Thursday, 31 December 2020

An alternative perspective to end 2020

I wrote my last blog post before Christmas but did not post it as it was quite negative, not very festive but it needed recording. I'm working hard at being positive and have every reason to be looking forward. I recently read a BBC article about positive thinking and am trying to practice what I read.

Talking of reading I failed on my reading target for the last two months with a woeful three and a bit books rather than four in November I targeted. I do enjoy reading but get distracted.... but at least I still have plenty to go at and I added a ghost story - Platform Seven recommended from Sarah's Blog .... here  

The stove got fitted (at the cottage)  and fired up just before Christmas  - we've been enjoying using the coal and wood in the workshop if for nothing else to start freeing up space in there. We still need to paint the surrounds and chimney breast. It's in a very old cottage ... 200 plus years old we think so needed to look rustic and be practical, deep hearth helps keep the ash off the carpet ! 

I have also reflected on the two trips we achieved in 2020 - the four counties which I think I have said before could be done time and again and I'd still not get bored with it and finally getting Percy plus Rachel and I over the Pontcysyllte aqueduct.

Plus a bike trip to Scotland ....

Finally to pick up on my positive approach to 2021 I have this morning (29th December) booked the dry dock for Percy's blacking and hull survey in October so that'll be another cruise over to Stone. The lady who I spoke to was so helpful and friendly which bodes well for the actual 'event' in October. Plus I have recommendation from Carol of Stillrockin Just hope the hull survey goes as well - I have contacted Balliol who has surveyed the three boats we have brought as well as doing the C&RT damage survey on Percy. Given the time scales I am confident we can secure his services again ( he has confirmed ). Then it'll be booking Nigel the Boat Safety fella for the inspection when we get back from Stone in late October.

We have also adjusted holidays around Rachel's University and NHS commitments that will give us a couple of weeks in late April for a trip to not sure where yet. 

Could be :
  1. Chester
  2. The Ashby
  3. Top of the Macclesfield
  4. Up the Caldon again
  5. Stourport basin 
Two weeks to play with so it will be CanalplanAC to plan/plot that for sure.

Before that I have the stove to fit and engine to deep service so Percy will be getting some attention in the early part of next year. We have in the past been aboard over the New Year. My good friend Mandy has just sent us some pictures of Percy sitting out in the snow. I know how long it would take to get Percy to a comfortable heat so for now I think we will wait until the daytime temperatures are higher and there is some sun on the side to get a bit of solar gain. 

This year we will be in the Snowy moorlands to kick 2020's arse into the history books ! 

Monday, 28 December 2020

The curse of internet on a tub of steel and fed up

I've been dicking around trying to improve the internet signal on our boat... and its been a frustration to say the least. It culminated in my Ipad being launched across the boat in frustration while I was trying to watch the Rugby on Amazon prime the other week.

The frustration is we can get a decent (by boat standards) download speed of around 10 MB/s  - perfectly acceptable for streaming and other internetty stuff but its inconsistent meaning buffering or worse dropping the stream altogether. 

I have put up an outdoor omnidirectional aerial and have a TPlink 4g modem. The latter being recently replace by their latest cat6 300mb/s (Ha!) model. I have done a ton of reading the forums about cell towers, channels and carrier aggregation something the latest model of TPlinks (M600) is supposed to support. 

However when swapped over it actually was slower than my older M200 (150mb/s - double ha!) 

The frustration is putting up the external aerial does not seem to achieve a great deal more that having my Iphone in the window at the front of the boat. 

So the TPlink M600 has gone back to Amazon and the TPlink M200 is back in service - well service at home undergoing tests in the window (22mb/s here which is as fast as our home broadband) 

Ultimately if we can't get a reliable signal on the boat we have a few choices;

1. Read a book

2. Move moorings

3. Sell the boat

I've never felt so disconnected from the boat and canals. Maybe it's because I know what work is needed in 2021 (if we get a 2021), Hull survey, blacking and boat safety. All really are needed if we do sell the boat so not wasted apart from the time effort and money that will be involved.

I could just take it to Norbury and get them to do the blacking and get the hull surveyed while there but in my experience blacking is best done by yourself to get the best job and if that is the case I need to find a dry dock that is in commuting distance to the house. I liked the bonded warehouse but it was too distant from the cottage meaning I was left aboard in not the best place.

Truth be told I'm fed up with this year and the Chinese virus that is doing its job on the world. I have work to do on the boat that should be an enjoyable challenge, but I just see it as another 'job' that needs doing before we can cruise. When you add the jobs needing doing  - general maintenance stuff plus fitting the back stove then the BSC Blacking and survey - not a lot of cruising will be done next year and what will be done will carry an overload of cost and work.... 

Not the most positive of blogs but it needs to be recorded  - I know others are venting - Country House Gent on YouTube has a view, not one I agree with but there is a real sense of anger in him.

O well at least we have a Christmas to not look forward to  - shouldn't wish my life away but it's hard not to want to flush 2020 down the toilet and wipe our hands on the remains of winter in 2021 before, if we are still here, spring 2021 and the vaccine arrive.

..... as to the internet, might try a different 4g router from Amazon, they can take a bit of order and return abuse, I spend enough with them. 

Watch this space ........

Monday, 7 December 2020

I need a boat fix

More than once in the recent past I've considered selling Percy. Boats are a real expense and if like me you do as much maintenance on them yourself it is a 'load' on your time and ( for me) whittle time  - those quiet moments when trying to relax the little red boating devil on my shoulder starts asking me questions such as, 

  • When are you going to lay the kitchen and bathroom floors? 
  • Isn't it about time you hoovered out the water heater burners? 
  • What about that major engine service, the one where you take the side off the engine to get to the sump?
  • Those curtains are coming soon, when will you finish the window refurb?
  • That forecabin is a state, needs a sort and declutter...
  • Could have done with a polish before winter 
  • Those little bits of paint that need addressing ....
  • Have you booked the dry dock for November next year for the blacking and insurance survey....
... and on and on.

Having said all that we were so lucky this year as while all other holidays were cancelled we had two great two week holidays around the four counties and to ( nearly) the end of the Llangollen.

To justify the boat to me I like to use it all year and this latest lockdown whilst easier in conditions ( we could and did visit the boat for the day ) has been a frustration but understandable one. 

I was planning to go to the boat on Thursday to stay over for a few days and crack on with the engine service. However a hospital appointment ( Thursday) and a stove delivery ( Friday) has put a dent in that. We will still possible go this weekend ..... C&RT advice below:

As of 2 December 2020 our navigations will be open for you to cruise – and stay on board overnight – subject to ongoing government guidance. The Government advises that people should specifically try to avoid leaving or entering very high alert level areas (tier 3), other than for things like work or education so we would strongly advise against travelling to or from your boat, or boating for any distance, in these areas.

We are in tier 3 as is our boat so we are not crossing tier borders ! My interpretation, other interpretations are no doubt available. As through this period I've practiced common sense, limiting my exposure to others and others exposure to me while at the same time being sensible with my own mental health, and I get low  (SAD  -Seasonal Affection Disorder).  So I need to be out doing thing being it walking, fishing motorcycling or boating. 

My life my sensible choices and balanced risk. 

A report will follow (hopefully) 

Saturday, 5 December 2020

C&RT doing essential work on those horrible Knowle locks

The Knowle locks are beautiful but not the place to be in the wet and more critically the wind. Done them a few times and the wind can play merry havoc on the pound crossings especially if you are swapping chambers with other boaters. 

A friend on one of the motorcycle forums is a volunteer lock keeper at these locks and has recently shared a C&RT info video which is interesting for a five minute watch with a cup of coffee... or maybe a small whisky if the time is appropriate 

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Rudyard lake - C&RT owned and maintained

Since we took Waterlily up to the end of the Leek arm of the Caldon I've not really thought much of the lake that was built  to feed the Caldon canal. Here is the post on NB waterlily's blog - 11 years ago now   

Indeed it is still a working reservoir that feeds the Caldon canal. Now I live in the area I visited it on the bike on a recent food shopping trip ( for the future.... this is lockdown England where to minimise Covid 19 infections we are encourages and in some instanced legislated to do certain things in certain ways  - essential travel being a contentious issue for many) 

Anyway I digress  this is a beautiful reservoir  that will be explored more in coming months  - on foot. 

You can read about it here  - Click me 

There is no doubt the canal engineers of the day put some serious effort into water provision for the canals. Bosley reservoir another fine example.

Anyhow here are a couple of gratuitous pictures of my bike and the reservoir as well as a picture or two of the hills above leek as I wended my way back to Sainsbury's for food !

Monday, 30 November 2020

Eight years of ownership today

I was browsing my blog today and happened to note the timer on the top right telling me we'd owned Percy for eight years today.

It's funny how some memories are etched into your brain while others dribble out over time. I remember so clearly the first few minutes of cruising Percy away from Tony's old place at Braunston. I looked back just once to see Tony standing watching no doubt himself recording the day he let his boat go after 20 years of construction and ownership. 

A couple of pictures.... how long have you owned your current boat ? 

The last picture is the first nights mooring just above Hillmorton locks. I was on my own aboard, Rachel and Callum joined me the next morning for the eventful cruise back to Fradley ( in the ice !) 

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Beauty wrapping itself around me

There is no doubt about it, winter has the best light  - certainly for a fumbling photographer such as me. 

I woke the other morning and while out with Leia for her first of the day pee the mist and sunrise was enchanting. I quickly got the drone out and sent it up to see what it could see and it brought this beauty back for me.

Later that day we went for a walk and on the lane overlooking the valley in the evening nature had borrowed dawns blanket for her night time sleep.

Note to self carry my big camera more and get the drone up more 

Friday, 27 November 2020

A boat blog - stove ordered

Sadly the Ex GWR guards stove I have on Percy in the back cabin  (not connected  - no stove pipe) is not really safe enough to use. Ironically it will pass a Boat Safety test with an advisory on a not sealing 'door' the door is really a drop down flap and could not easily be sealed. The same for the ash door  - there isn't one just a 'stopper'. 

Don't worry dear reader the Ex GWR stove will give heat but it'll be in my workshop at home. There used to be an old copper  - remember them, that I took out, so there is a chimney I can drop a liner down and fashion a connection to the top for the GWR stove  - it'll be a lash up but a safe one I will aim for. 

I need a replacement as I do intend some winter cruising ( best time of the year to cruise if it's dry)  So a Friday of colour is here and Midland Chandlers are doing a deal on their stoves with 10 % off. So a Puffin 4kw has been ordered. British made and steel construction with a cast door. The reason for this stove was availability, size and critically flue size of 4" which is what is needed for the collar on the boat. 

I've ordered what I think is needed for the flue and need to sort out the area its going in. I have the details for the recommended safe install  - the section on to be installed by a competent person means I'll have to be sober when I do it and I need to get some fire board, concrete board  and tiles. It will be a nice winter project allowing me to spend some time aboard while doing this and it'll be another job off the list of boat jobs. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Briefly top dog (blog)

My recent flurry of posts saw a heady position of top blogger .... soon kicked into my normal position but nice to say at the time Top Blog. Thanks to those that follow my self diary. I’ve got the builders in at home  fitting of all things another multi fuel stove so I’ll entertain myself with reading what I was up to at this time going back through the 8 years of ownership of NB Percy.

Saturday, 14 November 2020

An essential trip for sewage

We have a cassette loo on Percy, we've had boats with pump outs before and they were inconvenient expensive and smelly. So when we looked at Percy 8 years ago about now, the cassette (well it was a porta potty then) was an attraction  !! 

Having the car by the boat really helps and very much the case when it comes to moving cassettes to be emptied when static on the mooring. However the cassettes have a tendency to weep  (!) when sloshed about in the car so they have to be bagged up. On out last visit we topped up the second cassette but could not bring it back with us as we were black bag less.

So Friday I used the excuse of exercise and an essential trip to nip over the Shebdon to collect the cassettes and check on the boat. I can understand some not agreeing with my logic but its an interpretational position and my speedy risk assessment suggested I'm more likely to get Cholera than C19 on this trip. 

All was ok with Percy, the sun was shining the boat looked well and I would have liked to have stayed a few days to undertake a full engine service that will involve taking the side off the engine to get to the oil strainer and sump.... when I do do this I'll be sure to blog about it.

I called on my neighbour Mandy off NB Don't Panic to see if she would facilitate a gas bottle change by coal Boat Bargus and she readily agreed - good to have good neighbours. I try and use the coal boats as they have helped in the past.... the gas bottle was a whopping £33.95 .... I can remember when they were about a tenner !!

When I got home I got a message my new gas was safely stored with Mandy for my next visit, a combination of internet for notification of delivery schedule as well as texts to order and then electronic banking to pay mixed with an old boat plying trade on the canals still finally topped off with good friendships and helpful people ..... it all worked.

The little Toyota IQ swallowed up the two cassettes and my fishing gear.... I have been gifted a second hand fishing box and another pole so I can retire my fishing box to the boats forecabin so I have a decent seat and storage of my gear for the future cruises that involve fishing  !!

Plenty of jobs to do at home and then get onto Percy for that engine service. I do need to book a dry dock for self blacking next autumn and a hull survey ! 

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Carpe Diem

Never has there been a better time  (in my life) to Carpe Diem....

I try to limit my news intake and discourage discussion over current affairs if I can. I can't influence it so why worry about it . (OK I can follow government advice and as a law abiding citizen I do so )
So today was a walk to a place I've long since planned for while in my working life. The A53 runs between Leek and Buxton and we  (the University) had sites in both towns and when I visited them I drove past the Roaches and Hen Cloud promising myself that I'd be up there in my retirement.
Well it only took me just over three years but today I was up there and boy was it worth the wait. I arranged a socially distanced meet with my long time friend Graham. We had planned the Roaches and Luds Church but decided to tag on Hen Cloud as our 8am arrival saw us have the whole place to ourselves. 
It's beautiful up there with the ridge walk of the Roaches giving great views and Graham checked we were looking as far as the Black Mountains in the far far distance. There was so much to see and the weather albeit windy on the ridge later in the day was perfect for it.

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

A joyous walk but a sad sight

On Sunday we set forth with Leia to get into the valley ( as the Skids once sang) to get some natural Vitamin D and put some clean air through our lungs. All very safe apart from it being slippy going down through Hazles Wood. 

A few people about, no boats moored or moving just a quiet canal and a quite steam railway waiting for next year. It was joyous to be out and has kicked me into getting broader walks undertaken and I’m out again later in the week walking somewhere I’ve dreamed about and driven past many times ....more on that later.

So what was it that brought me down, well it was a family at play. As we got towards the tunnel ( Froghall Tunnel) as I’m talking about the Caldon canal there was two fellas fishing and bantering as they do. The sad sight was the little lad, maybe 6 sitting in a folding chair up against the railings with a phone in his hand totally oblivious to us, his parents and his surroundings. He was engrossed in whatever the little four inch screen was transmitting  to his eyes and brain. So much else to see, so may hundreds of square yards of beauty and tranquility to behold yet his universe was a little four inch screen, held 9 inches from his face. The real sadness was he looked so happy.......

When we (I) worry about the future generations and how we are buggering up the world for them, maybe it’s an unnecessary concern, could their future lies in a two dimensional universe fed to them over the invisible harmful  wireless signals keeping them head down eyes focussed on an real unreality

Prove me wrong young people 

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Heating - your input is sought.

I think next to toilets this is one of the most 'raised' topics on the forums and possibly between owners. On Percy it is  KISS  - a Squirrel with a back boiler which in turn feeds a run of 40mm (?) copper pipe all the way up a slight incline to the bathroom and back. Very simple very efficient all working on thermosiphoning so no pump and no power needed. It saw me through two winters aboard Percy 

Why am I blogging about this  - well our boiler at home broke down the other day. Well not so much broke down but stopped working due to loss of pressure because the joint to the pump from the gate valves (that are used to isolate the pump for changing) was weeping. It should have been a simple job of isolating the pump by closing the two gate valves on either side of the pump, undoing the pump and replacing the rubber seals. Only the joint between the gate vale and pump was solid (no doubt a function of the slight weep.) I tried muscle, tapping and heat but they would not budge so I had to drain the system down and took the pump out complete with both valves either side. Even then in the vice in the workshop I still could not separate the pump from the gate valves. 

So I had to call the boiler manufacturer  - Mistral in Telford and drove over yesterday afternoon to collect a new pump and gate valves ( I could have got them online but it would have taken a couple of days) I was only able to get the pump back in before I lost the light  - our boiler is outside as its an oil boiler. It lives in a boiler house I built to keep it warmer and dryer. 

So last night it was oil rads and strip washes. We could cook on the Rayburn so we were not too bad off even minus central heating and hot water. a first world problem as they say.

So why the post, well firstly to congratulate Tony Redshaw on a very simple but effective boat heating set up and then to reflect on how I might better improve the heating at home....

We looked at air source heat pumps but our cottage is not well insulated and the consultants wanted my £££'s to commission a heating engineer to agree or not the rads we had would work with an air source heat pump. I should say we are very keen to move away from oil as a primary heat source in favour of electric as it is renewable and getting ever more so.

I got to thinking how well the little oil rads did for us and how well the electric towel rad I put into the bathroom when we first moved in works for us - that is on a fused spur that is connected to the home network so I can turn it on/off and set timed programmes for its use - it works well. 

So here is your point of input if you have an opinion/experience I got to thinking why now convert our lovely Victorian plumbing rads to electric. It can be done and would remove the need for the boiler for home heating and we could either add an emersion cylinder for hot water or use the Rayburns hot water boiler. I need to look to see what options there are for remote control of electric rads as this would be very useful.... I like remote control and intelligent control.

So if you have any ideas comments or experience please comment  - I need inspiration to do this !! 

Friday, 6 November 2020

Narrowboat insurance and finance in general

I received an email the other day from 'Premium Credit' advising Towergate Insurance had let them know we were reinsuring with them and they would be taking payments to a schedule.... now I knew our insurance was due but nothing had come via email or post from Towergate. 

So this AM I set to with coffee as us retired types do and did a comparison check on here  Within 5 minutes I had a quote seventy quid less from the same company - Towergate. On the phone to Towergate who apologised for the over enthusiastic credit company but advised they could not match their own price from the comparison site ? 

So all I could do was tell them I'd set up the policy on the comparison site and then phone to cancel the auto renewal on their site ?? Crazy or what. I fully expect the comparison site to call me in the next few days and say there is an issue .... I'll report back.

As to finance in general with all the 'little' subscriptions you easily forget and they all add up. There was no reason why we need to have our insurance on credit and they were charging about 27 quid for the credit we did not need. It all adds up so every now and again I trawl my bank statements to look out for those little 'missed' subscriptions. 

We also got the mooring renewal which is a heavy cost but not as bad as it could be. It's a good thousand pounds cheaper than a marina mooring and a few hundred cheaper than we were paying C&RT at Fradley. So a breather before the license in January. Then it's the boat safety, blacking and a hull survey for the insurance all October time next year so another expensive year. These things are not cheap !

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

N is for a November boat visit and internet improvements

With the impending lockdown approaching we carried through with our planned overnighter to Percy, the only one we can do in November. We arrived to a nice clean boat so all we had to do was light the fire and start a few planned jobs 

Rachel set to sanding and varnishing the window frames as we have ordered some new curtains for Percy! I set to undoing the work I did installing the router ( TpLink ) specifically the screw in terminals I put on after shortening the cables. This was the advice I received from the internet as the cables were too long for the location of the router and were a spaghetti mess that it’s advised increased signal distortion and reduced speed. I had brought a small packet of 5 end terminals that needed the cable stripping back and the terminals crimping on.... here the hydraulic crimper I purchased for my engine battery reconfigure came in handy, this time using the 6mm crimps. 

On the last visit I was unhappy with the performance of the cut back cable set up - especially as my neighbour Mandy with the same set up was getting over a steady 10mb download on my old 3 router I had swapped for a coat ! This trip with the help of Rachel I was able to test a EE sim ( crap) and my 3 sim from my phone as just putting the phone in the front window was getting around 4mb. It soon became apparent moving the cable altered the signal strength indicating a dodgy crimp..... so I re did them with more care and attention. 

I also mounted the TpLink router on the outside of the unit above the kitchen so it was now visible ( signal strength) and we were able to reuse the pan cupboard again. I also made up an extension so the router shares the plug with the digital radio charger and microwave..... tidy job.

Bottom line last night we were getting 11mb ..... best I’ve ever got here. I think Mandy gets more but her mount is higher, we are very happy with the speed now. 

It was a stormy night, rocking the boat and rain hammering down, the fire was lit we were warm and cosy.... boating or being in the boat  in the Autumn is to be recommended. 

Today was a lovely full on blustery walk along Shebdon embankment then it was rest pack up and go home for the rest of November. Wherever you are please keep safe and follow the guidance it’s for all our benefits.

Some pictures ... 



Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Exercise and Recreation

 We can go out for exercise and recreation in November 

Just checked and subject to the rule of common sense being applied I can visit the boat ( not stay aboard overnight) and ride my motorbike. .... edited to say this has now been removed from the website so not sure if Percy will get a visit in November after our overnighter ( post to follow) 

  1. activity done for enjoyment when one is not working.

Sunday, 1 November 2020

M is for murder

Others specifically Sara from NB Chertsey are avid readers seemingly devouring a book in hours not days. I have a friend Colin who reads for free as he is in some form of internet 'club' that reads and critiques authors work in exchange for the book for free. 

Me I have never been a great book reader and the dammed internet for all its value whisks me away into Blog land, Facebook and YouTube. But I enjoy books when I get into them so have made it a November Book month where I shall (don't laugh) read a book a week for November.

I'm mainly a Kindle reader and I guess thats the issue - I read on my Ipad and then I get a message and I'm off the book on email or many of the other services that ping me 'reminders' they are missing me. I do have a kindle and shall fire that up for November reading challenge.

So in catching up with my favourite authors I put the books I have read by authors name into the computer to see what new releases they had and blow me the vast majority coincidentally (or is it as they get to choose their 'names' ) all began with M .... and my style/topic/subject of choice is Murder novels with the odd exception.

In no particular order of preference

Angela Marsons (West Midlands setting)

Peter May (Scottish Islands setting )

Faith Martin (Canal link)

Simon McCleve (North Wales setting )

Stuart MacBride


James Oswald ( Stuart MacBride style  - very close)

Neil White (Lancashire moors )

I'm a sucker for series and like to follow my friends the detectives.... I'm dreading book 18 in the Hilary Green series by Faith Martin, it'll be like loosing a friend !

There are a few more that I have read or will read, a few biographies and some chick lit (yep) even some Jeffery Archer (more on audio books than Kindle) The I have a few books Rachel brought me and some my niece dropped off at a family do a while back (she reads detective books) 

Saturday, 31 October 2020

Just merciless and got my old job back

That's the only way I can describe how you'd have to be selling up a house and moving onto a canal boat. Thankfully I've never had to do it, when I lived aboard we had a house down south and rented out out place to no1 son and we kept the top floor for all out possessions.

The reason for the post is I am failing in trying to clear out our 'office' which is in fact the third bedroom of the cottage.  We have made a home office in the 'snug'  downstairs so we can and should recover the little bedroom for guests when they can start visiting again. We are part of the seismic shift of home workers (well Rachel is). She's been kicked out of the uni as they have converted many office spaces to extra classrooms for the split teaching they are doing.

I made an error in hindsight when I go rid of the car - I should have just kept the one as it's not looking like Rachel will be going back to work on site for the foreseeable future. She has a couple of days where she is going in to record stuff (!!) otherwise its home working.

Just had a thought, I spent 20 odd years being an estates manager .... and now once again I manage the estate my good lady works in - maybe I should contact the university and ask to be put back on the payroll !!

I should not make light of it, it's not good for many reasons but I guess the only way for now. Right I have an estate to clean for the workers..... at least it's raining and I can't ride my bike or do the jobs on the boat I want to do. 

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 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 !