Monday, 28 July 2014

a Sunday swim down the Avon

Could the weather have been more perfect for a gentle swim down the Bristol Avon? -no, gentler reader, it almost certainly could not. 

Fifteen remarkably cheerful swimmers set off from the Dundas Aqueduct, and Mike and I followed in Mike's canoe, to dispense Rowntree's Fruit Pastilles and encouragement as needed.

It takes about an hour or so to get down to Warleigh, and the swimmers had become pretty widely spaced by then. You could hear Warleigh long before you got there; the happy hubbub of youth enjoying itself unsafely....

The early arrivals cheered the stragglers home....

And we had our picnic, complete, this time, with poetry. 

There is an album of more pictures here, on Flickr

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Sally in the Woods wild swim really is quite wild!

It's time to start planning for the next wild swim. So....

When and where: Sunday July 27th, 2014, 12:00 meet at Claverton (OS ref ST 789 641 ) a few miles south of Bath, off the Warminster road

Getting there: If you drive, there is limited parking along the lane down to the Claverton Pumping Station; and more parking up on the main road. Cycling is an option; recommended along the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath, either from Bath or from Bradford on Avon.

View Larger Map

The route:

  • Walk (or canoe) along the canal to the Dundas Aqueduct, about 1 mile towards Bradford on Avon.
  • Descend to the River Avon, and those who are swimming get changed; their gear is stowed in the canoe(s). Swimmers and canoeists then proceed downstream to Warleigh Weir, about 1 1/4 miles away. The current is sedate but helpful, the water is deep, the banks are steep. Canoes are intended to help out anyone in difficulties. (Last time was late in the season, and we had one swimmer who had to give up because she was so cold. Hopefully this will not be an issue in July).
  • It isn't possible to walk all the way from Dundas to Warleigh on one side or other of the river; but if anyone wanted to walk the whole distance by riverbank rather than swim, they could start off on the east bank then transfer across to the west bank lower down, by canoe. Probably. And if you are swimming and get too tired or cold, then walking is an option.

The swim should take about an hour. We arrive at Warleigh Weir, where there is a big meadow. And then we get our picnic stuff from the cars, and relax.

Here is the description of a previous swim; and here is the very first big one

Here is a set of photos from the swim.

Here is the Facebook group for the event.

Here is the Environment Agency's river level monitoring station at Bradford on Avon. This tells you the current level of the river.

Here is the EA's water quality monitoring page. As you see, the water quality is graded A, which is the highest quality grade.

Monday, 14 July 2014

ars est promovere artem

I thought it looked a bit off-colour....

The Vale of Pewsey is new territory for me; I was over there a few months ago for the Art Trail, where I met my friend Jan Lane, who was also on the trail, at the Pewsey Gallery, where her work is on display. She had given them some copies of Inking Bitterns last year, and they had managed to sell them. So I was very happy to meet Sandra, who is one of the people who run the gallery, and even more happy when she asked me to drop some cards across, too.

Sandra at Pewsey Gallery, finding my cards amusing...
...then Jo at the Devizes Bookshop, cultural hub of the town, agreed to take some of my prints. So I called by to see how things were going. The upstairs gallery has work by a permanent group of exhibitors, but Jo kindly found some space for my pictures too.... 

Sunday, 13 July 2014

on charge

When the boat's battery indicator says there's nothing left, and the laptop battery is down to 5%, it's time to start doing something about it.

I've got two little charging alternators run by belt drive from the main engine, just like the ones you have on a car, for charging the batteries. There's also a bloody great 5KVA Electrolux alternator, also belt-driven from the engine, that supplies 240V to the domestic wiring circuit; but that needs you to run the main engine at a constant 800 RPM, which makes it useless for operating while cruising, and uncomfortable for using while moored up; my Beta Tug engine is jolly nice, but it is Very Noisy Indeed.

So I've got a dinky little Honda 240V generator. Suzanne off Electra sold it to me for a good price, when she gave up Electra recently. 

I put it up on the back deck, and away it chugs, a distant rumble as I sit at my desk. It does not cause Men Of A Certain Type to stop and make admiring noises as the Beta engine does, but I'm cool with that.

Here's the charger, topping up the domestic batteries....

...and here's me, blogging away while the laptop charges!

Saturday, 12 July 2014


There are two main types of sewage management on narrowboats; one has the toilet discharging into a big holding tank, which, when full, has to be pumped out at a shoreside pump-out station, and the boat needs to be moved to that station. This is a bore, and costs about £25 a time.

The other system uses a small portable tank that slots in under the toilet; when you want to empty this 'cassette', you simply slide it out; the flap that closes off the top orifice should have a watertight seal, so it's quite mess-free (I had to replace the seals on my tanks, which was a fairly straightforward job and well worth doing, eccchhh). Then you can take the cassette to a sani station, which may be several miles from where you're moored, but at least avoids an unnecessary voyage.

I empty my tank weekly at the moment. Some people don't put loo roll down the hole, but bag it up and either burn it or bung it in a rubbish bin. I'm not really comfortable doing that.

I'm moored at Semington at the moment, and the nearest sani station is at Seend, which is about two miles away. On a summer's morning, it's a fine trip on the bicycle, even with the shit tank rattling on the trailer.

I take a plastic raincoat, a pair of rubber gloves, and a dedicated brush for cleaning up the mess. Here's the sani station at Seend.

Job done!

So now I can enjoy the towpath, where the meadowsweet and the spiked speedwell are now proliferating

and the heron pretends it isn't there

Friday, 11 July 2014

love me fender

I need fenders to protect Eve's sides, particularly when sliding in and out of locks. The bottom plates of the hull stick out slightly from the sides, and a welded seam runs along the join. The part that sticks out is called the chine. It protects the weld. In time, that chine wears away through abrasion; if it wears deeply enough, the weld might be chafed away, and then the hull will leak. Fenders help reduce the amount of contact that the hull undergoes.

So I looked on Ebay, and found that the best deal I could get was for some produced by Avon Tyres, not a mile from where I'm moored, in Melksham. I cycled past the old RAF base there a while back, and saw that the hangars were full of tyres, and great racks of them on the tarmac where once the roar of the Merlin would have been heard).

But I couldn't just go and buy them over the counter (or perimeter fence). So Jan in Holt kindly took delivery of them, and I cycled over and picked them up. This morning I started putting them in place.

For the low hitching point, the rope that came with the fender was too long; so I spliced the surplus onto the one destined for a higher hitch.

Two done, four to go.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

ready aye ready

The midges dance in the morning sun and the woodpigeons take two blue floozies, take two...

Sometimes it's nice to have milky coffee for brek. It reminds me of those Italian-run cafes in the South Wales valleys. I yearn for that sort of thing when I see long lists of things like 'skinny lattes' in places that employ 'baristas'. I helped out behind the serving hatch at the Benjmin Perry Boathouse in Bristol Harbour once, at the harbour festival. A dapper chap in smart casual asked me for a 'chino'. 
I went '?'  
'Cappucino!' he said impatiently.
'We just have coffee' I said, and spooned some out from the catering can of Maxwell House.

Camp Coffee has its place too. Heat up a cupful of water with a tablespoon of instant milk, add about 2 teaspoons of coffee essence, and there you go. 

Sitting here eating and wiping the apricot preserve off the G key of this laptop, though, I see that there has been a subtle change. Have a closer look at that bottle of Camp Coffee., here's how it used to look.... cool is that?