Sunday, 26 February 2012

Wolverton Iron Trunk Aqueduct Open Day

( posted by Alan)

Graffiti gone, but still awaiting final colour scheme.
Well it was a gorgeously sunny day, we needed to go and check "Sickle" was in good health, and we fancied a pub lunch.

Mock up lock to replicate the days before the aqueduct.
It just happens that the Wolverton Trunk Aqueduct is not a lot further on, and BW were having an open day in connection with the renovation works currently in progress.

A very small tunnel under the canal
What's more, despite passing over it on a regular basis, we have repeatedly said, "we really  should stop one time, and go and take a look down below", but somehow we never have.

You still need to be close to have no pipeline in your picture!
Actually there is more to see than I was really aware of, with the line of the original canal that used to drop down each side through 4 locks, and cross at the valley bottom, still very much present.  There is even a "dummied up" lock, on the site of one of the originals.

Apparently the underside has never been painted.
What I had not previously realised is that the fact that the remaining Cosgrove lock, (the only one for miles around, since the aqueduct was built), is on the rather unusual line that it is, because it actually points out towards the original line of locks descending into the valley.

View across aqueduct towards the Churc
The aqueduct is still in a grey primer, or undercoat, but will shortly receive top coats in a three colour scheme that should further transform its appearance.

"Large Northwich" working boat "Purton"
The BW chap who gave a talk, explained that the project has grown, and as third parties have been found prepared to put in money, additional improvements are being added to original plans.  These are as diverse as resurfacing a car park that was in poor condition at Cosgrove, (with much help from local volunteers), to the planned removal of the very ugly gas pipeline bridge that crosses the valley just beside the aqueduct, and completely spoils the apperance.  (Apparently this pipelkne has not been used in many years).

"Small Woolwich" working boat "Southern Cross" and new owner
A further interest to us was that some ex working boats had come along for the event, and we were able to chat with the long standing owners of "Purton", as well as the fairly recent new owner of "Southern Cross".

"The Galleon" pub looked to be doing a roaring trade, including many dining outside on this rather fine day.  On investigation it was obvious it would take a long while to get a meal, so we instead went to "the Plough" a few miles to the South at Simpson.  I suppose our one regret that we were very short on time this weekend, or I'm sure we would have gone up in "Sickle".  The problem is that it is the classic "half a day each way by boat, but only half an hour each way by car"!

Well done BW, anyway,including managing to get a lot of money for this project from outside places.  One hopes it is a good omen for CaRT!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Remembering Charlie

Saturday 17th February 2012 (posted by Cath)
Charlie was the best dog in the world. He is no more. This post is to help me to remember him.

At the Quarry - one of Charlie's favourite walks
Charlie came to live with us not quite two years ago. We got him from the local rescue centre and he was just over a year old. We were told that he had been with a family, with two children - 7 and 10 years old. The story was that the mother had to go back to work full time and he had found it difficult to settle. We guessed that this lively dog had wrecked the place.


In fact, Charlie had some issues, but he quickly learned what we thought was acceptable behaviour. He was also terrified of brooms and vacuum cleaners, but he also eventually came to cope with both of those.

the colour of autumn beech leaves
He was a gorgeous looking dog, long gold/ginger hair, ridiculous ears, and a permanent wag.  We estimated some 20% of his food went to powering the wag.  We were very grateful that his previous owners had never felt that they wanted his tail docked. It was common to get stopped in the street by people who just wanted to pat our beautiful dog. Charlie lapped it up, he was a real attention tart - half a chance and he was rolling over asking to have his tummy tickled.

David checks Charlie's paw
He loved people, you couldn't walk into the house without Charlie around your feet, looking up adoringly, desperate to be greeted, but knowing that the "rules" said he had to be sitting. So he tried to sit, his tail wagging so hard that he couldn't get his backside on the ground.

Out boating - August 2011
Charlie was bright, very bright, and he loved learning new tricks. He understood: sit, down, stand, heel, in (into a room or house), out, move (go somewhere else), spin (turn on the spot), paw, look (look at me), roll over, find, hold, jump (over something), hup (jump up), wait, stay, catch, go on, in the bin, and the names of everyone in the house -  plus probably more that I can't remember.  "Jump" was an almost vertical leap over an arm held out a couple of feet off the ground, or a thigh parallel to the ground - or a 4 foot gate, which he'd scrabble at until he managed it. "Find" was a favourite, since it usually meant that we'd hidden a treat somewhere, around the house, or in the garden. He could identify a log that Michael had picked up, rubbed his hands over, and then put in a pile of similar logs. We spent ages finding new, and challenging, places to hide things.

On the Thames, Easter 2011
He loved to sit on anything that had anything to do with any of us - from a discarded bag to a foot - I wasn't happy when he backed across the room to sit on my basket of newly dried washing though.

Charlie loved to be helpful - he could be given a piece of paper or card and told 'in the bin', and he'd happily take it from you, and trot over to place it in the waste bin. Only eight weeks ago, at Christmas, we put a waste bin in the living room and Charlie helpfully disposed of all of the wrappings for us.  We were also getting him to deliver presents - "give this to Michael", "take it to Alan". My father was sitting with a £20 note in his hand, Charlie went and carefully took it from his hand, and delicately placed it in the bin.

Charlie on the Severn Valley Railway - August 2011
He could be trusted. He ate when he was told, not before. You could balance a treat on his nose, and he wouldn't move until you said 'go on'. Then he'd flip it in the air - if he missed it he'd wait patiently until you put it back on his nose. He knew it wasn't his until he caught it, mid-air - SEE HERE. Michael had even trained him to pick up biscuits and bring them to him - he could be asked to 'hold' a treat, and then hand it back to you, only eating it when you handed it to him and said 'go on'.

David and Charlie at Lechlade - Easter 2011
 Charlie was a spaniel, a water dog, a duck retriever, but for a long time he couldn't understand swimming. The first time he encountered a lake he tried to walk on the water, stepping repeatedly onto it, and looking puzzled when his foot went through. Then, only last Easter, he tried to drink water from a sandy bay on the banks of the upper Thames, and fell in. He quickly discovered that he could swim, and kept trying out his new skill, just a few strokes at a time - each new sandy bay he encountered he would leap in, and try out swimming again. By the time we got back onto the Grand Union Canal, a few days later, it was hard to stop him leaping in anywhere.  Three weeks ago, when friends visited, he was retrieving sticks from Marsworth Reservoir.

Sometimes he would surprise us. I brought him back from a very wet walk and he unexpectedly brought me a towel from his pile in the hall - he loved being dried (although that didn't extend to baths!) When his water bowl was empty he would carefully tip it up with a paw, pick it up with his mouth and bring it to you, placing it carefully in your hands.

In Milton Keynes, with Michael October 2011 (photo Chris Norris)
He also loved games. He had a 'tuggie', a rope tug pull, which he loved 'fighting' over. The 'fight' would sound really aggressive, with him growling and snarling as you pulled on the other end - but just one finger raised would have him sitting attentively, waiting for the game to continue with your 'go on'.  He would chase after thrown balls on a walk until you were fed up with throwing, and only days ago he played happily trying to catch snowballs that Michael was making up from the few remaining bits of snow lying at one of his favourite walk places.

Alan spent huge amounts of time with him, walking him, visiting places that he would not have gone to without a dog to exercise - cafes, the local castle, woodland, an abandoned quarry. Every evening, when boating, we would go out for a walk, discovering new places that we would never have found without Charlie.

Charlie had so much potential, he learned so quickly, and he loved people so much.  Then a few weeks ago he started to act strangely, hiding behind the sofa, growling if you approached him when he was seated under a desk. He was uncharacteristically defensive towards a friend's dog.

Earlier this week he made a completely unprovoked attack on Michael. I had been getting some food ready for him, but Charlie suddenly rushed at Michael and bit him on the arm. This was particularly hard as Michael had spent so many long hours training Charlie, and this was the dog that normally allowed you to take food from his mouth, or who would lie down if told to mid-meal.

We contacted the rescue centre, and the local trainer who had helped us with Charlie when he had first come to live with us. We had an appointment to see the trainer next Monday.

Then, two evenings ago, just after Michael had been patting him quietly, Charlie suddenly, without any warning, snarled and leaped up at Michael on the sofa, biting him and lacerating his nose. There was blood everywhere, Michael grabbed tissues as the family rushed around, getting dressings, finding car keys. We pressed dressings onto Michael's lacerated nose, and headed for A & E. I thought that Michael's nose was probably slashed from top to bottom, as I hadn't really seen the damage under the dressings for more than a moment or so. In fact, the wounds are messy, but have not gone through to the inside of his nose. He has had the wounds steri-stripped (they don't sew up dog bites, to allow any bacteria to come out), and is on anti-biotics.

The next morning we rang our vet, and asked to see the senior partner. He was wonderful, supportive and understanding, but explained that Charlie had developed 'rage syndrome', a very rare, but incurable, condition of red cocker spaniels. He told us that our wonderful dog could never be trusted again, that we would always be waiting for the next attack, and that Charlie would never be aware. He wouldn't know what he had done. No amount of training could make a difference, and he would be fine 99% of the time. The clincher for me was the explanation that a dog that is going to attack will almost always give a warning, a growl, a slightly snarling lip - Charlie wasn't doing that, he was just attacking, no warning. He told us we had a decision, but his strong advice was that Charlie could never have the same life again. It cannot be a choice in that situation, it doesn't matter how much you love your dog, you cannot risk the possibility that someone else might be harmed. The vet thanked us for making the right decision, we said goodbye to the best dog in the world, and left in floods of tears.

I thought, after the attack on Michael, that I would want everything of his removed from the house, every memory destroyed. But I don't - whatever happened, it wasn't Charlie's fault, he was ill, incurably ill. But I still love him, and I want to remember our lovely, clever, funny little dog. I was privileged to know him for nearly two years - he gave us so much in that time. We are devastated.

POSTSCRIPT (7th July 2012)

A new saga begins "Owning A Dog Again"

Sunday, 12 February 2012

An Afternoon Winding Chertsey

Saturday and Sunday 11th and 12th February 2012
(posted by Cath)
Sarah and Jim on Chertsey and Bakewell had invited us up to visit them, and as it was the first weekend of the half-term it seemed like a good idea to go now. It was cold, but not snowing, and the canal was free of ice. It's a couple of hours drive from our home in Hertfordshire, but we got there around midday and were shown into the warm, and welcoming cabin of Bakewell, where we were feed tea and delicious cakes from a local shop.

We began talking and the talk didn't stop until we left to go to our nearby hotel at about 10 at night. At times, I had to ask Jim to stop his story to allow me to recover, as I was laughing so much that I was crying. Sarah provided a really delicious meal in the evening.

Our hotel was a few miles away, straight down the A5 - and proved to be servicable with a good breakfast in the morning (veggie option too), for £55 for a double room for the night. We were slightly un-nerved when a siren started during breakfast, and we were asked to go outside until they had worked out where the fire alarm had been tripped.

Stretton Aqueduct
Back to Stretton as we had been promised a trip to the Bridge pub at Brewood on Chertsey. This time we went and had a look from the other side of the canal before we went into the moorings. The "Shroppie" was built by Thomas Telford - almost Roman in its straightness. Here at Stretton Aqueduct it crosses the A5 - a  straight Roman road.

Chertsey and Bakewell - on the Shropshire Union Cana

Sarah has detailed how they recently added the new topcloths to Chertsey HERE, on her blog. I became quite obsessed with the 'strings' - so I took a lot of pictures.

Leaving the mooring

Then Jim winded the boat by the mooring and we set off towards Brewood with Alan steering.  Sarah said there was a winding hole past the town, but they had never used it before - it proved to be very shallow and we began to wonder if we'd ever manage to get the boat turned and back to the pub for our meal.

I get to steer
Once Chertsey was pointing in the other direction I got the chance to steer. Although we own a historic boat I've never had the chance to steer a full -length boat before. I loved it!  Although it seems a very long way to the front from the back.

Chertsey at Brewood

Back at Brewood the food in the Bridge pub was excellent. Then back to the mooring and more tea before heading off. In fact, it was completely dark by the time we stopped talking again, and we had to drive through patchy fog that was quite heavy in places. Our Sat Nav had a bit of a 'blonde' moment and sent us all over the place, which didn't help.

A great weekend, and thanks to Sarah and Jim.

Sarah steering

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Alan Fincher Canal and RIver Trust Election Posters

I have been asked to produce some simple posters that people can put in boat windows, or similar.

Here they are, (thanks Cath!).

Alan Fincher CaRT Election Poster 1

Alan Fincher CaRT Election Poster 2

Additionally the flyer and election leaflet are still here too.....

Printable Alan Fincher Election Flyer (Adobe PDF file format)

Printable Alan Fincher Election Leaflet (Adobe PDF File Format)

All these are PDF documents in Google Docs, which it should be easy to print off - let us know if you have any problems!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Alan Fincher - Canal and River Trust Council Independent Candidate - Election Statement

Just four elected council positions must represent the disparate needs of all boaters.  I am independent, love boats and boating, and am already well networked with many boaters countrywide.  My first boats were forty years ago, and I now boat at every opportunity, covering large distances and regularly attend boating events.

Although deeply protective of the history and heritage of the waterways, I am fully realistic that people own boats for many reasons, often with very different ideas of what is important.  Categorising boaters into particular groupings is unhelpful and divisive, and I would aim to fairly represent everybody whatever their reasons for boat ownership.

In my role within a large multinational I was particularly recognised as someone able to broker the best solutions to complex problems that had eluded others.   Early retirement allows me to commit the necessary time, and to be easily contacted by those I represent.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Alan Fincher Canal and RIver Trust Election "Flyer" and "Leaflet"

Hopefully the following link should provide direct access to my election flyer.....

Printable Alan Fincher Election Flyer (Adobe PDF file format)

And this one to a different campaign leaflet.......

Printable Alan Fincher Election Leaflet (Adobe PDF File Format)

As a determined "independent", if I am to prevail against the candidates being sponsored by the big "associations"  I will need to persuade a lot of people who don't know me directly to cast a high preference vote for me.

Therefore I would urge anybody who is prepared to support my campaign to print off some of the above, and try and spread the message to other boaters.

(The flyer works best if you print each of the two pages on opposite sides of a sheet of paper, then "tri-fold" it.  Most printers are OK if you simply turn over paper you have printed on one side, and feed it through again to print the other).

I'm pleased to say a fair amount of this is going on already, (without me leaning too heavily on my supporters!), but everyone I can get further spreading the message can only increase my chances of success.  So even if you think there are only one or two people you might persuade, if I have managed to persuade you, then please have a go!