Monthly Archives: September 2021

the malt shovel in shardlow

pub of the season - spring 2020

the malt shovel, shardlow

Ksenia and Lena who run the malt shovel in shardlowThe Malt Shovel in Shardlow was built in 1799 and is set by the side of the Trent and Mersey canal. The free house pub has been run by long time friends Ksenia and Lena since 2016.

The pub has a main area, a snug and a lower snug, each area set with gaming tables which were specially made for the pub - to keep everyone entertained We have scrabble, backgammon, and monopoly to name a few, with all the game pieces available from the bar.

game boards inside Malt Shovel in ShardlowThe Malt Shovel retains many of its original features such as the beams and the tiled floors adding character to this charming pub. In the warm weather it’s perfect for sitting outside and watching canal boats and cruisers and the rest of the world go by.

The pub has a great range of real ales, lagers, ciders plus wines and spirits, but it's best known for the well kept Pedigree. They also do a lovely cream tea with freshly baked scones and cakes.

Food is also served at the Malt Shovel, a fantastic breakfast from 10am everyday and then the lunchtime menu with home cooked dishes and locally sourced produce from 12noon, with Sundays serving great home cooked Roasts. Thursday Evenings from 5pm-9pm is the ever popular Thai night, where the Thai chef, Tik , cooks each dish to order from Pad Thai to Beef Massaman; a very popular night and booking is advisable. Friday night is fish and chip night with their own Beer Battered Haddock.

For the many boaters that moor up by the canal side next to the Malt Shovel, Ksenia and Lena can also provide fresh produce if required - 'boaters baskets’ - breakfast basket, ploughman’s basket - very handy if you want to stock up before moving on.

Opening times : Sun - Thur 10am-11pm, Fri & Sat 10am- midnight
Food serving times: Breakfast - 10am - 11.45am daily, Lunch 12pm - 2.30pm Mon-Fri and until 3pm at weekends. Thai Night - Thursday 5pm - 9pm. Fish & Chips - Friday 5 - 8pm.

Ksenia and Lena welcome you to the Malt Shovel in Shardlow.

You may contact them by phone on
01332 792066
Email them at
or visit their website:

the folly inn, napton

pub of the season - autumn 2021

the folly inn, napton

There is an introduction on the Folly website which says it all:

"There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn." So said Dr Samuel Johnson in 1776 and 245 years later this still rings true. 

So what do we think makes a ‘good tavern or inn’, in other words ‘a real pub’? It's an essential part of the community; it's where friends choose to meet and relax; where you can choose to enjoy either a quiet drink or have fun with your friends; where regulars and newcomers are given an equally warm welcome, and where you can always rely on good beer, wines, spirits and excellent wholesome food.

That's why we describe the Folly at Napton as a real pub.

The Pub

the folly at naptonThe Folly at Napton must be one of the most famous pubs on the cut.

On the banks of the Oxford Canal, the pub is set well back from the waterside and yet remains one of the most favoured stopping off places for boaters.

The pub certainly has a reputation for good food, real ale, fine wines and such like. And the interior of the pub is cosy, with roaring fires and absolutely choc a block full of curios - walls smothered with pictures, ceilings strung with instruments, helmets, antiques. It seems as though the tables are fitted in almost as an afterthought.

mark, landlord of the Folly at NaptonBut perhaps one of the major attractions is the dominant presence of the landlord, Mark. With his handlebar moustache, waistcoats, neckerchief and welcoming smile, he must be one of the true characters of the cut.

Mark is always ready to welcome friends and strangers alike, and perhaps tell a few jokes or even perform a few magic tricks. He is a born entertainer and will not hesitate to get up and sing with a band on open mic night.

Mark is very ably supported by his partner Caroline who provides the artistic touch and is certainly responsible for the hand written notice boards and the mass of potted plants.

The Marquees

Many boaters will remember the 'field' outside the pub, where at one time a stage was erected to enable live music to be performed. Well that's gone. And in it's place, what can only be described as a floral village of cosy marquees. Mark and Caroline have not been idle during the Covid lockdowns.

cosy seating areas at the Folly in Napton

Caroline explained that due to Covid restrictions, they had to lose half of the tables in the pub itself. As the rooms are small anyway, this meant that they could hardly fit in enough people to make opening worthwhile. So they began to create an outdoor/indoor eating area which would enable them to boost customer numbers, at least during the warmer months.

Somehow they have managed to include a long bar, plus a large function room at the back which is used on Wednesday nights at the moment for an Open Mic and Ukulele Night. It must be through the artistic skills of Caroline and her ability with potted plants that the marquees do not look or feel like marquees, but instead provide cosy and intimate spaces.

the Folly at Napton

open mic night at The Folly, Napton

The Potting Shed

Mark and Caroline's ideas did not end with the village of Marquees. No - they have built an enormous, balconied shed - which looks stunning from both outside and inside.

Caroline told me that the idea behind the Potting Shed was to create an indoor area which could be used in any season as a supplement to the seating within the pub - more or less compensating fully for the reduced seating allowed in the pub itself.

They could, of course, have put in a bar and a few tables. But we know already that that is not how Mark and Caroline like to do things. The result is astonishingly beautiful, with the themed creation of areas for pots, plants, garden tools, and carefully thought out seating areas.

the folly at napton

Not only has the Potting Shed created another beautiful area in which to eat or drink, but the overall effect is that the combination of the garden area, marquees and the Potting Shed have given a unity to the area. Wherever you sit, you are part of what is going on, and there is a continual buzz of voices, all adding to an incredible atmosphere.


The pub itself is closed for now, because everyone is choosing to enjoy the new outdoor area. But it mustn't be forgotten, and will undoubtedly come into its own again at Christmas, when Mark and Caroline will be offering great food in an unrivalled festive setting.

Mark and Caroline will always hold a welcome for you at the Folly Pub, Napton. There are plenty of moorings nearby, and a very ample carpark if you are visiting from further afield. You can expect the very best in food, drink, company and live entertainment.

We are very glad that we called in to the Folly once again, and are amazed at how much it has grown (grown, not changed) since we were last here. We can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone - definitely one of our very favourite pubs of all time!

You may contact them by phone on 01926 815185
Email them, follow them on Facebook, or visit their website

body cameras on towpaths

The Canal & River Trust is to commence the use of body worn cameras for its customer service employees whose role includes day-to-day interaction with those on the towpath.  The cameras will initially be used daily by its boat licence customer support team in the Trust’s London & South East region in response to increased concerns about the potential for confrontation, abuse or harm whilst conducting their work.
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body worn cameras on towpaths

body worn cameras on towpaths

The Canal & River Trust is to commence the use of body worn cameras for its customer service employees whose role includes day-to-day interaction with those on the towpath.  The cameras will initially be used daily by its boat licence customer support team in the Trust’s London & South East region in response to increased concerns about the potential for confrontation, abuse or harm whilst conducting their work.

Body worn cameras have been used in specific instances by the Trust’s boat licence customer support teams across the network since 2019.  The development will now see cameras issued as standard for day-to-day duties, including interacting with towpath visitors, assisting boaters, and when issuing notices or other written communications.

Body worn cameras have become increasingly familiar in other areas of society, for example on trains, hospitals and retail settings.  Many frontline emergency services deploy them across their workforce in response to an increase in threatening and abusive behavior.

Many Trust colleagues frequently work alone on the towpath so, alongside other procedures, the body worn cameras will be a tool to support them while they go about their daily jobs.  The use of body worn cameras will provide legally admissible evidence if the Trust needs to act against those who abuse or threaten colleagues or customers.

Whilst instances of poor behaviour are rare, like other areas of society it is on the increase and the Trust will not tolerate assaults on employees, volunteers or contractors and other customers.  Offenders will be dealt with robustly and the Trust will seek to bring criminal proceedings against those responsible where necessary.

The use of body worn cameras will get underway later in September with a potential roll-out elsewhere on the network in due course.

Stephanie Horton, author

stephanie hortonStephanie Horton says, “I wrote Narrow Boat Engine Maintenance and Repair to help boat owners keep their engines operational and moving. This single reference tool combines RCR’s practical advice with our engineers’ specialist knowledge, who through years of experience have unrivalled skills and repair techniques. Hopefully readers will agree the content and photos simplify things and help them keep their boats in a good condition.”
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stephanie horton

featured author - autumn 2021

stephanie horton, md river canal rescue

“I wrote Narrow Boat Engine Maintenance and Repair to help boat owners keep their engines operational and moving. This single reference tool combines RCR’s practical advice with our engineers’ specialist knowledge, who through years of experience have unrivalled skills and repair techniques. Hopefully readers will agree the content and photos simplify things and help them keep their boats in a good condition.”

about me

Stephanie Horton, managing director RCR

I’ve always been interested in engineering and as a child, I spent time in my grandfather’s garage and shed, tinkering with equipment and asking questions about how and why things work. He was a ship’s engineer and my mother was equally very practical, so you could say it was in my genes.

After completing a degree in Electro Mechanical Power Engineering, I worked as an applications engineer for a power company in Stafford. I was also a power quality manager and power consultant, travelling the world dealing with power quality issues.

It was my husband Trevor (RCR ceo) who diverted my attention to boats. He was a diagnostic engineer working on the channel tunnel and had a passion for boats. Although he could fix any problems that arose, we realised this did not apply to everyone, so we decided to launch River Canal Rescue.

We opened for business in January 2001 and the rest as they say is history. Today RCR is the UK’s largest national breakdown and recovery service for boaters using the inland waterway system. Our 40-strong team operates on a 24/7 basis, covers a network of some 3,600 miles and responds to an average of 4000 general call-outs and 250 major incidents a year.

I fell in love with Pembrokeshire a few years ago and now split my time between living on a boat with Trevor in west Wales and living on land, close to RCR’s Stafford HQ, helping run the family business.

about the book

Narrow Boat Engine

With a focus on diesel engines and their arrangements, Narrow Boat Engine Maintenance and Repair  explains the theory behind the boat’s main systems – including propulsion, cooling and electrics - and gives instructions on how to identify key components, how to locate faults and where possible, how to fix them.

There are tips on everyday engine maintenance and how to complete a service and all instructions are accompanied by over 260 colour step-by-step photographs and 60 technical diagrams.

The book is well laid-out, easy to understand with little technical jargon and the ‘how to’ photos, showing basic maintenance, enable readers to recognise parts relating to their engines.

Reader feedback includes:

‘the book enables us to learn how to do things at our own pace’,

it ‘eases some of the dread associated with taking on a new boat, especially as we are keen to keep it in good condition, inside and out’

and ‘a very useful guide to have around’.

You can buy Stephanie’s book from River Canal Rescue here, discounted to £17 including postage & packaging, Amazon and bookshops.


buying a narrowboat

buying a narrowboat

buyer's guide part one

Buying a narrowboat is likely to be one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll ever make. Similar to buying a house, it’s important to do your research, find out as much as you can about the boats you’re interested in and be aware of the pros and cons.

To help you make a more informed decision, River Canal Rescue has put together a Buyers Guide, highlighting some key areas to consider.

What type of narrowboat?

There are three categories - traditional, cruiser and semi-traditional - each with differing sterns (back ends).

A traditional stern has a small deck to stand on for steering and the engine and drive gear is concealed beneath a counter (flat surface) or in a small engine room. While this better protects the propulsion system from the elements, the lack of space can hinder maintenance.  And although it ensures more cabin space on the boat, there’s only room for one person to stand, leaving others in the cabin or upfront. Likely to be a preferred option for liveaboards due to the extra cabin space it provides.

traditional working narrowboats with traditional sterns

traditional stern narrowboat

A cruiser stern is bigger, so offers a more sociable environment. It’s usually surrounded by a safety rail which can have a canvas ‘skirt’ or hood attached for protection from the elements. The engine’s accessed through deck boards, making maintenance easier, but it also means more exposure to the elements so rain water and debris can build up (seeping through the deck boards). The additional external space reduces what’s available internally.

narrowboat with cruiser stern

cruiser stern narrowboat

A semi-traditional stern offers the best of both worlds; more space than a traditional and better protection from the elements than a cruiser. Engine access is still via deck boards and the extended cockpit, which can accommodate a hood, provides more shelter, storage and space.

narrowboat with semi traditional stern

semi traditional narrowboat


Also known as a pram cover, and attached to cruiser and semi-traditional sterns, it’s great for protecting passengers and the engine from the elements, but not so great when it comes to getting on or off the vessel or cruising under low bridges. A build-up of condensation can also hinder navigation.

Pram covers can also be great for creating extra 'indoor' space, and the vast majority can be lowered for cruising.


While the width of a steel narrowboat (6ft 10”) and the cabin headroom (6ft 4”) remains the same, its length can vary. The majority are built with lock lengths in mind, and those around 57ft will enable you to cruise most of the connected inland waterway system (apart from some of the canals and rivers in Yorkshire which have a 56ft lock limit, and a short section of the Little Ouse in Norfolk where there’s a 40ft restriction).

Lengths can go up to 72ft, giving a lot more space for liveaboards, but you’ll need to research where you can cruise.

If you’re not sure what length of boat you want, look at how many berths (sleeping areas) you need, your intended use and preferred layout. Mooring and licence fees can be based on length and smaller mooring spaces are found more easily. Size doesn’t impact how a boat cruises, but additional length can slow the turning speed.

Widebeams provide more spacious accommodation, but they can be more difficult to manoeuvre, you cannot navigate some narrow canals and mooring spaces will be limited. They also have higher licence and mooring fees.

making life better by south shields

making life better by south shields

the fight against wastage of money inspires small bottle garden at greater neasden garden festival

Banal & Dither Trust

south shield mottow by devid scowcrovitch

Making Life better by South Shields


Anytime at all

The fight Against Wastage of Money Inspires Small Bottle Garden at Greater Neasden Garden Festival

 Award winning garden designer Brendov Scowcrovich has joined with the Banal & Dither Trust, a lazy navigation charity, to prevent the wastage of charity money on silly egocentric projects by creating a Small Bottle Garden at the Greater Neasden Garden Festival.  It was initially intended that a large bottle with a garden inside would be created for a national garden festival by a world-renowned garden designer.  This would highlight something to do with the waterways that did not involve boating or navigation and after many, many committee meetings the subject of ‘pollution’ was decided upon.  This was based on the late lamented ‘Report a Shopping Trolley’ campaign which involved customers (sounds better than boaters - anything sounds better than ‘boaters’ - of the trust, who would report an abandoned shopping trolley and the dedicated Operations Room, complete with large maps and pointers would identify the spot and immediately despatch a team to remove the trolley and return it to the supermarket.  Unfortunately, boaters let us down by not sustainably reporting discarded shopping trolleys in sufficient numbers (12), therefore the operation was disbanded, the Ops /Room left to gather dust, the maps to fade and the pointers to be stolen by Vandals.  It was hoped the large bottle campaign would re-ignite interest in discarded shopping trolleys and the operation could become dynamic once again.

Then a brilliant thought occurred to our esteemed Chairman, Devid Scowcrovich that a large bottle at a national garden festival would involve lots of capital expenditure with pesky boaters putting forward FOI requests concerning the costs of such a scheme.  Concern was also expressed at the 23rd Bottle Meeting (BYO), that the publicity generated by such an expensive undertaking would not be worthwhile, particularly as money and girls in bikinis are always on our chairman’s mind.  It was thought if we could win a gold medal it could be melted down to cover the costs, alas it transpired one only receives a card with a gold foil medal stuck upon.  Perhaps if we could get the bottle on the ‘telly’ with the garden, it might create great interest throughout the nation, unfortunately Football and Tennis took up vast amounts of TV time and our large bottle would merely be seen to the rear of one of our chairman’s old heartthrobs Rachel-de-Thame.  The large bottle idea was discontinued but it can still be seen discarded beside No 7 lock on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal (sub please check there is such a canal and lock).

The Committee decided therefore in order to save money to have a small garden in a small bottle, it would have to be a clear bottle such as a white wine bottle.  We sampled many, many bottles until we found the perfect bottle in Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru, unfortunately whilst emptying the bottle we lost the cork and therefore the garden design had to be an open bottle.

Our reasonable priced garden designer, Brendov Scowcrovich, produced a fantastic green vision for the bottle garden, based upon ferns, foliage and phlegm (from too much wine).  The bottle was delivered to the Greater Neasden Garden Festival, alas the organisers never at the front of Avant Garde artistry thought it an empty bottle full of green mush and consigned it to the rubbish tip.  Fortunately, and all members of the Press will applaud this: the centre piece of the festival was a Rubbish Tip, based on the Hampton Court Garden air crash centrepiece.  And there can clearly be seen on all the publicity photographs and videos the Banal & Dither Trust bottle garden just beside several discarded NHS masks – success.  The Banal & Dither Trust is proud to announce not only has the Trust conceived a new art form, not just obtained much needed publicity but have produced reduced costs by cancelling a big project at Hampton Court, spending mere thousands of pounds instead of the estimated hundreds of thousands.  Life may be better by water, but it is infinitely better with a bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru.  A lesson for us all, I think.

Banal & Dither Trust, Loll House, Draconian Terror, South Shields, Corner House Pub, NN33 2JA
Email.  Twitter: @BanalDitherTrust
Patron: H.R.H. In Disgrace keeping low profile. Banal & Dither Trust is not a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales with a Company Number and no registered charity number registered office address First Floor North, Station House, South Shields NN3 2JA

another job well done

the diary of Iris Lloyd

another job well done...

Hylift Plant, Newbury When my husband was alive, we owned a family business, Hylift Plant, based in Newbury, Berkshire.

We provided platform hoists (more commonly known as cherry pickers) for jobs that required one of our employees to work at heights of up to 60 feet, and hired out mobile cranes whenever an object was too heavy to lift manually.

Our platform hoists enabled our employees to clean motorway lights, a job that they were happy to do because of the £10, £20 and sometimes £50 notes that had blown out of car windows and were found lying on the central reservation!

Among other jobs, the hoists had also been employed by TV studios for the 'Sooty' and 'Worzel Gummidge' shows, one operator having to drop ‘snow’ down onto the actors.

As for the cranes, as well as run-of-the-mill jobs of construction work, such as skipping concrete and lifting steel, other jobs our excellent crane drivers were asked to do were many and varied.

Hylift Plant

They lifted a piano out of an upstairs window; installed a bronze camel in Mayfair; and put an air conditioning unit on the roof of Buckingham Palace.  Our cranes suspended an escapologist at a couple of fairs, held up a rocket ship in the James Bond film The Spy who Loved Me, installed anti-escape devices in Reading and Winchester prisons and unloaded a World War II Liberator from a lorry at Blackbushe airport for a museum.

More upsetting, they attended the Twyford railway crash and sometimes recovered crashed vehicles. They also lifted boats in and out of the water for cleaning or repair.

One such job was a two-hour mission to recover a half-submerged river cruiser named The Slug. This 25-year-old boat had sunk at her moorings when a hull seam failed. My husband’s brother donned scuba diving gear to plunge into the Kennet and Avon canal near West Mills in Newbury. His job was to secure the crane’s lifting straps around the hull and he was assisted on shore by three of our employees. As the boat was slowly and carefully raised, a friend of the owner went on board to help pump her out.

The boat was successfully recovered then delivered to the front garden of the owner’s home, prior to its breaking up for firewood.

exploring the lancaster canal

exploring the lancaster canal


The Lancaster Canal was once a busy waterway, transporting limestone and coal via its seaports of Milnthrope and Lancaster, commodities which gave rise to its nickname of The Black and White Canal. Opened in 1799, it was extended into Kendal in 1819 and down to the sea via the Glasson locks in 1826. Sadly the northern reaches were cut off with the arrival of the M6 motorway in 1968 but these remain beautiful stretches none the less. The navigational section of the canal is 41 glorious miles whose beauty is hard to beat. As a waterway it has so much to offer and delight: an exciting passage to reach it via The Ribble link, stunning countryside, panoramic views of The Lake District and Morecambe Bay, a branch that connects it with the sea and two lively and historic cities to discover.

Lancaster Canal

Lancaster Canal

Lancaster Canal

Southern Canal

There are two ways of exploring The Lancaster canal, either by hiring a boat or taking your own along the Rivers Douglas and Ribble. Latter visitors will arrive at the junction from the Savick Brook close to Preston. I recommend turning right and staying at the lovely Cadley services which has secure car parking and an area for BBQs. The canal’s southern terminus is only a mile away and it is a treat to walk along the tow path to admire the steep gardens that run right down to the water. The canal was shortened by a mile many years ago and now starts just south of Ashton Basin. Preston seems to be a city of churches but also of parks and green spaces. The excellent Haslam Park has much to offer as does the restored Victorian pleasure gardens of Avenham. The 20mile bike trail  'The Guild Wheel' winds it way through its paths and along the River Ribble.

The first section north is beautiful and green with the fields’ edges caressing the waters often trampled by generations of cows and sheep. The boater is aware that the main coast railway, M6 and A6 are never far away but the peace of the canal is still prominent. The village of Bilsborrow is dominated by Guy’s Thatched Hamlet and Owd Nell’s, an eclectic collection of buildings, accommodation, pubs, and restaurants, a fun fair and bowling green. As a people watching location it is excellent! There are also some other canal side inns, a handy PO and shop.

The pretty market town of Garstang is only five miles further north; there are some good independent shops as well as a couple of supermarkets. The walk along the river is lovely and Garstang basin has several attractive buildings, a pub and moorings. A little further on the boater arrives at the services and further moorings where it is very pleasant to spend a week or so. More rural countryside emerges as you glide along the waterway towards Potters Brook, passing under John Rennie’s stone bridges. Just past bridge 85 is the left hand turn down to The Glasson Branch. It is well worth a trip down the 6 locks to see the sea and the remains of the once busy port. The Conder Valley is quiet and unspoilt and ends in salt marshes and the estuary of the powerful River Lune, the tide comes in at such a rate you can hear it before you see it.

Lancaster Canal

Lancaster Canal

Lancaster Canal


Back on the main canal the cut begins to change its appearance as one nears the historic port town of Lancaster, another grand place to spend a bit of time. There is much to explore: a castle, several museums, (including the maritime one), beautiful squares and interesting streets and buildings. There are still some fine examples of old mills along the tow path. It is not long before the amazing Lune aqueduct is reached which carries the canal over the river some 600ft below. It was built by Alexander Stevens who died before it was completed in 1797.

As the canal continues north it turns towards the west and the astonishing Morecambe Bay comes into view at Hest Bank. It is possible to moor up and have a sea view with the Lakeland fells in the background: possibly one of my all-time favourite places to stop. Carnforth is the next town to be reached; there is a sanitary station in the basin along with a pub and petrol station that sells gas and fuel. The roar of the M6 becomes the dominant noise and the peace is disrupted for a while as you pass under the motorway towards the Keer aqueduct. The last pretty place to stop on The Lancaster is Borwick, a lovely village situated around the green. As you journey along the final mile of the canal the motorway gets louder and louder until you come to a rather abrupt halt at the canal’s terminus next to a service hut. The M6 is only 10 meters away the other side of a mesh fence.

Lancaster Canal

lancaster Canal

Lancaster Canal

The Northern Reaches

Beyond the terminus it is possible to continue on foot to the Tewitfield locks, these were last used in the early 1940’s but the chambers look as good as ever even though there are no longer any gates. A footpath takes you over the M6 and deposits you on a beautiful towpath, which in the spring was lined with wild flowers. The navigation has water in it for 8 miles and one expects a boat to come chugging by at any moment. The M6 intercepts the waterway in two other locations but it is possible to proceed to the end of the watered section. The Lancaster Canal Trust have dug out, lined and re-watered a ¼ mile stretch, and they have ambitious plans to reinstate the canal all the way to The Canal Head in Kendal if the finance can be found. The Hindcaster Tunnel and the amazing horse tow path over the top is another reminder of the quality of the construction and engineering of this once important canal. The final miles into Kendal have no water in them and in some sections, due to dense vegetation, it is impossible to see where the canal used to run, only the bridges, still standing proud and strong, hint at the now ghostly course of the navigation.

In conclusion, having spent four months on The Lancaster Canal, I can thoroughly recommend boating there and hope that one day the navigation is restored all the way to Kendal.

Lancaster Canal

Lancaster Canal

Lancaster Canal