Posted by Alan on May 5, 2011
Just before Easter we made a trip across the channel to Paris. Being a regular BorisBike user, trying a Vélib was on the to-do list.
Ruth a la Vélib
First impressions were that these bikes are more flimsy. They don’t feel as heavy as the blue bikes of London and fixtures and fittings all seem a little smaller.
Basket not bag pouch
The first most striking difference is the basket, rather than the bag ‘pouch’ we have in London. This doesn’t make a lot of difference to me as I always carry some kind of bag, but I could see how if you didn’t how a basket could be much more useful. The gears and bell are exactly the same. Additionally you have a lock, so you can park anywhere if you need to – this means once you have a bike you can rely on it to be there. It is a source of frustration in London that the natural flow of bikes means that you’ll often find a city centre dock empty and have have to change your plans…
The saddle looks the same, though there are no helpful numbers on the seat post for quick adjustment. The docking mechanism is fitted to the side rather than the front – this felt a bit less solid than London, though it may mitigate against the idea of ‘hot-docking’ (riding into a dock without dismounting) for fear of leg injury!
During our days in Paris we saw many wrecked bikes in docking stations. According to wikipedia, many are vandalised as a backlash against the primary user group, the “bo-bos”: bourgeois-bohemians, the trendy middle class French. I haven’t yet seen this in London, despite the bikes being used primarily by a similar demographic. Towards the suburbs, the tyres and inner tubes seemed to be main target – many docking stations had multiple broken bikes in them.
Being a regular in London, I haven’t actually tried the casual hire process though I have been shown it. You put your card in and are given a receipt which you take to a docking station and key numbers in to the dock, using the 3 digit pad to the left of the wheel. Next time you want to take bike you put your card in again and it gives you a new receipt. It sounds onerous, but after Paris I can see how TfL came to that choice.
In Paris, you are given a card with a subscriber number on. This must be key in at the terminal where you then select your bike – if the only available bike happens to be 10 metres away at the other end of the dock so be it. Run! Push the button on the dock and the bike is released. I wasn’t too keen on this idea – at a nearly empty docking station it would be very easy for someone to take the bike you just rented and in the process lose you €150 in bike non-return fees…
Anyway I enjoyed the two circular trips I made and if I do go back to Paris I’ll certainly be using Vélib again.
Posted in Cycling | Tagged: basket, borisbike, bourgeois-bohemians, casual, Cycle hire, Cycling, France, free, hotdocking, lock, London, Navigo, nerd, Oyster, Paris, RFID, vandalism, Vélib | 1 Comment »
Posted by Alan on February 16, 2011
I am still in training for Bogle, Manchester RAG’s infamous 55 mile walk around the Manchester cityscape. I’ve decided to raise money for Lymphoedema Support Network this year after the support mum has received over the last few years. I hope you can find some spare change to donate though my JustGiving page.
Back to the training…
This weekend I headed out to the Midlands to take in a 30 mile (48 km) training walk. This is a rather more pleasant scenic adventure than Bogle will be, or indeed, the previous training walk of 17 miles through London. From Leamington, we took to the canal and headed vaguely north to Birmingham. The first real point of note, is Hatton flight -where the canal rises steeply.
Towards the top lock, in a pond in front of what must have once been the lock keepers cottage sits a rather nice dragonfly sculpture.
Further north-westwards we took a left and ventured onto the Stratford North Canal. One of the earlier canals to be built in the UK, it shows it. The infrastructure is much more heavy – huge bridges, cuttings, embankments particularly north of Hockley Heath. It’s little wonder – apparently they spanked £300K in 1796 on just 25 miles of canal! This bit of canal is allegedly cycle free, though that didn’t stop the people who passed us … on bikes. It might surprise you to know you actually need a cycle permit! Still, it didn’t bother us too much except for the sections where they had churned up the mud.
A boating on the North Stratford Canal
Given the basic nature of the towpath, I’d guess that’s actually why cycling is prohibited on the North Stratford. It’s essentially mud. Finally by about half 4 we reached Kings Norton Junction and turned right towards Birmingham. Here the scenery became much more industrial and we realised we had to pick up the pace a little. Despite being on National Cycle Route 5, the regular floral tributes and fading light wasn’t encouraging – so a couple of miles further up at Selly Oak we came off the canal on to the Bristol Road.
Forlorn, sadly unloved boat
From the canal though you do get a sense of the vast machine that is the Cadbury Bournville factory. It’s much less purple than I remember. Perhaps the Kraft influence has kicked in already. Some parts of the factory are still very 1930s – such as this building on the Birmingham side.
Corporate pride 1930s style - Cadbury, Bourneville
The last few miles up the Bristol Road were a stark contrast. As long as I can remember I’ve known Brum to be a car city, probably reinforced by watching Brum as a small child. The Bristol Road is a fairly angry dual carriageway with lots of traffic. Thinking back to University, Manchester’s Oxford Road is also very busy – but the majority of the traffic is made up of buses, it’s much slower and seems somewhat more friendly. The relaxed studenty feel only really seemed to stretch from Selly Oak to the campus gates unlike Manchester’s curry mile and student village. Anyway, long digression! Final destination was The Wellington on Bennetts Hill. We even got seats, which was nice after 29.5 miles and of course the beer was excellent. A short amble towards the train home took us over the 30 mile mark. A most excellent way to spend a Saturday.
To round off – just a quick reminder. I really do plan to get all the way around this time. If you’d like to sponsor me, please do so at http://www.justgiving.com/AlanP-Bogle2011
Posted in Buildings and Places, Culture, Travelling around | Tagged: barge, beer, Big Society, Birmingham, boat, bogle, Bogle 2011, Bristol Road, Cadbury, Canal, Charity, Dragonfly, Floral, Hatton, JustGiving, lock, Midlands, NCN5, sponsorship, Stratford, The Wellington, Tribute, Walking | 3 Comments »
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
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
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...
Weather: fair with sunny outbursts
Destination: Heritage boatyard, Scholar Green
Locks: 25 (I think)
Posted in 2010 Narrowboat Holiday | Tagged: british waterways, Canal, cheshire, endevour, hassall green, kidsgrove, lock, narrowboat, narrowboat holiday 2010, ruth, trent and mersey canal, useful advice, wheelock | Leave a Comment »
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 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
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.
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!
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.
Posted in 2010 Narrowboat Holiday | Tagged: bridgewater canal, Canal, cheshire, dutton stop lock, EOS 500D, Heron, little leigh, lock, narrowboat, narrowboat holiday 2010, preston brook, preston brook tunnel, stop lock, trent and mersey canal, Tunnel, Wildlife | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Alan on August 6, 2010
Stobart vs barge - the M6 seen from Lock 58, Hassall Green
AM: Awoke to drizzle, so slept in a bit. Carried on down the Cheshire locks through Hassall Green, mooring for lunch in the small village of Wheelock. Found a good pub for some lunch – the Nag’s Head. Not too long after we had finished eating, someone arrived into the pub… “Is your boat called Endevour? In that case I have some bad news…!” We rushed back to the boat to find the stern (rear) adrift – due to inconsiderate traffic roaring past at 4mph (ish – you should really drop your engine into tickover whilst passing moored boats). Luckily we were still attached at the bow (front) and could rescue the situation without any canal wild swimming!
Lock - Paddle open
PM: Weather still mixed as we carried on north-westwards towards the Middlewich flight. A bit of a queue in the other direction caused some confusion – lots of boats heading towards Chester and Llangollen, though it didn’t affect our progress too much. The final lock at Middlewich known as ‘big lock’ to its broadbeam (14′ ish wide) size rather than the narrowbeam (7′ ish wide) that feature along much of the Trent and Mersey canal. This gives name to the pub we will later grab tea from! We moor just around the corner next to a lagoon caused by salt mine subsidence – a fairly picturesque spot given the semi-urban environment the canal passes through here.
Sunset over the fields near Middlewich
See more photos from Monday
Posted in 2010 Narrowboat Holiday | Tagged: barge, Canal, EOS 500D, hassell green, inconsiderate boating, lock, M6, Middlewich, narrowboat, narrowboat holiday 2010, pub lunches, sky, sunset, trent and mersey canal | Leave a Comment »