Monthly Archives: September 2022

the voyage of friendship – home for christmas

the voyage of friendship

home for christmas

Hello friends and family,

The voyage continued well last week, and I enjoyed my first night spent alone aboard "Therapy", moored in a sheltered spot between Pangbourne and Beale Park.

On Monday morning I met Sue Allen, with her husband Joe (whose birthday it was) and their beautiful wee girls. Sue and Joe have lived on a narrow boat in the past and it was great to have experienced folk with me on the Thames where the yellow boards at the locks sometimes pronounced that the current was increasing. At Goring, Joe and little Trixie left us, and Hannah and Ash came aboard. Sue was Captains mate, her old boating skills obviously coming back, while Hannah and Ash worked out lock duties.

Sally Kershaw with Bunty     narrowboat Therapy moored on pontoon      child on board a narrowboat  

I was delighted with our progress as we reached Wallingford soon after lunch and we decided to press on to Benson. The book showed a great public mooring and we glided into the jetty well before dusk. Sue called Joe, but as we started to arrange a little birthday surprise for him on the boat an officious person approached us to let us know that we couldn't moor here and suggested we moved a mile or so up the river. OK, we cast off again to seek another mooring spot. The sun was starting to go down now and a slight tension crept in as we looked ahead for possible places. I could see a green bank and directed Sue in towards it. As we approached I realised that it was too shallow, but Therapy was already grounded on the remains of a tree. We were stumped! The sun was almost disappeared now, but Ash saved the day when Hannah held on to his legs and he hung over the side to push us off the wood. Once free we cruised on in the fading light to find a very suitable mooring outside Shillingford Bridge Hotel. We quickly re-staged the birthday surprise for Joe, who'd met us with the car and sang a hearty "Happy Birthday" to him. Many thanks to all for an excellent day.

After another cosy and enjoyable night with my puppy, Bunty, Tuesday was set to be a very relaxing day as we'd gone further than expected yesterday. Bunty is settling in well aboard Therapy, and I hope will be a confident boat dog.

Lambourn friends, Katharine and Libby were my "shipmates" today and arrived shipshape and Bristol fashion at the appointed time. Again, the weather was kind, and we had a quiet day's cruising, reaching Abingdon an hour or so before dusk. Our only brush with difficulty was at lunch time. We had moored at a very quite spot for half an hour to eat cauliflower cheese, when the land owner appeared from nowhere to let us know that "we could not moor there". Is this a phrase I will have to get used to on the river? I wished the chap a super Christmas, let my puppy off to pee, and we cast the boat off into the current again.

Ewan met us at Abingdon, we moored and locked up the boat and headed home for Christmas.

Happy Christmas and many thanks to all those who've helped me and to those who plan to meet me further on.

Warmest wishes,


the voyage of friendship – early days

the voyage of friendship

early days

Hello friends and family.  

Ewan, Bunty (our puppy) and I left Newbury on Friday morning  aboard Therapy, the narrowboat that will be home for me for the  next 3 months.

Sally and Ewan Kershaw                  Bunty tiny Jack Russell puppy

Jenny and her family joined us at Thatcham in time  for lunch and we continued through to Midgham.  

Waking up next morning I realised I'd left my purse in the pub where I'd joined the youth work team for a Christmas meal on Thursday evening. By some coincidence we were only a mile or so away and I  was able to take my bike from the roof of the boat and go to collect it- relief!  

Rhona and Andy joined us at Woolhampton where they quickly  learned locks and took over the windlasses (or winder things, as Rhona called them). We moored up at Theale where I jumped on my  bike again to meet my YOT colleagues for another Christmas meal -  again it was conveniently close by great coincidence.  

On Sunday we made great progress through Reading, with the surreal experience of cruising right through the Oracle centre on a  busy Christmas shopping day.  

And then out onto the Thames and turn left towards Oxford. Going from the little canal to the big wide river was exciting (and colder),  but the locks easier as they are electronic.  

Dave Wraight and his lovely family joined us from Mapledurham to Pangbourne. The children were a little reticent to start with but then  really enjoyed  themselves. Dave used the trusty bike from the roof  of the boat to collect his car and pick them up later. You can join this trip for a very short time, just 1 lock or stay for a while.  

At dusk we moored in a sheltered spot by the trees and I said  goodbye to Ewan, Rhona and Andy. Thanks for all your help.  

Today, Sue, Joe and their little ones will join me, hoping to get to Wallingford. We hope Hannah will meet us later too.  

The adventure has started and I look forward to seeing you further  on.


albion adventure

albion adventure

I was very happy to attend the MNA Boat Club AGM in September 2022 at the little Norfolk Broads village of Neatishead. The following day I was able to take part in an event associated with the AGM – a day out on the Broads on the ‘Albion’.

Wherry Albion

The wherry 'Albion'

The ‘Albion’ is one of two surviving Norfolk Wherries, and the only one currently sailing. She is owned and operated by the Norfolk Wherry Trust who purchased her in 1949 in order to preserve her as an example of the Norfolk Wherry, the sailing barges who served the Norfolk Broads and were specifically adapted to the conditions prevailing there.

‘Albion’ is now 125 years old; some 65 feet overall and able to carry up to 40 tons of cargo. She is maintained in first class condition by the Trust and is operated by a team of volunteers and is funded mainly by passenger charters, one of which I joined.

I joined her at the Trust base at Womack near Ludham with some other Boat Club members – fortunately my Sat-Nav was able to find the location - and after a safety briefing and issue of lifejackets the ‘Albion’ got under way. We left our jackets etc. in the hold as it looked as though we were in for a warm shirt sleeves rig day, the hold also contains a toilet and a cooker and plenty of seating.

‘Albion’ is berthed in a little dock on the River Thurne. She has no engine but power is supplied by a dinghy with an outboard lashed to one quarter with a fender between. The outboard is usually operated by the Mate, who jumps into the dinghy to change the throttle setting when required. Security is maintained by a red safety line attached to the ‘Kill Cord’ and fastened on Albion’s quarter.

We set off down the River Thurne with this method and set the sail.

Perhaps a word about the ‘Albion’s unique rig might be useful at this point. The mast is unstayed, apart from a forestay, there is no other ‘Standing Rigging’. The mast is therefore a very substantial spar. It is stepped in an equally substantial Tabernacle at the fore end of the hatch and the foot is furnished with a very substantial counterweight, which rises up through the foredeck via a hatchway when the mast is lowered, by slackening the forestay purchase. The single sail is suspended from a very substantial gaff, which extends the sail such that the leach is practically vertical.

The halyard system is unique to the Norfolk Wherry. All other vessels with gaff sails have two sets of halyards, one for the Throat and one for the Peak. The wherry has one halyard which leads up from the deck through a double block at the mast head, through a single block at the throat of the gaff, back to the masthead block, down to a block with a span attached to a couple of points on the gaff, and leads up to and is finally made fast to the masthead block. The sail is then hoisted by the halyard led to a geared winch at the fore side of the mast. The sail was actually hoisted on this occasion by myself and another Boat Club member, and it was not a very heavy job.

We sailed down the Thurne and then ascended the river Bure. The conditions were a mainly cloudy day with light winds, often diminished and diverted by vegetation on the banks and thus we were able to experience every point of sailing many times, and in rapid succession! ‘Albion’ tacked and gybed as necessary with little fuss, assisted by the dinghy outboard when necessary, the throttle operated by the Mate who jumped into the dinghy from his normal position by the little knee-high ‘cockpit’ at the after end of the hatch from where he also tended the mainsheet, cleated on the after end of the coaming, where necessary.

We arrived at Horning which was our lunch stop, and where some of the passengers departed and our MNA President, Vivien Foster OBE, joined us for the return trip. I had elected to stay on board ‘Albion’ for the whole day as being a unique experience, not to be missed. I was offered a spell at the helm which I enthusiastically accepted. She is steered by a very large rudder, some six feet in length, which is controlled by a substantial tiller operated from the little knee-high cockpit which also leads by a further step down into a little cuddy, crew accommodation when she was working. The only helm order I was given was ‘Keep her in the middle’, which I endeavoured to do. Not surprisingly she takes a little while to respond to her helm, and a bit of anticipation as to when to take helm off is required, she certainly is not hard to steer in those conditions.

We noticed some black rain clouds creeping across the Broads to one side of us but thought that they would probably pass astern, so we continued to sail in our shirt-sleeve rig. Most other traffic has given us right-of-way up to this point, indeed the Skipper had told us that we had precedence over most other traffic on the Broads. However, at this moment a charter sailing yacht crossed our bows and then tacked back, putting her on a collision course.

The Skipper ordered the helm over and told the Mate to let go the Mainsheet to depower the sail. As she started to respond we were suddenly engulfed in a heavy rainstorm with a heavy gust of wind; with which, with the helm already over and the mainsail running out to right-angles, ‘Albion’ headed for the reeds along the bank, where she remained pressed to the bank.

The mainsheet continued to run out and unrove and the sail, with no Standing Rigging to inhibit it, continued around to the fore side of the mast. The downpour continued and all hands, including Vivien our President sitting on the foredeck, were drenched to the skin by this time!
The Skipper suggested that I step into the Cuddy, I don’t think that this was in consideration for my welfare, because as well as himself and the Mate there was also a Trainee Skipper and a Trainee Mate on board and I am sure that he decided that he needed experienced hands at a time like that. I might therefore be slightly adrift as to the sequence of events following.

the Wherry 'Albion'

Norfolk Wherry 'Albion'

The squall had eased and the first task was to re-reeve the mainsheet and get the sail back abaft the mast, the sail was then lowered onto the deck and the task of getting her off the bank was commenced. This was accomplished by the use of the dinghy with its outboard and the use of the ‘Quants’; long poles with a fork on the bottom and a shoulder button on the top used to pole the vessel in the way that a punt is propelled by punt poles.

Once ‘Albion’ was under way, with propulsion provided by the dinghy, it was noticed that there were lightning flashes visible close by. Standing Orders are that in the event of lightning, the mast is to be lowered, so the forestay purchase was slackened off and down came the mast to join the gaff and sail on top of the hatch.

It was then time to get below and remove my sodden shirt. A kind member of the crew kindly loaned me a dry tee shirt to wear under my waterproof jacket, now perhaps a bit superfluous! When I returned it when we docked, it was sopping wet below the waist where it had been in contact with my wet trousers!

I did have the temerity to ask the Skipper, trying not to teach granny to suck eggs, whether it would not be useful to have a figure-of-eight knot on the end of the Mainsheet. He replied that they had given some consideration to this very point and had decided that; in the event of having to let go the mainsheet for any reason, it was better for the sail, unencumbered by any Standing Rigging, to go forward of the mast to de-power it. I have to admit that this made good sense.

Thus we returned under power to our dock, where we helped to turn her and back her in to her usual berth. So ended a very interesting and enjoyable day, enlivened by a bit of excitement!

I was most interested to learn more about this unique sailing craft, evolved to satisfy the local conditions on the Broads which I had only read about before. I knew something about the evolution, equipment and handling of the other classic British sailing barge, the Thames ‘Spritty’, of which there are many surviving still, but I can only applaud the efforts of the Norfolk Wherry Trust in maintaining and operating this almost unique example – there is another partly restored privately owned wherry in the Trust’s dock, but she is not rigged at present.

AGMs are boring aren’t they?

AGMs are boring aren't they?

unless you are with the MNA boat club!

Normally the only way to get club members to attend an AGM is to catch them off-guard with a comment like “well I’ll see you at the AGM then” before they’ve had time to think up a plausible excuse for not attending....

So how were we to encourage a reasonable attendance at our first proper AGM since before the Covid pandemic?

The Merchant Navy Association Boat Club has some two hundred plus members scattered throughout the UK so the first obstacle is the question of a venue that suits at least a sizeable slice of the membership and then devise a format for the event that might be of interest, hopefully enjoyable and, dare I say it, even good fun!

members who attended agm of MNA BOat CLub

The members who attended the AGM of the MNA Boat Club

If one has to travel two hours to and from a meeting it means, effectively, that it’s taking up a whole day. If you have to travel even further it probably means an overnight stay. Frankly who would want to spend the time and money for a two-day round trip simply to attend a formal meeting? Hence, our plan for the Boat Club’s 2022 AGM morphed into one for a two-day potentially interesting and enjoyable “event” with less than one hour of the two days dedicated to the formal Annual General Meeting.

Given that the MNA Boat Club has quite a high proportion of its membership living in or near to East Anglia and that we also have a very worthwhile “partnership” with the Norfolk & Suffolk Boating Association (NSBA) to promote our “WaterWatch” safety & surveillance initiative, we decided that a series of events on the Norfolk Broads would be an attractive proposition and so it proved to be, with the bonus of all-time record AGM attendance!

After much deliberation the following events were agreed:

⦁ a visit to the fascinating Museum of the Broads
⦁ a half-day cruise on the famous Norfolk Wherry the “Albion”
⦁ a further half-day cruise on several of our own local members boats

We obviously needed to make sure that there would be enough accommodation available near the venue at what, in early September, would still be a busy time with many holidaymakers around. We were very fortunate in making contact with three very pleasant and comfortable guest houses within 50 metres of the venue for the AGM in the village of Neatishead, where we had booked the mezzanine floor of the White Horse Inn for the meeting and an evening meal afterwards.

white horse inn, Neatished

White Horse Inn at Neatishead

Our programme kicked off at 11.00 am on the morning of Tuesday 6th September with the visit to the Museum of the Broads. This proved hugely interesting and enjoyable, especially thanks to our being given a fascinating tour conducted by Bob a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic member of the museum volunteer team.

CLive Edwards with Bob the guide to Museum of the Broads

Clive Edwards with Bob, museum guide

Given that many of our members attending are former professional seafarers, we were particularly interested in the old WW2 airborne lifeboat on display (one of the very few still in existence). One of our members was even able to provide a hitherto unrecorded local story about one of them.

Members looking at Airborne Lifeboat at the Museum of the Broads

Members looking at Airborne Lifeboat

Moving on to the late afternoon and evening, having got through the AGM in good time, our members and guests proceeded to enjoy some excellent food from the White Horse’s extensive menu, including their own local “pie of the day”.

The following morning dawned fine but storms were forecast for the afternoon. Most of the members had elected to spend the morning (or in a few cases the whole day) on the wherry “Albion” sailing from her base at Womack Water on the River Thurne to Horning on the River Bure.

The afternoon was to be spent on one of our local members' boats exploring the River Ant and Barton Broad. Hence, everyone was aboard either the “Albion”, Richard Card’s “Ness Nomad” or Clive Edwards’ “Elsa II” by 09.00 at the start of what was to be an enjoyable and for some a surprisingly eventful day on the water!

Wherry Albion on the Norfolk Broads

The famous wherry Albion on the Norfolk Broads

Those aboard Ness Nomad and Elsa II were able to get a good view of Barton Broad and the River Ant as well as a short side-trip to Malthouse Broad with views of Ranworth Church known locally as the “Cathedral of The Broads”.

We had planned to all rendezvous at the Swan Hotel at Horning but unfortunately the mooring for the Albion was already occupied so she had to moor alongside the opposite bank whilst Ness Nomad and Elsa II were able to moor at Horning Sailing Club where Clive is a member. With the aid of Albion’s tender, we then had to ferry members back and forth during a brief break for a sandwich lunch so that those who had spent the morning on Ness Nomad and Elsa II, including MNA President Vivien Foster OBE, were able to make the homeward passage on the Albion whilst some of those who’d been on the Albion during the morning transferred to Ness Nomad and Elsa II for the homeward leg via the River Ant and Barton Broad.

wherry Albion

Members on board the wherry Albion

So far so good, although sadly our Vice Commodore Paul and his wife Tracey had to depart by taxi and car to attend a medical emergency back in Essex (happily turning out not to be as serious as first thought).

Up to now the weather had been perfect and seemed set fair for the afternoon despite the previous warning of storms. Everyone set off from Horning in ideal conditions for what was mostly a leisurely and peaceful sail home - I say “mostly” because two-thirds of the way into the return journey all three vessels (and Paul & Tracey’s open-top car!) were hit by a series of seriously violent squalls, thunder and lightning and absolutely torrential rain that reduced visibility to about 50 metres! As both Ness Nomad and Elsa II are motor cruisers all we had to do was reduce speed for about fifteen minutes until the storm had gone through, but the situation on the Albion was significantly more dramatic and is the subject of a separate report by one of our members, David Cornes, who was on-board at the time, along with others including our President Vivien.

Clive Edwards, Commodore MNA Boat Club

death on the water

tales of the old cut

death on the water

“ ’Tis impossible to be sure of any thing but Death and Taxes.”
The Cobbler of Preston, by Christopher Bullock

The death of Queen Elizabeth II has just allowed the world to witness the pageantry of a monarch’s funeral in all its traditional splendour, and naturally it got me thinking.

Despite its inevitability, the civilised world of today finds death traumatising and disturbing and uses the technology of modern life to keep its mortality out of thought and mind. This is, really, a completely new phenomenon that our ancestors would not have understood in the slightest.

At the time when the canals began, the majority of people didn’t move much beyond the district they were born in and if they did, they could be hoiked back to their village of origin by the settlement act if they had the audacity to be so poor as to need parish relief. The vast majority of people were also unquestioningly religious in one form or another, with a fairly iron-clad belief of life after death.

Death itself generally took place at home in the company of family, who had usually also been acting as the medical team prior to the event and the cause was usually an illness that gave them and their family time to acclimatise to the approaching decease. Sudden, accidental deaths were not commonplace and, then as now, caused more distress to the people around them; the parish registers would often be annotated by a shocked curate with the event.

To this background, the roving bands of navigators arrived on the scene.

They were tough men. Skilled and well paid, they arrived at quiet villages and caused chaos simply by doing their job. When death came to that community, it was usually brutal and it hit the men hard. At Standedge, a delayed blast instantly killed a man and wounded 3 others; near Sheffield a man was buried alive when a cutting collapsed; at Crick a man was killed falling down a tunnel shaft when a rope snapped.

The cortege that accompanied a man to his grave would surprise the locals, who viewed these strangers with accents from far off counties and with odd names like “Clainhim” with suspicion and the expectation that they were little more than unpredictable animals.

800 men fixed a blue ribbon to their hats and followed 35 year old Joseph Woodhouse in 1815. The latter group each put a half crown into a pot for the wake and then gave his widow the rest, the financial equivalent of about a year’s wages.

Joseph Woodhouse burial - newspaper clipping

Joseph Woodhouse - newspaper clipping

Joseph Woodhouse burial

Joseph Woodhouse - registered burial

300 men with a white ribbon around their arm walked in silence behind the coffin of 22 year old Samuel Marshall on the 8th of March 1826.

Samuel Marshall burial

Samuel Marshall burial

For a time, fear of death itself really came secondary to a fear of being body-snatched. Until the Anatomy Act was passed in 1832, there was good money to be made in half-hitching a fresh burial and selling it to the medical schools, and there was a distinct increase in the risk the lower down the social scale you went.

On the 15th December, 1830, 32 year old James Wheeler was fetching a barrow-load of stone from Cowley quarry when he slipped and fell to the bottom. His horrified workmates rushed him to the local infirmary, where he finally died two days later. The newspaper describes how the men now raised the princely sum of £5 for a decent funeral by dint of 100 of them putting a shilling in the pot.

A large gang of them went to collect James on the day of the funeral and were aghast at finding the coffin already nailed shut; not trusting the doctors not to have ‘interfered’ with the body – this being before the 1832 Anatomy Act - they demanded the lid came off so they could check and, faced with a large gang of powerful, irate men, the hospital eventually complied (the navigators fears were unfounded and James’ remains were perfectly fine.)

James Wheeler burial

Death of James Wheeler

The funeral procession is what now gained the attention of the local newspapers. 6 men bore the coffin, while 6 women attended to the pall. Six foremen were the chief mourners behind the coffin and then 100 men walked behind, 2 abreast. More navigators and their wives were already at the church.

No one wore mourning clothes but everyone was scrubbed clean and smartly dressed.

When it came to the actual interment, they weren’t taking any chances that someone might body-snatch James and they insisted on filling in the grave themselves, allegedly having brought stones from the quarry itself to make sure he stayed buried.

The funeral practice of the first boaters was, at times, just a vaguely reverential rubbish disposal; in 1791 a boatman drowned legging through Preston Brook tunnel. His body was dropped off at the wharf and it appears the boat carried on her journey having quickly hired a replacement man. No one had any idea who the dead man was and it was the height of summer, forcing the Daresbury vicar to bury him quickly in an unmarked grave and to simply note in the registers “Boatman drowned in the tunnel of Preston [Brook], interred 26th day [of July]”

When death came to a boater, he was usually in his cabin. If the boat wasn’t already laid up, she would carry on her journey to the nearest place that could supply a coffin. The family would usually be the ones to attend the body, but in some places had a “woman that does” who would take this role.

Boaters, just like the navigators, wanted a “decent funeral.” The coffin would be as ornate as could be afforded, and often there would be a quick whip-around of the boats in the vicinity to make sure there was money. Some boaters were part of burial clubs, and in a few cases the company they worked for would foot a funeral bill.

Canal funeral flyboating 1904

Funeral fly-boating 1904

While they would strive to get the body back to the place the deceased most associated as home - Braunston being a famous example - generally, a boater would be taken to the closest canal-side church and interred with little circumstance. The funeral party really depended on where the boat had managed to get to; a quiet village might only have one or two other boats tied up there, while a busy wharf could have dozens. If the person had died by accident, the funeral could be delayed by the attention of the coroner’s inquest which would also affect what other mourners might be able to be present.

When a boat was able to take her dead home, this would entail loading the coffin onto the boat, usually behind the mast, and running ‘on the fly’ with it. This was a practical consideration of multiple fronts- not only was a boat not earning if she was on a ‘dead run’; embalming was not as long-acting as it is today, if it was even done at all. A boat with such a cargo would often be loosed through by other boats at locks, and the infamous ‘towpath telegraph’ would have been at work keeping other boats abreast of who’d died and where they were. This kind of funeral invariably had more mourners at the burial, having given them time to get their own boats to the place.

Boaters' funerals tended to attract little attention from the newspapers due to the sheer speed in which they happened, but in 1923 the boatmen went on strike and around 55 boats came to a halt at Braunston for 3 months, and it gives us a glimpse into their lives.

Three deaths attended the boaters: 62 year old Joseph Green off the boat “Flint,” 12 year old Edward Walker of an unidentified boat and Albert Kendall, a 67 year old retired boatman.

Joseph Green burial

Joseph Green Burial (photo from Steamers Historical)

The funeral procession of Joseph Green was photographed showing the impressive cortege, and young Edward’s coffin was photographed being wheeled into the church by his young bearers. A newspaper describes for him “An extremely impressive site was presented as the cortege, numbering probably 100, proceeded from the Castle Inn, where the body had been resting, to the church… Many of the followers carried touching bouquets of wild flowers to place on the coffin.”

Edward Walker burial

12 year old Edward Walker's burial (photo from Steamers Historical)

Albert, who appears to have been living in a cottage in the village, was noted as getting an equally impressive send-off “..there was a cortege of 135 of the boatmen and women who are at present held up at Braunston...”

When you look at the waterways funerals of the past and compare them to the Queen's funeral just days ago, there’s very little fundamental difference in what’s actually happening. A monarch being flanked by her loyal forces or a navigator being escorted by his comrades, it’s still simply a goodbye.

grief – the price we pay for love


the price we pay for love

Dying in the midst of the covid pandemic, it was only last month that we said a final farewell to my 96yr old mum, celebrating her life with a service of thanksgiving.

Mother of Mary HainesEchoes of what was said about her resonate with the comments being made about Queen Elizabeth II in the wake of her recent death – duty, service to others, family commitment, love, constancy, humour.

Mum had been a constant in my life for nearly 60 years and so although unsurprised by her death and after a life well lived, I grieved for all that she meant to me and the big hole she would leave behind in the lives of all who loved her.

Grief is the price we pay for love, as the Queen herself once remarked, so unless we decide to live in a vacuum, surrounding ourselves with invisible barriers that let no-one in, we are all likely at some time, to experience the deep deep sorrow of grief. We have no choice but to live in this world without the physical presence of that loved one in our daily life, for it is as likely to be our faithful pet as another human being that we long for.

Grief is something we have to embrace, to walk with, as we make sense of our new reality and come to accept the changes forced upon us by the finality of death. Mourning is part of that process and it is interesting to see how collective mourning, the like of which we are experiencing at this moment with the passing of the Queen, draws people together and creates a sense of unity and intimacy. Our neighbours become our friends as we bond in our sadness. Of course there will be some who do not share in this sentiment and wonder what all the fuss is about but for those who do, perhaps in the face of such a public death, emotions rise to the surface of our own private sorrows of loved ones who have died and the grief, buried deep, is sometimes still to be found raw and active.

I was once told working through grief is hard work as it forces us to focus on painful and heart wrenching emotions. It is of little surprise then that for many it is preferable to bury the emotions deeply within and to escape the grief by constant activity, or stimulants such as alcohol, anything that relieves the need to face up to a death that has torn us apart inside.

To run away from death may be a necessary coping mechanism but in the long run it can prevent us finding happiness in a new relationship because of the fear that they may die and leave us too. Somehow we need to find a way through that allows us to live again with joy, but also recognising that part of us will always be sad and that’s OK. I heard a story of a widow whose children were still very young so she felt the responsibility of not putting her grief on them. Once a day she allowed herself 10 minutes of time to go to the bathroom, lock the door and scream. That may not work for everyone but for her it gave her time to acknowledge her inner grief and then show a happy face to her children.

A listening ear, small acts of kindness and time are perhaps the most effective ways we can help or be helped when grieving. Being there for one another can bring comfort and joy. In our relatively short time on the waterways we have received so much kindness and witnessed it around us in the interactions of other boaters. It is a wonderful community to be a part of and as the winter bites, the cost of living soars and the state of the world depresses, helping each other out is more important than ever. In the Bible, God says his greatest commandment is that we love him and the second greatest commandment is that we love our neighbour as ourselves. A timely reminder of how true this is and how each of us has the ability to do just that.

the story of pegasus

the story of pegasus

Maurice Ward has been an active member of Coldham Hall Sailing Club for over 60 years and he is currently its President. In 1953, he and his brother, Terence, bought an Airborne Lifeboat which they called Pegasus. Here is Maurice's story of this very special craft.

During the Second World War, the talented yacht designer, Uffa Fox, came up with the ingenious design of the Mark 1 Airborne Lifeboat. Up until then, the aircrew from aircraft ditched in the North Sea had to rely on small inflatable dinghies and wait to be rescued. Uffa Fox's design was 23 foot long and could be carried beneath the bomb bay of a Hudson Bomber and then dropped with parachutes into the sea ready to save survivors. It was strongly built of multiple layers of thin wood and fabric to withstand the drop into the water, and contained waterproof hatches with emergency supplies and water, a cover, two inboard engines, fuel for 12 hours, a mast and lugsail, navigation equipment and an instruction manual. It needed to carry seven men and have a range of 500 miles.

Some 150 of these boats were built at Herbert Woods yard at Potter Heigham. In all, 500 were built and they helped over 600 aircrew survive.

After the war, my brother had read an article in Yachts and Yachting about converting one of these hulls into a sailing dinghy and told me that he had seen one abandoned by the sea wall at Southwold. We found the owner and did a deal. Then followed a year of hard work including replacing all the rounded decks and turning it into a comfortable sailing craft. Jack Broom made the mast and Jeckells made some dark red sails. We called it Pegasus, and she proved to be a very quick boat.

We had done no racing, but in 1957 the Northern Rivers Sailing Club held a competition at Thurne to find the fastest boat on the Broads. We took our boat, raced round the two mile course and, to our amazement, we won the coveted Cock of the Broads Trophy - even beating Norfolk Punts and Slipstreams!

After that we brought Pegasus to Coldham Hall where my wife, June, and I raced her regularly until 1986 when we decided that we needed something less physical.

sailing boat

Maurice and June Ward sailing Pegasus at Coldham Hall Regatta in 1976

the voyage of friendship

the voyage of friendship


This is a true story.

No names have been changed to protect people and the places in the story are completely factual. It was written at the time it happened.

In 2013 I was diagnosed with an aggressive and advanced cancer. Obviously I survived as I am writing this inroduction now, but at the time I thought I was facing my last year. I had no idea about boats.

We decided to spend all our savings on a narrowboat and called it Therapy. We bought a puppy and I let Ewan choose it as I knew it would ultimately be his (but I did choose her name). I let her sleep in the bed as thought it would never be my problem.

                   Therapy the narrowboat    Bunty the new puppy

Although I had never been in a boat before and relied on Ewan to understand it all, I decided that I would take my last trip aboard Therapy with friends, with as many of them as could join me over the upcoming winter as I thought I might not be well enough if I left it until summer. I got out my Christmas Card list and wrote an invitation to everyone:-

Please join me for The Voyage of Friendship aboard the Narrowboat Therapy

I will be leaving on 15th December 2014 and returning to Newbury by 1st April 2015.

You’re welcome to bring someone with you, but you must be prepared to share the double sofa bed with them. I will have lots of food on board but please bring sheets and a duvet cover if you plan to stay the night- you’re welcome to join me for an hour, a day or a week.

This story is about what happened.

for boaters who enjoy football…

for boaters who enjoy football

sports stadia – 2,4,6,8 - how we all appreciate

Within the past few months, there have been many discussions on where to hold the European Football Championships in 2028.

After the nonsense idea submitted by disgraced UEFA vice president Michel Platini, to stage the tournament across Europe, common sense has finally prevailed by having the finals in one particular place, instead of supporters and teams traipsing around various parts of the continent.

Finally UEFA agreed to stage the tournament here in the UK, after an audacious bid from Russia (you couldn’t make it up could you?), which will enable all four home nations to participate in staging various matches.

Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England will now all hold group games at some point allowing supporters to see the best players and games in their own stadiums.
Looking at some of the magnificent stadiums that are available to us here in the UK, it is no wonder we have been awarded the finals, how many other countries can boast of the level of perfection that we have at our disposal? The amount of excellent venues that we have is exceptional, probably the best in the world right now.

At one point in football history, Wembley stadium was considered the best in the country, but now other grounds have certainly caught up, albeit not as big. The Premier League can boast some of the best stadiums across Europe, but when you consider, some of the football league clubs that reside in their arenas, are classed as lower league sides, it is amazing to see the level of stadia that they use, and are on par with some of the Premier League teams, clubs such as Sunderland, MK Dons, Millwall, Middlebrough, Derby County, Coventry City, Hull City, Huddersfield, Swansea, Stoke City, Reading, and Bolton have all built new stadiums over the last 25 years, all of which would grace the Premier League standings. Some have had that privilege, before dropping down a division or two, whilst some of the others are yet to have that experience. Nonetheless the grounds themselves are superb.

When a delegation from Italy came over to discuss how our pyramid system works within the football leagues, they were absolutely stunned that we had 92 professional clubs within the structure and were literally gob-smacked by the condition of the stadia especially in the lower parts of the league. They said that in Italy some of the second tier clubs have not got the same level of arenas that we have here.

One thing all of these magnificent stadiums have in common is the level of engineering that got them built in the first place; the planning, design and sheer hard work enabled these buildings to rise from the ground and sit proudly amongst the landscape, showing the level of expertise that at one time was just a drawing on a piece of paper and someone’s idea.

This got us thinking about how they came about, how much they cost, what makes them tick?
So we decided to take a look inside the buildings and find out the facts about the clubs that built them, see what makes them work, see what they offer to the everyday supporter/ visitor.

Tottenham Hotspur -White hart Lane – London 2020
Cost £900 million – Capacity 62,850
Famous Players – Jimmy Greaves, Glenn Hoddle, Paul Gascoigne, Harry Kane

First up, Tottenham Hotspur superb stadium, which was completed in 2020. To say this is a great venue is an understatement. Many who have had the pleasure in visiting the stadium class it as the best venue in the world with unbelievable facilities, ranging from fantastic dining and drinking areas, to a micro brewery and bakery on site. It boasts the biggest single stand with a capacity of 17,500 all seater area, commonly known as the white wall by Spurs supporters.

One of the most impressive features of the stadium is the retractable grass pitch, which can be removed by a flick of a switch uncovering the artificial playing surface below, which is used for American NFL football matches. The grass pitch unclips from the sides by releasing side rods, which enables the large grass panels to roll out on roller bearings, through a gap in the stand to be stored outside, once the match on the artificial pitch has been played, the grass pitch is rolled back into place and re- connected. Because of this revolutionary system, it enables the stadium to be used for many events including boxing, rugby, concerts as well as Premier League games.

When you match the stadium with the club's training grounds, you can see why the club is boasting the best arena and facilities for players, staff and fans alike, making it an attractive prospect for any future players thinking of joining the club.

Fascinating fact – The original White Hart Lane site was a disused nursery.

White Hart Lane and Etihad Stadium

White Hart Lane Stadium, Tottenham 2020 and Etihad Stadium, Manchester City 2002

Manchester City -Etihad Stadium- Manchester 2002
Cost £112 million - Capacity 53,400
Famous Players – Colin Bell, Francis Lee, Sergio Aguero, Joe Corrigan, Rodney Marsh

Manchester City have the pleasure in playing at the Etihad, which was originally the Commonwealth Games stadium before their new owners took over the club. Since taking over the site, the club have literally transformed the area into a magnificent project by installing pitches for every age group, training facilities for all, including boys, girls, men and the women sides who play for Manchester City. Okay there are cynics who say that the club have bought success on the pitch, but to compete in the Premier league and European competitions you have to spend money to keep up with the other clubs who are all striving for the same thing.
It is easy to spend money on players, but it's how you manage and coach them that counts. Players can be bought, but unless they work hard for the team and have the right attitude, it’s a waste of time. Everybody seems to think that picking a side for a match is easy. Trust me, it is not.

City have to be commended in the way they have conducted themselves, by playing in a style that is fantastic to watch, irrespective of which team you support. The club has been steeped in playing football the right way. Pep Guardiola is the latest in the line of managers who have tried to play the game the right way; people like Malcolm Allison, Joe Mercer, Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pelligrini have all attempted to play the game in the right spirit.

Fascinating fact - The red and black striped away kit was originally bought in by Ex manager Malcolm Allison, who thought that the AC Milan kit would make the club more successful, which proved to be right, they have won 3 different competitions wearing it.

Sunderland FC -Stadium of Light –Wearside – 1997
Cost £24 Million - Capacity -49,000
Famous Players – Kevin Phillips, Brian Clough, Ian Porterfield, Jim Montgomery

Originally based at Roker Park for nearly 100 years, the club decided to re-locate and build a new stadium due to an ever increasing demand for tickets, after thousands of supporters were being locked out on matchday`s at every home game. Although Roker Park was seen as their spiritual home, like many older grounds it had become stale and needed updating. This would have cost an awful lot to put right. Moreover this also coincided with the Taylor report, which reported on the safety of supporters and the structures of football stadia after the Hillsborough disaster. Hence the move.

The new Stadium of Light has certainly exceeded expectations by becoming one of the best footballing stadiums in the country even though it has been hosting League One fixtures for a few years. However, next year it will hold Championship games for the first time in a few years, after Sunderland won promotion back to the second tier.

Because of the events that are happening across the area at Newcastle United, it is great to see that the interest is now spread across the North East rather than just being focused on Newcastle. Make no mistake about it, Sunderland is a massive club that is finally getting the success that loyal fans deserve, and long may it continue.

Fascinating fact – First USA President George Washington, had ancestral connections with the area, with several generations of his family residing in the area, their family crest dons the red and whites stripes, which some say was the inspiration for the Sunderland shirts.

Leicester City- The King Power Stadium Leicester 2002
Capacity 36,232 - Cost - £37 Million
Famous Players- Gary Lineker, Gordon Banks, Jamie Vardy, Frank Worthington

Like many other football clubs, Leicester City had been located in a different part of the city before the emergence of the King Power Arena. Originally based at Filbert Street since 1891, the club spent many successful years at their old stadium. As with many of the old structures, the basic safety standards and supporter comfort had taken a back seat at the old ground, and even though the club had updated the ground, it still fell short of the expected criteria that supporters expected.

Because of the new safety code that had been applied to the top two divisions of English football, all stadia had to be all seater venues; the directors of the club first looked at the possibility of relocation rather than keep updating the old ground. Due to the success on the pitch, every match was now a sell- out with crowds rising dramatically and there was much greater demand for access to tickets for the games.

In early 1998, plans were announced for a new stadium with a capacity of 40,000. This unfortunately fell by the wayside, until a new set of plans were submitted for a 32,000 capacity venue. This later evolved into the King Power, via the Walkers Stadium after the association with the crisp manufacturer in the city who had sponsored the club for years.

The King Power Stadium has certainly been lucky for the club, with the Premier League title secured in 2016 against incredible odds and the FA Cup won for the first time ever after many attempts, a few years later.

Unfortunately like the majority of football clubs, bad times are just as prevalent as good times, and this was certainly the case in 2018 when the club's owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha sadly died in a helicopter crash whilst leaving the stadium after a match, an event that not only shocked the club but also the footballing world.

Fascinating fact – Leicester City equaled Manchester City`s record of 7, 2nd division tiles in 2013,
Three years later they became Premier League champions against all odds (5,000-1).

The Stadium of Light, Sunderland 1997 ; The King Power Stadium, Leicester City 2002

The Stadium of Light, Sunderland 1997 ; The King Power Stadium, Leicester City 2002

Derby County – Pride Park Stadium- Derby 1999
Cost - £ 28 million - Capacity 33,597
Famous players – Dave Mackay, Peter Shilton, Colin Todd, Archie Gemmill,

How the famous can fall. Derby County were at one point sat at the pinnacle of English football, being crowned champions and competing in the European Cup (Champions League) whilst being led by one of the games' greatest managers ever, in Brian Clough alongside Peter Taylor.
Unfortunately things have been on a steady downwards spiral for many years, with owners coming and going, unsettled players, managers in and out, and fans wondering what the next disaster would be when it arrived.

Their fears were brought into the light this year, with the club being placed into administration, which resulted in a penalty of 21 points, and relegated them to the third tier. Even the guidance of England`s record goal-scorer, Wayne Rooney couldn’t prevent them from going down, even though it must have felt like doing the job with both hands tied behind his back. Eventually the strain took its toll and Rooney resigned.

Prior to this the club had enjoyed success over the years, whilst based at the Baseball Ground, which in the 1970`s and 1980`s had probably one of the worst playing surfaces in the country; there was more mud on the pitch than grass. The stands and stadium were very antiquated and needed either replacing or demolishing completely, something which was eventually carried out when the club decided to move and started the process of building a new stadium. Hence Pride Park coming into fruition in 1999.

All the off-pitch wrangling is a shame, as it distracts from the stadium itself, which cannot be faulted and will no doubt be the best ground visited by supporters in the 3rd tier this coming season. Apart from the marvelous match-day facilities, there is a 165 bed-roomed hotel, restaurants, conference centres` and office space on offer to prospective clients.

The latest news from the club is good, with the sale of the club finally being completed and new owners about to take up the reins, resulting in the club moving out of administration. This can only be good for all concerned. Clubs like Derby, Sunderland and Bolton should not be in the lower leagues; their supporters alone warrant a place in the top regions of the league.

Fascinating fact - When Derby moved into the Baseball Ground in 1895, they had to evict some gypsies from the site, who subsequently left a curse behind, stating that Derby would never win the FA Cup, Derby did however manage to reach 3 finals but lost them all, before finally winning in 1946 and Charlton. Jackie Stamp who scored twice on the day, fuelling rumour`s that he paid another gypsy to lift the curse the day before the final.

Arsenal FC – The Emirates Stadium – London 2006
Cost £390 Million - Capacity 60,260,
Famous Player`s - Ian Wright, Thierry Henry, Liam Brady, Bob Wilson, Tony Adams

Arsenal being one of the England`s most successful clubs, deserved a bigger and better stadium than they were playing in at Highbury. Although the ground was very similar to other older style grounds around at the time, the smaller pitch and closeness of the fans created a hostile atmosphere for visiting teams. The stadium had become antiquated and tired, even after the club had started to redevelop most of it, reducing the capacity from 57,000 to 40,000. The opinions from the fans stated that they needed a bigger stadium as many potential supporters were being denied access on match days due to a lack of tickets being available.

So after many meetings and discussions it was decided to relocate the club to new pastures and finding a new location was given priority. In 1997 Arsenal submitted the first plans to Islington Council for building a new Stadium at Ashburton Grove. As with most building projects in London it would be very expensive. If the club wanted to build a new arena they would have to fund it themselves, as the Government were not prepared to help.

Like most clubs, the biggest assets are its players, so they decided to sell some of their star names to help raise the funds towards the new stadium, players such as Nicolas Anelka, Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit (to name a few) were seen a valuable stock. The club also made some significant new sponsorship deals including releasing a new bond scheme aimed at supporters which helped with the financing of the new stadium including naming rights of the ground, shirt sponsorship and a new kit supplier in the shape of Nike who agreed a twenty year deal, paving the way for guaranteed funding. Ex Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was instrumental in getting the stadium built, and took a tremendous amount of criticism from the club's supporters and the media for dealing with the situation the way he did. Some say that the club sacrificed the need for trophies to accommodate the stadium. Personally, I think the criticism was unfair and unjust, as Mr Wenger kept Arsenal in the top 6 in the league throughout the process. For all those who doubted him, there are many who would probably now welcome him back with open arms.

The stadium itself is one of the best to be built in the last 20 years, supplying great facilities for home supporters and visiting fans alike, and with the building of Tottenham`s new stadium, North London can now boast 2 of the best stadiums in the country if not the world.

Fascinating facts – There are 32 murals circling around the ground showing players past and present linking arms, players such as Henry, Bergkamp, Dixon, Adams, Rocastle, Brady, and O`Leary to name a few adorn the walls of the new arena.

Pride Park, Derby County 1999 ; Emirates Stadium, Arsenal 2006

Pride Park, Derby County 1999 ; Emirates Stadium, Arsenal 2006

Milton Keynes Dons –Stadium MK, Denbigh 2007
Capacity -30,500 Cost £56 Million
Famous Players – Dean Lewington, Alex Rae, Izale McLeod, Luke Chadwick, Jimmy Bullard.

Most football supporters know the story concerning MK Dons and Wimbledon. Back in the 1990`s, Wimbledon, who were based in SW London, hit a big financial crisis. Although the club had enjoyed unbelievable success in the 1980`s, they couldn’t sustain the climb and started to feel the pressure of competing at the higher level.

During their rise, they became one of the most disliked teams to play against, due to the playing style and antics of the players. Nicknamed the Crazy Gang, they set about terrorizing the opposition, showing no respect to whoever they came up against, it didn’t matter if you were Lincoln or Liverpool, you were treated the same way, usually with great success.

Throughout their glory years, they had characters like Dennis Wise who was the king of the wind –ups, alongside the likes of John Fashanu and Vinny Jones who literally frightened the life out of opponents, no more so than in the FA Cup final win against Liverpool in 1988, who were odds on favourites to lift the trophy.

Sadly the club went downhill after that famous win, with the ground, Plough Lane being old and in need of upgrading, something that Merton Council would not approve, the writing was on the wall.

After being disowned by the council, the only way to continue the club`s existence was to ground share, so in 1990 plans were announced to share Selhurst Park with Crystal Palace.
They stayed at Selhurst Park until 2001, when they eventually got relegated from the Premier League, something that continued for a few years, which resulted in the club dropping out of the football league altogether.

During this time the club were on the brink of collapse. Enter Pete Winkelman, who had mentioned the idea of relocating the club before, but not as far as Milton Keynes. Now relocating a club 2-3 miles is bad enough, but when the mileage becomes 60-70 miles away, that is going to upset die-hard fans. After moving to the area, Winkelman had seen the potential of tapping into the prospect of having a professional club in the vicinity for local supporters, and started investigating the possibility. After the initial problems and issues were avoided the move went ahead, much to the disgust of the fans who felt that their club had been destroyed. Wimbledon would become MK Dons, creating a new club with a new identity and replace Wimbledon who had fallen out of the league.

But try telling that to Wimbledon supporters who decided to recreate their own team and call it AFC Wimbledon and entered the football league at the lower divisions of the pyramid and after many years of trying, managed to get promotion after promotion and finally claw their way back into the football league and regain their league status.

Having mentioned the wonderful designs of our stadia in the UK, Stadium MK is one of the best with a capacity of 30,500 seats. The arena holds regular football matches including internationals, rugby and concerts as well as commercial events. Although MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon supporters will never see eye to eye, one thing that they will agree on, is the stadium's facilities and architecture that have proved to be some of the best around.

Fascinating Fact – Stadium MK is a cashless arena, having no storage facilities for cash anywhere on the site.

West Ham United – The London Stadium 2011
Capacity 60,000 - Cost £ 429 million
Famous players – Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Mark Noble, Trevor Brooking, Billy Bonds

Like the supporters of Wimbledon, West Ham fans were split on the idea of leaving their Upton Park ground, which had been their spiritual home for 112 years. Some will say that the old stadium created a unique and intimidating atmosphere, but needed updating. This would have cost a tremendous amount of money to put right, and the owners were not prepared to attempt it. Instead, they decided to try and find another venue and relocate the club. By chance the London Stadium, which had staged the 2012 Olympic games so superbly, was looking for new tenants.

Once the decision had been made, there were quite a lot of supporters who did not want to move to the new site, stating that the atmosphere inside the stadium was nowhere near as good as Upton Park. Some fans said that the players were too far away from the crowd, making it less intimidating for the opposing players, something which West Ham had thrived on over the years. During the last few seasons it is something that the club has tried to address by altering the way the seats are located, making them seem more like the old ground.

One of the biggest drawbacks that was mentioned by the majority of supporters, was the lack of “normal match-day catering facilities” that were promised prior to the move to the new ground.
Many fans were quoted as saying, "we don’t want wine bars and bistro`s, we want pints and pies, normal match-day food and drink”.

This seems to have been resolved, as time has gone by; most supporters have now become used to the ground and with the success that the club is enjoying on the pitch make up for everything else. Despite struggling to sell out the old stadium, West Ham easily sold out their allocation of season tickets, over 50,000 to date, which is a tremendous achievement.

The stadium itself is a superb example of how the football clubs in this country are changing the way people view football. Gone are the days where supporters had to stand on a dilapidated crumbling terrace in the pouring rain, being treated like cattle with the only communication being a programme or tannoy announcements.

Fascinating facts – You will never see the number 6 shirt worn by any present West Ham player after the club retired the shirt in honour of previous club captain Bobby Moore.

Stadium MK, MK Dons 2007 ; London Stadium, West Ham 2011

Stadium MK, MK Dons 2007 ; London Stadium, West Ham 2011

Coventry City –The Ricoh Arena – Coventry 2005
Capacity 32,604 - Cost £ 250 million
Famous Players – Robbie Keane, Gary MacAllister, Gordon Strachan, Dion Dublin

Coventry City have been a member of the football league since 1919 and reached the top division for the first time in 1967, where they stayed for many years.

Amazingly the Ricoh Arena is their fourth home after previously residing at Dowells Field (1883),
Stoke Road (1887) and Highfield Road (1899) where they stayed until moving to the new Ricoh Arena in 2005.

Throughout its existence, the Arena and the club have had a very rocky relationship, because the stadium is owned by another party. Complications were bound to arise, and in 2013 the club was forced to leave the stadium and ground share with Northampton Town, some 25 miles away from Coventry. This upset the fans to say the least.

After many demonstrations and refusals by supporters to attend the games at Northampton, the club was eventually allowed back to its own ground the following year. Unfortunately, and unbeknown to the club, London Wasps, who had decided to relocate to the area from High Wycombe had purchased the complex, so the club found themselves with another landlord.
After yet another rent issue the club found itself at loggerheads with the new owners of the stadium, and decided to move out yet again, this time to St Andrews, the home of Birmingham City, Somewhere where they stayed for the next two years, until they reached an agreement with Wasps to finally return to the Ricoh in 2021.

During these unsettling times, the club has seen itself fall on hard times with three relegations from the dizzy heights of the Premier League to League Two, something which the fans could not have predicted considering the amount of time that they spent in the top flight. But like most teams that suffer the same fate, you soon realise that football can be a cruel game, with the weak being found out as the league positions do not lie.

Supporters had been used to the boom years at Coventry in the 1960`s, where a young Jimmy Hill had revolutionised the club by playing attractive football, something which was carried out during the 1970`s and 1980`s with various different managers. Sadly the club began to develop troubles on and off the pitch, which is a bad mixture at the best of times, and seemed to be heading in free-fall apart from the spectacular win in the FA Cup final against Tottenham in 1987, which surprised everyone.

Since then successes have been few and far between, until the appointment of Mark Robins who started to take effect by the winning of the League Two play off final in 2018, giving the club its first promotion in 51 years.

The 2019-20 season became historic, not just for Coventry, but for football in general, after reaching the top spot in League One, the competition was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic outbreak, after which the FA decided to conclude the season by a points per game system, which gave Coventry the league crown.

The future has now started to look bright again for the Sky Blues, after a relatively successful campaign in the Championship finishing in a respectable 12th place. Hopefully the club can now concentrate on matters on the pitch, rather than worry about what`s going on off of it.

The Stadium itself can boast of being called a World Class venue with facilities to hold large exhibitions, sporting matches and concerts, they can also offer the services of a Hilton Hotel as well as a casino on site. Seating over 30,000 people in comfort, the Ricoh Arena, like many other of the UK`s new grounds is a venue which is held in high esteem by those who use it on a regular basis, especially on match days, and enjoy its unique atmosphere.

Fascinating Facts – The Club began as Singers FC, by workers of the Singer sewing company.

Brighton and Hove Albion- The Amex Stadium 2011
Capacity- 32,500 - Cost - £ 93 million
Famous Players - Mark Lawrenson, Russell Osman, Jimmy Case, Michael Robinson

The club became a member of the Football League back in 1920 with the forming of the Third Division, after being formed as Brighton & Hove United back in 1901. It wasn’t until the 1957-58 season that the club had any real success on the pitch with the winning of the Third Division title, taking them into the Second Division for the first time ever.

After establishing themselves in the division for many years, the club finally made it up to the top tier of English football, but unfortunately the adventure didn’t last very long, and after a few troublesome years, they found themselves at the bottom of the football league. The unsuccessful years on the pitch coincided with the wrangles going on off the playing field, with boardroom battles and changes of ownership all colliding with ground sharing schemes and changes of playing venues.

After years of problems, the club's financial troubles were becoming increasingly dangerous. The Directors of the club at the time thought that if they sold the Goldstone Ground, the pressure would be eased and they could pay off the debts. How wrong were they? Not only did it cause utter uproar amongst the supporters, but it placed tremendous pressure on the players and coaching staff by ground sharing at Gillingham`s Priestfield Stadium some 70 miles away from Brighton, which eventually lasted for two whole seasons.

During this time there were demonstrations virtually every week by fans who were appalled at the way the club was being run. One such supporter was Dick Knight, who decided to try and oust the present board and take control of the club. This did eventually happen.

For the start of the 1999-2000 season, the club had arranged to play their home fixtures at the Withdean Athletics track, which was based in Brighton and owned by the local council. Whilst at the Withdean, they managed to finally get some success on the field, by winning the Division Three Championship title, but due to the size and safety element of the stadium they were continually missing out on bigger and better attendances because of the ground capacity issues.

With the cost of the previous ground sharing and the years at the Withdean, Brighton found themselves saddled with a £9.5 million debt in 2004, alongside the planning cost issues that had been taking place with the building of the new Falmer Stadium ( Amex). Eventually the club were handed the keys to their new stadium in 2011, which seemed like a dream come true for the supporters, players and staff who had finally a place they could call home.

No longer did they have to stand on make-do terracing in the rain and cold, with no proper facilities. This new stadium was built for the 21st century, with hospitality boxes, catering facilities and a club shop where people could browse in comfort. This was certainly a ground to be proud of.

Another added bonus was the naming rights to the stadium by American credit card company American Express, who gladly associated themselves with the club, and have enjoyed a great partnership from day one, with the ground affectedly being known as the Amex Stadium. Since Brighton have resided at the Amex, it seems that the club has gone from strength to strength and are now performing on and off the pitch. The playing side has since seen a vast improvement, the players establishing themselves slowly and surely amongst the Premier League elite, so much so that they have achieved their highest position and most points tally in the 2021-22 season, for the first time in the club's history. It seems a long way from near bankruptcy and nearly going out of business, to Premier League longevity. Long may it continue, they certainly deserve it.

Fascinating facts – The club have seen a number of promotions and relegations in its history with promotions outdoing the relegations 10-6.

The Ricoh Arena, Coventry City 2005 ; The Amex Stadium, Brighton 2011

The Ricoh Arena, Coventry City 2005 ; The Amex Stadium, Brighton 2011

Hull City – The MKM Stadium 2002
Capacity 25,400 – Cost- £44 million
Famous Players – Jarrod Bowen, Jimmy Bullard, Dean Windass, Ken Wagstaff

Hull City started out as a football club back in 1904, and played their home matches at the Boulevard ground, which housed rugby league games. After paying rent for a few years, the club decided to build its own stadium with the construction of Anlaby Road, which opened in 1906. Unfortunately, due to an oversight, the Anlaby site was destined to have the new railroad track go right through it, forcing the club to look elsewhere for another stadium venue. They came up with a plot of land situated between Boothferry Road and North Road in 1929 which was funded with a loan of £3,000 from the Football Association.

Due to the club's financial difficulties, work on the ground was halted for years, the development stopped until 1939. During that year, there was a proposal of a new all purpose, all seater stadium, so the club decided to suspend any relocation.

Unfortunately with the outbreak of World War 2, the ground was then allocated to the Home Guard meaning that the club had to return to the Boulevard site. During the conflict, the Anlaby site was considerably damaged, with the repairing costs completely beyond the capacity of the club's finances, which meant the club had to stay at the Boulevard until the end of the war. The Boothferry road site was also in terrible condition due to the bombing.

The new stadium did get completed in 1946 under the name Boothferry Park and it's where Hull City stayed for the next 56 years until they outgrew it and moved to their current new ground in 2002. The new ground was named the KC Stadium, and was described as being one of the best sporting arenas in the UK.

Hull seemed to be moving in the right direction and things started to look much brighter. Not so! Wranglings in ownership, potential name changes, takeover bids, and disgruntled supporters all coinciding with players and managers coming and going, have contributed to Hull`s roller-coaster ride over the past few years.

One of the strangest and most upsetting episodes happened when owner at the time, Assem Allam announced that he intended to change the name of the Football club from Hull City to Hull City Tigers, with the 'City' being dropped completely later on. This caused an absolute avalanche of disgust and disapproval from supporters, so much so that the problem ended up in the lap of the Football Association who had to intervene to solve the problem. After many demonstrations and rallies, the match-day fans were heard chanting "City till I die", aimed at the name change. Mr Allam replied by saying ”they can die as soon as they want, as long as they leave the club in good health”. Not a good outburst when you are trying to convince the supporters and fans of the club to get onside and support you.

Eventually the name change was quashed and the club remained as Hull City FC, much to the annoyance of Mr Allam.

Another big factor in Hull`s misadventures was the chopping and changing of managers, something which seems to be the norm concerning the football league clubs. From April 2000 until January 2022 Hull have had an incredible 18 managers, this figure is brought under the spotlight when you consider that Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson were at their respective clubs longer, it makes you wonder who`s right and is it always the right choice to sack the manager in the first place?

Fascinating fact - Hull were involved in the first competitive penalty shoot out in England back in 1970 when they competed against Manchester United in the old Watney Cup, they lost with a certain George Best scoring the winning spot kick.

Brentford FC – The Community Stadium West London 2020
Capacity 17,250 - Cost £71 million
Famous Players –Christian Eriksen, Ivan Toney, Dean Holdsworth

Like most football clubs, Brentford have played in a number of locations starting at Clifton Road in (1889-91), Bennsfield (1891-95), Shottes field (1895-98), York Road (1900 – 1904) Cross Roads (1898-1900) and probably their most famous ground Griffin Park (1904-2020) before moving to the new Community Stadium in 2020.

Initially the club played amateur football before entering the London League in 1898. They went on to win the Southern League second division in 1900-01 and were elected into the football league in 1920.

The club enjoyed a great run of success reaching the peak of the first division, finishing 5th in 1935, their highest position to date. Unfortunately after three relegations, they found themselves back in the fourth division, where they stayed until 1963. Between 1966 and 2007, they flitted between divisions, gaining promotions and relegations along the way, never quite establishing themselves in one division.

In 2021 they finally managed to get themselves back to the top division by entering the Premier League for the first time via the play off system. Their first season amongst the elite has been very successful, finishing a very credible 13th position and surprised quite a few people, including pundits and teams alike. During their opening match against Arsenal on a Friday night, which will go down in Brentford`s history as being one of the most significant events, the excitement and joyous scenes will not be forgotten, especially as they ran out 2-0 winners against supposedly superior visitors.

At this present moment, the club seems to be running successfully on and off the pitch with an acute management system that seems to work, albeit not to everyone`s liking, but certainly fits Brentford`s way of working, and the old saying is, if it's not broken, don’t fix it.

When the club decided to build a new stadium, many asked the question why? One of the main reasons for the re-location was the capacity problem that Griffin Park endured. With a small 12,000 spectator limit, it became apparent as the team became more successful, more supporters wanted to attend the matches. Okay there would be the argument as to why they didn’t build a bigger stadium with more spaces, but an extra 5,250 people can generate an awful lot of revenue over a period of 10 months and increase noise levels on match-days. When you compare the size of the clubs in the Premier League, there is a massive difference in the size of the supporter`s fan base, which determines the size of the clubs stadiums.

Clubs the size of Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Newcastle United and Tottenham have huge fan bases that warrant bigger stadiums, but even clubs like West Ham, Everton, Aston Villa, Leicester City have in recent years either built new arenas or increased the capacity to accommodate more people to go hand in hand with success on the pitch.

Another reason why they need more supporters is to generate incomes for buying the best players. Not everybody agrees with this system, in the case of Brentford, they prefer to get players and coach them into better players by using a unique method that looks into systems that cover all aspects of the playing side, from sprints to jumps and heading to breathing, which obviously works well for the club. As they say “the proof is in the pudding”.

Fascinating fact – There used to be a pub on each corner of Griffin Park, making it very popular with fans on match-days.

MKM Stadium, Hull 2002 ; Community Stadium, Brentford 2020

MKM Stadium, Hull 2002 ; Community Stadium, Brentford 2020

Huddersfield Town – Kirklees / John Smiths Stadium – 1994
Capacity – 24,121 – Cost -£ 40 million
Famous Players – Frank Worthington, Dennis Law, Ray Wilson

Huddersfield Town have the distinction of being one of the most famous football clubs in the English Football League with a heritage dating back to 1908. They entered the Football League in 1910 and became the first club to win three consecutive league titles, starting in 1925-6.

They have also been managed by two of the greatest managers in English football history, one being the legendary Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman who went on to enormous success with the Gunners, becoming a gunners legend. Then there was one of the most charismatic and influential managers of all time in the shape of Bill Shankly, who managed to make Liverpool the respected force that they are today. He shaped the way the club would play and the way players should act on and off the pitch. He made the players appreciate the fact that they were playing for the people of Liverpool and should be proud to do so, something that continues to this day. To say that Bill Shankly receives god like status on Merseyside is an understatement, he is engrained in every supporter regardless of age.

During its short life the stadium has been known as four different names including Alfred McAlpine, Galapharm International, John Smiths and now the Kirklees Stadium. The club decided to move and build a new arena after spending 86 years at Leeds Road, which many supporters saw as their spiritual home due to the success that they had there. The new stadium has an iconic look similar to the Amex at Brighton, with arched stands descending into the corners, giving it height.

Like most other sporting venues it has more commercial and private function rooms on offer to the public, with 47 facilities available including conference centres, banqueting halls, concerts and special occasion rooms. Speaking of concerts, there have been a number of top stars who have performed at the venue including the first one by REM on the 25th July 1995, which attracted a crowd of 80,000 fans and which generated over £3 million for local businesses. Due to the success of the concerts, other acts followed, including The Eagles, Bryan Adams and the Beautiful South during the 1990`s, and later in the 2000`s Elton John, Lulu, Take That, and Little Mix also held concerts at the stadium.

The first football match was held in August 1994 where Huddersfield entertained Wycombe Wanderers, with the visitors winning 1- 0.

Apart from the football side, Huddersfield Giants Rugby league club also share the stadium having had the same arrangement when both themselves and the football club were residing at Leeds Road, there have also been many England internationals played in the arena for both football and rugby alike at different levels.

After having a tremendous season in 2021-22, Huddersfield found themselves in the top three positions in the Championship table, qualifying them for a place in the play-offs. Unfortunately they played Nottingham Forest who like Town, had had a great season rising from the bottom of the league to also reach the play offs. After some dubious decisions, Forest went on to win the game 1- 0 after an own goal put paid to their bid for promotion.

Like most clubs who have moved grounds, Huddersfield appear to have a bright future ahead of them,  but whether they can build on the success of this season remains to be seen.

Fascinating fact - It took 5 years for the club to decide on which colours to play in, from 1908 - 1913, but once they were decided, they have remained the same ever since.

Southampton – St Mary`s Stadium - 2001
Capacity 32,505 – Cost £32 million
Famous Players – Matt Le Tissier, Kevin Keegan, Alan Ball, Terry Paine, Alan Shearer, Mick Channon, Ricky Lambert

Since the early 1980`s, Southampton had been toying with the idea to re-locate the club to new premises, as the old stadium, The Dell could not be expanded on due to its cramped position.
Once the Taylor report arrived in January 1990, setting the guidelines for football safety after the tragedy at Hillsborough, the Directors of the club instructed for the ground to be turned into an all seater arena, making the capacity a feeble 15,000 seated venue, something which was way below their Premier League rivals.

Realising that the missing fans would have an impact on the club's finances, the club decided to build a new home ground, and after an unsuccessful attempt to build a stadium at Stoneham, the city council finally offered the club the opportunity to erect a new stadium complex on the old disused gas works site at St Mary`s, which was in the heart of the city.

The move was welcomed by die-hard supporters, as they felt that the club was coming home to where it belonged, having been founded by members of the local St Mary`s church, hence the name of the new stadium.

Since 2001, Southampton has played all their home matches at St Mary`s, alongside some England international games whilst Wembley was being re-developed. Like most top - flight grounds, St Mary`s offers great facilities to the public and corporate sectors, with hospitality suites and conference halls, and has been known to house film premiers such as James Bond films alongside pop concerts with acts such as Elton John and The Rolling Stones.

One nice touch, is the naming of the hospitality suites after former players, Terry Paine, Bobby Stokes, Mick Channon and Matt Le Tissier have all had this privilege, unfortunately Terry and Bobby are no longer with us.

Southampton have developed this strength in character on the playing field, as every year it seems that they have to rebuild the squad, having sold off its best players to would be suitors. The list of players who have been sold includes  Adam Lalana, Sadio Mane, Alan Shearer, Virgil van Diyk, Peter Shilton and Danny Ings. The list goes on but they appear to do this every season, and are mostly tipped for relegation, but surprisingly, they are still competing in the Premier League, how long this will continue, who knows? Maybe next year might the one that the inevitable finally happens, but I wouldn’t be so sure!

Fascinating fact - During the construction of the new stadium, a group of Portsmouth supporters buried their shirts under one of the stands and placed a curse on the club, willing them not to win, this happened for a while until a local witch cleared the curse and the club started to win games.

Kirklees Stadium, Huddersfield Town 1994 ; St Mary's, Southampton 2001

Kirklees Stadium, Huddersfield Town 1994 ; St Mary's, Southampton 2001

Swansea City – The Swansea. Com Stadium (previously the Liberty Stadium) 2005
Capacity 20,750 – Cost -£50 Million
Famous Players – Bob Latchford, Lee Trundle, Leighton James, Ashley Williams, Roberto Martinez

Founded in 1912, Swansea City was formally known as Swansea Town until 1969 after the Swansea area was awarded city status.

The area around Swansea was traditionally a rugby- playing city, so to get a professional football club set up and running was a big achievement in itself.

The club's first professional match was played at the Vetch Field, where they stayed, up until they re-located in 2005, against Cardiff City, a fierce rivalry that continues to this day. The club entered the Southern League, winning the Welsh Cup in their debut season, they were later admitted to the English Football League in 1920 and went on to win the third division south in the 1924-5 season.

After plenty of highs and lows, including promotions and relegations along the way, the club found itself in the fourth division in 1978, being managed by Harry Griffiths, who by his own admission, could not take the club any further and resigned his position as team manager. The new appointed manager was legendary Welsh striker John Toshack, who persuaded Griffiths to stay on at the club and become his assistant, which he did, and together they managed to get the team promoted. Sadly Harry never got to see the team in the next division the following season as he died of a heart attack before the campaign finished.

Most Swansea supporters will agree that the reign of John Toshack was probably the most successful in commercial and awareness terms, purely because of his combined association with Liverpool and Wales, and because he had installed an attractive way of playing, something that is still thought of today; certain teams have a certain way of playing. West Ham, Tottenham, Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City, Swansea are in that bracket where supporters expect the game to be played in the right attacking way.

Their first season in the top flight began with a thumping 5 -1 rout of Leeds United, which set a benchmark for the season, followed up with victories over Liverpool, Man Utd, Arsenal and Spurs to follow, propelling them to the top of the league - something that the fans thought would never happen in their wildest dreams.

However this was short lived and the club struggled to maintain its grip on the top due to the lack of depth in the playing squad, despite this they finished the season in a very respectable 6th position, which remains the best in the clubs history.

Over the next eight years the club went from euphoria to despair with consecutive relegations, the sacking of Toshack and the club nearly going out of business in 1985, until local businessman Doug Sharpe gained control of the club and saved it from extinction. In 2001, the club was sold to Mike Lewis, which began a frustrating time, with various takeover rumours, supporter outrage, players, staff and managers being sold or sacked and yet another relegation to contend with.

The club nearly fell out of the Football League altogether, only managing to avoid dropping into the National Conference League, with a victory on the last day of the season, securing their league status, and sending Exeter City down instead.

During 2005 the club seemed to be more stable than ever before, after relocating to the newly built Liberty Stadium, after the rapidly deteriorating Vetch Field could no longer maintain the level of safety required when holding matches and events.

The new arena could boast of new facilities that the club needed to take itself forward by hosting international matches as well as their league programme. During the years of 2011-18, Swansea had their most successful period on and off the pitch, promotion back to the Premier League, European football, record fees being paid for players and managers being sought after by bigger clubs.

However the success was short lived after the changing of managers and top players being sold resulted in the club finding itself back in the Championship, where they have remained. They have come close to regaining their premier League status in 2021 & 2022, finishing in the play-off positions but losing out in either the semi-final or final, missing out on promotion.

With Swansea its never an easy ride, highs and lows, ups and downs, success and failures seem to go hand in hand with the club, however watch this space for development, as it's never going to be dull.

Fascinating fact – Ex manager John Toshack lined up in a Liverpool shirt in a mark of respect for former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, during a minute's silence after he passed away.

Reading FC – The Select Car leasing Stadium (formerly Madejski Stadium) 1998
Capacity – 24,161 - Cost - £50 million
Famous Players – Robin Friday, Trevor Senior, Shaka Hislop, Martin Hicks, Steve Death

Established in 1871, Reading are one of the oldest clubs in England, although they did not join the Football League until 1920.

Initially they played their home matches at Elm Park, which was a former gravel pit, somewhere where they stayed for 102 years from 1896-1998 before re-locating to the new Madejski Stadium, which was named after the Chairman John Madejski.

The club changed the stadium's name to the Select Car Leasing Stadium after a 10-year naming rights deal was struck. The initial move from Elm Park was forced upon the club in 1994 after the Taylor report made all seater venues compulsory for all of the top two divisions in the English Football League, and having won promotion to the Premier League the club needed to abide by the new guidelines.

They toyed with the idea of revamping Elm Park but found it to be impractical, so they decided to re-locate the club to pastures new. After many meetings and consultations with the local council, a new site was earmarked at Smallmead, which was a former council landfill site, and eventually a fee of £1.00 was agreed between the two parties, in acceptance of any future development of the site would need to include part funding of the A33 relief road.

With a new stadium, comes the possibility of new commercial and private functions including concerts, conferences, and special occasions apart from the sporting events such as football and rugby matches, which would also see a rise in attendances having increased the capacity.
On a personal note, I was privileged to visit the Madejski Stadium in a Directors capacity for my first away game, when Farnbrough played Gravesend and Northfleet whilst their stadium was being redeveloped, and I was totally impressed by the level of excellence that the stadium offered. To think this was a championship ground is quite astounding, and showed the level of stadia in the UK to be the best in the world.

Once installed, the club's first match at the new stadium was a 3-0 home win against Luton Town, making it an initial success with an increased capacity. After gaining promotion to the Premier League in 2006-7, the club announced its plans to increase the capacity even further to accommodate the increasing supply in demand for tickets having sold out the first 6 matches.
Apart from the increasing the stadium capacity, the club, have also submitted plans for a new training ground at the Bearwood Golf Club replacing their Hogwood Park site.

On the pitch, it has been some-what of fast – slow-slow-slower- waiting, during the initial success in 2005, there seemed to be a down turn in the clubs fortunes, from finishing 8th in their first season in the Premier League and being invited to compete in the Intertoto Cup, to being relegated back to the Championship in their second season.

Unfortunately after a good campaign in the 2nd tier, they eventually finished the season in 4th place, earning a place in the play-offs, where they faced Burnley, but lost. Manager Steve Coppell resigned his post the day after that defeat, meaning another change of managership for the club.

For the next 3 years, Reading were there or thereabouts in league form, but in 2012 they managed to regain their Premier League position, but after a dreadful campaign, they couldn’t maintain their status, and after just one season, they found themselves on the end of yet another relegation.

Since 2012, there have been many managers and changes of personnel; they even flirted with the threat of administration, alongside the potential takeover scenario, which always causes unsettlement amongst the staff.

Coming forward to the present day, the 2021-22 season is best left behind, as it turned out to be a struggle from start to finish. There was the 6 point deduction to deal with after failing EFL profitability and sustainability rules which weighed heavily on the playing staff, something that nearly cost them their place in the league. Indeed if it wasn’t for the debacle that was occurring at Derby County, who were deducted more points for entering administration which did eventually seal their fate, another club, Barnsley had a terrible season which helped Reading stay up. Maybe it was the introduction of Paul Ince that finally rallied the players into getting the results to safeguard their position in the Championship.

If it weren’t for these three instances, Reading would have certainly been relegated to the third tier.

Maybe they can recapture the form that once saw them grace the top flight, and welcome top class football back to the stadium which it undoubtedly deserves. With Ince in charge, one thing is for sure, there will not be any chance of non competiveness or a lack in the desire to win.

Fascinating fact – Reading played in Italy on a pre season tour in 1913, prompting a local Italian newspaper to quote that they were the best foreign side to play in Italy.

The Swansea .Com Stadium, Swansea City 2005 ; The Select Car Leasing Stadium, Reading 1998

The Swansea .Com Stadium, Swansea City 2005 ; The Select Car Leasing Stadium, Reading 1998

Stoke City – The Bet 365 Stadium (Britannia Stadium) 1997
Capacity 30,089 – Cost £ 14.8 Million
Famous Players – Gordon Banks, Peter Shilton, Stanley Matthews, Alan Hudson, Jimmy Greenhoff, George Eastham.

Stoke City began life in 1863 as the Stoke Ramblers, before becoming Stoke Football Club in 1878. The club as we know it today became Stoke City in 1925, after the Stoke –on- Trent area was granted City status.

The club itself is probably one of the oldest in English football, being one of the founder members of the Football league, but it struggled in the first two years, finishing bottom of the league on both occasions, before being voted out of the competition and into the Football Alliance.

They eventually won that particular league and re-gained their football league status, where they spent the next 15 years, before being relegated in 1907 due to financial problems resulting in bankruptcy, which resulted in them playing non-league football for the next 12 years, until they were invited back into the league in 1919.

Between the years of 1919 -1937, the club became the owners of the Victoria Ground, where they stayed until 1997, when they re-located to the newly built Britannia Stadium. The 1930`s & 40`s saw the emergence of one of the club's most famous players in the form of Stanley Matthews, who went on to become one of England`s greatest players, and is spoken of in legendary terms throughout the football world.

Also during that period, there was an increase in attendances due to the club's success on the field. That success culminated in the club's record attendance of 51,373 against Arsenal, and allowed the manager to be allocated more funds to improve the playing staff.

Stoke were now considered one of the Country`s top teams, but the title seemed to evade them. In 1946-7 they mounted a serious challenge, only to be thwarted on the last game of the season, losing 2-1 to Sheffield, meaning the title went to Liverpool. Unfortunately, during the 1946 campaign, tragedy struck, when 33 fans died and 520 were injured during a 6th round FA Cup tie against Bolton Wanderers. Whether that had an affect on the players during the title run in we will never know.

Relegation followed a few years later in 1952, and they continued to spend time away from the top flight for the next 10 years, until they finally regained their first division status in 1962.
During the 1960`s and 70`s the club had one of its most successful periods, finishing mid table in 1964 and appearing in the League Cup final only to lose to Leicester City 4-3 over two legs.
During this period they also had the worlds best goalkeeper in the shape of Gordon Banks who went on to win the World Cup with England in 1966. They also had another League Cup Final to look forward too, where they were to play Chelsea in the 1974 final, running out 2-1 winners with one of their senior players, George Eastham scoring the winner.

The club also played in the FA Cup semi finals in 1970-1 & 1971-2 seasons against Arsenal losing to the Gunners on both occasions.

In 1976, another disaster struck, when the roof of one of the stands was blown off during a violent storm, the damage was so severe it placed the club in financial difficulty, so much so that some of the club's best players had to be sold to pay off the debts. Players such as Alan Hudson, Jimmy Greenhoff and Mike Pejic were sacrificed to ease the burden. The consequences of these actions lead to the club being relegated, which began a very strenuous time for the club, further relegations, changes of manager and the lack of quality playing staff all stacked up.

After surviving the late 1970`s and 80`s the club saw an upturn in fortune between 1997-2008, when a move to the new Britannia Stadium saw a new playing venue for the first time in 119 years, but unfortunately it didn’t transfer to the pitch, where they found themselves in yet another relegation spiral fight.

During this period the club saw a takeover attempt from Stoke Holding, which were an Icelandic Consortium, who purchased a 66% share in the club for £6.6 million. They set about restoring the club to its former glories by appointing the first foreign manager, who promptly led them to Football Trophy success at Wembley, and gained promotion in the same year, but success didn’t count for anything as the manager was unfairly sacked a few days after getting the club promoted.

In 2006, the Icelandic ownership finally came to an end when Peter Coates completed his takeover of the club, and two years later, the club had its most successful period in the Premier League, turning the Britannia Stadium into a fortress, where visiting teams hated playing, even the top clubs didn’t like the experience of playing Stoke, they came up against a hostile crowd, hard strong players who had a unique way of playing by bombarding the opposition with aerial balls, putting defence`s and goalkeepers under enormous pressure, often resulting in goals for the home team.

Unfortunately at the end of 2018, Stoke could not maintain their top-flight position and were relegated to the second tier, where they have been for the past 4 years.

Would you bet on them coming back to the Premier League? Why not? but then again it could go the other way, you never know with Stoke.

One thing that is in the club's favour, is the stadium, which is now known as the Bet 365 stadium, after a large betting company claimed the naming rights, like most clubs who graced the Premier League, the venues are always top class arenas with everything that fans could wish for, the Bet 365 stadium is up there with the best.

Fascinating fact: Stoke were responsible for the introduction of the penalty kick, during a match against Notts County in 1891, Stoke were attacking, when the Notts goalkeeper punched the ball outside of the area, resulting in a free kick to Stoke, before the kick could be taken, Notts lined up 11 men behind the ball, practically on the goal line.
The referee thought that this was unfair and campaigned to have a penalty kick awarded for any futures offences, hence the birth of the penalty kick.

Bolton Wanderers – University of Bolton Stadium – 1997
Capacity – 29,000 – Cost £25 Million
Famous players – Nat Lofthouse, Kevin Davies, JJ Okocha, John McGinlay, Nicholas Anelka

Bolton Wanderers started life as Christ Church FC back in 1874, but adopted its present name in 1877 when they became members of the Football League. Initially the club played at Pikes Den, until establishing themselves at Burnden Park where they stayed for 102 years.

Like most professional clubs, the Taylor report into crowd safety and stadium management highlighted the changes that clubs needed to make to ensure crowd safety. Due to the financial costs in re-developing Burnden Park, it was decided that building a new stadium was more cost effective in the long run, hence the move and the construction of the new Reebok Stadium in 1997.

Over the years, the club has had its fair share of bad luck and mismanagement. In 1946 the incident involving Stoke City occurred, (as mentioned above). During 2015 the club had massive financial problems, causing it to enter administration and come near to expulsion from the league and possible extinction before being sold to new owners in 2019.

For a club with the history and stature of Bolton, there have been few highs and many lows culminating in a few promotions. But relegations outweighed the promotions, with the campaigns in 1963, 1970, 1980, 1982 and 1986 all finishing with the dreaded drop.

After years of trying, Bolton finally managed to get back to the top flight in 1995 via the play off final at Wembley where they defeated Reading 4-3. They also reached the League Cup final the same year losing 2-1 to Liverpool. Unfortunately, however, they also lost their Premier League place after being bottom of the league for most of the season.

The following year saw them win the championship with a record number of points and goals and saw them move into the new Reebok Stadium, but in typical Bolton style, they were relegated the following season.

In 2000-1 the club were promoted yet again back into the top flight via the play offs, but struggled for the next two years until 2004 when they finished 8th in the league, which was their highest position ever and they played in another League Cup final.

The 2005-6 season saw them reach Europe for the first time in the club's history after finishing 6th in the league, gaining entry into the UEFA Cup. Throughout the 2006-8 campaigns, Bolton recorded consecutive top 8 finishes, but because of the lack of financial support that manager Sam Allardyce received from the board, he was forced to resign stating that the board had lacked ambition in pushing the club onwards towards the Champions League stages.

Once Allardyce had departed, it seemed that the heart and fire had been removed from the club, and there followed several managers who tried but failed to recapture the spirit.

In December 2015 Bolton were in debt to the tune of £172.9 million and were handed a winding up order from HMRC over unpaid taxes. Fortunately for the club, ex striker Dean Holdsworth was part of a consortium that took over the club in 2016. They announced that the embargo that the club had been trading with was finally over, but the next few years would see a return of financial difficulties with yet another winding up petition and several other league restrictions alongside a strike by the Bolton players due to unpaid wages.

After many, many, league suspended sentences and points deduction threats and HMRC fines, the club has come through and is still trying to claw its way back to the top and maintain a level of consistency that once saw visiting teams dreading going to the Reebok. Like Stoke, they had perfected a way of playing against the big boys using their own unique style, which brought them relative success.

Fascinating facts: The club's nickname came about after the players had to retrieve the ball from nearby pig- pens, and had to trot through them, hence the nickname the Trotters came about.

Bet365 Stadium, Stoke City 1997 ; University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton Wanderers 1997

Bet365 Stadium, Stoke City 1997 ; University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton Wanderers 1997

Middlesbrough FC – The Riverside Stadium – 1995
Capacity 30,000 – Cost £30 million
Famous Players –Brian Clough, Paul Gascoigne, Bryan Robson, Gareth Southgate, Graeme Souness, Juninho, Ravanelli

After formation in 1876, and the club still recognised as amateurs, the first two years were played at Albert Park. But after players and supporters damaged part of the venue, the club was asked to leave, and after several other homes were used, they eventually settled on Ayresome Park. They stayed there for the next 92 years, until they decided to rebuild a new stadium which developed into the Riverside Stadium in 1995.

Since moving to the new ground there have been many changes to the structure including new screens, new media gantrys, better wi-fi and the restructuring of places for home supporters - all resulting in the capacity of the stadium being raised by an extra 5,000 seats.

On the playing side, Middlesbrough have had some wonderful players over the years, probably the most famous being the one and only Brian Clough who as a striker managed an impressive 204 goals for the club. Another well- known star was Paul Gascoingne who played for the reds in his later career, but still lit up the pitch whenever he graced it. And how about Gareth Southgate the current England manager? He was a player, club captain and eventual club manager during his time at the Riverside, as was Bryan Robson who also managed the club for several years bringing relative success.

The list of players who are welcomed with God like status on Teeside include Juninho, Emerson, Ravanelli, Bernie Slaven, Tony Mowbray, Jim Platt, David Armstrong and Stuart Boam to name a few. Apologies if I have missed out anyone.

For many years the club was considered a mid table second tier team, until the emergence of current owner and chairman Steve Gibson, who managed to make the players, staff and supporters believe that the club could and would be competing with the top clubs. He backed this statement by employing former players as managers, Robson and Southgate being the best known.

Although the club finds itself in the Championship, the club is structured for the Premier League, the stadium, training facilities, set up and management & players have all got the qualities to succeed in the near future.

Fascinating Facts: The club was the first to launch its own TV channel, transmitting delayed matches via its website.

Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough 1995 ; Old Empire Stadium, Wembley 1923

Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough 1995 ; Old Empire Stadium, Wembley 1923

Wembley Stadium & The Empire Stadium (Old Wembley) 2007 & 1923
Capacity – 90,000 – Cost £798 Million
Famous Players – Pele, Johaan Cruyff, Eusebio, Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore, David Beckham, George Best, Dennis Law, Jimmy Greaves, Geoff Hurst, Maradonna, Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, the list goes on and on.

Lastly the most iconic football stadium in the world, Wembley Stadium, conjures up dreams and memories for millions of people around the world. Whether it has been FA Cup Finals, European Cup Finals, Play off Finals, World Cup Finals, European Championships or concerts,  the stadium has a special place in the hearts of people worldwide.

The original stadium was built in 1923 and was known as The Empire Stadium and played its part in football history over the following years, hosting FA Cup finals, European Cup finals, Play-off finals - and who can forget the World Cup final in 1966 where England triumphed over West Germany, giving England its only victory to date in the World Cup?

Considered at the time to be the best and most iconic stadium in the world, everybody who played football wanted to play at Wembley, it didn’t matter how old you were or at what level you played football at, we all wanted to play there. The players who play for the top clubs and England get to play there on a regular basis, but others who play for smaller clubs have always had that desire to step out onto the hallowed turf and play. Some never get to achieve their ambition, but the ones that do never forget it.

One such player, who did grace the grass, was legendary Brazilian footballer Pele who always described Wembley as the Cathedral of football. Other famous players who have also played between the Twin Arches or under the arch include Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore, Booby Charlton, Gordon Banks, Kenny Dalglish, Kevin Keegan, Jimmy Greaves, Gordon Banks, Paul Gascoigne, Glenn Hoddle, Diego Maradonna, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to name a few, the list is literally endless.

Personally speaking I have been to both the old stadium and the new one many times, and enjoyed myself immensely watching FA Cup finals, League Cup finals, FA Trophy finals and various concerts over the years, I have also had the privilege of taking in one of the stadium tours, which if you have never done, I would truly recommend it: to stand in the dressing rooms and tunnel where your idols have stood is quite a surreal feeling; walking out of the tunnel with the crowd noise played as if you were playing in the Cup final is deafening and something to hear.

My late father-in-law and I attended an FA Trophy final, and it was the first time he had visited Wembley, I will never forget the look on his face as he stood outside the ground and looked up at the stadium. Being an engineer himself, he said, "That is a magnificent piece of engineering!” He was so right, now working for Bearingtech all these years later, I can fully understand the importance of good engineering.

Like most things, nothing lasts forever, and the powers that be decided to replace the old stadium with the new version in 2007. After many discussions it was decided to rebuild the national stadium rather than redevelop the old one, because of the Taylor report into ground safety for supporters and visitors; Wembley was not exempt.

Sounds ridiculous, but it made better financial sense to rebuild the stadium rather than redevelop the old one, as the re- development would need to be ongoing. One of the biggest dilemmas was whether the twin towers would be kept and incorporated into the new design, as they were such an iconic part of the old ground. Alas they didn’t get used and were sadly demolished in December 2002.

During the construction of the new stadium, the contractors had numerous problems, including metal girders falling, sewage pipes being damage due to ground movement, all delaying the build. There were also disputes between the builders Multiplex and The Football Association which had to be cleared before the handover could be complete, because of the delays in construction, the contractors actually had to submit more money to the project, making a loss on the venture.

Whilst laying the foundations, the builders found the remains of Watkins Tower, which was England`s attempt to compete with the Eiffel Tower in France, but was aborted before it reached the second level. Because of this, the foundations had to be deeper making the playing surface lower that originally first thought.

Talking of playing surfaces, the pitch at Wembley was always considered the best in the world, but unfortunately the ground team have had a torrid time trying to re-create the lush green surface that the old stadium was known for. The new pitch has been re-laid 10 times, with no solution being found as yet to resolve the problem. They have now decided to use a combined mixture of artificial grass and organic matter to see if they can improve the playing area. We will have to wait and see.

Other fascinating facts about the stadium.

During the 2016 season Tottenham Hotspur played all their league and European matches at Wembley, whilst they were building the new White Hart Lane stadium, breaking league attendance records in the process. The biggest attendance for a non-sporting event was the concert by the singer Adele, who attracted 98,000 fans, making it the largest attendance to date.

A record attendance for a boxing match was played at Wembley between Anthony Joshua and Vladimir Klitchkov, attracting a crowd of 90,000 people, which is a world record for boxing.

Apart from sporting events the old and new stadiums have played host to many concerts during the years, including the biggest in history, this being Live Aid in 1985 where the cream of the music world combined to raise money for famine hit people in Ethiopia, raising millions of pounds.

The artists who have appeared in concert at the stadiums is like a who`s who of the music world: bands such as the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, U2, Muse, One Direction, Spice Girls, Take That, Queen, Coldplay, Bon Jovi, AC/DC, Guns and Roses, Ed Sheeran, Elton John, Billy Joel, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and Robbie Williams to name a few. The last concert at the old Empire stadium was played by Oasis.

The 1948 Olympic games were held at the Empire Stadium.

The last football match held at the old ground was between England and Germany, which the Germans won 1-0.

The first match played at the new stadium was the FA Cup final between Chelsea and Manchester United in 2007.

All supporters and visitors see the new stadium alike as one of the best in the world, with a large capacity that is second only to The Nou Camp in Barcelona.

With great facilities, including catering outlets and drinking venues alongside merchandising shops and media coverage, the stadium is designed to cater for all needs young and old. New Wembley has surpassed itself in the public eye, where before the Twin Towers were the iconic image, the new icon is the arch which spans 313 meters, making it the biggest unsupported structure in the world today.

The stadiums at Wembley have both given and will give years of entertainment that will create incredible memories, whether you are a player, a supporter or visitor. Some structures will always be held in high esteem and live forever - Wembley stadium is absolutely one of those iconic pieces of architectural engineering.

Ask Ozzie, he went to Wembley and his knees went all trembly!

The New Wembley Stadium

The New Wembley Stadium - Without doubt the best-known sports stadium in the world, 2007

hydrogen afloat

hydrogen afloat

goodbye generator

I’ve lived aboard for 14 years and my list of what makes this life so special is extensive - the peace, the wildlife and the inclusive community of fellow boaters all rate pretty highly. I’ll bet they are sitting somewhere near the top of your list too. But, let’s be honest, there are some aspects of living aboard which wouldn’t even qualify.

Most of us know that feeling when, late on a winter evening, the water pump starts to make a deeper, slower tone as you brush your teeth. Your heart sinks as you wonder whether the batteries will lose voltage before morning and the fridge will start to defrost or whether you’ll need a torch to get dressed tomorrow. In these moments the choice is either to cross your fingers and anxiously hope for the best or put off sleep while you lug out the generator and charge the batteries for an hour or so. Those of us living afloat have always had to be conscious of our electricity usage. It’s fine if you have an electric hook-up facility as part of your mooring rental, but those of us who are continuously cruising or renting an off-grid mooring are limited to the power they can generate themselves.

I got myself some solar panels when I first moved aboard and they worked great during the summer - free power from the sun to keep my batteries topped up between biweekly boat moves. But in winter it was a different story. Basically, unless you have a solar installation the size of a small field and live on a very frugal power budget, you have to idle the engine or run the generator to create domestic power a few times every week. As well as the hassle, I was also unhappy at the amount of local diesel pollution I was creating and was conscious of annoying the neighbours (afloat and land-livers) with the noise. The only consolation was knowing that my boating neighbours were wrestling with the same problem, so we could give each other some slack if the generator occasionally came out at an unsocial hour.

hydrogen afloat

As an Engineer I am always keen to create solutions, to do my bit, however small, to make things better. For more than 30 years I have worked in the UK rail industry. My projects include adopting new technology, reducing environmental impact, and improving efficiency. In the midst of exploring hydrogen and its possible applications for trains, I set about applying the skills I use in my day job to the problem of domestic power in my home life.

Hydrogen and fuel cells have long been used in industrial, scientific and specialist applications, and I was sure there was a way to harness their potential to provide power on my boat. I set about connecting the dots and created the prototype ‘HyArk’, named for the fact that it’s a vessel and that hydrogen molecules flow into the fuel cell two by two!

Very quickly I noticed a huge difference. As the sun got lower and more distant towards the latter part of the year I found myself switching on the HyArk instead of lugging my generator out onto the towpath or starting my engines up. Because it was virtually silent (a tiny puff of hydrogen is emitted into the sky every now and then) I could sleep peacefully through the night knowing that in the morning my fridge would still be cold, my water would flow, and I would have light to ensure I was wearing a harmonious pair of socks for work. It was extraordinary - no noise, no pollution (the fuel cell emits only water) and in addition less wear and tear on my engine plus battery life was extended too.

Having lived with this prototype for two years I worked with designers to create a model which is both good-looking and practical. It was an exciting time, sourcing expert craftspeople and networking with other innovators in the hydrogen field. We added a remote on/off switch for the cabin and configured an ‘auto’ mode which means that the HyArk works seamlessly with solar panels, backing off when the sun is shining and switching itself on when the voltage starts dropping. As hydrogen must be well-ventilated and therefore on the roof, much attention was focused on the design of the casing. The outer unit is made from a ​tough resin infused polyester material, designed to be both robust and light weight. Made by a small team of boat builders in Falmouth who are used to crafting yachts from this material, it’s ergonomically designed to ensure low branches and ropes can glide smoothly over it.

Hydrogen Afloat - HyArk

There are a small number of very low bridges in the canal and rivers network, so it was vital that the unit can be easily removed and carried along the towpath, along with anything else up there such as chimney stacks and bikes. And for security the unit has high quality German locks and hinges, along with a vigorous fire-proofing system. The HyArk can even be vinyl wrapped to match the colours of your boat.

In some ways the HyArk has come a little too early, before there is a canal-side infrastructure ready to supply hydrogen at a price comparable to or lower than LPG. Currently retail hydrogen is only available from BOC Linde’s Gas and Gear shops and as such, is relatively expensive. However, there are other suppliers getting ready to enter the market with green hydrogen and it’s like the proverbial chicken and egg - demand creates supply but also supply creates demand. We need a few early adopters, like myself, to innovate and create the demand and this will in turn increase supply of hydrogen, making it much more accessible for everyone. Once an infrastructure is in place the potential to use hydrogen for boat propulsion will be a reality and we will be able to say goodbye to diesel for good.

More than 250 years ago the canals were early adopters of cutting-edge technologies of that time. As one of the first ‘leisure’ applications of hydrogen technology perhaps in some small way we are now continuing that tradition? If you want to learn more about our product or discuss joining us in the green hydrogen revolution, please visit our website at

hydrogen afloatWe are a small company harnessing the ecological benefits of hydrogen fuel cell technology to create domestic power without pollution and noise. As liveaboard boaters, we know the importance of reliable onboard power all year round. We integrate hydrogen fuel cells and their gas storage into a system that can easily be installed onto a narrowboat, wide-beam or inland waterway cruiser.

07702 725158