Sunday, 9 October 2016

What Starcross Did Next

Here is Starcross, a few days ago on the Regent's Canal, where she provides a happy home to Chris and Jessica, who bought her from me an unbelievable two-and-half years ago!

Thanks to Dave Koring on nb Midnight Trace, who just happened to be passing - for the pic.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Remembering the Ribble

Our local bus services here in Lancaster are mainly provided by Stagecoach. This year the company has imvested in a fleet of new double-deckers for its flagship "555" service that runs from Lancaster through the heart of the Lake District to Keswick.

Boarding one of these buses, fitted with luxurious leather seats, decorative vinyls depicting Lake District scenes and offering free wifi and phone/laptop chargers, the elderly lady in front of me took a look around and exclaimed:  "Eee, things are looking up on't Ribble*"

* Ribble Motor Services, formed 1919 and operated bus services throughout the north-west of England. Sold to Stagecoach 1989.  Gone, but obviously not forgotten!
A new Stagecoach bus

A Ribble bus.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016


I've spent much of the last couple of days writing up the latest stage of my Around the Edge of England bus tour and am now about to start planning the next one, which I hope to undertake in mid-September.

The "Edge" is defined as the coastline plus the Welsh and Scottish borders but that still leaves the question of how to deal with estuaries. Should I go inland to the lowest traditional crossing point or make use of newer tunnels or bridges where these are served by bus, or should I use ferries as a short-cut where available.

Having had to make a decision very early on when the very first bus of the trip deposited me at Knott End on Sea with a choice of a ferry to Fleetwood or two buses round via Poulton-le-Fylde I decided I could be flexible. After all, it's not a competition and I've always reserved the right to vary - or ignore - the rules as I go along.  In practice I've found the ferries more interesting than the buses and have tended to use them wherever possible.

The Thames Estuary, however,  posed the greatest question of all, not least because it offered the most options. Tower Bridge is the traditionally-lowest fixed (or should that be semi-fixed) crossing point but the other options included at least three ferries, two road tunnels, two foot tunnels, a motorway bridge and a cable car!

After much thought I decided that all these cross-river options merited a trip of their own, which I will do some time in the future and for now I would stick to the lowest crossing - the Gravesend to Tilbury Ferry.  I therefore ended the last segment of the trip by crossing to Tilbury and getting a bus to Grays.

So for me (and thanks to Steve Bacon for pointing this out:  "The Only Way is Essex!"
The Gravesend to Tilbury Ferry

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Oops! A-over-T on the Lancaster

Thursday has become boat checking day. The day I get on my bike and cycle over the hill to Carnforth (and sometimes Tewitfield) then back along the towpath, recording the numbers of the boats at the mooring sites on the way back to Lancaster.

Today I thought I had it easy. Hilary was heading up to the Yorkshire Dales in the car and could give me - and the bike - a lift to Over Kellet, from where it's a gentle downhill potter to Tewitfield thus avoiding the hilly bit. I checked the moorings at Tewitfield - all in order -  and then at Carnforth (just one overstayer) and set off down the towpath for the next site at Hest Bank.

This section of the towpath is a Sustrans long-distance route paralleling the A6 trunk road and so very useful for long-distance cyclists such as those doing the "end to end". But not if they have any sense. Photos on Nick Addy's Canal Planner from about ten years ago show a well maintained, wide tarmac path.  Not any more. The path has not been maintained and has been deteriorating ever since it was created and is now heavily rutted.

Pottering along, between bridges 127 and 126 and just thinking how lucky I was to have avoided the hills and to have a flat route home, my rear wheel caught in one of the deeper ruts causing the bike to skid.  The back wheel went one way and the front the other and I found myself heading straight for the cut!  I pride myself that in 10 years of boat ownership and many years of occasional boating before that that I've never fallen in. But this was a near miss - at the last moment I managed to drop the bike to the floor and jump - or rather fall  - off. I landed head first, fortunately on the grassy strip between the tarmac and the water, whilst the bike came to rest with the front wheel overhanging the cut!

There was no damage done to the bike and only a sprained finger for me, although I was glad I was wearing my helmet, which Hilary makes me do after a rarther more serious incident on the Isle of Mull a few years back.

Fortunately there was only one towpath walker to witness the incident and I was able to pick myself and the bike up and make a joke of things as he reached me.  I remounted and made my way to the next bridge and down onto the layby on the A6 that I knew housed a tea bar to get myself a cuppa and a Bacon Buttie, after which I abandonned the towpath and cycled down the much safer A6 trunk road to Hest Bank.