Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Pretty as a picture

Pretty as a picture
April 2018

Helen has been keeping secrets from me and, as we all know, "suspicion tears you apart". Not good news on the run up to our 30th wedding anniversary (23rd July).

She has been nurturing this secret from months, coyly alluding to "something special" every now and then, but never letting on what she was keeping from me. Whats more,I knew there was money involved, which disturbs an ex banker to his roots. 

Jan Vallance's painting of our boats under way

Finally. a few days ago Helen started a gradual reveal. The money was for a gift to both of us to celebrate our forthcoming anniversary, but such was its physical size there was no way she could smuggle it onto the boat for the actual day, or even hide it away at home.

Today I was expecting a big pre season glass delivery, but instead the parcel man arrived bearing a big flattish package which was snatched from my grasp by "Mrs Secrets". She returned beaming with a pair of scissors and asked me to open it. 

After a brief tussle with the parcel tape I got in and there was the back of a picture. Oh er - we are not always in agreement when it comes to artwork, so it was more than a bit of nervousness I turned it over. 

It was a specially commissioned Jan Vallance painting and not just of any old canal scene, but instead it was one of our own boats making their way north along the Worcester Birmingham Canal. It is fantastic, lovely, amazing and all so technically accurate! I love it and immediately saw that the chimney breast in our dining room was the ideal place for it. As you can imagine, Helen was there way before me....

Barry's original photograph
But that's not all. The actual image is included in Barry Tutenberg's top fifty photographs from their 2015 travels.

So a vote of thanks, first to Helen, the continuing Mrs Tidy whose secretive behaviour is not only forgiven but forgotten. Secondly to Jan Vallance for creating such a lovely and unique painting which will inspire be during the long winter days at home, and finally to Barry Teutenburg who not only supplied the original image but also suffered my glacially slow progress along the Worcester Birmingham canal for hour after hour!

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Cley next the Sea

Cley next the Sea
April 2018

After all the cold followed by the rain I was blessed with wall to wall sunshine during a recent visit to North Norfolk.

I went out with my mother to follow the North Norfolk coast round from Cromer to Hunstanton. Along the was we saw the wave spray splashing over the shingle bar at Cley next the Sea. We drove down to the beach which offered an opportunity to grab some images before my fingers went numb.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

North Walsham and Dilham Canal revisited

North Walsham and Dilham Canal
April 2018

I guess I visit the North Walsham and Dilham Canal about once a year, paying a watery pilgrimage when I come to visit my mother who lives in North Walsham, just a mile or so from Swafield where the restored navigation will end.

Ebridge Mill with lock and spillway

A year seems to be a good gap to appreciate progress and a cracking article by Martin Ludate in the July 2017 edition of the Eastern Daily Press's magazine "Norfolk" only served to whet my appetite.

Distinctive ground paddle

I started out at Ebridge Mill with its tranquil pool and well preserved lock chamber. When I was at school this was a sea of reeds with the remains of a steam dredger stranded on the mud in the middle. Today it is a glorious spot and the development for 2017 was the restoration of the spillway by a WRG camp. At the time of my visit the canal / river was brimming full and the spillway was in use, bypassing the old lock chamber.

Bacton Wood Lock

A little to the north west you come to Bacton Wood Bridge which is now the home for a slightly primitive trip boat, or should I say raft. I have long felt that the restored length would benefit from a trip boat and I guess you have to make a start somewhere!

 Trip Boat

Distinctive castings for the North Walsham and Dilham Canal

The restored lock at Bacton Wood stands ready to carry its first boat and it was particularly interested to take a closer look at the "lock furniture" which is all original and recycled. The castings are unique to the North Walsham and Dilham Canal, even bearing the legend G Cubitt, Nth Walsham.

North of Bacton Wood the canal is kind of wet rather than watered but stroll up to the culverted Royston Bridge and you return to a canal full of the wet stuff. The relationship between the restorers and the Environment Agency has been very like the Brexit Negotiations with angst and strong words, but over time they are making progress.

Partially re watered north of Royston Bridge

The Agency were not at all happy about the watering of the section between Bacton Wood and Ebridge and applied a stop order on their work. But over time relations seem to have thawed and there seems to be a cautious acceptance that the watering of the Swafield pound will be a good thing. 

 Dredging progresses

From a flood control perspective the big canal channel has to be a better bet than the narrow ditch which represents the current bed of the River Ant. The restorers have both cleared out the reeds and dredged the section north of Royston Bridge to a depth of about 18 inches. Water marks on the banks bear testimony to a full depth trial re watering in Jan 2018 when their integrity was tested. There is evidence of extra material being added to the top of the south bank in recent weeks and hopefully this is a prelude to full and permanent re watering.

Swafield Bridge reach

I have to admit that the restoration team always seem to be blessed with some seriously good kit which is parked here and there along the canal. All in all the volunteer enthusiasm, heavy duty kit and increasingly supportive authorities should see this top couple of miles in water in the very near future.

I will keep you posted...