Sunday, 12 November 2017

All pumped up

Water pump replacement
November 2017

We spent all summer with an ailing fresh water system which was quite literally held together with gaffer tape and cable ties, standard fare for boat bodgers like me!

New pump and strainer assembled on the bench

The water system has remained largely unaltered since we bought the boat 12 years ago so I guess it was time for a bit of attention and up grading.

The most pressing issue was the intermittent, but relentless drip from the hot pipe under the sink. Now this issue was probably self inflicted because when I built the new galley a couple of years ago I reused a section of tap tails to reduce the food grade hose to fittings which would work on a standard Ikea tap. In the process of swapping the pipework over I suspect I applied pressure to a plastic reducer which then split under the jubilee clip. Of course, this was not immediately apparent and just seemed to drip from a poor jubilee connection. As a result we spent five months with an ice cream container under the taps which we emptied periodically.

Out with the old

If that wasn't enough, the pump became increasingly rough when it operated, grinding away with failing bearings. Then there was the puny 1ltr accumulator which wouldn't hold pressure and so the knackered pump cycled away every 20 minutes or so and we resorted to turning it off overnight.

With the pump's end in sight I took the plunge and bought a complete  Jabasco pump and 5ltr accumulator assembly when we passed through Braunston in August, a precaution which ensured the old one lasted out the 2017 cruising season.

With the boat laid up for the winter the time came to strip out all the old kit and install the new. Of course, it was kind of inevitable I would be short of some fittings so a further visit to the chandlery was needed to source a water strainer, a replacement pipe reducer, a "T" insert and some extra water pipe.

The source of all those drips

All went together well till I discovered that I couldn't get a seal on the two brass reducers on the accumulator. It turned out that Midland Chandlers has supplied the correct brass fittings but failed to include any washers to seal the faces. Hurray for City Plumbing in Aldridge who raided their oddment box and so solved my problem for free. 

A proper sized accumulator

Whilst I was tearing the fresh water system to bits I also replaced the filter cartridge in the drinking water tap, a £90 import from General Ecology which saves us using bottled water. This was the first time I had changed in in 18 months and the old filter looked very dodgy even was trying out patience when in use. £90 is a high price each year but the convenience probably justifies the spend.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Stepping up a gear

Another new gearbox
October 2017

Yes, that's right - another new gearbox has been fitted into Wand'ring Bark.

Regular readers will remember the saga of our gearbox which had to be replaced by RCR back in May as we set of on our summer jaunt. Well, from the off I was never entirely convinced that all was well with the new PRM 125 lurking at the back of the engine. When I engaged reverse it always dropped in with a solid thunk but forward was always a silky smooth affair, so silky that from time to time it didn't engage and the gearbox slipped for a few seconds before biting, and then all was well for the day.



Initially I put this down to a slightly overfilled gearbox and so after a week or so, I drained the ATF down to the level of the drain plug. This seemed to fix the slipping problem but it still didn't engage very positively. All was well till we got back to the Midlands and then, after the Black Country Boating Festival it started to slip most mornings. 

At that stage I could have called RCR who did the original replacement, but as the gearbox worked when warm and we were just a few days from home I decided to get the boat back to base and then consider my options. An inspection of the ATF revealed a dark red liquid rather then the cherry red I was expecting, and something was clearly amiss. A call went out to RCR asking for a review under their warranty, but there is no hurry said I, as I only live 10 mins from the boat.



This morning I received a call from RCR to say an engineer was on his way and could I get to our boat in 10 mins? Well, I was just finishing my breakfast so I stretched it to 15 mins and sure enough there was an RCR van waiting for me as I arrived. At this stage I was expecting a quick 10 minute inspection to assess the situation and decide what to do next, but then the apprentice bent into the van and out came a brand new PRM gearbox. Clearly this was not going to be a quick job.....

I set to cleaning the boat ready for a council hygiene inspection tomorrow whilst the engineers set about the task of removing and installing the gearbox. It appears that this is quite a common problem with mechanical gearboxes where the cone clutches fail to engage fully and slip till the metal warms up and expands. The diagnosis I offered on the phone was so typical that a replacement was immediately ordered from PRM who ended up paying RCR to fit a replacement unit.



All this activity was played out under the strangest of red skies drought on by a mix of Saharan dust and ask from Spanish forest fires, all carried to us on the periphery of a hurricane tracking north up the west coast of Ireland.



I have to say that situations like this confirm the wisdom of having big jobs done by RCR's contracting arm. Had the gearbox been replaced by a boatyard somewhere outside the Midlands how would I have had it repaired and would it have been done promptly and with good grace? At least with RCR I am more than a one off transaction and they place a value on their reputation. Their communications leave a bit to be desired, but when the chips are down they are always there and if things go wrong they will come back and sort things out without quibble. That sort of peace of mind has got to be worth something.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

CRT meeting jottings

Elected Boater Meeting 
4th October 2017

Once every three months or so the elected boater representatives to the CRT National Council meet up with CRT staff to review topical issues which we need to understand in order to offer a meaningful insight into the National Council, which last met in September.

The meetings take place at Aqua House in Birmingham, which occupies a site next to the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal just below the BT tower. If you ever need to visit just aim for the tower and you cant go wrong.

Having arrived by bus I decided to approach via the towpath, walking up from the Walsall Road. I have to admit that it wasnt long before I removed my headphones on account of all the rather dodgy looking characters loitering in the undergrowth. This is clearly a favoured area for rough sleepers and even as a big chap I was more than a little intimidated, not that I had any trouble. With the weather on the turn I felt very sorry for individuals who find themselves in cardboard boxes in this dark, dank and seedy area.

Anyway, I arrived and was  joined by three of the three private boater representatives, plus Nigel Hamilton who is the other Boating Business Representative for a 2.5 hour meeting which included discussions on the following topics:

Organisational Structure
As with so many largish organisations, we struggle to understand how CRT is organised and which departments do what. In an ideal world there would be a full organisational structure with up to date job descriptions, but this just doesn't exist and would consume a lot of resource to compile and maintain. We decided to have a dynamic walk through session in 2018 when the structure will be explored and the areas we are interested will be looked at in closer detail.

Clean Air issues
Even before the mayor of London announced his intention to press for tighter smoke emissions we were aware of a government initiative covering similar ground. The mayors intervention serves to highlight the issue and will probably advance action to address a known issue.
The CRT view is that any change will require new primary legislation, which isn't likely to occur in the short term, but the issue is on the horizon and approaching. The impact of any changes will include boaters, particularly those that run engines and burn coal / wood. The  Trust is therefore starting to consider what they can do alongside what boaters can do.

Boat Safety
The increasing number of boats subject to significant alteration (overplating, extensions / stretch, rooftop storage etc) has an impact on the RCD approval which was issued when the post 1995 boats were originally registered. There is no credible infrastructure to re assess modified boats to ensure they remain safe. 
This issue impacts BSS and will be covered in a future session when all impacted parties will be present, including insurers.

Licensing Review
Stages 1 and 2 are complete. The outcomes have delivered "rich" feedback which have taken longer to collate than was originally anticipated. The outcomes are being presented to the NAG (National Advisory Group) next week and the mainly e-mail based questionnaire is being sent to all private license holders next week.
The aim of the final stage of the consultation is to seek feedback highlighting preferred options and identifying unanticipated consequences. This is a one off opportunity to amend the approach to licensing  and mainly provides free format text boxes for comments.
Business License holders (particularly hire boat fleets) are not included in this process and will be reviewed when the approach to private boats is agreed. 
There is a concern that only the vocal 10% will respond and the mass will not offer feedback, distorting the perception of general opinion. Please take 10 mins to review the survey and respond during the 10 weeks available.

Water Management
There seems to be an increasing number of pinch points around the system where wider narrowboats are getting stuck. The question was asked if there is a common cause (maybe forced grouting?) and this will be taken away and considered as part of the repair programme.

Equality Act Customer Services Policy
We were offered a short presentation on the above which is in response to the Equaltities Act and replaces the disability Discrimination Act, Special Provisions Act and Race relations Act which we are familiar with.
This policy is a work in progress to ensure CRT's Policy and Practices comply.

London Mooring Strategy

  • Some scope to increase mooring space has been identified (room for about 100 boats) but much of this is outside the central area and is not all owned or controlled by CRT.
  • Provision of moorings by non CRT providers will be encouraged
  • Improved short stay moorings in 11 locations which will be subject to daily inspection to prevent abuse.
  • Four new pre bookable moorings will be made available, building on the success of Rembrant Gardens in 2017. Olympic Park, Kings Cross, Limehouse Cut and Regents Park. Pre bookable trader moorings will be created in Kings Cross.
  • Winter Moorings to be improved outside the central area.
  • Improved facilities are palanned over a number of years including water, rubbish, pump outs, elsans, low impact living encouragements. 
  • Improved communication between boaters and the Trust.
  • Increased Business Boating activity.
  • Encourage accessible and affordable access to water for all - eg canoe launch sites.

Online Mooring Reduction Policy
Results from 2009 to 2017 (587 on line moorings removed in response to new off line  moorings) were shared and the programme will be the subject of a review in 2018 including consultation and feedback.



Wednesday, 4 October 2017

2017 Big Southern Cruise - Final tally

2017 Southern Cruise - the final tally
October 2017

I have long since given up logging my daily progress but having completed this years big cruise which lasted five months, I thought it would be a good idea to plug the destinations into the Canal Planner and see just how far we travelled.

Over the period we travelled 752 miles and passed through 710 Locks.

I could cut and dice this in all sorts of ways but one of the key metrics is the general speed of travel with the butty in tow. My gps tells me that on the narrow canals my maximum average speed is 2.3 mph, rising to about 3.5 running downstream on the Thames. If I turn and head upstream this speed drops to less then 2mph as I encountered on the Wey, Lee and Stort. As you can appreciate, I prefer to make my river passages downstream!

The boats are now laid up for the winter with a long list of repairs to be completed. 

But as one chapter closes another one starts, and the world of Wild Side never rests. We have lots of apples in the shed and about 2000 jars of preserve of preserve to be made in the next six months.

The plan is to start the 2018 season at Droitwich, as usual, and then head north for Liverpool and then over the Pennines to Leeds before heading south via the Huddersfield Narrow to join the festival season at Cosgrove in July. I think I need to log into Canal Plan again.....

OK - have had a look at next years plan and although it seems longer on the map it is actually a very achievable 696 miles and 566 locks, not including any diversions along the way.


Sunday, 1 October 2017

Firing on all cylinders

Firing in all cylinders
September  2017

In my last post we left the boat as an inert lump of steel and an engine which seemed to have completely expired. Well, I am glad to say that the breath of life has been cast over it and it now starts with that classic puff of blue smoke all Beta owners know and love.

When I left the boat on its mooring the starter battery seemed to have suffered a cataclysmic failure, which was rather odd as it was working fine just 10 minutes previously. No only was the starter motor not turning, there was absolutely no power reaching the control panel. Odd.

I have never replaced the started battery in the 10 years I have owned the boat so I have always been expecting its demise, but whilst it keeps bringing the engine to life on demand, why  change it? I assumed the aged battery was the culprit so used a jump lead from the main battery bank to see if power reached the control panel - but no joy.

I therefore retired to the club house where a MacMillan fundraiser was underway and bemoaned my problem with a fellow boater. He suggested I check the next item in the electrical circuit being the isolator switch, so i ventured back out into the rain and by passed this unit as well. Sadly this had the same negative result so it was back to the club house for more tea, cakes and head scratching.

Finally a fellow boater joined our circle and suddenly said "lets go and fix your boat" and ran off to get his multi meter. His opening comment was, "I bet this will be a simple problem" and so we began the process of working forward from the batteries where we knew we had power and back from the control panel where we knew we didnt. After maybe 15 mins the problem seemed to me in the wiring loom and then suddenly. there is was. One of those multi plugs shrouded in a plastic cover. 

Immediately it all became clear. When I had stopped the boat I had a look at the ATF level and quality, as I have some doubts about the new PRM125 gearbox. In accessing the dipstick I had lifted a coolant pipe and in so doing has lifted the wiring loom it was attached to. It was probably loosened during the installation of the new gearbox and my lift was the straw which broke the proverbial camel's back.

With the multi plug pressed back into place the lights cane on, the warning siren sounded and the engine burst into life. Wonderful - life is good!

But then there is the new gearbox. It has a tendency to not engage in forward when I start it,
particularly after a few days idle. It whines and then kicks in, a delay which is disconcerting and underpinned by ATF fluid which looks more smoky than cherry red. RCR (who did the installation) have been contacted and I will let you know the outcome.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

All stop and finished with engines

Back to Longwood 
September 2017

This really is the end of the line. Martin joined me on Monday morning and together we moved the boats through Whittington and Hopwas to Fazeley where we used the water and elsan at the ex CRT premises at Peels Wharf. A notice informed us that the property had been bought, but it all looked shut up and empty. I did wonder if the water and elsan points would continue because having slops emptied on your premises wouldn't be everyone idea of a good neighbour.

 Redevelopment at Castle Vale

Then it was up the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal to The Dog and Doublet, mooring up with time to pick some sloes before tucking into some steak and ale pie to keep us going. On reflection its better to moor below the lock to so have the benefit of a noise shield because the nearby motorway is a bit loud above the pub.

My crew for the trip home

We consulted the map and decided that even with the butty in tow, it was possible to get back to Longwood in one long day. That meant the alarms were set for 6.00am and we were on the move before 7.00am, passing through the first of about 35 locks leading to the Wolverhampton Level at Aldridge.

Whilst we started out in thick fog, with the Curdworth Tunnel emerging from the mist, it had all burned off by 10.00am and then continued in glorious autumnal sunshine. Locks and miles passed and we soon found the fields of Bodymoor Heath giving way to the urban sprawl of Minworth and the ongoing redevelopment of the Cincinatti Milacron site.

Tame Valley Canal

At Spaghetti Junction we veered off the bustling mainline (we had seen 3 boats) and started into the remote "northern reaches" via the Tame Valley Canal. This canal was one of the last to be built and shares many design features with the Shropshire Union, including some spectacular cuttings and  embankments. The big obstacle is the Perry Barr Locks which are generally well maintained but are used so little that many have sides covered in hanging foliage.


By rights the area at the top of the locks should be an ideal place to pause for the night. There are several houses nearby and CRT offers rubbish bins, toilets and even showers. I popped into the block and was staggered by the cleanliness, I doubt that they are used very often. I think that there is an elsan point but the door has been painted recently and I couldn't get it open without resorting to a screwdriver from the boat. The big downside is the unfortunate tendency for criminal activity. Only last month a new boat arrived at Longwood with its  windows smashed having been left unattended in the area for a couple of hours.


Perry Barr Locks

Then you are into the spectacular cuttings and embankments in the Hamstead area, one minute enveloped in a tunnel of trees with bridges soaring overhead, and then you are flying above the rooftops with views over Sandwell to the hills of Dudley. This is unmistakably a BCN waterway, with its distinctive narrows built for the collection of tolls. It's impossible not to feel a touch of the pioneering spirit when towpath walkers observe that they havn't seen another boat for months. We passed at the end of the school day and were more than a little relieved to leave the footbridges behind us.


Hamstead Cutting

The cool of the evening was upon us as we turned into the Rushall Canal and the last three miles of our journey. The canal became narrower, shallower, and more weedy with the navigation channel just a little wider that the boat. You have to keep the the centre line or you are in all sorts of trouble.



The Ganzies started well enough with all the locks set in our favour, as had the Perry Barr flight. In truth I think most of the locks leak empty. 

Rushall Bottom Lock

But then we reached lock four and it all went to pot. This lock in a cutting is tricky at the best of times, with its lopsided subsidence meaning that the gates always close by themselves - more a problem if you are descending single handed. We entered the lock and found that in spite of their habit of self closing, the offside bottom gate wouldn't close. It would swing to within 4 inches of the bottom liner but there is jammed. We opened and closed, closed and opened and after an hour of prodding around we called CRT for assistance with a keb. We had a cup of tea and with darkness approaching we were about to pull the boats out of the lock and wait for the light tomorrow. But then I rattled the gate in frustration and it juddered into place, more or less.

A gap too far

We didn't mess with the gate again so filled the lock as fast as possible and got out at the top before calling CRT with the good news. Only today I met another boater who had come up the flight and had problems in three locks one of which necessitated CRT support.

The light had completely gone as we set out on the mile pound, a straight and shallow waterway which is so full of lily pads that you have to creep along the centre, no easy task in the pitch black. The two top locks aka The Moshes were ascended in the dark and we abandoned the boats at the boat club two hours behind schedule.


The butty relieved of its load

The following day was spent shuttling between boat and home, moving the huge amount of stuff back to our house for the winter. Removing all that weight from the butty over the past few weeks has revealed a line of Thames weed, and by the end of the process this was nearly 4 inches wide at the front. No wonder it was hard to tow at the start of the season.

And there is one final twist to this tale. As I moored the boats up for the winter I checked over the engine and when I tried to start it again - nothing. No lights, no alarms, no starter motor. Its as though there is no starter battery at all. All the connections seem ok so maybe the old starter battery suffered a complete collapse, odd but at least I have 6 months to sort it out.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Huddlesford Heritage Gathering 2017

Huddlesford Heritage Gathering 2017
September 2017


Huddlesford represents for many traders, ourselves included, the last event of the year so there was something of an end of term feel about it all. For some it represents the end of a busy season and some welcome time away from the "circuit", but for others it marks the springboard for paid winter jobs.



The event is run by the Lichfileld and Hatherton Canal Restoration Trust and hosted by Lichfield Cruising Club, using their grounds and clubhouse as a base. The aim of the bi annual event is to raise both funds and awareness for the ongoing restoration of the Ogley Locks section of the Wyrley and Essington Canal, better known as the Lichfield Canal.



Being late in the year, the event is particularly susceptible to adverse weather. On this occasion it was largely dry, albeit on a very damp base laid down during some rainy days just before hand. The weather was overcast and at times damp on the Saturday but the sun shone on Sunday which swelled the crowds and lifted spirits no end.



For us this is our "home" event, with our house just a few miles away. This meant we had access to our car and we immediately found ourselves making a transition from boating life to winter time home life, spending time at home, seeing home friends and even attending committee meetings (me). 



The weekend was somewhat curtailed for Helen as she had to leave immediately after the "church in the field" had finished to be with her mum. This left yours truly alone manning the stall with some tea, water and some sandwiches to keep me going. Thankfully Tom, a fellow member of Longwood Cruising Club showed up bearing a pint of beer and a much needed opportunity to attend to the other end of the drinking process!



Sunday was the better of the two days from a trading perspective, an experience shared by most of the other traders lifting the overall outcome to around average, which isnt bad for such an out of the way location. The location did also present a few challenges, notably in terms of the facilities available. Traders tend to arrive a couple of days early to get everything set up, which for many meant five or six days on site. The tank of water can be made to last and whilst rubbish couldn't be disposed of at the club, this could reasonably be stored for disposal at he next CRT site. However, elsan's cant be made to stretch and disposal of contents is a must. The club has an elsan point (which I used once) but then discovered that visiting boaters were not permitted to avail themselves of the facility, even early in the morning before the show opened. As a result one cassette had to be hauled to our home and another was toted on a 15 minute drive to Fradley Junction. All this was hugely irritating when a perfectly usable elsan existed just 100 feet away! I have to admit that this exclusion for visiting boaters irritated me, probably more than the inconvenience justified. If the on site cess pit is too small why not hire a "cube" along with the portaloos as other festival organisers do? Gripe over.



Talking of locations, its main downside is the proximity of the railway line which crosses the Coventry Canal at this point. You do kind of get used to identifying the difference between the thundering roar of the Pendolinos at full stretch, the rattle and clank of the container trains (16 or 32 carriages) and the booming din of the diesel powered bulk carriers without so much as a glance but its difficult to get any sleep for the first night. But like most things you get used to it and adapt so after a couple of nights the trains were largely consigned to background noise.



My Sunday was therefore confined to the stall and I simply photographed what I could from the butty, but to be fair most of the world seemed to cross the bridge and so fall into my field of vision.

By 6.00pm on Sunday I pulled the covers over the hold and instantly the rain started, continuing all night and picking up to a deluge in the wee hours, turning the towpath into a quagmire. Martin joined me on Monday morning and together we moved the boats round to the Dog and Doublet at Bodymoor Heath, ready for a major push back to Longmoor on Tuesday.

Friday, 22 September 2017

CRT Meetings - a double dose

CRT Annual Public Meeting and National Council Meeting
September 2017

Yesterday was a day of CRT meetings starting with the fifth Annual Public Meeting, this time held in The Gatehouse at The Bond and then after lunch the half yearly meeting of the National Council, also held at The Bond but this time in the smaller conference room overlooking the end of the Grand Union canal.

Alan Leighton closes the 5th Annual Public Meeting of CRT.

The Annual Public Meeting is a regulatory requirement for a charity and is an opportunity for the Executive team to present a "state of the nation" address, which shares progress and issues with anyone with an interest to listen. On this occasion the Trust has moved into the digital age and broadcast the event live via Facebook. 

The National Council is a collection of all interested parties, some elected and others co-opted plus the 10 Trustees who are the legal guardians of CRT. The underlying role of the Council is to appoint the Trustees and, in the event of something going wrong, to un-appoint them. However but the main day to day role is to see what is going on across the Trust and therefore offer insight and input from the various user groups perpective. Essentially, as an elected member of the National Council representing canal related businesses I have a seat at the table and the opportunity to engage with the powers that be to define the direction the organisation is going and ensure that matters of concern are at least considered.

As ever with my "CRT jottings" these are the things which struck me during the meetings, but they are in no way comprehensive minutes.

The Public Meeting was opened by Alan Leighton, Chair of the Trustees who is a pragmatic, no nonsense sort of guy who is good at cutting through the crap and getting things done. His summary was that CRT has had a successful year but there is still much to be done. His particular focus was on improving the relevance of the Trust in a future environment, broadening its appeal and acting as a catalyst for change, particularly in urban environments where we are able to make a positive impact outside the waterways community.

The Trust said goodbye to three trustees who had served their maximum periods in office and welcomed two new faces - Sue Wilkinson and Sir Chris Kelly. Don't be put off by the "Sir" - he was a senior civil servant and getting a title seems to often be part of the end of career package and whats more he was, for many years, a boater himself. The new appointees offer particular skills the trust will need in the coming years, including experience to help to renegotiate the government grant - discussions which will start in just 4.5 years time.

Richard Parry walked us through the income and expenditure of CRT which has broken the £200m threshold for the first time. Essentially 25% comes form the Govt grant, 25% from boating, 25% from property investment income, 13% from utility transfer contracts (water, gas and telecomms) and the rest is from charitable donations from one source or another.

There was also a fair bit of information about the now closed final salary pension scheme defecit which has grown due to actuarial recalculations and lower interest rates. The Trust has recently added £5m to the scheme and we were advised that relative to many other UK pension schemes it is in good shape. The Trustees are maintaining a close watch on this potential liability.

Given the dependence on the Grant and a natural government desire to cut such payments, getting the Trust in a strong place to renegotiate it is of paramount importance. We can therefore expect to see an increased focus on the non boating partners in the coming years to ensure that any suggestion that the grant will be cut is resisted in as many quarters as possible. The focus of the presentations therefore tended to be outside the boating community. This outward looking approach was apparent in the choice of Heather Clarke as presenter, specialising in measurement the link between waterways and well being. 

Specific boating issues were covered in the question and answer session including:

  • The benefits of local Engagement Officers 
  • Offside vegetation issues 
  • Canal bed profiling - no policy to exclude wide beams
  • EA transfer to CRT - on going but less appetite from government at present
  • Fishing - a key user group which brings many young people to the waterways
  • Towpath space - on going education issue. 
I appreciate that this may suggest that CRT is more interested in the general community benefits of the waterways rather than as a navigation authority, but this is probably a correct focus if we want to retain that £50m grant from the Government. At an operational level CRT is navigation organisation through and through and its our job to ensure that this core priority is not lost.


The National Council meeting continued from the Annual Public Meeting. An explanation about how the Trustee selection took place was offered, focussing on what the individuals will bring to the board and why the number of trustees has been reduced from 11 to 10 (charity best practice). The Council elected the new and continuing Trustees by a show of hands.

There was than a short presentation about an ongoing governance review which is taking a critical look at how CRT is governed. 

This started with the Waterways Partnerships with the review completed in July and is now being considered by the Trustees. Outcomes not yet shared.

The Trustee Board review is on going and will be complete by the next council meeting in March 18 (I think).

There was also small group discussion about the possibility of a review of how the National Council operates. Various ideas and observations emerged, including starting with a questionnaire. These ideas will be collated and considered by the Trustees.

There was a presentation about Digital Marketing including its origins and how it is being embraced by CRT. My take is that CRT isn't exactly at the bleeding edge (beyond the cutting edge) in this area, but it is moving forward particularly in its attempts to engage people outside its traditional boating circles.

There was also a presentation about Hydrology which was a great interest to the nerdy part of me. They explained how CRT manages 74 reservoirs which represent some of CRT's highest risk assets (and also represent a large proportion of this winters asset repair spend).
They revealed how models are being run for various climate change scenarios and reflect the CRT interpretation of the UK water risk audit. 

Drought and Flood represent the Trust's highest risks. This led to the production of the October 2015 strategy paper. The current focus is flood risk management and it was pointed out that lowering water levels, and emptying reservoirs to potentially accommodate flood water is a trade off against drought resilience in the drier summer months.

This led to a presentation on Water Transfer opportunities which are currently being tendered for. This would involve government capital spend (not CRT money) and an annual revenue stream for channeling water supplies from wet areas to the drier south east via the canal network. A good example is the existing transfer of water down the Llangollen to Hurleston or the movement of water from the River Severn to Bristol vial the Gloucester and Sharpness.The outcome of these 19 tenders will be known in 2018.

There is also ongoing work on the use of canal water for heating / cooling via heat pumps.

As you can see, over time the various specialist presentations give the National Council a broad view of the operations of the Trust and help them make informed contributions where appropriate.

Whilst matters can and are raised in this forum, most if the nitty gritty issues are thrashed out in the smaller working groups, like the Elected Boaters meetings and the National Advisory Groups (NAG's). The Licensing consultation is the current focus of attention and phase three is about to start.

Please share this as widely as possible.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Journey's End

Arrival at Huddlesford
September 2017

For those of you who have been following our progress over the last five months (and I know that there are a lot of you) I am sad to have to say that this post marks the end of the journey.

Huddlesford at last

Today we did our final day's travel together, moving the boats about 12 miles from Rugeley to Lichfield, ready for the Huddlesford Gathering this weekend. On Sunday Helen will be leaving the boat to look after her mother who will be having surgery, leaving Martin and myself to get the boats back to Aldridge via the Birmingham and Fazeley and the Tame Valley / Rushall canals.

Autumn colours

Autumn is pressing in and cold claggy mornings are becoming the norm, which means setting a fire as part of the wake up routine. It was still cold and damp as we left the boat to deliver a supply of Elderberry Vinegar to Mike and Kit as Mike is still suffering from the lurgy. Then it was into town to say hello to Mark and Justina in their new shop, The Sewing Shack, and much to my surprise I found they sell parrafin wax, a key ingredient for some home made fire lighters we want to experiment with.

Approaching Fradley

By the time we set off at 10.30 the sun was out and, for the first time in weeks, we were obliged to don sunglasses and hats. The Trent and Mersey was busy today and I think I had to let at least four boats past, but somewhat irritatingly we passed three of them later on as they had tied up early. I can now see how we manage to keep up with the pack - it's a case of the tortoise and the hare. They may all zip along leaving us to plod at a steady 2.3 mph (so the Waterways Routes App tells me) but we are relentless. We just keep going and always eat lunch on the move - which means we seem to cover the same number of miles as everyone else over the course of a day.

Near Wood End Lock

We had lock keeper assistance at Fradley where we did pause for water, rubbish, and elsan and, just as we set off again, we stumbled across Martin and Margaret of nb Erin Mae. Martin and I are longtime friends and followers of each others blogs. I somehow managed to beach the boats around a small sea otter and had to offer apologies as I sorted out the mess, whilst at the same time digging a few jars of preserves for Martin and Margaret. Strangely the boat was firmly aground when I was on it but floated free of its own accord when I jumped off - I just can't figure out why that may be!

Dave Baynham

The weather stayed warm and dry as we passed under the busy A38, a sure sign we are nearing home. The stretch into Seethay was deafening but the noise dropped away dramatically as we reached Kings Orchard Marina and saw the familiar face of Dave Baynham (nb The Robber Button) leaning against the fence waiting for us.

A celebratory bottle of fizz to mark our journey's end

And then it was the final mile into Huddlesford Junction, site of the forthcoming Huddlesford Gathering, a bi annual event hosted by the Lichfield and Hartherton Canal Restoration Trust and the Lichfield Cruising Club. All the moorings are marked out but for the first time ever, we are the first to arrive. I know from Facebook that a gaggle of traders are pounding their way down here from Tipton, so I don't suppose we will have the place to ourselves very long. Its an odd location, one minute gloriously quiet and the next the actual canal is shaking as Pendelino's scream past at over 100mph.

A final joint selfie in the sun

As this was the last day of movement for the pair of us, the day was rounded off with a bottle of bubbly, celebrating the end of a remarkable and hugely enjoyable five months afloat. 

Monday, 18 September 2017

Rugeley

Rugeley
September 2017

After yesterday's rains the ground was awash and the Trent had risen and was flowing fast at Great Haywood.  

Misty morning in Great Haywood

I sloshed my way back to the Elsan point at Anglo Welsh and was dismayed to discover a huge pool of non or ultra slow draining slurry in the ground level pit. It was unclear if this was due to misuse or, more likely, the holding tank had filled with storm water. I didn't envy the Anglo Welsh employee who would be charged with solving the problem.

We were off and away by 9.00am, dropping through two locks on our short hop to Rugeley, our destination for the day. The run was pleasant and the warm sun in my face made me realise just how long it was been since we cruised beneath anything but leaden skies.

Autumn colours

In all out years of boating we have passed through Rugeley many times but we have never actually stopped on the visitor moorings. But today all that was to change as we had several bits of business to conduct, the most important being to meet a writer for Camping and Caravan Club magazine. 

They have got a bigger butty than us!

We arrived in time to do a shop at the adjacent Tesco store, have lunch and then I took the washing across town to the launderette. You seem to meet the whole world in launderettes which is one of life's great levellers, as we gather to watch out smalls dance their merry way to cleanliness. On this occasion I was joined by a gentleman who emanated a steady whistle and duly introduced himself as "whistler". It turned out he was also a boater and in our ten minutes together provided a potted life history of his years on nb Sawdust.

Haberdashery and Haddock!

I returned to find Helen in deep conversation with the writer, Ali Ray and we spent a pleasant couple of hours exchanging foodie related stories, as well as discussing the important matter of Artisan Gin manufacture. I think she said that we would feature in their October or November edition, so hopefully we will get to see a copy in the near future. 

By the time I got back to the boat Facebook announced that I had been spotted in Rugeley High Street, following my phone on the way back to the boat. These Google Maps on phones are great, just as long as you can keep a signal. Mark and Justina (Grand Rosettes) had spotted me passing their new haberdashery shop which, by co-incidence, is almost next to the Albion Chippy who produce very nice and reasonably priced fish and chips.