Boat with a Floating Annex

It is quite common to find boats towing tenders - very useful for popping down river for supplies whilst moored up. It is also not unusual to find boats that have been extended or stretched to provide more accommodation. But earlier in the year we passed by a boat called Alice that had a removable bow section that I can only describe as a being floating annex.

Alice and Alice Too

The annex, amusingly named Alice Too, consists of a removable bow section that fits around the existing bows and is held on by wires and straps. Alice Too appears to be heated (it has a chimney), probably by diesel since the extension has vented dollies and a fuel filler. I assume the dollies are used for mooring Alice Too separately.

Attachment of Alice Too

The rest of Alice appears to be a well-equipped conventional narrow boat with a very nice paint job.

We couldn't stop to investigate the boat further so all we have to go on is my photos. Looking up her details on the Jim Shead database Alice appears to be registered with BW as a 70ft boat - that's presumably both parts. I assume that the owners wanted extra accommodation but still wanted to navigate waterways with shorter locks. Having two sections could also help with moorings. Imagine turning up at a congested mooring, splitting your boat into two sections and mooring them up separately!

Certainly a unique boat or should that be boats?

Bridge Poetry

On our recent trip we visited Rodley near Leeds and we went for a walk to explore the local environment. We came across an interesting plaque beneath a modern bridge - you wouldn't notice it if you were boating. It was modest in size and made of cast metal. The plaque contained a poem and links to a blogsite and a mobile phone. The blog was started by the Bridge Repair Man in 2007 and doesn't appear to be active at the moment. It appears that originally it was written in chalk and was much larger.

The plaque was also noted by Alex of the Exploring Leeds web site who thought sections were thought provoking. I agree.

A click on the image below should make it readable. You can also see more details on the Bridge Repair Man blogsite.

Northern Canal Videos

I took two video clips whilst we were on our northern cruise on two quite different waterways. The first is on the wide "commercial waterway" - the Aire & Calder. The video is of Albert, in company with other boats although they are difficult to discern, travelling between Pollington and Whitley . The Knottingley & Goole Canal is wide straight and deep and we are travelling quite quickly. It is good to see that its sunny - we did have a spell of good weather.

The second video was also taken in glorious weather. It is sunny hot and calm. This time Maggie was steering and I took the video from the well deck. We are going more slowly along the delightful section of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal just above the Wigan Flight near Haigh Country Park.

Icebreaker Reflections, Leeds

Whilst coming out of Leeds on our northern trip I noticed near Armley a strange sign placed on a wall on the offside close to a bridge. It appeared to be written in Cyrillic (Russian script). I picked up the camera, photographed it and in the process of framing the shot I realised it was mirror writing!

Sign as seen

To read the message in the reflection you need still water. Unfortunately, Albert had disturbed the water as we passed and I couldn't read it properly. I just got the gist, so I cheated by digitally reflecting the image.

Sign reflected to reveal the message


So why is the message there?

The answer lies on the web site of its creator, the artist Roger Palmer, which states:

"Botany Bay, 22 June - 12 August 2007, Leeds Art Gallery

A derelict landing stage on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal marks the site of Botany Bay in the Armley district of Leeds. Botany Bay received its name in 1808 as the landing place of the first shipment of Australian raw wool bound for Yorkshire mills.

Submerged in Botany Bay are the remains of a wooden icebreaker. These heavy vessels were pulled onto the ice by teams of horses and rocked from side to side, causing the ice to fracture. Wooden icebreakers were sunk in the summer months in order to preserve their timbers."

In a linked piece of art, which was displayed at the Leeds Gallery and is shown on his web site, Roger created  The Remains (2007), a neon text illuminated in four phases:

The Remains
The Remains of a Wooden Icebreaker
The Remains of a Wooden Icebreaker Lie Submerged
The Remains of a Wooden Icebreaker Lie Submerged in Botany Bay

So there is the answer. Thought provoking and informative. On Roger's site you can also see a better photograph of the sign and its reflection. You will also find a video of the reflection.

The sign has also been noted by one or two passing photographers.

Northern Ring Cruise

Our cruise of the north was by far the longest we have yet done. It was basically a version of what is sometimes called the Northern Ring except we had to travel to Fradley before starting the ring.

We covered sections of the Grand Union, North Oxford, Coventry, Trent & Mersey, Beeston & Nottingham, Stainforth & Keadby, New Junction, Aire & Calder, Leeds & Liverpool, Rochdale, Ashton, Peak Forest and Macclesfield  Canals, along with the River Trent (including a tidal section). It was certainly memorable and not only for the weather ("wettest drought on record"). We shall never forget the adventures we had along the way and the people we met. This is a route that just has to be done and we enjoyed it.

For the record, according to Canalplan AC the journey covered  a "Total distance was 524 miles and 286 locks. There were at least 77 moveable bridges of which 6 were usually left open; 86 small aqueducts or underbridges; 12 tunnels and 4 major aqueducts. This was made up of 213 miles of narrow canals; 199 miles of broad canals; 5 miles of commercial waterways; 33 miles of small rivers; 28 miles of large rivers; 43 miles of tidal rivers; 115 narrow locks; 163 broad locks; 8 large locks."

Flore, Stoke Bruerne and Yardley Gobion

We are now at home following our extended northern trip but I had better complete our log of the last days of our epic trip.

On Friday (June 8th) we left Braunston in rain and high winds. It rained most of the day. We got to the bottom lock on the Braunston flight just as the locks were being unlocked - the overnight closures for water conservation are still in place despite the rain and the generous amounts of water in the cut. We managed to share locks going up the flight with an unnamed boat (aren't there lots around). The towpath was like a quagmire; I dropped our lines in the water just to wash them.

Muddy towpath

At the top lock two impatient boats had come into the top pound whilst two boats were in the pound waiting to go down. They managed to clog up the pound and make things tricky for everybody. We managed to persuade two boats waiting at the top lock not to repeat the same mistake.

Six boats in a small pound!

The trip through Braunston tunnel was eventful with about (we lost count) eight boats coming through in the other direction and several unable to keep into the side. Although there was no real damage to Albert we came into contact with two boats - the bows of both swung out just as we passed. We came across an interesting tunnel light installation. I have posted about tunnel lights, and the difficulties that some lights pose for boats coming the other way, but this installation was in another class. As the boat approached in the dark it appeared to have a dim light that was shrouded in some way. It was almost as though the boat had an old ineffective oil lamp. It turned out to be nothing of the kind. The boat had obviously had a conventional tunnel light fitted to the front of the cabin. However, a glass fronted cratch and cover had been fitted and the light was still mounted inside the cratch cover. The owners obviously expected the light to shine through the cratch and illuminate their way. It was certainly failing to do this. I turned around after we had passed the boat and I could see no light shining forward at all!

The rain eased a little as we left the tunnel but the wind increased. At Norton Junction we joined up with another boat going down the Buckby flight but they stopped after the first lock and we then teamed up with NB Robin who used to moor at Kingfisher Marina. They were good company and very helpful because we could set the locks ahead. We stopped at the bottom lock for lunch.

The rest of the day's trip was routine and more pleasant because the wind finally reduced and it was dry. We moored up for the night at Flore Wharf just south of Weedon at one of our favourite local mooring spots.

On Saturday we had a relatively late start in the morning and moved on towards Blisworth. There were not many boats moving or moored up. It was more quiet than usual and the weather was good. The trip through Blisworth Tunnel was fine with only one boat (who knew how to control a boat in a tunnel) coming the other way. When we got to the other end (southern portal) we were greeted by the crowds at the Stoke Bruerne Gala Weekend. Lots of people, plenty of trade boats and a reasonable number of working boats.

Stoke Bruerne Gala Weekend

The only working boat moving - motor Sickle
(winding in the long pound) 

This year's pirate ship - flimsy compared to last year's boat, George

Lots of water going over the lock gates, Stoke Bruerne

We moored up in the long pound and enjoyed the gala so much we stayed for the afternoon. Usually at such boat gatherings working boats are on the move. Unfortunately not in this case - water restrictions stopped unnecessary movements. We finally decided that we should move on at about 4:30. It was just then that we realised that the locks were locked-up for the night because of the water restrictions and we couldn't get back to Yardley that night. We stayed for the evening hog roast chatting to friends and then went home via car to spend our first night ashore for a month.

Emily & Andy taking Albert through Stoke Bruerne Locks

On the Sunday our daughter Emily and son-in-law Andy helped us move Albert home to Kingfisher Marina. The weather was even better than Saturday - bright sunshine. Crowds were thronging the bank at Stoke Bruerne. There were probably more than usual because the weekend's Northampton Carnival was cancelled because of fears about the weather. The decision by the Friends of the Canal Museum to carry on with their event despite the bad weather on Thursday & Friday appeared to have paid off.


Its June and its raining heavily; the wind is picking up with gales forecast for tomorrow and we lit the coal fire this afternoon.

June and we have the fire on (again)!

Because heavy rain was forecast for later in the day, we left Ansty early (8:00) and made our way south. The early light rain gave way to heavy cloud in the morning. I decided the snap the bridges over the original Brindley "Loops" as we went down the straights. The elegant bridges have such beautiful curves. 

Horseley Iron Works Bridges, North Oxford Canal

We had some slightly tricky boating through Rugby because it was very busy and the boat in front of us appeared to have bad luck meeting oncoming boats at bridges on bends. Hillmorton Locks were busy, but boats were moving freely because both sets of the duplicate locks were in operation (presumably because water restrictions have been lifted) and BW had a volunteer on duty at the top of the flight. The rain started in earnest again as we got to Barby and it was a relief to find a good mooring in Braunston and get dry. We are now definitely back in our familiar boating territory. Home at the weekend.


The weather forecast was for a bright start followed by heavy rain. As a result we got off to a prompt start and immediately went up the Atherstone Flight. There were a number of boats coming down the flight leaving the locks set for us. I noticed that a number of boats were Russell Newbery powered. It appears that there is a RN Rally at Alvecote at the end of this week. We stopped half way up the flight for water and a trip to the local shops. We then continued up the flight passing more RN boats coming down.

Atherstone Flight

Threatening Skies over Marston Junction
(Ashby Canal left and Coventry ahead)

Just after we left Atherstone Top Lock the first rain shower arrived. The showers got heavier and longer as the afternoon went on. By the time we reached Hawkesbury Junction it was seriously wet. It was quite busy and we had to pause for oncoming boats at several bridge holes along the section through Hartshill and Nuneaton.

Hawkesbury Junction (Sutton Stop) Lock

At Hawkesbury Junction there was a gap in the heavy showers and we negotiated the 180 degree turn onto the Oxford Canal. With nobody but a couple of smokers outside the Greyhound watching I managed to carry out my best turn yet. Albert pivoted around the middle of the bridge and I didn't have to select reverse at all. The problem is, I will now have to do it just as well next time. 

We moored up at Ansty on the visitor moorings after a helpful "neighbour" moved up a few feet to let us in.

Bradley Green, Atherstone

On Bank Holiday Tuesday (that's a novelty) we travelled through Hopwas, Tamworth and Alvecote to the bottom of the Atherstone flight. It was dry but pretty chilly. There were no delays at Glascote Locks and we lunched at Alvecote Priory. We moored up just before the anticipated rain arrived. We went down Atherstone Locks in the rain, we didn't fancy another cold and wet session going up. Let's hope tomorrow morning we can have some dry weather.

NB Kenneth at Glascote Locks 
This interesting boat, which is styled as a butty, has a forward mounted engine and an hydraulic drive to the prop

Laplander moored up at Alvercote Marina

On our way passed Polesworth we looked at the field which on our way out had just been prepared and had ridges. Now the potato crop was growing strongly. I couldn't photo exactly the same view, because we didn't moor up, but the difference is striking.

Field at Polesworth June 5th 2012

Field at Polesworth April 20th 2012

The expected rain arrived and we lit the coal fire again (June !). 

Huddlesford Junction

On Bank Holiday Monday we left Great Haywood quite early (8:15) because it was quite busy, but some boats went through the lock before 7:00. As normal there was a queue at Colwich Lock but only three boats long so it was it wasn't a long wait. We recall waiting over an hour at this lock going north over the summer holidays.

The weather was better, sunshine but no rain; but it wasn't particularly warm. The run through Rugeley was pleasant and many streets were preparing for their Diamond Jubilee parties.

Preparations for a canal side Jubilee Party, Rugeley

There is always something new to spot along a length of canal, this time in Rugeley it was a mock (well I presume!) speed camera.
Rugeley Canal Speed Camera

Spode Hall, Armitage

The opened-out, and then covered by a modern road, tunnel at Armitage

We stopped for lunch along Ravenshaw Woods in sunshine and then joined the queues at Woodend Lock where we met NB Tia who sold us some Ecover. Fradley Locks can be very difficult when the canals are busy but going in our way it was fine. Two BW persons (a volunteer and a member of seasonal staff) we giving assistance at the top lock and moored up boater opened the pedestrian swing bridge for us - all very smooth.

Fradley Top Lock with assistance and gongoozlers

We moored up at Huddlesford Junction visitor moorings. It was quite and eventful moment since I saw the space sometime ahead and was in the process of getting into the space when another boat came around the bend and tried to moor up in the same space! Luckily the space was big enough for both us. The other boat even helped with our lines.

We finished the day by polishing one side of Albert and then watching the Diamond Jubilee Concert on the TV.

Great Haywood and the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant

Let's start with the weather. Today in Staffordshire the weather was grotty all day- wet and windy and quite chilly. It is hard to believe that it is June. Last night we lit the coal fire and we kept it in all day.

Wet and windy near Sandon with Albert displaying a Union Flag

Our original plan was to stay put and watch the Thames Pageant on the TV. However, last night despite all my best efforts we failed to get a good enough signal. We managed to get 51 Freeview channels (in theory) but in practice BBC 1 just froze in pretty patterns. We decided instead to move south and see how reception was in Great Hayward. After all we hadn't anything to loose.

It was wet and miserable all the way with queues at all the locks, all though they moved quite quickly. Great Haywood was busy and we didn't even consider looking at Tixall Wide, our favourite mooring. However, we got lucky and found a mooring right above the lock in Great Haywood.  Unfortunately we still couldn't get TV reception so we resorted to watching the pageant on-line via mobile Internet. It worked OK with just a few transmission drop-outs.

The pageant was wonderful and it was great that the weather in the Midlands was not repeated in London - at least it stayed dry long enough for most of the parade. The wind also didn't appear to cause much trouble. The pageant was simply superb and we enjoyed the nearly four hours(!) we watched. One couldn't fault the organisation. It was fabulous seeing the narrow boat parade but the so-called expert commentary by the BBC on the narrow boat section was pitiful. The commentators noticed President and that she was steam powered but totally missed her historical significance or her great age. There were some fatuous comments about her being a former working boat, because she was sheeted-up, and then some very poor comments about the significance of the inland waterways. There was even mention of an Inland Waterways Authority! Surely some comments about British Waterways being superseded, in England, by the Canal and River Trust would have helped. They appeared at a loss for words at times. To cap it all, during the passage of the next section there were extensive comments about the "restoration" of a 2003 dutch barge. I presume that the commentators had been supplied some briefing notes for that section. Still one shouldn't carp. It was brilliant to see a variety of narrow boats taking part in such a great occasion.

To stretch our legs we visited the nearby Essex Packhorse Bridge in the evening and found that the River Trent was swollen by the recent rains - a familiar situtation for us.

A swollen River Trent from the Essex Bridge

Shugborough (in the rain!)

I must mention that last night, after we lit the fire, we also lit the oil lamp in the saloon. Albert has two working oil lamps one in the saloon and the other in the back cabin. Lighting the lamp improved the cosy feel on a miserable evening. Too bad tonight the weather is just as bad.

Oil lamp lit in the saloon

Diamond Jubilee weekend through Stone

We left Barlaston in drizzle and although it didn't rain "properly" all day, it was cloudy and cold. This made the flags and the bunting on the boats and houses lining the canal, for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, appear incongruous.

Motor Tench moored up in Stone

Roger Fuller's Yard, Stone

As we reached Stone it got busier and by the time we went down the locks we were in queues. There we lots of boats on the move in both directions. At Aston, just south of Stone, we lined up with five boats. The new marina at Aston contained lots of boats, good job they were not out on the cut as well.

Queuing at Aston Lock

We stopped for services at Stone and shopped at the excellent Farmer's Market.The food on sale was tempting and we succumbed. Our servicing at Stone Boatbuilding including a pump-out. When I asked for a pump out the manager asked us not to laugh at their pump out facility. When it arrived we unfortuntely did.

The Pooh Lorry - or should it be Poo

We moored up near Sandon in a good location with a number of other boats. Hire boats from both Great Haywood & Stone kept passing all evening. With all the moorings at Stone full (and presumably those at Great Haywood) I wonder where they will end up tonight.

Barlaston via Harecastle Tunnel

Tonight we are moored up at Barlaston near the Wedgwood Factory. This morning it was misty and cloudy but as the day progressed the weather got better and we saw some evening sunshine. We cast off from our mooring near Ramsdell Hall, Scholar Green and picked up water by the stop lock at Hall Green. It is somewhere near here that my ancestors lived and worked in the coal mines. Back in 2009 we had a good look around the area but today we were focused on going homeward, south.
Stylish restored railings along the canal, Ramsdell Hall

Ramsdell Hall from the Macclesfield Canal

We arrived at At Harecastle around 11:15 and joined a small queue. By the time we set off through the tunnel there were five boats and we were third. The water around here is ochre coloured from iron workings, and has been for many years, but it did appear to be more intense that last time we passed this way. Maggie sent a photo of the water to a friend who suggested that it was tomato soup and we could have it for lunch.

"Tomato soup" water, Harecastle

Harecastle Tunnel never fails to thrill. The descending roof, because of subsidence, makes steering the centre section interesting.  You definitely need to be right in the centre and you appear to speed up because the roof is nearer. The changes in profile are helpfully painted white.

Waiting at the Northern Portal of Harecastle Tunnel

We entered to tunnel 12:00 and got out 40 minutes later.

Bottle Kilns in Stoke

At Etruria we saw boats getting ready for the weekends Etruria Jubiliee Canals Festival. Ex FMC Badger who we met at Gurnett was in place and there were several boats sporting bunting. As we left Stoke Locks we met Skylark and Sweden, sporting her new livery, coming up.

Sweden with Anderton Livery

Near Hem Heath we were passed by motor Ibex, steered by Roger Fuller, towing the butty Ilford on a long line. They were also going to the festival.

Motor Ibex and butty Ilford en route for Stoke from Stone