Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Nosebleed territory and distractions

Have a look over there on the right .... this post will take me to 95 and on my way to 100 posts this year  which makes 2020 the best blogging year on Percy so far.

I was a bit keener on Waterlily hitting well into the 130’s  - and that was when I was working. 

I did call on Percy the other day for a check and this weekend we will be there all being well. I have an EE sim to try in the router. I have been reading around 4g connectivity (sad act) and I think I need to be looking deeper into the TP Link router and its settings to get the best out of it.

I’ve also been getting some exploratory miles in and around the moorlands on Anode my Royal Enfield Himalayan, plus weekend rides doing my IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorcyclists)  so I can eventually ride for the blood bikes..... and that’s before I’ve done stuff on the cottage. 


I brought a bit of the peaks back with me ......




Tuesday, 27 October 2020

C&RT on escalation, agree to my staff furloughed FOI request

A good while back I reflected on the lack of work being done on the canal infrastructure during lockdown. Now I stand to be accused of hard hearted as I thought it was a good and safe time ( with appropriate RAMS  -Risk assessments and method statements)  in place to tackle some of the work needing doing  - backlog jobs on a closed off system. 

I recall my trigger was the stringent timings on Harecastle tunnel passages (ok not maintenance but a indication of the number of furloughed staff ) This was after a chat with a tunnel keeper who said they (to remove identification by gender) had been furloughed and a good number of staff still were (Early July IIRC)

So my initial FOI (Freedom of Information) request was declined  - see below

Reference No: FOI 79/20

Thank you for your request of 8 May 2020.  We have treated your request as a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act).

I can confirm that while the Trust holds the information you have requested, its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 are limited in scope to information relating to statutory functions which were transferred to it from British Waterways under the British Waterways Board (Transfer of Functions) Order under 2012 – these functions relate to the operation and licensing of vessels on our inland waterway network.

The information you have requested does not relate to the operation or maintenance of our waterways, rather it is in relation to rather it is in relation to the Trust employees that have been furloughed. Therefore, the information you have requested falls outside the scope of the Act.

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within two months of the date of this email and should be sent by email to information.request@canalrivertrust.org.uk or by post to Information Officer, Legal Department, Canal and River Trust, Aqua House, 20 Lionel Street, Birmingham, B3 1AQ.

You are also able to contact the Information Commissioner by telephoning 0303 123 1113 although please note they would usually expect you to have gone through our internal review procedure before contacting them.

I did not accept this and replied.....

On 17 Jul 2020, at 21:37

 

Dear Madam/Sir.

 

With reference to my FOI 79/20 and the response below.

 

I do not recognise the statement "statutory functions which were transferred to it from British Waterways under the British Waterways Board (Transfer of Functions) Order under 2012 – these functions relate to the operation and licensing of vessels on our inland waterway network.”

 

The transfer of functions includes the upkeep and maintenance of the canal system surely ?

 

The reponse also stated "The information you have requested does not relate to the operation or maintenance of our waterways, rather it is in relation to rather it is in relation to the Trust employees that have been furloughed. “

 

I would contend the FOI was to understand the number of Staff furloughed and critically I asked for a breakdown by area of operation which does very much relate to the maintenance of the waterways

 

I therefore feel the response falls well short in its understanding and interpretation of my FOI request. Based on this could you please revisit the request and provide the information on Furloughed staff and a breakdown by area of operation?

 

Many thanks

 

Kind regards

Today I received this reply after my escalation 

Dear Mr Wells,

 

Further to your email of 06/10/2020.

 

I have now conducted the internal review requested and can confirm that although the information does not directly relate to the Trusts operation and maintenance of the waterway, there is an indirect link between the two and in particular the number of operational staff which were furloughed in the height of the pandemic. We have now concluded that the request is in scope of the FOI and have provided a response to your questions below:

 

1. How many staff were furloughed at the peak of furloughing staff? 674 staff at peak 

2. What % of the total staffing of the Canal and Rivers Trust  were furloughed at the peak of  furloughing ? 41.92% of staff furloughed at peak

3. Could this be broken down into administration and operational Staff?

129 employees were office staff

244 employees were bank and office staff

301 employees were Bank staff

 

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request for an internal review, then you are able to contact the Information Commissioner by telephoning 0303 123 1113.

 

Kind regards,

So it is for you to interpret. My interpretation is the trust used the furlough scheme (in part) to save costs on salaries at a time they could and should have been actively repairing the canal system while closed - using the correct RAMS.

Do you agree or am I being an arse for asking for this and also expecting the workers to work (as the ground workers did on the roads and a vast number of other workers did all under safe RAMS)  

An alternative view may be this saved the trust some money in wages to spend on the system? However that works needs doing regardless. I'm not suggesting major projects were instantly brought forward disregarding all the essential planning and materials supply needed.... more a general tidy up of the system, and much needed Planned Preventative Maintenance carried out  - the bit that I think is woefully disregarded in favour of Reactive Maintenance.

It's all immaterial of course as the time has past and the furlough scheme will I doubt ever be resurrected due to massive costs for the country. 

Happy to be educated on my views here, down to leave them alone or  daft FOI's etc 

Over to you, but be constructive 

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Another one goes..

 Remember my blog about my Rover going .... here click me 


All part of my pledge to change - remember that, how's yours going  ? Click me 

Back to my pledge to change.... 

1. Do I need two motorbikes when one does 45 mpg and the other does 80mpg..... 

2. I have Percy so staycations are a given (along with my 80 mpg motorbike)

3. The motorbike touring in this country will put money back into the UK economy

4. Make do and mend, I've amazed myself what I can turn my hand to and repurpose and continue to do so, it's enjoyable saves money and saves resources.

5.  My Old Rover is financially worthless but is also a diesel 38 mpg very heavy large and in the main overkill for moving me and Leia around. It's high tax as its a relatively high emissions car so it needs to go.

6. We need to invest in an electric car

7.  More efficient home power use. Need to get some low environmental impact  (wood) double glazing at home to both keep the fitters and makers in work and save ££'s and oil use.

8. We will grow a few more veggies. We don't have a large garden but are making troughs for summer veg and planting in our cottage garden borders also (how it used to be I'm told by Rachel) 

9. Other stuff I've not yet considered but will keep the 'change' option in the forefront of decision making.

So progress is great 

1 partially sorted - see below

2. Done two staycations this year on Percy

3. Just come back from Scotland and have a few tours already lined up next year.

4. Ongoing ......

5. Rover gone IQ in 

6. Not yet too expensive 

7. Double glazing and wood burner  (to replace open fire in progress) 

8. Eating our own veg - quarter sack of spuds still to go 

9. Ongoing 

Picking up from my last post about bikes the big 1300 cc (well 1260) is gone today 8th October 

My lovely Honda ST1300 Pan European V4 is PX'd. Not much pillion stuff in the foreseeable future lighter bike(s) needed more economical, and easier to look after and service (by me). 

It realised a youthhood dream of fast big bike European travel. My two Pans have taken us all over the UK, England Ireland Scotland and Wales plus Europe a few times into Belgium, France, Germany Luxembourg. I dreamt big and the Pans enabled me to realise those dreams.

Its gone from 1260ccV4 to 411cc single  - meet Anode my Royal Enfield Himalayan.



It's now about exploring my country and not motorways and fast A roads where places flash by.... just bringing it home I rode through two villages I've ridden by signs for many times. Lovely traffic free country roads instead of following lines of traffic, waiting for that overtake to get behind the next car etc. 

Panniers are due hopefully this week, I spent a wet day in the dry garage farkling it with extra lighting, sat nav wiring and fitting etc. I've also spent some time planning routes that will get me from one end of the country to the other LEJOG (Lands End to John O Groats) by minor roads and places to see.



It'll give me 80mpg - the Pan was between 35 and 40. I still do not need two bikes but for now let me enjoy a bit of my retirement !






Monday, 12 October 2020

Buxton and boating

Nope C&RT have not magic'd a canal into Buxton, rather we had a weekend of being in Buxton then an overnighter on Percy. I used to visit Buxton a lot as we had quite a few sites there - (I worked at the University of Derby) The dome is a jewel of a site that cost us over 23 million to renovate from the NHS ! 


The next day we were off to Percy to collect some stuff we (I) left behind. We started out in sunshine so opted for a walk as soon as we arrived.... then the clouds came with us. 







...and yes we did light the fire !


Saturday, 10 October 2020

A belter of a mooring and bikes to Scotland

I'm not walking the valley as much as I want to or should do. Sadly Leia is showing signs of age  - she's getting close to 13 and under the vets for joints etc. She is is good shape just wear and tear - see later for an update on her owner !! But is does mean we have to time the longer harder walks 

So we did have a wander on the Caldon the day after leaving the Shroppie  and when we do I have been watching the progress on I think it's called "mill mooring' just up from Consall lock. The owner/renter has put a great deal of effort in to make a beautiful remote mooring. Lots of places to sit and watch the world (canal boats/walkers and steam trains) go by. 



I did notice the second boat arrived... I wonder if it's a legit mooring back there?

Within five days of getting back off the boat I was off to Scotland on my motorbike. It was a socially distanced trip two bubbles four bikes. 

We were based in Moffat and had three 200 mile days exploring east and west around the Galloway forest park one day, up to Ayr another and then over East back in Northumberland and back via St Mary's lock. Stunning biking.

Now a confession of double stupidity that seems to come ever more with my age increasing ! I have two motorbikes and I wanted to try the 750cc Honda NC750x DCT (mouthful but essential for those who read who have bikes) in favour of the Honda ST1300 Pan European. The latter weighing in at 330kg and the NC 239kg so the weight and fuel consumption was on test to be dispensed with ... more on that in another blog. 

Anyhow the NC normally hits around 80mpg and the fuel gauge a little pessimistic.... yes you guessed it I pushed my range to the point I ran out of petrol - first time in all my biking and motoring 'career'. I was 1.7 miles short of the junction of the M74 so stupidly started to push and I got almost to the slip before I too ran out of fuel. Luckily one of my good friends had sourced a litre of fuel from a local who was mowing his lawn. Suitably topped up I got off the motorway and returned the container with a tenner  - the most expensive litre of fuel I've ever brought. But it was a valuable (in more ways than one) experience.

Some old ruins and the Abbey was nice also 


My red NC and Steve's RT  - there is a space in my life for a RT at some point I'm sure. The RT is what most police forces use


Hardy bikers we were  - yes that's frost and I left my heated gloves at home  ! 


Ailsa Craig looking like its floating in the air. - Interesting place read more of it here Click me 

I recently read a great book by a young Scottish student who in the 70's spend a year as a relief lighthouse keeper  - the book was called Stargazing by Peter Hill Click me for a link 


Hot soup at this stop for the oldies at Jedburgh. Jedburgh Abbey in the background. 


Scotts view ...


Click below to read about this reason this view is called Scott's view 



Around 1,000 miles in 5 days with good sensible safe friends on decent motorbikes on stupendous roads. For my record the NC was great, the DCT (Duel Clutch Transmission) was superb as was the 80mpg plus fuel economy. Little less able on the motorway but I kept off that (M6) as much as possible. 

Like Leia I am ever more feeling my age and 200 miles a day 'tightened me up a bit' so an hour or so stretching reminded me I need to get out more  (walking  - and I have a plan for that)  plus it reinforced my thinking about a bike change






Thursday, 8 October 2020

What you've never hand fed a Polar Bear, Tiger or Leopard ?

Ok, back to blogging a few things to catch up on.....

Last blog was us finishing our journey to Llangollen and back ( well Trevor basin to be precise) We got back a little earlier than planned as we had an invite to join our eldest son, daughter in law and Grandson at the local wildlife park. We were gifted the opportunity to hand feed the wildest of animals..... a truly memorable day.




 More updates to come  - I've just has my third 'blogging book' back from the printers, so I have 2008 2009 and now 2010 in print for my heirs... only ten more years to get done to get up to date. it does mean to make them a decent record of my 'activities' such as hand feeding polar bears etc I am breaking the next few posts to specific  events - not great but hey it's my life !! 

As always you can click the images to get full res ....


Friday, 25 September 2020

The last hop....

Back to our Wales adventure.... to complete the trip record.

We woke on Sunday morning to a relaxed start. I had prepped the engine the night before (lubricated etc) so when we got a knock on the roof at about 9am from the local fishing club asking if we were moving off anytime soon as they had a match on I offered a 10 minute extraction which was greeted with happy smiles from the bailiff ! 

There was a bit of method in my compliance as when I popped up the back hatch and enquired on the number of pegs (I am a much retired match angler) I was informed 60 ! Now I am a fisher person so always travel in a match at absolute tickover and sixty pegs was a sizeable match so we fired up and headed home.

The blue skies belie the cold feel of the wind out of the sun. 


The bonus is there are little pockets of wind protection getting bigger as we approached our mooring 


The massive Wrekin is a marker of being home. Ironically we could just about see it from Chirk Castle and we can see it as we drive over Caudon Low on our way to the cottage. 


We've seen this little boat every time we pass through Tyrley locks " Spirit of Phoebe" As you can see its a narrow narrow boat and only about 15 feet long. I'd love to know the story of the boat if there is one ?


Then it was the last bit via the wharf at Knighton and Shebdon embankment to our silty mooring where Percy's rear end gurgles and farts as it passes the silt bar that has formed where the turning circle is for moorer's cars.

We had a lazy Sunday afternoon cleaning the boat (inside) and I cut the grass by the flower beds then headed home .... a summary will be added for the record. 



Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Blogpress SOS

 Slightly unusual request for blogging help....

I have my old waterlily blog printed year by year as something to pass down to my great grandkids so they knew what Great Grandad Nev did with his time ! 

Anyhow I was prepping my old Waterlily blog and all the images I uploaded with 

"- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone" are missing. 

It seems when I did this Blogpress held the images rather than Blogger and Blogpress seems to have done a reinvention with paid accounts and possibly dumped all their old 'customers' and their data?

Anyone else had a similar experience as I'd like to get my blogs back complete ?

Any help advice commiserations greatly received.


Sunday, 20 September 2020

Out in the dark, back in the dark

Yesterday was always going to be a longish day but an invite somewhere on Monday saw us making a seven hour day into a thirteen hour day. 

We set off at 7.15 am on another beautiful day towards Audlem. Other boats had the same idea and it was not long before the first boat came past us and at Coole Pilate a boat emerged in front of us (well in front of us) towards Audlem. 


When we got to the bottom lock at Audlem I realised it was John and Jan on NB Jubilee. We made it up the flight in about 2 hours 45 minutes with the help of John and Jan who set a few locks for us (we forgot to say thank you - so a heart felt thank you). We also met Nick on NB Mintball (great name) towards the top of the flight.

There was a lack of water evident on the flight and the canal in general. The by-washes were non existent. This slowed us later for a couple of reasons ....


Nick on Mintball, nice to meet you. 

We cleared the Adderley flight and took a three hour siesta in the beautiful woods before Market Drayton, supposedly haunted. We did consider an overnight here and a longer day on Sunday for out return but in the end took a calculated gamble on Tyrley lock moorings.....

As we cruised through Market Drayton we hailed our lock wheelers.... might they have something to tell ?


Then it was the slow chug to the Tyrley flight. Here it got very slow as the boat in front would not exit the lock until his crew had emptied the lock in front  ( no one coming down). He held in the lock so we could not close the gate and  empty it and make our progress. He said he was concerned he would be grounded in the pounds ? (despite his lock wheeler emptying water into the pounds from the lock above - can you figure that out  - we could not. ) So we had a very slow passage through these locks in the fading lights. 

Then our planned moorings for the night were full, every time we have been this way before - including late on the way out there were moorings but not today so off we went through the Woodseves cutting .... in the ever fading light. The water levels being low made passage through the cutting very slow but still very atmospheric and enjoyable. We both showered on the move and Rachel set to making a meal.



By the time we came out of the cutting it was getting dark to the point I put on the headlight - on the way out on this trip the light was also used ! 

I do like cruising in the early mornings and the late evenings 



We eventually put pins in at Soudley  - well out from the bank but it had been a 13 hour day and we had enjoyed every minute of it.




Friday, 18 September 2020

The 10/10 turn

Today I woke to a colder boat and a chilly morning with dew a plenty on the boat, a sign of times to come for sure. 

The plan was for a 7.45am start to get to the Hurleston flight at 8am (we were just outside Swanley marina) in true lesson learnt mode we slightly overslept choosing to wake naturally rather than to an alarm so it was 8.30 when we eventually motored off our last mooring on the Llangollen for a while. It all worked ok  as we arrived a the flight the lockies set the locks but we dipped onto the water point to give us the last top up before Shebdon and home mooring. It helps there is a decent straight approach to the locks so I kept an eye out for approaching boats and slipped us back into the channel when I saw a boat in the distance. This was fortuitous timing as we had the flight to ourselves apart from the last lock with the lockies setting the three towards the junction. I had a decent chat with one of them who had his Braidbar in Swanley marina that had a JP2 all the way from South Africa - a 1956 vintage engine.

Then Rachel did a 10/10 turn onto the main line with two boats queueing to go onto the Llangollen watching in admiration as Percy was swung round under the bridge and pointed home.

We emptied the cassette at the services and got an embankment mooring for the first time and after coffee we went into our second favourite town centre after Chichester  - Nantwich.

Suitability fed and topped up shopping wise (wine) we slipped back into the channel at around 5pm for a cruise to take us just above the Hack Green locks to remove that little bottleneck in the morning. The no2 lock has really badly leaking bottom gates and takes an age to fill and empties the pound dramatically  in the process.  

This fella keeps following me ....


Percy enjoying the deeper and wider main line 


No worries about breaking wash

We are moored just past the first bridge above the locks - a lovely quiet rural mooring that will give me about 45 minutes cruising time in the morning before the Audlem and Adderley locks (20 in total) I fancy another dawn cruise so 45 minutes should see us at the bottom of the flight before 8am.

I got the drone out when we moored up for some shots of the area.

That is the 'secret bunker' behind Percy where the order to sink the Belgrano came from  - I've toured it twice - a good day out if a little sobering 


The canal looking back towards Nantwich and Hack green locks 


Looking towards our home mooring 


Percy's penultimate mooring of this trip just above Hack Green locks 





Thursday, 17 September 2020

Splendid 8 hour boating day

 We (I) planned a 8am arrival at the Grindley brook staircase locks  - I really did not want the same 2 hour wait we had the other day. It worked well and I was able to use the services for rubbish and cassette as we were the first boat there. 

I had a good chat with Charlie the lock keeper. He said yesterday there were 63 passages through the locks with it getting a bit fractious at the bottom made a little more complicated by the Chamberlin pair of working boats coming up. He said he had one irate private boater approach him demanding he go down and ‘ sort it out’ and make the passages quicker !

His observations were there was more agitation and moaning going on this season, mainly from people like me ( he did not say that ) private boaters. My spin is more marina  boaters out at what is normally a quieter time only to fine lots of boats out. He said he had a friend up in one of the hire bases and they were booked out until the end of November. He also said all those bookings cancelled had been remade and people we coming back off their hastily booked canal  holidays that had enjoyed it then booked next year. Good for the canals and businesses  - and C&RT

Our 6 lock decent of the Grindley flight in under an hour was dented by a four boat queue at the next lock, not helped it seems as the lead boat had got caught on the cill. No great drama just a little slow down.

There is a need for some veg management on the lower part of this canal for sure. 


We came round a corner and found a boat blocking the canal. I had to use our boat pole and pole it back and re-tie it up with the bits of rope left  - it had been done a few times judging by the various bits of rope and knots.

The rest of the trip was just nice boating, still busy and a few hold backs at bridge holes but lovely warm mid September weather.


Just short of eight hours cruising today and we are just up from Swanley marina. Plan tomorrow is an early is start to get to the Hurleston locks then into Nantwich by late morning to hopefully get a mooring so we can go into town. Later we may move to a rural mooring for the cat. Then we will be set fair for the Audlem flight on Saturday and hopefully get above Adderley so we can have a lazy Sunday with an evening cruise back to our mooring.