Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Back to the Marina

After yesterday's rain, today was dry. We set off early just to be sure that we make it back to Packet Boat so that we can leave for home tomorrow morning with time to be ready for a PCC meeting in the evening. There was also no wind so it felt a good bit warmer than the past three days.

Of course, we were re-tracing our route, one which we have cruised several times in the past 18 months so there will not be too many photos - a matter of looking out for something new!

At Old Oak we saw a depot holding what seem to be parts for the CrossRail tunnelling project which starts not far from here. They covered a huge area and no doubt they will be taken away to be fitted into place before much longer.

Although still quite chilly, we are not far from the Spring Equinox and some of the water birds were beginning to sort out places for nesting and collecting suitable materials. The swan looked as if it was a typical house hunter, deciding whether it could make use of someone else's previous nest.

We stopped briefly at Alperton outside the Sainsbury store so that Mike could pick up a newspaper.

At Ruislip Road Bridge 18 we spotted a decorative plaque which was presumably installed by the developer of the adjoining block of apartments.

Just after Engineer's Wharf we stopped for lunch. By now the sun was breaking through.

Sorry to harp on about bird feeders but it seems that Uxbridge Road bridge at Southall is a popular spot for this unwanted activity - a huge flock of birds are clearly not interested in foraging further for their food. as a result, the canalside is a real mess - this is supposed to be a designated Visitor Mooring but quite useless now.

The sun turned quite warm and blue skies made a welcome appearance. It lasted for the rest of our journey back to the marina.

As we approached Bull's Bridge Junction we passed four boats in quick succession - having seen hardly any so far today. We had picked up some rubbish around the prop - Mike decided against stopping in the bridge hole even if it seemed unlikely that anything would be coming now, pulling in just before the bridge. After clearing the remains of several plastic bags we set off again to be surprised at a large barge about to make the turn!

A quick stop at Tesco for rolls for tomorrow's journey and then we were turning into the marina. It was a different and much shorter first trip than we had planned, but it felt good to be underway and it gave us a chance to check out that all is working. Mike had to attend to his CanalMap software which has had several extensions over the winter and quite a bit of tweaking is needed. At least he gathered data to look at back at home.

16.6 miles - 0 locks

Monday, 18 March 2013

Science Museum

We had originally thought about spending a couple of nights in Paddington Basin so that we could have a day doing 'something' in London. we took it easy for the first part of the morning and sussed out what sort of location we were moored at. In the end we decided that it seemed safe enough to lock up and leave the boat for a few hours. There were several other boats on this stretch as well as some permanently moored on the offside (but easily accessible from the street). The boat which arrived after us last night and was in the next space along had already locked up and left.

So, by 11:30 we hid valuables, locked everything we could and walked the short distance to Westbourne Park station, just five minutes away. We were headed for the Science Museum - Christine had spotted that they have an exhibition about the life and work of Alan Turing.

Science Museum
It was quite warm when we left with some tentative sunshine - by the time we arrived at the museum it was less pleasant.

We explore the Turing exhibition - as well as his mathematical and cryptographic work, it was interesting to note his keen interest in supernatural matters. It was even suggested that his ideas about stored programs originated in his observations about human relationships, especially those between master and servant.

Enigma Machine
The displays included an Enigma machine: the breaking of its codes used for Naval communications in the Second World War by the Germans was perhaps what Alan Turing is best remembered for.

E Main FrameHowever, the ACE computer which he designed had possibly had more influence over the shape of society than most other technological developments.

ACE Main Frame
Time then for a spot of lunch - a couple of panini sandwiches were quite tasty, albeit not cheap! As we walked back through the main ground floor gallery, Christine remarked that this looked like a real piece of machinery.

The pace of increase in computing complexity is often overlooked and there were several examples of items which Mike has use some time in the past.

His first experiences with English Electric, over 50 years ago, included not only DEUCE - the commercial development of ACE and looking remarkably similar - but also the humbler Brunsviga calculator.

Brunsviga Calculator
In the early 1950's, when a teenager in south London, Mike came here many times. The style of exhibition today is very different from then but it was interesting to spot many items that have been on display since those days.

Jacquard Loom
Mike can recall a visit specifically to look at the Jacquard loom operated by punched cards, just one of the forerunners of the computing era. At that time he was able to ask one of the museum staff to demonstrate it in operation. I suspect that today's school visitors might not be so lucky!

ANITA Calculator
The early ANITA electronic calculator was used in a school open day (Founder's Day) when it was loaned by a parent as an example of the very latest developments. It was used that day in conjunction with a Foucault Pendulum, inspired by seeing it in the Science Museum, which Mike and others had erected.

Foucault Pendulum
Time then to make our way back to the boat - this time we took a different route via Hammersmith. By now it was raining hard and we were glad not to be planning on moving anywhere else today.

0 miles - 0 locks

Sunday, 17 March 2013


The weather was again cold and overcast with the occasional short interval of light rain. We set off around 9.30 and backed up a the short distance to Bulls Bridge Junction and continued on down the Paddington Branch. It would, at best, take us until nearly 2 o'clock to reach Paddington Basin, later with a lunch stop. At this time of year that meant that we might well be unable to find a space as many are let out on winter moorings until the end of the month.

Bulls Bridge Junction
It is a long, level pound and we came this way three times last year so there are not likely to be many surprises but we will have to look out for anything new to report!

As we set off a rainbow spanned the main line northwards.

The former waterways depot has long been derelict and a rather sad site. There were several people working on site having cleared quite a space. The house has not been demoloshed so perhaps there is room for hope that it might be restored and brought back into useful service.

A feature of the suburbs along this way is the fascination - is it cultural? - for feeding the birds. Some people seem to bring very large quantities, bagfuls - it is easy to spot tme from some distance as they naturallly gather a large flock of swans, geese, gulls and other birds.

Sadly, this feeding only encourages what are almost vermin, the Canada geese are especially unwelcome as they force out many other indigenous species of a less aggressive nature. Their droppings on the towpath can in places be quite oppressive.

One lady even stood next to the multi-lingual signs which expressly forbid the feeding of birds!

Through the Porthole mural
A number of murals created from waste materials have been created by local artists working with school children. Many of them decorate the concrete bridges.

We are frequenrly reminded that the communities of this part of London are very multi-faith with the various religious building being quite prominent.

Hovis Lorry
In several places there are food processing factories and as we approached the former Lyons Dock there was a stromg yeasty smell in the air. This was confirmed a short while later with the sight fo a Hovis deleivery vehicle leaving the works.

Most of the larger boats along this branch are clearly very static - some have been built up so much that they would not make it under the first bridge! However, this boat was towpath-side so must sometimes move. It must be about the maximum dimensions for this canal.

We caught up with another boat that at times moved very slowly - so just after crossing the North Circular we pulled in for lunch. Christine's latest soup, along with a freshly baked-off sunflower baton from the Co-Op, were most welcome.

We same this unused apartment block last year and it is even more decrepit now. Sad, as there is such a shortage of affordable housing and places like this are allowed to stand ruined.

Just before Little Venice we spotted a fuel boat coming the other way and signalled for him to stop - we came alongside and were able to fill our tank as well as take a bag of logs. In this weather we are getting through those we brought with us at an alarming rate! (Mike only managed to take a photo after we had finished and were on our ways again!)

This houseboat in Little Venice was looking the worse for wear last years but seems to have something of a makeover in the meantime.

Just after turning down towards Paddington Basin we spotted the sad remains of a boat that caught fire about a month ago and caused the flyover to be closed whuilst the fire brigade takled the blaze. Forunately no-one was harmed in the event but someone's home is now totally destroyed.

When we reached the basin itself there were no available moorings - we suspect that many are occupied by winter moorers and some were moored so that they took up two spaces. With much regret we had to turn around and make our way back the way we came. In the other direction, the nearest moorings are below Camden Locks, with no certainty of space available at this time of year. As a result we turned left at the juunction and retraced our steps for about twenty minutes before pulling in for the night. at least we did not have to go all the way back to Kensal Green which can sometimes be the case.

14.8 miles - 0 locks

Saturday, 16 March 2013

On the move - at last

We left home as early as we could manage - by 8:30. The heavy rain from last night had eased and although we had some showers on the way, it was a remarkably smooth journey. Apart from around Bristol and the M4/M5 intersection, the traffic was very light and even here our speed was only reduced because of the roadworks 50 mph limit. We even managed a coffee stop at Leigh Delamere services.

We needed to reach Packet Boat in good time as the engineer was scheduled for 2 pm. We arrived at 1 pm and almost immediately the engineer arrived - his previous job had been quicker than expected.

The immediate news was that RCR had decided to replace the starter with a new one as that was less expensive than a repair which had been estimated at over £200. Since we have the Gold membership, our cost is limited to £50 so that it was not too expensive a repair. After a little hiccup whilst he worked out which of several wires went back where (the new starter had a wire which was not only the old one!) he was able to start the engine and then move on to the safety check and service which was what we had planned for last Saturday!

He was finished and away shortly after 3 o'clock so we quickly decided to set off - we had been resigned to another night in the marina! We ignored the clouds which a little earlier had drenched the engineer as he work on the engine and cut ourselves adrift from the mooring - hosepipe, electric hookup and then the mooring ropes. A good feeling to be on the move.

Exit from marina onto Slough Arm
We had to manoeuvre out of the marina onto the Slough Arm and then a few metres on we turned south on the main line, just in front of a breasted up pair which was making its way down. (It moored up close to West Drayton station)

Although it was still quite cold we had no more rain and even some spells of bright sunshine. Of course, we were on the long lock-free pound which is level right through to Paddington. We are not planning very much other than that we have to be back in the marina by Tuesday night as we must leave for home early on Wednesday with a PCC meeting in the evening and interviews for a new Rector on Thursday. However, it will not be long to Easter when we can return for the first real trip!

New footbridge over railway
At Bridge 163 a new footbridge is being constructed across the adjoining railway line - perhaps it is to replace the older brick bridge which connects with the canal bridge.

The sun was low and occasionally caught the trees which are almost breaking out into leaf - they should be ready to do so very soon. Let's hope that they are not caught by a late frost.

Unusually we were cruising with the chimney on as we had lit the stove as soon as we arrived - we could not have the central heating on until the engineer had finished working in the engine bay where the hot water is generated. This meant that Mike had the experience of extra smoke whenever Chrsitine re-stoked the fire!

Hanson Gravel Wharf
Just after Stockley Bridge we passed the Hanson aggregate works with the wharf that was, until a few years ago, used to bring gravel down the canal from above Uxbridge close to the A40.

Another sunny spell followed!

The light industry that lines much of this stretch of the canal is generally not pretty but it does seem a shame that this building is now so run down. Its circular shape does suggest that it was once someone's pride and joy, seeing the opportunity for industrial buildings to be other than plain and ugly.

The Nestle factory announced itself with the strong smell of coffee well before we could actually see it.

Bulls Bridge was not longer after and we spotted a convenient space on the Visitor Moorings so, since it was now just after five o'clock, we pulled in for the night.

3.7 miles - 0 locks

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Still in marina

We are still moored in the marina at Packet Boat, waiting for a repair to the starter. This morning - much colder than yesterday - we went to the morning service at St Matthew's Church in Yiewsley. Not only was it Mothering Sunday but there was also a baptism. As a result the church was quite full and it was a bit longer than usual. A small music group led the singing and a wide variety of members of the congregation  took some part of the service. There was also a good age range and grey heads (like us!) were in a minority.

After the end of the service we left quickly and walked back to the boat as we had an invite to Windsor for lunch. As well as Adrian's experimental paella we were treated to a slice of excellent Victoria sponge cake which Ellie had baked.

It was very cold as we made our way back to the boat - even looked as if it might snow at one point.

Tomorrow we will leave the boat for few days - calling in Sussex tomorrow to see Mike's mum and to have lunch with his sister. We have booked a hotel room on the way back home so it will not be a long trip in one go. However the weather forecast is not good. Hopefully when we return not only will it be a bit warmer but also boat will be fixed.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

No Start

The day began as planned - but that did not last long . . .

Mike walked to the usual nearby paper shop and then we waited for the RCR engineer to arrive for the pre-arranged inspection and service. Christine set off for a walk down the towpath to Tesco for a few items just as he arrived.

A couple of minutes after he started looking around the engine bay he turned on the ignition. So far so good. Then he turned the start key: nothing happened.

He checked everything - the battery seemed fine and the solenoid clicked but there was not the slightest movement from the starter itself.

Eventually, after checking with a colleague he removed the starter (not located for the easiest of servicing) and, after testing, declared that it was seized up. He then ascertained that it will take at least until next Wednesday to be fixed. So we are going nowhere by boat this trip.

After a good portion of the vegetable soup Christine had prepared whilst waiting for the engineer, together with the bread she bought whilst out, Mike set off to collect the car from Cowroast. Walk to West Drayton, train to Paddington, underground to Euston, train to Trying, half hour walk to marina and back by car. That took all afternoon even though there were no waits or delays.

We will now re-plan but whilst Mike was away, Christine had arranged for us to go to Windsor for lunch on Sunday and then we will visit Mike's mum on Monday returning home a little earlier on Tuesday than expected.

Watch this space to see what happens next!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Back to Boating 2013

At long last, or so it seems, we are back on board once again. We drove up from Cornwall this morning. The traffic was comparatively light but fog over Bodmin moor and lots of spray in many places made for less than exciting trip.

Soon after lunch we arrived and unloaded. For once the boat seems to have survived the winter without much trauma! Christine collected a key for Cowroast marina as our plan is to leave the boat there for a few days next week as we have to go back home for a series of meetings.

Mid afternoon and Mike set off in the car whilst Christine stayed to finish off unpacking. He expected to return by train from Tring via London.

It was only 45 minutes by car despite much more spray and Mike turned into the marina (where we had an urgent repair last Autumn). He made contact with Darren who sorted out a parking slot.

However, when Mike went back to the office to check on the way to the towpath for his walk to the station, Darren was leaving to go to the post office and offered a lift. Just after setting off he asked where Mike was headed and he then offered a lift back to Uxbridge where he lives - but not until after five! He suggested the pub across the road and Mike did indeed enjoy a pint of cider sitting next to a blazing log fire and reading the paper.

In the end, Darren dropped Mike right outside Packet Boat Marina, just as Christine called on the mobile to enquire about progress. This was the first time Mike had taken a call on this new phone and he failed to answer it in time!

We have to stay put in the marina over night as tomorrow RCR are coming to do an engine service in the morning.