Monday, 31 December 2012

Post Christmas blues. And a happy new year.

Well that was 2012 then, not the most inspiring of years but nevertheless quite interesting, if you like rain that is.
I had intended to write lots of interesting posts over the holidays but with two small grandchildren to entertain and the normal over indulgence I fear the good intentions were sidelined. Plus, in the normal Devon way, it rained continually so getting out and about was somewhat curtailed, never even got up on The Hoe. So no photos'. No photos', nothing to write about. Nothing to write about, no posts. I do apologise.

Just to give you a flavour of Christmas morning.

By Boxing Day both children had gone down with colds which rather curtailed the fun. Give them their due, they managed to struggle on playing with their toys.
We have now travelled up to father's for the new year and guess who has now got those rotten colds? Yes, Jill and I sound like we belong in the plague hospital. Just need the bell and ragged robe with cries of "Unclean,unclean", and we would fit right in. Vick's Sinex anyone?
At long last Jill has heard from the N.H.S. about her cataract op, just waiting for a date now. Hopefully sometime soon!
Intend being back on the boat on Wednesday, if the pneumonia hasn't finished us.

Johnny Depp eat your heart out.

Watch this space.............

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas.

                                 Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone out there.

Sorry the image is a little out of date, I have yet to find a robin obligingly sitting on a C&RT sign.

Watch this space............

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Pre Christmas Blues.

Well the Mayans have let us down, world was supposed to end today and here we all are, still here. Bit of a nuisance, I suppose it means I'll have to run around buying presents. In the rain.
Drove down to Plymouth two days ago, rain all the way, Somerset mostly under water. Still raining but this is Plymouth. They do say that if you can see Maker Church, across the Sound in Cornwall, from The Hoe it means it's going to rain, if you can't see it? It means it's already raining.
Plymouth Rain Festival: April 1st. to March 31st. every year.
Ho Ho Ho! More fun to come.

Watch this space............

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The future of English rugby?

As the season of goodwill/bah humbug, (take your pick), approaches plans are made and as rapidly abandoned as things change. So today, owing to a change of plans, we piled the Christmas presents for our eldest daughter and family into the hired car and trundled off down to Marlborough.
As it is Sunday the boys were playing rugby for Marlborough Rugby Union Football Club.

The under elevens were getting stuck in in a scrum while our boy Noah

was running his heart out. He's a bit light yet but he's not scared to get in amongst it and is developing a good rugby brain. Most important thing is though, that he loves the game and is a real team player.

Meanwhile Jonah, he of the curly red hair, was on the next pitch playing tag rugby.

Not allowed to tackle, to stop someone running with the ball you have to pull one of the tags off the belt of the ball carrier.
They both ended up suitably muddy and Noah had a couple of battle scars to show.
The results? Who cares, they'd both had a good time.
A horrible thought has just struck, their dad, Ken, is of Scottish descent so they could end up playing for Scotland.
After descaling them it was off for a pizza in town.

Marlborough was dressed overall for the season with a continental market in full swing. The town claims to have the widest High Street in Britain, I can believe it.
Sorry it isn't very boaty at the moment, I'll have to see what I can do.

Watch this space............

Saturday, 15 December 2012

A Cosstick family photograph.

This must date to the late 1940's early 1950's. Back row, left to right, my Uncle Jack Cosstick, W.W.II, Royal Sussex Regt., Grandfather, Frederick Herman Gustav Cosstick, W.W.I, Machine Gun Corps, W.W.II, A.R.P., Uncle Reg.Cosstick, W.W. II, R.A.F. My Gran, Rose, matriarch and tyrant. Front row, Aunty Joyce and my Mum, Sheila. I reckon the Cossticks had done their share. Both of Grandfather's brothers, Cyril and Reginald and a cousin, another Frederick, did not come back from the trenches of W.W.I. They had all joined,together, on the same day in 1915 and had consecutive service numbers in the Royal Sussex.
Photo' taken in the front garden of the family home in Seaford, Sussex.

"A memory is a beautiful thing, it's almost a desire that you miss".
 Gustave Flaubert.

Watch this space.................

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

International Rescue. (Ducks Division).

This morning, as the breakfast smoked haddock seethed gently on the stove, Jill was moved to point out a duck of grandiose proportions which appeared to be having problems on the ice.

It was unable to lift its considerable bulk up onto its legs and no matter how much it waved its feet about it was unable to shift fore or aft.  I have a strong belief that if left alone most wild animals can sort their problems out so, having taken a picture, I retired to the dinette and got stuck into the haddock and the toast and marmalade. Breakfast over we checked the duck again, it was still stuck and was looking rather fed up. An attempt to tempt it with a bit of bread led to frantic leg waving but no progress in any direction. Not being willing to attempt rescue on my own, the jetties are somewhat icy at the moment, I located Kevin the harbour master and together we set of on our mission of mercy.

An attempt to break up the ice with a boat hook didn't really get us anywhere.

The stupid bird just scrabbled it's way back onto the ice and sat there

quacking pathetically. The next few illustrations are not overly good, Jill having to hang out of the side hatch to get them but basically, I had a cunning plan and having fetched my large landing net, the one I bought for piking,

I succeeded in netting him.

He was then transferred to the area of open water where all the other, sensible, ducks had gathered. Not one quack of thanks, just swam nonchalantly away. Good deed completed I returned to the boat for another cuppa, musing on the fact that the net has now seen one more duck than it has pike.

Watch this space..................

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Conspiracy of the machines and our trip to Wigrams.

I appreciate that technology enables us to do marvellous things, blogging being an example, but why do the gizmos gang up to give you a hard time? The lap top took it on itself to start crashing at inconvenient moments and then the anti-virus software threw a wobbly and jammed everything up. Remove and replace software and generally fiddle about with machine. Remember that I know nothing about the inner workings so this was a leap in the dark. Blow me down it was working, hooray. I then discovered that the computer no longer recognised the compact camera, or visa versa, and I could not download my pictures. Nil desperandum, I raked around and unearthed the card reader I had bravely purchased when I discovered that the D.S.L.R. and the compact (Both Canon) would not download with the same software. Everything was hunky dory until five days ago when the card would no longer fit in the reader, examination showed that one of the contacts in the reader had snapped off. Call me paranoid if you like but it looks like a deliberate conspiracy to me.
Today we went through to Southam and I found a card reader in a stationary shop, trouble is it will only take the small card from the compact so I now have two card readers.
Enough of my persecution complex.
Last Friday, the ice having thinned, we set off up Hillmorton Locks. Jill grabbed her trusty windlass and left me in charge of the boat.

As I came into the bottom lock my good lady told me the locksides were far to slippery for her and as soon as the boat was up we were changing places. So I blew the cobwebs off of my windlass and set to with a will.

On the top gates of the middle lock, the new beams carry what is described as poetry. As is well known my middle name is Philistine so perhaps I am not qualified to comment, but I rather liked it.

It had a real wintry look as we approached the top lock.

Why is it that so many of the ladies do not like steering through the locks? They claim it's because they don't have the confidence but it's my belief it's because they like a gossip with the other lady lock workers.

As we approached Braunston the low sun clearly showed the medieval ridge and furrow.

Out on the puddle banks yet another old boat has met a watery end. Clearly a conversion of the front end of a wooden working boat, a sad way to finish what has clearly been a long career.
We are now in Wigram's Turn Marina. Going to be here for a while as we are away for Christmas and still await news about Jill's cataract removal.

Watch this space...............

Thursday, 6 December 2012

A bit about my Gran.

We've got as far as the bottom of Hillmorton Locks, the ice has been broken up by a few boats so we are hoping it will be mostly thawed by tomorrow. We have been watching the snooker most of the day, U.K. Championship. Brilliant match this afternoon, Sean Murphy v. 17 yr. old Belgian Luca Becel, Murphy just pipped the lad on the pink in the eleventh frame. Amazing.
Not been out with the camera so:

"Isn't it cold in the winter?" How many times does that question get asked? Could try, "Lost all my toes to frostbite, please contribute to my coal fund". The camera has frozen (Oh my, what a pun) the Eco-Fan which is actually blowing the warm air down the boat at a rate of knots.

One of my most prized possessions:

a watercolour, painted about 1895, of my maternal grandmother, Rosina Kate Cosstick, born 1885, nee Lindsey. The artist is unknown but I presume it was the lady of the house in Coulsdon, Surrey, where her mother, Kate Lindsey, was cook. For possibly the best part of a century the picture languished in various cupboards until it was discovered, with a couple of other watercolours, by my step father who passed it on to me. I remember her as the fearsome matriarch of the Cosstick family, we were expected for Sunday tea each week, the fact that we lived fifty miles away and our transport was an ageing Norton and sidecar was irrelevant. Mind you her teas were worth the journey. As she lived in Seaford in Sussex fish/shellfish always featured. Can you believe that every one of the family had their own winkling pin? Crumpets, muffins and her special coffee, walnut sponge. She was also a dab hand at home made wine and making rag rugs.
They don't make them like that anymore.

Watch this space............

Monday, 3 December 2012

Where have all the boats gone?

Awoke this morning to the sound of rain falling in water, not on ice, so it was up, up and away. We are retracing our steps towards the Braunston area as we are off to Plymouth for Christmas and are leaving the boat at Wigrams. The stretch of the Coventry Canal from Marston Junction down to Sutton's Stop is rather dreary, enlivened only by Charity Dock.

When we passed there a month or so ago the mannequins were celebrating Halloween but now they are getting in the mood for Christmas.

Looks like it's party time!

We carried on to Sutton's stop were Jill hopped off at the narrows and nipped across to the stop lock and by the time I had sailed majestically around the 180 degree turn in front of

The Greyhound she had the lock open and waiting for me. What a team.
But where are all the boats? Normally at this time of year the mooring spaces around the junction are rammed with boats, today there were at least half a dozen empty spaces and on the North Oxford, on what was the popular mooring by The Elephant and Castle, there was not a single boat. Are more people heading for marinas for the winter? Or is C&RT having a purge on over stayers? Whichever it is it is starting to feel a bit lonely out here.
We've stopped out in the country with no company whatsoever, apart from the motorway, you can't get away from it on this stretch.

Watch this space...............

Sunday, 2 December 2012

No comment.

Enuff said.

Watch this space.............

Friday, 30 November 2012

Our intended plans are put on ice.

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft aglay,
An lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy.

Or to put it in simple English, we're still in the marina, all plans for a graceful exit today have been put on hold

by a layer of ice on the cut. It's not too thick here in town but will probably be thicker out in the rural areas and I'm rather fond of the blacking on the hull.

The moorings up the old wharf arm are totally frozen and the frost is decorating the hedgerows.

Couldn't resist the next one:

snowberries covered in frost. Oh well, please yourselves.

At the end of the wharf arm stands Port House, once the headquarters of the Ashby Canal Co., now a rather good Indian Restaurant. We tried it last night and were impressed, good service and food. The miasma of garlic still pervades the boat this morning.
Thanks to Rabbie Burns for the poetry at the start of this post.
Well it is St. Andrew's day after all.

Watch this space..........

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Industrial relics? See what lurks in the undergrowth at Moira.

Somewhere in the dark recesses of every museum there lurk things of historical interest that never get put on display, generally because they need conservation work before being allowed to be seen by the public and there is insufficient interest or cash to ensure restoration.
At Moira Furnace we found such a Cinderella piece. On the offside of the canal, tucked behind an old shipping container and rapidly disappearing in the undergrowth, the first thing that caught our eye was

a large flywheel. A battle with brambles, cleavers and some decidedly tough grass and some more of what was obviously a piece of heavy duty machinery came in to view.

It clicked then that we were looking at the remains of a horizontal steam engine.

Taking it that the flywheel was on the far left as we looked at it we can go from left to right. Not sure what this piece was but to the right of it

was the remains of a speed regulator. At least I assume that is what it is, it looks similar to regulators I have seen on working engines.

Bearing on one end of a rod, the other end of which

disappears into a gland of some type. It was only when I transferred the pictures to the computer that I realised there was some wording cast into the face of it. Unfortunately I can only make out "Word" Packing Co.Ltd. "Word". A sad lack of observation on my part but, in my defence, I just thrust the camera into the gap and snapped the photo'. I don't think my fat head would have fitted into the gap.

The rest of the engine, which includes the valve gear, was too overgrown with brambles to get close but looked fairly complete. So where did it come from? It doesn't fit with the furnace, being of a much later design.
It looks similar to one now at The Blists Hill Museum at Ironbridge, it sits at the top of the coal mine there and is run regularly.

Not a wonderful picture of it  but it's one I took last year.
I presume then that the one in the undergrowth comes from one of the coal mines in the area. The museum at Moira was shut for the winter so there was no one to ask. Perhaps we'll never know, unless someone out there has some information?

Watch this space.............

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The original and final end of the Moira Cut/Ashby Canal.

You can only take so much of being stuck in a marina and three days is my limit so, having temporary use of a car, we set off to find the real end of the Moira Cut. Originally authorised by Act of Parliament in 1794 the intention was to connect the Coventry Canal to the Trent and Mersey at Burton on Trent but the Ashby de la Zouch Canal, as it was titled, never reached that town but ended at Moira, so it became known to the working boatmen as The Moira Cut. By 1804 when the canal was completed the area around Moira had developed as a major coal mining area so the canal flourished on the trade this provided. By the time the mining industry finished in the 1960s' it had effectively destroyed the last few miles of the canal, mining subsidence being the cause of the closure.

Taking advantage of the new canal the Earl of Moira had built a state of the art blast furnace alongside the cut. Fortunately, from a combination of factors, it was a total failure and was abandoned around 1811 with the final unsuccessful smelting still inside. If it had worked properly the site would probably have been developed and we would not have an example of an early 19thC. blast furnace still intact.
But this is not a history lesson, let alone a treatise on metallurgy, of which I know nothing. I much prefer the quirky, the marks that the ordinary people left behind and on the beams that make up the hearth of the furnace is a wonderful example.

Whoever cast these beams put hand prints in the moulding sand before pouring the molten iron, result, a memorial that will last as long as any fancy tomb.

 These are the beams with, at the bottom, the solidified remains of the last attempt at smelting. Now that is living history.

Another view of the furnace with the canal on the right.

A short walk along the towpath and you come to Moira Lock, interesting as the Ashby Canal never had a lock. The subsidence from the mines has left such a difference in levels that a lock was needed to connect the restored sections.

To give an idea of the degree of subsidence,the original canal level was the top of the lock gates, visible through the bridge.

Below the lock the canal and towpath now run on an embankment with these houses built on the current, post subsidence, ground level. Quite a drop.

And here it is, Conkers Basin, the real and final end of the Ashby Canal/Moira Cut.One day narrowboats will once again be able to access this lovely mooring. Mind you I don't think Armadillo will make it, at least not under the current management.

Alongside the towpath this marker gives an idea of of the number of seams worked in the area. As the area looks now it is almost impossible to believe the industry that once thrived here.

What was once spoil heaps is now the National Forest. Which do you prefer? We all have romantic pictures of the past but personally I prefer trees to factory chimneys.

Back by the furnace, abandoned in the undergrowth,

Watch this space........