river avon stranded boats update

river avon boats recovered by river canal rescue

Following the failure of the Twerton sluice gates on the river Avon on Tuesday evening (15 Sept), River Canal Rescue has performed a logistical miracle, pulling teams and equipment together, at short notice, to recover 47 boats.

Managing director, Stephanie Horton, reports three boats, moored near steep banks between two weirs, have sunk and six are at risk of sinking. The remainder are stranded due to parts of the river completely drying up.

“One of our members alerted us to the situation midday Wednesday, and then the CRT took control and asked us to manage the recovery process.

Given the number of craft at risk, we pulled in engineers from around the country, re-juggled their priorities and started amassing extra equipment and getting everything in one place,” explains Stephanie.

sunken boat on river avon recovered by RCRDespite supply issues created by the Covid climate, RCR met its deadline of Thursday to source and have all equipment on site and prepared for recoveries from 6am Friday.

Additional items, to find in less than 12 hours, included: 20 bilge pumps and batteries, six Tirfor lifting and pulling machines, 100 metres of rope and 60 metres of hose.

river avon sunken boats update

RCR’s senior management team was also onsite on Thursday to assess the situation, undertake risk assessments, bring all stakeholders together and outline their next steps.

Engineers and office staff arrived at 6am Friday and by 8.30am the first sunken boat was raised.

Number two followed by 10.30 and the third, it is hoped will be raised in the afternoon.

Stephanie continues: Vessels in a perilous position are our next priority and we are confident that by Sunday, every grounded boat will be up and floating again.

The Environment Agency has agreed to cover the costs incurred by those affected by the incident.

technology breakthrough

technology breakthrough

With the world in a very precarious state at the moment due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, it is reassuring to find that apart from the medical experiments and research tests that are being conducted 24 hours a day throughout the world, that another form of vaccine / protection is being developed and is proving to be a considerable success.

Danish company UVD Robots from Odense have created a robot that can destroy microbe viruses by using an ultraviolet light. Vice president of the company Simon Ellison explained whilst demonstrating through a glass window of how the process works. “We have been growing our business at quite a huge pace, but the Covid 19 outbreak has accelerated the demand for the new robots”

Chief executive Per Juul Nielson added “ truckload`s of machines have been sent to

China especially to Wuhan where the outbreak first took place, sales in Asia and across Europe have increased dramatically since the virus spread across continents”

Mr Nielson stated that Italy on reflection had taken the main brunt of the disease along with Spain and the UK and at the moment and are in a desperate situation with the fatality rate rising on a daily basis.

Like every other country across the globe, everybody wants to try and help to curb the virus from getting worse than it already is.

UVD robots on the frontline

UVD robots on the frontline

Launched back in 2019 after an extensive 6 year trial experimental period between parent companies Blue Ocean Robotics and Odense University, the robots which cost £ 53,370 each, were designed to reduce the likelihood of hospital acquired infections which have surfaced over the past years and can be costly to treat due to the amount of care involved.

Because of the increase and fast spread of the virus throughout the world, production has significantly risen, and now takes less than one day to construct a machine.

Ultraviolet Light

So how does the robot work? Eight bulbs emit concentrated UC-C ultraviolet light that destroys bacteria, viruses and other harmful microbes by damaging its DNA or RNA, stopping it from multiplying further.

At the moment the process is damaging to humans, hence the demonstration behind a closed partition, but it is something that the companies are working on.

The process itself takes between 10-20 minutes per room, once finished there is a noticeable burning smell, something that can only be described like singed hair.

To be effective the UV needs to fall directly onto a surface, if light waves are blocked by dust or obstructions such as shadows or shaded areas, then the areas will not be treated, therefore manual cleaning is needed prior to the UV light being used.

The use of UV light is not new to the scientific field having been used for decades in air and water purification and also in various labs around the world, but by combining them with the autonomous robots they become a different thing altogether.

Professor Hans Jorn Kolmes of the University of Southern Denamrk quoted “if you apply a proper amount of ultraviolet light for an allocated period of time, you can be pretty sure that you will get rid of the organism, the type that have problematic strains that give rise to infections”.

This type of disinfection can also be applied to epidemic situations, like the current Coronavirus / Covid 19 example that we are dealing with right now.

blue ocean robots at work

blue ocean robots at work

Although there is no significant proof that the robotic light can be effective against Covid 19, the experiments show that it is successful in killing other similar viruses such as Mers and Sars which have been killed by the use of the ultraviolet light.

Associate professor Dr Lena Ciric who is an expert on molecular biology at the University College London agrees that UV disinfection robots can help fight against the disease, she added “the robots are not silver bullets, but they do provide an extra line of defence alongside any medical or chemical breakthroughs”

Because we are experiencing more and more patients being admitted to our hospitals around the world, its more important than ever to be on top of the cleaning and decontamination routines, these robots definitely work in that area.

American company Xenex have also developed a robot called “Light Strike” which has to be manually put in place, but delivers high intensity UV light rays from a U shaped bulb

The firm has seen a huge rise in orders since the onset of the virus mainly from Italy, Japan, Thailand and South Korea.

Xenex said that numerous studies show that the Light Strike is effective at reducing hospital infections and combating relevant super bugs. One Texan hospital used it in their clean up operation after an Ebola case back in 2014.

Due to the Light Strikes success, more than 500 health clinics and hospitals throughout the US and beyond have installed one into their facilities.

In California and Nebraska it is already being put to good use by sanitising hospital rooms where coronavirus patients have been receiving treatment.

Technical Swerve

China has seen an incredible swerve towards new technology to help fight the disease, with the nation having the highest spend on drones and robotic systems.

Both Japan and China have been seen for years as the forerunners where technology is concerned, one thing is for sure, they will not stop until they find the solution.

xenex light strike model

Xenex light strike model

Robots have been used in a vast range of tasks for years, mainly for disinfection, deliveries, medical devices, waste control and temperature checking, so this is not new technology as such, but a merging of mechanical and medical minds.

Research Manager Leon Xian of IDC China said “We think this is a breakthrough for the greater use of robotics, both for hospitals and in public places”

Although the robots are efficient, humans have a natural sense of caution when it comes to change of their normal routines, ultimately time will tell and now is certainly the time to do so.

Because the virus originated in China, home grown scientists and technicians have been spurred on to create and develop a type of anti-body / vaccine whether it be mechanical or medical.

One such company YouiBot of Shenzhen were already developing autonomous robots, by adapting its technology to make a disinfection device which can be moved by using wheels and castors automatically, placing them in places without the use of any manual labour.

A YouiBot spokesman said “We have been trying to do something to help, for us technically it is not as difficult as people imagine, it is just finding the right formula, like building Lego”.

We have already supplied factories, offices, airports and hospitals in Wuhan.

The machines are running for 24 hours a day, checking body temperature during the day and are killing virus spores at night.

Due to the devastating affect the Coronavirus has had on manufacturers, plants, and engineering  facilities, there has been a major problem getting parts and accessories to keep production and assembly lines moving, when a vital component is missing it slows down the production and hampers development.

Companies such as Bearingtech can help to solve these problems by supplying such parts and accessories to all major and minor establishments to help keep production moving in the right direction, which helps to keep the assembly lines and food production conveyor belts rolling.

Unfortunately most epidemics do not bring good news, when one does appear, companies including research labs, chemical companies, technical plants and inventive institutions step forward and try to solve the problems that they bring, the robotic side of technology has and will help in this situation.

YouiBot robots checking temperatures in public places daily

YouiBot robots checking temperatures in public places daily

We are at present in the midst of the worst peacetime catastrophe since World War 2, when faced with problems or conflicts the human spirit and nature is to survive and to protect what we hold dear to us, whether the threat comes from an epidemic or military force, one thing is certain we must and will stand together and share our information for the good of all others, be sensible and think before we act no matter what this disease throws at us.

There is no doubt that this virus has got far worse than anyone expected, but be assured the people of the world will not rest on their laurels and wait, we will do whatever it takes to combat and defeat this threat to mankind.

Former president of the USA Ronald Reagan once said “If World War 3 is declared then no one will turn up due to the technical advancements that we have made”

This might not be a war in the conventional mould, but everyone on the planet will turn up, take part and defeat it!

waterwatch rnli local ambassadors

waterwatch rnli local ambassadors

Amidst all the doom and gloom about Covid 19 it’s a really nice change to have something positive to announce!

merchant navy association boat clubOver the past year or so The Merchant Navy Association (MNA) and their Boat Club  have agreed an operational partnership with the RNLI whereby MNA Boat Club members have been encouraged to join forces with the  RNLI  to promote the RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign to reduce the almost 200  fatalities as a result of drowning in and around the UK every year; 70% of those drownings occur on inland waterways where the RNLI has no lifeboat stations and hence no Water Safety officer or Advisers either so the MNA Boat Club have taken the initiative in the form of launching  their new “MNA WaterWatch” scheme

MNA WaterWatch, along with the recent introduction by the RNLI of their micro-volunteering “Local Ambassadors” scheme means that all members of the MNA and  MNA  Boat Club  now have the opportunity to become Local Ambassadors for the RNLI to actively promote the Respect the Water Campaign.

Initially the RNLI Local Ambassadors initiative is focusing on promoting safety on and around the UK’s beaches where as a result of Covid 19  many of these  beaches have become crowded to a far greater extent  than is usual even at this time of year with the result that  the RNLI's Lifeguards, and the Coastguard Rescue Service’s  resources are being hugely stretched.

RNLI logoHowever the RNLI are well aware that many of the MNA’s  members live inland and are quite often situated close to our rivers, canals, lakes or the Broads and the Fens and are ideally located to act as Local Ambassadors in those areas,  so the MNA Boat Club is working with the RNLI to develop a Local Ambassadors focus aimed specifically at promoting safety on and around our inland waters.

In the meantime the MNA Boat Club is already working with various organisations to promote the Respect the Water campaign on the coast and inland waterways of  East Anglia and the new RNLI Local Ambassadors scheme, with its very simple and straightforward on-line registration process provides the ideal  vehicle for delivering water  safety messages both for those taking a holiday either at the coast or afloat on,  or  near to, our many inland waterways such as the Broads and the Fens.

Further information is available on the MNA Boat Club website at www.seafarersafloat.com and on the RNLI website at www.rnli.org.uk or by email from Clive Edwards at Commodore@seafarersafloat.com

so you want to live on a narrowboat?

so you want to live on a narrowboat?

There's been a surge of interest lately in 'living small'. Tiny homes, RVs, repurposed shipping containers, all have seen innovations recently to become more liveable and practical. And it's trendy so what's not to like? Living on a boat, particularly a narrowboat, is very much in this category. However, it comes with some added issues.

working boat and butty

First, a little history; narrowboats began as working boats, delivering the goods and supplies that fuelled the Industrial Revolution in Britain in the 18th century. A single horse-drawn narrowboat could supply as much as 50 times the tonnage that a horse and cart could deliver, albeit at about the same speed.

In the early 1800s boat operators began to bring their families aboard, partly to save on rent at home and partly as 'free' crew to help with the work. Of course, living space on the boat was at the expense of profitable cargo space so the 'boatman's cabin' was tiny. Usually about eight feet long and often housing a family of five or more, it was a model of compact efficiency.

Eventually railways took over the majority of the cargo-carrying business throughout Britain. By the early 20th century commercial use of narrowboats was rapidly fading out although some small vestiges (including a few horse-drawn ones) continued into the 1960s.

As the canals themselves fell into disuse, many intrepid volunteers began to resurrect the waterways and the boats for recreational use. The 'modern' narrowboat is typically 50-70 feet long, built of steel, and has a diesel engine. Although it’s now almost all cabin (little or no deck space for cargo) it's still less than seven feet wide (hence; narrowboat) in order to utilise many of the narrow locks.

Most have also retained some of the historical compact efficiency. They have all of the usual modern amenities; central heat, refrigerator, shower, etc. However, there is a big 'but'. Even though the modern narrowboat has many 21st century conveniences, they often come with significant differences from shore-based homes. I'll go through some of them one at a time, although they are often inter-related…


Since my boat has a reasonably powerful diesel engine, raw power isn't usually a problem. There are two alternators to charge a bank of four high-capacity batteries for running all the electrical (and electronic) devices on board.

boat electrical inverterAs with many things however, it's not always that simple. Lead-acid batteries (the usual car type) are quite finicky with their charging regime. They like to be kept charged up, and will break down and may fail if they're run down past about 50% of their capacity. So it's vital that close attention is paid to them. I've recently installed solar panels, which has helped immensely over the summer (not so much in the autumn and winter). They supply enough wattage that I don't have to start the engine for days on end if I'm not travelling.

Most of my equipment on board runs on 12 volts so I don't need to run the inverter to convert to 240v AC, except to charge my laptop (I'll be investing in a 12v charger this year). The inverter itself takes significant power so it reduces the efficiency of the system. I try to only run it when the engine is running (to charge my 'Hoover' for instance).


filling with water on a narrowboatMy boat, like most narrowboats, has a large-capacity water tank. I can go many days or even weeks without needing to refill it, and there are numerous water points around the system so obtaining water isn't a big problem. But again, careful watch must be kept. I've only run out once, and it's a pain. In a house the supply of water is generally seen as an endless thing, not to be worried about (except in an ecological, save-the-planet sort of way). I've grown very accustomed to only running taps, including the shower, as needed. Wet down, turn tap off, shampoo and wash, turn tap on to rinse. This actually goes double for hot water. The only ways to get hot water are by running the engine (cooling water is cycled through a 'calorifier' or hot-water tank) or the central heating system that runs radiators throughout the boat and also cycles through the tank. It's well insulated so I have at least 24 hours of hot water after only a short engine run but it's definitely something that has to be thought about daily.


Now we've come to perhaps the biggest issue on narrowboats. Get two boaters together for more than 5 minutes and they'll be debating the issue of toilets. Mine is a pump-out type, with a large holding tank, but there are several others, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. I won't get into that here, google it to learn more than you would ever want to know about them and what can cause an argument on a narrowboat online forum.

I have found that I can go several weeks without needing to pump out, and almost every marina has a facility so that hasn't been a problem. I'm quite stingy with how much water I use to flush, as I am with water use in general. Again, it must be thought about and monitored, much different from living ashore.


Lots of people, on shore, tend to do a reasonably large shop for groceries every week or two. They have a freezer for much of it, a large refrigerator, and lots of cupboard space. On a narrowboat this isn't often the case. I have a small bar fridge, with a tiny freezer section, so I really do have to be careful how much I buy at one time. Even space to store dry goods is at a premium. To complicate matters, access to a grocery store is a bit hit-and-miss. Often a selected cruising route doesn't go near a town or village for many miles (which translates to many days at 3 miles per hour). Careful planning is necessary; I've learned to keep certain things handy in case the fresh food runs out, like pasta and jars of sauce, beans, soups, etc. And, really, there are always pubs.


This really comes under the title of Power. The diesel engine supplies not only propulsion, but also hot water and electrical power. Even the central heating radiators are diesel fired. In a house, these things are just sort of 'there'. Petrol (gas in North America) stations are everywhere for the car, hot water just comes out of the tap, and stuff works when you plug it in. So keeping an eye on the fuel level is important. Having said that, I fill with fuel nearly every time I pump out the holding tank (usually a marina will have both together) so it's not a big problem, just another thing to think about.


This isn't really a make-or-break subject, but it is certainly much different than in most homes on land. Very few narrowboats have a washing machine on board (although more and more are installing them), and even fewer have a dryer. The power and water needs make this simply impractical. They also take up considerable valuable space on board. I have found that simply having many more pairs of socks, underwear, and t-shirts helps to solve this. The number of 'launderettes' in Britain is declining like everywhere else so some planning is involved. If I'm going near a village or town, the first thing I check for is a pub, the second is a grocery store, and the third is a launderette. Finding one has become a reason to celebrate and often I'll stay an extra day to clear up the backlog of clothes, linens, and towels that need washing. I do have a clothes drying rack and will wash things in the sink if necessary but that hasn't been much help in summers like 2019 where it seemingly rained every day after June!

Life in general

I've had several wonderful friends visit aboard during the summer of 2018, and I start each one with some instructions. Right after the locations of fire extinguishers and PFDs, first is that "There are no secrets on a narrowboat". We will all know when you go to the bathroom, whether you snore, what you like to eat and drink, and many more intimate details. But that's also part of the fun! Acquaintances become friends, and friends become family. All it takes is a good attitude.

frying pan on stoveWithin the limits of reality life can be very relaxed and carefree on the 'cut'. Where you take the boat is completely up to you (and your guests) as long as you stick to the parts with water. I have made some side trips on land as well, and with the great public transportation system in the UK, almost all of the country is within a few hours of a canal. There is a lot to see and do.

As for meals, the pub culture is alive and well so it's not always necessary to cook for oneself. However, I have found that when sitting out a rainstorm, cooking dinner is a great way to pass an afternoon. Who knew? With a bit of planning I've found that I can produce a pretty good meal, if I do say so myself. Most often in a frying pan, but I'll move on to the oven some day. I've recently discovered that I have one of those…

walking the chesterfield canal

a canal wanderer

walking the chesterfield canal

Please note the walks were done before National Lockdown on 23rd March 2020.

My Dad and I walked the Chesterfield canal over a six month period in five stages.

West Stockwith to Clarborough – 7th September 2019

Drakeholes Tunnel, Chesterfield Canal

On our maiden walk, we walked from West Stockwith, where the canal meets the River Trent, to Clarborough, a village near Retford.

We began our quest with a coffee at the Waterfront Inn then had a look at the marina and joined The Cuckoo Way to Clarborough.

It’s a beautiful stretch of the canal with the surrounding countryside and remnants of past industrial activity such as the brickworks near Gringley On the Hill.

Thirteen miles later we reached Clarborough and stopped for a drink at The Kings Arm before returning home.


Clarborough to Worksop – 9th November 2019

On the Chesterfield Canal

We drove to Retford and caught a bus to Clarborough…our plan was to walk from there to Worksop because catching a bus (as we thought at the time) back to Retford would be easier.  It wasn’t a long walk to the outskirts of Retford.  I bought a takeaway coffee and used the facilities at the canal side Bay Tree Café Bar and enjoyed the market town’s ambience.  We did notice a considerable amount of flooding around the River Idle.

After admiring the autumn colours around the town’s cemetery, we approached and ascended up the Forest Locks.

Forest Middle Top Lock, Chesterfield Canal

We stopped at the Forest Middle Top Lock for lunch.  We were hoping to stop for a drink at Ranby but it was a long walk to the pub (the canal bridge where we needed to get off was a bit of a walking distance). Instead we soldiered on passing Obserton Hall and reached the outskirts of Worksop as it was getting dark.  After 12 miles or so of walking, we had a well earned drink at The Liquorice Gardens before supposedly catching our bus back to Retford.

We learnt that due to the heavy localised flooding, our bus was cancelled! Instead we had to catch a train and it was a bit of walk up a hill to the town’s station (it was tough going after already walking so many miles).  We had to wait a bit for the train but we eventually made it to Retford for our return home.

Worksop to Norwood Tunnel (East Portal) – 23rd December 2019

On the Chesterfield Canal

We continued our adventures on the Chesterfield Canal by parking the car in Sheffield and catching the train to Worksop.  We had a quick coffee stop at the station’s café before descending down the hill towards the canal.

We picked up where we left off on our previous walk and walked via Shireoaks to the tunnel.  I remember the walk for its many locks set in stunning scenery with the canal travelling through incredible woodlands and reflecting the engineering ingenuity as far as the locks were concerned.

We meant to have stopped for a drink at the Station Pub at Kiveton Park but the pub didn’t open until 4.00pm and we couldn’t hang around till then.

We walked the remaining stretch to the tunnel entrance and continued attempting to walk overland to the other portal but couldn’t find The Cuckoo Way signs so we diverted ourselves through a country park and numerous muddy fields towards Killamarsh.

We eventually went under the motorway (M1) and walked into Woodall village and on its main road we spotted a bus stop and the bus we needed to get back to Sheffield stopped there!  With half an hour to spare we had a drink at The Travellers Rest.  A hot chocolate with cognac was well received after another tough walk especially the latter stages!  Bus bound and on our arrival at Sheffield we went home.

Chesterfield to Renishaw – 11th January 2020

Chesterfield Canal near Staveley

This was one of our first walks in the new year.  We parked the car in Chesterfield where we had breakfast and also had a little look round the town centre including its market square and of course St Mary’s and All Saints Church (which is infamous for its crooked spire).  A short walk out of town, we picked up The Cuckoo Way and crossed one of the main roads where we walked along the River Rother until reaching the canal.  It was a short walk to Tapton Lock Visitors Centre where we had a coffee and I bought some canal souvenirs including the official canal guide.

The Transpennine trail shares the same path as The Cuckoo Way.  After a few more locks we reached Hollingwood Hub where we visited the café and facilities and enjoyed coffee again with cake in its outside seating area.  There was a consultation event happening at the same time so we found out more about the canal’s restoration proposals.  Their aim is to have the canal completely restored in 2027 and I feel it’s doable as there are only a few miles now that are still yet to be restored. Afterwards, we had a look at the Staveley’s Basin where they usually have annual canal events (though the events in 2020 have sadly been cancelled due to COVID-19 though they will be reinstated in 2021 all being well).

We saw the recently restored town lock and continued our way.  The Cuckoo Way appeared to have been blocked so we pick up the Transpennine Trail to finish the remainder of our walk.  We finished our walk in Renishaw and after some confusion where we should be catching our bus back to Chesterfield; we eventually caught the bus for our drive home.

Renishaw to Norwood Tunnel (West Portal) – 7th March 2020

Disused Norwood Tunnel, Chesterfield Canal

There was one jigsaw puzzle missing for our completion of our Chesterfield Canal adventures and this was to reach Norwood Tunnel (West Portal).  We parked our car in Sheffield and got the bus to Renishaw.  On arrival we had a lovely breakfast at The Sitwell Arms and afterwards picked up The Cuckoo Way for our walk towards Killamarsh.

We briefly joined the Transpennine Trail and enjoyed a stop at its “town station” (the trail is on a disused railway and there used to be a station).  We got slightly lost in Killamarsh and ended up wandering in Rother Valley Country Park.  With the help of Google Maps we eventually rejoined the Cuckoo Way for our ascent up to Norwood Tunnel (West Portal).  We then retraced our steps back to Killamarsh and caught our bus back to Sheffield where we picked up a take away coffee for our journey home.

Final thoughts

Tapton Lock Visitors' Centre

We thoroughly enjoyed our adventures on the Chesterfield Canal.

The canal offers some of the most incredible and rustic scenery I’ve ever seen on a waterway and its set beautifully in its rural settings.

However logical planning needs to be done as the canal (apart from the Chesterfield to Renishaw stretch and of course the towns) do lack canal side facilities and also the lack of public transportation - particularly in Nottinghamshire as the Retford to Gainsborough bus (which runs along the main road near the canal) is every two hours during the day!  This was definitely something we had to be mindful about as most of our walks were between 10-13 miles.

The canal isn’t too busy so crowds aren’t an issue (especially with the current situation) whatsoever and it is a perfect waterway to explore.  The canal will for sure open up a lot more places once it’s fully restored – only a few miles between Staveley and Kiveton Park.

Further information about Chesterfield Canal Trust can be found here.

Dawn Smallwood
September 2020

featured author – autumn 2020

featured author - autumn 2020

Carolyn Clark

Carolyn Clark, author

Carolyn Clark, author

When I talked to Bow resident Kay about the canal, it struck home when she said:

‘It’s always been there, so whatever part of my life from being a child to an adult now, to my son being an adult and eventually, one day, it will be my grandchildren, even though there’s lots and lots of changes, the canal itself, it just still flows. There’s a familiarity about it, a good feeling.’

For forty years, the Regent’s and Hertford Union Canals have been a favourite walk. You could sense the history that lurked in old warehouses and wharves, worn bridges, anglers’ stories, remnants from an industrial past running through the heart of the East End.

Wanting to discover more, I found a lot about the early history of the Regent’s Canal, but was struck by how little there was about the 20th century, and the eastern reach in particular. Stories of the everyday lives of the people who lived and worked alongside the canal were hard to find.

I live by the Hertford Union Canal, aka Ducketts. It was frustrating to find virtually nothing about this short Cut’s past which was, and is, so much part of many local lives like (Fish) Island born and bred Ron: ‘I loved it meself, to me it was everything, it was a source of living, I could fish down there, we used to swim down there. It was my bath all year round. There was nowhere else to wash.’

Boys swimming by Victory Bridge, 1905, London Canal Museum

Boys swimming by Victory Bridge, 1905, London Canal Museum

John Hall talking to a steerer at Old Ford Lock circa 1950. © Hazel White

John Hall talking to a steerer at Old Ford Lock circa 1950. © Hazel White

The East End Canal Tales has grown from eight years work with Regent’s Canal Heritage:  http://www.regentscanalheritage.org.uk/ This uncovered a wealth of stories and hidden histories.

Read about canal trades in raw materials such as coal and manure, and the canal-side industries of gas and chemicals, timber and metalworks, marble and furniture, ice and chocolate. The list goes on, and even includes the canal’s role in the equivalent of the Victorian internet.

Find out what it was like to work in the sawmills and icewells.

Victoria ParkBow Wharf, © Tony Hall, Bishopsgate Institute

Victoria ParkBow Wharf, © Tony Hall, Bishopsgate Institute

Gino Bergonzi delivering ice for Carlo Gatti’s Haggerston factory, 1980, Dom Bergonzi

Gino Bergonzi delivering ice for Carlo Gatti’s Haggerston factory, 1980, Dom Bergonzi

Boats turning at the Hertford Union Canal entrance having unloaded timber 1965, London Canal Museum

Boats turning at the Hertford Union Canal entrance having unloaded timber 1965, London Canal Museum

Read stories about gun-making and the canals in wartime.

Relive childhood memories of diving from ‘the pipe’, watching gamblers play pitch and toss and being chased by the ‘cut runners’.

Join the villains’ search for the holy grail of a boat loaded with gold for the Royal Mint.

Find out what happened in the old buildings like the ironworks, barge builder’s shed, gas holders and lock cottages which have survived over the years.

Learn what it was like to work on the Cut – the camaraderie, tricks of the trade, danger and perks.

Grand Union Canal Company map, 1929

Grand Union Canal Company map, 1929

The East End Canal Tales interweaves memories from over 50 people with historical accounts to tell the intriguing, humorous, moving and sometimes surprising stories of life and work on the Hackney and Tower Hamlets reach of the Regent’s and the Hertford Union Canals.

Over 130 photographs and images, many never published before, bring the stories to life.

The book’s maps include one drawn for the book which illustrates the features and industries which used to flourish along the banks.

The 200-year history of the canal is covered, but the focus is on the twentieth century.

Rag and Bone man in his Chisenhale Road garden by Ducketts, 1950s, © Tate Britain 2015

Rag and Bone man in his Chisenhale Road garden by Ducketts, 1950s, © Tate Britain 2015

The East End Canal Tales is a contribution to marking the 200th anniversary of the Regent’s Canal this year and is published by London Canal Museum.

Lonely Planet London says:

Pick up a copy of the museum’s newly published The East End Canal Tales by Carolyn Clark to sail through the canal’s and its industries' fascinating history, meeting a colourful cast of characters who lived and worked on them along the way. Bon voyage!’

My other books are The Shoreditch Tales and The Lower Clapton Tales.

You can buy a copy of The East End Canal Tales at the London Canal Museum in King’s Cross: https://www.canalmuseum.org.uk/, on  https://www.shoreditchtales.com/ and Amazon, as well as in Hackney and East End bookshops.

welcome to the truss’ new chief executive

welcome to the truss' new chief executive

making life better by south shields

Hi, Devid Scowcrovich, you may have read my lockdown diaries.  I’m the new Chief Executive Officer at the Banal and Dither Truss and I wanted to reassure that my appointment will not mean any changes for cyclists on the inland waterways.  In fact, I think my appointment can only add to the enjoyment of that leisure activity.

You will be relieved to know that my background is not in water.  The Truss’ officers, in the past, had concentrated far too much on the waterway system and not enough on the towpaths of the system.  Indeed, you will be appalled to learn that several rivers (that’s the watery things that run from mountains to sea, taking away sewage) have no towpaths.  I am sure that my O-level in geography contributed to my appointment, that, and the fact that I have never been on a boat in my life.

It is one of my ambitions never to go on an inland boat except for media interviews.  I will be seen shaking hands (pandemic permitting) with boat owners of all kinds from the safety of the bank.  It is, as if, I will be at a funeral shaking hands with all the bereaved - less the flowers and the sincerity.  Not that I will be destroying the boating way of life, as for many it is just a hobby and a leisure opportunity.  Those who live on a boat are probably desperate or demented.  Certainly, there must be some mental instability when it is known that a boat is a ‘hole in the water into which you pour money’.

So why would anyone buy a boat?  The boat is going to sink in the future at some stage.  Even vintage boats have had their front bit (what’s it called again - the pointy bit?) and the back end, now don’t tell me it’s not the bottom – you will have to be stern with me here and tell me again, anyway the back bit has probably been replaced at least once.  There is probably very little left of the original boat isn’t that right, Mr President?  One famous such ship, someone told me, isn’t really the right boat for that name; they merely took the name and put it on a better-preserved boat.  So, not all you see on the water is necessarily - real truth.  For instance, you would think our headquarters was somewhere handy for the canal users like Birmingham or Leeds, but no I am writing this to you from a railway station in South Shields.  And very quiet it is too; none of those horrible boat fog horns, running diesel engines and smoking chimneys.

Just to underline my point, on ‘historic’ or is it ‘hysteric’ boats, the name of a certain boat will be changed to ‘The Donald’.  We hope to achieve funding from America once they are informed that the canals are merely a water-hazard and the surroundings could be made into the biggest golf course in the world.  As ‘The Donald’ would say ‘That’s huge, that’s a biggie, I am probably the world expert on canals having seen that one in Central America; is it called ‘The Pineapple Canal?  Well it is now; I will sign the Executive Order.  Then we can start changing all the canals in Englandshire into a golf course.  After all boats don’t go anywhere just cruise round in rings.’

How reassuring, I think you will agree, to have such a ringing endorsement from probably the most important idiot person in the world. And with him being such an expert on canals his support of our new direction for the Waterways of GB can only be positive.  Even our own Prime Minister (between making children) has launched the idea that canals become cycle tracks.

Speaking to boaters, last week.  I was cornered by several eccentrics (oddities) wearing bobble hats and smelling faintly of engine oil. They admitted that if one could aim golf balls at speeding cyclists this would be a plus for the canals.  An entirely new sport and activity on the canals, and I have only just begun my appointment - much more to come from South Shields.  Like our new slogan ‘Making life better by South Shields’ – copyright Scowcrovich productions.

south shield mottow by devid scowcrovitch

There’s going to be a new normal on the waterways - Keeping fit and well.  Our Truss has, as far as records exist, always been a ‘Wellness Charity’: previous records were lost on a Bonfire Night.  We can extend this ‘keep fit’ regime to include boat owners not only dodging speeding cyclists but golf balls as well.  With our new motto ‘Fore’ we will be for ever going forward.  Particularly boaters who will have to go forwards only, as Winding Holes will now become fishponds.

I know, you are keen for me to get off cycling and on to the historical subject of – fishing.  Traditionally there has been conflict between fishers with long poles (mainly men) and cyclists in tight Lycra (mainly men).  Cyclists claim fishers are blocking the towpath, fishers claim cyclists are travelling too fast.  All this will end when the towpath is widened at the slight expense of water width.  A narrowboat is only 6ft 10ins wide and that could be the width of the water, not sure why they need the extra ten inches but let’s be generous.  None of this towpath widening will cause any protest since in a pilot scheme, only a few years ago, the towpath was widened at the Edgbaston Tunnel without any fuss or protest.  The widening allowed two cyclists to pass whilst boats waited at the tunnel entrance.  This innovative project can now be rolled out nationally.

To conclude: My period as Chief or if you insist ‘The Chief’ will concentrate on the majority of persons in the UK, that is those who don’t have a boat and not on that very small minority who own a boat.

epic endurance challenge

epic endurance challenge

east midlands mum uses waterways to prepare for epic endurance challenge

Jooles Paillin, trans atlantic rowerAn East Midlands mum is making the most of living beside an inland waterway as she prepares to tackle one of the toughest endurance challenges in the world in just a few months.

In December, 39-year-old Jooles Paillin, who lives just outside Nottingham, will be taking on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge and rowing for almost two months 3,000 miles across the Atlantic.

Jooles Paillin Amy on River SoarWith the country in lockdown, Jooles has been making the most of having the River Soar just a few footsteps from her front door as she prepares for a challenge so tough that more people have been into space or climbed Everest than rowed the Atlantic.

Competitors row for two hours and sleep for two hours constantly, for 24 hours a day, until they complete the journey. In 2019 finishing times ranged from 32 days to 86 days!

“At the moment I feel very lucky to live where I live” said Jooles. “I can literally go from my front door to being on the water within seconds. With social distancing in place the ability to get outside in the fresh air and row has been a godsend.”

Being on the water is natural to Jooles, having lived on a dutch barge for the first half of her life and being around the canal system from five-days old. She has travelled on a whole host of rivers - the Soar, Thames, Trent, Ouse, Ure, Severn, Witham, Nene, Avon in Bristol and Avon in Stratford and the Kennet to name just a few.

The list of canals she has travelled on is even longer and includes the Trent & Mersey, Shropshire Union, Llangollen, Oxford, Coventry, Ashby, Caldon, Ripon, Macclesfield, Grand Union and various branches, including Aylesbury Arm, Staffs & Worcester, Aire & Calder, Sheffield & South Yorkshire, Kennet & Avon, Middle Levels, Manchester Ship Canal, New Junction Canal, Montgomery Canal and Bridgewater Canal.

Jooles Paillin, 1981
Jooles Paillin, 1982

It is no surprise she fully admits to being a water baby and feels the need to be by the water on a daily basis:

“I do feel drawn to the water and have lots of fond memories from my younger years living on a dutch barge. I used to love visiting Ellesmere Port Boat Museum for the Easter gathering of working boats. Meeting up with other younger boaters was so exciting for me at that age!

Jooles Paillin, 1984
Jooles Paillin, 1988

“Getting my first Dunton Double and having my initials engraved on an antique windless single are other memories. I won’t forget when I was 13 being left to steer a 72-foot working boat in the torrential rain on the Northern Oxford Canal. We were coming towards Marston Junction, with my stepdad and mum unusually in the cabin inside having dinner due to the somewhat inclement weather, when I shouted to them ‘There’s going to be a bump, a big bump!’.

“Not knowing ‘the road’ I mistook the start of the Ashby Canal for the main line of the Northern Oxford and had to attempt a very sharp bend under the first bridge on the Ashby. There was a hefty bump but no permanent damage was done!

Jooles Paillin 1991
Jooles Paillin, 1991

“As a young person I either lived and holidayed on four different boats and slept in some unusual places! One vessel was the Frederick Whittingham, an ex-port of London quarantine launch from the 1930s or 40s. My sleeping places included the tiny wheelhouse floor, a too short hammock and next to the six-cylinder Gardner engine.

I was also actually named after a Lister JP3 engine in NB Emerald! JP stood for joint production as indeed I was. “

Jooles Paillin, 1991
Jooles Paillin

Jooles took up rowing in 2007 and currently holds two Boston Marathon records, an indoor Concept2 record, rowed 30 half marathons in 45 days and most recently rowed 100km in 36 hours.

She has also taken on and won river marathons and undertaken multiple indoor rowing marathons, but is under no illusions rowing across the Atlantic Ocean will be a different league altogether.

“The challenge is a huge physical test for anyone, but the biggest battle of all will be in our own minds and as a team we are using a hypnotherapist to prepare mentally for the challenge. We will return changed people and how we overcome each and every battle in our heads, broken equipment, pain, injury, etc will shape the rest of our lives” said Jooles.

Jooles will be undertaking the epic challenge with friends Mark Sealey, Amy Wood and Gemma Best - the quartet have dubbed themselves Force Genesis.

Force Genesis - Jooles Paillin, Mark Sealey and Amy Wood
Force Genesis 4th team member Gemma Best

The beginning of the race will be extra special for Jooles - it starts on her 40th birthday! Beginning on 12 December Force Genesis, along with 34 other teams, will leave San Sebastian Harbour in La Gomera, just off the coast of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands to race to English Harbour in Antigua.

The race is totally unsupported, which means teams take all of their food with them and make water with a desalinator. They will battle with sleep deprivation, salt sores and physical extremes inflicted by the race, not to mention waves of up to 20 feet high and the fact they will at times be closer to space than people on dry land!

As part of the challenge, Force Genesis will be raising money for  Blood Bikes charities including  East Midlands Freewheelers and Devon Freewheelers - with an aim of helping them buy new vehicles and train volunteer riders and support call handlers.

They will also be raising funds for the new Duty to Care charity that is supporting NHS staff by offering free mental health and wellbeing facilities by matching up practitioners to front line staff, which is more important now than ever in the current pandemic crisis that could have ongoing ramifications for front line staff for years to come.

Jooles explains why they chose both of these charities:

blood bikes“Blood Bikes do an amazing job and their bikes and cars that are in service are all provided free of charge to the NHS through dedicated volunteers all over the country. Each £100,000 raised for Blood Bike charities will save the NHS half a million pounds by not having to use ambulances, taxis and couriers during out-of-hours operations.

“Anyone could be involved in an accident or need lifesaving blood, platelets, organs, donor breast milk or the mother’s milk transporting between hospitals.

“As for Duty to Care, I have experienced first hand this year, in an intensive care unit, the amazing work the NHS do and, in recent weeks and months, I think we have all realised what an incredible asset each member of the NHS is.

“The services Duty to Care offer are important to the mental and physical wellbeing of NHS staff and are hugely needed at the moment.”

Just getting to the start line has been a huge challenge for the team, as Jooles admits:

“I am just a single mum, business owner and rower with all the challenges that brings at home. So trying to shoehorn this gargantuan project into normal life has been interesting to say the least and I know it has been the same for the others.

“Just to get to the start line has cost us in excess of £100,000 already. This includes £45,000 for a second hand boat, £20,700 in race entry fees, £11,000 shipping the boat, £6,000 in food, £3,000 in marketing, £9,000 for boat refit, electronics and additional safety equipment, £3,000 in essential Royal Yachting Association courses and £7,000 in travel.

“We still aren’t there yet, so any support would be appreciated - once we get to the start line we can raise some serious money for our chosen charities.”

epic endurance challenge force genesis

The team has a variety of sponsorship packages, from big to small, to help them make their dream of crossing the Atlantic a reality. For more details visit the Force Genesis website or contact Jooles directly by email.

You can also be part of the campaign, and help ensure they get to the start line, by becoming an armchair supporter via their newly launched GoFundMe page

If you want more you can even be part of the crossing and have your name on the boat for the duration of the adventure by joining the Force Genesis 250 Club

To raise money for the charities you can visit their JustGiving page

Follow the team on Facebook

For more information on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge visit the race website

appley bridge

inter tidal zone

6: appley bridge

This edition explores the intertidal zone between Community, Canal and Rail.

Appley Bridge area, Google Maps

Appley Bridge: Village in England

Appley Bridge is a small, affluent village crossing the borders of Greater Manchester and West Lancashire, England.

It is located off Junction 27 of the M6 motorway and is nestled in the Douglas Valley alongside the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Wikipedia

Bridge 42 on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal is in Appley Bridge.

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal is a canal in Northern England, linking the cities of Leeds and Liverpool. Over a distance of 127 miles, it crosses the Pennines, and includes 91 locks on the main line. Wikipedia

Community Gardens:

The Appley Bridge Community Association is a community group aimed at promoting, supporting and encouraging activities within Appley Bridge.

The group is responsible for the community centre and The Meadows.

If you want a real down-to-earth special canal treat in this area, a few hundred yards to the west of Bridge 42 you will find a well-tended meadow, woodland walk and community allotments.

The gated entrance is right off the tow path, with the area being between the canal and the River Douglas. An area that is a credit to the Association. Nice paths, seating and peace and tranquillity. Ideal for stretching your legs, walking the dog or just for fresh air. Also, handy if your waiting to use Lock 91 Top Lock or need time to build up your strength!

The Meadows, Appley Bridge

Plan of the Meadows, Appley Bridge

Railway Station:

I wonder just how many mooring points are within walking distance of a railway station?

Welcome to Appley Bridge with its railway station with routes to Southport, Wigan and Manchester.

Think of it, access to a major city or a trip to the seaside at Southport.

Things To-Do in Southport…

Beaches, Attractions, Arts & Culture, Walking & Cycling, Parks & Gardens, History & Heritage.

Appley Bridge Pubs etc.,

The Wheatsheaf (Food. Friendly dogs welcome)

The Bridge Inn (From Bridge 42, down the hill for 100yds. Including WiFi.)

The Boat House (Up the hill 100yds and turn right, then 300yds. Reservations and wheelchair access)

There is also a unisex hairdresser, post box and kiddie’s playground in the village.

Note(s) no shops or newsagent near to Bridge 42. Appley Bridge is the bridge over the River Douglas, rebuilt in 1903, close to the Bridge Inn.


At around 8.45pm on Tuesday evening of 13 October 1914, the inhabitants of Appley Bridge (indeed Lancashire and Cheshire too) were treated to a sudden and spectacular illumination of the night sky, caused by a meteorite that was found in a farmer's field in the village the following day. Found just 18 inches below the surface of the field, with the appearance of burnt iron, the small rock weighed almost 33 lb (15 kg). An article in the "Scientific News" (No. 2588, 30 October 1914) stated, "a small fragment which had been detached from the larger mass was put on view in a shop-window at Appley Bridge." In September 2014 a book about the meteorite, by local author Russell Parry, was published ( ISBN 0954953126 ) (Wiki)

I hope you enjoyed interacting again in the Intertidal Zone within the world of canals.

Useful Links:

Community Association

Lock 91

Visit Southport

there are less grainy photos, but…

there are less grainy photos, but...

llangollen canal revisited

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

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

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

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

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

Janice Nye & Fiat 850

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

view of river from Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Llangollen

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

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

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

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