Monthly Archives: June 2021

boaters and road traffic

intertidal zone

boaters and road traffic

bob sanders grey lag gooseThis edition of intertidal zone is the often-present interaction between the road system and the canal and river systems  (and nature).

Nature’s rivers were identified very early on in our history as routes of least resistance where early travellers could build their towns and roads (later railways too).

It is also well known that canals often interacted with navigable rivers. No surprise then that road traffic and boat traffic sometimes have to work together. A good example of this is a lift bridge on the A578 and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Also keep an eye out for the wildlife in the area, ducks, including ‘tufted’, swans and geese find the mixture of greenery and water and ideal location for breeding and living.

Plank Lane Lift Bridge (No.7 Leigh Branch) and its environs

Plank Lane Swing Bridge, Leigh

The current bridge was built in 1977 by the Cleveland Bridge Company and although it is known as a 'Swing Bridge' by the locals, it is in fact a 'Bascule Bridge'. The design of the bridge originated in Holland. (Source: Leigh Life)

A really good read on the previous versions of the bridge can be found through the following link to Leigh Life.

Boaters at the Controls

Among all the history and groans from locals (see later) I found something quite simply astonishing in the current atmosphere where perhaps boaters’ interests can sometimes seem to be secondary. This lift road bridge is controlled by the boater! Unmanned with accessible controls. The only restriction is during peak traffic times, which would suit me, who needs that kind of pressure!

There are visitor moorings adjacent to the bridge (1 day) and you will see from the signposts that you can walk or cycle into nearby towns and sights. A private sign on the fence advises of a pub within 5 minutes’ walk. Next to the bridge, for those who may wish to meet up with land-based folks, there are 2 car parks.

Just a thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have a sign advising sailing time?

Troubled Times

google review of plant lane lift bridge








In The News

There have been many times when a breakdown of the bridge has occurred, with the usual notifications coming from the Canal and River Trust as well as the regional press.  One such event was reported in the Manchester Evening News, back in May 2021.

Regenerated Area

The fruits of investment and regeneration are now in evidence all around the area: extract from an article…

"The multi-million pound package through the National Coalfields Programme will help prepare the site for the planned construction of 650 new homes, a canal marina with small retail businesses, pubs, restaurants and small offices surrounding the marina at Bickershaw South, Plank Lane."  Further reading available from the Lancashire Telegraph.

I hope you get the chance to use the bridge and enjoy your experience.



London’s live music scene had problems long before covid. Back in 2009, when my then 89-year old Tante Rosie’s health began deteriorating and my trips to London started becoming more frequent, the boom in real estate prices was already impacting the music industry. As flats had gone up, pubs and venues closed down. In 2016, Mayor Boris Johnson commissioned a live music task force to address the problem. 

By 2015, street corners themselves were closing: proliferating Public Space Protection Ordinances (PSPO’s) banned buskers — practitioners of the world’s “second oldest profession” — from the city’s most popular pitches.  Boris Johnson, still Mayor of London, created a Live Music Task Force to address the problem.  The City’s 100-mile canal network did not figure into their proposed solutions.  

Don’t ask me why.  As someone who would eventually sell a house in Texas to keep his new widebeam afloat, I was used to Austin, where even petrol stations and Burger Kings host musicians. But here in London, on the watery arteries that were my new adopted home, all I heard was the chatter of Coots and two-stroke Lister engines.

When the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea banned amplified music on Portobello Road in July 2019, I offered my boat — a widebeam kitted out with full-length stage — to buskers for gigs adjacent to the patio of the Union Tavern in Ladbroke Grove.  The pub didn’t pay.  The customers didn’t tip.  But the musicians came back anyway.  All month long.  For the sheer novelty of playing on Molly Anna.

Eric Ellman keep streets liveHow do you harness that energy?  How do you put together the world’s largest collection of aspiring performers with discriminating audiences?  In compliance with Canal and River Trust rules that limit you to audiences of 12 and acoustic music?  And post-Covid, how do you do it on a scale that addresses the fact that venues which successfully evaded gentrification remain shuttered?   And will be shuttered again, as a first precaution authorities take when a novel virus next spreads?

Brigadoon! is our answer.  Not the mythical Scottish Highland Village that appears every 100 years, nor the Broadway musical with Gene Kelly who stumbles upon it during a love-struck hunting trip, but a flotilla of canal boats that manifests every two weeks, somewhere along the city’s labyrinth, weaving a magical atmosphere of music, theatre and public discourse, unlocking a new potential for London’s old canals.

It’s a big vision that started small.  

Last September, when Covid concerns were peaking, and the biggest controversy in London was whether to close the pubs an hour early, we debuted the World’s Smallest Canal Boat Festival at tiny Mary Seacole Park in Harlesden.  Between the time of our application — when gatherings of 30 were still allowed — and the date of the event, the limit shrank to 6.   In true show biz fashion, however, the show went on.   Copper Viper, Amy & the Calamities, Bozard and Scratch Theatre performed for... well mostly for themselves, really.  And a dozen onlookers from the Mitre Bridge who’d gathered for a historical tour we'd organized of nearby Kensal Green Cemetery.

It took months to organize an event that few beyond the performers attended, but it proved the concept: The first time you debut performance at a 220-year old canal side location is a pain in the ass.  It’s much easier the second time, when all of the entities: the Canal and River Trust, whichever borough you’re in and the Met Police have seen it before.  

So — although the government hasn’t announced whether they’ll lift the last restrictions on public gatherings on June 21 — we are planning the First Annual Mary Seacole Picnic at Mary Seacole Memorial Park in Harlesden, June 25-27.   Capacity will be limited to 30 people at any time, but fringe activities, including walking and paddling tours of the canal to the adjoining cemeteries, including the graves of the brave and enterprising nurse, will occupy more.  

brigadoon the festivalIt’s the first manifestation of Brigadoon!, with a handful of boats, that we expect to grow in number as we roll onto the next event a week later, and one a week after that.  Each one reflecting the character of the neighbourhood.  Each one requiring agreements between local Borough officials, CRT and Met Police.  Each one leaving a template of risk assessments and Covid-precautions for other canal boat owners, roving traders and performers to jump start discussion with with local officials.  Who this time, will already know what you’re trying to do.  

We kick off in West London, where the moorings are plentiful, and where we hope it will be easier to rendezvous with roving traders who we hope to entice down to the city later in the summer.  If we can band together as many as 20 of them, and give CRT a good 4-6 weeks heads up, they’ll put out mooring suspensions in central London to bring the flotilla to the people.

That’s the second major outcome we see from all of this, making London attractive to roving traders again.  If you’re someone who sells goods or services, and think you’d like to join us, you can follow our progress on our website, and we’ll see you on the canal!

what did you do in the lockdown daddy?

old no 38

what did you do in the lockdown, daddy?

So that’s it then...

Boris has given us his road map.

To be honest it looks like an A to Z of the North Circular that a toddler has scribbled over, but at least it’s a map. Things will gradually begin to open up.

Of course all the things we really want to do, like go to the pub, pictures, football, theatre, etc., are pushed toward the back of the list, but hey - it’s a map.

Which all begs the question, ‘What did you do in the lockdown, Daddy?’

So sit here upon my knee my child, whilst I puff wistfully on my clay pipe and reminisce about the good old days.

the good old days...

covid signsAnd what days they were, eh?

We shall never see the like again.

We wore masks, sanitised our hands with alcohol rub until they were drunker than a hen night in Why Aye land and learnt the metric system at last - or at least that two metres was just about, appropriately, something like six feet and a bit. Give or take.

Meanwhile our lords and masters went into overdrive. Dominic pretending that he wasn’t really on his holibobs faked a trip to Specsavers. A cabinet minister's wife lined her pockets with our taxes supplying PPE which, rather like the government itself, was not fit for purpose. And poor old Boris, sick of being blamed for everything and anything became just that - sick - stricken by the very disease that he was trying to protect us all from by attempting to shake the hand of everyone in the country. Perhaps he’d caught a chill attempting to hide in a freezer.

Track and trace did nothing of the sort.

We sat at home and did nothing, saw no one and were careful to not touch our own face with our hands whilst simultaneously keeping a minimum of two metres from the cat, proud of ourselves for being so adept at multitasking.

We drank ourselves into oblivion whilst binge watching box set after box set and then so drunk on canned lager and cheap wine we forgot what we’d watched and went through them all again - backwards.

And we learned what it was like to be truly deprived as Corrie, EastEnders and Emmerdale slowly ground to a halt and we were forced to watch re-runs of Dirty Den and Ange struggling with the complexities of marriage, causing many of us to reflect on the merits of knife crime, poisoning and hiring a hitman.

Nervously, like frightened rabbits caught in the headlights we shuffled on to our doorsteps at regular intervals to give the NHS the clap.

We rushed out and bought a shiny new bike, because Boris bunged us a few bob to do so and rode it with vigour, determination and without due regard for the safety of others, until it started to rain and we chucked it, our helmets, fluorescent jackets, knee pads, elbow pads, emergency break down kit, into the shed with the intention of flogging it on eBay the next morning.

covid signs near canalWe blamed the Chinese, completely forgetting that Ozzie Osborn had been stuffing raw bat down his neck with no ill effects for years, watched in awe as Donald Trump eclipsed even the efforts of Boris, our own resident buffoon and completely forgot that we were supposed to be blaming him for Brexit.

And then, like a fog clearing, it came to an end and we all rushed out to ‘eat out to help out,’ while the pubs operated with reduced hours to compress us more densely into restricted spaces.

We hurtled around the shops (one way of course) blue in the face as we all tried desperately not to breathe lest we get infected and put a strain on the NHS which quite frankly needed the customers because no one seemed to be getting any illness that wasn’t directly linked in some way to Covid.

‘Been knocked over by a bus sir? Have you had a minor sniffle in the last twenty five years? You have? Sounds like Covid to me nurse. Book him in and phone Matt Hancock immediately.’

But, fools that we were, things weren’t getting better they were getting worse. The health experts tut-tutted, telling us that it was our own stupid fault, we’d brought it all on our own heads and totally deserved everything that we got. And those were just the experts on Facebook Tube. The experts in the media were almost wetting themselves in excitement. Nicky Campbell debated the subject endlessly on the radio, Robert Peston’s vowels got even more strangled by the day and dear old Laura Kuenssberg considered starting her own tv channel.

So they locked us down again so that we could stay at home an enjoy the frenzy.

‘It’ll be o.k.,’ Boris assured us, ‘It’ll all be over by Chrissymus, so we can look forward to that so long as we’re not too merry about it.’

I think they said something similar about the war.

And verily it came to pass that the great feasting and celebration for the birth of our Lord and saviour wast cancelled by Pontificating Boris forthwith and the plans and aspirations of the many were cast down into the eternal pit of despair ne’er to see the light of redemption again.


But at least Captain Sir Tom was still lapping his garden faster than Lewis Hamilton on a child’s tricycle. Irony of ironies that the new big C got him as he was busy doing what the government should have been doing all these years as he paid for the NHS.

And so it came to pass that lockdown v2.0 became lockdown v3.0 virtually overnight and the little children who had suffered to go to school one day were summarily incarcerated again overnight. Oh, and only stay local, commanded Boris as he circumnavigated the capital city on the Boris bike (a bit like the Batmobile but distinctly wobbly and with no dress sense).

a possible future...

But salvation was at hand.

vax and relax stone painting (photo by Belinda Fewings)In a dazzling move, which stunned the world and certainly the EU who we’d recently left although no one had noticed, we developed a vaccine.

In a move which left everyone totally gobsmacked, the government had ordered some. Bloody gazillions of  gallons of it. More doses than you could imagine. Not only that, but it had hedged its bets and also ordered gazillions of gallons of vaccines from other sources.

The EU caught short, chucked it’s teddy out of the pram and had a Paddy. Or not. Depending on which side of the Irish border you are.

Some of us, depressingly reminded exactly how old we are, have already got a little prick. Now, now missus, titter ye not!

We have to have another jab in 3 weeks, sorry, what’s that Boris? You meant months? Never mind we can see our holidays galloping over the horizon so we don’t care.

revolutionary outdoor cooking

revolutionary outdoor cooking

cook anything, anywhere, anytime!

how it all began...

In December 2001, Time Magazine featured the Cobb as one of the best inventions of that year. This was a major turning point for what had started out as an obvious idea to an environmentalist in Africa several years earlier.

The developer’s idea was to encourage native Africans to use corncobs as fuel for cooking, rather than wood or coal. He devised a simple clay pot stove with a steel mesh grill that Africans could easily make and fuel with their abundant supply of corncobs.

The idea took hold and resulted in the development of the Eco Cobb, an inexpensive, all metal stove that could be distributed in aid programmes in third world countries globally.

Cobb’s commitment to a continual improvement program has resulted in the worldly acclaimed product we see today which is available with several accessories.

total versatility...

The award winning Cobb™ system can roast, bake, smoke, fry and grill. Cobb cooking is fuss-free. Perfect for home and away, the Cobb is easy to clean, light-weight, simple to use and maintain. You can even move the Cobb while cooking to wherever the social gathering may be – outdoors, on the beach or even on a boat.

Endorsed by the South African Heart Foundation, the Cobb's unique patented design allows excess fat and oil to drain away into the moat / inner sleeve for healthier cooking.

The Cobb is virtually smokeless, since the fat and oil drain away and not onto the fire. The base always remains cool-to-touch on the outside whilst cooking hot on the inside.

The Cobb is made of only the highest quality durable materials and because the Cobb has no moving parts, nothing can go wrong.

This highly portable Cobb Premier and Pro weigh only 4kg (8.5 lbs.), zipped into the carry bag it’s 325mm wide and 270mm high.

cobb bbq elementsthe elements that make up Cobb...

  1. Dome: made with stainless steel and it has a heat-resistant handle. The holes in the Dome ensure even ventilation throughout the cooking process creating an oven effect.
  2. Grill Grid: with an easy to clean Teflon® non-stick coating. Excess fat drains away through the holes and into the moat.
  3. Fire Basket: A secured area for the Cobble Stone or loose briquettes.
  4. Stainless steel moat: catches all excess fat. The moat can also be used for cooking vegetables.
  5. Base: with anti-slip rubber feet, the base remains stable and cool to touch during use.

The Cobb is packaged complete with instruction manual. All the components with the exception of the base are dishwasher safe.

Cobb BBQawards...

  • Time International voted Cobb one of the best inventions worldwide in 2001
  • Double Vesta Design Award Winner
  • Spoga + Gafa Innovation Design Award Winner
  • disa - Design Innovation South Africa
  • Heath, Patio & Barbeque Association
  • The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
  • Heart Foundation South Africa

Cobb BBQ logoAs far as we can determine, the Cobb has the smallest carbon footprint of any manufactured oven on Earth. Order yours online today! WIN A COBB BBQ HERE!!
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Ian Douglas

featured author - summer 2021

ian douglas

about me

"What I love about storytelling is its simplicity. Stories meet us half way and we, the audience, have to be complicit for them to be successful. The stories I like to tell are fun, inviting and light hearted – even the serious ones! I believe that storytelling has a unique ability to connect people, not only to each other but to the past, the future and to the world around us." - Ian Douglas.

Ian DouglasSo I’ve been a storyteller for about 24 years. I work all over the British isles at festivals and  events and in schools, colleges and universities. Originally, I was a street theatre performer, fire breather and stilt walker.

I was inspired to start storytelling after attending the ‘bit craic’ storytelling nights in Newcastle upon Tyne with my friend and illustrator of my book, Gary Cordingley.

During my career I have founded two story-telling based theatre companies, been storyteller in residence for organisations across the North including Northern Stage and Live Theatre in Newcastle and most recently, Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. I have also been apprentice to the first laureate for storytelling Taffy Thomas MBE.

Ian DouglasI currently live aboard Narrowboat Hawker (that features in the book) with my Wife Jo who is a puppeteer. We often have people on board for stories and shadow shows.

As a storyteller you are always looking for stories that resonate and after 8 years on the cut, the desire to to create a collection of tales inspired by our way of life took root and so here they are.

The book is a starting point for a next phase in my career; I’m going to continue the search for more tales from the canal side but also begin work, with Jo, to turn them into a show. We aim  to tour around the network and encourage our audiences to make a deeper connection to life on the waterways.

about the book

folk tales from the canal side'Folk Tales from the Canal side' is one of those beautiful little books that grab you from the moment you see it. It is a nice size, easy to hold and easy to flick through.  The  front cover is enticing. The colours are those of a traditional canal boat, and the inset painting shows many things associated with boating, or with tales of boating: but a man with a donkey? and a whale?

In the book, Ian talks directly to us, his readers. He then meets someone who gives him a tale, tells the tale, and then carries on chatting about his own similar experience. So we flow in and out of each story - meeting ghosts, devils, murderers, faithless wives and miserable jobsworths. At the same time, Ian manages to educate us by effortlessly weaving in plenty of history about the canals.

Ian's first book was altogether a very enjoyable read, and one which caused me to frequently laugh out loud. I must say I read the entire book in one sitting. I highly recommend it!
(Linda Hollington, editor)

You can buy Ian's book from Amazon, from major bookshops such as Waterstones, or direct from The History Press. Happy reading!

Ian Douglas Storyteller and Author

Ian DouglasIan Douglas has been a storyteller for about 24 years, working all over the British Isles at festivals and events, and in schools, colleges and universities.

He was inspired to start storytelling after attending the ‘bit craic’ storytelling nights in Newcastle upon Tyne with friend Gary Cordingley - who just happens to be the illustrator of Ian's book "Folk Tales from the Canal Side".
Read More

boating on the rivers and broads of norfolk

simply linda

boating on the rivers and broads of norfolk

boat on Norfolk BroadsGenerically known as the ‘Norfolk Broads’ are the man-made rivers and lakes (Broads) of Norfolk.

The area is now a National Park, though historically these inland waterways were established to help reclaim water-logged land for agricultural use (if I’ve remembered correctly what it said in the guide book!)

There are still a few traditional ‘Wherries’ (sail boats used along the rivers and Broads) to be seen sailing along and other combined sail/engine powered craft cruising about, but big GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic) boats predominate. Many are holiday hire boats, though those fortunate enough to be able to afford to live in the area often own their own.

Being from the canal-cruising fraternity, where towpath trekking, locks and camaraderie amongst boaters is commonplace, I’ll admit being aboard on the ‘Norfolk Broads’ didn’t exactly ‘float my boat’.

norfolk broads

The area is flat and ‘stopping points’ limited – wild camp mooring opportunities are few and far between. This mostly takes place in the Broads, where mud-weights (anchors) are used.

If hiring a boat and planning to use these facilities, it’s important to make sure either a row boat or all that’s needed is aboard. There’s no jumping on the towpath and popping to the shop when you’re in the middle of a lake!

At the time of travel, covid restrictions were just being lifted. Accordingly hire operations weren’t working at full capacity.

Nonetheless, the area was busy – very busy – and competition for moorings was high.

Planning ahead is imperative to get to dedicated moorings before nightfall. There are areas where tide times have to be considered, too. Hit them at high water and there’s no going through….or back.

mill on norfolk broads

The boats are generally well-equipped, but for the most part require a degree of ‘athleticism’ to be able to get on and off. The newer (more expensive to hire) boats have easier access than the slightly more ‘mature’ one we hired, but fully accessible boats are rare (if they even exist!).

Not wishing to sound totally negative about what for many is a most enjoyable holiday activity/destination, I should say there are some very attractive places to pass.

Stopping to visit and enjoy depends on being there at the right time to secure a mooring.

For the most part, cruising the Norfolk Broads means mile, after mile…..after more miles….of not much to see, apart from a few swans, ducks, reeds and mills.

These mills were not – as one of my less enlightened companions thought – for grinding grain. They were the means by which the land was drained in days of yore!

dog on boat on Norfolk Broads

Junior member of the crew on mooring lookout duty.

Dogs do travel on the boats of the Norfolk Broads. I took mine. I won’t be repeating the experience.

Getting on/off when a fur baby needs to do what a dog needs to do, isn’t easy. Not forgetting that sitting watching those mile after mile of land pass by can be for them, frankly boring. They’d much prefer to be sniffing and watering the mills, even though they love being where their humans are…..

Entertainment-wise, be prepared to make or take you’re own, though watching the ways of other boaters can be amusing too. Just don’t laugh too loud!

the narrowboat weaver

featured roving canal trader

Peri Pigott - the narrowboat weaver

narrowboat weaverIf  you see a 55' purple boat with large cream flowers on, that is my gorgeous GillyFlower, so wave or stop by and say hello! My name is Peri

After travelling around, living abroad and in different areas of the UK, I settled back in Bristol, where I grew up. I had opened my own Wedding & Events décor business which was a great success, but had decided back in 2014 that land living with all its demands and working 7 days a week, owning my own business was no longer for me.

I remembered a wonderful canal boat holiday I had had way back...and that even then it was something I thought I would like do, to buy my own boat and become a continuous I sold my business and on November 19th 2014 I bought my boat, which looked very different back then, all dark wood inside and green and burgundy outside, also with a different name.

But I wanted to make this beautiful beast more personal to me, hence the interior re-dec and colour change outside and on New Years Eve 2014 I moved on, yes on a snowy, icy winter morn!  But soon got that log burner going...! and I have been a liveaboard ever since and for the foreseeable future would not want to live anywhere else. I just love my boat!

Then a few years ago I obtained a Roving Traders Licence and upcycled small pieces of furniture for my clients.  But then Covid hit and Lockdown came and of course like so many people, I decided that to earn money I needed to come up with something else.

During the first lockdown I had made a tapestry using just a small piece of cardboard, after watching Kirsty Allsopp's craft programme. Actually, I made a few and really found the whole process inspiring and mindful. Which was so needed at that time. I started to look into weaving, got a small loom, taught myself to weave and off I went making scarves for friends and family.

I decided to put them up on Facebook, with a price, just to see what would happen , as ya do.... the idea was to make and sell my products using re-claimed wool but people started to ask for specific colours which meant I had to buy new wool. However, this has turned into a very bespoke little onboard business and I now work mainly on commissions.

The client chooses the colour combo and I choose the design which is created  in 'stream of consciousness' which means that no two designs will ever be the same, giving my clients a completely unique piece! and having not looked back since, have gone from making small Scarves, to also creating gorgeous Wraps, Throws, Bed Runners,  Bags & Cushions!

It has just been amazing the response I have had, the kind words and even better I love it when clients send pictures of themselves either wearing their Wrap/Scarf or of their Throw/Bedrunner in situ - which can all be seen on my facebook page.

As well as GillyFlower - The Narrowboat Weaver, I have also created GillyFlower - Floating Handmades, this is for the crafts that I make and sell on the Towpath off of my boat.

I upcycle tins and jars, make tiles into coasters. and my biggest  seller after the handwovens is my handmade soaps. I make lots of lush and wonderfully fragranced soap for both Humans & Dogs...and they are selling really well, which I am so pleased about. All these items can also be ordered via facebook messenger/phone/email and sent off in the post. Just get in touch and I will send you all the details, pricing and soap list.

The romance of this is that everything I produce is 'handmade on a narrowboat' which gives each item a little story.

I am mainly 'roving and trading' on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal,  where you will find me  sitting on the towpath or on the bow of my boat with my looms, weaving my latest creation.

And all my craft products and handmade soaps will be on the roof, waiting for you to peruse and buy.

I look forward to meeting and hearing from you, all enquiries welcome.

gillyflower handmade crafts

Peri Pigott - narrowboat weaver Peri Pigott has been a liveaboard boater since 2014, and a floating trader for the last few years. She generally trades on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, but also sells through the internet, so don't be put off by distance!

You can follow Peri on Facebook to see where she is trading, or you can buy from her online.

You can also contact her by email

And if you do come across her on the towpath, do stop for a chat - you will recognise her very distinctive narrowboat!

lady helen – back on the norfolk broads

lady helen

back on the norfolk broads

I have just sold my lovely Hardy Pilot 20SE “Felice” and have bought Simon Kidd’s Hardy 25 “Lady Helen”, largely because age suggests that my wife Lois and I probably ought to go over to the dark-side as fair-weather sailors and confine our boating to inland waterways.

So having been brought up in Cromer, and having first learned to sail on the Norfolk Broads more than sixty years ago, we’re about to relocate our boating activities from the English Channel to the Broads and a Hardy 25 offers more comfortable accommodation for longer stays than “Felice” could.

clive edwards - lady helen

Lady Helen at MNA Boat Club (courtesy MNA Boat Club)

We bought “Lady Helen”, one of only a very few Hardy 25s designed with a large outboard well, from Simon without an engine and will fit her with a brand new high-thrust 50hp engine as soon as we’ve completed some fitting-out work on her here in Weymouth before moving “Lady Helen” to Cox’s boatyard at Barton Turf next spring.  Not only are Lois and I going back to our old stamping ground but so is “Lady Helen” because her first home after leaving the Hardy works in North Walsham was on The Broads!

We had something of a challenge in terms of moving “Lady Helen” from her mooring afloat on the River Dart to a berth ashore at the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA) last week because the various arrangements and people involved were at the last moment confronted with the latest lock-down of course!

The exercise involved Simon navigating “Lady Helen” from her mooring on The Dart to Darthaven Marina, having her craned out before removing Simon’s outboard, loading her on to a trailer towed by a highly professional and very cost-effective boat delivery company operated by the ever-helpful William Bird.  The exercise at the marina took longer than anticipated so that William’s departure from Dartmouth enroute to Portland was delayed nearly two hours which meant that he arrived at the WPNSA about 16.00 only an hour before the yard was due to close. Fortunately, the team at the WPNSA were as helpful as usual and managed to get “Lady Helen” lifted off the trailer and on to blocks with 15 minutes to spare!

So now we are waiting once again for lock-down to end so we can start work, fit the new engine (delivery of which is delayed by Covid 19 until late January) and hopefully get “Lady Helen” up to Norfolk by early March…

Well, the Covid 19 lock-down delayed us for a further month but on 9th April Lady Helen was transported by road to Barton Turf, thanks to William Bird’s excellent road transport operation, and thanks to Eric Bishop, Cox’s Boatyard manager and our MNA Boat Club Vice Commodore Captain Chris Woods, she was launched and made ready for her Boat Safety Cert inspection the following day.

lady helen on permanent mooring

Lady Helen on her permanent mooring on the Norfolk Broads

Apart from an issue regarding the gas cut-off tap behind the sink which needed some attention, Lady Helen satisfied the inspector and was duly awarded her Certificate and transferred to a permanent mooring.

For various reasons my wife Lois and I hadn’t been able to go up to Norfolk at the same time as Lady Helen was taken there, but we did manage to spend a long weekend aboard, along with our two elderly Westies later in April.

So now we are looking forward to spending several weeks staying on Lady Helen and using her to re-visit all those parts of the Broads that I knew long ago when I was still in short trousers!

remarkable bridges – spanning the years

remarkable bridges

spanning the years

With technology and engineering evolving at such an alarming rate, spare a thought for the humble bridge. How many people have crossed bridges across the globe without giving it a second thought?

With the brand new three tier interlocking glass bending bridge, the Ruyi Bridge opening in China, we started to think about how many famous bridges people could name.

Starting with the new Ruyi Bridge, which was planned back in 2017, and has finally opened after some scepticism regarding its wonky walkways, shortage of handrails and glass surrounds which seemed unrealistic.

Luckily the tourists seem to like it though, although some are not quite sure about the design, with many asking why there is a lack of handrails?

Spanning a stunning 328 feet (100 m) and a mind blowing 459 feet (140 m) above the ground, it is certainly not for the fainthearted, but has still managed to attract over 200,000 visitors since it first opened in 2020.

The bending bridge which boasts views over the Zhejiang Province has certainly got tourists speaking, some saying that they thought it was fake before actually seeing it in person, whilst others are totally amazed at the design of the structure.

The bridge design is inspired by a jade Ruyi, which is a carved object used as a symbol of good fortune in China. The creators explained that the design is intertwined into an undulating bridge body that gives an experience of walking on air when you pass over the glass floors. The rigid and soft shape design blends perfectly into the natural landscape, just like a jade Ruyi in the sky.

Footage of the bending bridge went viral on social media recently after the Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield posted an eye opening video of the bridge from space.

Ruyi Bridge, China

The Ruyi Bridge in China with its glass floors

China seems to be at the centre of amazement when it comes to bridges, with another example being the home to the worlds longest and highest bridge in the world, measuring at an astonishing 19.9 miles. The China Sutong Jiang highway bridge has to be seen to be believed.

Connecting Nantong and Changshu, a satellite city of Suzhou, which is a province of Jiangsu, with a span of 1,088 m, it is a cabled style bridge with the largest main span in the world as of 2010.

There have been a number of significant bridges over the years that have transformed the way people travel, for either work or leisure. Some bridges have completely transformed communities, some have been a matter of life and death when the supplying of essential goods to the people on either side of various islands is taken into consideration.

We at Bearingtech can fully appreciate the dedication and engineering skills that make these magnificent structures worthwhile; the engineering capacity and knowledge is second to none, so we have decided to list a few to highlight the importance of the humble bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco – USA

Opened to the public in in 1937 after only taking 4 years to complete, the bridge has quickly established itself as one of the most recognisable bridges in the world.

Before the bridge was built, beginning in 1820, the people of San Francisco had to travel to Marin Country by boat. The boat carried passengers and cars for over 100 years, before the bridge opened. One of the strangest things that the bridge incorporated was the use of a safety net, which managed to catch any unlucky worker who fell off the structure whilst working. Unfortunately this was only put in place after 11 people lost their lives, but for 19 the net proved life saving, having saved them from a watery death.

At one point the bridge had the largest span in the world, and considering the span of the China Sutong Bridge at 19.9 miles, the Golden Gate seems relatively small.

Sydney Harbour Bridge  - Sydney – Australia

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia

Sydney Harbour Bridge at dusk

The first instance of the iconic bridge history can be traced back to 1815. It was the first time that a proposal to connect the North and South shores surfaced when architect Frances Greenway proposed the plan. Fellow architect Robert Brindley put forward the idea of a floating bridge back in 1840, which was refused, but it was Peter Henderson who was the first person who put the first known drawing of the proposed bridge across the harbour.

The building of the bridge was seen as a saviour for the depression hit workers at the time. The 1400 worker`s who helped to build the structure, found the employment a huge sigh of relief, as jobs were hard to come by as the country was going through tough economic hardship.

Although climbing the bridge is illegal, they do offer guided tours to tourists, if you are lucky enough to be a celebrity you can get the opportunity to climb to the very top of the bridge, one such celebrity was Billy Connolly who had the pleasure of viewing the city from the very top during a recording of one of his tours and described the experience as incredible.

Brooklyn Bridge – New York – USA

Being one of the most iconic structures in America, you would think that any prospective buyers would need to talk to the state of New York or the Government in general, oh no, this is not the case, one of the most interesting facts about the bridge is the amount of times it has been sold by scammers who have tried to sell the bridge to unsuspecting buyers. One of the most renowned conmen was George C. Parker who sold the bridge many times over, only for the new owners to turn up and try and put toll booths in place, only to be told by the police that the bridge is not for sale and that they had been duped.

The bridge opened in May 1883, took 14 years to complete and was designated as a national monument in 1964. For the first 5 days of its life it was only used for leisure, however after a woman tripped over and caused a major panic with a rumoured stampede, which resulted in 2 deaths and 36 injuries, the bridge was soon changed to traffic only.

Brooklyn Bridge, New York

New York skyline behind the Brooklyn Bridge

Apart from being just a bridge, vaults were installed for storing large quantities of stock, most notable was the storage of wine, which could be stored in a cool temperature due to the river.

At over 50 foot tall and made of solid granite, they were perfect for cooling all types of alcohol and wine to name a few.

Another interesting story involved one of the new landlords of the bridges offices, the new tenant’s decided to have a clear out and threw away thousands of baseball bubble gum cards, that were not seen as valuable at the time, one of the cards sold for $500,000 dollars a few years later, how wonderful is hindsight?

It remains as one of the most iconic landmarks of New York and is a major tourist attraction alongside the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline.

Millennium Bridge – Gateshead – Newcastle

Spanning the river Tyne, the bridge is one of 7 in Newcastle upon Tyne, connecting the Gateshead arts quarter on the south bank to the quayside on the Newcastle north bank.

The unique design has become one of the most remarkable landmarks in the area because of the way it opens and closes due to the shape and method of the tilting structure, which resembles a winking eye. Unlike the Brooklyn Bridge, it is only open to pedestrians and cyclists.

Built at the turn of the Millennium, it was part of a series of planned structures to celebrate the forthcoming era, structures like the London Eye and the Millennium Dome had the same idea.

Tsing Ma Bridge  Hong Kong – China

Tsing Ma Bridge at night, Hong Kong

Tsing Ma Bridge at night, Hong Kong

The Tsing Ma Bridge in Hong Kong is the world`s 14th longest span suspension bridge, and was the 2nd longest at the time of its completion. Named after the two islands that connect it, the bridge has two decks and carries both road and rail traffic.

The span of 1377 m (4518 ft), and height of 206 m (676 ft), making it the largest of all bridges carrying rail traffic.

The bridge decks carries 3 lanes of traffic in each direction, the lower one contains two rail tracks and two sheltered carriageway`s which are used for maintenance access and traffic lanes when the weather is bad especially when severe typhoons hit the city.

Classed as one of the most beautiful bridges in the world, it was opened in 1997 by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at a cost of $1.35 billion dollars.

The Akashi –Kaikyo Bridge – Akashi – Japan

The Akashi Bridge is also referred to as the Pearl Bridge and is a suspension design that crosses the Akashi strait in Japan. Located to the south of the city of Kobe and the east of Osaka.

The waters around the strait are important fishing areas for local fishermen , and is also an important point to reach the Pacific ocean from the Seto Inland sea, making it one of the busiest straits in Japan.

The bridge pretty much killed the ferry industry in the area, which was the main passageway for travellers from island to island. The Akashi area is prone to severe storms, something which has resulted in multiple accidents over the years, one of which was the Shiun Main disaster of 1955 which cost the lives of 168 people, the incident confirmed to the Japanese Government that the bridge needed to be constructed.

Apart from the severe storms, Akashi is in an earthquake zone, which was a significant factor in the bridges construction, at the final count, 350,000 tonnes of concrete was used alongside 300,000 kilometers of cable enabling the bridge to withstand earthquakes up to 8.5 on the Richter scale and expand to 6 m a day if necessary. 

Tower Bridge – London – England

Tower Bridge, London

Tower Bridge, London - not as old as you would think!

Seen as one of the most iconic landmarks in England, Tower Bridge started its life as a competition experiment which was commissioned by the Special Bridge Committee who asked the public to design a bridge to cross the Thames, after 50 designs were submitted, none were approved and it was not until architect Sir Horace Jones and engineer Sir John Wolfe Barry put forward drawings which were eventually accepted.

Unfortunately Sir Horace did not see the fruition of his work having died a year before the bridge was completed. Built in 1886 the bridge was built to look much older than it actually was, the design was to blend in with the Tower of London which was built around 1066.

It took over 1000 workers to complete the build over a period of 8 years, even though the original estimate was only 4 years. During the construction 8 people lost their lives, which seemed to be the norm when constructing a bridge, as other projects across the world suffered the same fate.

The original cost was £1 million and was funded by a committee rather than public money, which would have caused a storm back in the 1800`s.

One of the best known parts of the bridge is the raised drawbridges which are called Bascules, which is a French word for see- saw, it is considered good luck to see the bascules being raised.

The bridge is an extremely sophisticated feat of engineering, simply because its construction is complicated. When first opened, steam was used to raise the enormous pumping engines, which turned the hydraulics and raised the bascules.

The system was upgraded in 1976 to oil and electricity due to the advancement in technology and engineering and proved a lot easier.

One of the funniest and unusual stories came in 1952 when a double decker bus actually jumped the bridge after the driver Albert Gunter realized that the bridge was opening and decided to go for it, he put his foot on the accelerator and sped towards the opening and jumped the gap and landed on the other side, his employers were so impressed by his bravery that they gave him the day off and gave him a £10.00 bonus for his efforts.

Many people confuse Tower Bridge with London Bridge, the most famous tale comes from the 1960`s when London Bridge had fallen into disrepair and London council decided to auction it off before starting work on a new bridge.

Enter the Lake Havasu City founder member who`d thought that he would buy it and reconstruct it for a tourist attraction back in the USA.

He paid $2.4 million, and had the bridge dismantled and the 10,276 granite blocks shipped to America. There are lots of urban legends that suggest he thought he was buying Tower Bridge, whether this is true nobody knows, except maybe the Lake Havasu member. 

Millau Viaduct Bridge – Tarn Valley – France

Millau Bridge, France

The Wonderful Millau Bridge in France that sits amongst the clouds.

Standing at a staggering 343 m (1125 ft ) the Millau Bridge sits amongst the clouds like something out of a sci-fi film, and certainly deserves the title of Europe`s tallest bridge, as would anything that is taller than the Eiffel Tower.

Designed by renowned British architect Norman Foster and French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and was completed in 2004 at a cost of €394 million.

Spanning the Tarn Valley the bridge was designed to ease the heavy traffic en route from Paris to Spain in the holiday season, which caused major congestion, and after numerous complaints from the travellers and local residents the decision to commission the bridge was made in 1991.

Due to the design of the bridge, constructing it was an enormous challenge. Starting with the deep foundations, which had to support the massive structure on 7 pillars, each weighing 700 tonnes, which had to be specially built.

Because of the height and weight of the bridge, satellite pinpoint accuracy was used to place each piece in exactly the right position. After the pillars were placed, two decks were slid on top from each end. Despite the two ends of the bridge being at different heights and with a slight curve, the two decks were aligned within 1 centimeter of each other, which is a remarkable feat of engineering. Due to the bridge being a toll road at €6.00, it has to be the best value for money especially when you consider the view.

Vasco da Gama Bridge – Lisbon – Portugal

The wonderfully curved bridge spans the Tagus River in Parque das Nacoes in Lisbon and was designed by the engineers to sit with the Earths natural curvature, making it an engineering masterpiece that can withstand winds of up to 155 mph and has a life expectancy of 120 years.

It is considered to be the longest bridge in the European Union and the second longest in Europe after the Crimean Bridge.

Construction began in 1995 by engineers from Portugal, France and Britain and was open for traffic in 1998, just in time for the Euro 98 World Trade Fair, which celebrated the discovery of the sea route from Europe to India by the explorer Vasco da Gama.

The $ 1.1 billion project was split into four parts, each being built separately by a different company and supervised by an independent consortium. The financing for the build was via a build operate & transfer system by Lusopante, who are a private financial company who will receive the toll payments for the first 40 years.

The bridge is a matter of national pride, not only due to the technical feats, but carried out the promise that was made to local residents by the Government to ease the congestion in the local area by linking the Sugunda Circular to the national trunk road and the future A12 motorway.

Khaju Bridge – Isfahan – Iran

 Known as one of the oldest bridges from Iran`s historic past, the Khaju Bridge was built around 1650 under the reign of Abbas II, the seventh shah of Iran.

The bridge has 23 arches and is 133 metres long and was originally covered with paintings and tile-work and was used as a teahouse. It is often described as the city`s finest bridge.

There is also an interesting feature at the centre of its structure, still to this day you can see the remains of a stone throne which Abbas himself would have sat on admiring the view.

The bridge has several sluice gates under the archways, which allows the water flow needed to hydrate the Zayenderud area, when the gates are closed, the water level behind the bridge is raised to facilitate the irrigation of the many gardens along the river.

The upper levels of the bridge were utilised by horses and carts, which ran alongside vaulted pathways for pedestrians.

Arthur Pope who was an American expert on Persian art described the bridge as the culminating monument of Persian bridge architecture that combines consistency, utility, beauty and recreation. So much so was his love for the structure, after his death he was laid to rest nearby.

Forth Bridge - South and North Queensferry –Scotland

Forth Bridge, Scotland

Forth Bridge in Scotland

Designed by John Fowler and Benjamin Baker in 1882 the Forth Bridge was officially opened in 1890 and was considered an exceptional piece of Victorian engineering and was a pioneering build at the time of its construction. Now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the bridge has appeared on bank notes and coins and is considered a significant symbol of Scottish culture.

At the height of its construction more than 4000 men were employed over the duration, during this time 57 lost their lives by accidents.

With a span of 2467 m ( 8093 feet )  and a height of 137 m (449 feet) the construction resulted in an unbroken route from London to Aberdeen.

The design consisted of 53,000 tonnes of steel held in place buy 6.5 million rivets, alongside piers, that were built using 120,000 cubic yards of concrete and masonry.

Unfortunately due to the steel design the bridge has to be painted to upkeep its appearance and uses an estimated 240,000 litres` of paint.

The bridge is in constant use with 200 trains travelling across it a day and carrying 3 million passengers a year.

The Bridge of Sighs – Venice – Italy

The Bridge of Sighs crosses the Rio del Palazzo and is one of 400 bridges that cross many of the 100 canals that run through Venice.

Located in the south of the city and just east of St Marks Square and the St Marks Basilica, which is one of the most famous parts of the city.

The bridge connects the famous Doges Palace to the new prison, Prigoni Nuove, and leads the interrogation room direct to the Palace.

Construction of the structure started in 1600 and was completed 3 years later, making it one of the oldest bridges in Venice.

It is believed that by the time of the inquisition and subsequent executions had long passed by the time the bridge was built, and it was only small time criminals who actually walked across it.

One of the most famous people to suffer the walk of shame was no other than historical Romeo Giacomo Casanova who once arrested for an affront of religion and common decency, and was sentenced to 5 years on the top floor of the prison, he eventually escaped after 18 months with the help of a monk, which is ironic as the charge involved religion.

Szechenyi Chain Bridge – Budapest – Hungary

Opened in 1849, the Chain Bridge became the first permanent bridge in Hungary.

Designed by English engineer William Tierney Clark and built by Scottish engineer Adam Clarke, the bridge was designed to cross the river Danube between Buda and Pest.

At the time of its construction it was regarded as one of the modern wonders of the world, and seen as an advancement linking between the East and West.

Once built it was significant in growing the economy, improving social and cultural lives.

Confederation Bridge – Prince Edward Island & New Brunswick – Canada

Confederation Bridge, Canada

Confederation Bridge, Canada

Built at a cost of $ 1.3 billion dollars in 1997, the Confederation Bridge was designed to connect islands of Prince Edward and New Brunswick.

The construction was built with 62 massive piers, which elevate the road structure above. Once you get onto the bridge you will need to pay a toll fee if you are using a motor vehicle. Pedestrians and cyclists are not allowed to walk on the bridge and need to use the shuttle service which also has a fee, like most ventures they normally start off with free access but over time develop a payment method that is passed onto the communities.

Once opened, one of the first events to be held was a massive walk attended by 75,000 walkers.

Rialto Bridge – Venice – Italy

Constructed between 1588 –1591, the bridge is one of the main four bridges to cross the Grand Canal, and one of the oldest in Venice.

Originally called the Ponte Delta Moneta connected the Rialto market, which became one of the most popular markets in Venice in the 13th century.

The floating bridge that was in place at the time saw a massive influx of traffic, which it could not sustain and was subsequently replaced by a wooden structure, which was much wider and stronger.

The wooden version of the Rialto Bridge was a medieval design similar to Tower Bridge, allowing ships to pass underneath.

Due to the increased amount of traffic that crossed the bridge, merchants seized the opportunity of making more money by installing rows of shops to attract customers. In order to benefit from this unique location, the merchants had to pay the State Treasury rent for the privilege.

Unfortunately as with most structures, there are always occasions and events that are not happy, the Rialto Bridge is no exception, with multiple accidents and mishaps, and apart from collapsing many times, it was completely burnt out in a revolt in 1310.

Having had the benefit of the merchant`s shops across the bridge, proved to be an economic lifeline, with the rent paying for the reconstruction and maintenance of the new bridge.

The wooden bridge was eventually replaced by the stone version in 1588 after original requests had been submitted to the authorities back in 1503.

Once the stone bridge was commissioned, there were plenty of architects and designers who put forward plans and drawings, one being from Michelangelo, which was rejected. The final approval was given to a Venetian architect called Antonio da Ponte who was also responsible for one of the other famous Venice landmarks, the Doges Palace, he managed to beat off several well known players to claim the commission.

There was some opposition to the design, many saying that the bridge would end up in ruins due to the pressure on its foundations, however they did not collapse and is still standing proud hundreds of years later.

Siosepol Bridge – Isfahan – Iran

Siosepol Bridge is a double deck arch bridge based in Isfahan in Iran. The name means 33 bridges or bridge of arches and is considered to be Iran`s largest construction on water.

The bridge has a large plane at the beginning of the construction where the Zayandeh river flows at its fastest.

There are two levels of arches, the lower level has 33 whilst the top level has two, alongside a road which has bounded high walls to protect travellers from high winds and also to stop pedestrians from falling off.

Stari Most  Bridge – Bosnia

There is a local legend that Stari Most Bridge was held together with metal pins and egg whites, and to this day remains an unusual yet impressive design.

The bridge was commissioned by one of the most famous Ottoman Sultans, Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century.

Before the commission the old bridge was a swaying wooden bridge that pedestrians would use at their peril and fear for their lives as they crossed the rickety wooden planks.

It is said that on the day of the unveiling of the new bridge to the sultan, the architect Mimar Hayruddin was preparing his funeral shroud as he was convinced the structure would collapse once the scaffolding was removed, which would leave him out of favour with the Sultan.

On a happier note, one of the world`s oldest diving competitions takes place every year from this iconic UNESCO World Heritage site.

Young men jump from the apex in a ritual that signals their transition into manhood, but not everyone can take part, according to competition rules, all competitors must have the proper training for the event which dates back hundreds of years.

Great Belt Bridge – Zealand & Funen – Denmark

Great Belt Bridge, Denmark

The Great Belt Bridge is the largest structure in Denmark


Before the bridge was built in 1991-1998, some 8,000 cars had to use a ferry service to cross the Great Belt River. After the construction, 30,000 vehicles used the bridge every day, saving an enormous amount of time. By the time you waited in line for the ferry and the actual time of the crossing, you were looking at around 90 minutes compared to the 15 minute journey to cross the bridge by car.

The bridge connects Zealand and Funen and is the world`s 5th largest spanning bridge outside Asia.

The bridge was finally agreed after 50 years of debate by the Danish Government in 1986 and on time of completion cost 21.4 billion Danish Krona resulting in Denmark`s largest construction project in Danish history.

Ponte Vecchio – Florence – Italy

Listed as one of the most iconic bridges in the world, the Ponte Vecchio is a wonderful landmark in Florence Italy.

Its name translates to Old Bridge and like the Ponte Rialto Bridge in Venice , it has shops built on it, which was seen as normal in medieval times, but not so much in the modern era. Spanning the 2nd most famous river in Italy after the Tiber, the Arno flows through Arezzo, Florence, Empoli and Pisa.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Ponte Vecchio, Florence

The Ponte Vecchio is one of the oldest bridges in Italy, as it was first mentioned in documents dating back to 996, this makes sense as the Romans were already building piers made out of stone at this time in history.

The fact that the bridge is seen as “Old”, the bridge today is not the original design, having been destroyed multiple times, it was finally reconstructed and built in stone in 1345 by the Italian historian Taddeo Gadd.

During World War II, all the bridges were destroyed by the German army, on the orders of Adolf Hitler, to try and stop the advancement of the British 8th army who were making their way into Florence in 1944.

The story goes that he visited the Ponte Vecchio on a previous visit as a guest of Mussolini, and was so taken by the view from the bridge that he ordered the structure to be left intact.

Shame he didn’t visit all the other cities and architecture he destroyed as well.

Alcantara – Extremadera – Spain

The Alcantara Bridge is a stone arch bridge spanning the river Tagus and was built between 104-106 CE on the order of the Roman Emperor Trajan from 98 CE.

During its time the bridge has been destroyed more times by the effects of war than weather. In 1214, the Moors destroyed the smallest arch, which was rebuilt in 1543 using materials from the quarries that were sourced for the original design.

The Spanish destroyed the second arch on the right twice, first in 1760 to prevent the Portuguese from invading, and secondly in 1809, during the war between Spain and France the bridge was blown to cut off French troops.

In 1890 Queen Isabel II used mortared masonry instead of the temporary repairs and fixed the bridge, allowing the structure to still be intact today.


Bridges have grown steadily over the years, spanning vast amounts of water, connecting towns, cities and even countries.

From its humble beginnings of a footbridge to the amazing Millau Bridge high amongst the clouds, bridges are getting higher, larger, wider and more elaborate.

A structure that started out as a simple means of support for people going about their normal day- to - day duties, turned out to be a life saver, a deterrent and means of prosperity.

One thing for is for sure, if there is a body of water or hills and mountains to cross, humans will try and brace it with a bridge for whatever reason.

As far as bridges go, they are never too far!