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.