Boxing Day by the Thames

While staying with our daughter, son-in-law, and brand new grandchild in Teddington over Christmas, I decided I need some exercise on Boxing Day and went for a walk to Kingston and back via the river. I took the Thames path from Teddington Lock to Kingston bridge.

Sculler on the Thames near the Tamesis Club, Teddington

The sun was shining and several families had the same idea. I managed to take a close look at the Albany boathouse which was the former home of Kingston Rowing Club. In 1963 this was where I rowed at Tiffin School. I spent many hours rowing up and down the reach from Hampton Court to Teddington.

Albany Boathouse, Kingston-upon-Thames

Another NB Albert was moored close by. We passed them twice on our Thames journey in 2008 when the owner was carrying out maintenance. We exchanged cheery waves. The history of the boat is now written on the side! Very smart paintwork.

Another NB Albert

Sailing on the Thames at Kingston
(Yes, including the seagull was deliberate!)

Best wishes for the New Year.

Christmas Greetings from Yardley Gobion

At the moment its still cold in Northamptonshire with ice on top of the snow after last night's rain. The forecast is for slightly warmer conditions today.

Yesterday morning, when it was just very cold, I visited Kingfisher Marina. There was more snow than my last visit and there was a very heavy hoar frost. If it wasn't for the fine mist that had enveloped the cut it would have been very picturesque. However, I managed to take some wintery images with my Nokia N95.

All the boats in Kingfisher Marina are now very solid in the ice.

Albert in the snow

Snow on Rangitoto

Rangitoto is a volcanic island near Aukland, New Zealand. Of course it does not snow there.

Happy Christmas

National Geographic Magazine 1940

I recently bought two copies of old National Geographic magazines through ebay. They describe journeys on the British Canals in the late 1930s and mid 1970s. I found that they were being sold by the IWA and were bundled with several copies of the IWA National Rally Brochures dating from 1964 - 1974. I will report on the brochures and the 1974 magazine later, but I thought I would report on the earlier copy of the National Geographic which was published in August 1940.

The 1940 article describes a journey by canoe along the Grand Union to Birmingham and then onto Chester and Ellesmere Port via the Shropshire Union. It is fascinating on several levels. Firstly, there is the context of wartime Britain with the USA The canals at that time were undergoing a period of great change. The Grand Union Canal was then a recent development (its formation by merger was in 1929) and the line to Birmingham was being modernised with locks widened. As a result the pictures in the magazine are historically significant. Many are by the author. Amos Burg, who travelled with a companion using a Canadian canoe that he imported from his home in Oregon. Using a light canoe made for some interesting transits through tunnels; he and his companion were often towed by working boats. They also had to take measures to avoid getting too close to working boats and barges near locks.

Also, although I am not an expert, I think the colour plates in the article, and in the edition itself are interesting in their own right. Most are made using Kodachrome, which I suppose is not too surprising, but one is labelled as using the Dufay process. However, the colour plates taken by Amos Burg are labelled as being "Finlay(s)" because they used the RGB process invented by Mr Clare Finlay. It appears that the process was introduced around 1931.

An empty pair going north through Batchworth Lock on the Grand Union in the 1930s

Unostentatious being decorated at Rickmansworth

Kingfisher Marina Extension (Further Progress)

We visited Albert today to see how she was bearing up to the cold weather (temperatures have been around -6 deg C overnight recently) and how the marina extension was progressing. The winter sun on the snow and ice made the whole place look very pretty despite all the mud!

View of the frozen cut at Yardley Gobion Wharf

The new extension is now in water and the pontoons are in place. The contractors appear to have made good progress. Because of the cold weather, unlike other recent visits to Albert, we didn't get muddy.

Marina extension in water (and ice!)

Snow on boat roofs

The ice was quite thick. Although there were signs that a boat had passed through Yardley Gobion yesterday, it was clear that nothing had passed today. When got onboard Albert she didn't move - not even cracking the ice. It is unnerving to get aboard a boat that is solid. You get used to the rocking movement.

Thick ice in Kingfisher Marina

Yardley Gobion Wharf certainly looks very festive in the snow.

Wolverton Secret Garden

Last week, with our monthly informal walking group, we had a circular walk around Milton Keynes. We left Stony Stratford, following part of the Ouse Valley Way alongside the River Ouse, which was in spate. We made our way under the Iron Trunk at Cosgrove, and finally found ourselves at the New Inn at New Bradwell for coffee. The New Inn is alongside Bridge 72 on the Grand Union.

River Ouse in spate at Stony Stratford

We returned along the canal, following the off (non-towpath) side and passed the famous Bill Billings/IWA mural at Wolverton. It is a pity that this work of community art has recently been defaced by graffiti. There are plenty of blank areas that a budding Banksie could use. Bill was the artist in residence for Milton Keynes in the 70s & 80s as it grew from a building site into a New City.

For the first time we had a good look at the Wolverton Secret Garden which is on the off-side near Bridge 74. We have seen it on numerous occasion since it was established as we have passed by boat, but as with many boaters we failed to explore it. It is fascinating, and an object lesson in community action. I recommend crossing the canal and exploring it. You could call in on your way to Tescos!

The garden, is built on the site formerly occupied by 4 villas, built by the London & Birmingham Railway Company in the 1840s to house some of the important members of the management of the Railway Works. The houses were occupied until the late 1960s when they were demolished and the area became neglected. It was recently purchased from Network Rail and turned into a wonderful community garden.

The foundations of the villas remain. On their doorsteps some mosaics have been created. Three of the designs are based on objects that might have been found in different rooms of the houses -the other two doorsteps were made in the style of encaustic tiled doorsteps of Wolverton's terraced houses, with a train for the Stationmaster's House and a quill, account book and money for the Accountant's house.

Mosaics at the Secret Garden

There are excellent interpretation boards showing the history of the area and one of the last Bill Billings sculptures - a couple on a couch. It was carried out by art pupils from the Radcliffe school under the direction of Phil Smith and Bill Billings and unveiled in October 2007 shortly before Bill's death on Boxing Day 2007.

Scuplture by Bill Billings, Phil Smith and pupils of the Radcliffe School
The flowers are in memory of Bill Billings.

On the way back to Stony Stratford we stopped off for lunch at The Galleon at bridge 68 which had just reopened after a refurbisment. We can recommend it as a stopping-off place if you are boating between Cosgrove and Wolverton. The food was good, the beer choice good, and the surroundings smart.

The refurbished Galleon at Old Wolverton

I thought that I would close this blog with a tribute to Bill by repeating one of his jokes. It is firmly routed in the 1980s before the use of satellite navigation, the growth of Milton Keynes, and the fall of the Soviet Union.

When the KGB wish to pass out their spies after they complete their training, they send them to London, give them a white van and details of an address in Milton Keynes. If they manage to arrive at the address within 24 hours then they are qualified.

Charles Hadfield - Brief Guide to Canals & Waterways

I recently purchased a copy of this guide. It sold for 2/- in 1964 as part of a series of booklets published by by the Raleigh Press that dealt with tourist subjects. I bought it because it was written by Charles Hadfield.

The guide has some interesting monochrome pictures and some fascinating adverts that are similar to those found in the BW guides I recently reviewed. The booklet has a highly potted history of canals (of course given its author) and more "modern" information including a list of canal societies that were operating at the time.

One section did catch my eye was an excerpt from the first accounts of the British Water Board. Although we think of canal carrying as at a low ebb at that point, the BWB did receive reasonable income from the operation of its fleet and commercial tolls. The level of income from pleasure use was very small (just £81,585) but as today they received a significant proportion of their income from their property holdings; a topical subject at the moment.

I produced the following document illustrating the differences in income over the last 45 years. You will see that income has increased 25-fold.

British Waterways Income -

A copy of the Hadfield booklet is currently available on ebay for £3.50.

Kingfisher Marina Extension (Progress)

We visited Albert this morning to check that she was OK (she was). The marina extension, that I reported on earlier, has progressed well with the new area not just flattened but now excavated. Most of the sheet piling is now in place and the field by the entrance now has a large spoil heap. With all the wet weather, as you can imagine, the site is quite muddy.

The extension is being carried out by GJP Marinas who have been quite busy locally and further afield.

Marina extension

Narrow Dog - new boat

Not long after I heard that the Darlington's were looking for a boat to replace Phyllis May, Granny Buttons reported yesterday that they have found one!