Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ben Harp – To Hell and Back Again – Chapter 6

The “Ringer”

Definition of “Ringer” - Disguising a stolen vehicle by changing the vehicle identity

At midday on Sunday 17th July I went to to the Stafford Police Station to check whether the police had finally received a copy of the latest order from the High Court which had been emailed to them by the Judge the previous day.  It appeared to have become lost in the “system” so I gave them a copy I’d received from our solicitor.

Accompanied by a constable, I then went to the compound at Hixon to serve the order.  The gates to the compound were locked however there was music coming from inside the poly-tunnel so someone was obviously present.  The constable called out and an older version of Ben Harp appeared.  He claimed Ben Harp wasn’t present and he didn’t know when he (Ben) would return.  The constable had obtained a glimpse of a younger man in the compound however he refused to show himself. 

It wasn’t possible to see inside the boat from outside the compound but it was obvious they were working on the boat in defiance of the court order.

The constable and I then went to the registered office of Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders Ltd.  No one answered the door so I served the order through the letterbox.  We then returned to the industrial estate only to see the white van that had been parked outside the compound driving away from us.  In front of it was a black Jaguar car.  We went to the compound which was locked, and I could see attempts were being made to alter the paintwork on the boat. 

The Ben Harp strategy seemed rather obvious.

They were attempting to modify the boat and convert it to a “sailway” which they would sell.  At the time I though it would be a lined out sailway. They were also “stalling for time” so the boat could be sufficiently modified to a stage where they thought I wouldn’t recognise it.

It was a desperate strategy which required time to succeed.  If we had taken the conventional civil court route they would have probably succeeded.  However by going to the Admiralty Court in The Royal Courts of Justice London, our legal team was able to respond much quicker.

Two days later, on Tuesday the 19th July, Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders Ltd sent an email to our solicitor offering to allow me to visit and inspect the boat in the compound at midday on the 20th or 21st (Wednesday or Thursday).  They obviously thought they had got the boat to a state where I wouldn’t recognise it and they knew they were running out of time.  We quickly replied accepting the offer for Thursday and informing Ben Harp I would be accompanied by Tim Tyler of Tyler-Wilson, the shell builders. 

Shortly thereafter another email was received from Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders withdrawing the offer to inspect the boat and advising they intended to tell the High Court Judge they required a two week extension to his order so they could prepare their defence against his first court order giving our surveyor access by the 21st and us the boat by the 28th.

It appear obvious they realised Tim Tyler would recognise the boat as ours and they were stalling for time whilst they attempted to find a buyer for their “new” sailaway.  We also found out Ben Harp had placed an urgent order for a Beta Marine 43 engine for a sailaway he was completing.  The clock was ticking!

Our solicitors immediately wrote back to Ben Harp Narrowboats advising there was no requirement to request an extension as we already had a court appointment in two days (Thursday 21st).  All they had to do was to come to London and tell the Judge their side of the story Smile

Well they didn’t bother to attend the court hearing and instead submit a request for a two week extension to the court.  By then their plan was so blatantly obvious the court ignored their request and gave us an order containing everything we had requested. 

THEY HAD RUN OUT OF TIME………..  THE GAME WAS UP!

next…….  Malicious Damage

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ben Harp - To Hell and Back Again - Chapter 5

We know Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders are following our blog.  We will post their comments here should they respond!

Intimidation and Assault

Our legal team phoned me late on Friday 15th to inform me Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders had emailed them advising they had sold our boat in their compound at Hixon and that the boat in the compound wasn’t ours.

We realised it was highly unlikely they had sold our boat, but I did have concerns they might move it to another location where we would never find it. Waiouru would be lost forever!  We concluded I needed to get to Hixon as quickly as possible to observe the boat and follow it, should Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders move it.  That same evening I managed to arrange security coverage of the compound and also requested I immediately be contacted if any attempt was made to move the boat before my arrival.

As we were some four hours from Hixon I asked a fellow blogger (and unhappy owner of a Ben Harp boat) who lived closer whether he would go to Hixon first thing Saturday morning and follow the boat should it be moved.  David generously and willingly agreed to do this on my behalf.

I also arranged for a legal marine “Arrest” order to be posted on the side of the boat.  However it was subsequently ripped off and ignored!

As soon as possible on Saturday morning, 16 July, I hired an rental car and immediately departed for Hixon, arriving at 2:40pm. By coincidence I arrive at the entrance to the Old Industrial Estate at almost the same time as Ben Harp. I should mention the entrance is controlled by a combination lock operated barrier arm outside normal business hours.

Ben Harp recognised me and approached me screaming “F#ck off.... go on F#ck off!” He stood there with a menacing posture glaring at me. I replied “No.... I don’t have to!” I made no attempt to enter the compound and the barrier gate closed behind him.

I then turned on my mobile phone to contact David as I assumed he was somewhere close and following my altercation with Ben Harp I was concerned for his welfare.  However almost as soon as I turned on my phone I received a phone call from a constable of the Staffordshire Police. I was asked to identify myself and give my location. After informing the police I was at the entrance to the old industrial estate I was requested to go to their location in a layby some 300 metres back down the road.

At this location I found two constables, and David. I was informed by David that whilst he was parked on the main road outside the industrial estate he had been recognised by Ben Harp and an associate. They had assaulted him robbing him of his camera, mobile phone, iPod and car keys. He had then walked to a local house and contacted the police. (David has written about this on his own blog <here>)

The police stated they were concerned for my safety should I remain in the general area of Hixon and indicated I was dealing with some nasty people of whom they appeared to have some prior knowledge. I informed them I had no intention of leaving the general area as my boat might be removed. They urged me to reconsider and I refused…….  Finally I agreed to relocate to the security post at the main entrance to the adjacent new industrial estate as I had previously arranged for them to provide security coverage. I also found by walking to a local knoll and crawling through the hedgerow I could conceal myself and observe the top of the poly-tunnel covering my boat. I knew the poly-tunnel would need to be removed to allow a crane to access the boat so I watched and waited.  Once it became dark I knew there was little chance of the boat being moved during the night.

The next morning (Sunday) I returned early to the car park at the Hixon security post and continued to observe the compound whilst waiting for the police to act upon the second court order obtained by our barrister the previous day.  At approximately 10:15am; I returned to my car in the security carpark and telephoned the Stafford Police Station to enquire about the High Court Order that had been emailed to the police.

As I was sitting in my car a large black Jaguar drove into the car park at speed towards the side of my vehicle. I thought there was going to be a collision. The duty security guard ran for his office and subsequently told me he thought my car was going to be hit and he intended to call 999.

The Jaguar stopped just short of me and the engine was repeatedly revved and the car was “lunged” at me. I glanced at the driver and recognised it was Ben Harp. He was shaking his fist at me and menacingly gesturing for me to depart the area. I casually wound up the car window and locked the doors and ignored him.  The police on the phone asked me if I required assistance, but I declined.  Eventually Ben Harp drove away.

Both David and I may be old and grey but neither of us were prepared to be intimidated by this contemptible individual.

next:   The “Ringer”

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ben Harp - To Hell and Back Again - Chapter 4

The Legal Story
After the 4th failed attempt to visit and inspect Waiouru we concluded our relationship with Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders had irreversibly broken down and we were probably being defrauded of our savings. It was time to call in the lawyers to protect our interests. Our situation was precarious. We had packed our personal and household effects, placing them into storage. Our house had been placed on the rental market and we had moved 2000km across Australia to a temporary location in anticipation of our impending flights to the UK. It wasn’t the best time to be entering a legal fight. But we were determined not to be cheated out of our hard earned savings.
As part of our strategy to find a UK based law firm we contacted a boat builder who suggested a legal firm who specialised in marine law. The company was Lester Aldridge (LA-Law) and the had been involved in the Ed Rimmer case. This advice proved to be invaluable as LA-Law was able to offer a strategy that significantly reduced the amount of time it would have ordinarily taken to get the case before a court. If anyone has a legal problem involving a boat we can recommend LA-Law.
The advised strategy was to avoid the usual civil district courts.  As our dispute involved a boat they recommended we take our case directly to the Admiralty Court at the Royal Courts of Justice.  Effectively we were taking our little narrowboat dispute to one of the highest courts in the UK.  This would accelerate the timeframe to achieve a hearing.  If we went to a conventional district court we would probably still be waiting for a hearing date.  Timing was essential as we assumed Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders would be up to some nefarious activities…… and we were right!
Our legal team lodged our claim with the High Court (£450 fee please).  Of course all the information also has to be given to the Defendants (Ben & Kelly Harp).  So throughout the legal process we were required to declare all the information supporting our case whereas Ben Harp provided us with nothing. Effectively we were fighting with one hand tied behind our back.  Interestingly Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders informed our solicitors they were appointing their own solicitors… They never did and nor did they ever appear in court to defend themselves against our claims.  In hindsight these appear to be delaying tactics. So we incurred all the legal and other expenses (in excess of £25,000) whereas they incurred no expenses!
Our solicitor suggested we offer to settle out of court by offering Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders £10,000 to give us our boat.  At that time we had paid Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders £81,000.  We saw no reason to reward them with another £10,000 for a boat with an estimated value of approximately £40-45,000.  Moreover we informed the solicitor that; like sharks; if Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders tasted blood in the water they would demand more.  Eventually we authorised an offer of £5000.  This was primarily done to prove to the court we had attempted to mediate.  As we anticipated; the Harps responded with a demand for a further £20,000 plus a confidentially clause.  THAT’S RIGHT…. they wanted us to pay them a total of £101,000 for our boat with an estimated value at the time of £40-45,000.  I informed the solicitor we weren’t negotiating.  They could accept the £5000 or we would continue with the legal action.
When the Harp’s phoned the solicitor back they stated “Had we decided to be reasonable now!” and pay the demanded £20,000.   You know the answer!
On the 14th July the High Court Judge in the Admiralty Court, London heard our case and issued three orders.
1.  Our surveyor was to be given access to the boat within 7 days
2.  We were to be given possession of the boat within 14 days
3.  Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders had 7 days in which to lodge an appeal against the decision (ie, by 21 July).
Late that same afternoon the Harp’s sent an email to our solicitor advising they had already sold our boat on 20 June 2011 and that the boat at their compound in Hixon was another boat.  Our barrister immediately started proceedings to obtain a new order which required the Harp’s to provide the name of the purchaser, invoice, bill of sale, etc  On Saturday the high Court Judge issued the new order which included the requirement to provide us with this information.  Well they never did!  The order also prevented the boat being moved or interfered with and gave us access to the boat for the purpose of identifying it. 
However the Harp’s had made one serious error.  They claimed the boat was sold on 20 June!  But they had contacted our solicitor the following day, on 21 June, offering to release the boat to us for £20,000.  So they still had the boat on the 21st.  Moreover, the contract required us to be involved in the sale of the boat with the first offer to purchase going to us.  Just one more breach of the contract from the Harp’s. 
The Harp’s ignored the latest order claiming it wasn’t legal because it wasn’t sealed (High Court Stamp [seal] on it).  Of course there was no seal on it… it was the weekend!  However that didn’t make it invalid. 
By Monday we had a copy of the order with the seal on it delivered to Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders.  Not only did they ignore it but the professional Document Server was assaulted during the delivery.  Work continued on the boat in defiance of the court orders.
By Thursday 21st Jul the legal team was back in the Admiralty Court for yet another hearing.  Again Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders didn’t bother to attend.
This time the Judge gave us orders covering everything we wanted.
1.  The right to enter the compound and everything in it… using force if necessary
2.  The right for ourselves and Tim Tyler of Wilson-Tyler to inspect and identify the boat.
3.  The right for the police to accompany us into the compound to ensure there was no breach of the peace.
4.  The right to take the boat if it was identified as ours.
We implemented this order on the morning of Monday 25th July seizing and removing Waiouru
Selecting a good law firm who specialised in marine law was critical to gaining possession of Waiouru.
next – Assault and Intimidation

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ben Harp - To Hell and Back Again - Chapter 3

The Surveyor

From the Ben Harp website “Customers are encouraged to make regular visits throughout the build to ensure they are 100% happy before starting the next stage.”

We were very comfortable with the surveyor we had chosen to represent our interests during the build.  He came highly recommended and is well regarded in the industry.  Throughout our ordeal he has been most supportive and has gone to considerable lengths to assist us whilst we were back in Australia.

Although our surveyor managed a very successful visit to inspect our shell at Tim Tyler’s premises he was never able to subsequently view progress of the build once the shell reached Ben Harp at Hixon. Four failed attempts between February and May. There were always excuses and towards the end blatant refusal.

But we are jumping ahead!

We had already booked our flights to the UK and were making efforts to get a delivery date from the Harp’s. Despite the contract specifically stating the customer would be advised in writing of any delay in the delivery date; the reasons why; and advice of a new delivery date, this never occurred. Of course by then we were trapped with more than half of the total price of the boat having been paid. The contract build schedule was only four months which effectively meant the progress payment schedule was also compressed.  This was the main reason why we parted with money so quickly.

Then in March the 3rd Stage Payment of £20,000 was demanded for 23rd March. This would mean we had paid 75% of the contract price. We had seen a few photo’s of the start of the cabinet work. As the surveyors delayed visit had also been scheduled for the 23rd we made the payment less the cost of the canbus system which we had purchased back in December.

Whilst I was away on a business trip Jan received an email from Kelly Harp advising the full payment hadn’t been made. On my return I wrote back advising the cost of the canbus system had been deducted because we had already purchased it at their suggestion back in December and Ben had subsequently requested its delivery. Also, the inspection by our surveyor on the 23rd hadn’t occurred.  Yet another excuse about “confusion over the date and time.  Kelly Harp complained about the deduction of the price of the canbus system and stated the ‘unders and overs’ would be resolved at the end of the contract. At this time we still believed they were working on our boat along with their lies about the progress that was being made. We rescheduled the surveyors visit for the 29th of March and I went away on another business trip.

Yes, you guessed it – When the surveyor visited the boat on the 29th the site was locked and unoccupied. Then Kelly e-mailed complaining we hadn’t made the full stage payment.  We had made the payment and I e-mailed her all the payment dates and amounts asking her to advise which payment hadn’t been received. Eventually she informed us of a £10,000 payment that was missing. It was interesting to note how quickly she could communicate when they wanted money but when we wanted information it was ignored.

So I queried the bank regarding the missing transfer. Meanwhile we had become very suspicious about actual progress on the boat and the lack of access by our surveyor.

I emailed the Harp’s to advise them we had again rescheduled the surveyor’s visit for the 19th April. Kelly Harp wrote back telling us the visit by the surveyor was being refused until we paid the missing £10,000. This threat was intolerable. Our reply stated the surveyor’s visit on the 19th was to inspect work that had already been completed. And was not linked to work scheduled for the next stage for which only partial payment had been received. The surveyor visited the boat on the 19th and found the compound locked with no one present.

Next we received an e-mail stating that because we hadn’t paid the missing £10,000 work had stopped on the boat and that we owed the builder £10,000 and that we would have to pay interest on the money owed.

Our reply indicated we were prepared to pay any interest on money owed but that we would need our surveyor to inspect the boat and confirm the completed work was valued at approximately £91,000 which was being claimed by the builder. We rescheduled the surveyor for 3 May. Yes..... you guessed it. No one was at Hixon when he visited.

Something was definitely rotten in the state of Denmark!

next – The Legal Story

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ben Harp - To Hell and Back Again - Chapter 2

We have been overwhelmed by the supportive comments being posted to this blog.  Thank you for your sympathy and support.  Unfortunately we simply don’t have the time to respond to you all individually.  Instead, we will use the time to post our story in daily episodes for our readers.  The story is going to get more interesting! 

The Shell

From the Ben Harp Website “Ben has gained a reputation for unique designs and outstanding craftsmanship” <choke.. splutter! Find a recent customer who will agree with that statement!>

We were advised our shell builder had been changed to Tyler-Wilson. We were delighted to receive this news as they have a reputation for being one of the best shell builders in the UK.  Despite what has happened to us we know we have an outstanding shell.  Moreover Tim and Jonathan have been very supportive throughout our ordeal.

Ben Harp told us he had paid £34,000 for the shell and made no profit from it.  Well subsequently Tim Tyler told us the cost of the shell was less than that.  Another Ben Harp lie!

To ensure we could monitor progress on the boat we employed a reputable local boat safety surveyor to act as our representative. He was able to visit the Tyler-Wilson premises part the way through the construction of the shell and gave an anticipated favourable report on the quality of the work.

Kelly Harp was also reporting Ben was working hard on our boat. We were then asked to pay the 2nd Stage Payment which included the shell and the money to continue with the fit out. Purchase of the engine and the canbus system (advance DC 12v distribution system) was specifically mentioned. We were also asking for an original signed copy of the contract and wouldn’t make the 2nd stage payment until it was received. Eventually we received an original signed copy of the contract and then made the progress payment. Then Kelly Harp suggested we pay for the canbus system directly and avoid the scheduled increase in the VAT. This seemed like a good idea and we did purchase the system. We had also purchased six Rolls 595A/H heavy duty traction batteries for the domestic battery bank, a Camos automatic satellite dome and a bow camera system. All of this we had delivered to Ben Harp Narrowboats at their request. We’ve never been given it back – Theft! [definition of theft - "to dishonestly appropriate property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving them of it"]

By now it was early January and we were querying whether the February delivery date would be achieved. Around this time we were given access to some photo’s of the work Ben had been doing for our boat. It wasn’t much but did indicate work was occurring. Eventually the shell was delivered to Ben Harp’s poly-tunnel at Hixon, near Great Haywood. Kelly had blamed the delay in the delivery date on the shell builder Tyler-Wilson. We subsequently found out Tim Tyler had been delayed for some time attempting to obtain information from Ben & Kelly.

We have absolutely no complaints about the quality of our Tyler-Wilson shell and highly recommend Tim Tyler as a reputable shell fabricator. We are grateful for his personal support and assistance throughout our ordeal.

This is the photo of our Wilson-Tyler foredeck back in May.  Ignore the mess.  Note the port locker is a fuel tank for the diesel stove and the starboard locker is for storage.  The foredeck is lowered and has a storage hatch in it (partially obscured by the cloth and paint pots).

Ben Harp subsequently modified the foredeck to disguise the unique features in the photo above.  I strongly suspect he was creating a “Ringer”.

Both the locker and fuel tank have been removed along with the floor hatch and the floor height has been raised.

From inside the cabin you can see how the spray insulation has been roughly removed (arrows).  The lower bulkhead has also been removed and the foredeck floor raised.  Also note how originally there wouldn’t have been any spray insulation under the foredeck so it has been replaced with pieces of Kingspan insulation panels that are left over from our underfloor insulation.

None of this work fooled Tim Tyler the shell builder.

next – The Surveyor

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ben Harp - To Hell and Back Again - Chapter 1

I am going to spend the next few days posting about our experience with Ben Harp Narrowboats.  My intention is to explain where I think we went wrong so others may avoid the same situation.

A fellow blogger and friend referred to this situation as “To Hell & Back Again” which seems rather applicable hence it being in the title.

However, before I start I must acknowledge all the comments of support that have been posted on our blog from readers.  They are most appreciated!  And so to the story

Booking the Slot

Once upon a time........... There was a couple named Tom & Jan who decided on their retirement to have a narrow boat built so they could continuously cruise the canals and rivers in England.

This is the story of how the boat builder defrauded us of £62,000 and then forced us into expensive legal proceeding to recover our boat. To date our financial loss is in excess of £87,000.   If you every consider having a boat built or worked on by Ben HarpDON’T!  And certainly don’t believe anything they write on their website.

We developed a detailed designed and boat specification before heading to the UK in search of a boat builder who could built their dream boat. Eventually they met Ben Harp of Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders Ltd. He told them “I’ll build you what you want!” Unfortunately this was the first of the many lies that were to follow.

Were weren’t entirely stupid and conducted reference checks. Ben Harp had received good reviews in both major canal magazines and they were able to speak with the owner of a Ben Harp showboat who was extremely flattering in his comments. So in March 2010 we booked a build slot for August of that year and paid our £1000 deposit.

Communication from Australia with the builder was infrequent however we assumed he was very busy with the boat ahead of our own. August 2010 arrived with little communication, however we were advised the shell builder might be delayed because one of his workers was to be hospitalised.Then iIn late September there was a flurry of communication from the Harp’s (the Directors are a husband and wife team – Ben & Kelly). Suddenly everything was urgent. Money was needed and work needed to start now!

I wanted a signed contract and also wanted to know the delivery date. Kelly Harp informed me they would have the boat built by the end of February 2011 and I immediately queried how they would achieve this given their previous build rate. She told me “Ben can build a boat in 4 months and as my specifications were so detailed they wouldn’t be delayed waiting for the customer to provide more information”. Our specifications ran to 32 typed A4 pages and were very detailed so the comment appeared logical. Unfortunately this was another lie! We were asked to make the first stage payment of £20,000. This was the first we had heard of paying in advance. Again we queried it. We were informed the money was needed so Ben could manufacturer all the joinery and cabinet work concurrently with the shell builder building the shell. This provide to by another lie. We reluctantly decided to place £20,000 at risk but I spoke with Ben and requested he provide me with copies of invoices for major purchases. He readily agreed to this! Of course this didn’t happen and when subsequently requested Kelly Harp refused stating they couldn’t show us the invoices as we would see the discount they were getting from suppliers. Yet another lie!

Of course, at the time we didn’t identify these were simply lies to defraud us of our money.

Chapter 2 tomorrow

Monday, July 25, 2011

Despicable Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders

Regular readers of our blog will have noticed we have NOT mentioned nb Waiouru in any of our blogs since late March. This is because we have been in dispute with the builder Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders Ltd regarding the status of our boat.
We decided not to post anything about the dispute involving Waiouru as we didn’t want to exacerbate the situation. Unfortunately the matter continued to deteriorate which eventually resulted in us employing solicitors. We have had two High Court hearings in the Royal Courts of Justice, London and four court orders have been issue requiring compliance from Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders Ltd. Ben and Kelly Harp not only ignored these High Court orders but actually defined them.
The court ordered us to be given access to our boat for the purpose of inspecting and valuing the boat. Ben & Kelly Harp were claiming it was worth £91,000 whilst the photographic evidence suggested a value less than £40,000. Our surveyor was consistently denied access to the boat to verify their claims.
Eventually we had a High Court order giving us access. That’s when the Harp’s claimed they had sold our boat and the one at their premises was a different boat. They couldn’t sell it. Accordingly to the contract we had the Title to the boat from the First Stage Payment. Moreover, if it were sold; according to the contract we had the first right to buy.
The High Court then issued another order directing the boat wasn’t to be moved or interfered with. Again Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders Ltd ignored the court order and modified the boat to disguise it so we wouldn’t recognise it. Last Tuesday they advised our solicitors they would comply with the court order and allow access to the boat. Obviously they thought we wouldn’t recognise it after all the modifications!
Our solicitors replied advising we would accept the offer to inspect and would be accompanied by the shell builder, Tim Tyler. The offer to inspect was withdrawn the same day! <surprise>. In their same advice they told the solicitor they intended to tell the High Court Judge they wanted another 14 days to prepare their defence. We knew they were modifying Waiouru and guessed they were converting it to a “sailaway” for a quick sale.
We were quickly back in the High Court last Thursday and were given the final court order. Even the Judge could see through their scheme. The latest order gave us immediate access to Waiouru; using force if necessary; accompanied by the police and Tim Tyler. If the boat was Waiouru the order gave us the power to immediately cease her.
Today we took Waiouru.
As we suspected she had been modified and stripped to a bare shell (I’ll blog more on this later).
Having run out of time to sell Waiouru to another unsuspecting purchaser Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders Ltd vented their frustration by maliciously damaging Waiouru. I’ll only post some of the photo’s from today but will post more later and also provide a more detailed explanation of the entire story.
Our thanks to those who have know what has been going on and have kept matters confidential.



The lining, ceiling, wiring, partitions and cabinet work has been stripped.  This is NOT a £91,000 boat!









Saturday, July 23, 2011

Getting Around

This seemed like an excellent idea.  A bicycle station!  Pay your money and remove the bike from the rack just like a supermarket trolley.  After using it you can return it to any of the bike stations in the city.  These appear to be either sponsored or carrying Barclay’s Bank advertising.

A couple of people rode one past me whilst I was walking around.  I’ve also noticed the area around our accommodation is well catered for cyclists with designated cycle paths and grade separation at busy intersections.  So someone has really thought through the transport planning.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Steamed Pudding

My boring life has been enlivened by the arrival of my first UK steamed pudding

It took some time for me to convince Jan to purchase a bowl and then there was the issue of a trivet to avoid the bottom of the bowl melting in the slow cooker.  However “Poundland” came to the rescue and Jan was able to purchase something that would suffice.

So morning and evening I am engorging myself on pudding.  I can see a replacement will shortly be required.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ludgate Circus

There I am wandering around London when I happened to walk to Ludgate Circus.  It’s at one end of Fleet Street which used to be the “home” of British newspapers until Rupert Murdoch entered the scene.

For some reason I thought this was the historical location of a prison and place of execution.  Actually I should have been thinking of Newgate rather than Ludgate.  But then….. by coincidence, I wasn’t completely wrong. 

Ludgate was the site of an entrance gate to the City of London and is situated at the end of Blackfriars Bridge which crosses the Thames.  There was a gaol built above the gate, but it was a debtors prison.  If you couldn’t pay your debts you went to prison until they were paid.  You’d probably have to rely on family and friends to come to your assistance.  You were also required to pay for the cost of your imprisonment.  Essentially debtors prisons were a commercial and profit making enterprise.  There are a few who should be there now!

The circus was developed in 1865 when the area was extensively remodelled.

These fellows were on the roof of the building opposite my location and didn’t appear to be feeling the cold

As for the name Ludgate, it’s Old English for “swing gate”

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

College of Arms

Whilst heading away from the Embankment I just happened to come upon the “College of Arms”.  I almost passed the building without realising its significance.

The building looks Victorian but part of it were built in 1670.

Above the main door

The College retains the records of the coats of arms and pedigrees of all the families in the UK and Commonwealth.  I guess this is where you enquire to find out about your family crest or coat of arms!

Only recently I had been reading an account of the Battle of Agincourt and how the English and French Heralds met prior to the battle to agree the ‘rules’ and observe from the sideline they were followed.  At the conclusion of the battle the winner was agreed provided they had followed the rules. 

There was some suggestion the Heralds may have disagreed about Henry’s observance of the rules when, towards the end of the battle he ordered most of the French prisoners be killed as he needed their English guards to assist him fight of another expected French attack.  However the French has also managed to circle behind Henry’s army and attack his baggage train which was also a breach of the rules.

Originally the role of Heralds was to organise tournaments where the knights could demonstrate their prowess.  An early form of military training.  As the all were similarly equipped they took to wearing symbols and colours on their shields and helmets.  These became their coat of arms and it was the job of the Heralds to regulate the issue and identification of the arms. 

In addition to their role as custodians of coats of arms they are also responsible for the organisation of State Funerals and the Monarchs Coronation.

Interestingly, there is no coat of arms for a surname.  So when you see one of those crests in the High Street with your family name on it – it’s a fake! 

Heralds are responsible for the design of new honours and awards (the medals and their coloured ribbons).

Monday, July 18, 2011

More of London

I managed to get a reasonable walk along the Embankment and was hoping to see a narrowboat on the Thames.  Unfortunately no such luck.

I hadn’t realised the Thames Embankment actually consists of the Victoria and Chelsea Embankments .  However I did know the current Embankment was constructed by Joseph Bazalgette in 1862 as I had previously watched a TV documentary on the construction of the London sewage system.  The main feeder pipe was laid under the embankment and surplus spoil from tunnelling used to backfill the area to create the Embankment.

At one end of my walk was this complex of buildings

Whilst at the other end of the walk this bridge could be seen in the middle distance

For some reason this building caught my eye.  It seemed familiar and I think it’s the building in one of the James Bond films where he bursts out of the building in a prototype speed boat chasing a female “baddie” along the Thames.

But then I might be in error.  It looks too big to be the HQ of MI6.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

London

Yesterday I had an appointment in London.  Whilst I had earlier been advised the time of the appointment would be mid morning, it was subsequently delayed until mid afternoon.  This gave me some free time to look around part of the inner city.

Walking down one of the smaller lanes from Fleet St to the Embankment I passed a building with the following plaque on the wall.

I, like you; remember Samuel Pepys and his diary from my school history lessons.  You will recall his encoded diary and associate him with the Great Fire of London.  By coincidence I’ve been recently been reading a history book which places Pepys' in a most unflattering light.  It did recognise his good public work but was quite scathing regarding his personal life and treatment of servants, etc.

Down on the Embankment I discovered “Cleopatra’s Needle”.  Actually it wasn’t lost…. so I can’t have discovered it!

Now I do recall in 1959 reading a book of newspaper articles from the 1800’s which described the journey of the obelisk from Egypt back to England.  The British appear to be great souvenir hunters!  It was towed back from Egypt and broke loss in a storm.  The crew though they had lost the obelisk only to find find it at sea some days later.

Sounds like it was just lying around and no one owned or wanted it, so we picked it up and brought it home with us!

I had an interesting look around the Royal Courts of Justice.  It’s a “rabbit warren” of nooks and crannies.  The courtroom look just like those you see on TV. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Well now we know

This evening I walked to the local church.  Actually there are two in close proximity.  This time I was able to establish the building with the tall spire is the Cathedral Church of Saint Mary and Saint Boniface and is the seat of the Bishop of Plymouth.  Work started on the cathedral in 1856 and opened three years later. 

Some of the stonework looks interesting.  I thought the spire might be clad in copper sheeting however it doesn’t appear to have faded to a pale green which makes me think it might be a different material.

The front door

Across the road from the cathedral is an octagonal shaped building

I’ve been able to establish it is “The Water Tower”, and is now a converted private residence in what was the water tower of the former Royal Naval Hospital.  It is Grade II listed.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Kerbing

I find the variations in the way people tackle a problem to be quite interesting.  This particular problem was the channelling of road water.

Some country have a very high kerbing made of concrete slabs which are painted alternate colours.  You mostly find these in the third world.  A location with little rainfall such as Perth, Western Australia has a very low kerb made from continuously poured concrete. Where the annual rainfall is higher the kerb will usually be of continuously poured concrete but higher to prevent the pavement from flooding.

However many of the suburban streets in our current neighbourhood have kerbing slabs and cobblestones

I wondered whether all of this was genuine stone or actually concrete made to look like stone.  After examining adjacent slabs they didn’t appear to have the same pattern.  But there may be a varieties of moulds.  My guess is this is all concrete.  But it looks interesting, and manufacturing the gutters and kerbing in stones and slabs does make it easier to lift and re-laid.

Yes; a rather boring post and what a sad life I live if road kerbing interests me! Smile

Tomorrow I’m off to London so life should get slightly more interesting.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Reference Point

I’ve found a useful reference point to guide me in the general direction of home.

By looking at the horizon it is actually quite easy to orientate myself against the two of them.

The area around the church must have looked very nice when first built.

Wimbledon in the Mall at Plymouth and not a spare seat to be found.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mr Whippy

Back in the distant past I can remember the sound of the music from “Mr Whippy” as his ice cream van arrived in the neighbourhood.  

When walking yesterday I actually came across his original van.  Well it looks like the van I remember from my childhood!

Unfortunately he wasn’t selling cones at the price I remember and so he missed on my patronage. Smile

It’s interesting how small facts can stick in your memory.  Aniseed balls were 5 for 1p and a bag of hot chips could be purchased for 3p.  Going to the theatre to watch the Sunday matinee cost 6p.

Monday, July 11, 2011

An Australian Connection

One of the first things we noticed when walking around the local area was the connection with Australia.

And then there was

If you were looking for a cool and refreshing schooner of Victoria Bitter then you would not find it here

But there was a rather interesting house just down the road

Everything looked like it had been piled on top to some crazy design.  Actually I like it!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

River Plym

Plymouth has the River Tamar to the west and the River Plym to the east.  Today walked to the Plym just to see what it was like.  Actually there as a little more to the plan.  Google Earth showed a Morrisons superstore on the other side of the River Plym and I decided to investigate just how big a range of products it carried.

I completed the route in an anti-clockwise direction with a slight detour in the north shown in red.

There is a pedestrian and bicycle way in the area of Cattledown where I stopped to take photos of the harbour.

This photo shows the eastern side of the Royal Citadel

And this next photo gives another view of Drake Island

This last photo shows what I believe are more harbour fortifications that would form part of the original interlocking harbour defence system.

After looking around the Morrisons superstore I crossed back over the River Plym to discover, by chance, a possible link to the canals.

So the tramway carried clay.  Presumably it was conveyed by sea around the coast and then inland to the potteries via the canals.

There isn’t much to see of the old alignment.  The stone arch below is part of the conventional rail network with the old Tramway alignment to the right.

In the following photo the Tramway is the overgrown area to the right of the current track.

In the north-eastern corner of my planned route was a former fort; or so Google Earth indicated!   All I found was this…..!  It looks like the area may have been sold and converted for commercial purposes.

The length of the walk was just on 15km.  Probably slightly too short for a good workout.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Boaties Frying Pan

Jan has purchased a “Boaties Frypan online from Neil at The Canal Shop Company.

As you can see, it’s square with a short handle.  The front edge is also bevelled to allow for easier removal of the contents.  Of course it ‘non stick’ coated.

She is aware space in the boat will be at a premium and didn’t want a long handled pan as Waiouru has a ‘walk through’ galley and she wanted to avoid the potential hazard of a long handle getting entangled in clothing.  A square shape might also allow more to be cooked.  I was particularly concerned the pan be able to hold the maximum number of piklets.Smile

The short handle is heat resistant silicon coated, however we think an oven mitt will probably still be required.