Monthly Archives: Aug 2018

At Least It Was Ours! 30th August

Cracks Hill to nearly Watford to Home Farm Footbridge 9

What to do with a day off? Go boating. Tilly however was allowed to dictate our departure and was let out as we had breakfast. She was told she had a couple of hours and returned only ten minutes late. We then got ourselves ready to move.

P1390251smWe passed my office bench from yesterday as we pulled away and pootled our way towards the bridge in Crick. As we pulled up one of the hooks we use to hang our fenders from the grab rail broke and the rope fender dropped below the surface. Mick tried his best with a boat hook, but had no luck in finding it.

Our supplies were running low so a shopping trip was needed. The Co-op supplied us with suitable groceries including a roast for tomorrow. How I’ve longed for a roast for months, but the heat hasn’t been suitable to have the oven on for long. Now with the cooler evenings it feels right again, just a shame there were no parsnips available (best to wait for the first frost anyway). We also called in at the Post Office to check another order of wool hadn’t arrived, they now know us by sight and the lady almost went to check before we said anything.

After lunch we pushed off to go to the water point. But very quickly we realised where our rope fender was! Around our prop! At least we knew what it was and that it was our prop not someone else’s. Oleanna was still steerable in forwards, reverse was very noisy. So we decided to carry on to the water point to sort it out, only to meet another boat in the bridge hole. We managed to avoid them without having to use reverse and pulled up at the services. Water filling, yellow water emptied, rubbish disposed of before Mick opened up the weedhatch. There was the offending fender still attached to the broken fender hook.

P1390266smBefore we headed off again we said hello to NB Blackbird, looking all smart in the pool in front of the ABNB office. Her details went on line this week and the photos look very smart. Link to her details here.

P1390267smP1390277smWith waterproof coats and life jackets donned we made our way through the tunnel passing one boat who must have entered at a similar time to us as we met at the halfway mark. Tilly had been warned that the outside lights would be going off, but she made such a noise shouting at the backdoors. Maybe we might have to get a plug in Feliway that we can turn on on days we’re going to do any tunnels and see if that calms her down any. She sat by the back doors shouting for sometime after the lights had gone back on again.

P1390288smWe pootled our way towards Watford, but didn’t join the three boats waiting to go down. Hazard tape seems to be zigzagging it’s way on the off side by the top lock, it looked more than just a paddle out of action. We winded in sight of the M1 and returned half a mile to moor up with views of the sheep across the cut and just out of ear shot of the motorway.

Tilly and I decided to go Blackberry picking. There’d not been sign of many towards the locks so we walked back towards Crick. There were crabapples but very few blackberries. I should have had a look at Cracks Hill this morning before we left as according to Jaq on NB Valerie she and Les once picked 14 pounds there. I didn’t want quite that many, enough to make a crumble would do.

P1390290smWe walked further and further along the towpath until a chap with a big rucksack came towards us. I thought Tilly would just bob into the sideways trees until he’d passed, but no. This man was now between me and her. He had a funny looking back I didn’t like the look of it. He would stop walking, wouldn’t he! No. He kept coming, slowly, so I kept walking away. The poor chap didn’t want to scare her and was worried she’d get lost. I reassured him that she was just making her way back home, so I followed all the way back to the boat where she hopped into the hedge.


P1390294smP1390295smWe managed to retrace our steps a little later, only to find a handful of berries.

DSCF7121sm0 locks, 3.77 miles, 1 tunnel with 0 mysterons, 1 wind, 1 load washing, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 1 lost fender, 1 found fender, 0 parcels, 1 table booked, 20 blackberries, 1 man, 2 walks.

An Opportune Moment. 27th 28th 29th August

Welford Junction to Cracks Hill

P1390132smOn Monday morning Mick offered to check the voltage on NB Pandas batteries. Lizzie had reported flickering lights and her heating the previous morning had needed the engine running before it would kick start, all suggesting not enough juice in her batteries in the mornings. The voltage wasn’t too bad once checked and Mick gave Lizzie a bit of advice on how to check the voltage in future.

P1390130smThe meanies wouldn’t let me give my opinion, let alone have a look in Pandas box. Panda has a different box to Oleanna, that is because she is a Trad, so her box has another box around it inside Panda. Because they wouldn’t let me look inside I made sure I checked out the box on the towpath. It wasn’t a good box, it was all in bits! After lunch Gary and Lizzie made their way back towards Crick leaving us with new neighbours very quickly filling the space they had left behind.

We are considering having stern stickers printed, that say ‘Please share our mooring ring’. The number of git gaps there have been since we’ve been here. It’s a popular mooring and despite there being plenty of space people were having to use spikes at either end because others hadn’t nudged up!

During the rest of the day I continued with my model, finishing it and taking a full set of photos. This is so that I can remember it in it’s full glory. The first quote to build the set had come in and some pruning is needed, sadly not with scissors, but hopefully the chain saw can stay locked away!

Tuesday and we needed water, so therefore started to head back towards Yelvertoft. Tilly took some convincing that she should stay in otherwise we’d be changing the outside with her in it and the new outside would be quite far away! As Mick stood at the helm  I stayed below and worked my way through the props for panto, doing sketches to illustrate the big auditorium scene. We paused for lunch and then carried on pootling our way to the water point at Yelvertoft.

P1390211smFor once nobody was there and there was plenty of space for us to pull in, leaving enough room for a second boat to moor without having to be on the very wavy armco. Just as the tank was full one of the permanent moorers returned, peering out of their side hatch as though we were in their space. For a short boat they seemed to want a lot of room to moor and as they came in it looked like they would catch our stern. Mick went out the back to check on things as I went to sort the hose. All was well and the dirty looks were taken back.

Now when I say all was well, it actually wasn’t! A certain young second mate saw an opportunity and went for it. Well they kept stopping the outside and tying it up. I liked the look of this one so as Tom had left the back hatch open I went to have a look. We were on a water point and our second mate was AWOL! Another boat had been filling with water, they hadn’t seen her. The people who’s mooring we weren’t on hadn’t seen her either, but a chap with a dog on a lead had. He very helpfully walked to the slight gap in the sideways trees and pointed to where Tilly had vanished.

The lady on the boat behind started calling ‘Here Puss Puss’ and the boat at the front started to look around. To me, after calling Tilly a couple of times there seemed little point in everyone making a fuss, she was less likely to come, especially with the helpful man and his dog around! I was about to make a work phone call and try to be really really interesting on the towpath (it usually works to get a cats attention) when the boat ahead shouted ‘She’s there!’ followed by ‘Grab her!’  This luckily wasn’t possible as she was behind a locked gate. I know my cat and had the chap attempted to grab her she would have jumped to just out of reach a couple of times before heading off into some nettles or brambles, I speak from experience!

Fortunately she found something with an interesting smell on our side of the sideways trees and was transfixed by it. I leaned over and just picked her up. Everyone was relieved, especially us as we could now move on to Cracks Hill. For a short time we had become Continuous Cruisers who had to wait for their cat before they could move on! Some people have to wait days! We do our best to avoid such instances and for this occasion we blame the stare we got from the side hatch of the boat coming in to moor. If it hadn’t been for that lady our stern hatch would have been closed. What is it with Yelvertoft Water Point and our second mates? Houdini managed to go walk about there too!

P1390238smOur place at Cracks Hill was taken, normally we’d have headed closer to the village but I needed to make a phone call and signal exists here. So we pulled as far back away from the winding hole as possible on the armco. Mick walked into the village for some supplies and to pick up a parcel from the Post Office whilst I tried and failed to make my call.

P1390213smThe yarn for my first Etsy custom order had arrived which means I will be spending my evenings knitting again.

P1390231smThis morning an arranged phone call to my Production Manager at 9:30 finally put an end to us playing telephone ping pong. The bench opposite Cracks Hill became my office as boats passed by, Tilly shouted at trees in the field below, Mick brought me a tea and the M1 droned away in the background. After our conversation I spent the remainder of the day flattening my design and blacking bits of set out with the hope that these alterations will bring us back into budget. Mick has pottered away the day, whilst Tilly has studied the life and habits of the local Water Voles.

DSCF7114sm0 locks, 9.65 miles, 2 more git gaps, 12.5 volts, 1 full water tank, 1 awol cat, 7 person search party, 0 understanding of ‘Here Puss Puss’, 0 grabbing, 1 picking up, 10 minutes delay, 2 pings, 4 pongs, 9:30 sharp, 1 damp office chair, 1 tea boy, 2 flat gods, 9 hours, 1 stove lit, 3 balls of yarn, 1 day off tomorrow.

At The Junction. 24th, 25th, 26th August

Welford Junction
Boats have come, boats have gone, but we have stayed put. Here is a good place for Tilly to keep out of mischief inside and make plenty of it out on the towpath. This means that in the most part I can get on with my work.
P1390001smOn Friday the chap behind us was slow to get started with his gunnels, it was after midday when I could hear him starting to sand them down. But this didn’t last long and an hour later he was untying and pushing off returning to his home mooring. His heart obviously wasn’t into it and the weather forecast for over the weekend wasn’t really conducive to paint drying. By the evening the temperature outside had dropped and we were feeling quite chilly, so there was only one thing for it but to light the stove. We think this is the first time we’ve done this in August, but it was definitely needed. Once the vents on the stove had remembered that they maybe should move to control the air flow the boat warmed up a treat and we had a cosy evening.
P1390010smBy Saturday my legs were in need of a good stretch. Sitting at our dinette table for days on end seems to encourage my knees to go stiff, so instead of a full days work we decided to walk up to Welford to get a newspaper.
P1390020smWe could have walked up the arm and back, the shortest route, but instead decided to walk along the canal a couple of bridges in the direction of Crick and then walk over the rolling hills to the village. This route took us alongside fields of corn, some looking like it was nearly ready to harvest, others still on the small side. We were tempted to pick some but the last time we did this it was animal feed corn and ended up in the bin after one mouth full, no sweet kernels there! As we walked light aircraft were hauling up gliders to find the thermals from Husbands Bosworth airfield. Only two planes doing the work today (we’ve seen three in the past) but they were kept busy hitching up the next glider as soon as they landed.
P1390028smOnce through the fields we joined Halls Lane, a concrete surfaced road, which dipped down the hills and rose to the next one in turn all the way to the village. Here we had a look around at St Mary’s church. A fairly average village church but with a very big organ. The pipes were beautifully painted and upstaged everything else there was to see.
P1390036smP1390043smSpringfields supplied us with a few more bits and bobs to keep us going before we return to Crick in a few days. They also had a copy of our Saturday newspaper so our extended walk was worth it.
At Welford Wharf today there was a trading boat NB Pea Green. We’ve followed each other for getting on for a year on Instagram. Kay has family ties to Pershore where we were a few months ago and has followed us up the Ashby recently. Three weeks ago I spotted her as she passed us at Newbold, but didn’t get the chance to say hello. Today I’d promised to call by and introduce myself, which I did and had a long chat about cats, history and all sorts. Kay sells lots of hand painted canal ware from drinks coasters to personalised Buckby cans.
P1390053smAfter quite a chat we headed back to Oleanna managing to shelter from some quite heavy showers under the trees by the little basin. We nearly stopped to offer a hand to a boat at the lock, but they were making such a meal out of it we decided to carry on our way. As we came to the junction we could see that we’d been joined by other boats. Behind Oleanna was a familiar looking one, NB Panda.
P1390056smLizzie and Gary were out for the weekend and had stopped for lunch with some friends who’d walked up from Husbands Bosworth to meet them. After introductions and a cuppa we left them to to carry on to Foxton for the night and I got on with more painting of my model.
P1390115smP1390119smThe forecast for Sunday was rain, rain and even more rain! We hadn’t planned on going anywhere and fairly soon the stove was lit to keep the chill out. Tilly came and went, she seems to be growing up and not spending all day out in the rain, she came back every now and then to have a bit of a dry off and a snooze in front of the fire. By lunchtime we had our neighbours back again. Lizzie and Gary had braved the elements and got quite wet returning to the junction. They were glad that they’d only planned on cruising so far as the wind had got up too.
P1390126smI know Lizzie from way back when, we first met when she applied for a Scenic Artist job at Watford Palace Theatre, I was one of three people on the interview panel. We then painted quite a few shows together including a couple of Pantos. So naturally she was interested to see what I’ve been up to. I refrained from showing her the whole model as they may come and see the show. I was given one note, ‘Where’s the glitter?’ this meant I had to show her some of Act 2, I’d been saving it!
P1390124sm0 locks, 0 miles, 1 circular rainbow, 4.62 miles walked for a paper, 1 church, 1  instagramer, 3 whole days! 1 very wet day, 2 visits from Panda, 3 more hours of painting to do, 1 stove lit twice, 2 git gaps !

Sunny Border 23rd August

Welford Basin to Welford Junction

A sign in the grass close to our bow warned of a wasps nest. I’d not managed to stir the black and yellow critters when we moored yesterday, but when it became the only space left a boat that pulled in did. They nestled their bow behind ours so as not to have to tie their bow rope, but the buzzing started. We were glad to not be that boat, yet slept with all the windows closed, hoping they would leave us alone.

Some fresh veg was needed, so we decided to have a walk into the village making a detour en route.

P1380890smTaking a road to the left we headed up to look at the reservoirs that feed the summit pound of the Grand Union. Welford and Sulby Reservoirs sit side by side with a damn in between them that you can walk across.

P1380885smP1380884smThe Welford side showed signs of the drought, the fishing pegs high above the water line, weed covered trees exposed to the sunlight. I’ve seen photos of the reservoirs up near Huddersfield recently and they are far far lower.

P1380899smP1380896smThe Sulby side was down by a few feet, not reaching the weir between the two.

In the centre of the damn is a paddle mechanism that runs thorough several universal joints down to a sluice between the two lakes. The spindle wasn’t a standard C&RT one but someone has noted which way it should be turned to close it.

Village earth worksP1380949smWe walked across the damn and on across the fields to look at Old Sulby a medieval village mentioned in the Doomsday survey as having 13 householders. Not much can be seen other than uneven ground on the rolling hills. Google earth shows the earth works more clearly.

P1380904smThe village may not have been very visible but the signs of drought were very very obvious in the field leading to it. The crop of some sort of beans has been left to die, dry out, or sprayed with killer, but we suspect the former.

P1380954smThe thin blackened stems and black pods look like they have had a flame thrower passed over the whole field. The occasional sprout of a previous crop the only sign of green in the whole field. As we walked the path deep wide cracks in the earth showed just how dry the land has become, even after the recent rain they still show. It’s going to take quite some time for the fields to return to normal.

P1380924smOn the edge of the desolate apocalyptic field we could see a green border highlighted with yellow. The bean crop was dead but around it a swath of sunflowers had been loving the heat and sunshine. After the depressing sight of the field this sunny border brightened up the landscape.


P1380944smP1380952smThe flowers were in differing states. Some new bright and sunny, being loved by bumble bees. Some fading loosing their petals. Others drying out with heavy heads. Others starting to discard their seeds to the dry earth below.

P1380970smAfter picking up some fresh veg and stocking up on milk we decided to have an early lunch then move up to the water tap to fill the tank after doing a load of washing. We then winded and headed back down the lock and arm to find a space at the moorings at the junction. Several boats were already moored up, it’s a favourite spot to do maintenance jobs. The chap behind us is here to paint his gunnels, the hard low edge makes it an ideal place. If I didn’t have work to do I’d be doing exactly the same, but Oleanna will have to wait a while longer before she gets some much needed TLC on the painting front.

DSCF7114sm1 lock, 1.83 miles, 1 wind, 1 left, 1 bees nest avoided, 1 wet night, 2 reservoirs, 1 flummoxed Fountains man, 1 dead field, 352 sunny sunflowers, 1 head of broccoli, 2 pints milk, 4 rashers bacon, 1 pot taramosalata, 1 full water tank, 1 load washing, 3 woofers, 2 hinges, 1 floor, 2 sets of treads, 1 sun.

Faulty Outside Lights. 22nd August

Bridge 60 to Welford Basin

There is a fault!

I’m not sure whether it’s a fault with Tom, our boat or just the outside. It happened the other day too.

They pushed the outside away this morning, they’d had enough of it. I would have liked it for a few more days, but no, it got pushed away. They tied up another for a while whilst they filled the big box at the front with water. Then that one got pushed away, turned around and then moved.

Today she was inside with me, putting colour all over bits of intricate card. I offered to help but she was reluctant, she said my paws were too big for the job. My paws are far smaller than hers, so it didn’t make sense. I left her to it and went to sleep on the bed, I can stretch out during the day.

This is when the fault/malfunction happened. All of a sudden the outside lights went out. Completely out! They have a tendency to flicker on and off every now and then, but they reassure me that this is only normal as the outside gets moved. Have to say it’s very alarming when I’m outside and it happens. But this was different.

P1380839smP1380842smShe had the inside lights on where she was, but outside there was none. The inside looked like it was outside! No matter which window I looked at the inside was outside! But it was still inside too!! There were loads of insides everywhere! Argh!! It happened the other day and a couple of times the other week. All she did was sit there! I had to do something so shouted to the outside to turn the lights back on, but it couldn’t hear me. I shouted and shouted and still it ignored me. Maybe it wasn’t the lights, maybe Tom had lost the outside! I shouted at him and all he kept saying was ’That way out’, What’s that meant to mean? Was the outside that way? Maybe we were going to have to evacuate this outside that wasn’t there.

She tried to get me interested in her little things. How could she not be worried about what was going on!!! There were at least three of her!

Then as if nothing had happened the lights came back on. The insides all disappeared, well apart the one that should be there.

I shall be logging my fault report with C&RT, there is obviously something wrong.

P1380850smDSCF7121sm1 lock, 8.9 miles, 1 wind, 1 tunnel, 1 left, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 2 sheep, 1 bees nest, 3 hours shore leave reduced for H&S reasons, 1 malfunctioning outside! Is anybody listening to me?!

Cross Words And Chaos At The Locks. 21st August


Sitting with the side hatch open you can hear things going on for quite a distance. This morning we gradually could hear what sounded like a heated debate, or argument going on in strong Welsh accents. Not too sure what it was all about but she certainly wasn’t happy with him. As their boat got closer the engine noise got louder and so did the argument. A hire boat. Living in a confined space isn’t for everyone, this was going to be a jolly holiday for them! As the boat passed by they continued bickering, we made a mental note not to moor anywhere near them if we came across them again. Then we noticed that the couple were not alone. Sat by the tiller was another couple who looked very much like they wanted the boat to capsize and for the canal to swallow them up. Doubt they will be going on any further holidays with their friends!

P1380824smMore work for me, more towpath time for Tilly and more cricket to listen to for Mick. England however weren’t doing so well so by mid morning Mick headed off down to the locks to watch what was going on, he’s becoming a regular gongoozler.

Foxton is a flight of narrow locks, made up of two staircase locks with five chambers each. Because the locks are narrow only one way traffic is possible through the staircases. At the mid point there is a short pound where one boat can be passed by others. Some of the Lock Keepers make use of the passing place whilst others prefer not to. When you arrive at the locks the first thing you have to do is go and find the Lock Keeper with the book to check in. You are then normally told whether to start to come down, where you are in the queue or to put the kettle on and have lunch as there is a long wait. We’ve been up and down the flight several times in the past, we have had the whole flight to ourselves and had to queue setting off down the flight in the middle of a group of three boats.

P1020539smThe locks are easy to use as long as you remember the rhyme,

Red before white and you’ll be alright. White before red and you’ll be dead!

At the mid point the red and white paddles are at different sides of the short pound, it takes a little bit of time to walk from one to the other, but it stops a lock full of water being wasted and going straight down the bywash. Mick watched as one boat came down, he stopped them from lifting the wrong paddle first, pointing out a sign on the lock beam, the crew went off to check with one of the lock keepers, Mick had been correct and the paddles were done in the correct order.

Then all chaos!

One boat had come up and was waiting in the middle passing place, three more were making their way down the top flight. A boat was spotted in the second chamber from the bottom heading up. How had they got there? Why were they there? Who had told them they could start to come up? With two boats pointing downhill in the top five locks, one boat at the top of the bottom five pointing downhill and one in the passing place there was nowhere for anyone to go. If they carried on up the flight there would have been four boats in the middle pound before anyone could carry on and it is only just big enough for two boats to pass each other. Something had gone wrong somewhere!

P1020543smThe Lock Keepers came and sorted it out. The boat coming up had to reverse down the bottom two locks to clear the way for the three coming down hill, once these were all out of the way they could start the flight for a second time. The boat in the passing place, once the top five chambers were clear could start heading up again. We are fairly sure that we know the boat that was in the way and they will have done Foxton many times as they moor in the area. So was it just a misunderstanding? Had they been told one thing when another had been meant? Was one of the five Lock Keepers having a laugh? Who knows. But what I do know is that it kept Mick occupied for much of the morning and some of the afternoon which meant we had quite a late lunch.

The sun had come out and the cricket seemed to have improved whilst Mick had been watching boats, but then England started to loose wickets again!

0 locks, 0 miles, 3 down, 2 up, 1 a bit too early, 1 base colour, 11 hours! 1 cat too tired to eat, 1 wicket left.

Birthday Boy. 19th 20th August


The London Leckenbys had planned on having a few days in the Lake District to celebrate Josh’s 12th birthday. Their original plan had been to camp high up and do some walking from one of the passes, but the weather forecast put paid to that so they had booked themselves into a campsite in Buttermere. Andrew and I have many a happy memory of staying at The Bridge each Easter when we were young with a group of family friends. From the hotel long walks would be planned. However the weather this hot dry summer meant that the furthest they got to walk was from the campsite to the pub, due to low cloud and heavy rain! So on Saturday they had broken camp and headed to explore Liverpool instead.

IMG_20180818_180632I got them to count how many boats were on the visitor moorings in Salthouse Dock. They counted nine narrowboats. These boats must have been there since the breach occurred in early June near bridge 10 which cut Liverpool off from the rest of the network. There have been at least two crossings of the Mersey by several boats to reach the Ship Canal and Ellesmere Port to escape the docks. We reckon we’d have crossed the Mersey by now after managing to see everything in Liverpool if we’d been stuck.

So on Sunday the London Leckenbys came to join us for the night. Their arrival was held up by traffic and a slight misunderstanding between driver and navigator as to our location, they ended up at the big roundabout off the M1 near Crick! But in the end they managed to join us.

P1380778smP1380784smWe had a walk down the locks just as the Lockies were locking up the flight for the day. They were sorting levels out and letting a lot of water flow between side ponds, presumably carrying on down towards Leicester to help with the levels there.

P1380780smOur walk back up the hill brought us up past the inclinded plane. A handy model shows you what the site would have looked like in 1900. Josh had been sort of listening until now, being polite. Now he was intrigued as they all were. We explained how it all worked, like two bath tubs that you drove your boat into, one would go down hill as the other went up all with the assistance of an engine. A nice walk which turned out to be the furthest they had managed to walk over their time away.

P1380791smBirthday presents followed, I actually got to give Josh his birthday presents for the first time since his first birthday, they have usually been abroad.

P1380795smThis was followed by his favourite food Lasagne which I’d made yesterday. All rounded off with birthday cake, what a lot of chocolate!

P1380798smIt looked like Josh had a good evening and he didn’t once get his tablet out to play any games.

P1380804smP1380806smP1380807smThey all seemed to be having a good time, what about me?! Those London people are all noisy and take up far too much space. There’s no sofa to snooze on after a hard days playing with friends and my dingding was stranded by them. I was hungry and stuck in the bedroom!

P1380811smMonday morning all the beds were put away and Tilly (much to my relief) was allowed out. I did wonder if we’d ever see her again! After breakfast the car was packed and we said our goodbyes until next time. It was lovely having them to visit and catch up on everyone’s news. As soon as their car drove off, quiet returned to our lives. One call for Tilly and she came running from a long way down the towpath. Normality had returned.

P1380813smMy model and paints that had been packed away were brought out again and I started to carry on painting. Mick decided to go and gongoozle at the locks leaving me to it.

P1380823smJust as I was morphing an Amstrong Sidley and a Jaguar car together (as you do) a green boat came past, NB Alchemy. Mike quickly stopped and we managed to have quite a chat, at last we had got to meet. Last week we had just missed each other and our paths have almost crossed several times over the last year. The last couple of months I haven’t managed to keep up with all the blogs I normally follow. Lots of people have been down on the River Nene and Middle Levels this summer, so being busy I have left them all for a major catch up sometime when I have more time. Mike handily puts where they moor as his title so I’d known that they were nearby.

P1380818smAn approaching boat cut our conversation short just as it started to rain.

0 locks, 0 miles, 10 locks looked at, 1 inclined plane, 9 boats left for 10 weeks, 10 weeks free electric, 12 years old, 3 presents, 2 cards, 1 big lasagne, 2 boxes of green sheets, 3 bottles of wine, 1/3rd cake eaten, 2 many people on my boat, 2 much noise! 2 whole days of towpath frolics, 1 empress car, 1 grubberie, 1 blogger met at last.