Sunday 5th June 2016
Wandered off to the festival this morning with pooches in tow to give them an outing. Yet another gorgeous day. Very colourful with a carnival atmosphere. Lots of people there with varying degrees of strangeness. These affairs tend to bring out some of the zanier types. The history of the canal dwellers or water gypsies as they are sometimes referred to is quite varied. You can certainly see the gypsy element in them as demonstrated by the photo of the dancers below.
Nowadays there is more of a mixture. You do have a number of people who live on the canals full time and there is a significant increase in that number in recent years due to the cost of housing in England. A boating licence with a permanent mooring is considerably cheaper than taxes on a house and a well kitted out boat with all mod cons can set you back £50,000 so you can see it is cheaper to live on a narrowboat. Having said that though, there are wider canals down south of Birmingham/Oxford/London etc where you can have boats that are called widebeams that are up to 12 foot wide so make for more comfortable living.
There are the real diehards who go for the antique boats and have a passion for renovating them whilst there are people who purchase a boat and tie it up down the bottom of the garden where the canal is and use it for their holidays or jaunts on the weekends.
There is 2000 miles of canals in England but there seem to be more and more boats on the canals every year and not too sure if this number is capped or not. There is going to get a cross over point where the canals will end up being clogged up with boats.
The Caldon canal that we have been on for the last week only has about 4,500 boats on it a year which makes it very underutilised. It is rather strange why that is as it is a gorgeous canal with the most spectacular scenery. Once we leave the Caldon we will go straight onto the Trent and Mersey which is like getting on the M6 – we will feel like we are back in the real world in a hurry.
We also went for a tour around an old Flint and Bone Mill which is where they crushed the flint and the bone to be sold to the potteries for the making of china. The bone was from cattle and hence you use to get the old Rag and Bone men in times gone by. Bone china has approximately 50% bone in it to give it the transparent look. Cattle bone was used rather than sheep or other animals as when crushed the bone gave a white appearance whereas other animals gave the china a green tinge. Flint is actually a type of rock which was crushed and this gave the china the strength. In earthenware there is no bone in it. The mill we went into was the first mill to ever have a steam engine that assisted with the grinders crushing the flint and bone. Prior to the mechanisation the flint use to be crushed by hand but any flint grinder only had a life of 3 to 4 years as they would die from silicosis – was not one of the more sort after positions to apply for!!!
After the boat show, Fraser cycled back a mile up the canal to the cricket ground, where a match was underway between Stoke and Leister. It was a 45 over one day women’s cricket match and featured some members of the UK team on either side (or that’s what they told me). Watched the last hour of play and saw three sixes and 6 wickets as Leister easily made the target of 210 runs set by Stoke earlier in the day. The most memorable six was one that was hoisted over mid-on, out of the ground and right into the Canal! It required the umpires to find a replacement ball. Fortunately no canal boats or tow path walkers were hit! The marina initial safety induction never mentioned anything about hazard associated with flying cricket balls, but maybe they should !