Monthly Archives: August 2020

there are less grainy photos, but…

there are less grainy photos, but...

llangollen canal revisited

“Why do I have to call him Daddy?” the voice of a little toddler chirped as we glided along the Llangollen Canal on a horse drawn trip boat.

“Because he’s your father!” the exasperated voice of the child’s mother replied.

Also on the boat were two newlyweds on their honeymoon.   That’d be Janice and I, who’d tied the knot at Kendal Parish church around a week earlier.   Neither of us had much more than a brass farthing to our names, and I do remember sitting in a bank talking about our finances in the run up to all of this.

“I really don’t think you can afford to get married,” the manager said.

I can’t remember our joint reply, but it would have bordered on the wrong edge of polite.   Whether or not we had enough cash to wed, we did have a tent, the majority of a Fiat 850 (with some bits missing due to rust) and a month to explore wherever we chose to.

Janice Nye & Fiat 850

After we had decided to ignore the good or bad financial advice and marry anyway we’d actually chosen Ayr but turned the wrong way on the M6 and decided that, given that Wales was now closer, we’d pay the place a visit.   By late afternoon we’d spotted a road sign directing us to Llangollen and, given our rather undistinguished attempt at map reading, we decided it was as good a place as anywhere to go.

After pitching our little green tent, it was a fair walk down to the town and we’d paused to look at the canal when we saw the trip boat and thought it a good idea.  The run along the very narrow section of the feeder was very pleasant after the drive and, on arriving back at the town we found that a longer trip was available to take us over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough cash for that.   We did have the little Fiat though, and the people at the tea room were more than happy to give us directions.

Janice Nye, Pontcysyllte AqueductThe next day we headed off to one of the most spectacular structures on the canal system, seeing little snippets of it as we drove.   Then we were there!

Sometimes the reality of a famous building isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be but this was no disappointment.

Janice’s fear of heights wasn’t helped when she looked at the railings.   They seemed solid enough but the spacing between them made her feel that it would be relatively simple to sidestep through them, and it looked a hell of a long way down!   I’m sure that there is a small indentation in the railing even now, where Janice was gripping it for the photo.

After spending a while walking around the pathways and taking some more photos, we treated ourselves to lunch at the pub before we headed off in the direction of Chirk, to look at the aqueduct there.

“We could walk through the tunnel,” Janice said, after we had crossed the impressive but much less frightening, structure.

If  Pontcysyllte had been scary for her, she got her revenge with Chirk tunnel.

I soon discovered that I was more than scared of enclosed spaces but, with a bit of encouragement, we got through to the other end.   The towpath though far from even seemed pretty solid even if the wooden handrail did not, and our rather pathetic little torch was not much more use than a candle once we’d got to the centre.

Helen & Peter Nye beneath the Pontcysyllte AqueductAll of that happened in late August 1982, and the little toddler will now be around forty.   I like to think that maybe, on one late summers day he took his young family on the same canal trip, only to have one of his little kids pipe up in the same way as he did.

I have no way of knowing whether this happened, but one of the certainties of visiting places that are so interesting is that they make you want to visit again.

About fifteen years later we crossed the aqueduct in the trip boat with our two youngsters (neither of whom asked Janice why they should call me Daddy).

A few years later, when we felt they were big enough to walk across, we visited again and fully infected them with an interest in canals.   The place draws you like that and, each time you do visit, you can always bet that you will find something new.

view of river from Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Llangollen

I’d always wondered what one of the  little bridges in Trevor Basin was for and it is only yesterday that I found out about the Plas Kynaston Canal (or branch canal) which used to serve industry and mines on the site of what became Monsanto’s chemical works.   When the works grew, the canal was in the way and was duly filled in with a total disrespect for its past.

Monsanto Works seen from Pontcysyllte AqueductNow the works is gone completely and there is talk of the restoration of the branch.   I like to think that it wasn’t totally bulldozed  and and that, underneath the concrete, there is sufficient of the course and its artefacts left to bring it back to its former state with a good degree of authenticity.

With the branch being quite short, with no major engineering features, it shouldn’t be too hard to dig the original course back out and make it a feature of whatever the current wasteland left by the old works is destined to become.   Such a project would certainly be of benefit to the area and I wish the Plas Kynaston Canal group all the luck that they need.

As someone that always finds interest in old features and tries to follow the courses of old railway lines and canals, I am going to have to return at some point soon to see what is left of  the works and, more importantly, the Plas Kynaston branch canal.   It’s a harmless enough pursuit I guess.

the diary of Iris Lloyd – hungerford church

the diary of Iris Lloyd

introducing st lawrence's church, hungerford

I have read the interesting article by Doug Yelland on canalside churches, with his lovely photographs.

He visited St. Nicolas, Newbury, on the K and A canal, but apparently didn’t get as far as St. Lawrence’s in the attractive town of Hungerford. The church stands adjacent to the towpath, by the swing bridge, and the churchyard is reached through the entrance in the fence.

St Lawrence's Church, HungerfordAlthough a church has stood on this site since early times, the present church was built by the Victorians in 1816, the tower of the former building having collapsed, bringing down part of the church with it.

During lockdown, the church is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for private prayer and exploring. The counter in the porch registers that the church is welcoming about 350 people each week, who come to enjoy the peacefulness of the interior (described as a foretaste of heaven) and admire the 10 stained glass windows created between 1815 and 1900, the oldest, from the previous church, being in the vestry. Many of the memorials have been transferred from the previous building. Before lockdown, when the Visitors’ Book was available, it registered the names of visitors from many parts of the world as well as Britain, some of them coming off the narrow boats. Many visited because their ancestors had been married in the church, and all wrote about the beauty and peace they found there.

The churchyard is now closed and cleared of some gravestones and is maintained by the local town council. They have, however, left one gravestone in situ. It marks the grave of James Dean, a coachman plying between Hungerford and Bath, who was killed in 1827 when a hearse collided with his coach. The poem on his gravestone reads:

Passengers of every age
I safely drove from stage to stage
Till death came by in a hearse unseen
And stop’d the course of my machine.

Part of the churchyard is now dedicated to a wildlife sanctuary.

St Lawrence's Church, HungerfordIf you are moored anywhere near the church, do pop in and have a quiet browse. Our vicar, Revd. Michael Saunders (Mike to everyone) and his wife Ali are Waterways Chaplains. The vicarage is nearby and they welcome anyone who comes to their door or rings them for help or a chat (01488 208341).

I am also a Waterways Chaplain, trained online as I am self isolating, so I haven’t yet ventured onto the towpath.

​If you wish to know anything about any aspect of Hungerford, we have a wonderful virtual museum – a museum online – that contains thousands of entries, compiled by local historian Dr. Hugh Pihlens. Well worth a browse!

Iris Lloyd


we are back

dawncraft chronicles

we are back!

We are back under what is termed the new norm – so face masks at the ready and off we go again.

I have deliberately left going out and doing too much for quite some time, I am well versed in what happens when people are left in solitary confinement for a while and certainly the term cabin fever. I understood things would be anxious on the cut and this was born out by some kind of incident a mile down hill with an air pistol being waved about in an altercation - really what none of us need thank you.

Anyway first job is the dreaded safety- it really isn’t as bad or as onerous as people think, top tips are, keep the gas taps twiddled apparently the seals dry out, I don’t often use my oven so made sure it was all working. Check the obvious- fuel lines etc and remember the boat needs to be ventilated. Two of mine are much room vents that in theory could be closed – stick a nut on the thread to make sure that they can’t – I was reading some online forum about insulation – just remember you can insulate to your heart's content but you still must have what is actually quite a large air flow going through the cabin. Also label things, gas isolation valves, fuel stop cocks, battery isolation etc so the inspector can see everything. I added another CO detector in the cockpit (more of this later) but have always carried one since the children were small. We passed without issue. I have beetled on about this in the last article but do not be tempted to fill it back up with non-compliant gas heaters etc, you are not getting one over on an authority, you are just endangering yourself and others, boats can and do catch fire and the sad sight of a burnt out barge at Seend is a stark reminder.

Next fire up the engine - But before we start remember none of us have gone anywhere for a while so first things first, clean the prop of weed and growth, next tilt the out board up and down a few times to let whatever muck has found its way up the strainers out - you will be shocked by what does emerge.

Then grease the life out of the steering and tilt mechanism, oil the cables and manually check it goes into neutral on the gear shift. I love this bit because mechanics is a hobby of mine restoring vintage engine from Horticultural machinery through to Motorbikes (a man cannot live on boats alone he needs a varied life). Diesels need three things - decent compression, CLEAN fuel and plenty of air, Petrol needs clean fuel air and a spark to coincide at roughly right place. Winding the guts out of the starter because it won’t fire doesn’t do anything or do yourself any good. There are plenty of decent flow charts for engine trouble shooting on the internet, download, print off, laminate and stick it by the engine. Even those of us who have been doing it a few years make mistakes as a recent telephone call to a tractor engineer proved that sometimes even I rush things and don’t do the bleeding obvious – which was to bleed the air out of the diesel pump properly.

Remember the top tip for outboards – run them out of fuel to stop them when you finished cruising- basically just take the fuel line off – this completely empties the carburettor and the last cough pulls any rubbish through the main jet.

Dawncraft cruiser - DawntreaderA quick lick of paint just to touch up the areas the weather had got to and some natty grip tape for the deck from an online store – which now is the new norm - and we are ready for the off and a cruise down to Semmington for the first time in ages.

I think the most obvious thing was how overgrown it had all become because the volunteers could not go out an maintain the towpaths and the offside bank.

We encountered quite a large fallen willow with its branches below the water line. Always put the engine in neutral and go and investigate with a boat hook or something- hitting that with a spinning prop can only do damage.

I have always worn leather gloves operating the locks but now sanitiser gell etc are used.

It was good to be back, the pub is still closed as it would seem are some of the rubbish collection points but generally everything was as we left it in March.

Fully inspired leads to a quick cabin project and that ugly joint between a Dawncraft deck and cabin. Originally this had carpet stuck to it but because of its compound curves sticking anything is difficult so I decided to box it in - this required templates and careful measuring ( a tile combe is excellent for this type or work) Lots of sawing cutting and gluing an the first section went in – when it came to the bunk end I realised that the curve in the boat wouldn’t allow for boxing in so just cut a strip of ply and screwed it on at an angle - The result looks ten times better than my boxing in and just shows sometimes simple is best.

dawncraft interior - boxing in

Dawncraft - 'dawntreader' with boxed in areas

Finally the one thing good that came out of lock down was the online boat forums – sometimes we are all too critical of others mistakes. If someone is in trouble, help and explain it to them - especially if you have a long and often painful relationship with something like an enfield Z drive.

diary of a victorian horseboat

tales from the old cut 6

diary of a victorian horseboat

Mercia  pre-cut. Photo by Richard Pearson, FlickrI was built sometime in the reign of Victoria, at least 135 years ago, in the Black Country, Birmingham.

The canals were a very different place back then, none of this slowing down to relax and all that they say these days.

The skyline bristled with chimneys and the air was black with smoke. No cars were on the streets and bicycles were still strange contraptions.

Only the fancy boats had engines and they were steam.

I had a horse.

He wasn’t a very good horse but then I was only a maintenance boat, a spoon dredger to be precise. I worked for the Birmingham Canal Navigations Company, number 118 in their fleet, and I worked in the number 2 district around Tipton. My job was to keep the channel deep for the cargo boats, by the simple expedient of what was, in essence, a giant shovel, scooping out silt into my hold.

District 1 Dredger - National Historic ShipsI had a small cabin then, where the men, usually 3, could have a brew (and occasionally doss down), and in the middle of my hold was a small hand crane, attached to the great iron scoop and its long wooden handle.

Towards my front end was a winch, which was also attached to the scoop, and when they’d lowered the scoop down into the murky depths, they used the winch to drag it forward into the mud. Then they used the crane to lift the scoop out of the water, and a man used its long wooden handle to guide it so they could dump the contents into my hold.

Spoon Dredger - CRT archivesEach scoopful was about a hundredweight of mud and water, and it went everywhere. My decks were slick with mud, and it reeked in high summer! They had to regularly pump the water out so they could get a full load, which was about 25 tonnes at a time.

Sometimes there was a fourth man on the bank with another winch, so they could accurately edge me forward bit by bit, but more often than not it was a case of short straws as to who had to haul me forward by hand.

dredger 1910Dredgers sometimes lifted things that were best left lying: guns, knives, sometimes stolen safes and strongboxes (empty of course). Occasionally a dredger would bring a body up, which was never fun for anyone involved and would invariably hold up traffic. It wasn’t unheard of for a body to be quietly slipped back into the water without telling anyone official.

When they’d made a load up, I was towed away and the mud unloaded into spoil heaps, where it could be reloaded back onto a boat to be taken away. Nothing was wasted then; sometimes the spoil was taken to fields out of the city, sometimes to building sites to help level the ground, and sometimes it was taken back to the canal that needed repairing.

No, a spoon dredger’s life was not a glamorous one. The men would swear a lot, and sometimes drink a lot too; that was usually when my cabin got slept in.

loaded dredger - photo by Kerry DaintyI did that until 1937, when they took away my dredging gear and I was put onto general maintenance. During the war I did whatever was needed; sometimes I carried things like lock gates, sometimes I carried bits of Birmingham away that had been blown up by Mr Hitler. Sometimes I even carried cargo for the war effort.

After the war I carried on doing maintenance. They took my cabin away so I could carry more, and made me smaller, taking some plates out of my middle, so that I could work with a bantam tug. I hauled pilling, scaffolding, bricks. I often worked with a modern dredger, carrying the silt away. I was ignored by everyone and given the frankly ignominious title of a ‘hopper.’

Auction photo - Kerry DaintyAnd then, after all that service, more than 100 years dedicated to keeping the canals going, waterways decided they didn’t want me anymore, and that I was “beyond economical repair.”

I was sold. Retirement beckoned at last, perhaps I would be cut again and turned into a motorboat? Perhaps I would just be broken up?


butty - photo by Kerry DaintyI am now a cargo boat in my own right. I am still unpowered, but I have a motorboat of my own to take me where I wish, and I have my little cabin back. I will be carrying coal and logs for a fuel boat, and maybe tanks of diesel in the summer. I’ll be taking animal feed, and occasionally animals, the pets of my keeper.

Nearly 150 years after I was built, I will still be working. How many other boats can say that?

victorian horsedrawn dredger gauge

how to wire a narrowboat – part 2

how to wire a narrowboat - part 2

calculating volt-drop and cable selection

Now the next thing to do is calculate the Volt-drop for each route through each light.

In the first edition I did not pay sufficient attention to calculating volt-drop and cable selection. So I am going to start from the basic drawing, labelled with measurements of various cables. For this first example I am going to use the rear deck lights circuit.

The first thing is that for running electrical cables for anything around the boat we should use nothing smaller that 1.5mmsq. This is because this is the minimum size that will stand up to the stresses of being strung around a boat that vibrates.

We need to aim for as near as we can for a volt-drop from the batteries to the items on the end of the cables of less than 5%. It is relatively easy to get the volt-drop from the battery to the Fuse-board down into the area of 2%, and the volt-drop from the fuse-board to the items down to less than 3%.

First we need to calculate the volt-drop for the circuit against the various cable sizes we could use. We need three pieces of information to calculate the volt-drop

The voltage of the system; it is 12V for this particular boat.

The second is the current the amps (A). In this case we have two lights each with a rating of 3 Watts (3W x 2 = 6W). But we need to know the current, the amps (A) – Watts/Volts = Amps (W/V = A).  We have both of those the Volts 12V and the Watts is 6W. 6/12 = 0.5A

The third is the total length of the cable run from the voltage source positive back to the negative voltage source. We have this on the drawing because we measured it on the scaled boat outline if we start at the positive busbar and add the lengths travelling to the negative busbar -  3+4+3 = 10 metres.

Now we can either do this plugging the values into the standard formulae for volt-drop umpteen times or we can use the volt-drop calculator in the files section of the group, which gives the answer for all the standard cable sizes in one go. It is downloadable from 12 Volt Boating Group 

Or you can use this formulae umpteen times

The voltage drop (V) at the load, in volts, can be calculated using the following formula:

Volt-drop = 0,0164 ×I ×L/S


S is the conductor cross-sectional area, in millimetres squared

l is the load current, in amperes.

L is the length, in metres, of conductor from the positive power source to the electrical device and back to the negative source connection.

Below I have plugged the values into the 12 Volts Boating Group volt-drop calculator.






There are several cables that we could use;

1.5mmsq, which has a volt-drop of 0.06V/0.53%
2mmsq, which has a volt-drop of 0.05V/0.39%
2.5mmsq, which has a volt-drop of 0.04V/0.32%
3mmsq, which has a volt-drop of 0.03V/0.25%

We need to look ahead to what will be the heaviest circuit on our lighting circuit in terms of percentage loss. This could be caused by it being high current or just the length of the cable runs. In this case it is the passageway lights because of the length of cables used to give the ability to allow the passageway lights to be switched off at the bow or stern. If we can use the same size cable for the majority of the wiring we will be able to buy reels of that cable that is cheaper than buying by the metre.

Passageway lighting circuits

This is where you, I hope, learn the simple way to calculate the combined volt-drop of several circuits that come together as one on the way to the batteries.

Looking at the circuits they all come together at the switch 2W2 so we can calculate their individual volt-drops and the volt-drop from switch 2W2 to the fuse board.

The currents of each of the circuits are 0.75A, 1.0A and 0.5A, and I have calculated their individual volt drops at 2.06%, 2.98% and 0.90% and the current for switch 2W2 to the fuse board etc is the total of all the circuits 2.25A and the Volt-drop is 2.25% using 3mmsq cable.

Each of the three circuits will take part of the 2W2 switch circuit losses proportional to each circuit's current. So first circuit has a current of 0.75A divide by the total current of 2.25A is 0.333, so the proportion of the Switch 2W2 percentage loss 2.25% x 0.333 gives us the percentage of the Switch 2W2 loss that belongs to the first circuit equals 0.75% which needs adding to circuit one loss of 2.06% which equals 2.81%. We repeat that for each circuit and by using 3mmsq cable for the switch 2W2 to 2W1 and onward to the fuse-board wiring and 2mmsq for the rest of the circuits. I hope that all makes sense

Now you need to work your way through all the drawings working out volt-drop and cable size etc.

lighting circuit

Lighting 1 circuit complete

lighting circuit

Lighting 2 circuit complete

Tungsten/Halogen Headlight completed

LED Headlight completed


Passageway lighting circuit complete

Gradually you build a set of drawings for the lighting that has all the information on them. From there you can workout the shopping list for cable etc and install the lighting on the boat.