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A Winter Miscellany

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Having seen the pictures of Peter and Kirk enjoying themselves cavorting on the top planks of the Narrow Boat Trusts’ boats, Brighton and Nuneaton, in my previous blog post, our former advertising guru, Mr Langford, decided that he should take up the challenge. He donned his special “top-plank walking” hat, knitted from steel wool, which, even though he denies it, contains a gyroscope and a top of the range “sat-nav” system linked directly to his brain by a couple of loose strands of wool. It is a shame that unbeknownst to him, he was wearing it back-to-front which meant that he was unable to let go with both hands without falling over. Even with vociferous encouragement from the assembled onlookers, he refused to let go and fall in. No prizes for him, then.

Back to reality, and the latest news from the wonderful world of coal-boating.

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After almost losing the sun in a load of airbourne Saharan sand recently, it looks like we might actually get a winter this year. A red sun is the harbinger of a dreadful winter, apparently.  We have already had a few frosts, and some customers have had actual snow falling. Whoopeee! It is surprising how much heat a coal man can generate by rubbing his hands together when cold weather is forecast. He can get even more excited when the orders come rolling in - get on the coal hotline now to avoid disappointment. All tastes catered for!


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We’ve been out and about as usual this autumn, and we even made time to visit the Stourbridge gathering in October. This was the first time that Roach has appeared at this do, although we have attended over the years by public transport. It was decided that a bed on site would be better than taking a bus ride back to the yard whilst busting for the loo. Ian Braine joined us for the trip from Awbridge to Stourbridge just to keep his hand in. and was allowed to return Roach to Awbridge with just young George for company. This gave me time to head north to meet Dev at Yarwoods Basin.

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I joined Dev Shep aboard his boat Effingham on the River Weaver in Northwich to finally deliver the coal that he had loaded earlier at Awbridge. This involved a short trip from Yarwoods Basin, then a gruelling couple of hours work hand-balling several tonnes of out of the boat and making the final delivery by the time honoured “wheel-barrow” method. Dev is very much the modern, or “Yoof”, boater, and is the epitome of cool with nonchalant attitude and "shades and hoodie” look. The picture below shows Effingham returning downstream towards Hunts Locks in Northwich. The boatyard on the left was Pimblotts, where some of the “Admiral” class narrow boats were built for the British Waterways fleet around 1960. These were among the last carrying narrow boats ever built. Effingham, as the name would suggest, is an “Admiral” class boat, and not a comment aimed at the Canal and River Trust. Effingham, however, was built just below Hunts Locks by Yarwoods. It seems that Pimblotts yard is next in line for housing development; we can hope for some fine, visionary and imaginative architecture, but I don’t suppose that’s what we will get. I’m not holding my breath.

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Time now for a little lyrical waxing. The autumn colours have been pretty spectacular this year as shown in the following two photos. The first shows Roach above Debdale Lock on the Staffs & Worcs Canal just as the first autumnal colours were showing, and the other is taken in Grub Street Cutting on the Shropshire Union Canal as autumn is in full swing. Fol de lol de rol etc...

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Enough of that nonsense, Fotherington-Thomas, and back to reality. 

Another recent trip saw Roach on the Severn again, this time just from Stourport to Worcester. We had to hang about above Lincomb Lock for a while, as the lock keeper could not get to the lock because there was a barge blocking the road! The lock cut was pretty much full, the crane barge was moored there together with the bottom-discharge barge, “Teme”. “Teme” is quite an unusual boat as it is hinged in the middle along its’ length which allows it to discharge dredged material into the Severn estuary. It has not performed this function in living memory, and is now only used as part of the maintenance fleet. It is also the noisiest vessel that I have ever heard moving; the steering cabin being mounted right on top of what essentially is a large outboard motor. The mere threat of being assigned to drive this vessel is used by CRT to keep their unruly staff in line.

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After a pleasant overnight sojourn in Worcester, taking in the delights of “the Cardinals' Hat” and “The Plough”, and then snapping a couple of arty shots around Diglis Basin, I managed to get Roach stuck in Tolladine Lock on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. Well stuck. It needed three of us to free it, and not easily at that. We’ve never been stuck here before, and I’m sure that Roach has not spread, so it must be the lock structure that has moved. There is significant cracking to the brickwork on the off-side, and, presumably, this has moved the iron guard outwards into the channel.

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It appears that Roach is not the only boat to have been caught out here, I believe that Gort was also stuck here for some time recently. It has been reported to the relevant authority, but as similar situations at Hurleston Bottom Lock and at Napton have been known about for many years with no resolution, I fully expect to be getting stuck here for a few more years yet.

And finally……

Here is a picture of die-hard boaters enjoying a conversation in Slaters Bar on a night out in Wolverhampton. There’s no hope.

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