Monday, June 27, 2011

Old Photographs from eBay

I buy things on eBay. Mostly crap I don't need or even want that much. Most recently I had terrible trouble getting a hip flask I didnt really want from Royal Mail. I have it now, its fine. It has the crest of the Fleet Air Arm on it. I am not now nor have I ever been in the Fleet Air Arm. My Grandad was though. I also buy canal related things. If there was a Venn Diagram of the 'Crap I Buy' and the 'Canal Stuff I Buy', there would be considerable cross over. 

Mostly I buy postcards, they are generally not crap. At least I don't think so. Proper postcard collectors may not approve of some of them. But who is to say what an interesting postcard is? I also buy paperwork, bills, Acts of Parliament. Stuff like that. Some of it a couple of hundred years old. It all ends up in the same folder, along with Ice Lolly wrappers from the days when we eagerly anticipated the release of the Phantom Menace. 

The latest purchase was a collection of photographs from the 1970's showing the Basingstoke Canal, Birmingham Canal Navigations and the Stroudwater Canal. The Basingstoke and Stroudwater canals were both derelict in the 1970's. The photos are of ruined locks and empty reed filled canals. 

The BCN ones show a Butty (an engineless boat pulled by a boat with an engine) called Hyades. Hyades was built in 1935 and is still around today. Click here to see what she looks like now. While googling her name I found this account of someone who had worked on her back in the day: A lads eye view of the canals

The woman in the photograph appears in a couple of the BCN ones. I had the same thing photographing the canal in Burnley. Some poor old dear was going about her business walking on the towpath and inadvertently got became a feature in my photos. You don't expect paparazzi on the towpath.  

Here are the rest of the photographs, I haven't split them into individual photos after scanning for two very sound reasons, one: I liked the way they looked together and two: I couldn't quite be arsed (I dont get paid for this you know!) 

Here they are: Hopefully I can add some more information to the photos when the good people at Canal World come up with the goods. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Burscough Canal Heritage Week

Today was the last day of the Burscough Canal Heritage Week. Kennet, the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Short Boat was visiting Burscough, the nearest it has been to Liverpool for a while. So I thought I had better make the effort to get up there and take some photographs.

Kennet at Burscough Bridge
The towpath was busy and there were lots of boats moored at Burscough. I was pleased to see Ribble had joined Kennet and Ambush. The first time I have seen two river class barges in the same place at the same time. Kennet and Ribble are Short Boats, Ambush is a Long Boat. All three are Wide Boats. Ambush used to work for Ainscough Mill in Burscough. All three boats were empty and sit very high out of the water. When full they would swim through the water like whales with only a few inches of boat above the waterline. Kennet has a very snug looking cabin at the front which is quite spacious compared to the Narrow Boats. You would still have to be good friends to share it though. 
Ambush at Burscough
 We walked along the canal to the top lock of the Rufford Branch. On the way we passed a hairy caterpillar crossing the towpath at some speed. It was hot and humid today and got hotter as the day went on. 
Creepy Crawly
Back at Burscough Wharf we had an ice cream and I took some photographs from the bridge. I am very impressed with the redevelopment of the old canal depot. It has been empty for years but now it is full of life. There are shops and a couple of bars and cafes. It is a definite improvement and a big plus for both the canal and the town. I notice that the Waterfront pub nearby is closed and for sale. 

Burscough Wharf

Burscough Wharf
In other news towpathtreks now has a twitter account @towpathtreks for those who do that sort of thing. If anyone has any good suggestions for canal related people or places to follow on Twitter do let me know. And you can still become a fan of towpathtreks on facebook

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Our Day Out to Chester

Working in a university library is hardly stressful but it is always nice to have a day off work and go somewhere different. I feel nothing but contempt for most of my colleagues but there are some who I will willingly spend time with outside of work. So last week, my Louise-Brooks-bobbed colleague Clare and I went for a day trip to Chester.
The original plan was to do a 6 miles walk in West Lancashire calling in at a few pubs. On reflection however I recalled that a couple of the pubs are closed which could leave us with a fair distance to walk without beer or the sort of facilities one needs after beer. In a flash of brilliance I decided to go to Chester, just 40 minutes away on the train and with some of my favourite canal in England.

So on a Wednesday, one that the Met Office said would be the only cloudy day of the week, we arrived in Chester. It's a short walk from Chester station down City Road to the canal. On the bridge I pointed out a few of the local points of interest to my companion: the lead shot tower, the water tower, the canal itself and the mills and warehouses. And of course the first pub: Old Harkers Arms. I have been here once before with towpathtreks' Irish pub reviewer, on race day as I recall and the place was packed with be-suited Scousers getting ready for a day of drinking and obnoxiousness. On this latest occasion though we almost had the place to ourselves. It was half twelve and I wasnt sure what I fancied to drink. We were going to have food so we thought it best to have a bottle of dry white wine, South African I think it was. I am the sort of person who judges wine on its alcohol content and price. Preferably the former is high and the later is low. But the Old Hawkers Arms is a nice place for nice people so I had to act civilized. We were drawn to the end of the pub with the bookshelves. Surprisingly enough although I work in a library I dont see that much of the bookshelves, but we felt at home here. The Hawkers Arms really is nice. Its a big room without feeling like a barn. Its nice and light, you can see boats going past on the canal. There is plenty of decoration but nothing too distracting. And the staff were very nice too. We had lunch, fish finger sandwich and prawn sandwiches, with chips. All very nice. Even the toilets are nice. I could have stayed there drinking all day but I would have probably let myself and my colleague down and done or said something that would preclude me coming back, and I would like to go back.
Outside the weather was improving. The white cloud had patches of blue and it was warm. We walked towards the city centre along the towpath. I past by the Canalside Bar which last time I had walked straight out of. Maybe next time. We past the Frog and Nightingale too. I dont think I will go back there again. Not unless I want to get shitfaced on Fosters with like-minded people.
Under the city walls, in the deep rock cutting, below the Northgate and Bridge of Sighs is a very good place to be. It has the history, the canal, that feeling of peace and seclusion you get on canals even when they are a stones throw from busy roads and towns. We wandered along looking at the sandstone and the ducklings. The ducks were swimming against the current, there were boats locking down the Northgate staircase. Past the locks we walked around the basin stopping to look at the big iron hook for horse drawn boats and the graving lock and dry dock. There are some gorgeous new flats being built. You can tell they are gorgeous because of the big signs saying so on the side.
We arrived at our destination, Telford's Warehouse. This, as the name suggests, is a former warehouse which was built by Thomas Telford in the 1790s. For whatever reason I have never been inside this pub. I know it as a music venue and assumed that during the day it would be empty or shut. But there were people sat outside on the picnic tables and the sun was shining brightly on them. Inside the decor was not what I had imagined, although I dont know what I had imagined it would be like. I liked it, it is sort of modern trendy old fashioned. There is a pretty impressive range of beers on tap, but as it was so sunny I went for a nice cold lager. Ice Cold in Alex. It almost seemed a shame to leave the nice pub but we went and sat outside and enjoyed the sun. A couple of boats went past and some locals were fishing and enjoying some Stella. Much better than being in work.
After our drinks we walked up to the city walls and around to the River Dee. On the way we were engulfed in a tour group from Italy or Germany or some such continental place. Chester is very popular with tourists. Interestingly my colleague was more excited by an old 1980s TSB logo than the mock Tudor or Roman remains. There are also some hideous concrete buildings from the 1970s in Chester. The council must have been desperate for any investment then to allow them to built that stuff.
At the river we got ice creams and went on a boat trip up the Dee. Sadly we were on the Mark Twain not the Lady Diana but it was very nice and I got to see bits of Chester I hadn't seen before. The taped commentary was good, and the boat houses by the river are very swanky.
After the boat ride we went for food and drink (O'Kells) in the Bear and Billet, a favourite of mine. It seems to be popular with the tourists too, some Japanese or Chinese tourists were stood across the road taking photos of the pub. After eating we had one last drink (Spitting Feathers) in the Brewery Tap. The pub is in an old hall parts of which date back to the early 1500s. The main room has some impressive features as did the rather nice barmaid. If you like your real ale and appreciate an old building then this is the place for you.
We walked back to the canal, passing the Frog and Nightingale which was now very loud and busy outside. Soon we were back in Liverpool tired from the fresh air and sunshine. And the booze.
It was a really nice day, the weather was unexpectedly lovely and my colleague was the perfect person to skive off work with in Chester.