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Archive for February, 2011

Boat Blog: Limehouse Basin to Paddington Basin

Posted by indigodream on 27 February, 2011

Friday 25th February

Locking up onto the Regent's Canal - we haven't been up here for months....

Way back in chilly December we went to a ‘Christmas Extravaganza’ organised by a couple of companies working for one Richard’s clients. It was indeed a big event with lavish food (including salmon from Foreman’s – we’re spotting their produce all over the place since we moored there last year 🙂 ) and a huge ‘raffle’ which included the fabulous prize of a day cruise for up to 8 people, and five dogs, on the Indigo Dream.

The very lucky winner got her party together and, after much negotiating between them, arranged their cruise for today. We were slightly nervous because who knows what the weather’s going to, ahem, spring, on us in February; any number of things could have scuppered the cruise. But we’ve had as perfect a day as we could have hoped for – not as spring-like as yesterday, but mild and dry for cruising with the odd sunny spell to keep the smiles on our faces.

We came up to the boat early this morning – enjoying a blindingly fast drive up from Surrey – we’d forgotten it was half-term – the roads were deserted! Cousin Paul had vacated the boat just before we arrived, giving us time to fill the water tank, do a pump-out and have a desultory clean before our guests arrived. Sadly Bentley, our guests’ labrador had to be left at home as he’s got a slightly manic doggie friend staying with him and they felt it would be too much to bring both. It’s a shame as I think Lynx would have enjoyed the company. Lynx has been very quiet all day – I think he’s missing his pack-mates. They haven’t really been separated for this long before so it will be interesting to see how they greet each other when we get back (probably Sunday morning).

In the meantime, we had plenty of company, with a full complement of 8 crew members – a group of old friends who enjoyed the cruise, the chatting and the on-board supplies in equal measure.

I don’t know what I expected, but the canal was just as I remembered it – fantastic! The only major change was at the end of our journey, with the newly reopened far end of Paddington Basin. It’s such a relief that the towpath is now open – it was so so awkward to access the  train stations before, and there are a few extra mooring rings as well. All useful as the basin was pretty full – maybe 3 spaces available at 5pm…

Learning to lock - just as well the men took an interest - the ladies were too busy chatting to get involved!

But back to the start, well, sort of, I spent a large part of the day swapping between entertaining and steering so I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the surroundings apart from pointing out a few landmarks to our guests. We noted in passing that the towpath moorings in Mile End and in Victoria Park were full to bursting – ok, no news there! But it will be interesting to see how many move on when the winter mooring ‘season’ is over. According to the guys on a BW boat there are 80 boats above and below Victoria Park, no longer is it just the bit between the lock and bridge which is full.

The Regent’s Canal was otherwise deserted – we only met one other boat on the move all day, and that was at St Pancras. It was like having our own private canal! The waterway provided it’s usual fascinating contrasts – swanky canalside developments surrounded by the deprivation of Tower Hamlets; water so crystal clear you could really see the mass of submerged litter! Our guests were fascinated – it’s a truly unique view of London.

They are all keen walkers, so some of the ladies walked between the locks. They had a bit of a shock when they set off at City Road Lock without realising that the towpath-free Islington Tunnel lay ahead. They had a mini-adventure navigating the tunnel by using the plaques set in the pavement way above the canal. They found their way back to the boat at the far end of the tunnel, using a cunning combination of female intuition, frantic conversations over the phone and directions from a traffic warden – I’m amazed they’re not still wandering the streets of Islington!

We made good time up the canal – Camden Market was busy but there were only a few gongoozlers today – I was surprised, but then again, I keep thinking it’s Saturday because we’re cruising! I expect it’ll be busier on the return trip tomorrow. Don’t forget to take your BW key with you as they have welded up one gate latch and repaired another so the gates should now be locked and there are less goths to sweep into the lock.

I hadn’t expected to reach Paddington Basin before dark, but all of a sudden there we were – as always the trip didn’t seem like half enough – it’s always such a temptation to show our guests just another mile. Fortunately, mooring in a dead end prevented us from indulging the fancy! We said ‘goodbye’ to the party with some reluctance – they’d been good company and they’d obviously enjoyed the canal and the boat and were suitably complimentary about Lynx (and gave him lots of fuss).

Camden top lock (Well Hampstead Road Lock to be strictly correct)

As I mentioned, the ‘Edgware Road’ end of Paddington Basin is now open, providing a few extra mooring spaces and welcome access to Edgware Road itself. During the works which closed the towpath we’ve been exploring the eateries around Sheldon Square; but now we could back to the main road and it’s exotic mix of lebanese and other middle-eastern restaurants. We were amazed by the ‘buzz’ on Edgware Road – it’s a very atmospheric place – lots of people on the street, women laughing behind their veils and the aromatic smoke from the decorative shisha pipes being smoked outside the abundant middle-eastern restaurants. The trouble was, I fancied a Chinese takeaway and a quick Google search suggests that there isn’t a chinese takeaway within miles of the boat! How can that be? There’s normally one on every corner!

However we did find the oriental cafe/restaurant “See” just off the end of of Paddington Basin, conveniently placed near to the Tesco Metro. It’s an unassuming little place so we’ve walked past it many times without a second glance. However we had a fine meal there with some very good service – we’ll go again (they do takeaways!). Note for next time: the Pad Thai is very spicy – too much for me but just right for Richard!

By 8.30pm we were back on board – we were all knackered, including Lynx, who hasn’t slept his usual 22 hours today so maybe that’s why he’s been so quiet. We forced ourselves to stay awake – after all, we are in our prime and only children and old people go to bed that early. But by 9pm we were forced to admit defeat!

I’ll admit that the charity cruises are a bit of an effort, but they are also hugely enjoyable and today’s was particularly rewarding. The Christmas Extravaganza raffle raised an enormous amount of money for the organiser’s cause. But today’s guests also put generous donations into our Greyhoundhomer collecting tin. The charity has recently had to become self-funding (it had previously received some central funding from the Retired Greyhound Trust) so I’ll be able to hand over the £120+ which all of our guests have donated this year alone, knowing that it will make a huge difference to this small charity. Thank you everyone for your generosity – it’s much appreciated.

Today’s Trivia

Richard took some great photos of the deep excavations at the Crossrail works in Paddington. The PR folk at Crossrail are working hard and I found their Paddington newsletter a good read, though it’s all about trains and doesn’t mention the canal at all!. The works are fascinating, not least because they occupy such a narrow space between the canal and the main station, neither of which can be violated! The main station features the most amazing arches with elaborate steel and glass facades designed by a young Brunel. I was relieved to find that it’s a Grade 1 listed building so Crossrail have to carefully work around it. The canal, in the meantime, is protected by sturdy piling – can you imagine what a disaster a breach would be!

Crossrail seem very aware that impressive Victorian buildings, like Brunel’s Paddington, were built to impress and impose, defining the wealth and power of the empire. I get the impression that this is what they’re aiming for on completion – though to wow rather than cow foreign visitors arriving from Heathrow.

When he looked over the works, Richard observed that the excavations seemed to go through layers of old buildings. Apparently there is a huge archaeological survey going on as they dig – as well as more modern archaeology, they’re hoping to find medieval, roman and even prehistoric artefacts. I’ve often mused on whether London will every be ‘finished’ – as soon as one building is completed another is demolished and so it goes on. But I guess that a city that’s grown organically round (some might say infested!)  the river over so many centuries without any particular plan in mind can never be ‘finished’ because there’s no end point in sight! As an aside, we watched a fascinating programme on BBC the other day on ‘Britain from above’, the first episode featuring mainly wartime aerial photos of London. After the devastation of the Second World War, there ‘Abercrombie Plan’ for London would see the city laid out and organised with precise logic. Needless to say, it never caught on and, as new canalside developments attest, the city continues it’s ramshackle spread down the centuries!


A steel lock beam from the old Round Oak steelworks in Merryhill - long gone now.....

There's a lot of canalside development going on - I did wonder whether London would ever be 'finished' - as soon as one building's done they demolish another and start again.....

No room to moor at Victoria Park or beyond ....

And a building nearer to completion - I wonder if it will be occupied by the time we come back in the Autumn....

The crew practising their rope skills below City Road Lock...

Moorings on the towpath opposite Battlebridge Basin - boaters are mooring in spots that they'd never have chanced just a few years ago - better towpath security or just continuously moored and desperate for space??

The changing face of London - the whole area below St Pancreas Lock is being redeveloped - it will be interesting to see the finished landscape...

the crew, minus two, who are doing the hard work!

There's always one! Luckily he'd finished traversing the bridge before the boat passed underneath - fair play though - he didn't fall in!

The brand new building at the end of Paddington Basin - its construction closed the towpath for months but it's an impressive addition to the skyline..

Crossrail works

Crossrail works with Paddington Station's 'arches' (designed by Brunel) in the background

Crossrail works

We think that Richard's mother worked on almost the top floor of this building almost 60 years ago in a British Rail drawing office run by a Mr Smith.

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Dog Blog: Lynx’s Diary

Posted by indigodream on 24 February, 2011

Sunday 20th February

We’ mainly had a borin’ week coz Mummy Sue’s car had to go in to the car vet and she borrowed anuver one. I don’t like the borrowed one – it woz too little for us greyhounds, so we could only go out one at a time and we wozn’t allowed to get muddy.

So we woz stuck at home wif only our food, an toys, an’ duvets, the enormous garden, an’ the sqwirrels, an’ foxes, an’ the bucket of smelly rotten pond weed/heron poo wot is my favrit smell in all the world.

Now, wot is it wif humans – why doesn’t they like the smell of rotten pond weed/heron poo? I’s bringing it indoors – I says to Mummy Sue “is the new fox poo, you could make millions selling it as air freshener, coz now the house duzn’t smell of dog anymore”. Huh, I woz carried into the bathroom and I’s had a baf, nooooooo…….

Then the day after I brought more smell indoors and had anuver baf….

then the day after that…

and the day after that….

I fink mummy Sue is starting to crack – last time she didn’t give me a baf, she just wiped my neck wif a wet cloth so that’s a bit himprovement.

Mummy Sue cooked a hooge joint of beef on sunday – oooooh it smelled so good. We gots lots of leftovers, tho we had to share wif mummy Sue’s friend Greygal. Greygal’s got SIX greyhounds but they wozn’t there on Sunday – woz a shame, would have given me some nice new bottoms to sniff. We gots top-quality fusses tho – it takes an hexperienced ear rubber to find just the right spot….. Greygal took a ‘doggie bag’ of leftovers for her hounds – huh? Mummy Sue, wot about US…..

Monday 21st February

We’s had some bad news – mummy Sue sez we can’t go to Poland coz we’s failed our test. I duzn’t believe it – failed our french test? But I’s so good; maybe Ty should have learnt more than just the word for sausage…….

Mummy Sue sez I’s a silly sausage – we’s failed our blood test – the rabies vaccine didn’t work. The chances of all 3 of us failing the test is 0.01% – we’s medical miracles! The vet sez maybe we’s got lazy immune systems. “Typical” sez mummy Sue….. I reckon someone has messed up.

Tuesday 22nd February

I’s gotta whisper this coz I’s got a bit of a hembarrassing problem, I’s just gotta wee at night when mummy Sue is fast asleep in bed. I’s can’t help it and is only a tile floor an’ mummy Sue’s pretty nifty wif a mop at 3am. But she sed I had to see the vet – oh no, I hope it’s not vampire blondie – maybe she won’t fancy me if she finks me bladder’s no good. But was ok, it was a locum, she give me big pink antibiotics to take and asked mummy Sue to bring in a urine sample…..

I woz just settlin’ down to a nice evenin’s snooze after the vet when Daddy Richard sed I had to go to dog trainin’ class. “But Ty does Tuesday’s” I sez, but Ty’s got a bad leg so I had to go instead. It woz awful – there woz lots of henthusiastic dogs there and it was agility. I doesn’t like agility – is worse than normal class, as least I gets to lie down in normal class. There woz big dogs leaping over little jumps – huh, they got no dignity – clever dogs like me walk around them or walk over them. No need for this leaping when the jumps are 6 inches and your legs are 18 inches! It woz seriously borin’ so in the end I had to show everyone how agile I woz by runnin’ out the door – daddy Richard woz not impressed – there’s no pleasin’ some humans….

Wednesday 23rd February

When the vet sed she needed a urine sample I thought she meant from mummy Sue, but no, she meant mine. So early this morning daddy Richard opened the door for me to go out – he had a sample pot in his hand….

“nu-huh” I sed “I won’t go out just now fanks”

Then mummy Sue got out and opened the door for me – she had the sample pot in her hand

“nu-huh” I sed “I’ll just stay in here…”

“sqwirrel” she sed, so I runs out all hexcited but there wozn’t a sqwuirrel at all, it was a evil ruse to get me into the garden. I had to be devious – she’s after me wee – it’s precious stuff! So I charged round reelly fast so that mummy Sue couldn’t catch me for a sample; then she stood by my favrit weeing tree, but I see’d her and sed “nu-huh I don’t fink I’ll go there today”; then she hid behind the garden wall and sneaked out quick to get a sample when I wozn’t looking. Ha, she didn’t get much – I stopped straight away – that pot looked very suspicious to me….

Mummy Sue’s bin qwite busy taking us all to the vet this week – today it woz Lou and Ty’s turn. Lou went to see the physio – Lou loves the physio – she gets liver cake as a big treet just for touching her nose to her bottom. Mummy Sue woz so excited – Lou couldn’t touch her nose to her shoulder a few munfs ago. Lou is full of beans – she’s all happy an’ lively and, oh course, she been doin’ noisy farts and, now that she can turn round,  looking at her bottom in amazement!

Ty had to go to see the vet for his bad leg – he did have a hinfection in his hock – is much better but Ty is still being a big wuss boy and is limpin’ when he finks mummy Sue is watchin’. Ty going for the big sympfay vote coz he’s got a baldy bum too – is good coz it’s not his thyroid and is not mange, so now he’s got special oils to add to his food – sounds nice – “what’s that? mummy Sue, wot do you mean I’s not allowed to nick the oil off Ty’s food?” – huh – is no fun at all.

Then in the hevenin’ blondie vet rang mummy Sue to say that I had “perfect urine” – is fine on every possible level – mummy Sue thought blondie woz a bit over the top reeely but that’s love for you. Blondie the vet fancies me rotten – she’s always givin’ me big fusses and she loves every bit of me, even me wee! Bit hembarrassing reely – I’s devoted to my mummy Sue….

Thursday 24th February

Ooooh, I’s all a bit sad and confoosed this hevening – I’s an only dog!

We’s goin’ boating tomorrow so Mummy Sue sed that Ty could stay wif Nanny Renia coz he’s a big scaredy wuss boy wot would be too terrified to wee in London. Me an’ Lou woz goin’ boatin’ coz we’s tarty hounds wots loves fuss from strangers on the towpath. It sounded good coz Lou’s such a good fuss-detector and she knows the best people to go to for an ear rub. But I’s got to go all by myself now.

When we got to Nanny Renia’s, nanny sed ” I think Lou should stay here, Lou wants to stay here; she’s so comfy, she doesn’t want to come on the boat” – well, Mummy Sue woz s’prised – Lou an Ty just lay down on nanny Renia’s best carpet and sed they didn’t want to come home! I stuck wif mummy Sue and gave her big cuddles coz she looked sad to leave Ty AND Lou behind. Then I woz sad coz I woz worried that maybe nanny Renia didn’t like me, coz she didn’t say that I should stay. But Mummy Sue sez that everybody likes me and that I’m coming on the boat because I’s the best boy ever.

I woz a bit lonely and out of sorts when I got home, but then I saw that there were hadvantages to being an only dog. Mummy Sue bought 3 hot chikkins today – one for us for lunch, half of one for Ty on his holiday wif nanny Renia and one and a half for me and Lou on the boat. Well, have you got it yet? Coz mummy Sue didn’t expect to leave Lou at Nanny Renia’s house, I got one and a half chikkins ALL TO MYSELF! And I got all the leftovers after supper – they sez it’s ‘good to share’ – noooo, I don’t think so…..

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Bloat blog: Bits ‘n pieces

Posted by indigodream on 19 February, 2011

Friday 18th February

1. Engine Service – Wednesday 16th February

Every now and then Richard likes to get the engine serviced by a professional. This time he chose to use River Canal Rescue – we had been very impressed by their excellent  breakdown service when we were on Dragonfly so we joined when we got Indigo Dream and there are some member discounts for their other services. Limehouse Marina has a list of ‘authorised’ engineers who can work on pontoon-moored boats – we didn’t realise that the RCR chap was authorised so we’d made arrangements to move up to a convenient stop in Bow and have the work done there. But it turned out that the chap was authorised so we were able to get the work done at the mooring – bit of a ‘grrr’ moment as it took several phonecalls at cross-purposes to get this information – never mind,,,

Richard was a bit disappointed – I think he expected more from the service – he can do an eyeball survey etc himself and he’d hoped for more from the engineer. However, it was a reasonable price and the engineer gave some good advice, did do everything that needed to be done ref. the engine filters etc. but would not change the webasto filter. He could not do anything about the crack in our exhaust but introduced Richard to someone who could. The one filter we have never been able to source a compatible for is the engine filter but RCR had so Richard noted down the references:

Isuzu 42 Engine Fuel Filter:  Baldwin BF954 or Donaldson P553240 Fleetguard FF5030 – costs about £4 as opposed to the £13 of the Isuzu branded part.

Other bits of advice:

*      BilgeX for getting rid of bits of oil in the bilge.

*      Use a fuel additive, particularly now that we may end up with fuel containing biodiesel: Don’t use Fuelset, use Marine 16 was the RCR Engineer’s recommendation. We know that Andrew Phasey also markets a product, Soltron so we need to check that out.

2. Blacking

A quick browse of our Nicholson’s reveals a great choice of boatyards in the vicinity of Nottingham. Has anyone tried Sawley Marine? I’ve got a feeling that at least one boating blogger has used them but I can’t remember what they said!

3. Fens Waterways Link

I didn’t know about this! How exciting – it promises the enticing option of a ring cruise which doesn’t involve going over the Wash. I’m not sure how much of the link is open so I’ve emailed them for a brochure but you can check out the website here –

Having said that, we might consider a trip across the Wash anyway – there’s a convoy planned at the right sort of time for us, well, it’s not really, but with that adventure on offer then it’s not so far off that we couldn’t make it the right time :-), and if we end up sitting on some sand waiting for a tide then that gives a chance to have a good look at our blacking.

4. BCN Marathon Challenge HQ

With Greygal coming to visit this weekend, we’ve been setting up BCN Challenge HQ – we’ve retrieved our full size map of the BCN, have plotted the 2009 winner’s trail and and have been speculating on how their magnificent score can be beaten, or equalled, or caught sight of, for that matter! We’ve got crew this year, so maybe we can be a little more ambitious with locks than last time. Of course, we will want to consult with our other cabin slave valued crew member Graham from Matilda Rose. Do we just focus on the points or shall we try to take in the few places on the BCN that we haven’t seen yet ? Luckily they may not be mutually exclusive!

We haven’t received our BCN planning pack yet, so we’ve only got the points sheet from last time as a guide to the most lucrative routes. In the meantime, nb The Cat Who Walks By Himself produced this really clever planning map which tots up the locks/miles/points which is very helpful when going through the almost infinite options available.

5. Aurora borealis (nothing to do with boating!)

It should be obvious to regular readers that we are a bit geeky, so we were very excited by the news of increased solar activity. I do believe that 2011 is a sunspot ‘maximum’ (it’s an 11 year cycle). We’re so geeky that a few years ago we signed up for email alerts for when there is unusual solar activity that may results in aurorae. Why not join us in geek heaven – It could be an exciting year on the solar calendar – just imagine mooring your boat on a remote spot on the Leeds ‘n Liverpool (or similar northern waterway) and seeing a magnificent auroral display in the clear night sky – it would quite take your mind off the lack of water in the canal 🙂

I think that’s it for now – we’re boating next weekend – hurrah! We’re taking a charity group from Limehouse to Paddington on Friday and had planned a return jolly on the Saturday. But it’s all weather dependent – – Paddington Basin is windy even on the stillest day and I don’t fancy the humiliation of being blown sideways round the basin by the 40 mph winds predicted for next weekend…..

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Dog Blog: Lynx’s Diary

Posted by indigodream on 14 February, 2011

Sunday 13th February

We's had to walk down this hill - you can't even see the bottom from here...

Well, I’s had qwite an hexcitin’ week coz mummy Sue didn’t do so much gallivantin’ so I could look after her prop’ly. We’s done walkies in the park coz is qwite springy outside wif birds tweetin’ an’ Lou barkin’…

I’s got new job on Tuesdays tho – I has to look after nanny Renia in her house – is a hinterestin’ job coz she needs protecting from all the foxes in her garden, and the sqwirrels, o course, they’re the worse….

Mummy Sue an’ Daddy Richard woz ever so pleezed coz Ty’s list of places that he likes is much bigger now – our house, our garden, nanny Renia’s house and her garden, the car, the nice pub in Seend. Oh course, his list of places he doesn’t like is like “everywhere else” but he didn’t like anywhere when he first moved in so that’s progress innit?

I’s got shockin news about my nice blonde vet tho’ – she’s a VAMPIRE!!!!!!

We all had to go to see her on Thursday for some tests for our passports – first she took Ty and went straight for his jugular; then she took Lou and she couldn’t find Lou’s jugular – phew, “lucky escape” I thought, but then the blooduscker went for Lou’s leg instead! Well, I woz last and I didn’t like wot woz happenin’ at all, not one little bit. Mary the nice vet receptionist tried to get me near the vet and I said “Nu-huh” an’ pulled back into the corner behind mummy Sue and NO WAY woz I moving, never ever. Mary pulled an’ pulled, so I pulled an’ pulled back – I’s not stupid – my vet’s a vampire!!!! So mummy Sue took my lead and I thought she woz taking me home so I followed her and guess wot, she led me right to where the vet woz standing – oooooooh, mummy Suuuueeee.

I made sure I give everyone my big hypno-death ray stare but they still tooks me blood. Mummy Sue sed it woz so that we could come to Poland wif her in the summer. If the blood test is ok we’ll have our passports and we can go on holeedaze all over the place wif mummy Sue and daddy Richard – they woz even talkin’ about going somewhere warm for the winter – that’s nice, tho’ I do qwuite like charging thru the snow….

I woz thinkin’ about not forgivin’ mummy Sue ever ever, but then she give me the best treat – she sed she woz too tired to take me to dog training so I got to spend the night on me own duvet in me own house wifout all them hexcitable border collies runnin around being enfusiastic.

Can we go now? I's had my briefin' from Lou so no need to listen to the man-person....

We had a BIG rest on Friday coz mummy Sue sed we had to save our energies for Saturday. I woz hexcited – on Saturday we gots to go in the car – it woz a long way an we got a bit bored. I kept sayin’ “are we there yet?” so that daddy Richard would drive faster and then mummy Sue would say “don’t you think that’s a bit fast for this road” – spoilsport!

Eventually we got to the place – is called Caen Hill. We woz there for a guided walk – mummy Sue an’ daddy Richard woz being guided by a man-person but Lou woz my guide coz she’s been here lots before. I did hear the man-person say it woz an hour’s walk down the hill then we’d have to march right up again. “Uh oh” I thought that’s a long way an’ Ty woz scared before we even started AND he’d hurt his leg chargin’ around the garden before we left. I woz half hopin’ we’d be left behind but no, they made us walk the whole way.

Lou woz a very good guide – she showed me where to get the best fusses – she’s got a fuss-radar – she knows hexactly what people to go up to an rub her face on. So once she woz in then I’d follow – there woz some very good ear-rubbers on the tour. Then Lou showed me where the wildlife woz – like ducks – I loves duck – roasted all crispy – yum yum. But one of her favourites ponds woz empty – that’s a surprise! Then she showed me a sqwirrel and a field where there woz wabbits. She sniffed all the best sniffs an’ wee’d in all the best places. Mummy Sue an’ daddy Richard didn’t seem very hintersted in any of what Lou woz showin’ me – I thought they should have paid more attention but they woz listenin’ to the borin’ man-person goin’ on ’bout hist’ry an stuff.

Altho’ it woz interestin’ I woz well tired by the time we gots to the bottom of the hill – I sighed and walked slowly then I sighed some more and walked even more slowly, I even tried to follow the nice lady who said “who’s for the minibus back up the hill”. But mummy Sue didn’t get the hint – she sed that Ty woz scared of the minibus an’ it woz such a nice day we should all walk back – so I sighed some more and trailed along behind her.

Lou lookin' for ducks - ooh, where did all the water go?

I thought we woz going’ back to our duvets then but mummy Sue an’ daddy Richard took us to their favrit pub. Now I’s been to the pub before and Lou’s practically a pub dog, but Ty’s never been inside a pub before. It was luverly – there woz a nice warm fire an’ mummy Sue put our comfy sheepskins on the floor so I lay down an’ toasted my belly. Ty liked it too, coz after a little while he lay down as well – oh course, Lou was laid down practic’ly as soon as were through the door! I likes pubs – mummy Sue and daddy Richard always gets us sausages – only one each, which woz a bit mean considerin’ all the walking we done but we did get some bread ‘n butter as well so that woz ok.We woz stretched out all contented when suddenly this mad spaniel came runnin’ in at top speed – he’d hescaped from the pub garden – me an Ty jumped up and looked at him so he scarpered pretty quick. Lucky Lou woz behind the table – the mad spaniel would have been reely scared if she’d looked at him!

We woz so tired after all this activity that we slept all the way home then we slept some more – mummy Sue went to bed at 7.30pm – wot?????!

On Sunday it wozn’t fair at all – I wanted to go out in the car but mummy Sue wouldn’t let me; Ty didn’t want to go in the car so mummy Sue hinsisted that he went – huh! Turns out that Ty woz still hoppin’ on 3 legs – the vet sez he’s got a hinfection in his hock, which is like a human heel, he is a medical myst’ry – no idea how he got a hinfection. He had a hurty injection and had to do greyhound death screams wot everyone could hear right through Pets at Home. Ty’s a bit baldy too so he’s got to have tests for that – they started by scraping some of his skin off! I woz well miffed that he got a trip in the car, but maybe I woz more lucky so stay at home.

Ty’s got to rest ’til his leg’s better so me an Lou might get to walk in all the places that he thinks are too scary so it might be a hexciting next week as well. Mummy Sue sez that Greygal is coming to visit next weekend so we’s got to get ready for a big expert fussing – d’oh mummy Sue, we’s ALWAYS ready for a big fuss…..

What walk all the way UP the hill - where's that minibus?

Me toastin' my belly by the fire - woz nice...

Lou looking for more sausages....

Me an' Ty - see how relazed Ty is - he qwuite likes the pub whixh is a big thing - he don't like many places...

Oh no, I's so tired me head's been attacked by the evil sheepskin - help!!

Poor old Ty - he might not be well but at least he's comfy...

Ooh that's better, I's got me head back and I's got the pillow pacified...

Lou knows how to get comfy too - see how daddy Richard's painted the wall behind her bed - that caused a commotion - we had to move our beds!

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Boat Blog: Caen Hill Deconstructed..

Posted by indigodream on 13 February, 2011

Saturday 12th February

Famous view up the Caen Hill flight...

We had a magical day yesterday when we joined a BW open day at the infamous Caen Hill lock flight on the Kennet and Avon Canal.

By some strange fate we’ve cruised the down the Caen Hill flight once but up it three times! People may get daunted by it, but we love it, and I have to say that I find it no effort at all :-). I was amazed at how familiar it all seemed – like coming home – I found myself grinning with the sheer pleasure of being here. Now, that’s odd, because I find long stretches of the Kennet and Avon tedious beyond belief, yet there are some points on the canal which are so special you just have to see them at least once in your cruising life. I guess it’s the classic curate’s egg – very good in parts!

We drove down with the three hounds in under 2 hours – it’s not far at all and the route from Surrey is very scenic, taking in the rolling countryside of Hampshire and Wiltshire – replete with history, wealth and the most beautiful thatched hamlets. The otherwise featureless Salisbury Plain is punctuated by tank crossing points – we’ve never seen a tank in action there but it would be a great diversion. I was amused by the ‘Salisbury Plain bylaws’ notices posted on each tank crossing – the words are far too small to read when driving past and we wondered whether the notices are a lure for unwary drivers – anyone who stops to read the fine print are promptly used for target practice!

It was the most glorious day – the further west we drove the sunnier it became – it was positively warm by the time we reached the BW car park and spotted the BW welcome tent. We were a little early for our tour so we wandered up to the cafe at the top of the flight – we’ve never been there before but it is a fine little place – too popular by half today, as the queue for coffees exceeded the time we had available.

We wandered back down to the BW welcome tent, which had a diverting display of old photographs. It’s hard to believe that in the 1960’s the flight, and indeed most of the canal, was totally derelict. What vision and determination it must have taken to open the waterway again. There is an archive programme from 1973 on the ITV web site, click here. Coincidentally, nb Harnser has also posted a charming film of the K & A from 1948 – check out the steam trains! Much as I’ve complained about the K & A, I’d be complaining even more if it wasn’t available for cruising!

See how the towpath has collapsed - that happened recently and was an unwelcome addition to the winter works...

As always the greyhounds drew a lot of attention – we’ve become used to people exclaiming “look, just like a tiger’ when they see Lou’s striking brindle – she, of course, poses outrageously in response. She and Lynx were lavished with fuss (Ty’s too shy) from the crowd waiting for the tour.   And it was a crowd – maybe 30 people on our tour and they’d had similar or greater numbers on earlier tours. Many people were locals – Caen Hill is a popular spot with walkers – maybe even more so than with boaters, judging by the number of gongoozlers we’ve encountered on previous cruises. The flight and the towpath are apparently closed for 2 months – I think that the tours were great way of explaining why the stoppage is so lengthy.

Our tour was led by Mark, who manages the whole of the Kennet and Avon Canal plus the Bridgewater and Taunton – he was knowledgeable and articulate – a perfect guide to the flight and to the works. The Caen Hill flight has been designated as an ancient monument but I was pleased to see that they were not constrained to ancient building techniques for the repairs.

Some of side-pounds had been drained so we could see how shallow they were – when they’re full they look like a very tempting hiding place when long boats have to pass in the short pounds. Uhmm, maybe not then – though you couldn’t choose a more scenic spot to be grounded 🙂

We strolled down the flight, imbibing fresh air, beautiful views and interesting facts in equal measure. The highlight of the tour was watching the contractors lowering a huge new lock gate into position. It was skilled work – especially by the man standing at the bottom of the lock checking the fit – he looked utterly insignificant. The lock had obviously been drained, exposing its smart red brick lining. The drained lock was imposingly deep – I’d forgotten that these locks are not just monuments – they’re monumental!

One of the best waterway views....

Richard spent some time chatting to the guides so I’ll let him fill in the technical details….

Maintaining a 200 year waterway is not easy, no doubt made harder at present, with cutbacks just as the canal passes the 20 year point since its restoration. Today was a great opportunity for the guys on the ground to show what they do and explain some of the difficulties – they did it very well.

New sheet piling is being put in to support crumbling towpath walls. Rather than re-building the slender brick walls they have managed to get English Heritage approval to put in piles designed for a 100 year life, well done BW. They are working off floating pontoons which is pretty efficient as you can get closer to your work, which makes the plant smaller and therefore cheaper; but it is an interesting logistical exercise to keep certain parts of the flight in water for this sort of work whilst de-watering other parts for lock gate works.

Lock gate works are obviously the most impressive part of the operation and we can forgive the guys making a bit of a show of it. Why do I write about it being a show? We were convinced that they had the crane move the gate into position once an hour for each tour – we’re so glad they did as it made for great photographs 🙂

The team have to fit the gates into a recess which has gradually changed shape over the last 20 years, yet they make fitting them  look easier then hanging a door. Ok, the team was led by the same guy who originally hung the gates there before the 1990 restoration; but it’s worth remembering that each leaf weighs about 3T and costs £10,000 to buy. Apart from a few exotic materials such as the use of a phosphor bronze pin at the base, they are made of the same stuff as the original gates from 200 years ago. Interestingly oak, with its bit of ‘give’, continues to be the material of choice – steel is cheaper, ekki is harder/more durable but both modern alternatives lead to deterioration to the lock quoins.

There seems to be a real commitment to keeping the skills of their direct labour force in house; that is to be commended, but it is clear that the pressures are mounting. Between Bath and the summit there is a chain of pumps keeping the canal in water. Mark said the old records mention that at times the Caen Hill flight would only be open in the mornings as they had such severe water problems. It is less severe now, with pumps and a 24″ pumping main running up the hill alongside the lock flight; but the whole network of pumps costs £400,000 a year just in electricity. That is 10% of Mark’s £4 million annual budget.

Allocating that budget takes a lot of hard work. On the Kennet & Avon, the entire canal is surveyed once a month to update a 4,000 item defect list. The work is normally done by the same people, so they get quite good at looking for changes. So, if a crack has been there for many years and is not opening or closing then it goes on the list as a defect but not urgent. They use that list to prioritise their work. But when pressed they admitted that they’d like maybe £2 million more per year – that would enable them not to produce a perfect waterway, but a 200 year old waterway in reasonable condition. Will they get this needed extra 50%? Fat chance if the DEFRA budget is being cut by 15%. The sad thing is that these are not large sums of money, for example £2 million is the value of a previous Lord Chancellor’s pension after a few years work – Bah Humbug!

The tour was immaculately organised, with a minibus at the bottom the flight to take people back to the starting point, though the majority, including us, chose to walk back up the flight. The view from the top of Caen Hill is my favourite on the whole canal network though there is plenty of competition!

All too often, Engineers are poor communicators who don’t properly explain what they are doing, so people don’t understand the difficulties, and the whole status of the profession suffers as a result. Mark, as a civil engineer, and his team, did a great job and we thanked them for the efforts – we had had a genuinely interesting tour and they are to be congratulated.

After our tour we drove down to one of our favourite canalside pubs – the Barge Inn at Seend. We’ve moored here several times – it’s a warm, welcoming dog-friendly pub with good food – even on a Sunday. It was so nice to be back – there was plenty of room for the exhausted greyhounds to stretch out in front of one of the many open fires and we had a fine lunch. It is a Wadworth’s pub – the brewery’s in nearby Devizes – they offer a novel ‘taster’ – three one-third of a pint measures of different brews; choose your favourite then get a discount on a whole pint! As we relaxed into the afternoon, our only regret was that Indigo Dream was moored back at Limehouse – we could have done with her here for a post-prandial coffee, snooze and rugby! We drove home well contented and arrived just in time to see Wales win the rugby – amazing – that hasn’t happened for a while. It was a fine end to a fine day….


We had no ideas the BW tugs were so 'pointed' under the water - is that to make it easier to come into shallow edges???

One of the drained side-pounds - these are vital to the working of the flight and are also great homes for the local wildlife.

Sheet piling operation...

Partially repaired - new sheet piling and a background view of the old piles which have failed dramatically...

Hanging a new lock gate is a big operation...

Good view of the gate paddle - or rather, the hole which the paddle will cover...

Delicate work...

Beautiful red brick arched lining - not a sight we usually get to see through the turbid waters...

A few fine adjustments....

View down to the drained pound below - they need drained pounds for the lock work but full pounds for the towpath repairs - it's a logistical puzzle....

This pump was busy - presumably keeping the works dry - I assume that water seeps down from above come what may...

Wending our way back up the flight...

Abundant freshwater mussels - the fish are moved when they drain the pounds but I guess these critters just have to take their chances...

A selection of Wadworth's finest....

The brewery in Devizes (taken in haste from the car) - it does tours! We really must explore this town sometime - it looks charming...

Stop and read it if you dare - we suspect that the last line reads "people who stop to read this notice will be run over by a tank".....

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Boat Blog: A fine day at the marina…

Posted by indigodream on 9 February, 2011

No, Lynx, let go of the keyboard – it’s MY turn……

Wednesday 9th February

Now keep up – my cousin Paul, brother to cousin Denise, who has borrowed Indigo Dream in the past, is currently working as a locum audiologist. He’s based in West Wales, but is often employed in NHS hospitals all over the country, where he gets to stay with the nurses(!); but now he’s been offered a bit of work in Harley Street. Being a private establishment, it doesn’t come with accomodation so he’s staying on the boat for a few days – if he likes it there he may be back again next week.

Ooops, having made the grand offer of the boat, I then struggled to remember what state she was in when we last left her!

I went up to the marina this morning to get the boat ready and meet Paul for a briefing. It was a stunning morning – bright sunshine, blue sky and just a hint of warmth in the air – Limehouse Marina looked magnificent from every angle – even dingy old Commercial Road looked fresh! I was amazed at how high my spirits lifted just from the sight of Indigo Dream – when I’ve been land-bound for a few weeks I forget what a great tonic it is just to be on the water.

The boat looked pretty good – clean enough for a cousin, though possibly not for a mum!

For the log, I emptied the water tank and refilled it with fresh water today. I’ve resolved to flush the tank with Milton before we start the 2011 odyssey….

I suddenly realised that come May, we’ll have had Indigo Dream for 5 years – wow – it’s been great!

Of course, that reminded me of all those jobs that could have been done at 3 years but which we put off until the 5 year mark – like pulling her out of the water, checking out the blacking and re-applying or patching as required. If we could get it organised (precision timing not generally being a feature of waterways projects!) then we have a 3-week window in the summer where we’re not cruising and could get her out of the water for the work to be done. By then we’ll be somewhere in the East Midlands – exact location to be calculated, possibly on the Chesterfield Canal.

We also need to consider whether to replace the hose that takes the ordure from the loo to the tank under the back deck. I suspect that we’re getting close to the limit of the hose’s design life though we haven’t smelled any signs of deterioration as yet. It’s a daunting prospect –  it will mean taking the the kitchen units out….

So, has anyone had experience of any boatyards in the East Midlands, preferably ones that have the facilities for blacking a hull with 2-pack paint? Any feedback would be much appreciated.

Blog Note: The existing coating is Hempel Hempadur Mastic 45889 on zinga, the only similar product we can find on their website is this one but with a reference of 45880 which probably comes in black. It needs to be ideally applied by airless spray. Their Inland Waterways Manual – click here – suggests using Hempadur 45143 but that needs 4 coats and only comes in red!!!

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Dog Blog: Lynx’s Diary

Posted by indigodream on 6 February, 2011

Sunday 6th February

Well, it’s bin a very hard week – all I wants to do is my job – keeping mummy Sue company – but she keeps sneakin’ out and leavin’ me – wot’s that all about, eh? Oh sure, she’s leavin’ me with Lou and Ty for comp’ny, an’ lots of comfy beds, tasty chew sticks, bowls of food in case I gets hungry and bowls of water in case I gets thirsty, but wot sort of life is that for a hound?

We woz qwite tired after our day at Nanny Renia’s last weekend so we woz qwite looking forward to relaxing at home all week. But we woz off to a bad start when Mummy Sue dragged us out on a long walk on Monday – it woz a new place (Bletchingley) wot had never been wee’d on by me before – fancy! Ty woz too scared to wee so I had to do it for two – how hexhausting! Mummy Sue walked and walked – she thought we’d like bein’ out in the countryside but Ty’d rather be in his bed and after the first 500 wee’s I’d had enough reelly; Lou had a nice time coz she got to bark at other dogs – Mummy Sue sez she’s got very bad manners, but Lou thinks it’s great fun to act all ferocious. I woz pleezed for Lou becoz she doesn’t come to dog training any more so she doesn’t get the same chance to hembarrass Mummy Sue as us boys….

On Tuesday we had to go an’ patrol the garden at Nanny Renia’s again. She’s got foxes and sqwirrels – we’s got to be on the lookout all day long. We had such a busy busy day, but Nanny Renia gives us big fusses an’ lots of food and she finks we’re the best behaved hounds ever – this makes mummy Sue very happy. Mummy Sue sez we got to take good care of Nanny Renia and must be very gentle and not push her over when we’s giving cuddles. It woz loverly but I didn’t hardly get to see Mummy Sue all day long and then daddy Richard went to dog training wif Ty – huh!

Mummy Sue sneaked out to do shopping on Wednesday – I s’pose that woz sort of ok coz she stocked up wif goodies at Pets at Home. Mummy Sue looked like she woz havin’ a reely borin’ day so Lou cut her foot in the garden so as to give her bit of hexcitement. I liked that, coz then me an Lou had a trip in the car to see my nice blonde vet. Lou almost had stitches, but her skin woz too thin, so Mummy Sue’s just got to bathe the wound and keep an eye on it.

Then Mummy Sue got a chest infection an’ she woz coffin and coffin all night long – shhhhhh Mummy Sue, I needs my beauty sleeps.

In never got a wink of sleeps so I doesn’t know why daddy Richard thought I should go to dog training. I thought it woz enuff just to turn up but they’s so unreasonable – I’s showed them that I can lie down….an’ lie down…’ sleeps – wot more duz they want? The boss lady sed that me an Ty has the the least spark of any greyhound she’s ever seen – wot? Greyhounds don’t do sparky – we just does the 7-dwarfs – you knows – sleepy, dopey, bashful, happy – well, ok, we’s not grumpy very often and we don’t do much sneezing and ‘doc’ is the vet who we sees, not us, but you gets the idea!

So that’s my week, which woz bad enuff, but my weekend woz terrible – Mummy Sue an’ Daddy Richard went out for the night on Friday to watch the rugby wif some friends. They went early and came home reelly reelly late and we woz so pleezed to see them; Mummy Sue didn’t look so pleezed when she got in – prob’ly becoz Wales woz rubbish in the rugby – nothing to do with the ginormous puddle of wee inside the front door…..

Well, it woz obvious to me that Mummy Sue don’t happreciate me enuff, so on Saturday I thought I’d just run around and cut my eyelid in the garden. Ooh wot a commotion – woz a big panic to get me to the vet before they went home. I woz ever so disappointed – my blonde vet woz having a day off – I thought she should be on call forever, just for me. My eye is ok – mummy Sue just needs to bathe the cut – like she has to bathe Lou’s foot – it’s not as if she’s got anyfink else to do wif her time 🙂

But even tho’ I woz bein’ a bit pitiful they still went out on Saturday night – without us – but it was a Greyhoundhomer quiz night – we should have bin there – it woz for the greyhounds! Mummy Sue sed it woz loverly to meet other greyhound mummies an’ daddies – they’s all mad for greyhounds which made mummy Sue feel qwuite normal. Mummy Sue didn’t look so pleezed when she got in – probably coz she’s so rubbish at quizzes – nothing to with needing a canoe to get through the lake of wee in the kitchen…. What’s wrong wif indoor boating?

THEN on Sunday they went out again! It wozn’t so bad – they went to Harlequins rugby and it woz only for the afternoon and Daddy Richard did take us for a big walk before they went out. Mummy Sue didn’t look so pleezed when she got in – definitely becoz the Cardiff Blues rugby team woz rubbish coz there wozn’t a puddle to be seen indoors!

I had a quiet word wif Mummy Sue coz I doesn’t like this social life she’s got WIFOUT US. She told me not to worry – she reckons she’s done more goin’ out in this weekend than she’d normally do in a year! But she sez we’s got a busy day coming up next Saturday so we’s all got to save our energies. I do hope she lets us have a good rest this week – she’s got no idea how hard it is for me to look after her…..

Note from Sue:

Next week we’re planning a trip down to Caen Hill – by car! BW are doing tours of the winter works so we thought we’d take a look – it’s always interesting to see ‘what lies beneath…’, as it were, and I’m hoping that a walk along the flight will be invigorating for both humans and hounds.We’re booked onto the 1pm tour on Saturday – hope we have a fair day – we’ve always enjoyed good weather on previous trips to the K & A!

If you fancy a tour then take this link to the details – Caen Hill Tour….

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