Thursday, 29 August 2013

Pressing On, Then A Chat With The Chief Executive.

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)

The task for the day was very simple - get going reasonably early, and, without going mad, try to make good enough progress today to leave a significantly shorter day to do tomorrow as our final day on Chalice.  This should allow us time to get home, and vaguely sorted on Friday evening, before heading off again on Saturday to start Sickle's next move.

Results of the offside vegetation "cull"
We had an easy passage down Stoke Bruerne locks.  It was the first of the flights we have gone through since coming back on to South east Waterways that actually had enough water in, and a volunteer lock keeper was helpfully setting locks more or less one ahead of the one we were working through.  Hence Cath and I got down them quickly enough - very different from Braunston only yesterday!

More evidence of trees trimmed.
Julia was at the bottom with fuel boats "Towcester" and "Bideford", so we fuelled up Chalice for the third time on just this one trip.  Fuel did not used to be that big a part of overall boating costs once upon a time, but with the massive price rises, and the extra duty now payable on "propulsion" fuel, it is now a significant cost, even when moving just one boat about.  When we are moving both together I try not to think about quite how much we are burning!

Cath takes "Chalice" (and Odin!) into our last lock of the day.
Having been critical of South East Waterways in my last post, I will redress the balance a bit by saying that after a bit of pressure from concerned boaters, they have brought forward some of the much needed cutting of some of the trees on the off-side, as you move down the Grand Union below Stoke locks, and on towards Yardley Gobion.  Some of the cutting is fairly substantial, and the size of some of the branches removed is obvious from the cut left on the tree.  Unfortunately at other places it seems the trimming is far less aggressive, and what we saw Fountain's actually doing as we passed seemed to only be removing light growth, and few large branches.  Still it is much needed, so anything that improves matters will be welcomed.

The surviving double bridges are because a narrow lock was once alongside the broad.
We passed Fenny Stratford lock early enough in the afternoon that carrying on to the bottom of Soulbury Three Locks seemed a reasonable proposition.  I didn't want to stop too late, because the new Chief Executive of the Canal and River Trust, Richard Parry, had said he would try and call me that evening, and, indeed, he eventually did.  Richard was prepared to give me a fair amount of his time, even though it was by then fairly late.  I have to say I was most impressed by this first encounter, even if it was not face to face. I'm not great at first "meetings" being by phone, but felt quickly at ease with Richard.  He seems like a much needed breath of fresh air, although I think few would doubt the enormity of the task he faces, particularly in the matter of how the Trust is seen to communicate with its "customers" - the main topic of our chat.   I wish him every success in his endeavours.

Stoke Bruerne to Stoke Hammond Three Locks 
Miles: 22.7 (Chalice), Locks: 9

Total Miles: 426.6, Locks: 229

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