Sunday, 31 July 2011

Day 9: There is a pub in Berkhamptead

... they call the Rising Sun
Cowroast - Cassiobury Park
14 miles, 32 locks

Today was another beautifully sunny day, and unlike yesterday, we shared all of those 32 locks with other boats. We began the day by going through Cowroast lock, and passed the lovely Peggy's boat just below it at about 9:15. Last night I met up with her for a drink, to chat about boats and blogs. She writes The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife about her life aboard with her husband and two young children. I've been following it for a few months now. It's quite different to the normal boat blog and worth a read!

We shared the locks of the first part of the day with nb Hilltop, crewed by a nice middle-aged couple who were out on a weekend jolly. We worked through pretty efficiently, taking turns at the steering and lockworking. At Berkhampstead we passed the famous Rising Sun pub, boasting 20 draught ciders. We didn't really feel like stopping, but James grabbed a glass and nipped in to get it filled up while the lock was emptying! Jolly good it was too!

Later on, we finally crossed paths with Towcester, a lovely large Northwich run as a coal/fuel boat. Julia sold us a rather large quantity of diesel, which left my wallet feeling light, and the stern low in the water with a full tank. But it is good to be able to support the fuel boats, and keep historic working boats in trade. Also, the diesel was really good value! Towcester covers the GU between Braunston and Aspley. She has also just got a card reader, making it even easier to buy on the move!

At Aspley, nb Hilltop moored up, but we picked up another boat to share with - nb Larkbridge, who turned out to be really good fun to share locks with. They had a bit of an issue with their raw water cooling system and so we moored up next to then to offer help since we used to have a similar system, and offered to tow them to the nearest boatyard should that be necessary. Thamkfully after James and Jeremy took they system apart and put it back together it seemed to work fine and we were on our way again. We continued to travel with them until 9pm when we both moored up in Cassiobury park. They very kindly invited us to join them for a BBQ on the towpath, which was delicious! We've just got back, full of food and are going to continue to share locks with them tomorrow until we reach Bull's Bridge.

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Saturday, 30 July 2011

Day 8: Cowroast

Fenny Stratford- Cowroast

19 miles, 23 locks

Not a bad day's boating, all considered. We didn't start until half past nine, but whilst it was grey at first, the sun soon came out and that set the tone for the whole day- wonderful hot sunshine.

And what could be better than boating in the sun? The GU in this stretch has many locks that are spread out with fairly long pounds between them, as we climbed up towards the summit pound at Tring. Unfortunately we seemed to be the only boat going towards London, as there was no-one to share with and the majority of the locks were against us.

Passing through Linslade and Leighton Buzzard we noticed how busy it was; it was the canal festival, and the towpath was thronged with people having a good day out and enjoying the sun and the moored boats. Having said hello to Alan on Sickle as we passed by, we were soon again in the countryside.

The day continued on pleasantly and we made good time to Marsworth and the flight. We had originally planned to stop at the bottom, but were enjoying the weather and the boating so much that we carried on going! And even though we meant to stop at Bulborne once we reached the summit pound, we headed for the shade of the trees in the cutting and continued chugging onwards to Cowroast, where we moored up at half-past eight. A nice early night, then onwards tomorrow- perhaps as far as Uxbridge, but we'll see how we get on.

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Friday, 29 July 2011

Day 7: Milton Keynes

Gayton Junction - Fenny Stratford
21 miles 8 locks

Apologies first: the 12V laptop charger which used to work fine has taken to cutting out without warning. So I'm having to write all the blogs on the phone. Hence, until its fixed there won't be many detailed blogs or any with more than one image. Very annoyed by this!

Anyway, today's cruising. It was dull, weather wise but.some nice bits of canal. So good to be back on the canals! We started with Blisworth tunnel and James tried out his new 12V stern mounted floodlight which apparently made the tunnel a lot more fun.

Shortly afterwards we stopped for diesel at Baxters in Yardley Gobion although we really want to fill up from one of the fuel boats. We passed Ascot and Beverley, a coal and diesel selling pair but noone was in. We've been in touch with various other fuel boats and hope to meet up with Hyperion for diesel soon.

Soon we were in Milton Keynes. It has several awesome aqueducts like in the photo, including one over the Ouse. One day hopefully the Ouse will be linked to the Grand Union at MK and we will be able to miss out the whole Middle Levels and the Nene.

We have stopped outside the city proper, near to Fenny Stratford. A shortish day for us - we were moored up by 6. We had dinner at the Plough and then stocked up at Tescos. We had planned to stop at the big one in Leighton Buzzard but when we saw that there was one close by we decided to provison now and avoid having to stop tomorrow. We had half hoped to go to the MK IKEA but we arrived too late. Maybe we'll make it there on the way back.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Day 6: Welcome to BW water

Rushden and Diamonds - Gayton Junction
23 miles, 35 locks
An uneventful but sunny day on the Nene arriving at Northampton at 5. At Ditchford Lock I saw that there was a little farm shop in the back of a parked up truck so I left James to the lock and bought some local eggs and potatoes. Worth stopping at if you are on the Nene. I was also delighted to find chamomile and pineappleweed growing at Lower Wellingborough lock and made some nice tea. Passing Billing Aquadrome was entertaining, with lots of kids about, wanting to race us in their inflatable boats and swimming. It was such a hot day that I almost envied them! At Northampton, a family with several little boys enjoyed 'helping' us with the lock. We decided to try to make Gayton Junction by the evening and so headed up the 17 lock flight behind another boat, NB Foxtrot. Progress was slow due to low water levels but we were moored at Gayton by 9pm. Looking forwards to the canals proper tomorrow. No idea how far we'll get but it doesn't really matter. We are on the canals again and I can't wait!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Day 5: Rushden and Diamonds are Forever!

Wansford Station - Rushden and Diamonds moorings

33 miles, 18 locks

The Nene is a lovely river. Tranquil, remote, beautiful. But there is a lot of it - 58 miles of it in fact. And a lot of locks. Plus, it lies between us and adventure on the canals. So we made a dash for it last year and we are doing the same this year.

Last year, we got to Wellingborough by 10pm after 14 hours cruising but the factory there by the moorings kept us awake. So this year, we stopped after a mere (!) 12 hours, at the lovely quiet Rushden and Diamonds moorings, by the sports centre which is not currently in use. Although Jules left a comment yesterday about how it has been bought by Kettering, so maybe the useful pump out and disposal facilities which were here when the centre was open will one day be reinstated. It's very quiet out here, and since it's such a long mooring, chances of finding space are good.

All going well, we'll be on the canals tomorrow!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Day 4: Making Tracks

Whittlesey - Wansford Station moorings
14 miles, 4 locks

Heading into the sunset

Today's cruising was in two parts. Amy headed off to work, and I again turned over and went back to sleep. I'd booked passage through Stanground Sluice off the Middle Level at 1pm. The Middle Level commissioners are keen to reduce the number of lock operations, so as not to introduce too much water into the system as it would only have to be pumped out again! They match up boats going up and down, so as to let down the minimum amount of water.

I set off at 11:15, and after negotiating the 90 degree corner of the Brigatte Bend, was soon out in the countryside. This section is unfortunately boring, especially when the weather is grey as it always seems to be for this bit! However I was soon at Stanground, and was moored up in Peterborough riverside by a quarter past one. After the fun of using the firehose supplied as a waterpoint by the EA to top up the tank in a couple of minutes, I headed into the city centre to buy provisions from the Asda supermarket, and wait for Amy to arrive after work.

I also bought a more secure collar and a lead for Lyra, so we can let her off the boat more often, but keep her safe. Talking of whom, she is once again used to the engine and spends her time curled up on the doormat or on the bed, opening one disdainful eye if you walk past.

I spent some time arranging tools- exciting, I know!- and putting up an array of hooks to store the ring spanners on, in order of size, so they're to hand and stored sensibly, rather than being jumbled in the toolbox. With a mix of metric and imperial sizes, it was frustrating not having the right one immediately to hand! 

Amy arrived at six, and by a quarter past six we were under way once again to get a few miles on the Nene under our belts. The plan was to make Wansford, and although it was grey to start with, by the end of the evening the sunset was turning everything a glorious pink. Our favourite lock at Water Newton was looking particularly appealing as the dusk just started to set in. 

Water Newton lock
Water Newton mill

Dinner underway- sausages, cheesy mash, and caramelised onions.

Although the pontoon at Wansford was full, there are some unofficial moorings on the bankside further along, and so we're moored on pins with the plank out, ready to make a start first thing tomorrow.

Rushden and Diamonds, just over half way up the Nene, is the planned destination tomorrow.

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Any Questions? V.3

In light of the fact that lots of our new readers are not necessarily boaters, I've decided to start a regular(ish!) feature called 'Any Questions?'. So, if there's anything about narrowboating, or living afloat  that you're curious about then please get in touch, by email, facebook, twitter, comments or formspring! Here's today's question and answer (I meant to get this up on Friday but was too busy with the Bumps!).

Bella asks "I have always wondered how easy it is to navigate one of your boats and whether there is a 'driving test'."

First, there is no 'driving test' for cruising the inland waterways of the UK. Anyone with a boat can just hop in and go boating without any prior experience. I would say it's relatively easy to handle a narrowboat, although I still have a lot to learn! Everything generally happens quite slowly so that you have more time to respond than in a car. However, although it's easy to steer a narrowboat, it's difficult to steer one really well. Manoeuvring into tight mooring spots or reversing require a bit of skill. The type of boat will make a difference - handling a 70ft ex-working boat is different to steering the Duck - as will the type of waterway. Rivers require more skill than canals due to the currents, but once you get the hang of them, you can use the stream to your advantage.

For anyone keen to learn how to handle a narrowboat, I'd say that the best way is just to get out there and do it - practice makes perfect! But there are courses where you can learn in a controlled environment with an instructor too. See the RYA's Inland Waterways Helmsman Courses.

You can see the answers to previous questions about living afloat here!

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Monday, 25 July 2011

Day 3: March Onwards

March- Whittlesey

11 miles, 1 lock

The alarm went at 6:30am for Amy to go to work, but very smugly I was able to turn over and go back to sleep. At the far more civilised time of 9am I was up and about, having a wander around the centre of March, and getting a few bits and pieces. I only had a short hop to Whittlesey (or Whittlesea as the railway station has it) and so could afford to take my time.

I set off at about half eleven. The day was grey but warm, with a slight breeze, and soon I was through the centre of March and out at Fox's boatyard. I bought some diesel (£40 for 30 litres, maybe I should shop them to the Monopolies Commission over their high prices) which should last until we get to the more sensibly priced canals. I wanted to dispose of some used engine oil from the recent oil change, but was quoted a charge of £1 per litre of oil. With some 30 litres of oil and oil/water mix from the engine bilge, I wasn't keen on this at all! That too can wait until the canals. I accept that it costs the boatyard to dispose of oil correctly, but I doubt it costs them that much!

Once out of March, the going was good at first. High flood banks meant I couldn't see very much, but the water was reasonably deep but fairly weedy until Flood's Ferry, where the navigation becomes the Old Course of the River Nene and narrows and shallows. There was far more weed on this stretch, and I was often having to stop to spin the prop astern to clear it. No point going down the weedhatch though, it would have only collected more!

A very welcome sight, albeit unexpected, was my friend John on NB Meandron. He'd put his name on the waiting list for a Cambridge mooring license speculatively about 3 years ago, just after we put our names on, and he recently got the call from the council saying that he was at the top of the list, and so bought a boat to try out the whole liveaboard lifestyle. It was good to catch up with him, as I moored alongside and had a welcome cup of tea whilst we chatted and listened to the cricket on the radio. We're looking forwards to welcoming him as a neighbour in Cambridge.

After reluctantly saying goodbye to John, I headed finally into Whittlesey, arriving about an hour before Amy's train arrived from Cambridge. We had a walk around the town, before returning to the boat to catch up on some TV programmes on iPlayer.

Tomorrow I've booked passage through Stanground Sluice at Peterborough, and so I'll pick up Amy there at the end of the day before we head up the Nene. The plan is to make Wansford tomorrow evening, Rushden and Diamonds on Wednesday, and be on the GU by Thursday.

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Day 2: Littleport - March

22 miles - 3 locks
Sunday was a bit of a fraught day. It started well with a nice, sunny (if windy) trip from Littleport to Denver. At Denver, we were waiting for high tide to make the passage through the lock, out onto the Tidal Ouse, and then back in, to Salter's Lode and the Middle Level drains. We arrived at about 11:30, with the tide supposedly at 12pm. We moored up and headed over to the lock, to chat to the lockie and see what was up. He said that while he hoped he could let us through, we would have to wait and see what the tide did and if there would be enough water to allow passage... So for the next two hours we waited, getting increasingly nervous, since I was due back at work the next morning, and didn't fancy the thought of heading to work and spending the day wondering if James had got across the tidal river safely.

Thankfully, at 2:30pm, it was our turn. So we headed to the stern to start the engine. When it should have gone Click...Bruuuuuuum, it went Click...CLUNK...Silence. Ah. Bugger. James surmised that something was up with the high current starting circuit, since the low current circuit was firing the solenoid but the high current circuit wasn't spinning the fly wheel. His thoughts went straight to the 1-2-OFF switch which has been a bit dodgy for while. The flywheel was turning freely so the engine wasn't stuck. So he took the back off the switch and connected the wires to the same terminal. Success! Click...Bruuuuuum! Relief. New switch required, but engine fine.

And so, hearts still beating too quickly with all that adrenaline, we set off through the lock and on to Salter's  Lode. The tide was on the turn, and we had been asked by the lockie to wait in the mouth of the lock while the other boat who locked through Denver with us went through, since the locks are different sizes. Paul, the Salter's Lode lockie gave James a 10/10 for his entry! Yay! We sat there while the other boat went though, and then it was our turn. It was nice to see Paul, who remembers all the regulars, like us, and we had a bit of a chat. And then we were on our way! Safely on to the Middle Level, and headed to March.

Waiting for Salter's Lode Lock

It was gloriously sunny and not as windy as it has been so we enjoyed the 4.5 hour trip to March a lot more than we have in the past. The twin villages of Upwell and Outwell, where the navigable drain runs along the main street, looked particularly lovely, as did Marmont Priory Lock. We reached March at 7:30pm, having eaten while underway. We stopped on the town moorings and went for a little walk before retiring to the boat to read and sleep. So glad to have got here! I'm at work today and will be meeting James in Whittlesea tonight, all going to plan!


Marmont Priory

The Main Drain

March Town  Moorings

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Saturday, 23 July 2011

Day 1: Cambridge - Littleport

At 6am this morning, the music of the post Bumps party at City was still going so there was no chance of sleep, and it was a simply glorious morning. So we decided to set off, and have a nap once we'd made it to Ely. Our friends, also still awake and wanting to make the most of the morning, decided to go rowing in the quad! We passed them on the way out of town.

We arrived in Ely at 10 or so,  and settled in for a nap. At 2 we were up and about and headed into town for provisions. We filled and emptied the relevant tanks and headed off to Littleport where we had a table booked at our favourite Indian restaurant, the Indian Garden. After a delicious meal, we're feeling sleepy and ready for an early night.

2011 Town Bumps Races Day 4

My crew didn't manage to hold off City 5 behind us. James's crew had a heroic row over after nearly being caught but by skilful coxing and determined rowing managing to pull away. M2 were bumped but partly because their unlucky cox got her finger caught in the chain holding them on station. She managed to extricate it in time but lost the racing line as a result. M3 unfortunately went down again and got their spoons! W2 rowed over again.

M1 - rowed over
M2 - down one
M3 - down one

W1 - down one
W2 - row over

The post bumps party was epic and resulted in our still being awake and deciding to set off on our cruise at 6 am. We got to Ely at 10 or so and stopped for a nap! Hoping to make Littleport tonight!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

2011 Town Bumps Races Day 3

I had a great row today- we rowed over in front of 99s 3, who gave us a really tough race, but we held them off all the way, until they were bumped by the boat behind them about 100m from the finish. It was really satisfying and we all enjoyed it.

Elsewhere in the club, W2 had another heroic row over, M3 were bumped, as were M2 and M1 also rowed over, narrowly missing out on a bump.

M1 - row over
M2 - down 1
M3 - down 1

W1 - row over
W2 - row over

Calming Chamomile

I got the Forager's Handbook by Miles Irving out of the library and have been looking out for the plants he describes. One which I have seen in abundance now I know what to look for is wild chamomile, also known as pineapple weed. It is a different species to chamomile - it looks similar, but without the white petals, just the yellow head. The best way to identify it is by its smell - strong, fruity and distinctly pineappley! It grows best in disturbed ground in poor soil. 

Tea made from the plant, like chamomile, is supposed to be calming, so I have been drinking a lot of it this week to calm my Bumps nerves! I'm doing pretty well, whether it be as a result of the tea or not. Actually looking forwards to tonight!

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Wednesday, 20 July 2011

2011 Bumps Races Day 2

A mixed day for Chesterton- a fantastic row for M1 resulting in James's first bump for 4 years as.well as a bump for M2 but both my crew and M3 went down one. W2 rowed over.

The triumphant M1, with Chesterton's newest member!

I really enjoyed our race nonetheless because we managed to row for about 1km with another boat hard on our tail, stayed strong and composed and only conceded because we slowed around a corner.

There was additional drama when James crew had to find a sub at the last minute as one of their crew was hospitalised with a collapsed lung! He is doing fine, post surgery but won't be rowing the rest of the week! Thankfully a friend and 'retired' rower stepped into his place. Will has written up the story, and there are more pictures at the Club blog.

Paul, captain of M2 is also keeping a Bumps Blog for the Cambridge News!

M1 - up one
M2 - up one
M3 - down one
W1 - down one
W2 - rowed over

Summer Cruise Plan 2011

In order to distract myself from our next Bumps race tonight I've been looking at planning out our trip in a little more detail. Obviously this is all very much subject to change - especially the exact location of our overnight stops - but it's a realistic possible permutation of how things could plan out. The Nene and Middle Level parts are based on what I know we can do in a day and the GU parts based on CanalPlanAC which is generally pretty pessimistic about how long things will take so we'll probably make better time, but it's good to be conservative when planning things. What we actually do when we get to London will depend on who we meet up with and where. When we get back to East Anglia, we're leaving the Duck at the Little Ouse Moorings marina to get it blacked, and heading off to Devon to stay with my family while that goes on. Lyra is booked in to the cat shelter she usually stays at for the duration.

This is where we are going (click to enlarge):

and this is where we will (roughly) be when:

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Tuesday, 19 July 2011

2011 Bumps Races Day 1

Not a spectacular start for Chesterton. My crew got bumped by a significantly faster crew. We felt we rowed well but they were just much faster! James's crew rowed over as the boats in front and behind bumped out so had noone to chase or be chased by.

M1 - row over
M2 - row over
M3 - down 1
W1 - down 1
W2 - row over

Bring on tomorrow!

Coming Up on Lucky Duck

Just a note about what's coming up on the blog over the next few weeks. Over the next four days, I'm afraid that we shall be somewhat pre-occupied with the most anticipated set of rowing races on the River Cam, the Bumps.

For any non-rowers, these races are a type of rowing competition in which 20 boats line up along the bank, about 60 ft apart and then when a cannon does off, all begin frantically rowing in order to catch the boat in front before they are caught be the boat behind. If they do catch the boat they are chasing, they swap places the next day. This runs over 4 days, and its chaotic, a bit dangerous, terrifying, and great fun!

It looks something like this...

Photo: Ed Brambley

...and produces charts which look like this as boats switch places over the course of the four days. Our ultimate aim is to move up four (or more!) places over the series of races. I am rowing in our W1, and James is again coxing the M1 boat. Our club, Chesterton, also have three other boats, M2, M3 and W2. So I shall be reporting on the club's progress as we attempt to bump rather than be bumped!

On Friday night, there is a party for all the rowers which tends to go on long into the night, with much drinking, eating, and analysing the week's rowing. Saturday will see us rising late and setting off on the first leg of our month long summer cruise towards London. So, from Saturday, the blog will become a cruising log of our adventures on the inland waterways. I will try to intersperse it with some different features, but it will all depend on our internet connection. I'll post an itinerary so that you can see roughly where we'll be when (although that can of course change!).

Monday, 18 July 2011

James' Birthday Weekend

James celebrated his 24th birthday on Saturday. Over the years we've been together, it has become a tradition for a complex and challenging cake to to be made to celebrate the occasion. His birthday always falls in the week before the most anticipated rowing races of the year, the Bumps, so most people are cutting down on the drink, doing a lot of training and not so up for wild nights out. The one thing all the rowers are doing, however, is eating a lot! So a big, elaborate cake has always been the best way to mark his birthday.   

It was Emma (previously of Kestrel) who started the tradition. The first year we were together for his birthday, I lived in London and so baking him a cake to bring to Cambridge was out of the question. Emma created a stupendous cox-box cake, on the instruction of his M1 crew.

The next year, we had moved to Cambridge in the boat and were moored out at The Parish. I made him a cake in the shape of a three cylinder Russell Newbury engine, which was fun to make but somewhat bizarre looking:

Last year, I made a tray of Celebrations brownies iced with a map of the river Cam, which was less three-dimensional but quite tasty.

This year, I made a swan, supposedly the rogue bird known as Mr. ASBO (that stands for Anti-Social Behaviour Order for any non UK readers) by the press. It was quite the challenge, involving a neck and structural core made of rice-crispie cakes threaded onto a coathanger wire! But alas, since it was a bit hot inside (it was a damp grey day and we had put the stove on...) the structural integrity of the head and neck was compromised as they started melting! So I had to shorten the neck and make him look a bit more goose-like. I have to admit to buying cake to make the body - it took long enough without having to make all that cake too, I just covered it with white chocolate frosting - yum!

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Friday, 15 July 2011

Any Questions? 2

In light of the fact that lots of our new readers are not necessarily boaters, I've decided to start a regular(ish!) feature called 'Any Questions?'. So, if there's anything about narrowboating, or living afloat  that you're curious about then please get in touch, by email, facebook, twitter, or formspring! Here's today's question and answer.

Hi there Amy, your life aboard Lucky Duck sound wonderful. I have always loved riverboats and wonder if you could point me in the right direction as far as finding a boat etc., and a rough estimate of the cost? Thanks

The price of a narrowboat can vary so wildly (ours was £25500, but they can go up to £200,000!) that it would be best to head to boat sales sites and just browse around and see what is available. Price will depend upon what you want from a boat, its age, fit-out and all sorts of other things. Head to Apollo Duck for hundreds of boats for sale privately and there are loads of brokerage companies selling boats too. Whilton Marina is a good place to start, but a google search will bring up many others.
Good luck!
You can see the answers to previous questions about living afloat here!

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Thursday, 14 July 2011

Off-Grid Baking 8: Chocolate Almond Polenta Cake

This was an experiment really - I've not used polenta (Italian cornmeal) in cakes much before. I did make one for my mum when she visited but the verdict was the the polenta was too gritty (so I didn't blog that one!). So I tried a recipe where the polenta is soaked first since I has some left. The polenta was pretty difficult to mix in though as it's quite sticky. So in general I don't think I'll be buying it again, but this cake was quite nice. It's moist, but contains no butter or other fat apart from what's in the chocolate so it's not as unhealthy as some recipes I've posted in the past!

  • 50g quick cook polenta (or one packet ready made polenta)
  • 200g plain chocolate
  • 5 eggs separated
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 115g ground almonds
  • 4tbsp plain flour
  • 115g blanched almonds
  • icing sugar for decoration
  1. Place the polenta in a bowl and add enough boiling water just to cover. Stir well, cover and leave to stand until all the water is absorbed (approx 30 mins). If using ready made polenta move directly to step 2.
  2. Preheat oven to 190C/375F/Gas 4 and grease and line the base of a round deep cake tin 
  3. Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a heatproof bowl over a pan of hot water
  4. Whisk together the egg yolks and caster sugar until the mixture is thick and pale. Beat in the melted chocolate then fold in the moistened polenta, ground almonds and flour 
  5. Whisk the egg whites in a clean grease free bowl until stiff. Lightly stir in some of the whites into the chocolate cake mixture and then fold in the rest followed by the blanched almonds.
  6. Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45 minutes until well risen and firm to the touch. Cool on a rack then dust with icing sugar.

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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Fruitful Cambridge

One of the things I'm looking forwards to about our forthcoming summer cruise (we leave in under two weeks!) is looking out for wild growing fruit - the sheer quantities that Helen from I know a bank where the wild thyme grows has found is quite amazing!

Nearly ripe!
But in the meantime I'm keeping an eye out in Cambridge. Helpfully, Transition Cambridge has created a Fruit Map of the city using Google Maps with all the fruit trees in public spaces marked out. What a good idea! Wouldn't it be wonderful to begin to create something similar for the waterways?

EDIT: Just found there is one in London too! And one for the US that has an iPhone App.

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Monday, 11 July 2011

The Last Alvis

On Sunday James and I joined John Pippin for a little excursion to Ickworth, a grand Italianate palace near Bury St Edmunds owned by the National Trust. The reason? To take the Last Alvis (TM) to the Alvis Owners Club rally. 


The Last Alvis
A bit of background here. Alvis was a British company making beautiful, high-end cars from 1921 until 1967.  John is currently restoring a TA14, and although it's not ready to go to rallies yet, he is a member of the Alvis Owners Club, through which he has met a couple of local chaps who also own these fine cars. Tom lives in the next village and owns a fabulous 1967 Alvis TF. The TFs were the last Alvises to be produced and of those, this is the last one ever made! He is currently on holiday and so couldn't make the rally but wanted the car to be there, so he gave John the keys and asked him to do the honours!

We jumped at the chance to head to a lovely country house, lounge about eating a picnic, and look at old cars. John picked us up in the Last Alvis from Cambridge first thing Sunday and then we headed back to the Parish briefly. While we were still at the Parish (and therefore on private land), I had a little go at driving it. What fun. Only a very short trundle but still, it's not every day you have the chance to drive an historic car! I drove it out of the gate, and was nervous about the small gap between the posts but remembered that I was perfectly capable of steering a boat into a narrow lock and it was fine!

We met up in the village with Roger and his wife Pam who own another Alvis from 1938, so that we could travel in convoy. The two cars sped along the country roads. Traveling at 60mph in an old car is so much more exciting. The noise is different: it's louder and more exhilarating. We arrived at Ickworth and parked up with the other cars. Before picnicking, we had a look around the assembled vehicles. Here's a selection of photos. I shan't caption them because I've forgotten which car was which! If you want to know more about any of them, ask John!

Car rallies, just like boat rallies, don't perhaps make a lot of sense to ordinary people. One lady walked past, and asked her family "Is that all they do, just park up and sit by their cars?". Well, yes, but also no. Owning a historic car, or boat or indeed any type of specialist anything encourages people to seek out those who own similar things and just talk about them. It's about sharing ideas and contacts, learning new ways of doing things, and mostly just catching up with friends who you perhaps only see a couple of times a year because you live so far apart and it is these gatherings where you met and where you will continue to meet, just to talk about cars, or boats or whatever it is that brought you together in the first place.

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