Thursday, 30 July 2009

I thought this was a canal!

Now this really was a nasty trick. We done the Soar in a thunderstorm, ground up the Trent against a furious flow and found sanctuary on the genteel Trent & Mersey.
And now here we are on a river again. And the River ruddy Trent too – I thought we'd left that bugger behind! Worse, everyone's warning me about it. Nicholson's Guide says "great caution", the man at Shobnall where we collected Star warned that British Waterways often close the locks after heavy rain (guess what; it's raining heavily) and now the 'red, yellow, greeen' warning boards at the lock are on yellow - and nearly red. "I just phoned BW; they're going to close it within two hours" said the boat in front. Great!
Half way through the mile long stretch of river we were wondering what was the panic? As easy as the Nene on a summer day. And then we saw the weir -- about nine miles long and with an Olympic white water canoe course running through it. Get past that and you met the full force of the river coming at you. Poor old Star was flat-out and hardly moving. But we made it and now we're moored in the pretty village of Alrewas (pronounce it like Vic Reeves would 'Alreewhas' to annoy the locals!).
Begs the question: why did Brindley lob a river section into his masterpiece canal? Even Tom Rolt was mystified: "seems a strange negation of Brindley's declared policy of avoiding rivers, being a source of danger and delay in times of flood." Too right, Tom.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Underneath the arches

The remarkable 13 arch Brindley aqueduct over the River Dove near Burton with a lot of water going through it after only a few days' rain. I wondered where it had all come from until I saw on the map that the Dove flows all the way from the Peak District into the Trent. No wonder that was running hard when we came up it.

Home from Home

Star passes its 'birthplace' Stenson Boatbuilders beside Stenson Lock - couldn't see a blue plaque though.
Stenson is the last of the four wide locks on the T&M between Shardlow and Burton on Trent. And, boy, were we glad to see the back of them; they're heavy as hell and fill furiously. Open a paddle too fast and a Niagara of water pours out - and all over your deck if you're too close!

Yes, I am down here! At the bottom of Stenson Lock

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Gone for a Burton

Union Jacks and England flags flutter in many a garden of the small houses that line the canal into Burton upon Trent. Usually a bad sign, I fear. But you can see why when you explore the depressing, down-at-heel town, reeking of poverty rather than the brewing that still dominates it. Thin, pale, fag chewing, crew-cutted types mingle with grossly overweight, equally pale, fag chewing types. The well-dressed and well-off are conspicuously absent from the streets.
Star is currently residing in Shobnall Marina (small, friendly) in Burton while we break for a week of family stuff. Curiously we're travelling by train from Burton (home of Waterways World magazine) to Wendens Ambo (home of Canal Boat when I ran it).
Four hours of noisy, crowded, grimness later I remember why I love cars and hate trains. Maybe if I pay one of the kids £50 instead of paying Cross-Country Crowding £50 they'll give us a lift back!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Guess what it is...

The answer is that it's a replica of a Blisworth Tunnel Steam Tug -- note the dummy steam funnel on the front which must make it a nightmare to get through some low bridges!
It's actually called Pilot more here though no name's visible on the seemingly just repainted sides.

What's fascinating is the bow shape, designed to push rubbish away to the sides of the boat as it worked through the tunnel where it towed other craft through.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Going nowhere

We moved just six feet on Saturday. It was sunny and we needed a rest after the hectic and wet last few days. And where better to take a day out than at Shardlow, one of the country's most historic inland ports.
So we eased ourselves into a slightly neater mooring and went for a look around – there's lots to see but the Heritage Centre in the old Salt Warehouse is a must. Click

Eat your heart out, Bill Oddie!

One of the benefits of being locked in our secure compound in Leicester is that you get exclusive access to the elegant Castle Park after the riff-raff have been locked out at 7.30pm. Vicky and me were walking through there when we glimpsed a fox so we sat on a bench and watched it. Then another appeared, and another and another - one so young and tame it wandered up to check us out from less than a metre away. Altogether there was a family of six.
It was a "damn, why haven't I got my camera" moments.
A few days later Vicky spotted a tiny grass snake swimming across the Soar, leaving a sinuous wake behind it.
And then last night as we came into the Trent & Mersey a tern began following us, hovering repeatedly to see if our wake disturbed any potential food under the surface. For nearly five minutes he flew, then hovered, then flew, all just feet away - a stunning masterclass of nature's aerodynamics as his wings arched and beat furiously and his tail spread wide and dipped down to create maximum lift and hold him still above the canal. And all for nothing - all that work; all that energy and not a fish did the poor bugger find!

Friday, 17 July 2009

A quiet day at the office!

We're moored up outside The Malt Shovel at Shardlow on the Trent & Mersey with an empty bottle of wine on the table. If you'd asked me at 8 o'clock this morning this is the last place I'd expected to be tonight.
It had rained most of the night at Mountsorrel but the morning was one of those dry-but-it-could-rain-any-minute moments so we set off, swearing to stop at a hint of rain. We reached Loughborough still dry and moored in the basin surrounded by buildings clearly designed by a colour blind architect as you can see. They're student apartments at £87 a week including Sky, wi-fi and leather furniture. Time for me to go back to college!
An hour was enough for the shopping sights of Loughborough and we headed on amid darkening skies. Somehow the thunderstorm we could hear and see was always a mile or more away – until we passed Zouch and Ouch! it hit us. The full works - lightning all around, thunder, a deluge of rain and even hail. Thomas Cook must be rubbing their hands - all those 2010 Mediterranean holidays being booked!
Just how does a narrowboat – or more particularly its steerer – fare in lightning? I don't know but I know I lowered the tall engine chimney to make it less of a target. Finally we got to Redhill and moored, for the night we thought, in the scenic shadow of Ratcliffe on Soar power station. Nice.
But the rain had stopped and I was worried (I always worry) about the Soar or the Trent rising and trapping us so I persuaded Vicky we should press on. The big Trent crossroads, described in terrifying terms by Nicholsons Guide, was no problem but poor little Star was beating hard up to Sawley against the flowing stream.
I thought Sawley would be far enough but a boater we met in the lock there insisted we should press on to the security of the Trent & Mersey just a couple of miles on. But what a couple of miles; the rain was beating down and the Trent was in full flow. Poor little Star scarcely seemed to make forward progress as we crawled up the river.
At Derwent Mouth the Trent and Derwent meet in a violent whirlpool of competing currents. We pushed through them to the peace of the T&M ahead. One more lock and we were there. The engine relaxed and so did we.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Bye bye bandits

If the entry into Leicester is worrying, the exit is plain depressing. Turn the corner from the city centre moorings and you're into huge industrial decrepitude and decay at Frog Island (right). And it gets worse. The old canalside factories of Wolsey (purveyors of underwear and fancy jumpers to royalty, Scott of the Antarctic and numerous golfers) click have been pulled down and only a few chimney stacks remain. The whole area – including the canal – reeks of industrial death. The waterway is an oily, slimy black, and littered with rubbish. From a canalside house a rottweiler watched the dirty water while across the cut a bedraggled heron who'd mistakenly chosen Leicester instead of the Thames as his home tried to eek out a living on poisoned fish.
It's a massive social and encironmental problem to bring life back to the area. For sure, British Waterways' dabble in 'canalside apartments' won't work here – who wants to look out on this sh*t! And I wonder how much real impact the nearby National Space Centre, impressive as it looks, will have.
The southern entry into Leicester certainly has been regenerated but it's still bleak and inhospitable. Blank faced apartment blocks and a busy road cut off the canal so the chance for a vibrant, waterside cafe culture has gone. (So bleak is it all, in fact, the building we thought was a prison turned out to be De Monfort University!
Anyway, Leicester's gone and after cruising through a widening River Soar as we near the Trent we're now moored at Mountsorrel. It's a large village/town with four hairdressers, a beauty salon and two garages – but no food shop!
It does have a pub, The Waterside Inn, at the lock clik. Just one piece of advice: if you fancy the eight inch Yorkshire Pudding with casserole filling and chips, well settle for the five inch or you'll have to be pushed back to your boat in a wheelbarrow. Who needs a shop?

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Bandit country

We're moored up in a little sanctuary of safety, secure behind two sets of padlocked gates. Only a pirate boat or strong swimmers could reach us.
Welcome to Leicester, bandit central if you believe the stories. The River Soar (that's what the canal has become) runs in a one mile straight right through the city and there are mooring bollards the whole way. But not a boat sits at them. The few of us who are here are in the special secure mooring attached to the castle park. In truth you're probably safe elsewhere but no-one wants to try their luck.
Which means that boating through Leicester needs as much planning as a wagon train run through the wild west. Once you've left the sanctuary of Kilby Bridge to the south, there ain't no stopping boy. Except at the 19 locks which bar your way. Almost all of them bloody heavy and most padlocked against vandals (or they were until the vandals smashed them off!).
After five and a half hard hours we reached sanctuary. And it hadn't been a bad trip – no ambushes bar a couple of silly kids dancing on the lock beams – and even the "massive unprotected weir" by Leicester City football ground (left) was not much more than a trickle.
So tonight we can listen to the police sirens around and the distant shouts of drunks secure in our little safe haven.

It never rains

I don't know why but we expected Market Harborough to be a dump. And it wasn't. It was a distinctly upMarket Harborough in fact with a very elegant main street full of posh shops and posh shoppers. We did get soaked in a sudden rainstorm walking down from the canal basin to find out.
The route in (and out) of MH winds past large 1970s houses with gardens that sweep down to the canal. I like looking up at the end of gardens – you see all the different styles, from bleak clipped and mowed formaility to overgrown turmoil.
As we headed out of the arm we passed a smart blue boat heading in, unusual for its '' tagline beneath the name. I thought no more about it as we pottered on up the main Leicester Line, lock-free but narrow and full of reeds – it's a site of scientific interest you see which is a good excuse for no clearing work being needed.
Out of the Saddington Tunnel (pictured) and into a heavy rain shower (again) but it soon blew over and we prepared for the first five locks of the long run down toward Leicester. Just as we were pulling in a smart blue narrowboat arrived – Lime Farm Marina man. Turns out they're regular hirers and doing the Leicester Ring this time.
And doing it at speed! They'd been in and out of MH – without stopping, just to tick it off the list and now were on a mission to get Leicester-wards. We worked down through the five locks together amid darkening skies and at the last, boy did the sky burst! Us boys in the boat were able to put coats on but Vicky and Mrs Hirer were soaked. And they still had seven more locks to do that night!!! We found the nearest stretch of canalside barrier, pulled up and dried out. All at a fascinating little spot called Newton Harcourt where the ancient ridge and furrow marks of a lost medieval village could still be seen in the ground.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Two pints well earned

"You must have lots of muscles" said one lady (unfortunately a somewhat elderly one). By the end of the ten Foxton locks, I was wishing I had more than the aching set with which I'd been endowed.
Foxton on a sunny summer Sunday swarms with visitors; they're everywhere, mums buying ice-creams, dads trying to explain the working of stairase locks to bored kids who just want to push a lock open, tourists photographing each other, Harley riders on a club run looking looking, well, tattooed, old men re-living their boating youth.
And through this mayhem is coming a string of boats, encouraged, in a none-too-subtle way to keep going down at a decent clip so that the queue waiting to come up won't have been waiting so long they' ve got totally rat-arsed at the Bridge 61 bar below.
Open the red paddle, then the white, then while the lock's emptying, you've got time to hurry down to the one below and open the red paddle there to get that started before running back up the steep hill to open the gates for Vicky to motor out, then lower the paddles, close the gates, run down, open the white paddle etc etc.
And all the time saying "excuse me" to people who've blocked the bridges, "you'll have to move or I'll be knocking you in when the beam moves", "yes, you can shut the gate for me, thank you" and, occasionally providing a quick, breathless lecture on how the staircase and side pond system actually works.
How the flyboat teams did this descent in 45 minutes I can't imagine. But at least they didn't have an audience.
After closer to an hour and a half we moored up, showered off the day's sweat and headed to the Foxton Locks Inn (okay but a bit of an eatery really) and the much more gritty and enjoyable Bridge 61 bar across the way for a couple of well earned pints.
Just a little side-step into Market Harborough tomorrow for some shopping - but no locks.

Because it's there

It might only be a couple of miles long but it didn't seem right to pass the Welford Arm by without a visit so we headed off down there - followed by a line of Canaltime hire boats who were perhaps attracted by the prospect of a pub at the end of the line. Through the single lock that guarded its terminus from the outside world, we spun round, moored and headed for the little village to buy a Saturday paper. We found ourselves in 'Welford Pocket Park' click, a delightful and carefully contrived little park of ponds, shrubs and decked areas all managed by the locals.

A licence to print money?

Farming doesn't pay (say the farmers) but if you own some farmland in Northamptonshire there do seem to be other cash spinning options available to keep up the Range Rover HP payments. Wind farms (see previous post) or, if you're beside a canal then dig a big hole, fill it with water, sit back and count the cash.
A mile or two beyond Crick Marina we watched the latest being dug. 'Yelvertoft Marina'
will be big clicky though not a giant like some of the other local newcomers. But 150 'births' (sic) at around £2000 a year is no small beer. Will the 'Royal Grand Union Canal' as the operators curiously call the Leicester Arm of the GU be able to take the extra traffic - who knows. Perhaps the fact that it is 'fairly unique because of its dimensions' will help.
Does one sense that the developers know more about calaculators than canals?

Friday, 10 July 2009

Stop The Spin

Walking down the High Street of Yelvertoft for a pint at the Knightley Arms it was clear that something was amiss - every other house sported 'Stop the East Midlands Wind Farm' posters.
And I don't blame them! Proposals are in train for no less than 54 wind turbines at six sites within an eight mile radius of Crick. The really sneaky thing is that these are all being submitted by separate developers to different councils which makes co-ordinated opposition hard. But they're trying see here
Yes, wind turbines have a certain 21st century elegance and, yes, we need to do something about renewable fuels but this is sleepy, picturesque Leicestershire and if I lived here I would be a NIMBY too.
Will they succeed in stopping the spin? What do you think? If they poll all the locals I'm sure 99 per cent wouldn't want them -- but my bet is that they'll go ahead anyway, such is my faith in local democracy.

Time travelling

My very intelligent school chum, Derek, came up with a theory when he was about 12 to explain why there was no need to worry about dying. Time, he explained, was not fixed but changed with your perspective and, as you were about to fall off your perch those last moments would stretch to infinity. So, no problem there then.
But maybe he was right, time already seems to have slowed and the recent past is disappearing down a lengthening tunnel. We've just reached Crick, a journey I can do in two hours by car; it's taken us ten days. The River Nene seems months back.
Two firsts today; the Watford Staircase was as easy as walking up the stairs to bed and our fire engine searchlight was switched on for the first time in anger for the Crick Tunnel - producing a magnificent beam of light.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

A good night and a decent day to follow

Well Spud, Spud's very nice girlfriend and James, Spud's partner (business partner, that is) came round and we sat out on the front deck emptying bottles of beer and wine until the sun had long gone.
Felt remarkably chipper despite it all this morning. We dawdled up to our bete noire, the seven big, heavy locks of the Buckby Flight (stopping on the way to pay £2.50 to chuck the contents of our bog down a drain hole at Whilton Marina. Money down the drain I guess.)
The Buckby Locks bring back memories of our first trip on Star; hurrying to get there before they closed for winter maintenance in a week long trip that started in bright sunshine but finished in snow, freezing nights and iced over canals. We made it, just.
Tonight we're parked up on the Grand Union Leicester Section ready for another lock flight - at Watford (of Watford Gap service area fame not the other one). We wandered up the towpath, past the back end of the motorway truck park to take a look -- and rather wished we hadn't.
Four of the locks are a 'staircase' which means one leads straight into the next without a gap between. Water coming out of one, fills the one below. Well, sort of. A helpful sign explained how to work it "red and white paddles work in pairs, always open a red one then a white one, keep a lock beam between them". Clear? Er, no, said Vicky reading it. The lock-keeper did his best to explain. Clear now? Er, no. It'll be alright when you're in them, he smiled. And proceeded to explain how he got nine boats going up and down through seven locks to save water. Clear on that one? Er, no!
For some reason Vicky has voted me as lock-operator for tomorrow.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Hard labour

We're a slick, professional team these days - the 17 locks of the Northampton Arm were despatched in four hours and with everyone bar one set against us so they had to be emptied before entering, doubling the workload on the ultra-stiff paddles.
Thirteen of the locks are in rapid fire succession so I jogged ahead preparing the lock, Vicky drove in, I shut the gates, racked up the paddles, closed them after the lock filled, opened the upper gate, shut it behind her, jogged on to the next and did it all again. After eight locks I was knackered and Vicky was bored so we swapped (thank God!). Picture shows the view from the top looking back at the flight.
Lunch at the top and then we motored on up the main GU to look up 'Spud' alias Martin Baker alias William Piper Narrowboats who had just happened to get his copy of Canal Boat with my test of his Crick winning boat in it.
By way of thanks he got us to help unload a truck load of genuine (marked and dated) Victorian timber from Buckingham Palace which is earmarked for a future boat. As if we hadn't done enough work already today!
Tonight he's round again with a bottle or two to say 'thanks' again which is why I'm writing this while I still can.

PS: Blogging boaters spotted so far - at Northampton en route for the Nene and just before we moored near Bugbrooke today.

The Birdman of Northampton

This narrowboater and his tame carrion crow - called 'Blackie' - are something of a fixture on Northampton waterfront. He's had her for five years now after finding him standing stunned at the roadside.
Shortly after this photo was taken Blackie went in for his nightly ablutions; a bath in a flowerpot saucer!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

One last push..

We're moored on Northampton waterfront. In every way it feels like base camp for the final assault to the canals - the sharp, hard slog up through the 17 locks of the Northampton Arm that will take us to the main Grand Union Canal - even down to the base camp style stocking up of supplies from nearby Morrisons.
So it's goodbye River Nene after 58 miles, 37 locks and five and a half days. We started with two days of strength sapping heat and finished with two days of heavy thundery showers. I think I preferred the former even if the boat did feel like someone was applying a brazing torch to the steelwork.
It's a delightful river, the Nene that meanders through gently rolling countryside laced with mellow stone villages and the odd seriously impressive stately pile. An almost perfect English waterway; clear, fast, full of fish, tree lined in stretches.
The trouble is, it's difficult to enjoy. If you're going to the canals you'll probably just buy a seven day visitor licence so that puts a timetable to the trip before the off. And then there's the limited moorings, which impose their own schedule. Before you know it, you're stopping at all the same places you stopped at last year, and the year before. Next time we really must try and discover some new ones.

Monday, 6 July 2009

The evil weed

After Irthlingborough the next decent stop is Cogenhoe - eight miles and eight locks. Which doesn't sound a lot but when those eight miles are covered in blanket weed AND it's showering heavily it's a slog.
That weed is evil. It wraps itself around the prop like the giant squid did round Captain Nemo's Nautilus. In a precautionary weed trap visit before the off I pulled and cut off several large handfuls but it wasn't long before we were struggling, getting slower and slower, and stopped at a lockside jetty for another trip down under. Even more handfuls of the stuff removed.
The floating carpets you can see on the surface are bad enough; the stuff that lurks around by the exit doors of the locks is worse but the really evil stuff hides a couple of feet below the surface then reaches out and tangles itself around you.
In the final mile before Cogenhoe we once more found ourselves getting slower and slower until the poor old boat simply wouldn't move at all and started to drift backwards with the wind and current. I steered it towards a willow tree, Vicky held its branches and I went into the depths again.
There was no prop to be seen this time -- just a massive roll of weed wrapped everywhere. Ten minutes tugging and cutting and we finally got away. Moored up in Cogenhoe at 3.00pm - seven hours, eight miles, eight locks and three trips down the hatch after starting. (And a final inspection after mooring revealed yet more of the damned stuff insinuating its way round the shaft once more!).
Tomorrow it's the last five miles to Northampton. I hope.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Sunday in Irthlingborough

Two kids jumping up and down in an overflowing waste skip throwing bags of festering rubbish about. Welcome to Irthlingborough, home of Doc Martens and the massive Rushden & Diamonds football stadium that Air Wear boots cash helped build. These days Doc Martens are made in China (where else?), the F.C. is languishing in the Conference and the town is more dead than alive.
But it does have the best moorings on the Nene. That's not hard – they're about the only ones since Peterborough where you can pump-out, empty the Thetford and chuck your rubbish. Actually you could probably chuck it all over the football club car park and no-one would notice there's so much there already.
It's a great river, the Nene, but frustrating short of facilities. Come on EA, we know you're strapped for cash but how about a couple more 48 hour landing stages? Or how about some villages having a go. Woodford, for example. Three pubs, shops, a chippy and no moorings. Oh but there are some - a long stretch of landing stage festooned with 'private no mooring' signs. And not a single boat there, ever, in all our trips on the river. Help boost the local shops and pubs, jetty owners, rent in out - a fiver a night. Earn a few quid for the parish council or the church fund.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

People who wear yellow hats

We'd overnighted at beautiful Fotheringhay (pictured) and, late in the evening, another nb moored nearby. "He's wearing a yellow cap, the wrong way round; what a cretin" murmured Vicky.
The next morning as we munched our healthy fruit & fibre, a smell of frying bacon wafted into the boat. "People who wear yellow hats probably eat bacon every breakfast" mused Vicky, taking a powerful bite out of her oats.
Final proof that this was not yellow hat prejudice but scientific fact came when we reached the first lock. Yellow Hat had clearly been the last boat through from the other direction - but instead of leaving the gate open (as instructed by a large sign) had laboriously wound it shut again. I say laboriously because it was one of the Nene's teedious handwheel operated types.
As was the next - again left down - and as were the next few, including another manual model. All of which we had to wind up, then down, then up again. Mr Yellow Hat, you are a fool!

PS Today is our wedding anniversary (Independence Day for America but etc etc... it's an old joke but I've trotted it out for 31 years now). We shall celebrate in style with a takeaway fish and chip supper in Thrapston. And maybe a Dr Pepper.

Oops! And oops again

"Where's the licence, Vicky?" I asked casually - having already scoured the boat for it while she snoozed. Er, back at the marina, in the car it turns out. Now it's only day three so we tread tactfully round a row - helped by a call to Mick at Dog In A Doublet who says "Don't worry, I'll vouch for you if a river inspector asks."
Oops Two was 100 per cent down to me. First lock of the day and just as we left a boat hove into view on a tight corner. For some incomprehensible reason I pushed the tiller hard the wrong way and almost tee-boned him before waking up. We didn't hit but he ended up tangled in the bank and had to pole himself off. Somehow "Sorry about that" seems a bit weak when you're motoring away unscathed. So green and cream boat at Alwalton Lock, I am truly sorry; I am an idiot!

These straights are sending me round the bend

So what do you do when you're looking down a three mile long rifle barrel of a waterway with banks on either side that hide everything but the sky from view? And you're not a Buddhist who can just slip the time away in a trance?
In Vicky's case the answer is get out the Brasso and start polishing! In my case, the answer is fret; study the map, check my watch, repeatedly compute average speeds in my head and wonder if we'll make Stanground Lock by our booked slot of 1p.m.
Star's little Petter engine doesn't seem to like being rushed but a pottering Petter only makes about 2.5mph according to my mental maths. So I crank the speedwheel and make it work harder - it responds with the occasional belch of black smoke and I convince Vicky that this is the equivalent of coughing up something nasty and is actually "good for it".
Anyway, we do make Stanground in perfect time and head up the Nene and start the search for that Nene rarity - a good mooring. More in hope than anything else, we head in Ferry Meadows country park where moorings are promised - and find the last vacant slot in a delightful lakeside setting.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

The big off - well rather a little one really

We're on the move! After a lot of dithering, shopping, checking and a drive over to Dog In A Doublet lock to pick up an EA visitor's licence (63 quid for seven days) we finally left Bill Fen for the summer Grand Tour Oop North at 2.30pm.

Three hours and a lot of blanket weed round the prop later we reached the main Middle Level 'through route' and instead of turning left for the Nene, turned right for a quick 10 minute buzz down to a visitor mooring at Floods Ferry. A fiver for a night's stay with a free beer at the bar thrown in compared pretty favourably with a night against a Fen bank in clouds of mozzies. Especially after a scorchio-and-a-half of a day.

The 'residents' at Bill Fen had waved us away in style – made me feel we were about to tackle the Atlantic not the Nene. Great though the marina is, I am starting to tire of the featureless plod toward, well, something. Fertile agricultural plain it might be but the Fens are startlingly devoid of wildlife save in and immediately around the river. Count birds on the fingers of one hand during the average day.

The one thing the rivers do have is low bridges and our 'Ramsey special' hinged exhaust chimney (above) got some serious testing - and passed.