Posts Tagged ‘1988’

Wall art

May 27, 2015

When our children were young we used to encourage them to scribble on walls but only in that short space of time after old wallpaper had been removed and before new went on. Our walls are a bit uneven and not all of the plaster is totally sound so we feel we have to use wallpaper. Emulsion paint isn’t really an option.

Back in 2005 we redecorated a room which had previously been done in 1989. Removing the 1989 wallpaper revealed, once again, some of the doodles done by our youngsters and here are a couple of them.

This one, dated, is clearly the work of our son and below, judging by the cat we see the work of daughter.


Re-finding these old ‘works of art’ is such fun. It almost makes it a pleasure to remove old wallpaper!

Ice breaking on the Ashby Canal

January 19, 2015

Back in 1988 we took my dad for a week’s canal holiday. About a year before my dad had undergone heart surgery so we made decisions on boat and route based on his health. We went for luxury in the boat department. Something with plenty of size was needed; something which could have a cabin with a permanent bed for dad. And bearing in mind the fact that our week was at the end of October and into November we decided on one with good heating.

We also decided that we’d go up the Ashby Canal. We never had so that was reason enough, but it was also lock free which meant there would be less temptation for dad to overstretch himself.

We hired a boat at Nuneaton. We’d actually hired from that firm earlier in the year – a big and more basic boat but we had espied a suitable candidate for a holiday with Dad.

We set off on October 29th in really lovely weather. People may think the Midlands of England are industrial (or ex-industrial), grubby and not at all the place for a holiday. That just isn’t so. Mostly, on a canal trip you’ll see pleasant, gentle English countryside – like this with bridge number 4 over the Ashby Canal.


The Ashby Canal was little used back then so the water ahead of our boat is still and undisturbed – perfect for reflections!

When we awoke on the morning of 1st November there was a thin sheet of ice on the canal. It wasn’t enough to stop a boat but it was quite an eerie experience listening to the noise of ice breaking as we moved through it.

It proved very hard to photograph but this shot to the rear of the boat shows the disturbed water where we had broken the ice giving way abruptly on either side to the area where the ice sheet remained.


I have to say ice breaking was a one and only experience for me but as far as canals were concerned it was a serious problem. Canals could be closed if they got seriously iced over for boats couldn’t break their way through it. Canals had special ice breaking boats and one happened to be on dry land at the terminus of the Ashby Canal which is at Snarestone.

My wife and I took a look at it.


As can be seen it is a boat of hefty construction with sturdy iron plates riveted together. It isn’t flat bottomed like most canal boats. That’s so that it could rock better. It was, of course, either horse or human pulled. Teams of men stood in the craft holding the hand rail and they rocked the boat as it attempted to pass through ice – which caused the ice to break up – a cunning and simple solution to a canal problem.

By the way, we did make sure Dad had a full canal experience.

Here we are about to exit Snarestone Tunnel.


And we also managed the Watford flight of locks.


This is very close to the Watford Gap services on the M1 geographically, but nigh on 200 years apart in time.


May 2, 2014

Today I take you back to a canal holiday in 1988. I find it scary that this was more than a quarter of a century ago for it feels a bit like yesterday. But back then I was still in my thirties which I’d now call young. Young enough to take the challenges of one of the most quirky bits of the canal system – the Bratch locks.

Bratch is on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal. This canal, opened in 1772 – one of the earliest in the country and it was engineered by James Brindley. He originally built the locks as a three lock staircase. That means the top gate of one lock is the bottom one of the next. Staircases are always slightly bad news on ‘narrow’ canals for once a boat has started in one direction, no boats can pass in the opposite direction until it is through them all.

Bratch was re-engineered, but it didn’t help that problem. Short gaps, a few feet long, were added between locks.

This leads to all sorts of operational difficulties. When one lock is emptied, the little pound below rapidly overfills and overflows. Without care, water can pour over the next lock gate down and if there happens to be a boat in that lock it can flood it and at worst sink it.

It was this that we tackled all those years ago and, I have to say, we had no particular difficulty and could enjoy the delightful architecture at the locks.


Our boat enters a lock by the delightful toll cottage. It looks as though I had the easy job, for I am on the tiller but of course, in such a narrow space there is really no steering to be done.

We swapped jobs frequently and at one point when I was working locks I stepped over a low wall onto a platform like the one next to the bridge which as one of the youngsters on it. For some reason, I stepped off it. I could see I was in no danger for it wasn’t far and I made a good landing and just carried on. But I had suddenly vanished out of sight of friends and family who didn’t know what had become of me. I gather they were concerned.


This is our boat leaving that lock. Our life jacketed children (we had more than one family on the boat) are scrabbling for finds on the tow path.

For canallers, doing Bratch is one of those ‘must do’ sections. It really was an enjoyable challenge.

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad sign

February 24, 2014

Are you human? If so, what’s the first thing you are going to think of doing when you see a notice like this one?


I know my reaction, which I did restrain, was to find a stone and throw it at the sign. Without such a notice I’d never have thought of such an idea. I reckon notices like this have that effect. Something you’d never have thought of is put in your head. I’m sure I know people for whom the urge to throw a stone would have been too strong and they’d have succumbed to it.

But of course, it is a lovely enamel sign and the G R tells us that a George was King when it was erected. I’m going to guess George V (1910-36) but of course it could have been George VI (1936 – 52).


The other thing about this notice is that what it says is clearly not going to happen. There’s just nobody about to report stone throwers. The chances of any prosecution are about nil. But of course, I wouldn’t wish to encourage any anti-social behaviour.

I spotted this sign back in the summer of 1988. We were on a family holiday near the village of Drummore, near the Mull of Galloway. This is Scotland’s most southerly point and it may surprise some readers to know that it is not on the border with England. If you cross over the border north of Carlisle you get to Gretna. If you turn left there, onto the A75, after nearly 100 miles you arrive at Stranraer. At this ferry port, for boats to Northern Ireland you can turn left and after 16½ miles you’ll reach Drummore. About five miles further south will bring you to the Mull of Galloway.

For those that like perspective, The Mull of Galloway is less than 25 miles from Northern Ireland and a similar distance from the Isle of Man.  In a straight line it is about fifty miles to England.