A Grim North

Musings from a northerner living in the deep south…

Archive for August, 2010

A Transport of Delight

Posted by Alan on August 30, 2010

This weekend my parents came down to see our flat and have a bit of an explore of London. After our narrowboat trip earlier this year we felt the best way to start Sunday would be a trip on the Waterbus from Little Venice to Camden Lock.

Waterbuses pass

Waterbuses pass at speed

The Waterbus provides a daily service about once per hour along this stretch of the Regents canal, with one intermediate stop at London Zoo! Compared to the canals we travelled on ‘up north’ the Regents seems very deep – at least 1½ traffic cones! From here we walked round to Camden stables market where we grabbed some cheap eats. It’s no Borough market but cheap enough not to hurt too much! The market has changed a lot since I last went – with the near completion of a new huge multi-story building.  It was as busy as ever though…

Camden Stables Market, London

Camden Stables Market

From here we headed up to the tube at Chalk Farm and continued north as far as Golders Green where for Sunday only there were old buses running to the RAF museum at Hendon. But en route for Hendon the heavens opened really quite seriously – giving Britain’s finest in stereotypical bank holiday weather!

Britain's finest design

Britain's finest designs - together in the rain!

RAF Hendon museum of course added aeroplanes in to the mix and we enjoyed the first hall of aircraft which included a Eurofighter typhoon and a 3D sales pitch of the Eurofighter. I haven’t been to the cinema to see a 3D film and I don’t think I will unless they can figure it out without the stupid glasses. Just rubbish.  The film itself was OK, except for some reason they missed out the inevitable mindless killing of innocents in their demonstration of the laser guided bombs! I do wonder how long it will be before we just let machines fight it out for us.

Eurofighter at RAF Hendon

Eurofighter at RAF Hendon

As it was getting to late afternoon (and the ancient buses would soon have to be retired to their garages) we had to leave the museum before having fully gone round it – so I think doing that properly will be on my to do list. If I can get round before Cameron cuts free museums anyway…!

From here we headed back on the old bus to Mill Hill East tube – the story of which is told in this excellent documentary, Unfinished London, before continuing east by regular public transport back our flat and ready for tea. It was nice to explore a new part of London for us – though I think we probably tried to fit too much in.  Must learn not to cram together ideas!

Of course there is a full set of photos on flickr.

(Note: post title shamelessly plagiarised, from Flanders and Swann!)

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Posted by Alan on August 27, 2010

Old City of York

Old City of York

Yesterday I went for an epic trip to York to meet up with Rodge who I haven’t seen since he got married earlier this year.  (Well its not like you can really talk on a wedding day!).

We strolled round the city centre, found a greasy spoon (Jorvik Cafe) for lunch before finding the York brewery. After a successful piss up in a brewery…we wandered round the walls for a bit finding a couple more pubs to try out before I had to head back on the train around 7pm. (More on the pubs over at East London Drinker in due course!)

It was a long day out but well worth it.

Brewery visit: Success!

Brewery visit: Success!

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A bit of nostalgia – Milnrow Carnival, 1992

Posted by Alan on August 23, 2010

Recently I’ve been playing about a bit with some old VHS cassettes to learn how best to convert the old family videos to digital formats before we no longer have devices to play them on! Most of this is family stuff that isn’t really for the internet, but when I found Milnrow Carnival in 1992…well youtube’d it had to be (it’s not a revolution, it’s OK).

On Newhey Road by the card factory.

On Cornfield St outside what was Hollingworth High School… just 18 years go but seems like a whole different world.

For the tech-heads I’ve written a bit more below on the technical aspect.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Narrowboat Log – Day 7

Posted by Alan on August 22, 2010

First off we moved the few hundred metres through Wheelock to fill up the boat.  Having not reached Hassall Green, the last day would be longer than planned.  From here we were rushed through locks 66 and 65 buy a really unhelpful boat called ‘Stonewall’ who seemed to think everything was far to slow! So we moored up an ate the sausages bought in Middlewich the day before as brunch and let them steam by.  The rest of the Wheelock flight plus the two locks at Hassall Green were finished in time to have a pint at the Romping Donkey.

Happy Ruth locking up

Happy Ruth locking up

And then the sun came out! And after a quick pint we carried on up the final locks to Kidsgrove finding the Red Bull next to Lock 43.  Excellent food and rather good beer.  By now the light was starting to fall as we hit the last stretch back to the boatyard.  Given our tendency not to rise early, it seemed wise to be as close to the marina as possible.  The last lock, the Hall Green stop lock with just at 6″ rise put us back on the Macclesfield canal and within 15 mins we were moored inside the marina.

Mum working the boat

Mum working the boat

And so that was it – Sunday morning we had to hand back the boat at 9AM, so after some tidying we slept with alarms on for the first time in a week. It was my first boating trip in around 9 years – very enjoyable and Ruth is now hooked.  Apparently if I get rich, I have to buy a narrowboat! 🙂

And so I sign off this series of posts with a very helpful sign on one of the locks: Keep boat forward of cill marker.

Keep boat forward...

Keep boat forward...


Weather: fair with sunny outbursts

Destination: Heritage boatyard, Scholar Green

Locks: 25 (I think)

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Narrowboat Log – Day 6

Posted by Alan on August 21, 2010

Another late start (oh yeah, love the boating timetable!) we cruised down the Dane Valley to Middlewich where we stopped for some supplies and a chance to walk about. Middlewich is a traditional town featuring a few local shops – we picked up more great sausages from a friendly butchers. However, the 00s disease was not far away – a giant Tesco looming over the town centre plus the additional Tesco Metro about 400 metres further down the road.

The Alhambra, Middlewich

The Alhambra, Middlewich - currently a Chinese restaurant

As well as the plethora of Tesco, the town also has the very modern/60s affliction –  an addiction to motor cars.  Much of the High St was devoted to parking leaving little space for footpaths.  In fact as we wandered down the street a queue built up to the point where people got out of their cars and started chatting to each other!  Never mind, the pork & wild mushroom sausages were well worth it. After the 7 or so Middlewich locks we were back in salt country.

Salt factory

Salt mountain!

Friday was the wettest day, so we didn’t reach our intended destination – Hassall Green, instead mooring at Wheelock and visiting “Liz’s Plaice” for fish and chips where were very tasty (and proper – non of this silly southern skin on fish rubbish!).  More cards and scrabble saw us through to bed time!

Ruth, windswept at the tiller

Ruth, windswept at the tiller


Weather: Fair to drizzle to miserable rain

Destination: Wheelock

Locks: 9

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Cycle Hired #4

Posted by Alan on August 17, 2010

I promise not to write every time I get on a damn bike, honest! Today saw me take one of the borisbikes from Victoria to Liverpool St. According to my phone GPS this was 5 miles (8km) – which I achieved in the respectable time of 23 mins. Sadly the GPS lies – it’s just 3.3 miles (5.3km) which is only an average of 8mph.

Homeward bound

Never mind, I’ll try again tomorrow and might try a different route. (I might also try not wearing a suit!).

Am I alone in thinking the Victoria Embankment would make a great cycle super-highway?

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Narrowboat Log – Day 5

Posted by Alan on August 15, 2010

A very late start this morning! We dispatched mum and Ruth off for some ‘ retail therapy’ at the farm shop, to which they obliged by returning with some excellent sausages and other treats. Since we were close to a boatyard we opted for pump out – despite extensively using on shore facilities there’s only so long you can last…

Boat and butty, Trent and Mersey Canal

Boat and butty

We followed another boat through the final tunnel and back to the Anderton lift where we stopped for some liquid refreshment at the Stanley Arms, as well as filling up the water tank on Endevour. Mid afternoon we stopped close to ‘Broken Cross’ on the edge of Northwich.  This part of Cheshire doesn’t fit the stereotype at all – everyone seemed to have a fag on, they had to razz around in souped up cars and the pub didn’t seem too friendly either.  So we found a chinese before moving on.


Even the signets were stubborn!

After tea we sailed out back into the open countryside to find a peaceful spot to moor for the night – mostly to play scabble and cards!

Moored up in the Dane Valley

Moored up


Weather: Fair but overcast

Destination: Dane valley between bridge 181 and 180

Locks: 0

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Irony and crap cycling

Posted by Alan on August 13, 2010

Last night on the way down the orient to see them win an award (don’t worry… beer not football related!) I spotted this in Bakers Arms, Leyton.

Chicken shop

Chicken shop

Now just zoom in on the window in the top right.

A diet clinic?

A diet clinic?

Really now?

I also spotted this excellent (not) cycling facility:

More crap cycling in Waltham Forest - bollard blocking cycle stand

More crap cycling in Waltham Forest

Yeah, it’s all good in East 17. There are two more narrowboat posts to finish…coming soon…

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I say old chap, might you lend me a bike?

Posted by Alan on August 11, 2010

Yesterday my cycle hire key fob arrived. So today I was very eager to give it a go and see what it was like. My first journey saw me pick up on Cheapside and dock again at Abbey Orchard St as part of a journey between two meetings. A total distance of 2.5 miles completed in 23 mins so around 6mph. Not incredibly fast but in my defence as this my first ride al fresco (sans tin lid) and I was in my work suit!

So what of the bikes? Well, after my initial fear of breaking it in undocking (you do have to tug properly) it’s easy enough to get going. The basket/clip thing on the front isn’t bad – I got a bit worried my bag might be working loose but it held up fine. The bike was comfortable, quite easy to handle – yes they are heavy but this does make it feel sturdy/chunky. Along the Victoria embankment I felt like I could have really done with a 4th or even 5th gear – I reckon once I’ve settled into using the bikes I’ll basically use them as a ‘fixie’ in 3rd! Docking at the other end was easy enough and my journey appeared in on the website within minutes, so I was reassured that I hadn’t spent another £1 crossing town.

When it came time to clock off and go home, I decided it would be a great idea to cycle back east before picking up either the tube or National Rail at Liverpool St. On arrival at my closest docking station – disaster: no bikes!

Access Denied! - no bikes at the cycle hire point

Access Denied!

The terminal listed a few other sites locally with a few bikes – all westwards so I decided to walk east and use my paper map to see what I could find. It’s hardly surprising that at 1730 a docking station in Victoria (aka Mandarin Central) is empty but still a bit disappointing. Next time I will check on departure!

The next terminal eastwards should be at Storey’s Gate – but it isn’t there. Continuing eastwards, Horse Guards Avenue – this time there was some Herras fencing and a portaloo where the red dot on my map is. Never mind… they did announce not all of the bikes and docking stations would be ready on day one so I knew to expect some missing. Finally, on Whitehall Place opposite Charing Cross/Embankment tube a huge swarm of bikes could be found and I was back on my way eastwards with vigour, basically the reverse of the earlier route but continuing up Queen Victoria St and on past Bank eventually landing near Liverpool St having gone past the front door not knowing where the docking station was!

This journey hasn’t appeared on my account yet which is a little worrying – I was docked by 6pm though so assuming I left the office around 1720 then walked to Charing Cross I don’t think I would have passed the 30 min mark (phew!)

All in all – a good experience. I don’t think I have any cross building meetings tomorrow but on Friday I think I have to go from Southwark to Westminster and then onto a house party in Bermonsey. I think I might have to go by bike.

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Narrowboat Log – Day 4

Posted by Alan on August 10, 2010

Today’s crusing started very gently with the short move back towards town bridge and a walk around Northwich centre to pick up breakfast and dinner.  The town is very much more alive during the day time!  Quality save and M&S brought forth various goodies inc. continental breakfast and anti-pasti for lunch.  Moving on we headed back to Anderton to ascend back to the Trent and Mersey canal and head northwards towards Preston Brook.

Speed is just an illusion

Speed is an Illusion - Barnton Tunnel, Trent & Mersey Canal

This section is the canal winds along the contours and in places is virtually ‘single file’ as a result of the reed growth. There scenery is pretty serene and there’s lots of wildlife – we spent a good few minutes trying to creep up on a heron. Sadly I don’t have a zoom lens yet so it was quite challenging for Ruth to get a photo (I was on the tiller at this point).  Then for some reason there’s an enormous light spot on all of them – not sure how she managed to do that!

Ruth's heron picture

Ruth's heron picture

Once through Dutton Stop lock we were officially on the Bridgewater canal and we travelled through the Preston Brook tunnel to the junction with the ‘Runcorn branch’.   Having a walk around (hoping for a half pint in a pub and Ruth hoping for land based facilities!) we found a spar sitting on a pub sized plot of land and a quiet sleepy village.  Luckily there was a boat yard where Ruth found some facilities (albeit dreadful!) and Dad bought an Anderson lift plaque to add to the collection marking the places Endevour has been.

Dutton Stop Lock

Ruth get stuck into Dutton stop lock - a drop of less than 1' (30 cm)

Giving up on the heady delights of Runcorn, we turn around and it’s now my turn and I take control through the tunnel. It’s hard work – Preston Brook tunnel is around 1mile (1.6km) long so around 20 mins sailing at 3mph. Because it isn’t straight you can’t see the other end, traffic is controlled by entry times – you can enter heading southbound between xx:30 and xx:40 meaning that the northbound traffic should be able to enter at xx:00. You can’t faff about going slowly!

At the tiller

Me at the tiller - not in the tunnel!

We headed south to close to bridge 211, within walking distance of Bartlington and Little Leigh, eventually ending up for a pint in the Leigh Arms.

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