waterloo and the water

tales of the old cut

waterloo and the water

I would guess that pretty much everyone is familiar with the battle of Waterloo in 1815, if only as a name synonymous with something this country practically made a sport of in the past - fighting the French.

This battle was the culmination of more than 22 years of on-off fighting, and although all of it had taken place overseas, the ramifications on the home front had been (and would remain) significant; more specifically for our interests, it directly affected the canals and some of it played out here on the wharf at Preston Brook.

The story starts some 30 years before the great bloodbath of Waterloo, in 1780 with the birth of a baby boy named John Pennington.

Birth registry for John Pennington

The Pennington family were fairly typical and reasonably well off; Thomas was farming while his wife, Jane, produced a child every couple of years. The building of the canal and the wharf had improved the local economy and they seem to have had the foresight to realise that the canal was going to be a steady employer for a respectable man, and so made sure their sons had a decent education.

This was a turbulent time for the country, with Britain at war with both America and France, and the country was starting to feel the pinch of funding constant warfare overseas and with the rapidly changing landscape as the industrial revolution started to pick up. We don’t yet know for certain what happened, but in around 1786 Thomas lost his land. Although the local records now record him simply as a labourer, we can be almost certain that it is him that is the ‘Peninton’ working on the wharf as an early porter.

John was apprenticed (possibly to his uncle in nearby Bartington) and learned the trade of smithing, while his brother William went on to be a farm hand, and Thomas went to be a book keeper.

What happens next we may never know the real answer behind. We can conjecture that he was friends with Joseph Bennett, another Preston Brook boy whose father had worked with John’s both on the land and at the wharf (indeed John’s sister Mary had been baptised on the same day as Joseph’s brother William), and Joseph, who had joined up in a few years earlier, had told him how great it was in the army. Or perhaps John got caught out with the King’s shilling at the bottom of a beer mug. Whatever the trigger, on the 27th March 1809, John joined the British army at Manchester and joined the ranks of men in the 16th Light Dragoons, a cavalry regiment.

John was a grown man when he joined the army, but Thomas Cookson was a lad of about 18 when he joined the same regiment. As can be seen in Jane Austen’s books; soldiers at this time, with their their smart uniforms and air of adventure about them, had a great deal of sex appeal. Work was becoming a little thin on the ground for unskilled labourers, and food was in short supply too. Thomas, a poor labourer’s son from Frodsham, probably didn’t need much persuading to join the army.

Examination of injured soldiers - Thomas Cookson

We don’t know for certain how much they knew of each other, but we know that at the Battle of Waterloo itself Private John Pennington was in the Centre Squadron, F Troop under the command of Captain King, and Private Thomas Cookson was in the Left Squadron, A Troop, under Captain Tomkinson.

The gory details of the battle of Waterloo are easily available online for those who wish to be put off their dinner, so I won’t go into them here. For our story here, what is important is that our players came out the other side of it alive, and with all their appendages mostly intact.

Joseph Bennett was forcibly discharged in February 1819 when his regiment disbanded and no one else would take him as he was ‘lame’ on his left foot after it had been crushed. His next move appears to have been to come back to the area and take up as a boatman. We have a description of him: 5’5, with light brown hair, grey eyes, a round face, a ‘sallow’ complexion and a noticeable limp.

John Pennington stayed with the regiment for another 17 years after the battle, until he was forcibly discharged due to a rather unpleasant inguinal hernia. His movements are difficult to track but it seems he comes back and spends some time with his brother before vanishing off the radar.

Thomas Cookson was the first one to leave the army, and he too comes back to Cheshire a changed man. How he meets her we don’t yet know, but he meets Mary Millington, a canal labourer’s daughter in Moore. Mary is a woman with something of a past herself, with a teenaged son born out of wedlock, but they marry and move to Frodsham just in time for the birth of the first of their 2 sons.

Frodsham didn’t suit the family all that well and, perhaps thanks to a few words in the right place from his former comrade, Thomas gets a job at the wharf as a porter.

The wharf at Preston Brook was a busy, hard working place but, probably due to the large proportion of the workforce being firm Methodists, disabilities were worked around.

Thomas’s hearing grew progressively worse as the years went by until he was almost completely deaf, but he was a competent lip reader so the wharf just kept him where no one could sneak up on him. Even as a frail man of nearly 80 they found him light work to do, coiling ropes and sweeping floors. Interestingly, in 1871 he has Thomas Bennett and his family lodging in his house. It’s not for certain yet but it’s quite plausible that this is the nephew of Joseph Bennett.

With this small selection of veterans sat in such a busy corner of the waterways, it’s no stretch of the imagination to suggest that it was here our final character in the story emerges.

John Hopwood was baptised at about a week old in Wrenbury, appropriately enough on April 1st, and, like many boaters, he’s rather illusive as far as paperwork is concerned. Before 1857, the only probably glimpse we have of him is when he gets accused of stealing someone’s trousers in 1839.

Census - John Hopwood

We know that he was an intermittent boater working between London and Manchester on the fly boats, with regular stops off at Preston Brook. In 1857 he was a widower with a 5 year old daughter. Somehow, he catches the eye of a young lady nearly 20 years his junior and that’s when it seems that the stories start.

It probably started innocently enough by John telling his new sweetheart he had been a soldier, rather than a trouser thief, but in 1861 Hopwood was working for the Shropshire Union co on “General Havelock” and was insisting to everyone he was a decade older then he actually was so he could back up his claim that he wasn’t just a soldier, but he was also a Waterloo veteran.

newspaper cutting 1899

A decade later and he’s now on “Pacific”, and moored up at Grindley Brook. His daughter from his first marriage, Elizabeth, had married James Wildey the previous year (the Wildey family would later go on to be written about by ‘Questor’ for the Wolverhampton Express and Star) and it was around then that Hopwood started insisting that he had beaten Deaf Burke, the bare knuckle boxer, and that was how he’d got his broken nose.

In 1881 he’s master of “Dudley” and he’s now telling everyone he was born in Bengal and he’d also spent a few years travelling around with the circus before he came to the boats.

Something happens in the next few years that makes the Shropshire Union Co ask him to give their boat back, and by 1891 his youngest son is working in the Ifton colliery at St Martins to support him and his parents. This son, also called John, must have been having a hard time putting up with his father’s tall tales, not least of all with the none-existent army pension, and on one occasion went out, got blind drunk, refused to leave the pub and ended up being arrested and fined 10 shillings.

Unfortunately for Hopwood, his son died that year and left him with only his wife to support them by doing washing. She then died in 1895, and Hopwood took himself off to the workhouse and carried on embellishing his life story.

Hopwood died in 1900 having convinced everyone, including himself, that he was 101. There were doubters though, with one man noting that it was “people like (Hopwood) that convinced the world of the bargee’s habitual condition of lying”!

exploring the pocklington canal

a canal wanderer

exploring the pocklington canal

Pocklington Canal

Pocklington Canal – Multimedia: Exposure photography, collage and acrylic by Dawn S Art

A broad canal in the North Of England which connects Pocklington, a market town in East Yorkshire, to the River Derwent. The canal is currently being restored and so far, 7 miles, from the river to Bielby Arm. The canal is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest with its site, attracting biodiversity with its rare aquatic plants and a wide variety of dragonflies and damsels.

Pocklington Canal

Canal Head, near Pocklington in East Yorkshire

Last year, my Dad and I walked part of the canal, most of the stretch yet to be restored, from Pocklington Canal Head, outskirts of the town, to the Melbourne Arm. It is good to see some of the locks restored and see the remaining ones that are planned. It was a pleasant walk being surrounded by the Yorkshire Wolds countryside and seeing swans on the canal. We walked approximately 6 miles as we walked back from Melbourne Arm to the Canal Head.

Pocklington Canal

Pocklington Canal

Worth noting is the Bielby Arm, which is a nature reserve and worth checking out. We do plan to walk from Melbourne Arm to the River Derwent in due course. It isn’t a busy canal with regards to boaters and walkers so if you’re for quiet spaces and beautiful countryside, this is the canal.

Pocklington Canal

End of the Navigable part of the canal

We also enjoyed a drink in Melbourne at its village pub, The Melbourne Arms. Though more restaurant orientated, the pub is a pleasant place to go and just have a drink. A pleasant afternoon exploring this not as well explored canal.

Pocklington Canal

Pocklington Canal – Multimedia: Exposure photography, collage and acrylic by Dawn S Art

Pocklington Canal

Pocklington Canal

cooking on the cut – autumn 23

cooking on the cut

with Lisa Munday

autumn 2023

This Autumn is all about enjoying a late and welcomed Indian Summer, with warm watery sunshine days and so much beauty as the leaves start to turn and the air is filled with those earthy smells as the fields are ploughed. The dry conditions have been perfect for gathering the fruits and berries of the hedgerows. Jams and chutneys are a big thing for me at this time of year and this year I have made more chutneys than jams, along with pickles and compotes. The biggest tip I can give you if you intend making preserves and chutneys is to get ahead and save those jars throughout the year.

The hint of cinnamon and warm winter spices also comes into play at this time of year, along with a return of one pot meals, the harvest festival pumpkin and squash along with those sweet treats, parkin, pies and crumbles.

So, celebrating the bounty of Autumn before those October mists start to roll in and the days shorten, I can share a few of my favourite seasonal recipes.

Try pickling; more or less anything goes. My general rule for pickling is 3,2,1 which is three parts white or cider vinegar, 2 parts water, 1 part sugar. Gently boil the liquids and sugar, then pour over your ingredients before jarring. Typical ingredients for pickling are cucumber, radish, peppers, cabbage, onions, spring onions, carrots. Add herbs, mustard seeds or spices such as cumin or fennel seeds for flavour. Store in the fridge and use within a few weeks. These homemade pickles tossed through a salad make the humble lettuce leaf much more interesting, or are the perfect partner to cold meats, quiche and cheese.

When picking make sure they “pop” off the branch, avoid soggy fruit, the centre stem as you pluck the berry should be green and not grey or brown, leave the soft ones for the birds.

blackberries growing


A Sweet and fruity twist on the classic Yorkshire Pudding
60g unsalted butter
65g light soft brown sugar
1 egg
60g ground almonds
1 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp apple sauce, homemade if possible
250g mix of mostly blackberries, add strawberries, blueberries and raspberries if you have them
6 ready baked Yorkshire puddings
1 tsp caster sugar
6 tbsp crème fraiche
Icing sugar to finish
Preheat the oven to 180 fan. Cream together the butter and 60g of the brown sugar until pale and fluffy, whisk in the egg and beat in the almonds and flour until well combined. Stir in the apple sauce and 100g of the fruit. Put the Yorkshires on a baking tray and spoon in the filling, top with 50g of the remaining fruit and bake in the oven for 25 mins.
Meanwhile put the remaining fruits and the remaining brown sugar in a pan along with the caster sugar and 1 tbsp water. Place over a medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes to make a sauce.
Serve each pudding with a spoonful of crème fraiche and a drizzle of the sauce, finished with a dusting of icing sugar.

apple and blackberry Yorkshire puddings

Gather a few handfuls of rosehips and a handful of hawthorn berries and place in a pan, cover to 2cm above with water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, then allow to cool. Strain slowly and patiently through a muslin (or strong kitchen roll) carefully squeezing out excess juice. Add equal amounts of sugar to the liquid, i.e., 100ml liquid to 100g sugar or honey, and reheat slowly. Once the sugar has dissolved pour the syrup into a sterilised jar or bottle to store for up to four months.
Use served over porridge or yoghurt in a morning, as a cordial with cold water or hot toddy with cider. Can also be taken neat off a teaspoon for winter chills. Apparently, rosehips are a great source of anti-inflammatory vitamins which can help relieve the symptoms of arthritis!

rosehips growing

1 litre apple cider
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary
50ml rosehip syrup
A few hawthorn or rosehip berries to garnish
Pour the cider into a pan and add the bay and rosemary, heat for 10 mins until warmed through. Take the pan off the heat and add the rosehip syrup. Pour into heatproof glasses or mugs and drop a few berries in to serve.

This is quick and easy to make and once left to mature for a couple of weeks makes a perfect accompaniment to meats, cheeses, sandwiches etc.
300g blackberries
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 apple peeled, cored and finely chopped
Pinch ground cinnamon
¼ tsp chilli flakes
½ tsp dried ginger or finely grated fresh
½ orange zest
100g sugar
100ml red wine vinegar

Cook everything apart from the vinegar and sugar until softened for about 15-20 mins. Add the vinegar and sugar, allow the sugar to dissolve and then boil before lowering the heat to simmer for 20 minutes. You know the chutney has reached the consistency when you can drag a spoon across the base of the pan and it leaves a clean trail. Ladle into sterilised jars and leave a couple of week before using.

One of my favourites is “Cheesy Chutney Toast”
Gently toast the thick sliced bread and then spread a layer of chutney over one side. Mix grated cheese with a dash of Worcestershire sauce, ¼ tsp English mustard and a pinch of cayenne pepper, sprinkle over the chutney and grill for a few minutes until melted and oozy!

Homemade chutneys and jams will store for a year when unopened in a cool dark place. Once opened they should be kept in the fridge and used within a month.

Autumn also marks the start of cabbage season and I view this vegetable as a “superfood” providing many health benefits and versatility in the kitchen. From a vegetable alone to using in soups, stir fries, salads and casseroles, it’s always been a staple for me. Cooked in stock and finished with black pepper and butter makes it special, or sauteed in butter with a little lemon juice and fresh herbs, add a few chilli flakes for a kick or a dash of cider vinegar, garlic and smoked paprika give it a Spanish flavour, Indian spices and coconut milk or soy sauce, sesame and honey for an Asian twist.

One pot meals are always a favourite when cooking on board. I’m a big pastry lover, but if you want convenience then shop bought puff pastry makes a change. Use a flameproof casserole dish or a skillet for oven to table serving.

300g chicken, cut into small chunks
250g mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
The leaves from 3 thyme sprigs, or 1 tsp dried herbs
300ml chicken stock
100g crème fraiche
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
100g kale or the dark leaves of savoy cabbage
2 tsp cornflour
375g pack puff pastry
Egg to glaze

Use a shallow casserole bowl or deep skillet. Heat ½ tbsp oil over a gently heat and add the onion, cook for a few minutes until soft and add the thyme and garlic, then add the chicken and turn up the heat frying until golden and part cooked. Add the mushrooms and remaining oil. Add the stock, crème fraiche, mustard and greens and a generous amount of salt and fresh ground black pepper. Mix the cornflour with 1 tbsp of cold water and add to the pot, stirring well to thicken while over a low heat. Remove from the heat and cover with the rolled out puff pastry, pressing well round the sides to seal. Cut a slit in the centre to let the steam escape and then glaze with beaten egg. Bake for about 30 mins in a 180 fan, gas 6 oven. You’ll know it’s ready when the pastry is puffed up and golden brown.
A veggie version of the can easily be made by substituting the chicken for butternut squash or sweet potato.


Cabbage, white beans and fish also make a tasty one pot meal. Use a similar method to start off with onion, bacon, carrots, garlic and herbs. Add the shredded cabbage (savoy is best) and pour in about 4 tbsp white wine and ½ pint stock. Season well and simmer gently until almost cooked then stir in a tin of white beans such as flagelot or cannellini.
Dust the white fish of your choice with seasoned flour and pan fry, skin side down first for about 4 mins then flip over for a minute and place skin side up on top of the cabbage pot, lid on and finish on a very low simmer to steam the fish through until cooked.

cabbage greens and fish


5 rashers of British bacon, rind removed and roughly diced.
750g potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 -2 onions (depending on size) thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tsp mixed herbs
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
1 – 2 slices (depending on size) wholemeal bread made into breadcrumbs
Savoy cabbage, finely shredded and steamed or boiled to serve.

Preheat the oven to 180 fan. Gently fry the bacon in 2 tbsp olive oil until starts to crisp. Meanwhile bring the stock to the boil in a large pan and add the potatoes, onion and garlic, push down to submerge, lid on, simmer for 5 mins. Drain reserving the stock. Layer the potatoes and onion in a shallow casserole dish adding the bacon bits, 1 tsp of the herbs and fresh ground black pepper to each layer as you go. Pour over about 300ml of the reserved stock. Mix the breadcrumbs with the remaining herbs and 1 tbsp olive oil and scatter over the top. Cover loosely with foil and bake in the oven for 40 mins, removing the foil halfway through cooking to crisp up the topping.
Serve with the tender savoy cabbage.


Finally, most of us have a love of curries. We have done a bit of travelling in India over the years and the last trip was Kerala. We first got the idea of visiting this Southern part of India after visiting a wonderful Keralan restaurant when we were moored in Newark on the river Trent. Here’s a Keralan recipe which is more of a stew than a curry!

1 tbsp oil
Spice ingredients
2 star anise
2 cloves
2 bay leaf
1” piece of cinnamon stick
1” piece of fresh ginger
8 – 10 curry leaves (available in dried spices in the supermarkets)
2 small green chillies

Vegetable ingredients
2 shallots or 1 small onion
1/2 carrot
1/2 cauliflower
2 – 3 green beans
Small handful green peas
2 cans thick coconut milk
½ tsp fresh black pepper
Pinch salt to taste

Chop all the vegetables and blanch in boiling water. Keep in cold water until ready to add to the pan.
Heat the oil in a heavy pan and all the spice ingredients and onion until soft and golden, take care not to burn the spices. Drain the vegetables and add to the pan along with the salt and pepper. Add the coconut milk and mix everything together. Cover and cook on a very low simmer with the lid on, or in the oven for about ten minutes.

keralan vegetables

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my Autumn article, please feel free to email me if you have any questions or take a look at my “canal cuisine” page on Facebook. In the meantime we are working together to bring you more recipes through CanalsOnline Magazine.

return to the scene of the design

return to the scene of the design

architects review old proposals for canal improvements beneath the Westway Flyover

The smooth underbelly of the Westway Highway swings wide over the Grand Union Canal at Westbourne Park, creating a ceiling for the towpath and ½ a dozen canal boats moored below.

For architect Matt Hopkins, it's a sight to behold whenever he cruises into Paddington on his 70’narrowboat. But the breath-taking infrastructure has a troubled history; its construction in 1971 displaced over 3000 North Kensington families. Resulting controversy helped produce much more extensive neighbourhood engagement ahead of similar developments today.

In the half century since, the City of Westminster has responded to the Westway’s intrusion with a number of measures: A sports complex at Shepherd's Bush. Offices and shops at Portobello Road. But at Westbourne Park — where a football pitch length piece of land could support an all-weather market, musical performance, or whatever else the public wants — time stands still.

Why a place with such potential remains a destination for rough sleepers, scofflaw dog walkers, and occasional boaters refitting their interiors is a question I hoped to answer at a discussion Hopkins recently led featuring architects reviewing old proposals to re-imagine the space.

The discussion was part of a weekend program called "Building Dialogues" ̈the latest in a history of interventions for this persistently challenging spot. Besides an architectural discussion there was music, educational workshops and a visioning exercise for boaters and borough representatives. All to demonstrate the variety of programmes the space lends itself to, and which were last seen there during a month-long 2019 London Festival of Architecture installation.

I had been a participant in that, loaning my boat and its full length stage to the team who contributed the winning entry, the ̈Co-Mooring ̈, which for 30,000 pounds attempted to unite land and water, encouraging more and better interaction between boaters and visitors to the canal. Its lofty ideas collided with reality, however, when cyclists objected to its sinuous boardwalk and local hoodlums asked for money to not burn it down.

With more continuity, these might have been valuable learning experiences, except the final stakeholders ́ discussion atop Molly Anna was interrupted, and — with Covid around the corner — never resumed.

westway flyover

¨This place STILL needs love.¨ Architect Sophie Nguyen first drew attention to the canalside opportunities of the Westway with her 2017 LFA project.

Westway Flyover

A 2019 London Festival of Architecture competition produced the ¨ co-Mooring¨ to encourage more interaction with people on the canal.

Four years later we reviewed the list of 49 companies who had submitted proposals for the 2019 competition. Architectural firms KMBH, Sisters & Tiger, Merritt Houmoeller and Make:Good all had received £500 to further develop concepts to temporarily transform the space. Though none were ultimately selected, all wanted to publicly review their old plans and discuss what might still happen.

The architects sat on chairs sandwiched between a vendor selling samosa chaat and an upright piano wheeled in for the occasion. They joked about their professional lot...submissions for design competitions that never pay the bills...but to which they repeatedly succumb, stubbornly believing that the right mix of ingredients can turn urban blight into community gold.

Asia Grzybowska from Sisters and Tiger had driven the furthest, 5 hours from Cornwall, to discuss why no such alchemy had happened here. In a sterile space animated by graffiti but not a blade of grass she related the story of a garbage strewn median in Oakland, California, and how a surreptitiously installed ceramic Buddha had sparked a metamorphosis. People brought flowers. It became a shrine. Crime fell by 80%.

With sympathetic City of Westminster leaders showing renewed interest in canalside opportunities, could something similar happen here? Community-led, in lieu of major investment?

What user groups could be induced to adopt this space? What changes would inspire a similar transformation as Vietnamese pilgrims had brought to an unloved highway median in Oakland?

Ladbroke Grove’s musical community could play a role, suggested Ben Crockett and Jezmond Farran, musicians who waited to perform on the event ́s floating stage. Local legends Hawkwind, the first space rock band, had played there in the early 70s, demonstrating the enduring appeal of the place, the only covered — and therefore weatherproof — stretch of canal in London.

westway flyover

¨Building Dialogues¨ was funded by the Westway Trust to revive interest in the site.

westway flyover

Boaters, residents and representatives from the City of Westminster share their visions.

Fifty years later, what stymies a design that will transform this space? So that vendors can sell goods, boaters can responsibly dispose of rubbish, cyclists can fix their bikes and no one gets run over?

The chief impediment — the architects concluded — is the site's ́complicated ownership. Each team had had to speculate on what various entities would approve: the Highway Department which owns the overpass, the Canal and River Trust which owns the towpath, Great Western Studios which owns a sliver of land and the City of Westminster which owns the rest.

“The Borough,” Hopkins said on behalf of everyone, “is the only entity that will be here in 300 years. They need to convene the other stakeholders and see what modifications are allowable.”

  • Would the highway department allow public artwork and lighting on the underside of the Westway?
  • Would property owners allow a storage facility for items needed for pop-up events to encourage further use of the site? tables and chairs? bins and bin bags? work benches for boaters and cyclists to do repairs?
  • Would the bus facility allow lowering of the retaining wall and removal of barbed wire as elsewhere along the retaining wall? Opening up views and allowing light to penetrate?
  • Would CRT create a bookable mooring(s) for roving traders to sell items and act as caretakers? Could a uniform ground treatment be installed, to reduce conflict between users and allow for greater flexibility of use?

Hopkins cited the Royal Parks for demonstrating how a uniform surface and appropriate signage can induce cyclists to give way to crowds and during events.

With those questions answered architects could produce a final design to heal a historic wound and with it, perhaps, create a new paradigm for local government, CRT and private entities to collaboratively wring utility for canalside locations across London.

canals on the decline

dawncraft chronicles

canals on the decline

We live in a canal side cottage, or rather we did in 1805 when the Somerset Coal Canal was opened. The canal actually ran so close that they piled the earth up against the cottage, so the kitchen appears to be 3-foot underground. Indeed, the neighbours still have the bridge in the garden and the loading bay for the earth mill. An evening's walk to the pub in Combe Hay passes bridges well cut with gritty ropes, and deserted locks complete with gates that haven’t seen a barge since 1898. It was then that the canal was replaced by the Camerton Branch Railway – which ran almost through the bottom of the garden and was immortalised by the 1950s film the Titfield Thunderbolt (about a group of railway enthusiast who wanted to save their line).

This sort of leads us neatly into this article as I have just read Sou'wester, the Inland Waterways Magazine and this has got me thinking.

The work being carried out and dedication to the cause should be applauded and recognised: parts of the old Coal Canal in Timsbury and Paulton now have water in them for the first time in over 120 years. Add this to work on Wilts and Berks, various canals in Gloucester etc., and it could be true to say that there are as many canal projects on the go now as there were during the  canal mania (the period of intense canal building in England and Wales between the 1790s and 1810s). One cannot but think the future of our network is a foregone conclusion considering the benefits to wildlife and to humans with walking, cycling and water pursuits. Plus the re-instatement of a simpler slow pace of life.

However, my concern is history will repeat itself.

The Somerset Coal Canal is a good point: it was extremely profitable in its day, making money for the company and more importantly for its share holders,  by moving a commodity that was becoming essential for the industrial revolution - coal. The canal was shut down and business converted to rail, because you could move more coal quickly and easily and thus make even more money. Until, eventually, 50 years after it was built, that too closed down because they mined out. The Bath council made good use of the canal's bed by filling it with the town's rubbish- which promptly caught fire and burnt for years !!! but is still a good source of old railings, glass bottles - you name it (even most of the toilet block from the old Somerset and Dorset railway station)!

Combe Hay, Bath derelict lock

Dundas - Coal Canal near Bath

So here’s the rub in the same magazine DEFRA have cut the grant to CRT by £12.6m a year. to quote the magazine, that means that means:

  • Being unable to do winter maintenance on 586 miles of waterway.
  • Being unable to operate maintain and repair 156 miles of waterway.
  • 50 0/0 of the spend on reservoirs will be unfunded (one assumes these are to feed the canals with water?)

Add into this a recent BBC article on the Regent Canal boat dwellers, which I felt was skewed to highlight the fact that most residential canal boaters burn fossil fuel – the very thing the canals were built to transport - as well as running their diesel engines for hours in the winter to make and store a minimal amount of electricity compared to the energy used to make it – all rather bluntly pointed out in the article.

We are all struggling financially, none of us can really sustain an increase in licence fees, along with fuel costs etc. We have tightened our belts to the last hole and there’s worse: we have no time. Many of the people who are near retirement, or have already retired, are now raising grandchildren to keep their own children working to pay the endless bills. The skills required to maintain and restore a canal are dwindling, "retired stone masons , blacksmiths, brickies..." Soon the only skill any one can offer will be  "management or IT".

If we are going to save our way of life, we all need to start thinking up better arguments than environmental / green and social benefits and concentrate on the only thing government ministers ever understand. They are, I suppose, the equivalent of the old shareholders £ Sterling, and their 20% cut on any revenues raised. Today we have grown weary of the deadline headline. Ten years to save the planet, etc and gluing yourself to a canal could be problematic. However, I am concerned that history will repeat itself and the slow painful decline of our precious waterways will become evident by the end of my time.

should we stay or should we go?

should we stay or should we go...

Our travels this year so far have been anything but straightforward with the amount of different issues we've had with every canal we've been on.

We've had restrictions due to low water levels, broken locks and bridges on the Macclesfield, Trent and Mersey and the Peak Forest canals so far.

We're currently 'stuck' on the Peak Forest Canal because of a broken lift bridge, although we did have the opportunity to leave the canal on an assisted passage before CRT closed the bridge a few weeks ago.

We chose to make the decision to stay between Bugsworth Basin and the broken bridge (24) because there's just so much to do in the area and we love the town of New Mills.


map of the Peak Forest Canal

There are 2 train lines running through New Mills giving us access to Sheffield, Manchester, Buxton and the Peak District and as we're keen walkers, we're happy to be able to walk in so many beautiful places.

We've been to Edale, Hathersage and Grindleford to walk in the surrounding areas and visited the East Lancashire Railway via Manchester and Bury.

New Mills is a great little town with a real community and there are fabulous cafés and pubs everywhere.

New Mills


It seems perverse to choose to stay in one place whilst living on a narrow boat, but being able to fully immerse ourselves in the area feels very special and it really will be a struggle to leave when the bridge is finally mended....let's hope it's not too soon, we've still got walks to do!

NB Grace at Bugsworth Basin

Cracked Edge, with Karen and Rob

future cities of the world

future cities of the world

land, sea or space...

For years, man has looked to the stars to try and relocate the human race. The Moon and Mars have been spoken about as future destinations, but could we actually colonise another planet if the Earth becomes unsustainable due to the current climate changing?

The way that technology and engineering has advanced over the years, it’s something that we cannot dismiss for the distant future generations of the planet. But the distant future is just that, a distant future. What about the here and now?

Many engineering and architectural companies have been looking at ways to create a better environment for the people in today's climate. With the population of the World’s cities growing at an alarming rate, outdoor space and living accommodation is now seen as a premium, something that was brought to the forefront of the masses during the recent global Covid pandemic.

floating city in DubaiArchitects have been designing concepts to accommodate people in lesser spaces for years, especially in major cities where the populations are growing at a faster pace: more people means more demand for living quarters and the space to grow food to feed them all. Look at the population growth in places like Tokyo, Bombay, Beijing and New Delhi for example, and you will see the ever-growing problem.

Even in the UK, local councils are under tremendous strain from the government to build affordable houses for the ever-increasing population. The World Health Organisation have stated that the human race has escalated way beyond control and sustainability, stating that for the first 1800 years of human occupation, there was somewhere around 1 billion people on the planet. By 2084 it is estimated to grow to 9.84 billion. Do the maths, it's quite frightening to think how many people will eventually be on the Earth.

population density

the world

Tackling the situation is something that architects and engineers have been looking at for quite a while, and have gone through different stages, building high rise, low rise, underground, compact, concepts and now water, either on top or underneath the waves.

Regarding the water theory, there are specialist holiday companies that offer underwater rooms, where the guests can come face to face with the marine life.

Although these places are seen as luxury vacation accommodation, what about the day-to-day living? Could there be a demand for living on or under the water permanently?

Joint company venture between Luca Curd Architects and UK based Tim Fu Designs have designed an eco-friendly village that adapts to future living and climate demands. Called the Floating City, it is designed to support global climate change and the ever-increasing problem of finding space for people to inhabit.

floating city

floating city

The new city is made up of smooth white structures that are interconnected by a circular appeasing street grid, which gives it a modern feel.

The aesthetics of the village are enhanced with the greenery from the urban forest, bringing the white buildings to life by projecting the green against the white buildings.

The city is built over 25 acres of interconnected platforms and various neighbourhoods, providing accommodation for 50,000 people.

Each section will contain a mixture of high and low rise buildings, surrounded by a membrane of photovoltaic glass, which supplies the whole structure with an energy independent system.
One of the biggest phases, is the sub zero waste project which runs a 100% green system, including a water desalination renewable energy system, along with a farming and energy storage facility.

A spokesman for the architects said,  "The city allows its residents to get into a healthier lifestyle, working alongside natural elements".

smart forest in Mexico

New Administrative Centre in Egypt

The city is also being planned as a tourist attraction with areas set aside for hotels, fitness centres, shopping malls and leisure facilities, all accessed by sea or air. The structure is designed to support the global response to climate change, and could shape the way our future living accommodation will be.

The project will be presented for the first time during this year's International Architecture Exhibition, the Biennde Architettura.

Because of the need for future space and accommodation, engineering and technology will have to come up and develop future designs that fit the needs of the people and the planet. W>e at Bearingtech recognise the situations that will undoubtedly arise and have decided to take a look at the inventive cities, towns and villages that have changed the way people live.

From an early age, people have strived to live in bigger and better dwellings, starting from the earliest cavemen to the present day inhabitants, something that will continue all the time human beings inhabit the earth.

Some of the structures and layouts that we now live with, were at one point were seen as futuristic buildings. Developments like the Pyramids, Notre Dame, Empire State and the Taj Mahal have all withstood the test of time. Now new and exciting city projects are either under construction or at the drawing board stage, each offering a different style and design. Many are edging towards the green ecosystem, especially the Smart Forest in Mexico and the Chendgu City in China.

Like most countries, they will need to adapt to their surroundings and the people who inhabit the areas will need to be consulted as to which developments will be beneficial before building can be undertaken. It's not viable to build something that is not in the interest of its people; too many cities and towns have been built over the years without the people being consulted, and it's now time to start listening instead of placing all the emphasis on profit.

According to a recent survey and projection census, there are 10 principles that could develop and sustain future cities including….

Ecology: The city of the future will be developed around natural features, to protect the wildlife habitat and floral greenery; the city will be designed to be compact and dense to enhance the impact on the ecosystem and climate control.

Telosa, Future City, USA

Water: Will be seen as a vital commodity in the city of the future, especially rain storm- water, which will be collected and cleansed to improve the quality.

By using wetland restoration and sponge cities, that will revive and encourage wildlife habitats and protect against flooding and prevent sea levels from rising; wastewater will be treated for irrigation and human consumption.

Energy: According to data, the future city will be 100% renewable, producing enough power within or close to the buildings to be self sufficient, area buildings will share energy, generating as much energy as they consume.

Waste: General waste will become a resource to produce energy or alternative material`s, abandoned industrial sites and old landfill areas will gradually be converted for other purposes after soil remediation.

Food: In the coming decades, food production and sustainability will be the focus of development, concentrating on how food is produced will be vital if the climate change continues at the current rate, underground farming will become a necessity combating the weather conditions on the surface, packaging will also come under scrutiny, eventually outlawing the use of plastics, with the possibility of returning to paper carriers as an alternative.

Because the human population is set to rise to 9.8 billion by 2084, something has to be done; food sustainability will be a major issue, the more people on the planet, the more food and products will be needed to feed them.

Global standards will be established for organic farming and animal treatment, most produce will be grown and produced locally, cutting down the transportation costs.


The Amaravati Future City Complex, India

Mobility: Travelling in a futuristic city could become more affordable, safer and more convenient due to the level of automated technology and high speed rail services; hopefully there will be fewer vehicles using the roads giving way to more pedestrians if the infrastructure is correct.

The thought of electric cars sounds like a good idea to improve air quality and lower the emissions produced by fossil fuel vehicles, but, and it’s a big but, the infrastructure MUST be perfect before we all ditch our petrol and diesel cars. The charging facilities have to be more widespread, which will reduce the time in waiting whilst the vehicle is charging. At present it takes around 45 minutes per car to be fully charged. If you pull into a station and there is only one charging point, and you are fourth in line, you are going to be there for quite a while, which is impractical.

In some experiments, the electric car amassed more emissions than the conventional cars.

Another aspect of the electric car is what to do with the discarded batteries as they also give off emissions. On a fossil vehicle there is only one battery, on an electric version there are around twelve.

The biggest stumbling block, apart from the charging and battery problems, is the cost of an electric car. A small hatchback can set you back around £ 26,000, which is out of reach for the normal person on the street, so the costs have to be reduced dramatically to attract more buyers.

Countries like Japan have been experimenting with hydrogen in their vehicles for a few years now. This has been achieved by lining all the fuel tanks with a substance called Kevlar, which keeps the hydrogen from igniting if impacted in a collision.

Glasgow Council also tried and tested hydrogen, when they commissioned 12 waste collection lorries in and around the town centre, which seemed to be a success.

“The greatest threat to human existence is our own lack of ability to control our own growth” - WHO

Culture: As technology and engineering becomes more advanced, recreation, arts, computer entertainment, music and virtual reality will be shared globally, bringing densely diverse populated nations and people together, historical heritage will be preserved and celebrated throughout the world amongst all.

Standard of Living: Because the cities will become more populated, the design for accessibility and safety technology will be paramount as more people converge into urban areas. Hopefully residents will have more streamlined access to nature, services and automated technology.

The Line

The Maldives Floating City Complex

Building and Dwellings: The architectural advancements over the previous years has grown unbelievably, virtually everyday a new material is being used, replacing the more conventional bricks and mortar, take a look at the finished houses on the TV programme Grand Designs and you will see bigger, cleaner, diverse heating systems and glass boxes being built, so much so that the industrial commercial materials are now being used in residential construction, materials like steel is commonplace amongst house builders, albeit making the houses look like libraries, airport lounges or council offices is another matter.

The buildings in the city of the future will not only house residents, but they will pay for themselves by generating heat and storing it, for later use.

The designs will be more directed at pedestrians enjoying leisure time rather than vehicles, giving people more space to enjoy whilst walking.

There is also a delivery design system which is being tested in some buildings, where a drone delivery chute is placed on the top of the roof, with a direct link to the residents abode below, thus stopping deliveries being made at the base of the building, reducing carbon footing, which in todays online shopping trend, will mean less and less delivery vans on the road.

Economy: The economy of the futuristic city must work in tandem with policies that safeguard ecological sustainability; with people adapting to more flexible working hours as artificial intelligence and automation becomes more widespread, meaning more people working from home and the IT industry growing more than ever before.

Innovation Park, USA

Biodiver City, Malaysia

Another area where constructors are looking at, apart from on the water, is to look underneath it, which will ease the pressure on the land above.

There are proposals to build aquatic cities beneath the waves, that could accommodate people into the latter part of the 21st century, designs like the Water Discus Hotel which is a proposed underwater design based in Dubai, UAE. If completed, the structure will be the largest of its type in the world.

Polish company Deep Ocean Technology (DOT), alongside researchers from the Gdansk University, developed the concept of the design, although not a city as such, the experiment could lead to residential accommodation in the future.

In May 2012, Dubai`s world shipbuilding subsidiary, Drydocks World, signed an agreement with the designers to begin construction of the project, however, drawings and plans have been delayed after a major contractor withdrew from the project due to the resignation of their chairman.

DOT, have also started searching for other potential sites across the globe including Oman, Maldives, Australia, Poland, and the Caribbean.

The designs for the Water Discus Hotel consists of two disc shaped structures, one above the surface of the water, with the other underneath, both resemble saucers and are connected together with a large vertical shaft and stairway.

The upper disc will have a usable area of 1,500 square metres, including a multifunctional lobby, and 3 large swimming pools, of which one will be a seawater pool with glass tunnels.

The Water Discus Hotel, Dubai

Water Discus Hotel, Dubai - underwater suite

There are also spaces designated for restaurants, gardens, spa`s, and recreational areas.
The submerged disc, which will be underwater to the depth of 10 metre`s, will provide 21 rooms that can accommodate 2 people per room, and offer large windows that provide the guests with views of the underwater world, showing off the coral reef, sea creatures, flora, fauna and marine life that reside in the Persian Gulf.
Each room will be fitted with special lighting for macro photography and an external robot allowing people to interact with the marine life.
Hopefully several individual discs will be added to the original two, to develop an under/ over water hotel complex that will attract people by the millions.

“ Life Beyond the Stars- Science Fiction or soon to be Science Fact?”

Looking beyond our own planet, there are plans for the first astral hotel planned to open its doors to the rich and famous guests for the first time in 2027, named the Voyager Class Space Station, it will accommodate up to 400 paying guests, and will offer all the usual facilities that you would expect from a top class cruise ship, including restaurants, bars, cinemas, gyms, spa`s, libraries as well as live concert venues.
Guests will travel to the luxurious experience on board a rocket transportation system that is operated by the Space X company.
Similar journeys have and are regularly undertaken to and from the International Space Station,
supplying astronauts and supplies to the complex.
To stay at the hotel, paying guests will have to endure a 15-week training programme, and then succumb to 10 days of space conditions, before embarking on their adventure.
Whilst many of the stations 24 modules will be available to the public, others will be leased or sold to private investors or governments, a portion of the stations facilities will be set aside for staff, air, water and power sources.

Voyager Class Space Station

Future Mars settlement?

Further afield, there are talks continuing about the relocation to Mars, which seems far fetched, but the plans are at an advanced stage with designs and drawings already being submitted by various contractors, one of which are the International Architecture Studio, who have released the first images of how the first city structure and human population will look on the red planet, the project is scheduled for construction in 2054.

The plans for Mars being discussed, include the accommodation for 250,000 inhabitants residing there, with designs to cover all aspects of modern living, including purpose built sports and leisure facilities alongside spectacular green domes that will act as parks for residents and will double up as places to grow experimental vegetation, with most of the food coming from the cultivation of crops that will make up the dietary needs.

With sustainability at the heart of the city, the plans show that the buildings will be vertically built instead of horizontally, limiting the effect of atmospheric pressure and radiation, the latter being deadly without the proper shelter.

Considering the hostile reputation that Mars has through Hollywood, this is certainly a different view of what could be an incredible adventure.

Whether this will be achieved in our lifetimes is another matter, but considering how engineering and technology have evolved on Earth, only a fool would have the courage to dismiss it.


man walking on the moon

Some of these cities sound like the perfect place to reside; the outer space destinations are an unknown quantity yet to be discovered.

If everyone is working less hours, walking more, using less energy with everything hunky dory, one thought that keeps coming to mind, with all these energy saving and less laboured devices being used due to the rise of artificial intelligence development, where does that leave the ordinary man on the street?

It's okay to have an ecosystem, where all the resources are taken care of, but how do we pay for them, if people are working less hours, or if at all, the better the technology the less there is to do for people to carry out menial tasks.

These cities are incredible visions of what life could be like, but unfortunately everything comes at a cost these days, are they going to be designed for everyone or just the people who can afford them?

Once you lose sight of the ordinary person in the street, you have a problem, no matter what city or metropolis you live in, there will always be a need for someone to carry out the manual tasks that run a city or town, whether you are on the Earth, the Moon or Mars if artificial intelligence removes all the manual labour tasks from the system, how do the people pay for their upkeep and run their households, because looking at the stars and dreaming will not cut it!

Be careful what you wish for!

washing day

the boating bard

washing day

I've been feeling wishy washy
On this narrow boat of mine
I'm an uneasy Widow Twanky
Cast in a personal pantomime

I have urgent laundry needs
The basket is very full,
But the weather's not looking too favourable
The skies are grey and dull

You can almost guarantee it
As the machine begins to drain
There'll be a few preliminary spots
Followed closely by biblical rain

washing hanging up to dry

There are hazards of drying inside
There'll be moisture in the air
But I need to get my washing on
Because I'm short of underwear

There'll be a lot of condensation
On windows, blinds and bungs
Misting up my plastic cratch covers
And settling on my lungs

With dripping knickers and socks
and damp clothing in my face
Every available surface gets used
But there's really not the space

I've a couple of collapsible airers
And folding spider creations
And radiators that I won't turn on
Not keen on steamy inhalations

Towels are a drying nightmare
They don't vaporise as they should
In Winter I put them by the fire
But then they stink of coal and wood

Drying bedding is most unwieldy
Ghostly sheets hang upon the doors
Pillow cases drape like wet bunting
And I can't cope with all the vapours

I could book for a service wash
If I can find a launderette
But I don't air my washing in public
Preferring my soils to stay private

rags to rich things

rags to rich things

Part of the joy of owning a canal boat is having a floating second home. It is here that you can really go to town with decor.

This is the space to get in touch with your inner eccentric.

A canal boat can be as unique as you are.

Bright colours, everything painted, not so much retro as nineteenth century, capturing the essence of the original boat traders.

Crafts are back as YouTube means that skills are easy to learn and the growth of knit and natter style crafting groups makes it easy to pick more experienced brains (and hands) for tips and advice.

Rag work is great. Charity shops are overflowing with fabric. Coffee shops sell (or even give away) hessian sacks. Rag rugs are easy to make, machine washable, apt for a canal boat and add that little touch of you, your own work, your own style, to your floating home.

With a little forethought you can co-ordinate fabric in patchwork and rugs. Scatter cushions are a good project as they are small enough to complete in a month of evenings.

Beginning a large project like a quilt is best left until you really do have the time to get to the end.

Rugs grow quickly and can be made in an hour here and an hour there.

Bunting is very in at the moment. It’s easy to make and adds a great touch to your boat. Just make a triangle pattern from any old paper. A4 is an ideal size to cut down. An afternoon with a sewing machine is ample to make enough bunting for a boat. After all, the whole point of messing about on a canal is to have fun. Bunting says party. This is what you chose your boat for isn’t it?

If you are interested in making your own rag rugs you may like to check out my YouTube video by clicking on the link below.

The disadvantage is that your friends will soon be asking you to make a rug for them too.

Rag work can also be addictive. You’ll soon find yourself trawling charity shops for interesting fabric. It’s great fun.

grounding advice from rcr

grounding advice from rcr

River Canal Rescue says a recent callout on the river Severn, where a vessel became grounded upstream after taking the wrong turn at a junction, underlines the importance of knowing what to do if a boat becomes stuck. And with low water levels, sand bank and silt build-ups, debris and weed-filled waterways increasing the risk of grounding, RCR managing director, Stephanie Horton, offers the following advice:

Grounding can occur anywhere if you stray from the middle of the water course, cut a corner to take the shortest route or fail to check water levels before setting off. It’s therefore really important to find out, where possible, the protocols and what’s happening in the area you plan to navigate. Situations will develop all the time, so be aware of the risks around you and be cautious while cruising.

If you run aground, put on a life jacket and put your boat in reverse to see if you can move away from the obstruction. If this doesn’t work, walk around the vessel testing the surrounding water depth with a boat pole. This will pinpoint where the water’s shallower and where the problem is. On rivers you can usually see it - rocks or gravel for example - as the water’s clearer.

narrowboat grounded

If the front of the boat’s grounded, move some of the ballast that may be holding it down. The water tank is always at the front of a narrowboat so turn on the taps to empty it and move heavy items such as gas bottles, the anchor and any chains to the rear – this will give the boat more buoyancy at the front and potentially lift it a vital few inches which may be all it needs to clear itself. Half a ton of water can create a six inch difference. If it does clear, put the boat in reverse.

If the boat’s grounded on one side, it’s a similar scenario; move anything that’s weighing it down in this area to the opposite side. Do this in cautious stages - if you over-balance, the vessel will list and it could end up taking on water.

If there are people onboard, position yourself at the helm and ask the remainder to rock the boat gently; the momentum may move it. If the rear of the boat’s aground and the propeller’s lifted (which is a rare scenario), you’ll probably need a tow.

While it’s tempting to ask a passing boater for a tow, this should only be undertaken by an experienced boater. We’ve had cases where the person towing the vessel has got into trouble and we’ve ended up rescuing two boats. Also, anyone on a hire boat will invalidate their insurance if they try to tow you, so it’s better not to put them in that position in the first place.

If you‘re able to free your vessel, check it thoroughly at the first possible opportunity – particularly the hull – as this could have been damaged.

During the peak season, RCR regularly gives phone assistance to people who have become stuck, and although many callers are then able to move their boats, around 40% require support from a rescue team.