Thursday, 29 April 2010

A love of the canals

I have identified a current trend with the liveaboards on the Ashby Canal (if a sample of two can be a trend in a population of 'howmany' liveaboards). Young people seem to be buying boats and living on them in this part of the world. I've even seen them with their hoods up.

By young, I mean in their twenties (I always considered that the canals were the preserve of the over fifties (only a year to go in my case)). I'm not sure where they are getting the money from (probably theft) but it is a buyers market. A cheap form of housing or a love of the canals? Who can tell. But it is very possible for the former to become the latter, with time.

I met a guy the other day whom I first met when we first moved aboard Pickles No 2 and at that time he had just been divorced, was on his uppers and living in an old Dawncraft as he could not afford any other form of housing. But in the last two years, he has got his life together, bought a 'proper' steel narrowboat' got himself a decent job and a love of the canals (not just a cheap form of housing) along with many friends amonst the boating community and would never live in a house again. You see, it's not just the middle class marina dwellers who have a 'love of the canals' (as they spend several weekends a year on them).

I don't wish to influence anyone (god forbid) in the forthcoming election, but the Torys intend to  sell the BW property portfolio, if reading between the lines of the latest Towpath Telegraph is anything to go by (which it's probably not). It obviously depends which lines you wish to read between. I don't choose my lines lightly but as a fundamentalist liberal (no, not a 'Liberal') I'm good at choosing between 'my' lines (or sitting on the fence).

Hell, vote BMP. You know it makes sense.

Monday, 19 April 2010


Pickles in the sun

There's coal on the Ashby again (not counting Gosty Hill of course), except that it's not on the boats, it's on the bank. When BW dredged the canal late last year and the first part of this, they placed the puddle clay on the towpath side between the path and the bank. The clay has now completely dried out and amongst the clay can be found black gold. But how did it get there?
 Is it a meteor?

I can only presume that, since the Ashby was used as a coal canal for a couple of centuries, that this coal had fallen off the boats traveling it's length. There are places were there is quite a lot scattered around. For example where here is modern piling there is little to be had but where there has been little modernization, there is lumps of it. But you have got to wonder how it fell off the boats. Were they not as careful as we would probably be with the same load? I have read that boatmen would be fined if found to be underweight.

 And to prove the weight
When I say there are lumps to be found lumps, I mean very large lumps. I have had reports from another boater of finds that are 20 kg in weight but I have personally found a lump that weighs 43.2kg. To any walker they resemble rocks but they break easily and each half is unmistakable for what it is.

Look at the size of that

It was another boater who put me on to this, nbPlum and Plummy, it's owner. He claims to have heated his boat through the winter on this coal and I find that quite easy to believe.

And just to prove that it's not some random rock I picked up.

Is it worth collecting? That depends on how much you appreciate a free thing and how much you value your time. I reckon I could collect a 25kg bag in an hour of the small stuff if you find a good patch. But several large lumps would easily improve that. Seven quid an hour. I admit that I cannot stand missing out on a free thing. I also like to think that I've got a sense of history, several million years in the making, several centuries at the bottom of the Ashby and two days on my boat before being burnt. And I have no pride and am quite happy scrabbling around on the towpath on my hands and knees, getting filthy much to Lisa's despair.

Just out enjoying the sun

This is my 200th post. Happy birthday.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Back again.

I've been having as bit of a blog break lately. No reason, just have.

Since we had the bottom blacked we've been off the Ashby and down at Ansty on the Oxford, then down to Hilmorton, then, during the Easter break, we decided to move to Fradley Junction for a pint at the Swan. All very pleasant and the usual mix of weathers, experiences and thoughts (well, no thoughts actually). The blacking is looking decidedly used, even the newly painted red and white bands at the back need tarting up again. The problem is that we use the damn thing.
The Ashby has had a very light hand as far as the mooring wardens are concerned this year. As a paradox, there are actually less livaboards here this year as well. I've always said that these thing sort themselves out without outside influences. We were down at Ansty a couple of weeks ago and Iain off Gosty Hill coal boat said that he had seen loads from the Ashby that trip. Strangely the next day the people doing the twice yearly boat check raced past on their bikes clutching their computers tapping furiously. The next day a stream of Ashby liveaboards sped past presumably returning to their liveaboard roots. It would appear that they had left the Ashby in order to avoid being pinged there by the check. But once they've been pinged elsewhere...

Life on the canals is a tad easier with the advent of the good weather. Not so much ice, snow and rain but the mud on the towpath. It's the one thing I really hate. Good when frozen and when dry but not in between. But we had a BBQ the other evening which is always a good sign of things to come. Lisa even got a bit of sunburn on the way up the Atherstone flight.

The one thing I can remember on the boating front was when the owner of a certain historic nb (nameless) on his way to Coventry Basin for an event, crashed into the concrete bank on the way towards the lock at Sutton Stop. He didn't seem to be steering at all and I have no idea why he drove staight into it. It's no wonder those old boats are battered if this is the level of boatmanship (boatwomanship in the case of at least one ex-working boat) of their owners.

Believe it or not, I didn't take a single photo since the last blog. More soon. I've even written the next one.