On Board
Narrowboat "FRILFORD"
(British Waterways No. 500645)

 

Chapter Everyman - A Roundup of What I've Done Recently

April to June 2005

This is a bit of a cheat and I apologise for that. However, I am so very far behind with my writing that it is on my mind all the time. I stand on the back of FRILFORD making my way through England and am nagged at by a not-so-small voice saying "you could be writing...". Okay - I will do some writing; I am keen to write about the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and the Standedge Tunnel, through which I passed recently (Tuesday 21st June - a week ago as I write this), so I have made this montage of photographs with a few comments alongside to cover what I have done since Chapter 8.

 

11th April '05 - 0630 hrs

Leaving Graham Price's place close to Uxbridge on the Grand Union Canal at 6-30 in the morning. My first solo canal lock was just ahead. I'd have to pause and work out what to do!

11th April '05 - 0840 hrs

Denham Deep Lock just above Uxbridge. I'm in my stride lock-wise now. I thought this one very deep at the time, but I have since been through the top lock at Stoke on Trent. Now that is deep!

11th April '05 - 1240 hrs

Having had an early start I was lured into an early stop by this sunshine, the lovely meadow and the horse, one of many horses to appear later, drinking from the canal. Tied up just below Lock 82, Stoker's Lock, south of Rickmansworth on the Grand Union Canal.

16th April '05 - 1408 hrs

In Lock 4 on the way down the Aylesbury Arm. 16 locks in six and a half miles. Seemed hard work at the time but I have since been over the Huddersfield Narrow Canal! I am now a member of the Aylesbury Canal Society, who looked after me well whilst I was in the basin at Aylesbury.

18th April '05

What I think is a Red-Crested Pochard in the basin at the end of the Aylesbury Arm, in the middle of Aylesbury. I offer page 30 of Collins' 'Complete British Birds - Photoguide' as evidence! My father came to visit me in Aylesbury, it being only about 30 miles from Abingdon where he lives, and a place where he worked for about 12 years in the late 1960s-70s.

22nd April '05 - 1254 hrs

Soulbury Three Locks. A short flight of locks next to the Three Locks pub between Leighton Buzzard and Milton Keynes. The locks lift/drop the canal 20'3" (6.17m). There were people outside the pub eating lunch and drinking in the sun as I wrestled with the flight. Actually it went well and I was soon through. Good job too - no-one offered to help!

26th April '05

The delightful Stoke Bruerne just before the entrance to the Blisworth Tunnel. An important canal centre of old, a Canal Museum is housed in the building on the right next to the poplar trees. I spent time in there and was enchanted. In the evening Andrew Lansdale joined me from London and we ate in the The Boat Inn (on the left), itself a significant canal centre, which has been in the same family since 1877.

27th April '05 - 0948 hrs

The southern entrance of the Blisworth Tunnel, celebrating its bicentenary this year (2005). It is 3057 yards (2795 m) long and is the third longest in Britain. It took Andrew and I, on board FRILFORD, about 45 minutes to go through. I thought it very impressive. It is - but I have since been through the Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal...!

27th April '05 - about 1415 hrs

Andrew Lansdale 'navigating' near Whilton Locks and Whilton Marina where I bought FRILFORD in October '04! There are no locks for 17 miles between Stoke Bruerne and Whilton Locks so Andrew, as crew, had an easy time of it... En route we had passed Gaydon Junction where the Northampton Arm turns east off the main Grand Union Canal; an arm I had decided not to take. I was aiming for the Leicester Line at Norton Junction above the up-coming Buckby Locks.

29th April '05 - 1536 hrs

Norton Junction - after just over three weeks on the main Grand Union Canal I was to turn right here and set off up the Leicester Line, part of the GUC but a separate entity. It felt like a watershed, and perhaps it was.

29th April '05 - 1807 hrs

Exiting Crick Tunnel. Partially built though quicksand this tunnel had to realigned during construction and has suffered many roof collapses. It is still pretty wet today and there is talk of boaters filling their kettles from one of the leaks! Prior to this I had come up the Watford Staircase (locks back to back with common gates). The lock-keeper worked me through and I said I was not used to such service. "Don't worry - it probably won't happen again!" he joked. I slipped him something for a drink or two. "Thanks," he said. "Hey - it probably won't happen again!" I replied and we had a bit of a laugh. Good stuff...

2nd May '05 - 1326 hrs to 1407 hrs

A few miles on from the Crick Tunnel, and having passed through lovely countryside I came down the famous Foxton Staircase on the early May Bank Holiday Monday. There were people everywhere and I stayed on the boat whilst two lock-keepers and young the daughter of one of them locked me through. The picture shows the small pound between locks 8-12 and 13-17.

2nd May '05 - 1620 hrs

Union Basin at Market Harborough. I tied up on the bank to the right of the picture. I was next to a 57 footer owned by Wes and Sharon. They said 'join us for a drink...'. I did. Various other people got sucked into the little party atmosphere. We started off on the grassy bit in the picture then repaired to Wes and Sharon's boat. It was gone midnight when I got back to my boat. It took some time to find it - it was all of 20 feet away! I rented a car here on 5th May and drove to Henley to vote in the General Election. A good day out albeit the wrong result in the election!

10th May '05 - Sundowners...

Felicity and Father joined me here for a couple of night's trip through Leicester. This is Kilby Bridge and I'd come up here the day before, followed a few hours behind by Wes and Sharon in their boat. Here, over sundowners with Wes and Sharon, we swap ever taller stories with Father as Felicity takes the pictures.

14th May '05 - 1425 hrs

A major canal 'crossroads' junction. Here the River Sour, which had been the Leicester Line canal, running north-south, joins the River Trent, running east from here, and the Trent and Mersey Canal, running west from a few miles to the west of here, with the Erewash Canal, into which I was moving, going away to the north. This is, literally, one large, crossed, waterways junction and quite exciting! I was aiming for, and made obviously, the bridge just to the left of the sailing dinghy on the port bow of FRILFORD. The bridge is at the entrance to the Erewash Canal.

17th May '05 - afternoon

Tied up next the top lock, Lock 74, at the Great Northern Basin at Langley Mill at the top of the Erewash Canal. That the canal and particularly the basin is open again is due entirely to the tremendous work of the Erewash Canal Preservation and Development Association back in the late 60s and early 70s, key members of which I was pleased to spend time with including at their AGM, when they let me say a few words in praise of what they have achieved and continue to develop. Eastwood, the birthplace of DH Lawrence, is just up the road. I did the tour!

21st May '05

Tied up outside the Malt Shovel pub at Shardlow, a delightful village on the Trent and Mersey Canal. Everyone used to moor here. It was only as I was preparing to leave after a couple of days that I saw that British Waterways had put up signs saying No Mooring Between The Signs! Several boats, as well as me, had ignored the signs, but there was no malace aforethought! Several of us boaters had drinks together in the pub. I watched the FA Cup Final - did the right team win?!

22nd May '05 - 1908 hrs

Along from Shardlow and en route for Burton on Trent I followed a couple of large cargo narrowboats, one towing the other, to Swarkestone. There were several other boats around and since the locks are wide and deep I allowed others to lock me up through Swarkestone Lock with another boat, prior to tying up for the night.

27th May '05 - 1556 hrs

In Lock 17 at Fradley Junction, to the west of Burton Upon Trent, where the Coventry Canal turns away to the south. The pub along on the right is The Swan and reckoned to be one of the most photographed pubs in Britain, being, as it is, in such an attractive and active canal centre. The five locks through here raise the canal 36 feet (11 m) and introduced me to what might be the most attractive piece of canal I'd seen to date.

29th May '05 - 1550 hrs

Canalside cottages near Burston on the Trent and Mersey Canal, en route between Great Haywards and Stone, about 10 miles to the south-east of Stoke on Trent.

30th May '05 - 1723 hrs

Entering Lock 40 below the junction of the Trent and Mersey Canal and the Caldon Canal at Stoke on Trent. This is the last of a series of locks which lift the canal into Stoke. They are all 'interesting' and deep. This one appears to be the deepest. The photograph does not do it justice (photographs of locks never do) - this is a deep lock!

2nd June '05 - 1231 hrs

The Harecastle Tunnel to the west of Stoke on Trent on the Trent and Mersey Canal en route to the Macclesfield Canal. It is a single tunnel so runs a one-way system. It is controlled by a tunnel keeper who logs you in and logs you out the other end. You have to go through in a convoy. There are electric fans at this end to help vent the tunnel of diesel fumes. To help the fans there are doors which they close behind you as you enter! The tunnel is small and get very low in places. Very low. I'm a bit prone to claustrophobia in tight, deep, places but there was much to do driving FRILFORD through this tunnel and there was no time for apprehension!

2nd June '05 - 1352 hrs to 1435 hrs

Inside the Harecastle Tunnel. Again the photograph does not really show how low the roof is, but suffice it to say on a numer of occasions I had to crouch down next to the tiller of FRILFORD to avoid scraping my head on the roof. I was crouching when I took this, and making FRILFORD hit the side of the tunnel with my lack of concentration... The tunnel, like all tunnels, is cool and damp inside. I was in a convoy with about six other narrowboats so had plenty to do holding station!

2nd June '05 - 1443 hrs

The entrance to the Macclesfield Canal at Hardings Wood Junction. Well, strictly speaking, no! This is the Hall Green Branch of the Trent and Mersey Canal which runs alongside the main arm of the T & M then turns north across the Red Bull Aquaduct which passes over the T & M. It then becomes the Macclesfield Canal at Hall Green Lock a mile or so away from where I took this picture. Interesting stuff!

2nd June '05 - about 1600 hrs

The Macclesfield Canal is delightful. Wooded with splendid views across open countryside. The weather was pretty awful as I made my way up it, the grey skies in this picture being about as good as it got for several days. I was aiming for the Peak Forest Canal which branches off as an arm to the south-east from the top of the Macclesfield Canal.

4th June '05 - about 1630 hrs

On the Peak Forest Canal en route to Bugsworth Basin at Buxworth at the end of the canal. The skies are still grey, obviously, and it had been raining for most of the day. The Peak Forest Canal hugs the side of the valley and affords (an ex-estate Agent writes!) spectacular views across the valley to the rolling Peak District beyond.

5th June '05 - in the afternoon

FRILFORD tied up in the newly re-restored (they've had to do it several times) Bugsworth Basin at Buxworth. The Navigation Inn, a pub of past glory and much potential but now, perhaps, in need of some restoration of its own (there's the Estate Agent again...), not least of the present management, is just at the end of the railings. The tent is a newly-acquired 'annex' to FRILFORD into which I shall move, or others can move, were the acccommodation on the boat to be found short. It took Bill, a fellow boater who'd come down the canal behind me, and I about an hour to put it up!

7th June '05 - Sundowners again!

My 50th birthday. Bill is there (that's his boat behind mine) together with Wes and Sharon, who'd come up by car from Braunston, near Northampton to be there, and Father, Felicity and my brother Will are there too. The weather suddenly turned good for a couple of days so a quiet, but pleasant, day was enjoyed by all.

15th June '05 - 1311 hrs

The 16 locks of the Marple flight drop (in my case, moving north) the Peak Forest Canal 214 feet (65.2 m). The morning I thought about going down the flight it was raining. I walked down to look at a few of the locks. I saw a boat coming up. This meant the locks would be the right way round for going down - i.e. they'd be full, or at least the ones that don't leak will be. I decided to get going. As I got going the rain stopped and I worked hard. Two and three-quarter hours later I had come through all sixteen locks and I was released en route for the junction with the Huddersfield Canal, my next destination.

16th June '05 - 1552 hrs

The first few yards of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. It is not very edifying. Next to the first lock there is an outfall. The water is a very dark grey and the smell is one of sewerage. Never mind - the Huddersfield Narrow Canal becomes wonderful. Difficult, hard work - very hard work - but wonderful, and includes the Standedge Tunnel, the longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel in Britain, maybe in the world.

 

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.