy has a dedication for June 1921. However, I presume it to be a first edition because there are no reprint dates and the publisher is JM Dent who I beleive first published it.

At 199 pages it is not a long read but when you begin the book you are soon struck by one feature that at first can appear alarming - it has no chapters! It is a genuine continuous narrative from beginning to end. This can be disconcerting but you soon get used to it. However, you soon also realise that Belloc has an almost unique take on the history of the Thames.

Belloc is particularly strong on the role that the Thames has taken in the government of England and the role the monasteries played in the history of the river and southern England in general. He is also keen on making economic comparisons through the ages using the costs of various commodities to help his arguments.

Belloc points out the role played by the religious communities at Abingdon, Wallingford, Dorchester, Reading, Windsor, Chertsey, and of course Westminster. You get the strong impression that he considers the period when life revolved around monasteries was a golden age and that after Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries it all went down hill. The book appears to have been well researched but this is the book of a writer not an historian as there are no references. It is clear that he is no fan of Thomas Cromwell or his descendants (i.e Oliver). Belloc claims that the family were in fact Williams (or ap Williams) from Llanishen, in Glamorgan, and that Thomas Cromwell was definitely "on the make". Perhaps Belloc had a particular distaste for Protestant Welsh. It came as no surprise to me to discover that Belloc, who was born in France, was a staunch catholic. But what was surprising, and got me searching Wikapedia, was his attitude to Jews. In several places in the book he goes out of his way to mention that a certain large country house, that may originally have formed part of monastic land, was now in the hands of Jews, with some of them coming from South Africa. Whilst he makes no direct derogatory comments it is clear that he considers this to be a negative step, although to be fair he does indicate that in the long run this situation may not do significant harm to England. When I looked at the Wikapedia site on Hilare Belloc it came as no surprise to find that some have accused him of harboring anti-semitic views.

So how is it as a boating book? Well it is far from run of the mill and is certainly not a travelogue. Belloc has a particular view of the history of the Thames that could be considered idiosyncratic, but I certainly know a lot more about the history of monasteries than I did before. And despite its lack of chapters, it is not a difficult book to read. Have a look out on eBay or ABE Books for it, you may find it interesting. Copies are not expensive.

Waitrose Tokens - Stoke Bruerne Museum

I reported earlier (Jan 13th) that Waitrose in Towcester had nominated the museum as one of the three charities selected to participate in their Community Matters Scheme. The last time we looked at the collecting boxes the musuem was still in the lead.

Well today when we went shopping we found that the competition had closed and the museum has "won" by receiving the most tokens. They will be receiving a donation of £382. Good to see public support for the "canal musuem".

Telford's First Iron Aqueduct

Our recent pictures of the Cosgrove Iron Trunk got me thinking about aqueducts.

Until recently I was an external examiner to Harper Adams University College. This allowed me time between examination boards to explore the disused canals around Newport (Shropshire). As an engineer I decided that I must visit the Longdon-on-Tern aquaduct which was constructed using the same techniques as at Pontcysllte (cast iron sections). It is considered by most to be where Telford tried out his ideas for his masterpiece.

Details of how it came to be constructed in 1796 are in Anthony Burton's book on Telford. Lots of details of the Shrewsbury Canal, of which the aqueduct is a part, are given in an excellent Wikipedia page.

As you can see from below, you can get realtively close to the bridge via a public footpath from the road.

View Larger Map

Here are some photographs I took back in the summer of 2006.

Longdon-on-Tern Aqueduct

The trough is not in currently in water although some mid 20th century photographs show it watered.

The trough - Longdon-on-Tern Aqueduct

The towing path - Longdon-on-Tern Aqueduct

Note that the towing path does not extend over the water trough as at Pontcysllte. There must have been considerable hydraulic resistance as well-loaded boats entered the trough.

Joints - Longdon-on-Tern Aqueduct

I was thrilled to walk along the trough. It was like examining in close-up all the items you can't see at Pontcysllte. Although far from being a spectacular engineering example, it is a very important structure and the idea of walking across what is the oldest large-scale cast iron aqueduct in the world still thrills me.

The aqueduct is Grade I listed, but where else but in Britain would such an important historical structure lie un-heralded across a field.

Steve Parkin


I know its a bit late to talk of calenders but every year we hold-off buying a calender for Albert just in case somebody buys one for us. Of course you need a vertical surface to hang a calender on a boat, which severely restricts the range of locations available, and of course it has to be "boaty" which usually means we go for the IWA Calender. Its "long and thin" format also fits in well with our chosen spot in the galley and it has just enough room for Maggie record our overnight moorings.

The 2009 Calender has as usual some great photos but I was taken by how many were by Granny Buttons. The March picture first caught my eye. It was of a mill on the Macclesfield, which is a canal we are going to explore this year, and unusually it was a night picture. Then I looked down, read the picture credit and the penny dropped. One of Andrew's night images! Andrew has another night picture on the Macclesfield and also a very poignant picture of the derelict locks at Runcorn.

It is also good to see one of our favourite riverside pubs featured, the Anchor at Pyrford on the Wey Navigations. We visited this pub twice on our trip along the River Wey this summer, and with our daughter Emily living nearby, we have had meals there on two further occasions this year. We have always enjoyed the food there and the beer is good. I am pleased to see that it gets a mention in Mike Lucas's Waterside Pubs book, which is a great reference for boaters.

Waitrose Tokens - Stoke Bruerne Museum

We often shop at Waitrose in Towcester so it was great to recently see that The Friends of the National Waterways Museum at Stoke Bruerne had been nominated as one of the three charities selected to participate in the Waitrose Community Matters Scheme at the Towcester Store.

During January everyone shopping will be given a token at the checkout, which can be placed in one of three boxes at the store exit, each allocated to a different cause.

The amount a cause receives from a total of £1,000 is directly proportional to the number of tokens placed in each box by customers.

Every coin in a box counts towards the total donation the museum will received. At the moment the Friends are just in the lead. Good news.


No we have not suddenly gone North - at least not yet. We went walking today around the Ashridge estate near Berkhamsted with our informal walking group and couldn't resist photographing the monument to Francis, Duke of Bridgewater, Father of Inland Navigation.

Monument to Francis Egerton, Duke of Bridgewater

We had an excellent walk (about 7 miles) and a great convivial lunch at the Bridgewater Arms, Little Gaddesden.

UK Waterways Ranking

Decided to take the plunge and join UK Waterways Ranking. The icon below gives Albert's current ranking.

I didn't expect it to be high, since most of the high ranking sites are from continuous cruisers, but with the list of sites signed-up growing daily Albert has been slipping down the rankings!

It is interesting to note that the ranking site itself is number 10. Presumably the hits are from those signing up and then checking who else has joined and where they are on the "hit parade".

Grand Union and Thames circa 1989

I was tidying my home office just after Christmas when a packet of photographs fell from a shelf and spilled onto my desk. The photos consisted of some boating pictures so I took the opportunity of scanning them.

The first set of photos were from a trip we took on the Grand Union in a friend's Springer Waterbug from Cosgrove to Fenny Stratford and back. We remember it well although the date is hazy. We suspect it is Autumn 1988. Our daughters Lucy and Emily thoroughly enjoyed the trip. They particularly enjoyed staying on board overnight. I remember how much fun it was but also how often we had to stop to remove weeds from the outboard's prop. You can see some of the weeds in the image below.

Water Bug Little Pegasus at Fenny Stratford (c 1988)

Passing through Fenny Stratford Lock

Steering Little Pegasus

Included in the packet was a second set of photos taken on a day-out to Oxford on May Bank Holiday (Whitsun), 1989. We visited Eynsham Lock. Lucy and Emily, now used to opening locks after our trips on the Grand Union, helped operate the locks.

Opening the paddles at Eynsham Lock, Thames

Closing the gates at Eynsham Lock

Watching a boat leave Eynsham Lock

Happy Days!

Steve Parkin

Walk Around The Iron Trunk, Cosgrove

On a bright(ish) winter's afternoon we took a walk along the River Ouse from Wolverton Mill to the Iron Truck aqueduct at Cosgrove. So often we go across the aqueduct by boat that we though it might be a good idea, for a change, to see boats crossing the aqueduct from below. Because the late afternoon sunshine was particularly good, I took my SLR.

The Ouse looked delightful in the winter sunshine.

Heron roosting by the Iron Trunk, Cosgrove

As expected, the canal was iced over, but it was not very thick, and I managed to photograph three boats crossing on the Iron Trunk.

Crossing the iced-over Iron Trunk, Cosgrove

Boat crossing the Iron Trunk over the River Ouse, Cosgrove

Walking through the tunnel under the embankment, Cosgrove

We also found that, just below the embankment, Milton Keynes Council had installed lock gates as a dummy lock to indicate the line of locks that predate the aqueduct. We had no idea that they had been installed there despite being on our "doorstep". The dummy lock appears to have been there for a few years!

Dummy lock showing the line of the old flight of locks, Cosgrove

The old locks led down to, and up from, a level crossing of the River Ouse. The interpretation boards are really quite helpful. The one by the dummy lock showed how the locks were used from 1800 to 1805 before the embankment and first aqueduct was built, and how they came back into use from 1808 to 1811 when the first aqueduct collapsed.

Old Wolverton Church in late winter afternoon sunshine

There are also good views of Old Wolverton church from the dummy lock site. Hats off to Milton Keynes for providing an excellent interpretation of our industrial heritage.

Steve Parkin

New Year's Day at Stoke Bruerne

Happy New Year!

We went for a short walk around Stoke Bruerne and dropped into the Boat Inn to see the Morris sides dancing alongside the Top Lock. New Year's Day has become a traditional fixture for our local Morris sides.

Our friends Geoff and Shirley both dance and provide music for sides. Geoff dances in the Rose & Castle Morris and plays drum for Shirley's side - the Queen's Oak. Shirley plays fiddle for the Rose & Castle and dances in the Queen's Oak.

Rose & Castle Morris

Queen's Oak Morris

Stoke Top Lock was busy with families out walking and there were quite a few boats moving through the flight. Outside the Boat Inn we bumped into some long-standing boating friends, Colin & Sheila from NB Milan. They moor at Bugbrooke where, in 1996 we kept Bertie, our first boat. Discussed last year's cruising. They are also thinking of going North this year.

Boats entering and leaving Blisworth Tunnel Southern Portal, Jan 1st, 2009

After years of walking aroung Stoke we discovered a path that crosses the tunnel portal and provides good views of boats entering and leaving the tunnel (see above). The sign for the path was well hidden in the bushes. We must come up here with our SLR and take some better quality pictures.

Steve Parkin