Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Jam Butty / Montgomery Update

So whats been going on lately?
October 2013

Following "the wedding" we decided to escape for a week and where better than a trip along the Shroppie to Market Drayton and back, taking in the autumn colours on those magnificent cuttings.

The snag was the weather. But we mustn't grumble because the best days weather was on Saturday and the sun even came out as we emerged from the church just in time for the photos. To say it rained at the start of the trip would be an understatement and in two days we managed just four hours cruising as far as Brewood and even there we were kept awake by the drumming on the roof.

But we put the time to good use, chopping and preparing several loads of pear chutney and some very scrumptious pear and chocolate jam, using some pears given to us by a friend from Kent. The problem was that the supply of pears outstripped the rest of the ingredients so I went into the village with a somewhat aspirational shopping list and, having scoured all the shops I returned with oranges, halved walnuts and even 70% coco solids Green and Blacks chocolate. The Wildside production line rolls on and on.

Montgomery October 2013

All that rain meant no photos, but as we passed Stretton Wharf we couldn't resist taking a quick peek at Montgomery which was tucked up under its own canopy. The steelwork on the bulkhead and the new boatmans bar was gleaming and fresh and the holes in the sides have all been patched - it is really starting to take shape and apart from the drain hole in the base plate it is pretty much ready for the water.

Montgomery hold October 2013

The team at Stretton have taken the Jam Butty to their hearts and they are making a splendid job of her conversion. The gunnels are almost finished, the bulkhead is crowned with a very shapely Boatmans Beam, the base plate has been reinforced and plans are afoot to mock up a front deck and bulkhead.

 Boatmans Beam

I have to admit that the butty is exceeding my expectation - I think we are all very curious to see her in the water and to work out the amount of ballasting needed. There is a lot of iron in the old day boat section so we will have to wait and see.

Montgomery takes shape October 2013

Monday, 28 October 2013

Ding Dong!

What I have been up to lately!
October 2013

We have been a bit distracted these last few weeks, with no time for boating and no time for jam sales.

Truth be told our daughter's wedding has been the focus of our lives, but it is fair to say that the date was influenced by the gap between the end of the boating festival season and the start of the Christmas Fairs.

I don't post a lot about my personal life but here are a few photos of the event which took place at Aldridge Parish Church on Sat 19th Oct followed by a reception in Tamworth.

 The arrival of the bride

 Jeff all scrubbed up!

 The Ahabs on parade

Belle and her sister!

All this puts me in mind of a young boy who lived near a pretty church and watched the weekly procession of weddings with increasing bafflement. In the end he approached the vicar and demanded an explanation: What to you do to the men? All these pretty young girls go into the church with old men and an hour later they come out with young ones.....

So Tilly went in with her old man and emerged with her young one so I had better leave you with a picture of the happy couple:

As soon as the wedding was over we jumped on the boat and were off up the Shroppie, but that's  another story.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Victorian and Edwardian Boating - book review

Victorian and Edwardian Boating
by Neil Wigglesworth
October 2013

Another book on loan from Chris Chesher - this time its the story of the rise of boating in the Victorian and Edwardian times using captioned photographs.

Its not particularly canal focussed and spends most of its time looking at the craft used by the masses who flocked to the waterways at this time. 

Cheddleton on the Caldon Canal

I an sure you have seen that classic photo of  Boulters Lock on the Thames, absolutely jam packed with, skiffs, punts and Rob Roy Canoes. Well this book charts the rise on boating as  popular pass time for the masses as opposed to the rich few. It therefore is mostly covering more humble craft and charts what was probably the intensive period of recreational boating the rivers have ever seen.

I am particularly taken with the Rob Roy Canoe with the sail option. I seem to have become too old for my kayak but dont want to lose the ability for some hand propelled journeys from which I can use my camera. I think I feel a plan coming on.....

All fascinating stuff.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Bridgewater Department - book review

The Bridgewater Depatment
by The Manchester Ship canal Company
October 2013

This was an unusual publication on loan from the library of Chris of nb Nebulae, who can always be relied on to provide something a bit unusual and off beam.

It describes itself as a handbook published in 1968, about the time I first encountered the canals, and covers the construction of the Bridgewater Canal, the activities currently happening on the waterway and concludes with a whole lot of information which may be of interest to the reader.

The old Irwell Aqueduct

If the purpose of the book is a bit opaque one only has to look at the advertisers to understand its aim. It was to promote the use of the canal and so attracted hauliers, merchants, stockholders and even banks! It was  a genuine last gasp attempt to breath commercial life into this very early canal which had served the area so well for over 200 years.

The reconstructed Hulme locks - now replaced by Pamona

And possibly its the adverts which attracted me most. The lorries and fork trucks are all so period - the sort of thing you now see at vintage rallies but I remember them on the road for our family business in Norfolk.

Harecastle Tunnel with both bores operational

But its not just the vehicles, its the banking adverts from names which had a proud history but now are no more than a footnote in history: Martins Bank (Barclays), District Bank (Nat West) and Williams Deacon's (Royal Bank of Scotland). It just goes to show that banks never die, they just get absorbed into something else - RIP Midland Bank!

 You dont get Bank ads like these any more!

The book also contains some great period drawings and photos I havn't seen before.

Not so much a gripping read as a delightful dipper, if you know what I mean.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

London's Lost Route to the Sea - book review

London's Lost Route to the Sea
by P A L Vine
October 2013

This was a speculative purchase of a book first published in 1965 detailing the life and times of Wey and Arun Canal. My version is a third edition published in 1973 suggesting that demand for this David and Charles product remained strong, but for the life of me I can't understand why.

The flyleaf concludes " a full length, detailed study, written with the interest of the general reader in mind, but fully documented for the historian." To my mind the attention to detail is tiresome to the point of exhaustion. 

But maybe I am not being entirely fair. Had this book been about the BCN I would probably devoured every word and digested every morsel, but its not. Its about a canal which is far from my stomping ground which I have never explored and beyond a general interest in its dynamic restoration activity, its not one I am likely to spend much time on.

So, its a heavy read which exceeded my enthusiasm. Are there any Wey and Arun enthusiasts out there who would like my copy please drop me a line.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Small Boat to Luxembourg - book review

Small Boat to Luxembourg
by Roger Pilkington
October 2013

Summer is not a big book reading season for me - there is far too must other stuff to be getting on with which leaves little time for books. 

That means that this installment from the Pilkington stable took a while to work through, weeks in fact. That may mean that I didnt give the book adequate attention, or that the book is a clunker which failed to engage with it.

The thing I like about these books is that they cover ground I know nothing about but the formulae is to weave the journey in with a historical narrative. Pilkington treads a fine line between these two strands and providing the travel element is strong enough he pulls it off.

This edition sees Thames Commodore milling around over familiar waters, aiming to cover a new line into Luxembourg but as a result there is loads and loads of historical and mythical stuff, far more than is readily digestible. 

To be honest, this feels like a "churn it out" edition and I can only hope that he returns to form in the next one! 

Friday, 18 October 2013

A Thousand Pardons - book review

A Thousand Pardons
by Jonathan Dee

If you really screw up its generally a good strategy to say sorry - a lesson most of us learned as a child, and most politicians learn after election.

And that is the recurring theme within this book. An unremarkable American couple encounter a cliche'd marital hazard of husband having a fling and getting caught. He leaves, has a breakdown whilst she "finds herself" in a new job in PR and specialising in helping people say sorry for a whole range of misdemeanors.

Within all this there is her daughter caught on the middle, but her character is two dimensional and never really makes it into the plot. Come to think about it its now three weeks singe I read the book and I cant remember the names of the key characters - which says a lot about the book.

What I can remember is that eventually the estranged wife applies her "sorry" technique to her own marriage and they all live happily ever after.

It had enough content to keep me engaged during a recent business trip, but that was where the only alternative entertainment was Turkish TV!

So - a forgettable book and well worth leaving on the shelf.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Ghost Canals of the BCN - Haines and Toll End Comminuication Canals

Lost Canal Walks on the BCN
Circular walk from the foot of Ryders Green Locks to Tipton focusing on the Haines and Toll End Communication canals.
October 2013

This is canal walk No 4, and is featured in the October edition of BCNS's Boundary Post Magazine.

Haines and Toll End Canals – Boundary Post Walk

This 4.5 mile walk marks a return to the core of the BCN network covering the Haines Branch, Dixons Branch and the Toll End Communication Canal, linking Great Bridge with Tipton.

Haines Branch Canal
Let’s start our walk where the 1833 Haines Branch left the Walsall Canal at the foot of the Ryders Green locks. If you didn’t know it was there you would miss this junction completely. The canal bank has been built over and the towpath bridge removed. You can pick up the trail by following the River Tame as it emerges beyond Market Place and joins Haines Walk, which follows the line of the towpath.

The channel of the canal is reed filled but very obvious, with a cantilevered loading gantry still attached to the wall of the building opposite. It then heads south west among the trees, which line a wide strip of public open space leading to a bricked up canal bridge hole under Sheepwash Lane.

From here the diverted River Tame has been dug into the bed of the old canal as it threads through the Sheepwash Local Nature Reserve, built on the site of the Pumphouse Brick Works. The branch canal ended parallel to the big lake which fills the old clay pit. This half mile canal was dug to serve the local collieries and brick works via a number of short side arms, all of which have now been lost. This lockless arm closed in 1969.

Dixons Branch
Keep to the northern side of the Haines Branch, following the footpath into Johns Lane which will lead you to Dudley Port Station and access to the eastern side of the New Main Line Canal. Follow the towpath north past a number of aqueduct narrows and you will find a footpath turning right under the railway embankment. This is the entrance to the lockless half mile 1820 Dixons Branch. There is not a lot to see, but a footpath runs on the course as far as Station Street, about a quarter of the way up the arm. Beyond this the channel is buried under a modern housing estate and the canal was closed phases during the 50’s and 60’s.

Tipton Green Branch
Returning to the New Main Line, continue north to the footbridge at Caggy’s Boatyard where you can cross over the canal. From this footbridge you can see a stub inlet into the boatyard spanned by iron roving bridge – which is the western entrance to the Toll End Communication Canal. Directly opposite a footpath follows the line of the Tipton Green Canal to Union Street which then morphs into a liner public open space. Within this park you will find the remains of one of the three 1805 locks which used to lift the channel up to the Old Main Line in Tipton.
Rather than retrace your steps down the Tipton Green Branch, turn right along the canal and exit at the next bridge onto Owen Street. Then turn right which will take you back over the New Main Line and under the railway tracks which now bars your progress down the Toll End Communication Canal from Caggy’s.

Toll End Communication Canal
This is a real mongrel of a waterway, built in several phases between 1783 and 1809 and is as elusive as it is historic. It’s hard to believe that this was navigable into the 1960’s. The western end, down to Tipton Cemetery was part of the Tipton Green Branch built in 1805 and later bisected by the New Main Line in 1828. Today it is hard to track as its path, which runs under open ground to the north of Alexandra Road, falling as it goes. The first real evidence on the ground is a canal sized strip of land to the east of the B4163, just north of the roundabout on Alexandra Road. Don’t be fooled by Tipton Brook which the canal nearly reached beside the cemetery before it kinked in what is now a stand of trees in the middle of the graveyard. This was the junction between the 1805 Tipton Green Branch and the 1809 phase of the Toll End Branch, home to the Horsley Ironworks which made many of those graceful iron bridges.

The line then swings slightly north under Bridge Road and follows a clear curving roadway through an industrial park which sits on top of a maze of side channels serving the Cotterill Farm Colliery, before passing under Brookhouse Bridge at Toll End Road. The bridge parapet remains intact and a scrabble in the undergrowth rewards you with a good view of the bricked up bridge hole. The course of this earlier 1783 section then follows Tipton Brook, parallel to Beever Road and enters the Walsall Canal under a pipe bridge which borders the towpath.

From here it is a very short walk along the Walsall Canal to the foot of the Ryders Green Locks and the end of this circular walk.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Glimpses of Montgomery

Montgomery (or the Jam Butty) update
October 2013

Its been several weeks since I provided an update on Montgomery and truth be told we have been too busy to go to Stretton and have a look. What is more, the deal is that we wont take delivery till next summer, so the work can be fitted in round the other boatyard commitments and there is no expectation of an early completion.

The new gunnels go on

But that's not to say I am not interested. In fact, as time goes on I am more and more fascinated with how this little craft will look, swim and operate as a preserve selling base. In idle moments I find myself thinking about what we will do with it, how we will tow it, how much drag it will offer and what sort of progress we will make when under way. Then there is the interior - so many possibilities....

The general plan will be to get the hold painted and sheeted first, thus making her watertight and secure, worrying about the back cabin as phase two. Any suggestions about where to get the sheeting / cloths from?

Well, here are a few images showing that work is underway, the gunnels have been fitted straightening the sides and a cover has been erected over her to let them carry on in bad weather - all very exciting. But the sad fact is that I still havn't seen her - the photos were taken by my brother who called in on his way past and he spent tome time having a look at her.

But these past months havnt been idle. I have made some enquiries and found out a lot about the type of BCN day boat that the bows came from - the stern of one of a dozen or so boats built on the Ridgeacre Arm in 1911 /1912. Its odd that the stern looks seriously old but is a reproduction whereas the "bows" are the real McCoy. Can you see the rivet holes on the waterline in the top picture? They were supporting the steel steerers platform which has since been removed and the absence of gunnels is probably because the stern had a short cabin on it, which went right to the sides of the hull. But that is conjecture based on similar boats from that era.

Now here is the thing:

To qualify as a "historic" boat it seems that the craft has to basically include the bulk of the hold of the original craft. That means that using just the stern portion which was cut off and discarded when the butty was converted to a motor does not qualify! Relatively speaking, there are loads of front ends kicking around - all with their new engine rooms, back cabins and counters - but almost all of these historic stern ends have been scrapped. They are like hens teeth and, whilst I may be a bit biased here, surely their preservation deserves some recognition?

As Rolf would have said - can you see it yet?

Anyway, that is all just an aside. In a few days the wedding which has consumed so much of our time will be over, and we will be taking a much anticipated break on Wand'ring Bark and plan to stop off at Stretton Wharf on our way up the Shropshire Union. 

More updates in future weeks.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Mechanical Stuff and things which go bump in the night

Time for professional help
October 2013

I have mentioned before that we have been having some mechanical niggles with Wand'ring Bark's engine, and these have been getting steadily worse all season.

It starts ok, but kicks out a plume of smoke which is unusual for a Beta. Then there is the rattle and shake which sets in at below 1,100 rmp when cold, and 1,000 rpm when hot. There is also the clunky gearbox, the dripping stern gear ... and so the list goes on.

The inability to operate at a sensible tick-over finally got to me and I decided we needed professional help. We checked Wand'ring Bark into Oxley Marine for some serious TLC on the way back from the Black Country Boating Festival and were told to call in a few days to see how things were going.

We called as requested and were told that all out suspicions were spot on - engine mounts failed so replaced - transmission loose so tightened - stern gland packing dead so replaced, injectors fouled so overhauled. Quite a list but is the first time in eight years that we have had to pay for any work on the engine so mustn't grumble!

Anyway, having settled the bill and having a chat with the team during their tea break (they do like their tea breaks) we got to discussing the problems of engine overheating. Not a particular problem on WB, but I am mindful that when we tow the butty the problem wont be a lack of power - it will be the ability of the skin tank to cope. No Problem had the same issue when they upgraded their engine.

I was pointed in the direction of "Our Little Nightmare" which was out on the bank having a new engine fitted. I guess that it had an air cooled engine taken out and will be inserting a new water cooled Canal Line unit instead. Rather than retro fit a skin tank they were using twin external cooling loops which run round the top and bottom of the swim. They are made of rectangular profile stainless steel tube which is held out 5mm away from the hull and are protected by a small deflector on either side. The idea is that because the surface area is completely exposed to the canal it is massively effective and, I am told, has worked every time they have done it. I guess that having it exposed  and penetrating the hull carries a risk of damage - but its as ingenious as it is simple. One to file in the "maybe one day" folder.

As we nattered I saw a working boat approaching and then, on closer inspection I realised it was Chertsey, with Jim steering and Sarah up front in the hold. Chertsey makes a fine sight and is sounding very good.

Back to the boat. I fired her up with no smoke, slipped into gear with one silky smooth movement and let it run at its 850 rmp idle speed. This should have induced a huge shudder and had me reaching for the throttle, but no. All was smooth - a steady welling of water from the stern and a muted rumble from a happy engine. I slipped the lines and set of and instead of vibration and noise all I heard was the swish swash of the water churning away below me. Bliss.

I was so taken by me rediscovered ability  to move at tick-over I carried on in much the same way all through to Calf Heath. Of course, I couldn't pass up the opportunity of good foraging and returned with 4.5kg of Damsons and a big bucket full of Elderberries expertly sprigged by my mother.

Then there was the small matter of recovering the car from Oxley - and an 8 mile bike ride. But on a day like this when the sun shone and the air was a balmy 20C the ride was as much a joy as the boat trip. Not a long trip but how better to spend an day near the end of the boating season.

Sorry - I forgot to take my camera!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Rochdale 2013 - Irk Aqueduct

Rochdale 2013
Smithy Bridge to Irk Aqueduct / Rose of Lancaster
5 Sept 2013

8 miles - 15 locks - 6 hours

As I suspected, there were no boat movements overnight (nor were there over the preceding or following days) and our unofficial use of the mooring bollards at Smithy Bridge caused no inconvenience. Whilst we only draw about 2ft, we couldn't get the stern anywhere near the bank so we left it hanging out 18 inches or so - the margins are terribly shallow.

I cant believe that last time I came this way we managed to go over the summit and all the way own to the Rose of Lancaster in a single day. True, we started over the summit at 8.00am and Jeff and I were prone to heroics, but even splitting it into two legs is proving sufficiently taxing for Helen and I. 

Clegg Hall looks like a nice alternative mooring, but again I could see nowhere deep enough to get into the bank.

The run unto Rochdale was uneventful and free of the running hassle of stone throwers we experienced four years ago. In fact, the area round the canal is being re developed and it all feels more "gentrified" and therefore safer. The Rochdale locks are unchanged - dirty, broken and generally unloved. But that said, all that landscaping 10 years ago has left a legacy of lots of interesting foraging potential so, naturally, out progress slowed to a crawl.

Of course, urban canal means poly bags and we had a ruff of them round the prop all the way through to Blue Pits Lock when I retrieved them. Nothing heavy - just a lot of them. The locks then progressed in a mind numbing procession, interspersed with concrete gymnastics and the canal threaded its way under the roads built after the canal was abandoned. Impressive in a brutal unlovely sort of way.

Slattocks stands out, a group of flight tightly packed locks where we secured a big bag of Bramley Apples and discovered the delights of the Slattocks leak. With no boat traffic I felt comfortable walking down to the bottom, filling the chambers as I went. On my return to the boat the towpath passed through a small tunnel and I was met with a torrent of water which would give a slalom canoe club good value! It was pouring out of the lock wall and all I could do was find the shallowest part and wade through.

Finally, at Boarshaw Lock (60) I met another boater, appearing with windlass from below the lock like a modern day Dr Livingstone. A pair of boats had been held up by a stoppage on the Rochdale 9 in Manchester and has come up from Picadilly that morning. Interestingly, the second boat was Pippin, with who has alerted me to the stoppage issue from their temporary base in Castlefields.

And so, after a modest 6 hours on the move, we crept onto a mooring at the Irk Aqueduct, just short of the Rose of Lancaster. Today it was a balmy 20C which made for sticky lock working but all is set to change tomorrow - 12C and incessant rain. Just the thing for the "big push" into Manchester on the last day of the trip.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Banbury Canal Day

Banbury Canal Day
6th October 2013

Following the success of last years Banbury Canal Day we returned to Castle Quays to participate in this years event.

Considering this is effectively the last outdoor canal event of the season we have been incredibly fortunate with the weather. In the middle of a period of unsettled weather the sun decided to shine, the wind dropped away and just for one day summer has a reprise. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the crowds responded by flocking into the town dressed in tee shirts and shorts basking in temperatures of over 20C. What a way to bring the season to a close.

Of course, we couldn't make it on the boat so we drove down used one of the market stalls which offer a huge sales area and allowed us to display a wide range of jams, jellies, chutneys, vinegars,  cordials and gift boxes. 

Its was lovely to have so many people seek us out having bought Wild Side products last year and wanting more, especially Rose Petal Jelly which sold out within a few hours. The mix of products, repeat custom and the sheer weight of attendees meant we had a record day and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. 

One new innovation for the event was a handheld card payment device from Paypal which tethers via i-phone and increases out ability to undertake larger transactions. It was fantastic - quick and easy to use and because it is Paypal on it customers are happy to use it. They particularly likes the e-mail or text receipt function which turns the vice of not having a printed receipt into a virtue!

Thank you people of Banbury - a great event and lest hope that the sun shines yet again for the 2014 event.

Now we have a break as we gear up for a certain daughter's wedding after which we start into the pre Christmas craft fairs.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Rochdale 2013 - Smithy Bridge

Rochdale 2013
Summit to Smithy Bridge
4th September 2013

3.5 miles - 13 locks - 5.5 hours

Summit isnt just the top pound - there is an actual place called Summit at the western end of the one mile pound complete with pub and watering point.

 Above lock 36 - Rochdale Canal

The summit lock (36) is unlocked at 10.30am which precludes a mad dash down to the Rose of Lancaster in a single bound, as had been our original plan. We therefore engineered our passage along the Rochdale to give us three days of descent which, if the truth be told, was a much more comfortable approach than the heroics I undertook with Jeff four years ago which involved a further 7 miles of travel and an extra 14 locks.

The summit section is undoubtedly glorious, its broad sweep of water cutting through the moorland with the surrounding hills crowding in on either side and heather lining the water margin.

The descent is as slow as it is pretty, with me having just about enough energy to lift a single paddle and then sit for 5 mins watching the peat stained water swirl down and out, eventually making a level and allowing me to crack open the heavy gates. I sometime wonder how many times I have started for long minutes at water selling up - it must add up to days, probably weeks of my life but I still find it both strangely compelling and soothing at the same time.

The majestic summit pound of the Rochdale Canal

The problem with the Rochdale is that at times they didn't build by-washes and instead all the surplus water cascades over the lock gates - which can make them easy to fill but very difficult to open. The other feature is the partial state of collapse of many, their width reduced to less than two boats. Not that it mattered to us as its days since we saw any boats on the move and we seem to have the whole canal to ourselves.

Tell me, where else can you safely sit on a lock chamber and refill your water tank? Where can you moor in a lock and wander off to pick fruit for 30 mins? Where can you moor to swing bridge bollards for the night in almost certain confidence that no one will pass? If you like your boating solitary, this is the place to come.

That said, facilities are few and far between - especially sanitary stations. You male use of every opportunity and the station at Littleborough is the only one between Tod and Manchester!

We next to the Smithy Bridge swing bridge, using the bollards as they offered the only place where we could get anywhere near the bank. Moorings are scarce. The fruit harvest has become more abundant after a barren few days with lots of Blackberries, Crab Apples and Rose Hips.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Rochdale 2013 - Summit

Rochdale 2013
Todmorden to Summit
3rd Sept 2013

3 miles - 12 locks - 5 hours

We spent a morning wandering round Todmorden, exploring The Incredible Edible planting sites and sampling small samples here and there. We even had a long walk round the town park searching for an elusive Mulberry tree but has better luck in he local antique shop.

The baby Bucky can

We had been told about a genuine antique small Buckby can and were disappointed to find the shop closed for the day. But then we saw a chap painting the front door and explained about the can and lo and behold the owner got it out for us and brought it out for us to look at. Its a little rusty but absolutely genuine. At some point the base has had a coat of paint to try and waterproof it, but the body of the can has original paintwork - an absolute gem. We had a mild haggle - reduced the price a bit and returned to the boat with an unusual memento of our stay in town.

Scenes above Todmorden

We set off at 1.30pm fortified with some excellent local bread and a couple of bottles of local stout. 

Climbing into the moors

The upper end of the Rochdale isn't for the faint hearted. Its up, up, up and away with precious little flat cruising and I resigned myself to a long slow walk all the way to the summit. The locks were all set against, which doubled the work. Initially passing the great wall of Tod then on through farmland which eventually gives way to moorland.

The top!

By the time we reached lock 36 at 6.30pm, our destination for the night, I was hot and weary. The locks are rarely used, leaky and therefore very stiff - good practice for what is to follow as we descent through Lancashire. Tomorrow we go over the top and into Lancashire...

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Incredible Edible Todmorden

The Incredible Edible Todmorden
September 2013

There is a chapter in one of Alys Fowler's foraging books which takes a look at the Incredible Edible Todmorden initiative (IET) and when she read it Helen asked "do we ever go through Todmorden on the canal - I would love to see it".

And so the seeds of this years big trip were sown. Why not take a trip north which includes the Rochdale Canal and have a day in Todmorden. So, if asked, I guess my answer to where did you go on holiday this year would be Todmorden - at least it sounds a bit better than Rochdale!

We had arrived in the basin last night and were immediately confronted with IET signs and plantings beside the canal, including a plum tree with a solitary fruit among its branches. So whats this IET thing all about? Well, its an initiative dreamed up by some civic minded locals in about 2007 who wanted to start an environment improving movement which would benefit the whole community. The result was the introduction of guerrilla gardening into the horticultural lexicon.

IET planting plots

Put simply the locals find bits of unused land and start to cultivate them with edible crops - fruit, vegetables and herbs. No official sanction or organisation - they just go forth and sow!

Todmorden's impressive town hall

The evidence of their efforts can bee seen all over the town; fruit by the canal, medicinal herbs by the doctor's surgery and vegetables in front of the police station. In facts there are pockets everywhere and there are maps to show you where to look. What a great idea!

Our arrival at the start of September was a bit late for most crops but it is clear that locals plant, cultivate and harvest the produce. From a foragers perspective it was very thin pickings as so many people had been their first, but what an inspiration!

A little something for Montgomery

We spent the morning wandering round the town, also playing a visit to the old Co Op which is now an excellent eco deli with a lovely cafe upstairs. We also persuaded the owner of the antique shop to open up and sell us a very cute antique Buckby Can, which make a very fitting memento of our trip.