Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Dredging Glasson Dock

Glasson Dock with "Walter" in the foreground.
A cycle ride today, down to Glasson Dock on my 25-year old Raleigh Randonneur, which is old enough to have been "built in Nottingham" (albeit with quite a few Japanese components). A fast run there, with the wind behind me on the A588 (which is not as busy or unpleasant as you might think) and a slower - but flatter - return on the old railway line cycle path to Lancaster.  The Raleigh goes by the name of "Walter" (geddit?).  I have another touring bike - a Dawes. Can you guess what she's called?

I got there just in time to see the dredger in action. It appeared to be dredging immediately below the lock that leads from the canal basin into the main dock - which in turn leads to the River Lune and the Irish Sea. The route is used by sea-going yachts, hence the need to keep the channel deep enough.
The dredger was reversing up to the tail of the lock before lowering the "scoop"

The lock links the upper Canal Basin to the main dock and thence the River Lune

Once the scoop was fully lowered the dredger powered away into the dock,

The dredger proceeded the full length of the dock, where the scoop was raised, presumably depositing the dredgings into the dock.  In what may, or may not have been a related exercise the grab-dredger on the dock wall appeared to be removing silt from behind the main dock gates and depositing it back into the dock behind where the dredger is in this image!                                                                                                                

As you will gather from the captions I wasn't really sure exactly what was going on, but it made for an entertaining half-hour before the journey back.  Despite its diminutive size  - and the proximity of the much larger dock at Heysham, Glasson remains a working port. It is home to the last traditional shipping service (i.e. one where freight is craned on and off rather than going aboard in containers or in lorries) in Europe, operated by the small coaster "Silver River" to Ramsey on the Isle of Man, whilst larger vessels use the outer, tidal river wharf to land grain from Ireland, although there was nothing commercial at all in port today.

Sunday, 6 August 2017


I'm just back from a few days in Llandudno.

They still have Routemasters there - but only on the Town Tour (and then only when it's not fine enough for the open-toppers).

You can take a tour of the Great Orme on a 1958 Leyland Tiger Cub. . . .

. . . .or, for a fraction of the price,  on an Optare Solo on service 26

The cable trams (same system as San Francisco) run through some pretty narrow streets that would nowadays be considered unsuitable for public transport vehicles.

Although, maybe not, as Arriva service 26 runs every hour in each direction round this sharp bend and up (or down) the 1-in-5 hill on a road that is officially "unsuitable for buses" in two languages!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Back on Board

On a recent visit to London I invited myself for a visit to my old boat Starcross and to meet, for the first time, the lovely people that bought her and have made her into a wonderful home.

Chris and Jess were happy to allow me aboard and gave up their evening to ply me with food and drink and show me the transformation they had brought about to what had become a very run down boat in urgent need of attention.

Obviously as live-aboards they have very different priorities and the work they have done  ("done" not "had done" - i.e. they did it all themselves) has improved her no end.  It was an odd experience for me - some things were completely different whilst others were just as I remembered them.  They were happy for me to take some photos so you can compare them with some I took when Starcross was put up for sale and see for yourselves:  
and new
The kitchen area (old)

Looking back from the front (new)

Looking back from the front (old)

I don't have and "before" shots of the bathroom area, but that has also had a complete makeover. No discussion of a boat would be complete without a reference to the toilet arrangements and Starcross now has a composting loo. This replaces the old Thetford Cassette loo, the emptying of which was usually my job!
The new loo

Chris and Jess have kept the old Villager solid-fuel stove but added diesel-powered central heating. They've added solar panels and also removed as much gas as possible, doing away with the troublesome Morco water heater and the gas oven, which we hardly ever used, replacing it with the boaty version of an Aga.  They've replaced most of the lighting and painted the old tongue-and-grove wood panelling white, which makes a surprising difference to the ambiance inside the boat.  I think I approve of (nearly) everything they've done. They've certainly made it into a lovely home.

It all brought back a lot of memories and although I knew that they have no plans to sell I couldn't help asking, as I left, for "first refusal" if they ever do. . . . . . .

Thursday, 1 June 2017

There and Back Again

My certificate, given to me by Hilary
I've only just got around to posting this but on 22nd May I completed my bus tour "Around the Edge of England", arriving back at the same bus stop at Bridge Road, Lancaster from where I set off in April 2015.
Regular readers will know that I haven't been travelling continuously all that time and that the journey was done in stages as and when time was available.

Full details are on the Around the Edge of England by Bus blog but the basics are:

I travelled on 51 days
Covered 5,000 kilometres
Used 257 buses
13 Ferries
5 trains
3 trams
1 "electric railway"
1 miniature railway
1 pier railway
1 tube train (on a pier) 
1 "floating bridge"
1 transporter bridge
and a hovercraft.

Most of the bus travel was free, because I am the lucky owner of an English National Concessionary Bus Pass, but it did cost me:
£37.80  in bus fares for journeys before 09.30 (before when the pass isn't valid)
£34 on ferries
£22.55 on train fares
£17.30 for buses in Scotland
£12.50 for tram fares
£12.40 on the hovercraft (by far the most expensive journey per kilometre)
£1.60 on the transporter bridge
40p on the floating bridge
The pier railway and the tube train on the pier were included in the ferry fares and I forgot to record how much the fare was on the (Volk's)  Electric Railway.

97.3% of the 257 buses did exactly what they were supposed to do and 77% of them were exactly on time, with most of the rest being no more than 10 minutes late. I think this is a tribute to how well the bus industry is run and what a reliable and dependable form of transport buses are.  I only had to adapt my plans to cope with disruption twice and those changes were minor and easily accomplished.  The trains that took me to and from each leg of the journey caused more problems than all the buses combined.

Most bus drivers' behaviour could be described as "neutral". They did the job, but nothing else (although the automatic reading of bus passes by the ticket machines much reduces the scope for interaction between drivers and passengers). The friendliest drivers, without a doubt, were on the Isle of Wight. There was really only one unfriendly soul - ironically on the very last bus of the trip, although I did witness a rather heated confrontation between one driver and one passenger over a fare.

Roughly one-third of the 257 buses I used were double-deckers, which I consider far superior to single-deckers, some of which were very cramped and uncomfortable. (For those who don't know me I am  1.86m tall and most buses are designed for shorter folk.)  In all honesty I couldn't recommend local buses as a particularly comfortable means of transport.

The travel was extremely safe. I experienced one very minor collision between a bus and the roof of an overhanging building and saw one passenger, who was standing up and not holding on when the bus suddenly accelerated, slightly hurt. These were the only safety-related incidents.

My favourite stretches of route were in North Cornwall, Northumberland and the Cumberland coast and my least favourite were in north Kent and south Essex.

Now where shall I go next?