Sunday, 31 January 2016

Got it solved

This is mostly a follow-up nerdy post about our internet connection but for those readers who aren’t interested I’ll briefly mention lunch

We decided to eat at the nearby Toby Carvery which I think might be the first time we’ve visited one of these establishments.  They are part of a chain and this one is down beside the canal.  I thought its location might make it popular in summer but didn’t expect many patrons in winter.  I was wrong erred in my judgement!  The place was packed with an hour wait for a table if you hadn’t booked.  We were fortunate that there had been a late cancellation for a table for two.  We ordered the meal and drinks.  The latter arrived promptly and then Jan decided to check the carvery service.  She was gone ages, eventually returning with a loaded plate and the advice “There’s a very long queue!”  I then headed off to get my meal.  By the time I had my meal and returned to our table Jan had eaten hers.

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A blurred photo as my hands were trembling with lack of energy. Smile  A large portion and apart from the roast spuds, rather tasty  7/10.  Later in the afternoon I walked to Go Outdoors in Stoke where I ordered a second pair of walking shoes for Jan.  They will have to come from another stores which will give me a second walk.

Now for the nerdy part.

I’m going to attempt to simply explain how I managed to maximize our internet access.  We currently have a mobile phone plan which gives us an unlimited internet data allowance.  But only on the phone.  If we “tether” other devices to the phone and use them to gain access to the internet our data allowance is limited.  Our current setup is shown in the following diagram.

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When tethering is activated on the mobile phone we can access the internet through the phone using tablets, laptops, etc. However all the data is sent unencrypted.  Moreover the tethered devices send a small burst of information at the beginning of the connection which includes the type of device and operating system.  The mobile phone provide uses this information to detect tethering has been activated and measures the volume of data used deducting it from our monthly tethering allowance.

What I wanted to do was use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)  this is software which is installed onto the phone and encrypts all the data being sent and received by the phone.  Moreover this data goes directly down a tunnel where it can’t be followed.  Because the data is encrypted the mobile phone provider doesn’t know devices have been tethered.  Instead it looks like all the data originates from the phone.  The setup would look like this.

Tethering 2However it is impossible to create this type of setup when using an Android phone.  This is because Android doesn’t allow a phone to simultaneously run a VPN and tether other devices.

Before arriving in the UK we bought a ZOOM portable wireless router and I recently discovered it could be tethered to an Android phone.  I thought I had a solution, but there was a problem.  The router is now old (well it’s 5 years old and that’s not old by my standard) and will only work with Android version 2.3.6.  As our new Samsung S4 phones use Android version 4 they wouldn’t work with the router.  To resolve this I reverted to using our very old Samsung S1.  I could tether the router to the phone but this raised another problem.  The Virtual Private Network (VPN) program wouldn’t install on the old phone.  It required at least Android version 4. 

After a considerable amount of fiddling around I’ve been able to install the VPN software onto the phone and tether the route.  The system looks like the following.

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The phone is connected to the internet through the VPN sending and receiving encrypted data and the router is connected to the phone by a USB cable.  The tablets, laptop, etc wirelessly link to the router to gain access to the internet.  Everything works. 

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A bit messy, but this is the setup with the phone at the top and the wireless router at the bottom connected by a usb cable.

However all this data encryption and additional networking slows down the internet.   Moreover we’re currently not exceeding our tethering allowance so there’s currently no requirement for us to use the VPN or the Zoom router.  But it was an interesting challenge!  Smile

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Festival Retail Park

After it got dark yesterday evening I took one of the full rubbish bags for a walk and along the way successfully managed to leave it behind when it wandered off to sniff a public rubbish bin. 
This morning we awoke to find one of the three boats moored outside the Toby Carvery had left.  A decision had to be made whether or not to move and take the vacant mooring.  In the end we decided to stay on our current mooring.  It might be noisier outside the carvery and the area is more exposed to the wind.
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There Is a path on both sides of the canal here, but our side appears to be getting less foot traffic. There are also buildings on both sides which are creating a slight wind break. 
Mid morning we walked up to the retail park, primarily to get some essentials from Morrisons supermarket.  PC World was on the way so I took Jan in to look at OLED TV’s.  The young sales assistant wanted to show us 4K TV’s.  Now I wasn’t wearing my “WARNING RETIRED.  Knows everything and plenty of time to tell you about it!”  T-shirt.    But he still received the full spiel why 4K is just marketing hype and as useful as a chocolate teapot.  In anticipate of seeing a working OLED TV I had copied three short video clips onto a USB stick.  One was original TV resolution, the next was standard definition TV, and the last was Blue-Ray quality.  We played all three clips on both the OLED and a 4K TV.  They looked better (IOHO) on the OLED.
After buying essentials at Morrisons we walked up to the nearby Currys store where Jan wanted to look at coffee machines.  I don’t drink the muck  (did you know it kills all the male sperm!).  Along the way we noticed a statue in the middle of a large roundabout.  Initially I thought it was a statue of a soldier.  However I couldn’t see any reason for a military statue in this location.  The stance looked military but equally it might have been a miner holding a pneumatic drill.  This area used to be heavily industrial so that made sense.  But then the helmet looked like it was covered in camouflage netting.  On the way back from Currys I had a second look from the other side.  The statue looked more military than miner.
20160130_122514Google again came to my aid.  It’s a statue of Lance Sergeant J.D. Baskeyfield VC.  He was killed in the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944 aged 21.  During the battle he was in command of a 6 pound gun which destroyed two Tiger tanks and a self propelled gun.  His gun was hit and all his crew killed whilst he was wounded.  He then crawled to a second unmanned gun and destroyed a third Tiger tank before being killed by a fourth tank.  L/Sgt Baskeyfield was born locally in Burslem, Stoke on Trent.

Friday, 29 January 2016

What’s Brewing!

The sparrows had their heads tucked under their wings when we arose this morning.  We had a 8.30am appointment with CRT at Harecastle Tunnel.  It was just starting to get light as Jan departed on foot for our only lock of the day (Plants Lock).  I finished preparing Waiouru for cruising and then set off after her.  It was daylight by the time Jan had worked us up through the lock.  The plan was to dispose our rubbish at the CRT tunnel facilities but they no longer accept rubbish here (separate email to follow Paul!).  A CRT employee was already present and gave us the mandatory tunnel transit briefing before checking our headlight and horn worked.  P1020299

We were waved off at 8.42am and it took us 36 minutes to reach the other end.  Waiouru seemed to be travelling rather slowly at the northern end and I suspect the water might be shallow.  Our speed certainly increased further into the tunnel.

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Looking back

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One other boat joined us for the passage.

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The exit.

Poor Jan was suffering from the effects of engine exhaust fumes for the first ¾ of the trip.  I suspect the extractor fans were sucking the engine fumes past us.

There was a 30 minute wait at the far end whilst we filled the water tank and then we headed further south towards the Festival Park Marina.  Only one boat moored at Westport Lake which would make this the smallest number of boats we’ve seen here.  Again the designated CRT winter moorings were vacant.

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The rejuvenation of Middleport continues and the area now looks far more attractive. We happened to see on TV that HRH Prince Charles had visited the complex earlier in the week.  Apparently much of this work is being funded by The Prince’s Trust.

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I wonder if this project will continue to the adjacent buildings?

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It then started to rain and rather than both of us getting wet I suggested Jan go inside.  We reached the moorings outside the Toby Carvery only to find them full.  I then reversed back through the bridge hole and we moored behind the “Oakcake Boat”. 

A couple of hours later we were gently bumped by another passing boat.  But then it didn’t pass.  Something was brewing?  Jan put her head out the side hatch and realised it was one of those damned Kiwi boaters.  Probably intoxicated! Smile

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Yes it was Barry on The Home Brew Boat (nb AreandAre).  He dutifully stopped and had a beer cup of tea with us before heading off to his weekend mooring at Westport Lake.  At least he won’t have an issue finding one.

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Thursday, 28 January 2016

The lunch that kept on giving

First, more on the Harecastle Tunnel towpath.  Blog reader Bill sent me an email with his theory which I post here in full.

How about this for a theory about the towpath over the tunnel.

First there would be no paved path, so during the summer and dry times the horses would have used Boathorse Road, but when that gets chewed up and muddy, and it does not take many horses to churn a path up, they follow an easier and possibly drier route, horses need a rest so a gentle walk may have been useful to them.

The question is how hard a slog and how wet the direct route is, it would take longer to walk a boat through the tunnel than walk over it, so time i think is not a big issue, and it would have been the children who would have walked with the horses,

Well this is only a theory but I like it.

Wikipedia states that Brindley’s Tunnel didn’t have a towpath and the horses were walked over the top using Boathorse Road.  Telford’s Tunnel was completed in 1827 and did have a towpath.  Both tunnels continued to be in use until the early 20th century when Brindley’s tunnel was closed due to subsidence.  So horses from boats using Brindley Tunnel would have been walked over or around until the early 20th Century. 

alt routesThe above map shows the Boathorse Road route in blue and the current official towpath in red.  I think the clue to what has actually happened here are the railway tunnels. Wikipedia was my friend.  There are were three railway tunnels constructed here in 1848.  They were named north, middle and south.  The latter two were abandoned and the north tunnel was opened out (ie, the roof removed) when the line was electrified in the 1960’s.  You can see the route of the north line to the left of the red line (towpath) in the above map.   Opening the north tunnel created a more level route avoiding Harecastle Hill.

Paul Balmer (Waterway Routes) also sent me an email with relevant information.

You were lucky with your walk over the top of Harecastle Tunnel.  There is no right of way through the “caravan park” and both times I have tried to walk the way you did I was turned away with a very polite explanation from people holding the leads of snarling dogs who would probably have used them to make a point if I hadn’t turned around promptly.  The local authority subsequently confirmed there is no right of way. 

I have now checked the OSM and OS maps.  The former shows a path between the two ends of Boathorse Road whereas the Ordnance Survey map (the official map) does not show them linked.

This suggests to me horses from boats using Brindley Tunnel were taken over the top via Boathorse Road.  This ceased when the tunnel closed in the early 20th century.  The rail tunnel wasn’t opened up until the early 1960’s so the towpath couldn’t have been there until after that date.  My guess is for some reason a break was made in Boathorse Road and the towpath was subsequently re-routed to the “new” railway alignment.

Today Jan and I walked to the retail park at Freeport Talke.  It’s to the SW of our current mooring and slightly more than 5km away.

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Our mooring top arrow and the retail park at the bottom arrow.

This was a first visit for Jan and a second for me.  In 2014 I walked to the B&Q here from our mooring near Rhode Heath.  Just the usual retail shops, however Jan did managed to buy some coloured kitchen knives and two new leather purses (in case we win Lotto).  By then it was after noon and we were feeling peckish.  There are two coffee shops and a Burger King in the centre which resulted in both of us filling a large hole with a burger filled with ammonia washed water inflated beef pattie and preserved iceberg lettuce in a twice baked soggy bun. 

However we both agreed the burger was filling as it kept repeating on us during the walk back to the boat.  No wonder it was so expensive.  Never again!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Harecastle Tunnel… The alternate way

A blustery day but dry, and so I thought I might use the alternate Harecastle route.  My assumption is few boaters have used the top route?  No doubt Paul Balmer has when collecting data for his canal maps!  Looking at his map (link to website here) it’s obvious the towpath doesn’t follow the same alignment as the tunnel.

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Map courtesy of Waterway Routes

The towpath is the red dotted line in the above map extract.  However I’m not convinced this is the original route.  The reason for this will become clear shortly.

My own route was more direct.

OSM Towpath

The canal is green and my route is red.  The arrow points to Harecastle Hill.  You can see from the contour lines in the above map that my route took me over the top of the hill whilst the official towpath goes around the left (western) side.

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A photo taken from above the entrance to Brindley’s original tunnel looking north.  My route took me up the CRT access road and then east across the B5371 road.  The tunnel was now directly underneath my feet.  Looking back in the direction of the tunnel entrance I noticed the war memorial park. 

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Fortunately it’s not a cemetery otherwise the occupants might have wet feet! Smile

At this point I’m on the “official” towpath.  A hint as to the right route can be seen in the next photo.

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The route continues up Boathorse Road.  There are actually two railway lines here that both enter tunnels above Harecastle Tunnel.  The first is the Stafford to Manchester line and is still in use.  The railway enters a tunnel under the road to the left of the position of the lady in the following photo.

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The second railway roughly follows the alignment of Harecastle Tunnel.  I came upon the northern tunnel portal at the park.  This is where I continued going whilst the designated towpath turns west.

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Northern entrance to the old rail tunnel.  This tunnel has been abandoned and I assume this is why there is a second rail route.  I continued on up Boathorse road which became steeper and narrower.  Eventually I arrived at Harecastle Hill which is approximately 200 metres above sea level.  If visibility had been good there would have been views to Chester, the Welsh hills and Cumbria.

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Chester is out there somewhere!

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Off to the northeast was Mow Cop.  It’s just over 100 metres higher than Harecastle Hill.  Did you notice the brick air vent in the above photo?

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A closer view.  I can’t remember if Harecastle Tunnel has air vents and this may actually be one of the air vents to the abandoned rail tunnel which runs adjacent to the canal tunnel.  You can see a second air vent in the next photo.

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OK, I just took a peek at Wikipedia which states Telford’s tunnel was built by digging 15 shafts which were then connected by tunnelling horizontally.  If the 15 air shafts still exist I would have expected to see more of them.

At Harecastle Hill Boathorse Road makes a 90 deg turn west for 170 metres.  This part of the road has been abandoned and all that remains is a rough walking track with evidence of the former bitumen surface in places.  The track ends at a static caravan park.  A not particularly attractive caravan park.  Actually I wondered why anyone would want to live in it!

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Looking back!  The track starts behind the trailer.

I’m still on Boathorse road which is still narrow but only serves the caravan park and isn’t very busy.  My route is now parallel with the tunnel and I head towards the southern portal past Ben & Kelly who were obviously on holiday!

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Yes….. I’m never going to forget or forgive!

And at the other end of the road is……

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Behind me can be seen the former alignment of the abandoned railway which is actually running above and parallel to the canal tunnel.

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It looks like the former alignment has been recently cleared of undergrowth. 

It’s a very short walk to rejoin the canal towpath.  A brief diversion took me to above the sourthern portal.

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Then it was a case of retracing my footsteps.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Going backwards

Yesterday evening turned into somewhat of a small disaster when we discovered there was no dot in the sky and the terrestrial TV signal was pixellated.  Jan was not pleased as she wanted to both watch and record Silent Witness.

This morning we took the trolley out for some exercise.  It’s been getting lazy and now squeaks when taken walkies!  No a long walk; just up to Tesco where Jan fed all our small change into the poker machine.  She hit the jackpot and was rewarded with a voucher for £5.40 which we subsequently spent on a cooked chook for dinner tonight.

We carefully made our way back to Waiouru avoiding the fresh doggie doo-doo.  Obviously we’ve had a few more dog owners pass us since we cleaned up yesterday.  The dogs have got the smell of the area and will keep returning.  That; and the poor TV reception, was sufficient for us to decide to move.  The TV aerial was taken down and we reversed back 500 metres to a dog poo free area where there is both sat and terrestrial TV signals.  No skill to the reversing…… I used the girlie button!  We’ve passed here on three previous ocassions, all during the summer, and each time there hasn’t been a vacant mooring.

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All on our own

I phoned CRT this morning and booked our passage through Harecastle Tunnel for Friday morning.  In the afternoon I wandered up to the tunnel entrance noticing the construction of the rail bridge which crosses the canal immediately before the tunnel entrance.  It reminded me of the multi-storey building construction method used in Iran.

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Rivetted cast iron ‘I’ beams which have brick arch infills.  There are iron spreader bars between some of the arches.  The weight of the bridge superstructure and live load (passing trains) get transferred down through the brick arch and into the beams.  The buildings in Iran were similar, except the arch was much shallower and the span greater.  The steel beams were also smaller.  I can remember jumping on the second storey floor feeling it bounce.

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The usual photo of the northern tunnel portal with Telford’s tunnel to the left and the original Brindley tunnel to the right.

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Brindley’s tunnel looks well silted up.

There was a CRT boat moored inside the mouth of the tunnel.  I guess it’s the rescue boat, which we shouldn’t need (I hope).

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Monday, 25 January 2016

Kidsgrove

With bad weather forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday we decided to move closer to civilization today.  It was blustery and the wind was actually quite strong in a couple of places.  However it wasn’t particularly cold.  Jan was lucky eough to keep warm by doing all the maunal lock work whilst I was stuck at the tiller.

It Is obvious CRT have been doing some winter maintenance on the T&M as their base just north of Rode Heath is looking very chewed up.

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Shortly there after we reached the first set of four locks.  We’d done the first two when a boat approached from the opposite direction.  So happy as this meant the locks would now be in our favour.

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At Church Bottom Lock we met a second boat.  The steerer comment “I thought I was the only one crazy enough to be out in this weather!”  I understood what he meant when we exited the top lock to find a very strong side wind wanting to push Waiouru against the edge.

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Away in the distance Mow Cop could be seen on the skyline. (Got it right this time Halfie!)  I doubt the Methodists will be up there today!

We then met our third boat at Kents Lock.  The lady doing the lock told Jan they had come through Harecastle Tunnel earlier in the day and were trying to get as far north as possible ahead of the bad weather.  Most of the 48 hour moorings at Red Bull were vacant.

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The is the first location we have seen this winter where the winter mooring time isn’t 14 days.

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Notice the “All year” restriction.

We stopped a the CRT facilities to top up the water tank and dispose of the rubbish.  Jan then worked Waiouru up two more locks before we moored.  I went to Aldi Kidsgrove for some essentials whilst Jan sorted out the boat. 

One think we’ve noticed at the mooring.  There are as many dog faeces here as you’d find in Nuneaton.  We have to be very careful where we step.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

They were expecting us!

Someone has been staring at Waiouru ever since we moored here and as a consequence we’ve had to leave the foam bungs in the offside portholes to maintain some privacy.

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He’s very persistent.

We wandered up the towpath to The Broughton Arms in Rode Heath for Sunday lunch.  You can’t see the canal in the photo as it’s behind the Pub and to the left.

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A sign on the other side of the canal mentions the area was once a hive of salt mining with the canal playing its part in transporting the finished product.  Today it looks very rural.

The pub staff must have been expecting us because one of the first phrases was “Here comes trouble!” Obviously they were expecting us.  I did ask how they knew and the barman confessed it was uttered to almost everyone who entered!.

Lunch was a success (9/10).

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The potatoes were especially tasty.

After lunch we wandered across to the village store for a few essentials. It was actually quite large inside.  It also contains an ATM and post office.

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Jan and the lady behind the counter ganged up on me. I was required to hand over the £10 note Jan gave me as pocket money a month ago.  The reason for this was Jan only had a larger note and didn’t want to break It.  You may wonder why I get pocket money if it’s to be taken back after being nibbled on by moths in the wallet.  I did query the demand, but the sisterhood soon put me in my place.

Outside was one of those public post boxes which appear to be unique to the UK.

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I don’t recall seeing one in Australia or New Zealand.  They are usually a red box metal container rather than something this fancy.