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........

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Jill's latest work of art.

Alas, alack, back in the marina tomorrow. Jill has to have some checks at the doctors so that she can have the op. on her cataract. There have been problems as we are registered with a doctor in Plymouth but we are in Leicestershire. Seem to have that sorted so fingers crossed.
What a day yesterday, Market Bosworth to the outskirts of Hinckley in a downpour of Noachian proportions. Luckily we have treated ourselves to new Berghaus waterproofs, they passed the test with flying colours. The rain got through my Cat. boots but not through the waterproofs.

Jill's latest masterpiece, now finished, washed and ironed so I won't get an ear bending for putting it on the blog this time. She's now busy on the family Christmas cards. Everybody has at least one talent, or so I am informed, sixty six years I've been looking for mine and still it eludes me.

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

Sunday, 18 November 2012

We reach the current end of the Moira Cut.

Been struggling with the computer, blasted thing kept crashing and refused point blank to pass any data over the internet. Eventually worked out that our Norton protection had thrown a serious wobbly so today I stripped it out and replaced it with McAfee, seems to have cured the problems. Except that the blasted machine now doesn't recognise the camera so we now have to use a card reader to download piccies. I really do hate technology.
Since our last post we have continued north up the Ashby, just past Sutton Cheney we once again came across the lads trimming back the offside vegetation.

They're making a good job of it as well.

Two weeks ago this stretch looked a bit like

this. All it needs now is a bit of dredging so the full width is usable.

This morning was the first real frost of the winter, ropes you could do the Indian rope trick with

and some wonderful ice crystals on the life ring.
It turned into a brilliant winter day as we made our way up to the current end of cut via

Snarestone tunnel in all its sinuous glory. For a short tunnel it bends and twists rather well.

The last few yards, the start of the work to reopen through to Measham.

There are a couple of hundred yards reopened in the last couple of years with visitor moorings and a slipway

for smaller boats.

The next stretch to be tackled, difficult to believe that this will soon be canal once again, with the help of numerous volunteers and a large wodge of cash.
Heading back south tomorrow, may have to spend a bit more time at Hinckley, sorting out Jill's op. becoming a bit of a nightmare!

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

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Escape to the country.

Hooray, we're out of the marina! These days I get claustrophobic when confined to a marina, much prefer the peripatetic life. Doctors have been visited, still disgustingly healthy apart from a few age related incidences of bits wearing out. Eyes have been tested, mine have only deteriorated just enough so I need a new pair of breathtakingly expensive specs. Unfortunately the eye test showed that Jill has a cataract that needs removing, it explains why she keeps walking into things, I'd just put it down to the drink. We are now negotiating where and when she can have the operation, rather thrown our plans into disarray.
Surprise sighting as we left the marina, by the Triumph factory, a large raptor was being mobbed by a couple of crows, at first we assumed that it was a buzzard but as we got closer it became obvious that it was actually a red kite. I know they are becoming more common but have never seen one this far east before, beautiful creatures.
Now just outside Dadlington, near bridge thirty one, Wooden Top Bridge and not a sign of a spotty dog nor a traffic policeman so I can only assume that at some time in the past it had a wooden deck, now replaced with concrete.

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

Monday, 12 November 2012

Musings on the fate of kings and peasants.

The Bosworth Battlefield visitor centre is still worth a visit. We nipped over there on Saturday, if nothing else it gives you an idea of how medieval armies were organised, let's take Bosworth as an example. At the top you had the king;

Richard the Third and on the other side;

the usurper Henry Tudor.

Then you had the lords and knights, nice set of armour, decent weapons, good sword etc. Below that there were the rank and file,

Just a padded jacket and a pole arm, a bill hook on a long handle. Of course the majority of the armies were made up of the peasantry,

given a tin hat, bring your own pitch-fork/scythe, they didn't even count in the scoring. (See The Blackadder). Poor sods chaps, didn't have a clue what it was all about, just got skewered by the nobs.
Enough of my persiflage, in amongst the collection of finds from the battlefield there is one thing that stands out.

This tiny silver gilt boar was found on the battlefield in the area of the medieval bog which seems likely to have been the site of the Kings death. The picture is bigger than actual size, it is only 29mm long. It is known that only twelve of these were made and all were presented personally to the king's closest followers, eight at his coronation and the other four at his sons investiture as Prince of Wales. It is clear that at least one of Richards close friends was on that spot on the fateful twenty-second of August, 1485. It seems likely that we now know the place that the last English king to die in battle met his fate.

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

Friday, 9 November 2012

Nuneaton. Not much to say about the place.

Hinckley is ok but not a place to hold one's interest so, having a car for a while, we set off for Nuneaton. We've often passed through on the Coventry Canal but, to be honest, it's not a place that cries out for a stop, but, being at a loose end, off we went.
Having battled the traffic on the ring road we found a car park opposite the quaintly named Justice Centre, looked like the local court house to me.

The first thing we came across was a statue of George Eliot, the well known author. She looked to be a rather forbidding lady but I suppose any woman called George is likely to be somewhat intimidating. I've read two of her works, Middlemarch and Mill on the Floss, worthy tomes both of them but, to be honest, I rather prefer Bernard Cornwell or Patrick O'Brien.

The actual centre is a bit run down, usual fare of charity shops and fast food outlets although Jill discovered a rather nice jewellers. She has always wanted an eternity ring and found one described as a "Half eternity ring", she worried it meant she would have to stick with me for the same length of time again, a chilling thought. The nice lady in the shop assured her that would be optional so she graciously allowed me to treat her. She's worth every penny, bless her.

We were intrigued by this clock tower, perched atop a rather ordinary building (Now a 3 mobile 'phone shop). No idea why such an edifice is perched on such an insignificant base.

Just below the clock tower, in the old market place, there is a rather nice fountain,

much appreciated by the local avian population for their ablutions.
There was also the old jail, with a classic Roller parked alongside.

A rather imposing town hall

and a couple of 19th C. buildings.
All in all not the most stimulating of places. I don't think we'll bother again. I usually try not to be negative about the places we visit but I just could not get excited about Nuneaton.

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