Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Walkers - Fantastic Job!

The 8th of August was the day the Bob Dobson Memorial Canal Walk took place on a 5-mile section of the Leeds-Liverpool canal. It was a partly cloudy day, ok, a mostly cloudy day seemingly just on the brink of rain. The Mr and I, along with our SoldierSon aka Kid3, Kid1 and our dog were the first to show up for that day. Our car only seats five at a time so Mr had to go back to get Kid2 and her partner, while he was gone it seemed to take forever although it was only perhaps 20 minutes. Kids1 and 3 took the dog along the canal in the opposite direction so the dog could do his thing and relax a bit before the others arrived.

There was a fisherman sat on the side of the canal and I watched him as I waited. He seemed to be having a decent day. He caught two while I watched.

Walkers started showing up practically all at the same time. People were spilling out of cars like multitudes of clowns pouring out of a tiny clown car at a circus. Walkers came by bus. Some came by train, and then bus and others just walked over as they live nearby.

When everyone else arrived and on time mind you. A surprise in itself! Everyone. On time? You’re kidding? No, it actually happened. The Event Organizer saw to it that everyone was gathered to have a group picture taken. Two sponsored walkers were missing due to illness, but three last minute walkers, including me, replaced them.



Picture taken by Event Organizer.

Yes, I’m in this picture. I’m the one in the back with frizzy hair and brown jacket, just to the right of the balloons. Standing next to me towards Your right is Kid1, Kid3, nephew, the Mr, Kid2 and her partner at the far right.
Yes, I know there is a kid blocking me, but he jumped in at the last second. Honest!
No one knew the picture was being taken yet. Photographer didn’t give a warning!


The reason I wasn’t a sponsored walker is because I didn’t think I could make the ten-mile walk. I was certain I’d be able to do part of it, just not how much and I didn’t want to disappoint my sponsors by not finishing. So, I paid my £10, the Mr and I also sponsored my mother in law for £30. Unfortunately, she didn’t make it as far as I did. We told her to keep the sponsorship money anyway.

Perhaps I need to go into a little personal detail here. I was in a car wreck in the mid-nineties. A car rear-ended us speeding at 70+ mph and hit us while were stopped to make a turn. Did you know you could have medical conditions arise years later? OsteoArthritis is one of those conditions that can show up years after an event like that car wreck.

In October, I was working in a town that has very steep hills. Depending on which way I walked to or from the bus I had to walk up or down a hill that was either a 14-degree slope or a 16-degree slope.

One day I noticed I was having pain in my knees but didn’t pay much attention to it, thinking I could just walk it off. The pain became more noticeable day after day, but only while walking the steep hills of the town. I also walked to and from town for lunch. A week later while at work, the pain got worse, a lot worse and I could barely walk. I made a call to the doctor.

This is me, I do not like doctors, never have, never will. The appointment was made for 4:30pm that day, by 3pm I called the doctor’s office again and told them I was coming now.

Before my taxi arrived, I was helped to the ladies by a male co-worker. By the time I needed to come out of the stall; I had to yell for help. He had to come into the ladies to get me out of the stall. I could no longer rest my foot on the floor. The pain was so intense I cried. That’s very rare for me. I don’t like to let others see me in times of weakness. By the time I got home after seeing the doctor, I couldn’t even rest the tip of my big toe on the floor and tearfully collapsed in the hallway due to the pain.

According to the Doctor, I had torn some ligaments in my knee. He later stated that not only had I torn ligaments, it was being aggravated by OsteoArthritis. It wasn’t fully diagnosed until late February. I’m just now able to walk without a cane, although I still carry it, just in case. Anyway, enough about that, now back to the walk.

Everyone started off in a rush including Kid2 and partner. Kids1 and 3 walked with me, which I thought was quite nice of them considering they usually walk much faster than I do. We were trailing the end of the walkers, but I didn’t mind. I was going to do the best I could, at my own pace.

I was doing pretty well when we reached the quarter mark of the walk. There waiting for us were the support team consisting of the Mr and the Event Organizer, who had to pull out of the walk himself, a week earlier due to a work injury that severely cut his ankle almost to the bone and requiring six stitches. At each quarter stop, they had food and water for any of the walkers who needed or wanted it. Anyone who needed to stop or looked in a bad way were able to stay with them throughout the rest of the walk.


I had had to stop to take some pain tablets and at the same I also gave Kid1 some Ibuprofen for an oncoming horrid headache. As we walked I kept pointing out possible places for a hidden geocache. I couldn’t help myself! I think we may have another convert in Kid3 soon. (Kid2 has already become entranced by geocaching.) By the time we got to our support team, who were sitting just above the Bingley 5-rise. The weather had changed from cloudy to drizzling rain. Kid1 couldn’t handle her headache anymore and stayed behind. Kid3 and I kept going. In my mind, I felt great for this achievement. Two and a half miles! It was the first time I’d walked any kind of distance without really stopping, sitting down or stopping to rest my knee.


The Bingley 5-rise.


As we walked Kid3 and I talked of many different things. It was nice to have no distractions while talking to him, no pc, no electronics, and no music, just natural scenery to look at as we walked and the sounds of nature interspersed with cars as the canal neared the motorway before cutting away from it. He became bored but that’s normal for a guy his age. He said its just trees and leaves or old buildings and nothing else to see, nothing to do but walk. Well, that’s a kid for you these days. When he gets older, I’m hoping some of the love of nature his dad and I have shown him will strike him as a good thing and he’ll eventually come to enjoy it.

As we walked I pointed out the general direction of several places where the Mr and I had found caches. I showed him a place where we thought one should be but haven’t found yet. He actually stopped to have a look, even going to the edge of the water and looking over the side to see if it might be hidden at water level. We didn’t find it, but other walkers were now coming towards us on the way back to the finish.

In geocaching, you’re not supposed to let non-geocachers see a hiding spot. It’s just in case they decide to take the cache for a stroll not knowing about the game. Its not nice when a cache isn’t where its supposed to be and no fun at all for frustrated geocachers who cant find it.

It was just a little further to the 5-mile mark. By now I was limping, and in clear pain. But I made it, on my own, and under my own steam. Five Miles! I'm quite proud of myself.

By the end of the walk six people couldn’t make it. They were all taken to the finish by the support team. We waited for and cheered all the walkers as they crossed the finish.

And then we went to the Pub!



Oh, and while we were waiting for the stragglers, the fisherman caught his biggest fish yet. He told us, as he threw a smaller fish back in, that he was in a competition to see who would get the heaviest fish out of the canal that day. The stake was £25. I hope he won with that whopper of a fish we saw him catch!

Friday, 13 August 2010

Whittington Castle

While geocaching on Saturday, 7th of August, we got a bit sidetracked and somehow ended up near Oswestry Shropshire. We were looking for Ellesmere Mere, but like I said, we… ended up at a gorgeous place!

Whittington Castle is sat right next to the main road in Whittington. It’s a simply stunning place, one that you wouldn’t expect to find while just driving through a tiny village. Its no wonder they hold weddings and wedding fairs there, along with other events too.



We arrived just before 4 p.m. just as a wedding fair was ending, but the grounds were still open to walk around. The castle is about 3000 years and has 9 acres to roam, with well-kept gardens, trees and grassy areas. We had our lunch on the steps leading up to a gazebo on a hillock while watching the swans and duck swimming along the semi-circular moat that wraps around the front of the building.



After we ate, we decided to have a look around. There is no charge for going into the castle while it open or being on the grounds and only a £1 charge for parking all day. The building was closing so we didn’t get to go inside, but we walked around the gorgeous moat and fed the ducks and swans. Wildlife food was 30p for a small bag and the money goes to the Shropshire Wildlife Trust.

Additional historical information can be found on www.whittingtoncastle.co.uk.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Walking the Wigan Flight

On Sunday, the 1st of August, we wanted to walk along the canal in a place that we’ve never been before, so we packed up the dog and headed towards Wigan and its famous flight of locks.

The Wigan Flight is a series of 21 locks in a two-mile stretch on the Leeds-Liverpool canal. At the bottom of the flight narrow boat captains have a choice at the junction to either turn onto the Bridgewater canal towards Manchester or continue on through two more locks towards Wigan Pier and heading toward Leeds.

We parked just above the top lock, in a residential area by the Wigan Road Bridge and walked along the muddy canal path to the Top Lock. The day was cloudy with just a hint of rain in the air. The smell, the canal and the air was so fresh and the water so still, it seems as if the only thing moving was us. The area and the view of fields on the other side of the canal were stunningly green.





I'm not sure, but I think these are water lilies calmly resting in the water.


We reached the Top Lock and were surprised to see that the canal split here into two directions. One leading to what seemed a derelict section and the other leading down the flight. On our side of the canal was a water point and a building with restrooms and a sanitation station for boaters. Across the way was a bridge covered in the green of trees and a park like area. Beautiful.



This park is on the other side of the canal from us, but we definitely knew we were in the right place.


View from the Top Lock down the canal.

If you'd like to see a better view of the flight. Mr Daniel Oakley's Blog has a much better picture here.


We started walking down the path and were soon surprised to see a narrow boat completely turned sideways right in front of the third lock. The man on board seemed to be trying to straighten it out and guide it into the lock gate. As we got closer I noticed the name of the boat and was shocked at the condition of it.

Years ago, I used to read a blog about this boat, and the pictures then of the boat were nothing like what it looked like today. The man came out and jumped off the boat and onto the canal side, opened the lock gate, then jumped back on and grabbed his barge pole to shove against the side of the canal to straighten the boat before putting it into gear and driving into the lock and positioning it against the front gate. Then he hopped off the boat and shut the gate behind it.

It looked like he was doing this alone! We just had to watch how he did this so we stood by and watched with our mouths agape. He was like a whirling dervish. He hopped on and off the boat, closing gates, twisting paddles to empty the lock, running down to set the next lock, coming to open the gate to the one he was in, driving to the next lock, closing the gate behind, opening the gate in front of him and driving in, etc.


He said his name is Jimmy.

Jimmy driving his narrow boat out of the lock.


We got to talk to him as he rushed past us. He said he was traveling on his own and was trying to get down the flight before this section of the Leeds-Liverpool canal was closed*. I asked him about the narrow boat itself, asking him if he had a blog. After explaining to him what a blog was, he stated he didn’t own a computer but that the former owner had taken it along the Thames and all over the UK canal system and he thought Dan had written about their journeys. Man, I hope this isn’t the same narrow boat, what a shame if it is!

We walked a ways down further, looking at the surroundings, enjoying the sounds of the birds, the hushed tones of couples walking by, the laughter of kids on the other side of the fence, the sounds of two or three football practices.

Then we saw a flurry of activity about three locks down from us, kids and adults racing back and forth working the lock as two narrow boats, one green and the other blue entered. Another flurry as they separated, some running down to the next lock to get it ready, then running back to help with the lock gates to let the boats out. The operation looked like a well-oiled machine.

The two captains also looked like the best of friends, I can only assume they were on family holiday and having the time of their lives. They let me take a picture of their boats as they were going down in the lock with the captain of the blue narrow boat laughingly complaining his boat is better looking and it wont be seen in the picture!


Green Man and Company going down in the lock with the sinking water level.


I wish I had gotten a better picture of this artwork on the side of Green Man. There's a face in the star of leaves. I love it!


We continued on our way and saw the junction where the canal splits off onto the Bridgewater canal and a signpost pointing in the direction of a town or city on that canal. The Mr asked which way we would go if we were on a narrow boat, but I didn’t recognized the places on the pointer and told him I thought we would just go straight. If we had been on a narrow boat I would have done my homework and would’ve known exactly which way to go. But we weren’t, so I didn’t and his point was fairly mute. Turns out, straight would have been the right decision. The Wigan Flight ends here at this junction.

We decided to keep walking because we hadn’t passed the Wigan Pier yet. We could tell we were getting close because the canal was no longer just trees, grass and farmland but it was showing signs of citylife, more bridges, more cars, more houses, more people along the bank and industrial sites. We also passed a British Waterways office and drydock and two more locks. Soon we came across a woman sitting on a bench, she seemed quite stiff and mute. As we walked further we would later discover a man looking over a wall that seemed to be afflicted with the same problem.



This lady is representative the local cotton workers in 1910.


The man represents life on the canal in 1880. As you can see he's got himself stuck between a corner and lightpole.

We had made it to Wigan Pier, a full three miles from where we started. By now we were hungry and the dog was acting tired and looking thirsty. We crossed a bridge over the canal to The Orwell, a restaurant and pub. From the outside it seemed to be a refurbished mill with an outside eating area situated over the edge of the canal itself.


Pictured on the right is a sign hanging just outside the ladies room. It says:
RULES
To be Observed by
the Hands Employed
in
THIS MILL
RULE 1 All overlookers shall be on the premises first.
2 Any person coming late, shall be fined as follows
For 5mins. 2d, 10mins. 4d, 15mins 6d, etc.
3 For bobbins on the floor, 1d each bobbin.
4 For waste on the floor, 2d.
5 For oil spilled, 2d. and the price of oil.
6 Any persons leaving their work and found talking with
other workpeople will be fined 2d. each offence.
7 For every Oath 3d. for the first offence and if repeated
they shall be dismissed.
8 If two persons are known to be in one Necessary
together, they shall be fined 3d. each and if
any Man or Boy go into the Ladies Necessary
He shall be dismissed immediately.
9 The Masters recommend that their workpeople
wash themselves everyday, but they must
wash themselves twice a week,
on Monday and Thursday; and any found not
washed will be fined 3d.
10 All persons wishing to leave our employ
shall serve 1 weeks notice. But The Masters
shall and will sack without notice
(Company Name indistinguishable) Mill ca. 1856

And we thought we had it rough!


We walked up to the restaurant/pub and crossed the boardwalk with our dog where we saw a waiter standing outside. I asked if the dog was allowed. He was! The waiter told us of a special price Sunday Roast carvery they were having and we agreed to the meal along with a pint. For £13 we got a pint each and a meal for two. The waiter was extremely nice, even to the point of giving our dog meat scraps. I think dog got more meat than we did! But our meals were extremely filling with a choice of Texas roast beef, roast pork, or roast chicken, choice of roast and/or boiled potatoes, mixed vegetables, Yorkshire pudding, also on offer was a saut√©ed bell pepper - onion mixture seasoned with Cajun spices. And if you're still hungry, there is a choice of desserts on offer as well, all included in the price of the meal. The pints are extra. The Orwell has a marvelous friendly staff and an atmosphere in keeping with the history of the Mill it once was. If you find your way to Wigan Pier, I suggest you try this new place out. I honestly don’t think you’ll be sorry.


Our dog, happy and full of meat scraps from The Orwell.


We retraced our steps back to the car. Unfortunately, we saw part of the reason why on the next day this part of the canal was going to be closed. Someone had left many of the lock gates open, letting tons of water flow freely between the locks that were left with one or both gates open. Because of someone’s thoughtlessness all this water was pouring through the gates.

The Leeds-Liverpool canal is fed from reservoirs and all this water was probably coming out of the dwindling water reserves stored in our already low reservoirs. If people like this continue to thoughtlessly leave lock gates open and it doesn’t rain enough to refill the reservoirs, this could lead to more canals closing before the end of the season. Let’s hope for more rain! However, it wouldn’t be a bad deal if it rained only at night when most people are sleeping.

People from all over the world come to the UK to rent narrow boats to travel up and down our canals for their holidays. Canal closures can severely cut into British Tourism

What do you think? Is there a way to save our canals, the people whose livlihoods depend on the canal and British Canal Tourism? How do the canals figure into your life? I’d love to hear your comments.


*August 2nd 2010 is the closure date set for this section of the Leeds-Liverpool canal from Wigan to Gargrave will be closed to save water which has dropped to an 80 year low during this year's drought condition. It will remain closed until further notice.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Geocaching, A Modern Day Treasure Hunt.

As you probably know by now, I love the UK canals. It doesn’t matter to me if I’m walking on it, spying a glimpse of it while driving past, taking pictures of it or just reading about it. To me, the serenity, the peacefulness, the natural wonders, the man-made wonders, the wildlife, the friendliness of the boaters, even the industrial architecture is all appealing.

Since before our first – and so far, only – narrowboat trip, I’ve been reading blogs written by people who travel or live on the canals. As a matter of fact, I follow quite a few of their blogs, so many of them that I have some listed here to the side, but most of them are still in my favorites on my web browsers on two different computers. I’m still adding them to this blog. I honestly hope none of them will mind me having their links on this new blog of mine, as I probably should have asked first.


Do you like to hunt for treasure? Love a good Scavenger hunt? You might love this too!

Last week I was reading through some of the narrowboat blogs in my favs. Grannybuttons, who I’ve been reading for years has a new post. He found his first Geo-Cache! He explained what it was all about and said he had “an app for that” on his iPhone 3GS. After reading it, I thought to myself, “Ooh, that could be fun”. But I didn’t think the Mr would be interested in it, so I didn’t mention it to him. I did wonder if there might be a geo-cache app in my Android market though.

Geocaching is an international treasure hunting game where you use a GPS to hide and seek containers with other participants. When you find the treasure, you take it out of its container and replace it something of equal or greater value. Write in the pad that's also left in the container, then gloat about it online. It looks fun and its Free!

Yesterday, while the Mr was looking online for our Sunday destination, he somehow managed to get onto www.grannybuttons.com. He read the post and turned to me and said “Have you seen this?” I smiled slyly and replied, “Yes, it’s in my favs, Im going to add the link into my blog next week. Why?” By then he was practically squirming in his seat with giddiness and says to me in a slightly higher pitched tone “But did you READ it? It sounds like this geo-caching could be fun!” I giggled and nodded and agreed with him. Then we decided to leave so we could get to our destination.

Last night, after rewinding from a very strenuous day, the Mr got on the pc and starting doing a bit more research into geo-caching. The more he read, the more he got excited. He found www.geocaching.com and signed up to a Free Basic Membership. He saw maps, longitude-latitude co-ordinates, hints and locations and got even More excited.


Apparantly, when I took this picture on Saturday, I also may have taken a shot of the location of the treasure. According to the Geo-cache website, there is a something hidden in a park near this green flower fountain.

Then he started looking on the maps for places near where we live. OMG! When he saw how many little hidden treasures were in our area, he was practically jumping out of his desk chair. He exclaimed to us, SoldierSon aka Kid3 is home on leave. “Look! They're all Over this area”, “OMG! Look how many are near work!” “I eat my lunch in that park, I’ve sat on a bench probably 50 feet from that one!” “OMG! I park my car right next to the tree where it might be!” His voice getting louder and louder with each little find. “We shop there! I think I know Exactly where this is!” Watching him like this was Absolutely Fantastic! He was like a kid in a combo toy store/candy shop who’s been told you can have anything you want.

Then he looked up where we went yesterday. He could barely stay sat down by now,it was like he had Mexican Jumping Beans in his pants. He said to me, “You know where we parked? We walked right past one on the way on the way to the canal. Right past one!” He looked further on “We passed three today! You know where we sat down to have our juice, we were probably FIVE feet from away from it!” Suddenly he yelled at me with a groan of disappointment in his voice “Remember where you stopped to take pictures at the Lock, there was one RIGHT THERE!” but he couldn’t hide his excitement.


I was probably stood right on top of a goodie when I took this picture. *groan*

It was practically all I could do to keep him in the house. He kept saying if we don’t have anything else to do weekends or just want to go for a drive but don’t know where to go, we’re going on a Geo-cache hunt. I have a feeling today on his lunch hour if he has time, he’ll be looking, searching. As for me, I’m wondering when we’ll find the first of GrannyButtons buttons. Yup! This is going to be fun!

By the way, while he was giddily telling me all this, I did look in my Android market and I searched for a geo-caching app thinking, “Oh boy, how much is this going to cost?” Well, I found one! And it’s got good raves, 5 stars and best of all…. It’s Free!

Thank you @GrannyButtons for turning my Mr into a kid again. I think I love you! And Christine, of course!

Let the hunt begin!