Thames at Marlow, Boxing Day 2013

Mooring at Marlow is great. The moorings by the park are excellent and the town has some great shops and restaurants. Not now of course!

We drove back from via Marlow from our Christmas in Teddington. Because of the amazing amounts of rain we have been getting, we expected the river levels to be high and they certainly were.

Marlow visitor moorings

Where is the bank?

A solitary narrowboat was on the visitor moorings with water all around. Hope it doesn't get much higher.

Robin Smithett (1947-2013)

The January edition of Waterways World was delivered recently and it included an obituary for the waterway's photographer Robin Smithett who died in mid November. Many editions of Waterways World are packed full of his wonderful images. There are very few editions of the magazine without at least one of his photographs. There is a short obituary on the IWA web site.

We are lucky enough to own a large signed print of  a classic Stoke Bruerne scene by Robin; it occupies pride of place in Albert's cabin. We were given it in the late 1990s by our friends Anne & Edward Winter as a thank-you. At the time Anne was a teaching colleague of Robin's wife Margaret in a Bedford school.

Robin Smithett's classic winter view of Stoke Bruerne
We occasionally saw Robin along the Grand Union and I once had the opportunity to discuss the Stoke Bruerne image with him. He recounted how there had been ice on the cut until just before he took the photograph and as the sun hit the water the ice sank making a remarkable mirror-like surface. It was a case of making sure you were at the right place at the right time. The water's surface is so smooth in the picture it is possible to hold the print upside down and for a moment not realise.

I expect his waterways images will still be published for years to come but it sad to think that there will be new Smithett images in the waterway's press.

Stoke Bruerne 1976 - more information

In January 2012 I posted about four photographs of Stoke Bruerne. I took them in spring 1976, just a few years after we had moved into South Northamptonshire. One of the photographs (above) was of working boats moored up by David Balgove's house. I noted that the working boat was Seaford, a Yarwood's Town Class built at Rickmansworth in 1936 and that she had recently appeared in the BBC Four film "Golden Age of Canals". I couldn't identify the boat on the inside of Seaford although it appears to carry the Blagrove name.

Recently Bob Derricott, the then owner of Seaford, got in touch and I am pleased to add his comments to the photograph. He supplies some fascinating information.

"The boat lay in Stoke Bruerne late March/early April having loaded at Atherstone with 17 ton 7 cwt of Daw Mill nuts on 19th  March 1976 for Blagrove, Warwick & Co. and was taken away 9th April 76. On the trip back we passed Lynx, owned by Keith Christie, loaded with coal for B & W Co. in the locks at Braunston."

"The wooden butty in the background is Elton belonging to Blagrove & Warwick. At the time Dave Blagrove & Tony Warwick at the time operated a coal sales business around the local villages and Keith & myself were able to do a bit of loaded boating by delivering supplies to his wharf. Looking at my log for that trip I see that I earned £30.40 but it did pay for the diesel & some beer."

"The bit of film used in the "Golden Age of Canals" was taken June 1975 when we were again loading for B&W Co.. Not too long afterwards Keith, Tony & myself came together to operate as Midland Canal Transport with all three boats painted in a similar livery."

Details of Elton can be found on the Wooden Canal Boat Society web site. Some of the background to this period of carrying can be found on the South Midland Water Transport pages on the Alvercote Marina Group web site.

Worcestershire by L.T.C. Rolt

Tom Rolt was living aboard Cressy at the top of Tardibigge Flight when he wrote Narrow Boat, then titled A Painted Ship. He wrote it without having a publisher and when completed it joined High Horse Riderless, his then unpublished philosophy, in a suitcase under his bed [1]. 

However, during 1943 things were about to change. Correspondence with the rural writer H. J. Massingham on the effects of modern technology and economics on world ecology transformed Rolt’s publishing career. Massingham was taken by Rolt’s ideas and suggested that because Rolt was living on a boat that he write a book about English canals. Rolt explained to Massingham that he had already written one so Massingham helped him find a publisher. Massingham then went on to suggest that Rolt write a book for a new series about the English counties – Rolt chose Worcestershire the county of his residence. Massingham must have had some clout in publishing circles because, without Rolt having a published book, he was given a contract without any guidelines and not even a proper word limit (anything from 70-120,000 was considered acceptable). All of a sudden Tom Rolt had a book accepted for publication and a commission for another.
Eckington Bridge, River Avon

Worcestershire was therefore written whilst Rolt was developing his philosophy and exploring his ideas of ecology. He disliked the romanticised views that most contemporary books of rural England had and set about writing “something of more moment than a mere guidebook”. His choice of Worcestershire was brought about partly because he could combine research with his paid job with the Ministry of Supply and partly because he viewed it “more than any other shire, to represent a microcosm of England”. 
Fladbury Mill, River Avon

So the reader shouldn’t expect a guidebook and, although it is not by any means a treatise on ecology, it is all about the role of man in the environment and full of examples of skilled workers producing goods using methods that Rolt believes are in harmony with the “natural order”. Rolt set out to write two journeys through the county, one in time and one in place, and to present his philosophy. His training and background in engineering, that was to dominate his later writing career, does however shine through. His love of waterways and railways is clear in the book. I am sure that very few other writers would have given them that level of prominence. 

Water transport on the River Severn
Coracle built by Harry Rogers, Coalbrookdale

The book is an interesting read but in places Rolt takes his ecological arguments a little far for me. He alludes  to “enlightened scientists” who are concerned to answer questions on soil health but "may be opposed by powerful financial interests" and describes changes in agricultural that he considers regrettable. Massingham helped found the Soil Association, so I presume Rolt held similar views to his mentor. 
Horse-drawn boat on the Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal
(note the child with the horse)

Tom Rolt originally wanted Narrow Boat illustrated using Angela Rolt’s photographs but the publisher wanted a more "rural style" and asked Denys Watkins-Pitchford (BB) to provide the wood cuts that are now very much part of the earlier editions. Worcestershire, on the other hand, is well illustrated with forty nine monochrome plates by various photographers including Angela Rolt. Many are landscapes, which is not surprising given the subject of the book, but Tom Rolt’s enthusiasms come through. There are scenes of water transport on the River Severn and Worcester & Birmingham Canal and rail transport in the form of “Big Bertha” the LMS engine that for years acted as a banker on the Likely Incline close to Tardibigge. There is a wonderful selection of photographs in the book illustrating craftsmen at work, many using skills that have long gone. My favourite is of the making lockgates at Tardebigge using a shell auger. 

2290 "Big-Bertha" the 0-10-0 banking engine for the Lickey Incline

My first edition of Worcestershire, purchased through eBay, was not expensive and it included a renovated dust-cover. A book to look out for, particularly if you have a copy of Narrow Boat as its companion.

[1] Background details for this review came from Landscape with Canals by LTC Rolt which can be obtained as part of the Landscape Trilogy, the autobiography of Tom Rolt.

A Decade with Albert!

On December 6th 2003 we completed the formalities for the purchase of Albert from her first owner who fitted her out, Mike Hurd. So I thought I would go down memory lane to celebrate our decade.

First time steering Albert on the Kennet and Avon near Bradford-on-Avon
with Mike Hurd watching over me

Negotiating our first lock with Albert, Bradford-on-Avon
December 30th, 2003

Ten years on we can look back on many happy journeys. With Albert we have travelled far and wide;

north to Gargrave on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal,

south to Guildford on the Wey Navigation,

east to Wissington on the River Wissey,

and west to Llangollen.

Rowing Holiday by Canal in 1873 by A Farrant

Not so much a book, more of a booklet, and published just over 100 years after the journey, so what is it all about?

In the 1970’s the grandson of A Farrant, only identified in the preface to the booklet as “Mr Farrant”, transcribed the notes of a rowing journey that his grandfather and three Oxford friends made. The notes were shown to Dr Edwin Course who recognised that, although they were not a great literary work, they were of historical interest and likely to appeal to waterways enthusiasts.

In the preface Dr. Course points out that the Oxford pals journey followed the popular trend in the 1860’s and 1870’s for pleasure traffic on the waterways, probably encouraged by the publication of The Oarsman’s Guide to the Thames. He thought that many similar logs were kept but only a few were published. This is very much a log, not a literary work, not written for posterity, and although light in tone it cannot be considered alongside the hilarious Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat which describes a contemporary journey. The log was written only for the writer and his friends and they were not even identified in the script. The dates of the journey were originally unknown but research by Course pinpointed them and the booklet includes a very handy map of the journey including a timeline.

Who were the oarsmen? Farrant’s grandson thought they were John Salter (a boat builder), T Marsh, Ansty and the author; A Farrant. The log records them starting their journey from “Salters Slope” by Folly Bridge in Oxford so I presume that John Salter was connected to the family boating business that still operates there today. Salter Bros. started at Folly Bridge in 1858 and John Henry Salter would have been 19 years-old at the time and destined to become Mayor of Oxford (1902/3). The Salters were prominent Liberals which might explain why the log mentions the Liberal Fete to be held at Gloucester (Monday 18th August 1873).

Folly Bridge, Oxford in 2010

So what of the journey? It is certainly one that could not be achieved today. They start and end their journey at Oxford but travel to Monmouth via the Oxford Canal, Warwick & Napton Canal (now part of the Grand Union), River Avon, River Severn, Hereford & Gloucester Canal (now disused) and River Wye. They then return via the Great Western Railway (more of this later), Avon Navigation (“Bristol Avon”), Kennet & Avon and River Thames. All of this achieved in just 20 days in August.

It is important to recall the era of the journey. Canals were not the predominant mode of transport and the Railway Age had arrived but many great railway developments were yet to occur; the Great Western were still operating and building broad gauge lines. However, the canal to Hereford was not completed until 1845, just over 30 years earlier. River transport was generally in decline as the pals were to find out, particularly on the Warwickshire Avon.

The four pals left Oxford and travelled upriver to the Oxford Canal. The log describes how they negotiated the narrows by lift bridges and how they overtook narrow boats (or barges as they term them). The technique appears somewhat adventurous. They would pull up alongside the barge and then “work past the barge by hanging on the side.” Once in front of the barge they would pull away sharply to avoid being run down by the moving barge. To me it is not surprising that one “bargee” near Kidlington was “ungentlemanly” and obstrepulous (sic)”. I would have thought that more than one “bargee” would object to this technique which appears reckless to me.

They noted that Leamington Spa was “a bright looking and modern town”. Not surprising since most of the spa-related developments had occurred in the 19th century and the “Royal” prefix was only awarded by Queen Victoria in 1838.

The journey down the Warwickshire Avon appeared troublesome with lack of water just below Warwick and the boat was damaged requiring a repair by John Salter. After the Avon, they joined the River Severn at Tewkesbury and on their 8th day they entered the Hereford and Gloucester Canal. They camped each night and most nights they set traps for rabbits but without success. Farrant usually reported this as “the rabbits were very old” – meaning they were wise enough not to put their heads into the snares they had set. They also tried fishing but with limited success and entertained themselves by singing.

The passage through the 1 ¾ mile long Oxenhall Tunnel (now under the M50) required a light and two people in the bows to keep the boat in the centre of the channel with the other two in the stern “paddling with stretchers” (as opposed to rowing). It was a good job that they didn't meet any working boats in the tunnel given that the Hereford Times carried articles in May 1851 about an incident in which boats travelling in opposite directions had met in the middle, and neither would give way for 58 hours! That would definitely be “ungentlemanly”.

The journey down the River Wye was not without incident. They followed some local watermen downstream of Ross to keep in the channel but managed to capsize their boat. Arriving at Tintern, where they visited the abbey, they had a conundrum, how to get to Bristol and Bath?

After their escapades on the Wye, they recognised that crossing the Severn in a rowing boat was going to be difficult so they decided on the safer option; putting their boat onto a steamer that was leaving the next day. Unfortunately that arrangement fell through so rowed down to Chepstow where they loaded their boat onto a Great Western Railway train which took them across the New Passage.

New Passage - Portskewett Pier (G J Stodart 1887)

The New Passage ferry crossing of the Severn was opened in 1863, just 10 years before the journey, by the Bristol and South Wales Union Railway and was part of the standard route from London to Cardiff and the South Wales coalfields. The Welsh side of the crossing featured a substantial pier, presumably designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel along with the rest of the railway as the plaque at Bristol Temple Meads indicates. 

The building of the Severn Tunnel was begun in 1873 but it took until 1886 for the tunnel to be opened and the New Passage ferry to become redundant, so the four might have seen the construction work being carried out nearby. It is a pity that the log does not describe in detail what would have been the most interesting part of journey. But, as Edwin Course pointed out, the log was written for private use by the friends and not for posterity.
Severn Tunnel

Once on the “English” side the four travelled by train to Bristol Temple Meads. The boat travelled on top of the train, which was the way a lot of luggage was carried at that time, although not usually boats, a point alluded to by the author. Getting the boat onto and off the train (twice) must have taken some effort. Once at Bristol they left as soon as possible, even though it was late in the day, because the area around Bristol Temple Meads was “strong smelling” and not suitable for overnight camping.

They enjoyed their trip through Bath towards Bradford on Avon on the Kennet and Avon and then tackled the “formidable 29 (locks) at Devizes” operating some conventionally before getting the boat out of the water and putting it on wheels for the next eighteen. Just after Hungerford they took to the River Kennet which ran alongside the canal.

The weather was not always ideal for rowing during their journey, it often rained, and near Newbury they suffered strong winds. They disliked the lock mechanisms beyond Newbury because of their difficult lever-operated paddle gear and when they reached the Thames at Reading they were very pleased to find a lock operated by a lock keeper.

The fact that this  booklet exists is not only due to its writer, and his grandson, but also to Dr. Edwin Course who did much research providing not only a preface, extensive notes and footnotes, but also photographs mostly taken in the 1970’s of the sites mentioned in the log. These images, now over 40 years old, are also historic. The photographs in the booklet of the yet to be restored Kennet and Avon Navigation are perhaps the most interesting.

Edwin Course appears to have gone on to edit and write several historical books and journals mostly focussed on Hampshire and transport. It is particularly poignant that the grandson of Farrant who transcribed the log did not live to see this booklet published, he died in 1973 one hundred years after the journey described by his grandfather.

My copy was purchased through eBay for just over £10 but there are many others available at similar prices, according to a quick search with my browser.

New Carpet

Today Albert got a new carpet. After close on 20 years the green wool carpet in the saloon and bedroom was looking a bit grubby and we decided to splash out on a new polypropylene carpet of a similar shade.

The carpet fitter from Stony Stratford did a great job and the weather was relatively kind. We emptied the loose furniture from the saloon in the morning just before a hailstorm hit Yardley Gobion. We stored it in the pole barn at Kingfisher Marina. The fitter arrived shortly after the storm at around 11:30 and by 2:15 in the afternoon the job was done.

I admire the way carpet fitters manage to cope with such complex shapes as that in the bedroom and bathroom of Albert. His reaction to the job was "yes that's no problem" but he did gasp when the boat rocked - I hadn't even noticed it! Apparently when fitting another local boat he had felt quite seasick. You do tend to get immune to the boat's motion.

Albert's new carpet

George Gibson

George Gibson inspecting NB Albert at Widbrook Dry Dock, November 2003

I notice that in Waterways World there is an obituary to George Gibson, a waterways entrepreneur on the Kennet & Avon Canal, who has died aged 82.  In 2003 we explored the K&A in our our first boat, Bertie. Reaching Honeystreet late on a sunny summer evening, we stopped to use the facilities provided by George at the Old Builders Wharf and ended up having a long chat. George let us moor up for the night at his delightful "end of the garden" mooring. The site was immaculate reflecting his Royal Navy training - George was an engineering officer in the Fleet Air Arm. He was well qualified in engineering being a Chartered Engineer, Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and Fellow of the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology.

Later in 2003, when we bought Albert from Bradford-on-Avon, it was logical that we should call on George to carry out the purchase survey. I was present at the survey in the dry dock in Bradford-on Avon and was able to benefit from George's informal advice. I will always remember him lifting the boards above the prop shaft and pointing out that in the Royal Navy, when they transported beer in cutters, they always stored it under the boards near the prop because that was the coldest spot on the boat as it was surrounded by water.

I found out that George was already familiar with Albert from a earlier Boat Safety Certificate inspection. He not only provided us with great service but  he managed to introduce humour into his report, noting that a a one-bottle gas system with no auto-change over had the potential to ruin meals! He finished his report with the statement that it was a pleasure to survey Albert, it was also a pleasure to meet him and benefit from his opinions.
Old Builders Wharf, Honeystreet, August 2003

A Summer on the Nene by "BB"

Book dust cover 

A short while ago I read a fascinating article by “Old Stager” in the IWA Northampton Magazine, Endeavour. He recalled a book that he owned titled “A Summer on the Nene” by “BB” with illustrations by D.J. Watkins-Pitchford. I was familiar with Denys Watkins-Pitchford as being the illustrator of Tom Rolt’s Narrow Boat but I was unaware of much of his other work. The review by “Old Stager” was compelling, particularly given our proximity and interest in the Nene. Quite simply his review got me hooked, so I sought out a copy through ABE Books and it became my bedside reading for few weeks.

 Denys Watkins-Pitchford was a well-known naturalist, illustrator and author. He not only illustrated “A Summer on the Nene” but penned it; “BB” was his nom-de-plume. Published in 1967 the book is richly illustrated with wood cuts and describes a pair of journeys taken in 1966, down the Nene from Oundle to Orton Waterville in May and a trip upstream in early autumn to Woolaston Mill. The title therefore uses some artistic licence. BB was not very physically fit during the voyages and most of the locking appears to have been done by his crew, his wife and daughter, or others he meets. For both journeys he borrowed a fibreglass cruiser the Jolly Enterprise from the then newly built Oundle Marina. Unfortunately the upstream journey in the spring was curtailed when they damaged the propeller when mooring at Wansford.

Brought up in rural Northamptonshire (Lamport) as the son of vicar, he has a countryman’s outlook on nature. He shoots, hence the nom-de-plume which relates to shooting, and fishes, but has a particular interest in birds. As a result the book has numerous wood cuts of ornithological subjects. Since I can well recall the sixties, the book has, for that time, an almost old-fashioned look. The use of wood cuts makes it feel more like a book from at least a couple of decades earlier, but they contribute greatly to its charm. BB is capable of evocative descriptions of wildlife and nature. He is particularly eloquent when he describes the nesting habits and behaviour of birds but he is also capable of describing rural scenes in way that transports the reader to the place and his time. I would recommend the BB Society web site for those who wish to discover more about BB’s life and work.

One of the many charming wood cuts that are within the text

I was particularly taken by BB’s descriptions of a favourite spot of ours, Wadenhoe. He clearly loves the place and spends some pages describing its charms. He describes how he would have like to visit the Kings Head Inn and its garden at the “threshold of high summer when the goldfinches sang in the apple trees and the sedge and reed warblers chattered from the river jungles below”. I can say that we have enjoyed mooring at Wansford in high summer by the Kings Head, although our knowledge of bird calls cannot match that of BB, we can report that it is a spot which can transport you away from the cares of modern life.

Wadenhoe Church from the Nene in 2006

Wadenhoe Church in 2006

Although 1966 seems not that far back to me, much has of course changed since BB was writing. He describes the manual operation of the River Nene locks and the boating traffic that includes working boats delivering flour to the mills in Wellingborough. He also describes processes in agriculture that have since changed. It is noteworthy that he mentions stubble burning several times in the book, a practice which was popular with farmers at the time but that was effectively banned in 1993. He also bemoans the loss of the red kite to Northamptonshire, a bird which is now well re-established in the Rockingham area – I drove along the Nene valley just this week and saw three around Oundle.

As with all similar books, “A Summer on the Nene” also covers the history of the area. It includes the happenings at Fotheringhay in the 16th century involving Mary Queen of Scots, the village being illustrated with several impressive full-page wood cuts. However, the unique feature of the book, as far as English history is concerned, is much more prosaic. Unusually, the book contains a ten-page appendix recoding an interview with a Mrs Julyans who lived in the rural Nene Valley in the 19th century and who died in 1967. The picture she paints of rural life is heart-warming without being nostalgic. It certainly adds to the book’s appeal and it helps increase its focus on rural life. The review by Old Stager describes some of this material.

Which brings me back to where I started. Old Stager lent the original copy of his book and it was never returned; he relied on a library copy when writing his piece for Endeavour. I understand he would like his original copy back. I can vouch that my copy didn’t belong to Old Stager, it was an ex-library copy from far-off Kent! He did note in his piece that a copy had been on sale in Uppingham for around £150 but my very smart copy was nowhere near that cost.

Boat Polishing

I have always polished Albert by hand, but noticing that  NB Yarwood and MB Willow have both used two-handed electric polishers to refresh their paintwork I decided to do the same. I purchased the polisher via the web for a little over £20 and made a suitable extension that would allow me to use the marina mains supply when at home and the on-board 240v ac when on the cut.

Two weeks ago I washed Albert thoroughly and polished the most faded side of the boat (south facing) in the marina. Last weekend when the weather was glorious (unlike this weekend) so we took Albert to Cosgrove to her turn around and finish the other side. With some Craftmaster Carnauba Wax polish the paint work came up fine. I am impressed with the polisher - far less effort than by hand and it gives a much more even finish.

Polishing Albert at Cosgrove

The Result

Maggie was so inspired with the result she just had to clean and polish the windows.
Window Cleaner

Lydney Harbour Light

When we recently visited Lydney Harbour I was taken by the grand-looking lamp that was situated at the end of the quay. It looked like a standard former gas light but attached to it was an unusual  rotating mechanism that was operated by hand. It also has a ladder, presumably to allow the lamp to be lit, when it was powered by gas.

Lydney Harbour Light

Since the lantern of the light was completely symmetrical, the reason for the rotating mechanism was not immediately clear but I surmised that it might have acted as a form of warning light with the lantern head shuttered and rotating like those in conventional lighthouses. Thanks to a lead provided by my friend Mike Peet, I have since discovered that this was indeed the case.

The light appears to have been manufactured by William Sugg Ltd. of Westminster who provided gas lighting for many of the most famous locations in London and whose columns can still be seen today. On the excellent site dedicated to the history of theWilliam Sugg Co. there is a section related to the Lydney Harbour light.

Lydney Harbour Light, William Sugg archive image

This image, taken from the their web site, shows the light partially blacked out. I presume, from the location of the ladder that this was the landwards section and that the light flashed out to sea. 

Lydney Harbour Light archive image

In this more modern image from the William Sugg & Co. site, the lantern is quite different. It appears from  the close up (below) to have been converted to electricity using overhead conductors; risky for the those climbing the ladder!. Also, at this unknown date, the column does not have a rotating lantern and is not blacked out.

Lydney Harbour Light close up archive image 

The History of Gloucester Harbour Trustees by W. A. Stone (Clerk to the Trustees 1958 -1966) provided me with some more detail. The history reports that the Lydney Harbour light was in place in 1890 where it was described as being a fixed white light showing the entrance to the harbour. It is not reported as flashing, but I suppose that many such navigation lights did flash and this was not unusual. I presume the light was described as being fixed because most of the other lights concerned with navigation were mounted on floating buoys. In 1927 both red and white lights were reported as being in use at Lydney and in 1966 red and white gas lights were reported along with a manual gong, presumably as a fog warning.

This section of the Severn Estuary can be difficult to navigate with very strong tides and shifting sand banks. Although narrowboats do pass this way with the aid of a pilot, this section of the estuary has had disastrous accidents, most notably the accident that destroyed the Severn Railway Bridge just a few miles upstream. That disaster occurred on the night of October 25th 1960, in thick fog, as two petrol barges made their way upstream towards Sharpness Docks. They failed to see the entrance to the docks and collided together as one barge turned to go back. Together they hit the Severn Bridge and exploded destroying the bridge and killing five people. It is chilling to think that the crews would have passed close by the Lydney Harbour light, then working on gas and presumably flashing, as they made their way upstream; the navigation channel is close to the "Welsh" shore. I presume the reported manual gong was also in use since that fateful night several of the boats that left Avonmouth were bound for Lydney Harbour carrying wood and would have required guidance to enter the harbour. 

The site of the Severn Railway Bridge in 2011
Taken from the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal showing a model of the swing section over the canal

Musical Holding Tank!

Beware - this post mentions the T-word !

Whenever boaters congregate talk very soon tends to gravitate towards toilets. In this case I am reporting on our unusual musical holding tank that contains the toilet waste.

Albert has a shallow holding tank that extends across the width of the boat. On either side of the boat, in each gunwale, there are two connections - one for the pump out and the other for flushing with water. It is a very handy system. Originally the air vent for the system was one small hole on one of the flushing connections. This proved inadequate and caused unfortunate smells in cabin when the tank was partially full and the loo was used. In an effort to increase the ventilation to the tank and reduce the smell, I drilled 10-mm diameter holes in both flushing connectors. This dramatically reduced the odour problem but had an interesting side effect – the tank now plays tunes!

Shortly after drilling the holes we began to hear a quiet musical sound as we moved around the cabin. At first it  appeared to be coming from some distance away, but since we heard it at several moorings we realised that it emanated from our boat. Eventually we traced it to our holding tank vents. As the “contents” move around below the floor, air is forced out of the vents making a nice musical note. Both vents, being the same size, make the same note! Boaters mooring nearby are often mystified as to the source of the "pan-pipe" music and are often incredulous over our explanation.

Musical Holding Tank!
As the boat is rocked, sloshing of its "contents" causes air to play a tune in the vents

The video shows one of the vents and the boat being rocked to cause the air movement. I wonder what note it is playing.

Lydney Canal and Harbour

Lydney Harbour

A few weeks ago we visited some friends who live near Chepstow and visited Lydney Harbour on the shores of the River Severn. The harbour offers some superb views across the estuary. In sight are the two Severn crossings, the famous Berkeley Castle, two nuclear power stations with reactors in various stages of decommision ( Berkeley and Oldbury), and the docks at Sharpness Docks.

View towards Sharpness Docks
The docks are to the right and the white building on the left marks the entrance to the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal

Berkeley Nuclear Power Station
The outline of the castle can just be seen between the two reactor buildings

The harbour, completed in 1821, has a small basin but it was an important port for the transportation of  iron and coal from the Forest of Dean. Some of these goods would have found their way along the Stroudwater to the Thames and Severn Canals to London. Wood, particularly hardwood, was imported into Lydney for the plywood factory which was just inland. 

Remains of a Severn Trow

As at Purton across the estuary, several Severn trows were beached along the sea wall to provide protection from erosion. We observed some of the discarded trows during our trip along the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal in 2011.

Lydney Docks
Old photo of Lydney Harbour from showing a line of  beached trows

Behind the harbour, as can be seen on the picture above, lies the one mile long Lydney Canal which was opened in 1813 and linked inland to Pidock's Canal and various tramways and railways. It now provides moorings for yachts. The plywood factory is to the top right of the picture which was taken in 1957.