Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Aire is clear - now!

The calm after the storm: Castleford flood lock
Just a week ago towns in this part of Yorkshire were devastated by massive floods after a  month's rainfall fell in just 24 hours. Castleford is where the rivers that had been overwhelmed by this deluge meet - the Calder and Hebble joining the River Aire to flow through the town.
Take a look at these photos of Allinson's Mill and the pedestrian bridge over the river weir (scroll down the page to Saturday 23rd to find them) and compare them to the ones I posted yesterday. And compare the flood lock then with the flood lock today.
A swept away ladder five feet up a post
All the way upstream we saw evidence of the flooding - the river had been five or six feet higher. We could only gasp at the sheer volume and ferocity of water that must have been flowing down there. And all this water heading straight out to sea - what a pity we can't capture more of it in low-level reservoirs to avoid our annual hosepipe ban panic.
We've travelled just a few miles toward Leeds today. There's a river festival in the city centre so no chance of mooring there. Instead we've pulled in at some pleasant moorings in the village of Woodlesford.
Of all the moorings in all the world....
We pulled in to a gap in the line of moored boats, tied up and then discovered that the boat in front was a tug we knew: Ebenezeer belonging to Tony whose Tollhouse Boat Sales is based back at our own Streethay Wharf. Small world.

Friday, 29 June 2012

What do you know about Castleford?

If you are anything like me you only know one thing - that it has a well known rugby league team. When Starwoman proposed a walk around the town I wasn't much inclined to tag along but I decided I might as well.
And we found a few surprises. This former mining town certainly isn't the prettiest  and there only seems to be one main shopping street plus a sizeable indoor market but as we walked into it over the big River Aire bridge we saw a startling feature - a striking, ultra-modern pedestrian bridge winding across the river above the weir.
So we had to come back that way and what a magnificent structure it is, snaking across immediately over the large, fierce weir. It starts at Castleford Mill where Allinson's pioneered wholemeal flour and where it was produced for over a hundred years until its closure last year. (How many times have we heard that tale?)
The bridge was opened in 2008 and Googling reveals it was centrepiece of a five year community led regeneration project filmed by Channel 4 for the series  Kevin McCloud & The Big Town Plan.
It's certainly a great feature and with other things under development for the town like the new library and museum, maybe the place really will be on the up after some tough years.
The concrete chute in the weir which you can see in the photo is a specially devised channel so that fish can get up over the weir for spawning.
So now you know more than one thing about Castleford. And here's another -- Burberry raincoats are made in Castleford!

Just like buses...

You wait ages for one to come along and then three more follow. We saw our first barge last night ... and three more gravel barges came through this morning before we had eaten our breakfast.
I expect we'll meet them on the way back which will be entertaining....

That's what I wrote this morning and, true enough we did. In fact we've spent our whole day in the company of barges of one sort and another. Most of the time we were in an informal convoy through the locks with a classic Humber Sloop, the Amy Howson. Built in 1914, has Lister diesel power as well as its sloop rig. Full details here . You wouldn't call the blunt nosed Keels elegant but they have a rugged charm and none more than this one.
The classic Keels were 61ft 6in so they could navigate the regional waterways but with the coming of bigger locks came bigger barges and we met two of them returning from the Lafarge gravel run on the river stretch of the Aire near Ferrybridge. Boy do they shift! I certainly wouldn't like to meet one on a blind corner or argue the toss about who should go through a narrow bridge. I don't expect they take prisoners.
The third we met at the last lock before Castleford. "Would we mind letting them through first?" asked the lockie. "Er, yes" I replied, noting that the 180ft boat was already nosing in.
Today's trip ran the full range of scenic variations. We started in the wide, flat agricultural prairies which then gave way to the industrial towers and chutes of Kellingley Coal Mine. Kellingley is one of the newest of our few surviving deep mine pits so there's none of the old-style spinning colliery head wheels here. "Tomorrow's energy standards today" boasts a large canalside sign. I can find no reference on Google to what these standards may be. The only stories are of a miner killed in a roof fall here last year.
After the inevitable mess of industry came a surprising interlude of rustic charm as we passed through Knottingley where the towpath was lined with flowers and limestone bridges abounded.
But the big cooling towers of Ferrybridge power station were looming ever closer and as we went through the flood lock and onto the River Aire we were right alongside it. It must be the country's best known power station: so many of us have driven past it on the A1. But the view from the road doesn't reveal the sheer scale of it; acres and acres of towers, plant, sidings where railway wagons inch along depositing coal and vast mountains of this coal waiting to fuel the fires. Everywhere you look in this area – as it was along the Trent – you can see more power stations. It makes you realise the enormity of our need for energy.
Beyond Ferrybridge the river winds past two abandoned collieries which have now been landscaped and taken over as wildlife reserves. Unless you knew the history, you'd assume this was natural countryside so fast has nature reclaimed the area.
Finally, after a windy but bright day (save for one severe but fortunately very short downpour) we reached Castleford where we've called a halt. A right turn at the flood lock here will take us up to Leeds tomorrow.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

What a whopper

Ever since we started on the tidal Trent I've been keen to see one of the big commercial barges that operate on the waterways we've been using.
Now I have. And I pretty pleased we were tightly moored up at the time! They are big. In this case 182 feet long and getting on for 20 feet wide. It was a gravel barge on the return leg of its regular trip between Besthorpe on the Trent where it picks up 500 tons of sand and gravel  and the Lafarge wharf at Whitwood further down the Aire & Calder from us here at Pollington. It was one of three operated by the Branford family who've been commercial carrying on the area's waterways for many years and are now one of very few still in business.
We met the barge at the end of a day that started with thunderstorms but cleared after lunch and finished in a glorious sunny evening.When the rain stopped we left our mooring at Barnby Dun (not the nicest we've had because of the noisy traffic and an even noisier constantly barking alsation in a nearby house) and soon reached a Y-junction, the left fork of which is the New Junction Canal.
This was built in 1905 as a sort of waterway by-pass so that  commercial traffic could go between the Aire & Calder and the South Yorks Navigations without having to deal with the tidal Humber estuary. As a modern, functional canal it's arrow straight for its five mile length though boredom is broken by a series of swing and lift bridges along the way as well as a complicated lock that has a swing bridge in the middle of it! Not to mention a frail looking aqueduct over the River Don which had just a spindly handrail between us and the drop on one side.
At the top of the canal you swing left onto another wide commercial waterway, the Aire & Calder which runs east-west from Goole on the Humber to Castleford and up to Leeds as well as linking on to the various trans-Pennine waterways. It's another straight, wide waterway with huge locks that can take 200ft long vessels.
The original plan was to take it and the Calder&Hebble to join the Rochdale Canal for the Pennine trip. But the recent major flooding has badly affected the Rochdale so we've opted to take the long way round and go via the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. The alternative would have been the much shorter Huddersfield Narrow but we've done that and once is enough: the prospect of another three hours underground in the never -ending Standedge Tunnel breathing in the exhaust fumes from our smoky Petter was not something to contemplate. So it's Leeds-Skipton-Blackburn-Wigan-Manchester for us.

The curse of the knobbly knees

I put my shorts on ... and we've just had a thunderstorm!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Down to earth Doncaster

We stopped at Doncaster today on the return leg of our trip, the only major town we'd missed along the canal.
And I'm glad we made it because it's become our favourite – a straightforward, no-nonsense, down to earth sort of town that's a little bit old fashioned but in the nicest possible way.
From the visitor moorings it's just a short stroll past the magnificent Minster church to one of the town's high spots, the market, which was in full swing with outdoor bric-a-brac stalls as well as the familiar fruit and veg plus a sizeable indoor fish market. Shame we missed the wool market and international food hall which open on full market days (Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays).
The market area is lined with cafes: none of your continental rubbish but proper Yorksheer caffs serving fish, chips, mushy peas and scraps. Scraps? The left over bits of batter, crispy, crunchy and a heart attack in every handful. Needless to say, Starwoman pulled me away and bought a huge bag of "ripe, juicy plums" for 50p instead.
The town itself is a compact grid of busy streets, mixing old buildings with new shops and a couple of malls as well providing everything from House of Fraser to Poundland.
The town's old fashioned in another way: so many people smoke that the cleanest air is often to found inside the shops!
But we liked it.

PS I need to correct my previous post about the lack of visitor moorings: there are plenty but they are easy to miss. There is a long floating jetty, off which all the long term moorers sit but the outside of this jetty is apparently visitor space. Now you know.
None of which explains the huge concrete edged basin a couple of hundred yards away which is completely empty and aching to be moored in. What's that all about?

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Brian's blog

I thought this was our summer cruise?
I've sat through the last three weeks pretty patiently - even though I've usually either been locked in the boat "on guard duty" while they go off shopping or sightseeing or else I've been stuck on the roof while we're going through locks. But now it's my turn to have a few words.
To be honest, I've been on better trips. It's been wet and windy most of the time so that means I'm stuck inside listening to that damned noisy engine or huddled up in my bed on the roof. And when it's sunny, well they strip off to tee shirts and shorts but what about me, stuck in my fur coat.
Worse still, I've been strapped into some sort of bright orange overcoat for half the trip. It even has a handle on the back which they use to pick me up and carry me about. What a plonker I must look! They say it's for my own safety because we're on a river. Fair enough, but they get smart, comfortable, self-inflating ones not a wrap-around mattress.
The sort of boating I enjoy is when I can walk between the locks and do a decent amount of sniffing and leg lifting (if you know what I mean). On these rivers there aren't enough locks and not enough places to walk either. I mean to say, we've just been in Sheffield for four days - what use is a city centre to a dog? Apart from all the pretty girls who always like to fuss me, that is. Woof, woof! Give me the countryside any time.
Trouble will be brewing later!
I did go on strike briefly and refused to eat my breakfast - that sort of behaviour does get them worried. But it backfired this time: she bought me a very nice rib bone. I was rather greedy, though, and I ate the lot. Result: three days of very unpleasant tummy troubles. I don't think he was best pleased at having to get up three times in the night to let me out! All's well now and they're even giving me milk on my morning dog food. Result!
We did have a nice day yesterday: I was walked around the city centre in the sunshine and even got to lick out the remains of their McFlurry tubs. (The things these humans eat!)
I quite liked the bus trip we went on the other day as well - though the first bus lurched and swayed all over the place. The driver seemed to be going just as fast as he takes us in our own car. Another sunny day - until it poured with rain and I got soaked while they put on rain coats.
Front seat view of Lincoln
A burger would have been better but a McFlurry's ok
Apparently we're off now to another canal: let's hope it is a bit more dog friendly than some of these. I'll let you know.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Exploring Sheffield

The beautiful Winter Garden
After a long weekend in Sheffield I think I've finally got the hang of the place. I reckon I have a decent sense of direction but there've been times here when I've just lost all my bearings in a city whose roads don't seem to conform to any logical city grid pattern.
The roads go every which way and there are trams - or 'supertrams' as they call them as well as cars, buses and bus lanes. Not only is it tricky to know where you're going but it's even dodgier to cross the road! At one pedestrian crossing there's even a recorded voice to warn that traffic is two-way rather than the one you'd expect.
The result is that you find some shops...and then some more...and then some more all popping up in different streets and malls. (We spent a fruitless hour looking for Waterstones and found it tucked in a hidden mall.)
A Supertram heads for town
Space age architecture at Hallam University
Sheffield is also a place that's been patchily regenerated over the years as time has been called on its old commercial and industrial zones. You can date its made-over districts by their style of their architecture. From the ugly '60s market - which is due for its next makeover soon - to the dramatic new Hallam University buildings and the fabulous Winter Garden. This isn't a Ken Dodd panto venue but a wonderful tropical glass-house and gallery venue right next to the Town Hall – a building which isn't to be confused with the City Hall which is somewhere else.
The Winter Garden is a great space and well used. Yesterday there was a cardboard box play area for kids among the giant palm trees. This morning mothers and babies swarmed everywhere for a special meet.
The Wall of Steel at the station
They like their water features here, too. Steel spheres running with water at the town hall and a pretty stunning steel wall coated with a skin of running water at the railway station. Look at the photo and see if you, like me, think it's supposed to symbolise a moving train.
Free-to-use table tennis tables dot the city
But Sheffield is known for its steel and its cutlery and yesterday we went to the Kelham Island Museum which tells the story of both. Sheffield has smelted iron since the 14th century but it was the coming of the canal and then the railway that gave it the vital connection to the outside world and helped these industries really grow.
Crucible steel making was devised in Sheffield to industrialise the conversion of pig iron to steel and the industry expanded with the invention of the terrifying Bessemer converter which, again, was pioneered here.
Bessemer Converter with scale-model Starwoman
Nothing sums up the scale of Sheffield's steel industry more than the monstrous 'River Don Engine' a small house-size steam engine built in 1905 to roll steel armour plate. This three cylinder engine has a 40 inch bore and 48 inch stroke and 12,000 horsepower. Yes, 12,000! We watched it run up to speed, it's huge flywheel rumbling with this astounding power.
The Monster - 12,000hp River Don engine
What's really extraordinary in the museum, though, is the evidence of the appalling working conditions of the men and women who worked in the steel and cutlery indsutries. Conditions that existed right up until the 1960s. Men working with molten steel in shirtsleeves. Or clamping cloths in their mouths to stop their lips burning. Women in vile conditions polishing and buffing silverware for a pittance.  It is easy to get nostalgic, as I do sometimes, for the days when Britain was an industrial powerhouse but the reality of those days was grim indeed.
One of three huge canal basin warehouses
Overall, we've enjoyed our time here. It's not in the top ranking cities we've boated to but fascinating and lively nonetheless. It's just a shame that the canal basin, which must be one of the most complete and significant in the system with its mighty warehouses, is so under-visited by boaters. And so quiet, too. There's hardly anyone around: a couple of bars and restaurants could liven it up and give it some of the sparkle of central Birmingham. As it is, the warehouses are now offices and, like many others in the city, currently empty of tenants and several of the little under-the-arches spaces are empty too. True, the city centre is just a few minutes away but boats, bars and visitors could bring some badly missed vitality to the basin.
A typically busy street scene in the Basin
Tonight the 2012 torch arrives in central Sheffield and there's a city-centre party in force to celebrate it. Tomorrow, like the torch, we head out of town and hope the sun continues to shine.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Sheffield in the rain

An early start this morning – even though it was Starwoman's birthday – so we  could head out of Rotherham, through a couple of locks and meet up with Dave the lockie who would supervise us through the remaining 13 on the way to Sheffield.
We were in tandem with a couple on Nb Wormcatcher who, unknown to us, have been shadowing our route since the start of the Trent.
Dave assists us through a lock
Dave supervises the canal and river system to Sheffield and has done so for 25 years. Along the way he was able to point out areas affected by the devastating floods of 2007. The river was so high then it was flowing over a road bridge above one of the locks, the M1 was closed because flood water damaged one of its supports, a railway embankment was all but swept away and in the city itself there was widespread devastation. (Check out the pictures on Google Images!)
Climate change and more pressure on the river to cope with the extra rainwater run-offs from more and more building mean it could all happen again, worries Dave.
Anyway, though it was raining today, it wasn't heavy enough to be of concern: unpleasant for us, all the same, with bursts of sharp showers and high, gusting winds.
After passing through two river locks we reached the Tinsley Flight up to Sheffield of eleven locks: they're all double width and pretty heavy but quite why they are all security-locked up so comprehensively and need lock-keeper assistance we none of us ever quite fathomed. The ubiquitous 'scrote key' seems to deter the hoodlums well enough elsewhere (and anyway, to be honest, there wasn't much sign of hoodlum activity along the flight, which was all very well kept.
After the locks the two mile run into Sheffield takes the familiar industrial back alley route of most urban canals. There's evidence of steel stockholding and working everywhere which is good to see.
Finally we reached the basin at Victoria Quays. It's an impressive spectacle, with a 'straddle warehouse' across the waterway as which boats were once loaded or emptied and two other huge Victorian warehouses as well.
Nearing the top of the Flight
There are plenty of boats moored up in there. But we're not - the basin is full of boats for sale and some long term moorings. Visitor moorings are on the towpath outside with no electric. What a way to treat people who've come all this way to see a city. You're not going to stay long if you have to sit on an insecure footpath, and run your engine every few hours for hot water or battery charging. A few days in a historic canal basin really ought to be part of the South Yorkshire Navigations experience.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Down the town

It briefly stopped raining this morning so we took a 30 minute stroll down the towpath to explore Rotherham town centre.
You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to see that Rotherham is not a well off place: the clues are in the shops: any number of pound-somethings, bargain brand-name clothes and food shops and a collection of pawnbroker style outlet offering to lend you money, or buy your gold - or anything.

For all that, there's a pleasant enough sort of place lurking beyond the rather bland main shopping streets. The splendid Victorian town hall has been cleverly modified to become a small shopping arcade and one of the similar vintage markets now houses a little collection of characterful 'arty' outlets.
There are some handsome old buildings and shop fronts too as well as a very big and fascinating Minster church and we found ourselves a pretty little individual coffee shop for a drink and home-made cake.
All in all, a good morning's stroll around - and we almost missed the rain on the way back. Just got ourselves soaked in the last 200 yards, dammit.
Tomorrow we head toward Sheffield with our passage booked through some 15 locks to get there. Unfortunately all the radio talks about this evening is the forecast for even more rain.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Highlight of the trip!

No it wasn't yet another day of sunshine. Nor more great miles on this surprisingly delightful waterway. Nor even an overnight mooring with electric. was a waterside Lidl. Starwoman whooped with delight and insisted that we moor up immediately, even though we were hanging off a couple of trees in what was supposed to be a winding spot for big commercial barges.
We were at Mexborough – one of the few spots where this hidden waterway touches base with civilisation - and while I kept a wary watch for big commercials (there weren't any) Vicky rushed off, armed with bags.
Half an hour later she was back and our cupboards and fridge were crammed full.
Just beyond Lidl was the highlight of my day when we came to Waddington Lock at Swinton and the home of once legendary commercial carriers. Waddingtons built and operated barges from the site for more than 200 years but it was Vic Waddington who turned the small family firm into a fleet of over 80 boats at its peak, carrying to and from Hull and even Europe. He also lobbied hard to use the waterways for commercial carrying and was the driving force behind the canal locks being enlarged in the 1980s to the 700 tonne Euro barge norm.  Sadly since his death in 1999 commercial carrying has slid into decline, as witnessed by the almost silent and sad looking Waddington base at Swinton.
Beyond Swinton the route returned from its canalised section into another of river where Thrybergh Steel Bar Mill and other indstries poked out above the tree-lined banks, proving that, there is some industry alive and (hopefully) well in this area.
Tonight we are moored up back on the canal at a well provided visitor mooring on the edge of Rotherham. Rain's apparently forecast for tomorrow so it may be time for another bus trip.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Quiet flows the the moment

You wouldn't expect much rural idyll from a canal that goes through such industrial stalwarts as Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield (well an ignorant southerner like me wouldn't anyway) but today's cruise has been an eye opener.
Now that's what you call a lock
Soon after leaving Thorne we reached the fork in the route where the line from the Aire & Calder comes in. From here the waterway swells in width and the locks grow enormously in size.  Thirty odd years ago everything was brought up to the 'Euro' commercial barge standard to be able to handle 700 tonners. Shame that virtually none are left using it!
After a lunch stop at the pleasant canalside village of Barnby Dun - where the butcher supplied some excellent locally sourced liver and bacon for tonight's delicious dinner (as well as a home-made beef pie for tomorrow) - we headed on to Doncaster.
Here the big Doncaster Minster dominates the skyline and we would have stopped for a visit but...nowhere to moor. Just two visitor moorings - both full - but a whole complement of long term ones. Why is it so often like this? Visitors bring money to local communities and should be encouraged. Unfortunately BW don't make any cash from visitor slots but they do from long-termers and I guess cash is king.
After Doncaster the waterway, which has run in parallel with the River Don, moves onto the river and, again, it's fabulously rural; a series of wide, sweeping curves backed by hillsides of trees that mask houses and factories from view. Along the way we passed over two big railway bridges and the great concrete spans of the A1 road bridge.
Somewhere in there is a little narrowboat waiting for the lock
Delightful mooring at Sprotbrough
Tonight we're moored at Sprotborough and to look at the wide waterway and handsome old stone buildings edging the river we could be in France. Even the weather today has been more southern France than north of England. Let's hope it continues because these moorings apparently flood when the river rises in the rain!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Back on the canals

We watched a irridescent orange and purple sunset over a farm of giant wind turbines last night in a spot so quiet the only sound was your own breathing. Beautiful.
The first miles of the South Yorkshire Navigations are straight as a pressed trouser leg. Rather like the miles of Fossdyke we've just left. But they're immediately more enjoyable because rather than hiding between high flood banks the canal rides up above the surrounding flatlands so you can see for miles.
There's also stuff to do – swing bridges every mile or two, an ingenious slide-back-out-of-the-way railway bridge at Vazon (one of only three in Europe) and mechanised locks with baffling looking control panels. And, being a canal, you can moor pretty much where you like instead of having to search out a free pontoon space.
Tonight we're moored at Thorne, a small town that's tied firmly into the canal by two marinas, a boatyard and a site for Jonathan Wilson that used to be the base for Louis & Joshua boatfitters.
Away from the waterfront, it seems a bit down on its luck these days with too many shuttered shops and a mish-mash of those left open. Almost certainly the fault of the recession on top of deeper unemployment issues in the area.
But the sun is shining and tomorrow promises to be a decent day too so we'll see what we find on a waterway so empty of moving boats you seem to have it all to yourself at times.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Glad tideings – just

"Go past the lock, turn round, then come back up and in." It was a simple, logical instruction from the lockie but it had our hearts in our mouths for the final few minutes of what had actually been a remarkably straightforward 25 miles down the tidal Trent.
People speak ill of this river; of its fast tides, its hidden sandbanks and its big commercial barges. And especially of the tricky exit from the river through Keadby Lock. Miss that and next stop is the Humber Estuary and the North Sea!
Waiting for the off at Torksey
Eric the super-helpful Torksey lock-keeper and his compatriot down at Keadby were reassuring, though, and came up with some timings to suit little 'ole Star. Leave at about 10.00 am and aim to take between four and five hours for the trip, bringing us to Keadby more or less at the turn of the tide. Simple.
And so it was. The weather – aside from a chill wind – was the best in days and, being a Sunday, there were none of those big commercial barges forcing their way through.
When you've seen one power station...
The combination of fast river flow and ebbing tide had us fairly racing along. Well, racing in Star terms: according to the km posts we were doing 5-6mph compared with our typical canal best of around 3! The river continues to curve and sometimes turn sharply through open, wide countryside, the rural landscape broken by a succession of power stations, sucking their cooling water from its plentiful supply.
You can feel the change of pace in the waterway; sometimes slow through the sinuous stretches, then speeding dramtically on the straights.
Brian has his wind ears flapping again
Ebbing tide reveals those shoals
Nowhere was faster than Gainsborough which we fairly flew through, passing a mixture of converted and redundant wharves and even - at high speed though - a Lidl. The Chesterfield Canal entry at West Stockwith lock marked half distance and from here northwards the river seemed to straighten and widen with more evidence of habitation in a string of straggly bankside villages.
Flying through Gainsborough
Finally the landmark M180 motorway bridge was in sight; just two miles to go and time to phone the lockie. "You'll see the lock" he added to his entry instructions.
Er, no you won't! We passed Keadby rail viaduct and an  enormous coaster thankfully moored up then searched for the lock entry among the cluttered bankside. We could see the control tower but where was the damned lock? In the end we were almost on it.
M180 bridge - just two miles to go
I went past, turned, revved hard and found myself going backwards as the little Petter engine fought the stream. I revved harder; we inched forwards. I revved harder than the poor b*gger had ever been revved before; we turned and, as the flow against us eased, we were in. Four and a half hours after we had left Keadby.
Keadby railway bridge
And a relieved skipper finally in the lock
Tonight we're moored up on a peaceful, rural spot along the Sheffield & South Yorkshire waterways. It's time for a beer.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Saxilby's superstore

Forget your B&Q and Homebase. If you're anywhere near the village of Saxilby, near Lincoln then Tong's DIY is definitely the place to go.
This is one of those old fashioned ironmonger/diy shops that stocks everything - and I mean everything - from bath plugs to lawnmower spares. And, as the owner was keen to point out, they're often cheaper than the diy 'sheds' too.
And if you're on a boat; it's even better because Tong's sells gas and RED DIESEL. They'll even lend you a trolley or a can so you can take the stuff back to your boat at the village moorings across the road.
It was the perfect find for us. I wanted gas and diesel but the only marina is at nearby Burton Waters and on a windy morning I didn't fancy weaving through the ranks of costly plastic boats looking for the diesel point so I had given it a miss. Then, moored in Saxilby, we spotted Tong's sign, filled up, gassed up...and waited for the village charity shop to re-open after lunch.

On the buses

No granny pass for Brian: he cost 50p!
Yesterday was a bus day. The weatherman had promised a rubbish day so we got our granny passes out and set off for Louth, 25 miles north east of Lincoln where the flatlands of the Fens have given way to the rolling landscape of the Wolds. It was voted one of the ten nicest country towns to live in by the Daily Torygraph so we though we'd take a look.
And a delightful little place it is too. The centre is quite unspoiled, with rows of old brick built terraces, lots of local shops, a small market going on, street names that echoed its medieval roots - Eastgate, Kidgate, Ramsgate, Mercer Row and the like. And there's even a little river – the Lud.

 The weather was on side too. At least for most of the day. It started out like this:
But ended up like this – a giant storm of thunder and hail.
Fortunately the rain had stopped again by the time the No10 Stagecoach had dropped us back in Lincoln for a walk back to the boat.