Thursday, 30 August 2012

Lancaster Canal. Glasson Dock to Galgate

Wednesday. Completely at odds with the ‘Listless’ theme, we spent three days franticly writing down everything we could possibly need for Frankie & Harry’s Wedding Weekend, then drove away from Glasson with the car full of an eclectic mix of posh clothes, camping gear and baking equipment, trying to ignore the inevitable nagging feeling that we’d forgotten something.

We stopped off at the top of the Ribble Link staircase to say goodbye to Dave & Kate on Bosley who were doing their crossing back down to Tarleton and the main system that day.
They were moored at Cadley, so we walked down and cadged a lift back. Bosley is a Braidbar Boat; less than two years old and absolutely gorgeous.
At 62’ Bosley has to go backwards, not only into the staircase, but under the bridge and into the top basin as well. Not an easy manoeuvre at the best of times and even trickier with a cross wind. With about 20 years boating under his belt Dave made it look easy.

After wishing them good luck on their voyage we drove to Manchester, where Ann-Marie had an appointment at a hairdresser’s, then carried on to Heather’s house near Grantham. Heather started dancing with Bourne Borderers at the same time as Ann-Marie and has been one of our most favourite people ever since. In her typical generous style she’d allowed us to invade her house and abuse her kitchen for three days while we produced 170 odd cupcakes. And she took us on a tour of Grantham’s supermarkets. Twice. In the evening we went to Smiths in Bourne and met up with some of the other members of BB. It was lovely to see them all again and made us feel very warm and cosy inside.

Thursday. In the morning we made a dozen trial cupcakes, with different insides and different toppings, so that Frankie could decide which she wanted when she arrived later that day.
In the afternoon we went for a walk around Denton reservoir, which is a feeder for the Grantham Canal. Heather said she’s never seen it so full. The canal is at least 10 years from complete restoration, but with the surge of national interest that the launch of the C&RT has created, its future is a lot brighter. There may yet come a day when we can visit Heather by boat.
When Frankie arrived we immediately accosted her with cake. With hindsight, asking someone to taste-test a dozen big cupcakes when they’ve just driven for two hours was probably not the wisest plan we’ve ever had, but she did her best, bless her. In the end she chose the strawberry coolie mix with the Italian meringue topping.
In the evening we had a superb barbeque in Heather’s garden and even after the bun-fest in the afternoon ate far more food than was good for us. This set the theme for the following three days.

Friday. Turning Heather’s kitchen into cupcake central was a piece of cake! (Did you see what we did there?) Using two ovens and four bun trays we soon had every available work surface covered in cooling confectionary. Dave did the mixing while Ann-Marie and Frankie took care of case separation and bun rotation. Seven batches later all the baking was done and we started on the toppings. Italian meringue takes a lot of whisking so the well-oiled machine slowed down a bit, but by 7:30pm we were all done, packed up and ready to go. We can’t thank Heather enough for her help and generosity. Friends like that are rare and precious. Hopefully she’ll eventually find something to do with 40 egg yolks.
We got to the Bateman’s Brewery Campsite in Wainfleet at about 9pm, which meant putting our new tent up in the dark. Another lesson in Hindsight. Many of the wedding guests were already there, some had arrived on Thursday, so there was a terrific welcome in the bar.

Saturday. Due partly to an excess of adrenalin, and partly to it being especially bright in our tent at 5am, we found ourselves wide awake. Trying to kill some time Dave practiced his speech
while Ann-Marie did impressions of the bride.
At 11 o’clock on Saturday we stepped out into the amazing world that is Planet Frankie. There is only one word that fits Frankie & Harry’s wedding. Fabulous. Absolutely Fabulous. Although the wedding party itself was quite a small portion of all the people camping, a lot of the others came into Boston to be outside the registry office when the bride arrived and were there to throw confetti when the new Mr & Mrs Brookes emerged. There was a short pause while a thunder-storm passed overhead, then, to the amusement of Boston’s Saturday shoppers, we processed across the market place to an Italian restaurant.
Later on, back at the brewery, there was a very good hog roast, followed by the formalities. The speeches went down well; both Dave & Paul spoke as Father of the Bride, followed by an exceptionally emotional tribute by Harry which had everyone reaching for the tissues. Max, as Best Man, finished it off in style, then the band struck up and we filled the dance-floor till midnight.

There are plenty of photos on facebook, so we won’t fill up your browser with lots more, but here are a few that we especially like.
Sunday. Continuation of festivities, albeit slightly subdued. There were trips out to the seaside and other places, then a local chap with a guitar kept us entertained in the evening.
We finally headed homeward on Monday, stopping off at Anne’s in Chesterfield on the way.
As a family gathering it was a resounding success, all Dave’s sisters were there, along with nearly all of their off-spring, as were Ann-Marie’s Mum & Dad and all of theirs.

One of the best things about the weekend, apart from our little girl getting married, is that Ann-Marie can now reveal to the world what has been occupying her every waking moment since New Year.
Rather stunning isn’t it? If she’d known before she started it just how big it was, the happy couple would probably have got a toaster instead.
This is how it got dried after we washed it.
We got back to Glasson in the evening, buzzing from one of the best weddings ever, but very happy to be back in our little boat and our own bed.

The weather forecast for Tuesday was a bit windy but dry, so we decided to take Legend back up through the locks and onto the main line again. Getting off the wall in the basin against the wind was a struggle, the locks on the Glasson branch were really hard work and the wind just made them harder and there was so much weed in the water that at one stage we lost all forward motion and Dave had to go down the weed hatch to clear the prop of this stringy stuff.
By the time we got up to Galgate we’d both had enough so we found the first free mooring, stopped, lit the fire and slobbed out in front of a film.
It’s good to be home.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Lancaster Canal. Garstang to Glasson Dock.

The next stop on our tour of the North was St Andrews. We stayed with Dave’s Mum’s Cousin Mary in her beautiful house and were treated like royalty.
We looked at lots of old photos and poured over family tree stuff till late in the evening, then in the morning, Mary took us for a walk around the town, the ruined cathedral and the lovely beaches.
We started off gently strolling along so as not to tire our aging relative Tbut ended up having to get a shifty on just to keep up. Among the family records that Mary has were some photos that we hadn’t seen before, including this one.
We think it’s 1960, just before John & Felicia went back to Australia after getting married in Sheffield.

Back row from left: John & Felicia, Chris (holding Richard) & Margot, Mary (holding Kate) & Bill, (Daves Mum & Dad) & Michael.
Middle row: Grandma & Grampa Wood
Front row: Phillip, Dave, Judith & John.
Only two of the adults in that picture are still alive. Dear reader, if there’s one thing we’ve learnt, it’s this: Whatever your dreams may be, waste no time in chasing them.

There was one other document that caught our eye but more about that later.

On our way back to the boat a small diversion took us to Falkirk and it seemed silly not to go and have a look. Here's a link
Of course we’d seen pictures but as with anything on that sort of scale they don’t do it justice.
As well as being impressed by the Wheel itself, we thought the area around the basins and visitors centre was very well done.
There are interactive play areas for little kids………

and not-so-little kids.

Legend was on a seven day mooring at Garstang, so when we got back we set off north towards the Glasson branch. We weren’t intending to go all the way down to Glasson, but once we’d turned the corner and gone through the first lock we didn’t have much choice.
The branch doesn’t see a lot of boat movement, so the banks are quite overgrown and shallow near the edges.
There’s also lots of stringy pond weed trying its hardest to get wrapped round the prop; Legend seemed to spend almost as much time in reverse as Dave tried to keep it clear. And the locks are of yet another unique design and very hard work,
but for all that it’s a lovely stretch of water and completely worth the effort. This is what greets you at the end.
Glasson Basin. Sometimes it’s calm and serene.
Sometimes not.

The Lancashire Coastal Path goes through Glasson Docks and we’ve been for walks in both directions, and even managed a 14 mile hike along the disused railway line the once linked the dock to Lancaster. Here’s some of the birdlife we’ve seen.
And here’s something we found in the village shop.
It looks perfect on the Squirrel.

Now, about that other document. At the top of it was “Parish of Garstang” which caught our eye as Garstang was where Legend was moored at the time. It was a death certificate from 1924 for Great Aunt Rosalie who, aged 26, was swept off the promenade into the sea at Blackpool and was washed up on Preesal Sands three days later. She was buried in Pilling, which is only about 4 miles from Glasson Dock, so armed with our OS map we set off in search of her. In the end it wasn’t that hard. She’s in the little cemetery beside the St William of York Catholic Church.
It seemed like a nice place to be. Here’s a photo of her aged 20.


Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Lancaster Canal. Catforth to Garstang.

What a lovely little town Garstang is! It’s got that great community feeling that you only get in busy, well supported small market towns. There are flowers everywhere and it comes as no surprise to find it’s won Britain in Bloom gold awards. The Lancaster canal runs along the southern end of the town and is nearly all seven day visitor moorings with lots of boats coming and going all day. It’s the perfect place to leave Legend while we go to Edinburgh.

The Squirrel is back together again; the collar and reducing ring are in place and sealed,
There’s a new rope seal on the door, a new grate holder, the chimney is all rubbed down and a there’s a lovely coat of stove blacking over the whole thing. It looks as good as new and certainly a lot better than we’ve ever seen it.
The only other repair that it needed was where one of the little screws that hold the glass clips in the door had sheared off and had to be drilled out and tapped to the next size up. As a preventative measure, Dave did the other one at the same time, so hopefully it’ll now go on for a good few years with nothing else major needing doing to it. Having the time to plan a job and then do things properly is one of the joys of this lifestyle.

A little mystery that’s been annoying us for a while has been solved just recently. We’ve had a damp patch in the front corner of the boat where a small amount of water has been soaking into the floorboards. Ignoring it hasn’t worked, so we finally got round to some proper detective work. A process of elimination eliminated all the obvious things; water pump, tank filler hose, plumbing connections etc. and left us scratching our heads. Then we stopped at a water point and filled the tank, which is when we discovered that there is an air vent pipe which comes out of the top of the water tank and instead of going outside or up through the deck, it ends above the middle of the tank below the level of the filler. When we fill up the last pint or so overflows through the vent pipe into the top of the tank and runs down the side onto the floorboards. We’ve aquired a length of plastic pipe to fit over it so we can raise the end higher than the filler and cure the problem, all we’ve got to do now is squirm into the gap between the well deck floor and the tank to fit it. Has anyone got a small boy they’re not using?

In the spirit of the Olympics we did our own biathlon this week; the canal meanders around contour lines so in order to recce the next section we did a cycling short-cut of about five miles to a bridge, then chained the bikes to a fence and walked another couple of miles up to the junction with the Glasson branch. This 2½ mile long branch drops down through 5 locks to Glasson dock on the River Lune estuary. There’s a basin and marina down there and visitor moorings and we plan on staying for a few days next week. On the far side of the junction in Galgate we found a cafe with outside tables in the sunshine, just perfect for a pot of tea and a sticky. How very convenient.

As the weather took a turn for the better we made the most of it and had a grand day out. In the morning we climbed a Pennine – that is to say we went up enough to get a view;
you don’t want to overdo these things – then in the afternoon took ourselves off to the sea-side. Cleveleys sounded like a nice spot for a cream tea,
and so it turned out to be.

We love it when a plan comes together, so this extended weekend has been a delight. With the precision planning of a military logistics corps, we set off on a Round Trip of Relatives in the North. Dave’s Auntie Margot, along with Cousin Richard & Jill live in Destination No.1; Carlisle. We went via the Lake District, just a quick detour through and a lunch stop by Basenthwaite Lake.
As an added bonus Phllippa, Elizabeth, Bernadette and her kids were at Carlisle as well, so there was a house full of raucous Woods sitting round the dining table in shifts and fighting over Auntie Margot’s Yorkshire puddings. Dave felt as if he was six again, he said it was so much like the old days it was scary.
Destination No.2 was Edinburgh, where Aussie cousin Libby was singing at the Fringe. Uncle David, Liz, Rosalie & Mike were also up from Down Under to give support and see a bit of the UK. Arriving in the middle of the Fringe is probably the most bananas way to see Edinburgh for the first time.
We rendezvoused in the city and had lunch sitting round a table on the pavement on the Royal Mile, surrounded by all the grandeur of Scotland’s majestic architecture, and the most surreal and bizarre street performers in the world. In the evening we went to the Gilded Balloon to see Libby and the rest of “Lady Sings it Better” who have been described by one Fringe critic as “An explosion in a cupcake factory.” Gobsmacked, we were. David & Liz are duly proud of their Daughter and her cohorts who have been getting five star reviews and were invited to perform in The Best of the Fringe.
Go on facebook, twitter, whatever – spread the word. The after-show party was a meal in a pub before we departed up the A90 towards St Andrews and Destination No3.

Between the wars the Wood family in Sheffield made a concerted effort to populate the country with Marys, Christophers and Johns. At any family gathering, when we’re not sure to whom we’re talking, we use one of those and ask where they were evacuated to. Never fails.

Dave’s Mum was Mary Wood. Her cousin, also Mary Wood, (see what we mean?) now lives in St Andrews and after a quiet night in Glenrothes that’s where we’re off to today.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Lancaster canal. Preston to Catforth.

Ok, who spotted the deliberate mistake? Well done John, you are correct; the Lancaster canal is 41¼ miles long (44 if you include the Glasson Branch, which we will), not 24 as reported in the last post. God knows where we got that number from, but it means there’s almost twice as much of it as we thought! As expected we’re now back to our “Not very far, not very often” method of travel so at the moment Legend is moored at Catforth,
still on page one.


Although we don’t have a television we managed to watch the Olympics opening ceremony. The Vue cinema chain was showing the whole BBC broadcast for free so we spent six hours in a pair of comfy leather VIP seats in Preston. We normally watch films on a 10” portable DVD player. Having to turn your head to see the edge of the screen while the whole building vibrates with the sound was a bit of a culture shock and we spent most of the drive home saying “Pardon?” It was good though. Watching the Industrial Revolution take place in a sports stadium is something you don’t forget in a hurry and Chariots of Fire will never be the same again.

Normally, life on a boat means you rarely get more than 10 feet away from each other. You look forward to going visiting because it will give you the chance to sit at a table without your knees touching. Above all the other constraints of off-grid boat life, above power generation, water storage, waste management, keeping warm and the hundred or so other things you have to be constantly aware of, living – literally - in each other’s pockets, was one of the hardest things to get used to. Personal space, we’ve found, is about the most precious thing we own. How much we’ve adapted to our sardine tin existence is now being put to the test. Ann-Marie’s mum went in for a hip operation and we decided that the best thing would be for Ann-Marie to go down on the train and stay for a week, putting us at opposite ends of the country.

Dave has taken the opportunity to separate our little Morso Squirrel stove from its flue in order to replace the collar and reducing ring, both of which have been broken and held together with fire cement since we bought the boat. Unsurprisingly, dismantling it was a messy job, and involved removing a whole bucket-full of soot and ash, so it’s just as well that Ann-Marie wasn’t there to see it. With the feet removed from the stove, there should be just enough give in the water pipes to get the new collar in.
Getting hold of a new 5 ¼” collar was a piece of cake, it’s a Morso spare part, but a new reducing ring wasn’t so easy. Morso not only don’t make one, but specifically don’t recommend reducing the flue diameter. It is, however, common practice in narrowboats and our flue, like most older boat’s, is 4½” The reason you can get away with it, and in fact need it, is because the height of the flue is so short; the reduced diameter makes the gasses go up quicker resulting in a more dependable and stronger draw. Apparently. It might just be because a big fat chimney would take up too much room. Whatever, that’s what we’ve got. It used to be the case that any chandlery that dealt in stove parts kept them in stock, but new boats have to comply with a European Directive which stipulates double skinned flues, which are fatter and don’t need a reducing ring. Thankfully, after a lengthy web search we eventually came across one, which is now on its way to Ann-Marie in Hampshire. So now, on her way back, as well as the rucksack full of girl-luggage, she’s now got a big lump of steel to haul across London.

Dave’s also re-wired the lights in the saloon so that there is a switch at both ends,
which means that we don’t have to go through half the boat in the dark before we switch a light on, and we can now switch on either 4 lights in the settee end, or 3 lights in the table end, or 2 wall lights. It doesn’t sound particularly exciting but it makes a big difference.

When Ann-Marie gets back to the boat, we’ve got a week with nothing on the calendar. Hopefully we’ll get out for a walk or two; there are no shortage of footpaths up here and the little bit of the canal we’ve seen so far has been just a lovely as everyone said it was. Next Wednesday our 14 days will be up here so we’ll move the boat on through Bilsborrow towards Garstang. We need to find a nice secure looking mooring because we’re going to Edinburgh. Dave’s cousin Libby from Australia is performing at the Fringe and her parents, David & Liz, are coming over from Sydney to see her and go on a whirlwind UK tour. David hasn’t been here since 1958 when he boarded a ship to the New World as a £10 Pom, and Liz has never been so it’s all very exciting.

Our plan for cheap motoring got a boost last week when, with the addition of 3 wiper blades and a light bulb, the car passed its MOT. And we got a half-price internet deal from Halfords so it only cost £27. Result!

Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. Stourbridge Canal. BCN. Grand Union Canal. Kinver to Kixley Wharf

There are 25 locks from Hyde Corner to Merry Hill, but we had a fabulous day working up through them all. The Stourton and ...