More on Wellies!

Back in 2009 I reported on my discovery of a pair of concrete (cement) filled wellies embed in the bank on the Stoke Bruerne flight and followed it up a year later by my discovery of another pair near Long Buckby. 
Concrete Wellies at Stoke Bruerne in 2009

More Concrete Wellies near Long Buckby 2010

On a walk in Cosgrove last week we discovered that the ever resourceful British Waterways maintenance gangs appeared to have another use for their wellies - repairing a leaking drain plug on the Iron Truck in 1982. The new interpretation board has the details. I wonder if it was the same gang.

Wellie saves the day

An Image of William Bliss

The great writer on canoeing and waterways William Bliss was reluctant to have his image published. In the frontispiece of his book Heart of England by Waterways, published in 1933, he is shown head down in a canoe presumably reading some notes. However, I have recently managed to access a likeness.

Frontispiece of Heart of England by Waterway, 1933 
Having discovered recently that there is more interest in Bliss than I thought, I decided to revisit my earlier research on his life but use my recent subscription to the British Newspaper Archive to see what it turned up. In the archive I managed to find out more about his professional life in the law, and I even found an announcement for a lecture he gave promoting his book Heart of England by Waterways, but best of all I was able to find an article in the Daily Mirror about the canoeing events at the 1948 London Olympics and the attendance of William Bliss.

The canoeing events for the first post-war Olympics were held at Henley-on-Thames and the August 1948 article in the Mirror was written by their celebrated columnist William Connor  or "Cassandra". In his article Connor used 84 year-old Bliss as representing the antithesis of the modern canoeing  racing. The title of the piece is "A canoe is for canoodling says Old William". Bliss (Old William of the title) was of course more of a paddler than a racer and Connor has him complaining that the racing they were both watching was "madness". He is quoted stating that "water can be drunk - by those who have a taste for that sort of thing. It can be swum in, fished in, and rowed, sailed and paddled upon - especially paddled upon. But this is madness". In common with such lighthearted articles of the time the article is illustrated with cartoons of some of the characters involved in the narrative but the main cartoon is of Bliss.

William Bliss cartoon, Daily Mirror, August 12, 1948
Bliss also appears to be a dapper dresser with a button hole- every inch the retired London solicitor? The hat in the cartoon also looks similar that worn in the photograph above. The article reveals that Bliss had watched Henley Royal Regatta of sixty-four consecutive years, which given his alleged distaste for racing canoeing appears slightly mysterious but then Bliss appeared to think canoes were reserved for other matters - "to go where others become stranded, shoot rapids and explore lovely backwaters" - the article quotes, and as the title of the article suggests, Bliss thought they were "to make love in."

Bliss died just over a year after the Mirror article was published following a car accident near his house in Buckinghamshire.

William Bliss Canoe Trail

Until very recently I wondered if I was one of only a handful of enthusiasts of the work of William Bliss, writer on canoeing and the inland waterways. If you have followed my blog for some time, you may recall that I posted a few articles around 2013 about the books of William Bliss and also his canoeing with Sir John Squire. I also recently mentioned Bliss to the canoeist and CRT writer in residence Jasper Winn but his response led me to believe that William Bliss is still an unsung hero of the waterways.

But blow me down (with a feather), I have just discovered by browsing that things have moved in the world of William Bliss and canoeing. A group of canoe enthusiasts has developed a long-distance (862 mile) canoe trail along the inland waterways of England and Wales in the name of William Bliss and have a web-site and Facebook page related to journeys along the trail.

I was really pleased to find the trail being advertised, and fascinated to discover that some canoeists had completed the marathon in 2017. It was also interesting to find a group had completed the route back in 1993 at the time of the bicentenary of British Canals and posted some old photographs of their journey.

However, it got really interesting when I read the web page relating to William Bliss on the official site. It contained, word-for-word, my text from a post on Bliss in 2013. The Bliss Trail site even used the image I posted of the dust-cover of my copy of "Canoeing".

Now I am pleased that the world of canoeing has become more interested in William Bliss and pleased my blog has been read. Although my blog is not copyright it would have been polite to have been given an acknowledgement or perhaps even a link.

Bradford on Avon

Albert in Bradford on Avon lock, December 2003

Boat in Bradford on Avon Lock, January 2019

The other weekend, well January 19/20th to be precise, we stayed with our extended family at Woolley Grange near Bradford on Avon to celebrate Maggie's 70th. We chose the location because we wanted  a luxury hotel and to have all the family around. It's not the best time of the year to have a birthday because you can't rely on the weather and the Saturday of the weekend was no exception.

Now regular readers (are there any?) and friends will know that Bradford on Avon means quite a bit to us having purchased Albert from Bradford in late 2003. We spent some time in Bradford on Avon Marina during the winter of 2003 waiting for the stoppages to be lifted so we could bring Albert up the Thames, Oxford Canal and Grand Union to Yardley Gobion.

Lock Inn Cafe, Bradford on Avon
(Note the sign related to Brexit)

A wet Lock Inn Cafe

One of the pleasures of boating around Bradford over 15 years ago was visiting the wonderful Dick & Jane's lock-side cafe with its quirky surroundings and wholesome food. We just had to visit there again on the Saturday - on an impulse .

Now you may remember that we had particularly heavy rain on the Saturday, but in a break in the rain we trudged down to the canal to find Dick and Jane's (a.k.a the Lock Inn Cafe) is still very much as before. The only problem we had was our large family group couldn't easily fit into main rooms which were busy with loads of other families. We had to eat outside under and awning fitted with space heaters because the rain started again. Not the best situation, but then we should have booked! However, its good to know the cafe still popular - long may it be so.

I have to point out that Sunday's weather was was much better and over the weekend we made full use of the hotel's brilliant facilities (spa and pool). Just a pity we didn't arrange to have better weather on the Saturday!