Maldon Mud Race 2017

June 11th, 2017 Alasdair
The man in the wedding dress!

The man in the wedding dress!

After the race!

After the race!

Having had to pull out due to a broken arm in 2015 the Maldon Mud Race has been on my list of things to do for a while. This year we entered it with some trepidation. The race originally started in the seventies when a local pub placed a barrel of beer on the far bank of the very muddy river and dared its clientele to go for it. That was in the depth of winter and it must have been quite a challenge. Now it is held in the same mud but in May when the water has warmed up a bit. To my surprise the mud was lovely and warm! The only rule seems to be that your shoes are gaffer taped onto your ankles and I can see why, there is quite some suction! Most people dress up to some degree. A chap in a wedding dress comes most years! We went for stripy tops which never fully recovered. It was great fun, even the cold drizzle of a shower was a laugh. Might well go for it again!

Steyning Stinger 2017

March 5th, 2017 Alasdair
The Steyning Stinger Route and Elevation

The Steyning Stinger Route and Elevation

The FREE slap up breakfast served up after the race is the icing on the cake!

The FREE slap up breakfast served up after the race is the icing on the cake!

I think it is my forth attempt at this amazing hilly trail half marathon (ascent 1,700 feet). I suppose that says it all. Each time is different according to the weather and the general aches and pains of life. This year Pen, Liam, Grit, Alex, Kerry and I took part. John was overwhelmed at work and couldn’t make it. It had been wet during the week and a front was due to pass over the Downs during the race. There was a lot of deliberation as to what to wear. In a strong wind it can be pretty cold on the ridge if you are soaking wet. I went for a Devold Expedition long sleeved merino top and a cheap as chips waterproof smock. I wore long Nike running trousers because I needed to dose my right leg with ibuprofen to dull off some long standing pain – in shorts it would have just washed off. I took off the waterproof top at the top of the first Sting and rolled it up and tied it around my waist. I was pretty hot until a blast of rain and hail hit us then I got pretty cold but never bothered trying to put the smock on again.
The Salomon Speedcross shoes were superb and I overtook loads of runners on the slippery rutted chalk downhill stretches just because I had fantastic grip. They probably knocked five minutes off my time.
OK so the time wasn’t great but it was better than I thought at 2 hours 15 minutes (TBC). Pen pulled in first at 2 hours 3 minutes and Alex and Kerry came in at 2 hours 12 minutes. Liam was hampered by slippery footwear and came in just after me. Interestingly everyone who ran last year came in 5 minutes later this year due to the conditions. It really is a struggle to get in before 2 hours!
To stay locally or to drive down in the morning?
Well we stayed locally but I think I’ll drive down next year. The problems with staying in a B and B are threefold. One, it is very hard to get a big pasta blowout meal the night before. We ended up eating a very nice burger in the White Horse but it wasn’t ideal. Secondly, it is always hard to sleep in a new place. I hardly slept at all. Thirdly breakfast on a Sunday starts at 08:00, just too late for the start.
I think my new policy will be, if the run is within about 100 miles, just drive down on the day.
I’ll be back next year. It is the best organised race I have ever attended. One day I’ll get over the line in 1 hour 59 minutes and 59 seconds!

Deal Half Marathon 2017

February 26th, 2017 Alasdair
Waiting for the start

Waiting for the start

Phew, the finish at last!

Phew, the finish at last!

This early February Half Marathon is becoming a bit of a fixture for me. Partly because my friend Philip lives in Deal and its a great chance to catch up in the winter -in the summer our Vertue Yachts often sail together on the East Coat. It is also well placed as a training run for the dreaded Steyning Stinger which takes place in early March. The Deal run isn’t as hilly as the Stinger and it is on roads but it still acts as a useful gauge of fitness. However its a grand run in its own right. Its non-commercial, dare I say cheap to enter (I hope they don’t think of hiking it up because of my poorly guarded comment). It is very well organised with loads of marshals and very friendly all round. There are even loos en route which is a first for me.

Neil Renault came first with a very impressive 1 hour 11 minutes which was so fast the lead bikes struggled to keep up on the hills! Sadly I struggled in after 1 hour 50 minutes 46 seconds which was well below my PB of 1 hour 43 for the route. I looked pretty knackered too! Two things contributed to my poor time, one was insufficient long training runs. I hadn’t run the full distance for many months although I had done quite a few 10 milers. Interestingly it was at ten or eleven miles that I run out of puff. The second excuse, and its a good one, is my continuing problem with my right leg caused by a dodgy piriformus which I tore in September and is still playing up. It makes me run with a very slight limp and seems to reduce my power. I’ve been having a bit of physio and even acupuncture but it is taking a while to heel. I believe it could have been aggravated by a broken bike saddle. As I cycle for about 1 hour 30 minutes every day my old lopsided saddle was probably of no help. Strangely it hurts most when I try to drive which I have now had to restrict to 10 minute journeys.

After the race Philip and I headed of for a slap up meal in the only pub which wasn’t fully booked. So the lesson for next time is to book the pub lunch several weeks in advance! Oh well, Steyning Stinger next – gulp, I’m going to be thrashed.

Marlow Half Marathon 2016

November 12th, 2016 Alasdair
Myself, John and Liam before the start of the Marlow Half

Myself, John and Liam before the start of the Marlow Half

It was touch and go whether my right leg would be up for this year’s half marathon, having pulled out of the Oxford Half a month earlier. I decided to rub some Ibuprofen gel onto the muscles and take a couple of pain killers before the start and see what happens. There was a 7 mile race being held at the same time so I could peel off at two miles and follow the shorter route.
For the first time in three years the weather was perfect, cold but clear and dry. I was surprised to see the Costa Coffee nearby was open at 0830 so next year I’ll take advantage of a booster there. The race is always well organised. I mentioned to my sister how impressed I was with Dave the Disco who gave the impression of knowing all the runners personally. My sister said he probably does! This was backed up by Liam who lives locally so it appears that Dave is a bit of a local hero.
As our little running group had decided this was not going to be a fast run we decided to position ourselves at the back of the start queue, being chip timed it doesn’t matter too much and at least it is better to overtake runners than be overtaken. The firework started the race as usual.
We set off at a steady pace but slowly overhauled some of the slower runners. With only moderate pain I decided to carry on past the two mile turn for the shorter route. The route through rolling countryside and little villages is entirely on tarmac so not too taxing on the muscles.
I eventually finished at 1 hour 58 minutes which although my slowest time for the course was much better than I had hoped, in fact just finishing would have been enough. For some reason there was a big hold up at the baggage reclaim. I can’t remember any queues before so there must have been a new system. It didn’t really matter as we were given our free tee shirts which we all donned to keep warm and it wasn’t raining. However there were some grumblings going on which was a shame.
I’ll be back, it is a bit of an institution now.

Ridiculous Model of the Proposed South Dock Boat Yard

Ridiculous Model of the Proposed South Dock Boat Yard

On 19th September we were invited to another “consultation” regarding the proposed development on the South Dock Marina Boat Yard site. The proposal has once again changed and now the height of the tallest tower has increased to 28 floors and the percentage of “affordable” housing has dropped even further. They are clearly getting tight on funds. The consultations are pretty pointless. Bruce Glockling clearly pointed out during the second “consultation” (he first consultation was held in virtual secrecy) that the proposal was going ahead no matter what. In effect we would probably have a say in the colour of the front doors although I doubt they would trust our judgement on such an important matter. A Southwark Council development is to be scrutinised by the Southwark Council Planning Department. At no point has the council said to the local population or the people using the boatyard “Here is an area of land in our borough that we believe is underutilised. We need more affordable housing and we must preserve the boatyard. What do you think would be a good proposal?” Instead they go ahead and hire a firm of architects to come up with a high density plan that no one around here wants. They then hold ridiculous tick box consultations with vague information which are sprung upon us with hardly any notice.
There are many reasons why the development is badly conceived which I will leave to others to argue with the council. Here however are just a few:
1) Lack of transport infrastructure to support the amount of new housing in the area – Canada Water tube station is already wildly overcrowded and the Jamaica Road is known as one of the slowest in the country. The River Bus costs £6.50 for a single journey and no longer always stops at Greenland Pier.
2) There is a lack of schools, clinics, and doctors etc to cope with the extra people.
3) The area is predominantly low rise moderate density suburban area. High-rise high-density urban development doesn’t fit in.
4) There is a lack any detailed drawings to show that the development has any architectural merit. Judging by the already tight funds (shown by the lack of affordable housing) I would doubt there would be any merit to these buildings whatsoever. Not that we have had a chance to look at any detail.
5) There is a constant failure to meet the council’s own dead lines. They just shunt things to suit them while the area is suffering from the planning blight.
6) Creating the tallest riverside building on the Southbank between the boatyard and the centre of London is inept and not in keeping with the Thames valley effect where taller buildings are placed further back from the river edge.
7) Parking and traffic chaos will be caused by 600 people travelling to and from work (somehow) and the ever increasing use of online delivery services. This will be exasperated by the fact that the road is a dead end and cars and trucks will be turning near boat lifting operations. The chaos will be made worse when a predicted 39 heavy goods vehicles a day are due to use Plough Way during the building of the Thames Super Sewer.
8) The development will totally destroy a quiet pleasant leafy part of the Thames Path
9) The proposed tall buildings will create a wind vortex and shadow around the buildings making the environment unpleasant.
10) There is a lack of demand for high priced luxury flats while there are currently over 3,365 flats available on Zoopla* for sale within one mile of the boatyard and over 10k available within 3 miles! There are 4,813 flats available to rent within one mile. Clearly there is no shortage whatsoever of this kind of property and with many more developments underway within a few yards there could well be an oversupply. The house next door to me, overlooking the boatyard is empty and has been on the market for about two years. (*as of 30th October 2016)
11) There is a very small and decreasing percentage of what are called “affordable” homes incorporated into the development. The need in the area is for truly affordable homes.
I could go on but my gripe is to do with the potential loss of the boat yard. London needs industry. The boatyard is fully protected under the London Plan which states:
Policy 7.27 Blue Ribbon Network: supporting infrastructure …
Policy
Planning decisions
A) Development proposals should enhance the use of the Blue Ribbon Network, in particular proposals:
a. that result in the loss of existing facilities for waterborne sport and leisure should be refused, unless suitable replacement facilities are provided
b. should protect and improve existing access points to (including from land into water such as slipways and steps) or alongside the Blue Ribbon Network (including paths). New access infrastructure into and alongside the Blue Ribbon Network will be sought.
c. should protect and enhance waterway support infrastructure such as boatyards, moorings, jetties and safety equipment etc. New infrastructure to support water dependent uses will be sought. New mooring facilities should normally be off line from main navigation routes, ie in basins or docks.
The South Dock Marina Boat Yard is currently 5,907 m2. The area can be clearly seen on Google Earth covered in boats and containers which mainly house boating related activities. The new proposal will obliterate well over half of the ground area which can hardly be called an enhancement. Of course we haven’t had the chance to see the proposals in any detail but it doesn’t look like there will be enough space to swing a cat. In fact they have already admitted that they are struggling to find the necessary car parking spaces. They said they are “looking into the matter” but there is clearly either enough space on the site or not. The council may well be thinking of using other areas to provide car parking so we need to ensure our nearby open spaces don’t become designated overflow car parks. The same goes for the possible expansion of the lock office as rumours are out about a proposal to extend this building too. Surely there should be enough space within the boatyard?
It seems that consulting is not a strong point for Southwark Council. On 5th September I decided to check with the Port of London Authority to see if they had been made aware of the proposal to build housing on two thirds of the boat yard. I received this reply.
“For example in 2013 in relation to the Draft Revised Canada Water AAP, the PLA wrote formally to the Council and stated the following:

“Given that South Dock Marina is London’s largest marina and the document identifies that boatyards are protected in the London Plan it is surprising that the Council is considering alternative development on the car park site. It is also surprising given the desire to see an increase in passenger and freight transported on the River Thames. It is questioned how the existing boatyard would be able to expand to meet any increased demand for their facilities if the car park site is developed in accordance with the AAP as currently drafted.””

Whoops a daisy, Southwark must have accidentally forgotten the consult with the Port of London about the latest proposals. It also appears that Southwark Council are describing the boat yard as a car park site.
The reality is that the boat yard’s potential working area will be reduced from 5,907 m2 to well under half that.

Even ignoring the massive reduction in the area available to work on boats my other main concern is that the close proximity of housing to the boatyard will cause an understandable conflict of interest between yard users and residents. Eventually the yard will become effectively useless for carrying out serious work on boats due to the restrictions on noise, solvents, dust etc. The fact that the boat yard was here first holds no weight in court – a noise nuisance is a noise nuisance full stop.

During the last consultation the architects said they had managed to resolve any potential noise problems by the use of special moveable sound barriers. On the plan that they briefly showed to us the barriers looked about 600 mm thick. They would encircle the yacht or barge and supposedly reduce the noise to an acceptable level. I was intrigued by these barriers but sadly there was, as usual, no time to ask any detailed questions. Mr Bruce Glockling assured us that if we haven’t had time to ask questions then we should email them and they would reply. So I sent off a polite and very simple question asking for more details about these proposed sound barriers. Of course I received no reply, so a week later I asked if he could acknowledge receipt of my email and of course got no reply. So now I have had to use the Southwark Council complaints procedure to try to get an answer and I still await the response. Of course it only leads me to speculate about the suitability of these temporary noise barriers if indeed they exist.
I will keep you informed if I hear any more news.

In the meantime Southwark are proposing yet another consultation next year. I wonder how tall the block will be by then. Oh joy!

The Red Derrick Crane in Odessa Street needs saving!

The Red Derrick Crane in Odessa Street needs saving!

The Red Scotch Derrick Crane in Odessa Street is now under threat from developers seemingly working with Southwark Council’s support. This old docklands crane is the last one remaining in Rotherhithe and was left standing as part of the London Docklands Development Corperation’s commitment to preserving some of the dockland heritage of the area. Rotherhithe was a major importer of Scandinavian Timber. The links with Scandinavia still exist with the Norwegian and Finnish Churches being based here. This rare crane was used to unload timber to nearby yards. It seems that Southwark Council has a policy to let these wonderful pieces of heritage go into dereliction and then state they are unsafe so that the land can be cleared to line the pockets of developers. The links between the developers and the council employees is uncomfortably close. http://betterelephant.org/blog/2013/04/09/report-uncovers-corruption-at-the-elephant/

The council has been running down South Dock Boat Yard for many years so that they can smother it with high rise tower blocks. All around there are signs of a basic lack of maintenance of the historic docklands artefacts presumably with a view for future demolition and profitable development.

The bridge over Greenland Dock entrance has fallen into disrepair. How long will it be before Southwark try to get it removed?

The bridge over Greenland Dock entrance has fallen into disrepair. How long will it be before Southwark try to get it removed?

There is a petition to help save the Red Scotch Derrick Crane at http://tinyurl.com/z8o8ofa, or via the full web address which is http://moderngov.southwark.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?ID=500000030&RPID=614088535&HPID=614088535.

If the petition gets more than 500 signatures, Southwark council have to respond.

Please sign it so they are forced to reconsider this act of vandalism and please forward this to anyone else that you might know who cares for the heritage of the area.

Another Vertue Spotted – Mea V89

August 1st, 2016 Alasdair

During my rather too short summer holiday whilst in West Mersea I spotted this fine Cheoy Lee built Vertue called Mea. Andrew, the friendly driver of the club launch, also pointed to another Vertue moored a few cables away but I can’t recall the name. Mea was built in 1959 of teak on ipol frames with a lead keel. In 1966 she was fitted with a Volvo MD1 diesel engine. I wonder if it is still chugging away! The boom is described as short, presumably because she has no bumkin. The Cheoy Lee Vertues do seem to last a long time, I expect this one will easily see out 100 years.

Vertue Mea V89

Vertue Mea V89

Mea V89

Mea V89

The Boat Yard is full to its brim. This area will be replaced with one of two massive tower blocks. In theory the boats will go underneath - how horrible!

The South Dock Boatyard is full to its brim. This area will be replaced with one of two massive tower blocks. In theory the boats will go underneath – how horrible!

 

Deptford - Rotherhithe Boundary Wall with the South Dock Boat Yard in the Background. All the trees will be replaced with a tower block if Southwark get their way.

Deptford – Rotherhithe Boundary Wall with the South Dock Boat Yard in the Background. All the trees will be replaced with a tower block if Southwark get their way.

Yesterday morning a “Headline Report” about South Dock Boat Yard landed on our doormat. It shows how after “consultation” with the local people Southwark Council have decided to make the tower blocks even taller. They are still claiming an increased boat yard space despite plonking 213 flats on top of it!  As Southwark Council appear to be totally ignoring the opinions of local boat owners, residents and those who work in the boatyard it was decided that we need professional help to fight against this horrendous development. A Crowdfunding Proposal was put forward to raise funds to hire a planning consultant and a planning lawyer. We needed around £7,500 and it was very quickly raised. There was a long feature article in the Times on Saturday 30th July about the success of the campaign.

The destruction of industry in London has become rife and industrial properties are being destroyed on a mammoth scale. Just within a 5 minute walk from South Dock about 100,000 square foot of industrial space has been demolished. Many of the buildings were quite recently built and in good condition. It is putting huge pressure on the few remaining industrial estates and no doubt industrial prices will be forced upwards. Jobs are being lost on a grand scale. With the future of London as a financial centre under threat we could end up in real trouble.

Southwark are now set on destroying the industry along the Old Kent Road. You can find out more on Facebook at Facebook.com/vital.okr. Southwark obviously make more money from luxury flats, many stand empty while their Far Eastern investors reap the profits.

It’s not just Southwark and Lewisham, other London boroughs don’t realise the importance of industry either. London’s last spectacle works is now under threat from housing.

http://spitalfieldslife.com/2016/07/31/save-the-algha-spectacle-works/

Please try to find a few moments to watch Mark’s excellent video about the importance of industry to London:

For more information on the South Dock Boat Yard development visit:

https://www.facebook.com/SouthDockandSurrounding

I will post more information on this blog as and when something occurs. It is essential this boatyard remains as a working yard for the sake of all the river users and local people of Rotherhithe and Deptford.

Vertue Spotted (Number V210)

May 28th, 2016 Alasdair
Cilix V208 moored in Troon

Cilix V208 moored in Troon

23rd May 2016
Just after we arrived in Troon Harbour a nice varnished boat arrived. It was a Vertue called Cilix. She was built in Holland in 1993 from green oak frames and iroko planking. Alan was the owner and he had sailed from her base on the River Fal in Cornwall. Alan will be sailing around the West Coast of Scotland over the summer. The boat has some lovely features including some bespoke bronzework.. She has a bumkin, slutter rig and deck stepped mast. Alan explained how he can unstep the mast by himself, or at least without a crane. Certainly something I can’t achieve with Sumara’s keel stepped mast.
Keep an eye open for her if you are sailing the Scottish Islands this summer.

Scottish Islands Peaks Race

May 27th, 2016 Alasdair
Sailing from Oban to Mull

Sailing from Oban to Mull

This is no normal race and it is well to remember that!

For sailors it is a demanding race which takes in some tricky tidal areas. Unusually for a race picking up the crew or dropping the anchor has to take place under sail.

Equally it is a demanding race for runners. Running up mountains over loose boulders and then across hummocked bog land back to the boats is not easy going.

However it is the combination of the two that turns this into a very challenging race.

Normally before I go for a sail, I take a look at the weather and work out the tides. I then decide the best time to go to catch the all important tidal gateway. I also prefer to sail during the day. Equally, before I enter a half marathon or suchlike I’ll make sure I get a good nights sleep and a decent breakfast with a large dollop of coffee inside me about an hour before the start. The start is generally at a civilised time, about 9 or 10 in the morning.

Well forget all that!

To be fair, the first race around the hills near Oban does start at a predictable noon but after that anything can happen.

Simon and I had a reasonable first run near Oban finishing in about 38 minutes. We then jumped in the little inflatable to row out to Brimble. Our prediction of a slackish tide was not to be correct and I had to row like stink to counter the current. Once clear of the moored boats we were picked up by Brimble and a few seconds later we were in a near collision with a navigational buoy and a catamaran bearing down on us while another yacht tried to squeeze between.

We then had a lovely sail to Salen. It is important to get to the first anchorage quickly because Scottish Power turn off the wind at about 6pm to save energy. Our runners, Grit, Simon and Rob, were landed and running by 5pm on Mull. This allowed them to reach the summit of Ben Mor before dark. The really fast fell runners can get there and back while it is light but that is crazy fast. Sadly the weather was awful and it poured with chilly rain. The summit was apparently freezing cold. Our poor runners managed to get back onboard by 0245 having made the wet descent in the dark. It was a tough 22 miles and they were glad to be back on Brimble for some nosh and a rest.

John and I sailed the good ship towards the Sound of Luing before waking the Mull Runners to take over the watch. Craftily we handed over our watch just as the tide was about to turn foul in the narrow straits. Feeling slightly smug we crawled into our bunks. Sadly our cunning plan backfired as the constant tacking meant I couldn’t get to sleep. We got up as the tide turned again and Jura gradually approached. As Craighouse neared the wind began to drop and we decided to enter the northern approach to the harbour. At this point the wind died completely and Simon, John and I got into the little Seago dinghy to row ashore. The problem was it was about a mile and a half to row. By the time we reached the check point at about midnight I was virtually asleep. We were greeted by “You know you are last – you had better take your Yellow Brick tracker on the Paps” which was a bit unnerving!

However, I would hate this to sound like a moan about the marshals who are basically the most generous kind helpful and wonderful people you can imagine. There is no way an event like this could exist without their dedicated help. As we were the last to start the run, they basically had to wait overnight in the Community Hall until we arrived back safely. And they had to wait over 8 hours!

It was my fault. I was basically too tired to even start the run yet alone complete it. Along the roads and tracks I could slowly jog along but I couldn’t conjure the energy to cope with the foot placement needed for the scree slopes. I was falling asleep as I ran and fell over at least twenty times.  I was wearing a heart monitor and ironically it only registered an average of 131 and a max of 157. My normal running heart rates average about 167 and peak around 190. I never really got going. It was such a shame as I had been looking forward to the Paps for a long time but I can’t say this was an enjoyable experience at all.

The one thing that kept me going was Rob had promised to make a big dahl curry for our breakfast and indeed he kept his word. We arrived back on the boat and tucked into a most wonderful creation. There were seconds too! Then I fell into deep sleep as the crew sailed Brimble towards the Mull of Kintyre.

Refreshed after a good snooze on a calm sea I got up just as the tide had turned ready to sweep us around the Mull at 9 kn. John managed to arrange for Wings to be playing at the moment of the rounding! In perfect conditions we sailed towards Arran only to be caught out in the traditional manner by Scottish Power once again turning off the wind in the evening. The good news was that the run would now take place in daylight!

Grit, John, Simon and Rob ran the route to Goat Fell in fine weather and they made it back in good time ready for the final sail. After a slow start the wind gradually built up and we were sailing at 4-5 kn towards the finish. Grit and Simon rowed ashore and ran to the finish. We all retired to Scotts for a few too many beers and a lovely meal.

It was a great pleasure to be part of the race and to sail on a fine ship with such lovely crew. Thanks everyone!

Check Point on Mull

Check Point on Mull

John doesn't like to get cold!

John doesn’t like to get cold!

The secret weapon - Beetroot Juice. Sadly it didn't work!

The secret weapon – Beetroot Juice. Sadly it didn’t work!

View from a Pap in the morning

View from a Pap in the morning

Rough under foot

Rough under foot

Passing the Mull of Kintyre

Passing the Mull of Kintyre

Rowing the boat when the wind dropped

Rowing the boat when the wind dropped

The Goat Fell Runners return

The Goat Fell Runners return

Simon collects the finishing certificates

Simon collects the finishing certificates