Now a Crazy Canal Book Price Drop!

It appears that the seller of the crazy-priced maps on eBay is now offering one with a staggering price drop of £11,895.36 and the postage is free! It's now priced at a realistic £2.80.

Unfortunately, they are still offering one map at £11,898.16 and it is listed as being the last one. On ABEBooks they still have two for sale, both priced at £23,790.92 !

Crazy Canal Book Prices!

I wonder if other canal book enthusiasts, or for that matter other collectors, have noticed that occasionally postings on book selling sites and eBay asking stupid prices for what are mundane publications.

I like to buy the rarer, and occasionally more costly books, so I sometimes list items by "highest price first". This avoids wading through page after page of ordinary magazines. Sometimes historic canal maps and parliamentary acts and very rare books are offered; such as early editions of Hassell's Tour of the Grand Junction which go for around £3,000. However, sometimes the list includes items that are plainly priced incorrectly. This can sometimes be attributed to incorrectly using a currency conversation, but sometimes there doesn't appear to be any logical reason.

Today I found an example which appears to defy all logic. The GEOprojects series of maps are practical modern folded paper maps. Their map covering the Caledonian Canal is currently unavailable from the usual retail suppliers such as Waterstone's and Blackwells and the IWA shop doesn't have a copy. When available the map was priced at around £4.75. The next usual route for purchase would be on-line through Amazon but they don't have a new copy available.

However, they do however have three used copies. Now you might expect them to go for around £5 but you would be mistaken. A second-hand book seller is actually offering them through Amazon for £11,894.78! They are also available at the same price through eBay where postage is available for only £2.50.

Now I thought that was the limit for overpricing for this item until I found the same maps were available via ABEbooks from the same seller for whopping £23,2790.92 with £2.75 postage. Not a bad mark-up for a modern folded map that recently was on on sale for less than £5. Finger trouble when posting - who knows? I hope nobody clicks on them by mistake when on-line shopping!

The same seller also has a historic 1910 map of the Caledonian Canal offered at £8.29; now that looks a bargain in comparison!


Zander Control

Whilst Albert was being painted at High House last month, I saw a strange craft pass by and I just had to photograph it. It was a small outboard-powered boat with booms on each side and it was operated by a crew of three.

I soon realised that the crew were electro-fishing. Back in 2008, I saw a lake near Shuckburgh being cleared using electro-stunning and the fish being moved to another lake. As a result, it didn't take me too long to realise what was happening .

Electro-fishing boat in operation

Electro-stunning to empty a lake near Shuckburgh, 2008

Having established that the boat team were electro-fishing my next thought was why here and why now? They clearly weren't planning to stun fish ahead of draining the canal. I  looked on line and found a photograph of the same boat with booms on a CRT site. It's all about controlling the spread of that alien invader, the zander. The middle Grand Union appears to be the area where they are trying to stop the zander moving south. It appears from the local press that they have been caught as far south as Stoke Bottom Lock. If caught they cannot be returned to the canal. According to the CRT expert, Philip Smith, they are good to eat.

Paraphernalia Refurbished

I like to try and keep Albert looking as "traditional" as possible so we usually cruise with the chimney, chimney chain, cabin strings, water cans and mop on the roof. I usually refer to this as our paraphernalia.

Although this stuff doesn't stay out in all weathers, it does deteriorate so when Albert went in for a repaint I decided to call it a day for our mop, which wasn't very special, and refurbish the original water can (Buckby) that came with Albert. After around 20 years of use, the finish on the can was dull and at one time I had decided that I would line it out in cream, rather than yellow, and this did not match with the can we bought at Crick Boat Show just a few years ago. So I decided to line out the original can in yellow, touch up areas of faded base colour and varnish it. I must say I am pleased with the result - both cans now look bright and more similar.

Albert's refurbished original can (left) with can painted by Sue Woodward (right)

To replace the old mop I decided to go traditional and make a 6 ft 6 inch long rag mop using a 1 1/4 inch diameter ash pole. I basically followed the excellent instructions posted by Blossom. The felt came courtesy of a donkey jacket I obtained from a laboratory that closed down over a decade ago.

Attaching the felt strips to the end of the pole has been a point of discussion in canal forums but using a rose headed spike (or nail) appeared to me be the most traditional way and not particularly difficult, so I went along that route. We are lucky to live near one of the country's best traditional ironmongers - Odells. They didn't immediately have one in stock but David Odell found one hiding at home and he kindly helped me out. Once I had accurately drilled the pilot hole into to the end of the ash pole, fitting the strips to the end of the pole using the pattern specified by Blossom was, as I hoped, a doddle.  

view of shop
 David Odell in his emporium

Painting the rag mop can be interesting (that's code for difficult), particularly if you go for spirals. I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and go for regular stripes. Red, yellow and green appeared appropriate and matched the cans, so after some interesting masking up and several coats applied over several days, I got a brightly coloured traditional rag mop.

Rag mop and water cans (Buckby)

Whilst taking the pictures for this post my youngest granddaughter Matilda took great interest in the brightly coloured cans. I couldn't resist adding a picture of her examining them.

Matilda (aged 13 months) with water cans and rag mop

Many thanks to the directions of Blossom.

Norton Junction and Nether Heyford

On Saturday we left Hillmorton for Braunston. The weather was windy and cold but it wasn't raining. We stopped off at Midland Chandlers to pick up some bits and pieces, notably a gate valve so I could balance the hot and cold feeds to the shower mixer valve. We moored up alongside a friendly crew who were consulting the staff over "leisure" batteries - sounded like it could be expensive.

We moved slowly to Braunston Bottom Lock hoping to meet another crew to pair up with but were disappointed. There were crews coming down the flight in pairs but none going in our direction. The waiting area by the bottom lock was as usual busy with Union Canal Carriers hire fleet waiting to go out.

Braunston Bottom Lock

The Admiral Nelson

As we made the Top Lock a crew appeared behind us but by then it was too late to pair up. We headed for the tunnel and found it completely clear all the way through. We had a very rapid transit and then reached Norton Junction around 2:30 PM. We dropped down the one lock and called it a day. As Maggie went to visit Anchor Cottage to purchase a watering can for the garden, I fitted the gate valve on the shower cold feed. It turned out to be one of those rare jobs that was completely straight forward and also successful.

That evening we ate at The New Inn (Fish & Chips) and then took a stroll up to the junction as the sun went down. The weather had improved.

Norton Junction

As we stood on the bridge by the tollkeepers cottage we realised that all the years we have passed this way this was the first time that we stood on the bridge looking over the Grand Union.

The next day the plan was to pick up our grandson Hugh at Weedon and for him to have a sleepover on the boat before we returned to Yardley. Gobion.

We left fairly promptly (for us) and teamed up with Wild Marigold a hire boat from Calcutt. They had a helpful crew and we made good progress down the locks. The weather was showery and blustery.

This season's ducklings at Long Buckby

Replica tug at Dodford Wharf

Just after Dodford we began to realise that since we had been away there had been significant progress with the construction of the bridge over the canal for the Flore Bypass. A new concrete span was in place across the canal and a colossal crane was on site. An furtherspan across the canal and two others across the railway appear to be needed.

Modest crane for lifting narrow boats and colossal crane for constructing bridges

Crane for constructing the Flore Bypass Bridge

In the afternoon Hugh joined us for a trip down to Nether Heyford where we moored up for the night close to Heyford Fields Marina. On the way we picked up water by Stowe Hill and Hugh made friends with another five-year old boy called Max - they played in the woods together.
A happy Hugh boating

Our neighbours for the night were Moriarty. When the boat belonged to Bob & Lyn Doyle we spent some happy days together on the River Nene in 2006

Hugh ready for sleep in the back cabin

On Sunday morning we headed south towards Stoke Bruerne to meet up with the family for lunch and take Albert down the flight to our home moorings. The tunnel was very wet with sheets of water descending to canal level in several places and not just by air shafts.

Blisworth Tunnel Northern Portal

The moorings at Stoke were very quiet and we could select where we wanted to tie up. We had lunch at The Boat Inn and then went down the Stoke Flight with NB Hera who were planning to stop overnight at The Navigation at Cosgrove. We finally got to Kingfisher Marina at around 4:30 PM and then had the task of picking up cars and unloading the boat - never as much fun as packing up - none of the anticipation.


David Owen in his 1986 book "Exploring England by Canal" discusses "When to Cruise" - I have a copy on board Albert. It's a not often discussed topic. 

With the wet and cold weather we have having recently I decided to reread it. He discusses boating at Easter and points out the vagaries of the weather even when the holiday falls in late April. He points out that snow is not uncommon, but he is keen on Easter boating. As positive aspects he points out the usually plentiful supply of water, lack of weeds and wonderful spring flowers. Today was definitely a day to enjoy Easter boating. The weather suddenly changed from yesterday's heavy cold rain to today's bright cloudless skies. What a difference a day makes!

Shepherd's Hut & "Mini" Ruston Bucyrus near Trusses Bridge

Interesting Poly-tunnel At Stretton Stop

Pussy willow in bloom

Ash trees with their black buds emerging

All Oak Woods

Newbold Tunnel

Just after Newbold we had a bacon butty whilst on the move. There were a number of hire boaters on the move from several of the usual companies (Alvechurch, Napton, Clifton Cruisers, Black Prince etc.). They must be relieved by the change in the weather.

We made Hillmorton at around 2:30 and used what must be the worst water point on the system - difficult to moor up with the slopping stone bank, poorly positioned rings that can only suit a 70 ft working boat and water pressure that means it took over 30 mins to top up Albert from half-full.

We finally moved off and then joined a mini queue waiting to go up the locks. I pulled Albert in front on Nick Wolfe's mooring and we had a chat whilst waiting. A friendly cat took a shine to our boat.

Cat Aboard!

Daffodil display between the locks

 We moored up for the night just above the top lock and then walked down the flight to the cafe for afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea at Badsey's

We also explored the dry dock and other facilities. Around 18 years ago we had our first boat painted in the facility. The dock is very much the same as then but the personnel are different.

Grantham's Bridge Dry Dock at Hillmorton

Lock beams with poem

Sutton Stop

We woke to good weather on Wednesday and made use of the facilities at Sutton Wharf. Free hot shower followed by coffee and a bacon bap for breakfast. This made it a relaxed start to the day. We didn't depart until 10:30.

It was at this point that the heavy rain showers started. We followed a boat that had moored up just ahead of us and was also going south. Just by Dadlington the steerer pulled over. I asked if he was OK and got the response - "I'm giving up mate!" - I know how he felt but I told myself  that I was made of sterner stuff.

All the way through Stoke Golding and Hinkley it rained. At Marston Junction, where we turned onto the Coventry Canal towards Hawkesbury Junction, we had a dry interval, but then we had heavy downpours all the way to Sutton Stop. Once again we passed through the stop lock in the rain and then tried to find a mooring on the Oxford Canal.

Most of the moorings at Hawkesbury Junction were taken and were we were forced to moor up on a curve against some large sheet piling and use mooring pins. It took a range of pins, ropes, and fenders to get the bow and stern in a reasonable position - canal boats are not banana shaped. This included "springing" the bows and using some floating wheel fenders I purchased after mooring problems on the Shropshire Union.

Still we had a good night's sleep and the boat was secure in morning.

No photos - gives you an idea how wet it was!

Rainbows over Sutton Cheney

On Tuesday we set off for the end of the canal, or more precisely its current  limit of navigation. The weather was not to bad at the start of the day, but as we found out it later rained heavily.

The journey north through Gopsall Woods, just north of Shackerstone, was delightful.

Gopsall Wood

The visitor moorings at Gopsall Wharf looked an ideal overnight spot but they were occupied by a couple of CRT workboats. We reached the Snarestone Tunnel and were reminded why it is called the "crooked tunnel". It certainly needs to be taken steadily as seeing the "wiggles" takes some time when your eyes are not accustomed to the dark. 

Snarestone Tunnel Southern Portal with The Globe to the right

The terminus for Albert, being 60ft, is just short of the final limit at the generous winding hole. We purchased some coal from the Ashby Canal Association as we took on water. The winding because "interesting" as the wind suddenly got up. I was just thinking how well the process was going when it was clear that Albert was just going sideways downwind. I resorted to pulling Albert around by a bow rope - there are some occasions when discretion is required. 

Ashby Canal "terminus" with a rain shower approaching

After passing through the tunnel going south we stopped for lunch at The Globe at Snarestone - another good pub that was quite busy for Tuesday lunchtime. We both had Ploughmans. With three cheeses and a slice of ham we took the cheddar back to the boat.

A generous Ploughmans

After lunch we had more heavy rain showers as we travelled south. We moored up for the night at Sutton Wharf where there are good moorings, showers and a cafe. As we passed the southern edge of Ambion Wood there was yet another a heavy rain shower but with the bright sun we were treated to one of the most intense rainbows I have seen. We had complete double rainbows they were spectacular!

Spectacular Rainbows over Ambion Wood, Sutton Cheney


On Easter Monday the wet weather continued, we only had one dry day in the week!

Water, water, everywhere ..
(running-off into the canal)

We stopped off at Market Bosworth for water. We were looking to replace a gas bottle and so popped into Bosworth Marina. It’s well equipped and the staff were very friendly. We not only picked up gas but also had a pump-out. Unlike most quayside pump-out facilities their machine is powerful and is not time-limited. We therefore managed to clear out a lot of “gunge”. Unfortunately, the café was closed after a recent fire.

Easter egg

We found a duck's egg on service pontoon - must be Easter.

As we left the marina we followed the 72ft ex-working boat Beaulieu (3 ft 6 draft) to Congerstone. Even with the canal full of water it struggled a little to moor up.

We finally moored up at Shackestone and the rain abated. The towpaths at Shackestone were very muddy, but we decided to walk around the village. This included a visit to the church and afternoon tea at the station. 

Midland Railway Insignia

Tea Room

We did however notice that the river had reached the top of the arches of the Shackerstone Aqueduct. 

Shackerstone Aqueduct

At the station saddle tank Cumbria was still on duty but there were only a few hardy passengers – notably granddads with their grandsons.

Cumbria filling-up with water

Returning to Albert I got our refurbished satellite system working (Freesat) in time to watch our favourite Monday night quiz shows (Only Connect and University Challenge).

Shenton for a Couple of Nights

On Saturday we left our mooring on the southern section of the Ashby Canal and made our way north, taking on water at Lime Kilns. The towpath there was a quagmire and it was pouring with rain. It is rare that you drop your mooring lines into the cut to clean them up.

Flooded fields and Towpath

As we went north it was clear that lots of water was running out of both field drains and straight off the fields. Being cold we didn’t exactly want to move on, but we were committed to meeting up with family on Easter Sunday, so we pressed on.

Home of the iconic British brand

Home moorings for our friends Jim & Mary, near Stoke Golding

We finally got to our overnight moorings at Shenton early afternoon. We moored up at the Battlefield Moorings that provide access to Bosworth Field and the Battlefield Railway Line. They are close to the Shenton Aqueduct but are not marked by any signs which is confusing. 

Shenton moorings

The weather improved over the afternoon, so we explored the area in preparation for Sunday when the family were due to arrive. We walked up to the road Bosworth Field Site and the Visitor Centre. The café had just finished entertaining lots of youngsters in an Easter Bunny event. Lots of excited kids.

Richard III Reinternment Displays

The exhibition has some new displays related to reinternment of the ashes of Richard III (after its years under the car park in Leicester).

A small 0-6-0 saddle tank was busy going up and down the line between Shenton and Shackerstone pulling half-a-dozen coaches. We worked out how to access the station and noted the train times.

That evening the rain returned with vengeance and we hunkered down for yet another wet night. 

Enjoying Easter Brunch

On Sunday the forecast was for no rain! The first day since we left Weedon on Wednesday. Our family located us on the Shenton Embankment and after an enjoyable Easter Brunch we set off for the station. The saddle-tank engine was again on duty. We enjoyed a great nine-mile journey up to Shackerstone with an intermediate stop at Market Bosworth. The railway were running an Easter Bunny Hunt which we participated in. It meant leaving and returning to the train a bit sharpish after looking for clues. 

Train arriving

On the Battlefield Line

Returning by train to Shenston, we set off on foot with Matilda (aged one) in the “running buggy” and Hugh (aged five) walking up the Bosworth Field Visitor Centre and then on to Sutton Cheney for a late Sunday lunch at the Hercules Revived. The walk to the battlefield site was fine and there was less water around than on Saturday, the real problem occurred as we walked to Sutton Cheney. There is a direct path and it looked clear, as far as we could see, but after three field we found ourselves confronted with a freshly ploughed field with no provision for walkers! We just had to go for it. I had to carry the front wheel of the buggy at one point and then lost my walking boot in the mud in the process. We arrived at the pub covered in mud, except for Matilda. Luckily the staff were sympathetic. We spent quite some time cleaning up before entering the restaurant.

Looking at the Easter Chicks at the Hercules Revived

The Sunday roast was good and Hugh, Matilda and all the grown-ups ate well. It was a memorable meal and we can thoroughly recommend the inn.

Richard III Memorials at St James, Sutton Cheney

We returned to the boat via the easier road along the road and called into the charming church of St James at Sutton Cheney. It has an interesting relatively squat tower that is finished off in brick. The church also has strong Richard III connections being so close to the battle site. The Richard III Society have been closely connected to the church and for years have their own memorial in the church. In 2015, the church took part in the reinternment ceremonies with Richard’s coffin pausing at the gate and a short service taking place. 

Spot the Easter Egg

An elegant memorial to Sir William Roberts is a notable part of the church. It was adorned with a small Easter egg!

We had hot-cross buns on the boat and the children got into nightwear for their car journey home. An Easter Sunday to remember.