Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Genius declared, plus old canal pics discovered.

Cooh, I thought my picture quiz was hard, but those who did send in answers were all pretty good. Of course I suppose there might be quite a few who found it too hard so didn’t send in answers.  Anyway we can all marvel at those folk who did so well, and one of them reached genius status by getting all ten correct.  If I were a betting man (and I am one of those boring people who has never ever bought a national lottery ticket), I might have made some money because I thought that if anyone got them all right it would be Adam, and of course it was, although I suspect he was aided and abetted by Adrian.  Adam is one of those people who remembers bridge numbers, say no more.  Well done mate.

There was a bit of debate about the cattle breed, and whilst I have no proof it was a White Park, I’m 99% sure it was, and anyway my decision is final even if I am wrong.

While we were in Cambridge yesterday we popped in to see the Ducks, or the SevernerWillows or whatever they are called these days and had a short guided tour of the home improvements. Of course those who follow their blog will have seen them, but we can confirm its all true and things are vastly improved from our last visit when the boat was full of building materials.  Keep up the good work James and Amy.

We’ve been having a clear out at home and I discovered several old rolls of undeveloped 35mm roll film, so having discovered a company that will develop them and only charge if they come out, I sent them off having no clue what they contained.  Some were blank, some, like those below were OK but somewhat degraded, and some came back like new. As to content, amongst all the usual rubbish there were a few gems, including some pictures from our very first canal holiday in 1988 when we took a hire boat from Brewood and went up to Chester and back.


Here, above,  is our Peter looking very sweet aged 10 (now a rather larger 35 years old Dr Corbett and a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry), and below, here is me at 41 years old, (now also somewhat larger, sixty seven next week and a pensioner, and I still have that raincoat as a spare on Herbie),


and here is Kath holding the reins at, I think, Bunbury staircase


I can remember getting a copy of Waterways World that week and gazing longingly at the ads for Springer Waterbugs at about £7grand new, and wondering if we could ever afford to have a boat at our own. Twenty five years later and we’re still boating. Who’d have thought it?  I wonder if Sir Galahad is still going.  Quite probably.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas Picture Quiz

Well, that was Christmas.  Our garden fence blew down in the gales, I got a cold, Kath got something worse that laid her low for two days, with a mountain of spuds and parsnips and swede to peel, we lost our peeler (probably thrown out with the last lot of peel), and with a musical event coming up tomorrow at which I am expected to play, I have cut my index finger tip (because I was using a knife instead of the peeler), and our dishwasher decided to stop working just before Christmas.  Still we had a lovely timeSmile

So I thought to cheer us up, you can’t beat a good picture quiz.  See if you can answer these questions, all based on photos taken on our summer cruise this year. Note, they are not in the order in which we travelled, they’re all mixed up. These are mostly tough questions, so if you get ‘em all right you’ll be a well travelled boater and a bit of a genius.  8 out of 10 would I think be a very good score indeed.

Question 1.  See the signpost in this picture?  The place names on the two arms both start with the same letter.  What is it?


Question 2.  Another signpost.  Where is it?



3. Where’s this?  A close look at the boat might help.


4. A lock gear mechanism. What navigation is this on?


5. Another signpost.  What are the names on the fingers?  Clue: one is a single word, the other is two words.


6. We cruised past this lock, but not through it.  What canal are we looking at?


7.  Where’s this?


8. Some might think this ridiculously difficult, but I’m betting some people will recognise it. This picture was taken at 5.40 in the morning as we approached this bridge!  Where are we?


9.  Where is this?


10 Finally, no –one gets 10 out of 10 in my quiz without being a genius.  What breed of cattle is this? Seen not many minutes from the scene above.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

And the 2013 Herbie Special Award goes to . .

Yes, the moment has arrived when we find out who it is that we feel should have some special recognition this year.  The coveted Herbie Special Award with its illustrious list of former holders is not just a personal award from us at Herbie HQ. Each year we try to give it to someone we know is widely admired in the boat blogging community and who has during the year behaved in a special way.  We’re very pleased this year because we know that our winner will be a very popular choice.  The Award goes to a person we feel we know well, but we have never met, although we did try on one occasion.

The citation this year returns to where we started in 2010 with the wording FOR FORTITUDE. 

The story of this person’s year is not for me to tell, but she has told it so well in her postings. It is a story of love, courage, determination and achievement in very difficult circumstances.  We know that many of you will be delighted to know that this year’s Herbie Special Award goes to . . (roll of drums and seemingly interminable pause while the camera pans across the faces of the bookies favourites) . .

Jaq of NbValerie

Huge round of applause and cries of “Quite right too”

Now I’m absolutely sure that Jaq would want to point out that Les had to show a bit of fortitude as well and of course he shares in the Award, as do all those  very nice boaters and bloggers who I know helped out Jaq in her hour of need. So well done to you all.

Note to Jaq- You may well wonder what the benefits are of being a Herbie Award holder, and I have to tell you that there aren’t any except knowing that we think you deserve it.  Oh and you get this priceless shield which you can have tatooed on your person or displayed on your mantelpiece or blog or wherever.


Note to readers who wonder who Jaq is. Well you should peruse her blog (follow this link) and read back over the months where she fought long and hard to see Les through his battles against cancer.  I think you will find that Fortitude has not been in short supply aboard NbValerie.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The worst locks and then the Herbie Premier Award intro

Don’t sit too close to your screen, you might catch my cold. We’re all sniffling and coughing here. Never mind, The Show Must Go On and we need to announce the Winner of the Herbie Special Award, which I seem to have been calling the premier award lately for no particular reason.  Anyway it has to go to someone who has done something admirable. More of which later.

First let’s clear up the outstanding issue of the worst locks we have passed through this year.  We can’t say we weren’t warned about these locks. They are difficult and, to my mind, dangerous, and they lived up, or should I say down, to their reputation.  I’m sure the locals are used to them and don’t give them a second thought, but I would surely change them if I had the power.  The lock landings are often inconveniently placed, the outflow from the emptying locks are scary when you are waiting below, the lock gates are not nice to walk over, the locks themselves are very deep to allow for river levels so roping up is not easy, and worst of all the currents in the lock when filling are scary.  And of course the gates are heavy. Otherwise they’re fine.  These locks come in two groups, one of which is a fair bit better than the other.  I have no photos of the bad ones, because I was too busy surviving to take pictures, so here is one of the “good ones” filling as gently as we could manage.


No doubt the cognoscenti will by now have worked out that these locks are on the otherwise lovely Lower Avon (the Tewkesbury to Evesham Stretch).  We experienced them at their most benign, with low river levels.  Goodness knows what they are like in high water conditions.  The nicest thing I can say about them is that they are often in delightful surroundings.  Sorry Avon, I love you dearly but you need some nicer locks.

Well, that’s that.  Now it’s Christmas Eve Eve, so tomorrow we will announce the winner of the Herbie Special Award.  The winner of this will be someone we all have to admire.  The original Special Awards were given to people who had been personal friends and helpers board Herbie, culminating in the fabulous group win in 2010 for the gnag who have selflessly toiled over the big Herbie repaint (still looking good).

Then as an additional Award in 2010 we created a new category to honour people not necessarily associated with Herbie, but who had done something admirable in a boating context. The first of these was an Award for Fortitude to Sue and Vic on No Problem as representatives of all those hardy live aboard folk who had put up with weeks of ice and snowbound isolation far from water supplies and loo emptying. Then in 2011 we decided to bestow the award upon the wonderful Sue and Richard on Indigo Dream for their unbounded generosity in taking other boaters on wonderful cruises down the Thames tideway. Then last year it went to Maffi for his selfless efforts to tidy up the canal bank wherever he went.  So whoever wins this year is in elevated company. 
The golden envelope is sealed and awaiting Kath to put on her glamorous frock to make the announcement. Charge your glasses for the toast and tune in tomorrow to join in the rapturous applause.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Herbie Award for Best Day’s Cruise in 2013

So little time and so much to do. Yes its nearly Christmas and we’re all busy. Well that’s my excuse for not having blogged for a few days anyway.  But the show must go on, for we have the Herbie Awards to finish, but before we get to the principal award, lets have a couple of final flings.  I’d like to give an Award to the best day’s cruising we had this year.  Oooh there have been so many good ones, (including the day trip to Gravesend but that was on Indigo Dream, not Herbie)  in the end I settled on June 29th.  Big round of applause.  I knew you’d agree.

Aah, I suppose you might want to know where we were on June 29th.  Well according to the date stamps on my photos it started like this.


It was a lovely warm day, and not long after we got going I saw a lovely field of poppies.  As I was steering at the time, I managed to snap a view one handed as we passed a hole in the hedge.  Having taken my eyes off the canal of course Herbie headed straight for the bushes on the other side but that’s nothing unusual.

Then a bit further on we come to this happy scene. Well I’m fairly happy because Kath is doing all the work.  Now the canal experts probably have already recognised what canal we are on.  Pretty ain’t it.


A bit further down we get to this


Aaah, the red sandstone gives you a big clue.  I took the next picture seconds later looking back.


Yes, it’s yer actual Staffs & Worcester.  It was a good day for three reasons

1. the weather was warm and sunny

2. the canal was very pretty, they don’t get a lot nicer

3. It was nostalgic for us as the last time we cruised here was on a hire boat in 1991. You do the math as they say.

oh I just thought of another reason (Spanish Inquisition syndrome)

4. We finished up at the Anchor at Caunsall.

A good day’s cruise in anyone's book I’d say.

Next time, for the penultimate award how about a brickbat award for the worst locks we encountered this year.

My shortlist would be

a) The lower Avon locks – all of em (narrowly beating the upper Avon locks for scariness and clumsiness)

b) Buckby locks (of course) – too much like hard work and awkwardly spaced

c) That pesky lock with the bent metal balance beam a couple up from the bottom in Stratford -  a back breaker

d) Hatton flight for being a few too many.

You can vote if you like. My decision has already been swayed more than once by yourselves this year.

PS I see the Chancers found spaces in Paddington basin.  I’ll write some more about London moorings after Christmas. Too busy now, but there are signs of hope.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Observations on London moorings

Before we return to the final Herbie awards in a couple of days time, some quick feedback on our London trip and the mooring situation.

The picture is a bit mixed. The boats with patrol notices on at Paddington have not moved. Surprise surprise. No one in the Basin has moved as far as I can tell. At the 14 day Little Venice moorings though, there has been a bit of coming and going and if you arrived right now you would find somewhere to pull in, albeit alongside another boat. It is evident that the CRT moorings team are active in the area, but the problem seems to be that the patrol notices have little effect in the short term. I don't understand all the details but according to Sorwar it takes 28 days to go through the full process of getting someone to move. I guess the miscreants know this and hang on until the last minute, by which time they have had up to five weeks in the same spot. We did discuss some ideas for improving the situation and when we get home I'll do a write up for the Herbieplus blog.

Although the situation in the basin is not good, there are benefits to being at Little Venice in the form of the closeness to two very good pubs, the Warwick Castle, which last night was standing room only, and the Bridge where the beer is excellent and the ambience good.

Last night we got an unexpected treat in the Bridge (or is it the Bridge House?). We were sitting in there enjoying a particularly nice pint of Windsor and Eton Guardsman, when a friendly chap came to sit next to us and we struck up a conversation. Miraculously it turned out that we both went to the same school, although many years apart, and he was in fact going to spend Christmas in my old village in Worcestershire. Anyway he was at the pub because his friend was acting in a play in the little theatre upstairs. To cut a long story short, we bought tickets to the play two minutes before curtain up, and had a really enjoyable experience. The Play was called Room at the Inn, and was a modern day tale about a porn film actress who winds up having a baby in the back room of a pub. I can't go into all the details here but it was very clever and very funny. I'm told that the standard of productions at this little theatre is generally very good. Cheap tickets too.

Yesterday afternoon we went down to Trafalgar Square to show Grace the Christmas tree from Norway. Not very impressive as it happens, but she did enjoy the street performers in front of the National Gallery, before we went inside to look at the van Goughs, Constables, Turners, Manets and all that. I think Grace was a bit embarrassed by all the conspicuous nudity in the older masters. She' s back home with mum now.

I'm once again writing this courtesy of the wifi in the Black Horse at Greenford, where we rest before returning to our Slough Arm mooring tomorrow. I suppose I should mention that we are drinking diet coke!! Well, we supped rather too well last night.

So all in all, a good visit to London in spite of not being able to moor in our favourite Paddington.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Did we get in at Paddington?

Not quite. We arrived at about half past eleven to find the basin and the approach fully loaded as we expected, but we did manage to find a spot along the Little Venice moorings, albeit breasted up against another boat. I guess you regard that as not ideal, but acceptable.

My meeting with Sorwar at CRT was interesting and I'll write up for the Herbieplus blog what I learned in more detail when I have time. At the moment I'm writing this courtesy of the free wifi in the very noisy Mad Bishop and Bear bar at Paddington Station. What I can say now is that we walked up to and around the basin and saw several boats bearing CRT patrol notices because they were either moored where they shouldn't be or because they were overstaying. Why don't these people move when they are asked to? I think because any action against them takes time and so they feel they can hang on until the last day before it gets serious and then move off. We did discuss some ideas to combat this and that's what I will write up later.

Grace has joined us for the night and we took the bus up to Oxford street to see the Christmas lights. I counted six million three hundred and four thousand two hundred and eleven. Or thereabouts.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Poised for summit assault

Here we are at camp 1 (aka the Black Horse) ready for the push to the summit (aka Paddington basin) tomorrow. We will get there, but will we be able to stay? I doubt it, although strangely the Black Horse visitor moorings have lots of spare space today. I wonder where the usual boats we see here have gone. Maybe CRT has been moving them on. Maybe Paddington basin will be able to accommodate us after all. Surely not.

Whatever transpires, I should have stuff to report tomorrow evening following my session with Sorwar to discuss the London visitor mooring issue. I'll keep you posted but in the meantime I shall return to my pint of Pride which I have to say is in tip top condition. About as good as it gets. The Black Horse is Alright!


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Herbie Awards–Best Photo Winner and a real life test of the London visitor mooring situation coming up

Aaah you’re so good to me.  Thanks to those who sent in their choice of photo from my short list, and special thanks to Carrie who reminded me of others she liked.  Sorry Carrie, those others you mentioned weren't really canal related so I left them out.  So the people’s choice seems to be number two i.e. this one:


I well remember the evening in early April when I took the picture, an hour or two out from Crick along the Leicester arm, and a very tranquil spot.  It looks cold doesn’t it, but not as cold as today, or more to the point tomorrow when we plan to take Herbie out for an assault on London via the Black Horse tomorrow evening.  On Friday I have a meeting with Sorwar from CRT to discuss the Paddington mooring situation, so it will be interesting to see if we can find a space there.  Unless we’re very lucky I’m not really expecting that we will, in which case Kath will head back to Kensal Rise while I meet with Sorwar. 

As to the Herbie Awards, I don’t suppose it will be too long now before I think about the Premier Award for someone who has done something special this year. In the meantime I have a couple of other things to give awards to, but you’ll have to wait because a) Kath is queueing up to use the computer and  b) I have to start getting ready for our boat trip.  Tomorrow night I hope to be able to post about our trip half way into London, then on Friday, the big question – will we get in at Paddington?

Monday, December 09, 2013

This year’s best photo–shortlist

Hmmm best of a bad lot I reckon. To tell you the truth I have taken a great number of not very good photos this year.  Must try harder.  If you take enough of course, some of them are bound to turn out alright, so here is a shortlist of five of mine from this year.  If you could spare a sec to comment on which you like best, then that’ll be the winner of the Herbie Award for my best pic of the year.  Click ‘em up big to see them properly.

1. First up is this one taken from the back of Herbie in Crick marina. It makes me feel cold to look at it.



2. Then this one taken at sundown along the Leicester Arm. It’s the colours that I like.


3. Our little Gracie taken at Watford Locks. She’s a great poser.



4. I had to blow up this picture a fair bit to get the heron big enough and so you could see the perch he has caught.  So not technically a good shot, but a good subject.



5. I’m always trying to stop a heron in flight, and this time I managed it.


There you are then. None of them very good technically I think, but probably the best I could manage this year. Which do you like?

Now the answer to the little picture quiz in my last post.  The aqueduct was the Edstone on the Stratford canal, and the tunnel was the rocky cutting just north of Armitage on the Trent & Mersey.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Paddington mooring update + Herbie Awards – Best Pub You Never Knew About is . . .

Things are moving a bit with my dialogue with CRT  see my separate blog HerbiePlus for the latest update.

Meanwhile, back at the Awards, we once again have a bit of a hiccup.  Paula reports that one of our nominees, the Anchor at Diglis is closed Sad smile.  Oh dear, and I liked it a lot. Let’s hope that it reopens after the winter.  Anyway, that gives me an opportunity to show that I do listen to readers’ comments and I am fully persuaded by Lesley and Sarah that:

The Herbie Award for Best Pub You Never Knew About

must go to

The Hollybush at Stourport on Severn

Congratulations to their landlady Maggie who is the main reason the pub gets the award.  We only had a short visit there, but she managed to impress us at the time with her enthusiasm and her customer care.  Remarks from both Sarah and Lesley showed us that our experience wasn’t untypical.  A very good pub indeed. Go visit.

And while I’m in a democratic mood, let’s make the next category Herbie’s Best Photo of the Year.  I’ll put up a few in the next post and you can tell me which is best, or least worst at any rate.

While I try to find a few that might be any good,  here are a couple that won’t be winning prizes, but can you tell me where they are?  Both from our summer cruise this year.




Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Best pub you never knew about

Busy busy busy. I thought being retired meant you had nothing to do.  That doesn’t seem to be working for me. Christmas coming up, a novel to finish, numerous musical goings on we are embroiled in, decluttering at home, baby sitting, dog sitting, and a blog to write.  So here we are, back at the grand Herbie Awards, on our third bottle of bubbly and eager to find out what hidden pub gems the Herbies have encountered this year.  I can think of four, and two of them have the same name.  Once again we’ll take them in chronological order of our visit.

1. The Green Man at Long Itchington

Long Itchington has six pubs and this one is furthest of all from the canal (Grand Union) and the furthest from the village centre , so I suspect many never find it.  We found it on our weekend at the Long Itchington Beer festival in which all six pubs participated, and in truth we spent less time there than at some of the other pubs, but on reflection it may well be the best of the six.  Certainly the beer there was very good and the interior looked cosy and, well, pubby.  Plenty of mooring at L.I.  Pull in, walk over the fields from the bridge and turn left.  A proper pub.  As to food, their web site says “The Green Man is a pub first and foremost and it is our intention that it should remain so.”  i.e they do sandwiches and toasties only.  Next year I hope to go back and give them more of my time.

2. The Anchor at Diglis

We stumbled upon this pub whilst walking back to the boat after visiting the centre of Worcester. It hides at the back of Diglis canal basin i.e. the side furthest from the river Severn.  It was a hot afternoon and we were carrying bags of shopping so we needed something to slake our thirst and in we went.  The little pubic bar is old fashioned in the best sense of the word, except I suppose the big telly screen which was showing Andy Murray at Wimbledon.  Luckily it was a long tennis match so we had to have a second pint.  The beer was very good indeed and the staff and customers were all friendly, so there was a fair bit of banter, which I like in a pub.  According to reviewers on trip advisor, the breakfasts at the Anchor are especially good, but I can’t personally vouch for that.  In short, the Anchor is a proper pub with real people and real beer and if you can find your way from the river moorings through the maze of the basin, it’s only three or four minutes walk from your boat.  I wouldn’t miss it if i was i Worcester.

3. The Anchor at Caunsall

Words almost fail me in describing this pub. In truth it is an enigma.  An unassuming little pub in an out of the way village, ten minutes walk from the Staffs & Worcester canal, serving the plainest of food on a like it or lump it basis (no choice beyond beef or cheese cobs) , and yet it is packed out every night, and I do mean packed out. It’s no good getting there ten minutes after they open, you won’t get a seat!  We would never have found it but for a tip off from Sarah.  The beer is fine and there is a choice of ciders, the cobs are plain but wholesome, but it is the extraordinary number of customers that makes your jaw drop.  You can read my somewhat astonished report on our visit in this previous post.

4. The Hollybush at Stourport on Severn

Another Sarah tip off, this one.  Only a minute or so to walk there from the canal, but not in a road you would normally explore in all probability.  This is one of those pubs where the landlord, or landlady in this instance, takes a personal interest in how you are liking the beer.  They had a good range on offer, all of which I had never tied before, and when one of them ran out and was replaced by a different ale, she came round and offered us a taste of the new one.  The pub has a website which you can see here. A bit of an ale drinker’s paradise this one.  If it was in the main street or next to the canal it would really thrive.

There you are then four really good pubs off the beaten track, and all well worth seeking out, but which one will win the coveted Herbie Award?  Tune in soon to find out.  I haven’t made my mind up yet so their is time to exert your influence if you know any of them.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Best Pub for Eating – Herbie Award announced

Cooh I’m knackered, just from clearing a shelf!  We have set ourselves the task of decluttering the house and are having a go at one shelf each every day.  Today I have thrown away a whole black sack full of old manuals, sheet music, magazines and what not from the shelf next to where I am typing this.  In the process I came across some old Welcome notes given out by the security guys at Paddington basin as well as an old BW leaflet about moorings in London. They made an interesting read, and will make a good contribution to the data I am collecting for my next assault on CRT about London moorings.

Anyway I’m back with you now with a cup of coffee and the results of our deliberations on Best Pub to Eat At 2013.  We decided that you had to judge it on the whole experience and not just the grub, so we took into account the ambience, the efficiency and friendliness of the service, the accompanying drinks, the choices on the menu and of course the presentation and taste and quality of what they dished up for us, and I suppose the value for money.  Of course none of our shortlisted pubs scored badly in any of this, but one did stand out in our memories as an all round winner. So, much to our surprise, the 2013 award goes to

The Narrowboat at Weedon

which is not really at Weedon but at Stowe Hill Wharf on the GU.

(and also right on the A5 between Weedon and Towcester.)

(Plus you could stop off next door at Stowe Hill Wharf and buy a boat from Dominic of Rugby Boats which is also not in Rugby.  What is it about this place?)

Well done The Narrowboat.  We’ll be back.

When we come to Best Pub for Drinking, we will be looking for a different kind of place. Something more traditional with a good choice of ales and all that.  Or perhaps we’ll have an Award for hidden gems – little pubs you might not find because they are tucked away. We stumbled on a few of them this year.  Yes, good idea,  I’ll set that one up next.  Come back and see.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Best Pub to Eat at Nominations

Kath and I are not bad cooks, I tend to be more adventurous and experimental and when I get it right Kath sometimes takes over the recipe so that I don’t alter it next time.  I mention this because you might think that we eat out all the time, and we certainly don’t, but if we are in the vicinity of a good eatery then we can easily succumb to temptation.   This year we ate out here and there and had meals ranging from indifferent to very good, so in the spirit of passing on recommendations to fellow canal travellers here are our nominations for the Herbie Award for Best Pub to Eat at  - 2013.  (Please remember these are selected only from pubs we have used from the boat this year.  Oh, and I suppose it is pubs only, so non pub restaurants are excluded.)

I won’t dwell on the fine detail of the menus because each pub this year has it’s own web site with sample menus so you can see for yourselves.

We’ll take them in chronological order based on the date of our visit.

1. The Great Western Arms at Aynho.  (S. Oxford canal)
We were introduced to this pub by Bones last year and we were happy to go back there with our Peter, who is a veggie, this year. It’s such a comfortable place. Warm and cosy on a cold spring evening and welcoming too.  The service is very good and you can enjoy your meal in a relaxed way.  The menu is not especially adventurous, but the chef knows his stuff and  food is prepared really well.  Check out the menu.  It’s all good and nicely presented. The highlight of the meal was the sampler board of puds. So pretty good food and an exceptionally nice place to spend an evening.  What else can I say?  They have lovely water jugs shaped like ducks, and the beer is Hook Norton.

2. The Wharf Inn at Fenny Compton (S. Oxford canal)
Although this is a large and lively pub, there is plenty of space and the menu is extensive.  If you are particularly carnivorous you will like this place for they have it in abundance including, in season and “depending on the landlord’s aim” a variety of game dishes.  Nevertheless our veggie Peter ate well too. But the pies, oh the pies, they are really real.  Proper home made pies with shortcrust pastry all over, you get a big slice cut from an even bigger pie.  We liked the atmosphere. Not especially cosy but plain and comfortable.  As I recall they had a good selection of beers and ciders too.

3. The Greyhound at Hawkesbury( N.Oxford / Coventry canals)
Their menu is ever changing and has items quite different from the usual fare, and the food we had was very good.  I recall I had monkfish tail thermidor with saffron spuds and samphire. Doesn’t that sound posh!  It was delicious, and perfectly cooked and I can’t remember the exact price, but it was about 13 quid.  Alright that’s dearer than the average pub meal but not extortionately so, especially for a dish like that.   They always have well kept and interesting beers there too. If I had to find a fault with the Greyhound it would only be that it is not that big and they get very busy, so you do tend to feel you ought to eat up and go.

4. The Narrow Boat at Weedon (Grand Union canal)
I should really dock them a point because it’s not exactly at Weedon, but at Stowe Hill on the GU.  We didn’t really intend stopping here but we were tired and we decided we didn’t want to go any further that day.  Well, we were very glad we did stop because this pub was surprisingly good.  It has had quite a smartening up in recent years, but you don’t need to dress up.  It was a cold evening and they found us a seat by a radiator then went off to get us a complimentary plate of warm crusty bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  The main dishes when they came were very pretty to look at and delicious to eat.  I think I may have had the belly pork again. No wonder I’m not losing weight.  Beer was well kept and the service was extremely friendly and efficient.  Another very comfortable evening.  They do a 20% off voucher on their web site.  Although we had no printer to print one off, we still got the discount.
Well there you are. Four canal side places for a good meal out. They do all cost a bit more than yer average boozer, but not a lot. I’m sorry I haven’t included any very cheap pub grub places. I don’t recall any this year that were Award worthy. 
Maybe you have tried some of our list.  Your comments do help us decide, so let us know if you have a favourite from the short list.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Two for the price of one–Awards continue

After my rant yesterday re Paddington moorings, I have decided not to sully this blog further with such depressing matters, BUT I have created a separate new blog called HerbiePlus (Herbie2 had already gone) in which I detail my concerns about London Visitor moorings together with some facts and figures and a plea for help with info. If this matter concerns you, then please take a look by following this link: Herbie Plus - the London Mooring Saga.  Thanks

Now on with the show.

Herbie Awards resumes

What a great collection of nominees we had for Best Mooring in the Sticks 2013.  We loved ‘em all. So I consulted SWMBO and we reckoned that we ought to give it to the place that overwhelmed us with peace and tranquillity while we just stared at a lovely bit of river.  So remote was it that I’m not sure now where we were, but looking now at the Google satellite pics I think I have found it.  So our declared winner is

Avon Navigation Trust moorings at Comberton


Those regular readers with a good memory will recall that I “sowed” a lot of olive pips at this spot, so in years to come it may become better known as the Olive Grove.

While we’re on the subject of good overnight stopping places I feel I should give a mention to another good one which didn’t really qualify as being in the sticks.  Its the little clearing next to the canal in the Lapworth link, the short cut between the Grand Union and the Stratford canal.  It’s got a nice big grassy area and some picnic tables


Ooh look, someone’s left a camera lens on that table. Oh, it’s all right, it’s only me.


Kath reads her book while Rick ponders the meaning of life.  It’s that sort of place

and it’s not too far to walk to the Boot pub, which rather nicely brings us on to one of the Herbie Awards premier categories. Best  Pub to eat at.  We use pubs for eating and drinking, but the two don’t always coincide, hence we split the pub category.

I need something to cheer me up and thinking about some of the lovely pub grub we had this year should do the trick nicely.  I’ll have a quiet reminisce and come up with a shortlist tomorrow.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Shock Announcement–Paddington Award Withdrawn!!!

I’m furious. Spitting tacks! Yesterday I popped in to see the mooring situation in Paddington basin on my way to Towpath Ranger duties on the Regents Canal.  Of course all the moorings were full. I expected that. What I didn’t expect was that the available space had been further reduced.  A floating pontoon has been erected across the basin towards the Edgeware road end


and signs on the mooring rings say this:


So in an already inadequate space allowance a further three boat spaces have been lost. A further check on the CRT stoppage page revealed this:

Stoppage: Paddington Basin / Paddington Arm

04 Oct 2013 - 14 Apr 2014

Associated Regional Office: London Waterways

Closure of Paddington Basin for bridge replacement


What the !!??


I was already sore about the fact that a) they had sold away half the spaces for winter mooring permits and b) that any remaining spaces appeared to be taken up by local “Residents” rather than bona fide visitors.  I marched down to the CRT office at Little Venice and asked to see someone to grumble at.  The lady i spoke to told me that those mooring rings should have been used in the firstp lace and that they would be permanently withdrawn fro use. As to the stoppage, she didn’t appear to know much ( no surprise there) but I was given the name and email address of someone to contact, so I have spent all morning today writing him a very long email asking for details of exactly how much space is available for “proper “ visitors and complaining about the lack of protection of visitor moorings.   As far as I can see central London is now virtually out of bounds for boats visiting from outside the city as so much visitor mooring has been taken away. After I get their reply, I intend to take the matter a lot further.  I’ll keep you posted.

So with a heavy heart I announce that I hereby strip Paddington basin of the Herbie Award for Best Destination 2013. You can’t have a best destination where you can’t go.  Grrrrrr.

Instead I award it to Market Harborough.  God bless ‘em.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Best Mooring in the Sticks 2013

The Herbie Awards 2013 continues with a celebration of beautiful rural spots where we tied up for an afternoon and evening during our long summer cruise this year.  Should you be doing some of our route, then I can recommend them all for being peaceful and attractive. lets look at the map

rural mooring 2013

Bear in mind this is not to scale or anything else, just a rough diagram really to give you an idea of our circuit.  Our five locations are the circled numbers.  Here we go.


1. Just North of bridge 35 on the North Oxford Canal



This is actually quite a popular spot, although not near anywhere in particular. It just has a nice feel about it.  Just round the next bend is some pretty woodland to walk in, otherwise it is just open fields.  I suppose it would benefit from more sitting out space.

2. Between Polesworth and Alvecote on the Coventry canal.

An extensive piece of open woodland adjoins the canal. Despite being much used by dog walkers and joggers, it is a lovely quiet spot and the vegetation is lush.  Should you want to, you could walk on to the Samuel Barlow pub at Alvecote in about ten minutes.  We didn’t.  It was too nice where we were.




3. Tixall Wide on the Staffs and Worcester – Everyone stops at Tixall Wide, it’s kind of obligatory.  Plenty of bank space and all that water to look at.





4. On the river Avon, a secluded mooring half a day upstream from Tewkesbury.  There aren’t enough stopping places on the Avon, so this is a good one to look out for.A very quiet spot, but ideal for a picnic. I think there is a village nearby, but we never saw it. No sound of a road. Lovely.  My  photos don’t do it justice.  With no one else to disturb, we played music on the bank and waved at the odd passing boat.





5. Last but not least, another one on the Avon, just half an hour downstream of Stratford are these tranquil moorings by Gordon Gray lock.


An ideal spot if Stratford is full. Plenty of room for a picnic or a barbecue and a lovely weir pool adjacent where some local lads came to swim and I saw this heron



Which did we enjoy most?  I’ll consult Kath and come up with an answer.  I’d be interested if anyone out here knows any of these spots and has an opinion.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Best Gadget Award announced - plus a Ranger Report

How interesting. It seems our commenters all have different ideas on which gadget should win this year’s Herbie Award. Gratifyingly though, you all seem to think all three items on the shortlist are worth having, which indeed they are.  Nevertheless we have chosen a winner and Kath and I are unanimous in choosing it.

Sadly, Suzy Perry of the Gadget Show was unavailable to present the award, on account of her still having a hangover from the post Formula One season party in Brazil, so I will tear open the golden envelope myself to reveal that the winner of:


Best Gadget on the Boat 2013


The Huawei E586 Wireless Modem


See, I even bothered to find out what it is really called, rather than just a MiFi thingy!  Why choose it?  Because wonderful though the iPad is, ours wouldn’t work on the boat without the Huawei. Furthermore this gadget also works with our smartphones and our old netbook, and any laptops or whatever our guests may bring.  And, most important of all, it gives us a good signal throughout the boat, so Kath can lie in bed reading blogs while I compose mine at the saloon table.  We have had three people using it simultaneously.  One more thing, you can easily slip it in your pocket to have wifi access to internet anywhere you go, providing you have a smartphone or a pc or a tablet of course.

As to the little Dyson, which is brilliant, we do have a dustpan and brush!


So as promised, we move next on to a more boaty, or waterway type award. What will it be? I’ll tell you next time, but in the meantime I have something else to report on


Now for something completely different

Yesterday was my first active day as a London Towpath Ranger.

It was a bit like on the job training really.  Four of us met at Rickmansworth and cycled 13 miles down the towpath to Hayes stopping frequently to examine and record damaged or dangerous surfaces, trimming back vegetation where overhanging twigs and branches would scratch your face or body, taking down out of date posters about lost dogs or local events, picking up rubbish, and identifying suitable places to erect new signs asking cyclists in particular to drop their pace and give way to pedestrians.  This something we plan to do about once a month.  In the Spring we plan to hold an awareness event in Denham to educate walkers and cyclists about proper use of the towpath.  A number of similar events have already been carried out in central London.

One item of interest to boaters was the line taken by our CRT leader Dick on disposal of sawn up logs and branches by the towpath where the contractors had cleared fallen trees etc.  Many boaters help themselves to these as firewood, and Dick pointed out that this was not only acceptable, it was to be encouraged. So the message is you can help yourself without any trace of guilt or worry, providing the tress had already fallen or been cut down. 

We have another rangers event in London tomorrow evening, photographing and checking lighting under bridges. I’ll be walking from Little Venice to Camden and beyond, and then going on to an “end of term” Rangers buffet near City Road lock.

Just recently I got a letter and a supporter’s magazine from the Trust. On the letter it said I was Supporter No. 0004692.  Not sure what constitutes a supporter, but I suppose it includes volunteers and “Friends”.  I don’t know whether you think that’s a high number of supporters or not, after eighteen months of the Trust.  I leave it to you to decide.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Herbie Award nominations for Best Gadget

Previous nominees in the category for best gadget have included low tech items like battery top up bottles and paint brush holders, but this year we’re going electronic. Yes, the Herbie Awards goes techno!  Kath and I may be a couple of geriatrics, but we’re a only a mere five years out of date when it comes to gadgets.   It all started last Christmas when our daughter Claire bought Kath a second hand iPad.  I had always resisted the lure of tablet computers because , well, because they weren’t proper computers.  To cut a long story short, I had to eat my words when I started to play with the thing and it wasn’t long before I squandered a nearly a month’s state pension on an iPad mini for myself. Then we decided to do something about the fact that we both wanted to browse the web simultaneously while on board the boat, and so it went.  Eventually I got so cavalier about wasting my money on quality gadgetry that I bought myself a fancy little vacuum cleaner.  So that’s the story behind the nominations for Herbie’s Best gadgets 2013.

so let’s look at this years short list.  Three things that we are very glad to have on the boat.

1. The iPad.  Is this the boater’s friend? In a word, Yes.  Boaters who use the web, and that seems to be most of us, need a browsing machine and whatnot, but it really helps if  a) it is compact and highly portable b) has a good battery life c) quick to turn on and off.  Add to that keeping your music in a compact place, and your photos, and your books, and having free daily BBC news online and you have some gadget.  And, it runs my digital canalometers. And I have typed 50,000 words of my book on it. Our old laptop, slow to start up and  always running out of battery lies gathering dust.

2. A MiFi thingy.  While we’re on the subject of internet use on board the boat, this gadget has made a real difference. neither of our iPads has a sim card in, so we browse with WiFi.  We used to use a plug in dongle but now we have this little thing that looks like a mobile phone which sits unobtrusively in the bedroom and gives us WiFi access to the internet throughout the boat.  What’s more it uses an external aerial so we get good 3G reception most of the time.  The signal is much better than a dongle, and two (or more) of us can browse simultaneously, and we don’t have to sit huddled by the window or in the cratch..  Ours is a Huawei 586E which is one of the few that accepts an external aerial.  t seems very reliable and we hardly ever can’t get a reasonable signal.  What’s not to like? Thanks Kathryn of Nb Leo who put us on to this.

3. Last but not least. Our little hand held Dyson vacuum.  These are I admit much dearer than other handheld vacs, but they really do work well on a boat.  We recharge ours from the inverter when the engine is running, and we have enough charge then to go through the whole boat dusting and hoovering in all the little corners where dust and fluff collects. I don’t know why the inside of Herbie gathers so much dust and fluff, but it does seem to.  I don’t know the technology behind the motors in these things – a digital motor they call it, but it’s near silent and has quite a powerful suck, and it came with a lot of useful tools.  Great for cleaning up around the coal stove after you spill some of the ashes.  The other thing of course is that being so small it stows away without taking up much valuable space.

So that’s the choice. None of them designed for boating but all of them absolutely ideal and each a boon.  But which is best? The answer might surprise you.  Place your bets.

Also next time, the introduction to a more boaty award.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Herbie Awards - a surprise winner

Well whoodathunkit?  I was all set to award the prize for best destination to one place, and then a comment changed my mind.  It just goes to show I do value your input although the final decision is ours.  If you remember we were choosing the best place to head for for its own sake (within the limits of Herbie’s travels this year).

We were very taken with our visit to Market Harborough this year and it is a true destination venue worthy of repeated visits, but a sentence for Sue(NP) swayed us.  She wrote “Oh it has to be Paddington! Our capital city's best moorings and not just a pitiful 24/48 hours to spend in London a whole 7 days!” and we had to admit she is right.  Good clean safe moorings in an ideal spot, handy for train, tube and bus, and it has that cute curl up bridge.

Not only that, it is a place you can return to time after time and still find plenty to do and see. As the old saying goes, he who is tired of London is tired of life. 

So the Herbie Award for Best destination 2013 goes to Paddington Basin.



  P1030117_edited-1  rolling bridge 016_edited-1

Now I feel guilty about Market Harborough.  Naturally it gets a Highly Commended.

As to Stratford, Worcester and Tewkesbury, they’re all good too. I would like to revisit all of them.

Next time, how about an award for this years Most Useful Narrowboaters Gadget.