The Canal System of England by H Gordon Thompson

A slim volume with an imposing sub title - The Growth and Present Conditions With Particular Reference to the Cheap Carriage of Goods. I suppose you have already guessed that it is not a modern volume with such a title. It smacks of Victorian ideals but it is Edwardian (just) having been written in 1902. As you might imagine from the subtitle it is not a "page-turner" and tends towards dryness but it holds some fascinating gems for the canal historian.

There is little readily available information on the author and this appears to be his only book, it is clearly a book that was not written for general consumption and it had a purpose; the improvement in the maintenance of canals (and river navigations although this isn't in the title). Why?: a clue is in the subtitle - "the economy stupid".

This is essentially an economics text with an academic pedigree. The author was a Cobden Medallist and Prizeman at the Victoria University and the book was published at the request of his medal sponsors - the Cobden Club. "Cobden" refers to the great free trade philanthropist and politician Richard Cobden who lived in Manchester. The Victoria University is nowadays known as the University of Manchester.

The title Victoria University still survives formally for the university and as recently as 2004 an Act of Parliament included that title and reference to a Cobden Chair in Economics. Indeed at one time the university's predecessor, Owens College was  housed in the former house of Richard Cobden in Quay Street.

It is revealing that Gordon Thompson made a dedication in the book; he conveys "the writer's sincere respect", to Sir John T Brunner who was Liberal MP for Northwich and  founder of Brunner Mond Company which became, many years later after mergers, Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). Brunner at the turn of the twentieth century was much involved with navigation on the River Weaver.

From that pedigree one might expect a book that has at its core free trade and you would be right. It also adopts an almost evangelical approach to the subject. Although its literary style is nowhere near the same, the attitude of the writer to his subject is similar to that adopted by Robert Aickmann nearly 50 years later. He is frustrated at the condition of English Canals as he finds them and thinks that this is intolerable, particularly when compared with our European neighbours who had modernised their systems for the benefit of trade (free trade). This isn't a balanced academic approach to the subject. He firmly sets his case out for canals not being owned by railways and uses all the data at his disposal to make his case.

Because the book was written when the Manchester Ship Canal was still a new navigation (completed only eight years before the book was written) that navigation shines out as an example of how goods can be cheaply transported by water for the benefit of all, although the writer does admit that ship canals are somewhat different from other navigations. Gordon Thompson does point out, amusingly, that had the original lock free (i.e. tidal) proposal been built connecting Manchester to the sea then the depth of the canal at Manchester would be such that "only the top of a ship's masts would be level with the ground". He also, naturally given the book's dedication, good words to say about the River Weaver stating that it was "one of the most up-to-date of English Canals". It had just been extensively updated and linked to the Manchester Ship Canal.

The book begins with the usual review of the history of canals, including the development of locks, but it rapidly moves on to their present condition and the growth of the railways. The meat of the book is where are the chapters discussing Structural Condition (or size), Changes in Level, Haulage, Administration and the Costs of Freight. These chapters are packed full of facts and figures, as one would expect of an economics tome. Some, for example the average distance between locks (1 lock every 1.37 miles), are relevant today but others are of more historical interest (cost of back-pumping - 1000 gallons pumped 100 ft costs £1). In common with academic publications of the time, it contains no illustrations, but it has a copious index and column annotations to help the reader navigate to sections of interest.

The chapter on haulage is packed with facts and figures including a discussion on the cost of steam tugs and steam carrying boats. There is also a short section on "oil or compressed gas" engines  - the shape of things to come, but the most unusual feature is the discussion of electric haulage via electric locomotives. Gordon Thompson reports on some experiments carried out by Siemens and Halske on the Finnow canal in Germany. His description, in the absence of diagrams, is quite difficult to follow but below is a diagram from what I presume is the relevant US Patent. At that time Siemens and Halske were working on electric trams, and even early trolley buses, so it would appear to be a natural progression for the company to look at other areas where electric power transmission could be used for transport.

From the US Patent (1900) by Siemens and Halske

Gordon Thompson also reports on another form of electric haulage, the Thwaite-Cawley where

"In this system an aerial railway is provided at an elevation of 9 ft. or 10 ft. above the towing path, supported by cast-iron or wooden posts placed at 30 ft. intervals. Along this elevated track run a number of four-wheeled electric motors, with two of the wheels on the upper and two on the lower surface of the rail, the axles being proportioned so as to regulate the pressure of the wheels upon the track. The tow-rope is attached to a link at the back of each motor.
Two rails are provided forming an "up " and a " down " line, so that when two barges are passing in opposite directions the one connected with the motor on the upper rail steers wide and its tow-rope passing clear over the first, no stoppage is necessary."

He also reports that electric haulage experiments were carried out on the River Lee using the system of  M Leond Gerard (sic). Leon Gerard, from Belgium, published on electric traction for canals and was later (1907) granted a US Patent for a device to make this possible.

From US Patent (1906) by Leon Gerard

If, over a century on, I could criticise the approach of the author, it is his lack of appreciation of the topography of England. Wide canals with standard large lock designs are suitable for the wide landscapes of the East of England (Aire & Calder) and the lowlands of the North West (Weaver and Manchester Ship Canal), but to contemplate such developments even in 1900 for canals crossing the Pennines and  reaching the heartlands of the Midlands was wishful thinking. These developments might have made a difference to the life of what at one time was called the "commercial canals". Imagine goods in the mid-twentieth century moving to Leeds from Goole and surrounding areas under electric power.

My nice quality first edition was not cheap for a small format book with only 73 pages (£16), but the quality of the binding and paper are first rate and the content was fascinating - a long review for a short book! In the style adopted at the time, I should have subtitled this review "Book Review including the Author's short Discourse on the History of Electric Traction for Canals"

Merry Christmas

Wishing you all the best for 
Christmas and the New Year! 

Steve & Maggie

Malcolm Saville and Canals

Mick Vedmore of Old Waterways Books kindly wrote to me to point out that in addition to "Painted Box", Malcolm Saville did  write two more children's books that he set on canals..He wrote 'Two Fair Plaits' in 1948 set in the Regents Canal and finally in 1956 'Young Johnnie Bimbo' set on the Grand Union Canal.

I will have to look out for them.

The Riddle of The Painted Box by Malcolm Saville

I grew up in the early 1950s in a small town in Lancashire. One of my prize possessions as a lad was a wooden pencil box with a sliding lid and a pivoting top that gave access to a lower layer. My most valued possessions were always stored in the bottom layer along with my rubber (eraser for US readers). Your pencil box was kept either in your school bag, or your school desk, but you always took care of it because loosing it could make life difficult.

When  I searched the internet a few months ago for old canal books I noted a children's novel with canal connections called The Riddle of the Painted Box that was set in the 1940s. It was outside my normal range of books, I normally go for non-fiction, but it looked interesting. From the description I had no idea what the "painted box" was.

Michael and Mary examine the Painted Box

The box of the title turned out to be a wooden pencil box decorated in traditional Rose and Castle style. It was the  prize possession of the daughter of a boating family who in the book ply their trade along the Grand Union. The box features in a tale of crime and intrigue with the heroes being two children of a family "on the bank" who live not far from Brentford. The author is Malcolm Saville who wrote many children's books, this being the second in a series of adventures featuring Michael and Mary Bishop who lost their father in the war and live with their mother in Laburnum Road. The book is charmingly illustrated by Lunt Roberts who was a talented cartoonist - the drawings add a lot to its qualities.

What impressed me about the novel was Saville's attention to detail. Even though this is a book for children, there is no lack of technical detail concerning working boats and canals. The author manages to evoke the period and the setting wonderfully well. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it despite being nearly sixty years older than the target audience! Published only three years after Rolt's Narrow Boat, in 1947, the story is very evocative of that time of austerity and the economic difficulties that followed WWII. As the author states in the foreward, although some canals at that time were no longer used, some such as the Grand Union Canal were very busy indeed.

Examples of the The Riddle of the Painted Box are available on the internet for a range of prices varying from just over £6 for a "reading copy" like mine to over £60 for an "excellent" copy complete with the illustrated colour dust jacket. My copy is a first edition from 1947 so it is as old as me!

First edition wrapper. Click to enlarge (File size=32KB)

For those interested in canal books for children the excellent Old Waterways Books web site has numerous pages dedicated to this genre. There is also a site dedicated to the work of Malcolm  Saville. It appears that Painted Box was his only canal-related book and he wrote it at Westend Farm, Wheathampsted just outside Harpenden.

New Cratch Cover

One of our first major purchases for Albert, when we bought her in late 2003, was a new cratch cover. The old cover looked OK but soon the zips and stitching soon started failing. We chose a new cover from Wilson's because they had made a tonneau  and some hatch covers for our previous boat and we had been happy with their work. It did us proud lasting ten years but recently some of the stitching had begun to fail.
Albert's new cratch cover

Because we had had a small cover repair carried out by Tim Garland (who is very much local to us), I chose Tim to quote for the new cover. I knew there was a family connection between Tim and Gardland Sails in Bristol, and I had always suspected that the original had been from Garland's in Bristol. When Tim visited Yardley Gobion Wharf and looked at Albert's fittings (which were retained by Wilsons) he confirmed that the original was more than likely from Garland Sails in Bristol, probably by his dad. He noted that his dad liked to use quite a few fittings to hold the cover down since he came from a sail-making background!

I have to say that fitting a cover is a skilled craft. Getting the pattern correct is obviously very skillful but even the final fitting is not that straightforward particularly in cold weather like today - there was an icy wind and a layer of ice in the marina. It involved accurately locating the stud fittings and punching them into the cloth and drilling an tapping the hull fittings.

Tim Garland making the cratch cover pattern

The new cover was measured up in November and today Tim fitted it. We are delighted with its matt finish and clean style and we look forward to it giving good service - the other two lasted around ten years each.


Falkirk Wheel

We spent the last weekend in Scotland, around Edinburgh. On Saturday, whilst our daughter and son-in-law attended a wedding at Dalhousie Castle, Maggie and I entertained our two-year old grandson Hugh.

Falkirk Wheel
With Hugh keen on anything mechanical we just had to visit the Falkirk Wheel. Although I had visited back in 2007, Maggie had not and was keen to see this "Wonder of the Waterways". It was certainly well worth the visit and Hugh was delighted with the experience.

We got there just after 1:00 PM and found that the only trip up the lift was due to depart from the basin at 2:00 PM. This meant a rapid lunch, which is not always easy with a two-year old, but we managed it with a few minutes to spare. I had found out from my last visit that a trip up (and down) the lift is a must.

Hugh & Maggie aboard Archimedes

Taking it all in

The boat trip was in the purpose built boat Archimedes which is  68 ' long and 12' 6 " in the beam. The boat is fully equipped and highly maneuverable. It has plenty of video screens giving details of the construction of the original canal and the lift. The skipper for the day Phil, who has a background in operating community boats in London, gave a witty and informative commentary.

Getting the caisson aligned
Waiting for the gates to open

I was able to take video of a boat being lowered down the lift. With the short days this was just before dusk and after most of the day's visitors had left.

Boat being lowered down the Falkirk Wheel

The boat trip included a passage through (and back) the 180 m long Roughcastle Tunnel. Hugh was not at all bothered by the dark and enjoyed the experience. One day we will have to take Hugh through Blisworth.

Hugh watching progress through the Roughcastle Tunnel

Roughcastle Tunnel

The view from the lift just before you are lowered into the basin can be really good. Although it was misty the impression of height was still great. What should impress boaters, apart from the engineering and design excellence, is the speed of descent/ ascent. It takes around four and a half minutes to cover the 24 m height change, all accomplished with 1.5 kW h (or the energy required to boil 8 kettles - as is often quoted).    

Looking into the caisson for a descent

From the top of the lift I noticed that the canal to the north was closed. It appears that Network Rail are carrying out electrification of the Glasgow to Edinburgh line and the tunnel under the Forth & Clyde Canal is being rebuilt. The canal is due to reopen next March.

Rebuilding the Carmuirs Railway Tunnel under the Forth & Clyde Canal

We can see why the Falkirk Wheel is Scotland's second most popular visitor attraction after Edinburgh Castle with 400,000 visiting each year.

Andrew Gormley Sculpture for Stratford Canal

We have connections with Solihull, so it was with particular interest that we noticed in their local press that The Landmark Trust are planning to position an Anthony Gormley figure at the famous barrel-roof Lengthsman's Cottage at Lowsonford. The cottage lies alongside the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal by lock 31.
Lowsonford Lengthsman's Cottage

This is part of the LAND initiative that celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the trust. Five figures are to be erected at a number of their properties throughout the UK. They should all be in place by 16th May 2015 and remain for a year.

A fascinating history of the cottage is given on the Landmark Trust website. It includes some evocative old photos of the lock, I presume from when the canal was close to abandonment.

We shall have to pass that way next year to see the figure.

Another Blog Milestone

Albert's blog has just passed the 100,000 site visits mark since I started the web counter back in November 2006. Albert's readership isn't particularly large compared to some blogs, but monitoring readership gives me comfort to know that what I write is, occasionally, read.

A blog milestone

I get the impression that the number of waterways related blogs may have peaked and blog readership may not be growing as rapidly as when I reported that the Albert site had broken the 50,000 landmark in February 2012. With on-line forums and social media being so convenient they appear to be taking centre stage and blogging is not quite what it used to be. However, because blogging is akin to publishing, I like the medium and I have no intention of giving up posting or migrating to another format. Maybe I have invested too much in it to change?

Our site has been part of the UK Waterways Sites ranking since 2009. It has rarely reached above the 30s in the ranking and it has mostly resides in the 40s, as today. The UK Waterways Sites ranking system, which by no means covers all bloggers on waterways subjects, now has 112 participants whereas it had 143 back in 2012. There are currently 71 blogs in the rankings but there were 90 back in 2012, indicating perhaps the declining popularity of the medium or perhaps just the ranking system. Albert is today sitting at 21 in the blogs' list after my recent posts.

Many thanks readers, wherever and whoever you are. 

Getting Mobile Internet On-Board

It is some years now since I started posting from Albert; it's almost a decade. Originally I sent emails via a mobile phone and they were compiled into a post, but images could only be uploaded from home where there was sufficient bandwidth. Eventually I bit the bullet and started posting via an on-board laptop. This brought many improvements and incorporating images directly into posts soon became routine. However, it was not plain sailing.

External Magnetic Aerial -used to improve signal strength

I had a mobile phone contract with O2 and decided that a dongle based modem was the simplest way to “go mobile”. Although it could work well at times it was an unreliable system since O2 didn’t (and still don’t) have a good reputation for coverage along canals and rivers. I would often log on to O2 and find that only GPRS was available which was only just fast enough for loading text onto BlogSpot but was useless for loading images. Even mooring up in the centre of small towns like Stone didn’t provide me with sufficient 3G coverage. I tried to improve matters by using a magnetic external aerial attached to the dongle via a sleeve, on the basis that getting radio signals in a metal box was likely to be difficult (a Faraday cage) and receiving a signal from outside “the box” must be better. However, the external aerial but did not improve coverage, it only improved the number of “bars” and certainly did not help “upgrade” a GPRS signal to 3G, my basic problem. 

Sleeve for USB Dongle with Aerial Connector

I then joined the gang. Nearly all boaters I talked to who were happy with their mobile internet coverage used the provider Three, particularly those continuous cruising and blogging. I bought a Three SIM, installed it into the “O2” dongle (actually an Ovation MC930D) and it was a revelation. I had 3G at most locations on the canal and when it was not available I didn't waste my time trying to manage GPRS. The best set-up I found was to use a remote USB cable connection, hang the dongle near the window and put the magnetic “booster” aerial out on the boat roof. It worked fine and I was content – my blogging was reasonably reliable and emails were perfect. 

That was until I discovered mobile hotspots and we started using more internet devices on-board. I got an IPhone, we “inherited” an IPad (what a wonderful device), and eventually Maggie got an IPhone 5. A discussion with Mike Kinnings of NB Blue Pearl led me to the mobile hotspot Zoom 3G router. It operates using a USB connection to a mobile internet dongle (or similar) and provides enough Wi-Fi coverage for the whole boat. I used the same dongle + magnetic booster aerial system that I had used before. It worked well and the extra freedom of having boat-wide Wi-Fi was a great particularly since we could use the IPad for web browsing. The only negative sides of adopting a router-based system is that monitoring SIM usage is not straightforward and devices on-line show excellent Wi-Fi connection (i.e. internal to the boat) but it cannot show (external) internet connection quality.

Zoom 3G Router/Mobile Hotspot with USB Dongle and Sleeve for Magnetic Aerial

Solwise 3G Modem/Router with built-in SIM socket

After around 18 months of using the Zoom router I decided that I wanted a better “engineered” solution. A cable going through the window to the roof aerial and a dongle suspended from the curtain rail, didn't look good. Also, untidy cabling can cause connection problems and they did occasionally happen. I therefore took the plunge and went for what I hope is a “proper” boat-based system Wi-Fi system.

I selected a router that could accept a SIM which removed the need for a USB dongle. I also wanted a “proper” external 3G aerial rather than a magnetic patch, so I went for Solwise 3G Modem/Router (3G-51R_EXT) with their matching external 3G 5dB Omni antenna. It worked well over the summer providing us with effective Wi-Fi that we managed to share with our visitors (Smart Phones etc). So to provide a more permanent solution, I recently rewired the cratch putting in a new conduit that could take more wires, including a cable to the 3G aerial. It was a bit of work but I hope it is worth it. I also installed an additional 12v power socket near the television point to power, for among other things, the FreeSat box.

Solwise 3G/4G 5dB Omni antenna 

Having just finished my rewiring project, I found that Graham Booth had just reviewed getting mobile internet in the December’s edition of Waterways World. Graham covers mostly laptop/tablet/modem issues so the thoughts and experience described above could be complementary to his article. I am glad he starts with premise that Three is the canal “standard” service provider.

Since purchasing the Solwise 3G Router I note that it is now discontinued but they appear to be offering another higher specification device, as always for a bit more money.

Back to Yardley Gobion

Yesterday we moved Albert from High House Wharf, where she was having some renovation of the bow decorations, to our home base - Kingfisher marina. It was a typical autumn day, chilly but occasionally pleasant in the sunshine. I took Albert down to Yardley Gobion with my friends Alex Kidd & Roy Healey since both had expressed a wish to travel through Blisworth Tunnel. Alex took over the steering for some of the trip and after some meandering managed to control Albert well, although I must admit to not letting him stay at the tiller for the tunnel. Just as well since we passed a boat just after we entered the tunnel and another about half-way through.

Just before the tunnel Alex and I noticed a strange sight - the water near Candle Bridge at Blisworth was very green. To both our eyes it appeared to have been coloured by fluorescein which is often used to trace water leaks. It could be that a pipe draining into the canal was being investigated or perhaps a leak from the canal into a culvert was being traced. Either way it was unusual to say the least. The dyed stretch was, however, only about 20 metres long.

Green Union Canal (geddit?)

 The tunnel transit was straightforward, and not too wet, but when we reached Stoke Bruerne the weather was decidedly dull and cold but we got a cheery wave from the Blacksmith Bob Nightingale as we left the tunnel. The first thing that struck me was that there were no boats moored up on the visitor moorings. None, that is, except a lone boat moored up at the only place where mooring really should not occur - opposite the winding hole! I wonder if the plonker was put off by all the signage on the visitor moorings which  threatens fines for overstaying and decided that the winding hole, which had signs just saying "no mooring", was a safer bet. Or perhaps he doesn't just understand the first thing about boating!

Plonker moored right opposite the winding hole at Stoke Bruerne

And yes there were yards and yards of empty moorings from the tunnel portal to the museum!

We broke for lunch at The Boat and I had a delicious beef stew and dumplings with a pint of Banks. What could be better on a chilly autumn lunch time.

Mike Partridge's Jubilee now converted with a full-length cabin.

After lunch, with fading light we made it down to Yardley Gobion. We moored up on our new mooring, having vacated the old one when we left for Stone 6 months ago. I noticed that NB Tacet has arrived on the on-line moorings - it appears that it has new owners Clinton and Sharon. I look forward to meeting them - perhaps at the annual marina fireworks and bonfire. I wonder if they will take up blogging like the old owners?

Eel Pie Island

We visited our family in Teddington on Friday. With the wonderfully unseasonable weather we visited Twickenham for their children's Halloween celebrations and couldn't resist a walk in the sunshine along the embankment near Eel Pie Island - Boating, Jazz and Rock & Roll memorabilia.

The tide was low but there was sufficient water for some boat movements. We started by looking at the interpretation board erected to recall Eel Pie Island's unique place in popular culture - the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Cyril Davis, Rod Stewart, David Bowie and Ronnie Wood performed here early in their careers. I have posted about the island in the past when I reviewed the excellent book by Dan Van der Vat and Michele Whitby. 

Eel Pie Island Interpretation Board - looking across to the island

There are lots of historic details about the island on the island's web site including a facsimile of the board.

Thames Tug Teddington - moored at Twickenham

Moored up along the embankment was the tug Teddington which we last saw moored up just below Teddington Lock. As we strolled along towards the island bridge a very smart boat arrived at the wharf and dropped off some passengers. We couldn't resist a chat.

Motor Boat Windrush 46 at Twickenham

She was the Windrush 46, formerly the Thames Water Authority's flagship inspection launch which was built in 1989 and used for civic and Royal Occasions. When used by The Queen she was accompanied by liveried Queens Watermen. She is now available for private hire. The owner, who lives locally invited us aboard. She has a steel hull and is beautifully appointed and lined in teak. The twin six-cylinder Mermaid engines evidently give her a good turn of speed. I was shown their very neat installations.

Windrush awaiting passengers

 I took as short stroll across the bridge onto the island which is packed with interesting properties.

Lion Boathouse

It looked like the Lion Boathouse, which is clad in corrugated iron and decorated with enamel signs, was for sale. It appears that the old boathouse hides a luxury modern house that has four double-bedrooms and is on the market for  around £2m. As the estate agents details state "As to be expected from Eel Pie Island nothing is quite as it appears, and with Lion Boathouse the same holds true."

High House Wharf, Nether Heyford

On Tuesday October 14th we made the last part of journey moving Albert to High House Wharf where she will be staying while Colin & Kevin from Spideworx carry out some painting work on the bow flairs and cratch. The weather was fine and breezy.

We arrived at Braunston Bottom Lock to find that a boat had only just gone up ahead of us and was waiting for a boat to come down the locks. The descending boat was Jubilee with Mike Partridge who works the trip boat at Stoke Bruerne. Mike was taking Jubilee into a dock to carry out the usual routine maintenance.

When we got up to the second lock we found that the boat going up had waited for us and was somewhat familiar to us - Jarrah from Aylesbury. We had seen it several times in the basin at the terminus of the Aylesbury arm and it has appeared in some of my photographs. We worked the rest of the Braunston and Buckby flights with Nigel and Rosemary from Jarrah which turned out to be powered by a Kelvin and had a good turn of speed in the tunnel.

We moored up for lunch at Whilton and then made our way to High House in the late afternoon. Nearly "home" for Albert but not quite. We will move Albert back to Kingfisher Marina sometime in the next few weeks when the painting job is finished.


Last Monday, October 13th, we continued south towards home waters. The weather was not good all day.

Leaves all over the roof after just one night
We had moored overnight in a wooded section just before the Two Boats. In the morning we realised that it was probably not a good spot to moor in autumn. Albert's roof was covered with wet soggy leaves that took a couple of days to remove completely.

We set off up the locks to the Stockton flight in rain. As a passer-by said "not a good day for doing that". I responded with "no but we have been along here in driving snow".

Stockton flight

Steerer's Lunch near Calcutt

It rained on and off until just after Calcutt locks when there was a short break in the rain. The wind then got up and the rain started again. Between Wigrams Turn and Braunston the weather was plain awful and unpleasant. Mid-afternoon we moored up in Braunston opposite the Boathouse. We had an early dinner there and turned in for an early night. 

Itchington Bottom

We left Saltisford after a leisurely start on Sunday October 12th. Our plan was to drop Anne & Edward at Lemington Spa station so they could get back home to Sheffield; Edward had a squash match.

Lock feature built out of old mechanisms and gates from Lapworth, Saltisford

The journey through the locks at the Cape was straightforward and we moored up opposite the station just after 12:15 in good time for the Sheffield train. Maggie & I said goodbye to our "extra crew" and travelled on towards Radford and the first of the locks going out of the Avon valley.

Station drop-off, Leamington Spa
We got to Radford just after two boats who had moored up for lunch just below the lock. As a result all the locks for the rest of the day were set against us. This didn't bother us as we made quite good time on our own. We got to Welsh Road Lock before another boat arrived behind us and we continued as a pair from Splash Bridge Lock until we moored up at Itchington.

Mumble a well-known short boat, Warwick

The other boat was a hire boat crewed by four. The steerer used to work for many years on trawlers. He was finding narrowboats "another kettle of fish" but they were coping well. It was particularly helpful to have two boats going up Bascote locks together.

Going up the Bascote staircase

As the day wore on the weather deteriorated and it got quite cold. We were quite pleased to moor up for the night below Itchington Bottom Lock and get the fire burning bright.

Saltisford, Warwick

We tackled Hatton on Saturday October 11th. The run down from Turner's Green was pleasant and we arrived mid-morning just as another boat was leaving the top lock. They had been helped by the CRT volunteer lock keeper so he turned his attention to us.

Remains of the single locks at Hatton Flight
(too busy working the locks to take photos!)

Because no other boats were coming up the flight the lock keeper began to set the locks in front of us. We got to around Lock 34 (the 13th down the flight) before we met another boat coming up.

We made Saltisford Arm by late afternoon and Ian, the centre manager, sorted us out a very handy mooring with power and water to hand. We had a pump out, two bags of coal and replaced a gas bottle that had handily just run out; set for some time

That night we went to the Lazy Cow for what turned out to be a delicious but expensive meal. We took comfort from the fact that we don't often push the boat out when dining with our dear friends Anne & Edward.

Tom o' the Wood, Turner's Green

On Friday October 10th the weather was decidedly autumn again as we travelled towards Lapworth. We passed Earlswood where the feeder joins from the reservoirs and there is a thriving boat club.  At Hockley Heath I pointed out the stretch where in 1968 Maggie and I hired a canoe for the afternoon. The two lift bridges interrupted our cruising, the hydraulic gear on the most southerly made some graunching  noises and was stiff.

Just below Lapworth Top Lock Jeremy Scanlon came out to help and chatted to us. We last met Jeremy in the late 1990s at Worcester when we moored up outside the Commandery. He was on board his boat the Unicorn and had just written  Innocents Afloat: a Yank Discovers The Cut. I purchased a copy from Jeremy, read and enjoyed it, and them promptly lost it! A couple of years ago I bought a replacement; I don't like having gaps in my waterways books collection. Jeremy has recently (2013) written another book, Hotel Boat: An Innkeeper Afloat, which is  a sequel to his first book. We had a good chat as we operated the locks and I purchased a copy of the new book. I will have to review it when I have finished reading it.

We had planned to lunch before tackling the thick at Lapworth but that didn't happen and, since the weather was by then good, we ploughed on. At the top of the thick there was a volunteer CRT lock keeper. As we left lock 7 and boat coming uphill was leaving lock 8. The lock keeper helped organise the manouver since there is a sharp corner between the locks, that is presumably why there is an old roller mechanism mounted on the bridge.

Roller mechanism, Lapworth Lock 7

Lapworth Flight, negotiating the bend between Locks 7 & 8

We took lunch on the move as we went down the flight and the sun shone. Because no other boats were on the move we took our time.

Lapworth Flight

We picked up water by Lock 19, where there is a large side-pond. As we waited for the tank to fill a gull caught a large fish. Unfortunately for the gull it was so large it couldn't take off carrying it. It decided the best approach was to eat it intact while it was on the water! It was a futile exercise but the gull did manage to devour some of it before giving up and flying off.

Gull trying to dispatch a large fish

We branched off at Kingswood and joined the Grand Union - our first wide canal for over six months. it felt quite different. 

Kingswood Junction

Our overnight mooring was at the Tom O' the Woods mooring at Turners Green. We were opposite some goats who were waiting for their evening meal. 

Where's my dinner?

We visited the eponymous inn (I always wanted to use that word) and had a great meal. They appear to like dogs at the Tom O' the Woods because as we left we noticed that the conservatory area was crowded with dogs and their walkers. They also have lots of pictures on their Labrador called Boris on their web site. I had wondered why they asked if we had dogs on board when we booked the table earlier that evening.