Wednesday, 21 March 2018

A bad weekend for blacking

A bad weekend for blacking
21 March 2018

Way back in the summer I booked the boat onto the slip way at Hawne Basin, opting for late March as I figured it offered the best chance for mild weather. Big mistake.

 Leaving the Longwood building site

Our two day trip from Longwood was pleasant weather wise, but being one of the first boats out and about meant we encountered a lot of submerged debris, notably a silt bank in Rushall bottom lock and then an array of washing machines and shopping trollies on the way up the Riders Green flight.

M5 gridlock

The boat was hauled out of the water at 8.30 am and promptly pressure washed, exposing lots of loose bitumen. The weekend forecast was for the Beast from the East Mk 2 so I made hay on the Friday, stripping it all down with a roto blaster disc and then applied a coat of undercoat to the gunnels, a layer of bitumen to the waterline and then a coat over all the sides in the afternoon. The afternoon was rounded off with a coat of topcoat to the gunnels before turning in for the night.

End of day 1

I woke on Saturday to a very different Hawne Basin. Gone was the mild spring weather and in its place it was -2c and blowing a gale straight into the shed. The bitumen was warmed but even so it cooled fast and went on very thick, more smearing than painting. That said, I managed to complete the blacking but there was no way I could do any more painting.


The plan had been to spend the weekend doing all sorts of painting, but all this had to be abandoned and Helen was called to come and rescue me. 

Stern snowdrift

The weather got worse and worse over the weekend with drifts building up around our home and I have to admit I feared for the boat exposed up on the slipway. It was with some trepidadion I returned on  Monday, with the temperature hovering just above freezing. I was so glad I hadn't tried to tough it out on the unheated boat as a drift had accumulated on the back deck and a small one had even accumulated inside the back cabin! Fortunately the systems on the boat survived the frost.

Internal snowdrift

The weather was just good enough to paint the stern and attach the fenders ready for relaunching on Friday - the rest of the painting will have to wait.

The application of the blacking is functional, but the thickness means it has more sags than usual. Hey ho - I will have to repeat the whole exercise again in three years.    

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Braunston's iron bridges

Braunston's iron bridges
January 2018

My ongoing exploration of Horsley Ironworks bridges took me to Braunston this week, a location where two iron arches span the junction joined by a short brick linking bridge.

This is an unusual configuration and one which I found challenging to photograph well. I started in Midland Chandlers car park but the side on view into the light really didn't work.

Then the heavens beamed on me and the pall of grey cloud blew away and by the time we had walked round via the main road bridge we were graced by a low January sun and clear blue sky.

Enough said about the bridges - I will let the photos speak for themselves and reveal why these two identical arches are among the waterways most iconic structures.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

CRT Jottings - Boaters Representatives Meeting

CRT Boaters Representatives meeting
3 Jan 2018

Yesterday (3rd Jan) was one of the periodic meetings between CRT and the Elected Boater Representatives on the National Council, an opportunity to explore issues both parties want to raise.

The main subjects discussed on this occasion included:

1. Trust management restructure.

  • The aim behind this restructure is to improve efficiency and at the same time to improve agility to respond to customer needs.
  • The trust has operated for 5 years within the structure developed during the transition from BW and it is now an opportune time to update itself.
  • The 2014 centralisation changes had many positives outcomes, but also some negative impacts on the flexibility of regional teams, and this process will address these issues.
  • The Trust will move to six regions each with a Regional Director with teams to deploy according to local needs.
  • The elements of the Trust which are best served by a national approach will be retained (eg. water management).
  • The Waterways Partnerships will be revised to reflect the new regions and given a clearer mandate to develop local strategy, income generation and local engagement.
  • This process is on going with the statutory consultation starting in mid December and running till mid February.
  • All senior managers (about 85) are impacted, a population which will reduce as roles are redefined.
  • A simplified "flatter" management grading system will be adopted.
  • The Representatives flagged a number of potential issues at both a governance and a practical on the ground level, and these concerns were noted for consideration in the deployment planning process.
2. Short Term Moorings
  • The Feb 2015 paper was revisited to consider if it remains fit for purpose.
  • The feeling both within CRT and among the boater representatives is that the mooring strategy is being applied inconsistently
  • There was a feeling that a "Mooring Etiquette Guide" is needed to help define the standards which are to be encouraged.
  • Particular attention is needed in relation to disabled moorings (these are self policed and CRT do not validate boaters with disabilities)
  • The regional short term mooring period guidance should be clarified to achieve greater consistency when applied.
  • Guidance should also be offered on the expectation to close of gaps between moored boats to maximise the mooring availability, particularly in honeypot sites.
  • There is feedback that some fishermen are asking for spaces to be left between moored boats. It was clarified that this spacing arrangement applies in just two locations and covers just the Winter Moorings. The policy is not applicable generally.
  • The Etiquette issue will be developed within the Navigation Advisory Group (NAG).
3. Wide Beam Boats
  • Feedback was sought on issues relating to the increasing number of widebeam boats navigating and mooring on the canals.
  • Particular issues flagged up included the introduction of wide beams as houseboats on narrow canals, which therefore create a navigation obstacle, unless they remain within a purpose built marina.
  • The increased number of wide beam craft on the Grand Union was highlighted given the limitations of navigable width in the extant water channel. It was observed that the canal was never designed for nor does it have a history of extensive wide beam usage.
  • The disproportionate increase in the introduction of wide beam craft on the Grand Union over the last decade is raising the significance of the issue.
  • It was observed that most wide beams are intended for use as house boats and the need to continually cruise to satisfy the licensing rules actually causes the navigation issue raised. 
  • Ideally the creation of off line moorings for wide beam craft would reduce the numbers navigating to just the occasional relocation trip. This  would also encourage the development of unpowered houseboats more suited for use as a home. 
  • The costs associated with supporting wide beam passages through the Braunston and Blisworth Tunnels was raised.
  • CRT staff listen to the various issues and will consider them in their future planning.
4. Licensing Review
  • As at 18th Dec the third phase of the consultation process had attracted 10,915 responses, which equates to one third of the license holders. 
  • This is a very encouraging response rate and will provide a statistically credible picture of boater views. TONIC (the review contractor) are currently analysing the data with CRT in readiness for a Board Meeting at the end of January.
  • Any changes will be phased in from April 2019 (not the current licensing year).
  • The needs of business boats will be considered in the light of what is agreed for recreational boats and subject to its own consultation process.
5. London Mooring Strategy
  • So far 1250 responses have been received out of a target of 4500, with a few more coming in after an extended deadline.
  • Feedback is being reviewed internally by CRT and results are expected by the end of February.
  • Overall the process applied to this review has attracted positive feedback.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Pottering in Pelsall

Pottering about on Pelsall Common
January 2018

Regular readers will know that we have a certain fondness for Pelsall Common, enven in the depths of winter.

Many readers will be familiar with the much photographed iron roving bridge spanning the village side of the common with the towpath leading up the Cannock Extension Canal, usually shown with the Fingerpost Pub in the background.

What is less celebrated is the more humble Pelsall Works Bridge at the Bloxwich end of the common. But take a closer look at this workaday iron bridge and you will disocver that it too was built by the Horsley Ironworks (then known as the Horsley Iron and Coal Company on account of its coal mining activities in its early years). 

Sure this is a simple flat top iron bridge which can be found across the coal mining area, but this one carries the date [ ] which sets it apart as the oldest dated bridge from these celebrated casters from Tipton. And whats more, I think that the tell grace of the classic Horsley arch with cast embellishments can be detected even in this early example.

Local boaters please note that whilst there is a sign up notifying a navigation closure from 20th Jan to mid March for major bridge repairs, I have been told by CRT that these are likely to be pushed back into next winter.

Monday, 1 January 2018

The iron bridges of the BCN

The iron bridges of the BCN
January 2018

There was a brief gap in the weather this afternoon and where better to spend it than down by the New Main Line taking a good look at those graceful iron bridges built by the Horsley Iron Works of Tipton?

I am very familiar with these structures but I mostly see them in the summer when the views are often obscured by foliage. Here are a selection of my favourites from today:

Bromford Junction
This location offers two Horsley bridges, with the older and more ornate spanning the Old Main Line at the foot of Spon Lane Locks and the other, newer and more functional one spanning the New Main Line.

Galton Bridge
This is truly one of the wonders of the BCN, still spanning the Galton Valley with its lattice of iron girders still carrying a roadway and and stunning as the day it was built. The only problem is getting photos which do it justice. The addition of the railway bridge to the north and the tunnel to the south undermine the view. I love the embellishments built into the design which go far beyond functional and make it an object of beauty.

Engine Arm Aqueduct
And if one is impressed with Galton Bridge the Engine Arm Aqueduct will blow you away. Its not the longest or tallest aqueduct but it is probably the most ornate iron version. Whereas a simple iron trough would have functioned perfectly well, the builders went to town with the gothic detailing which sets this structure head and shoulders above the rest.

Happy 2018 and roll on those long summer days when we can return to these iconic structures from the comfort of our narrowboats.