Monthly Archives: Nov 2018

Is That A Badger? 28th November

Somerton Meadows

P1430948smThis morning Mick stopped in his tracks looking out of the galley window and said ‘Is that a badger?’. I looked, it was a suitable size, but the markings didn’t look quite right, it was a touch too brown. Whatever it was was having a good rootle around, hopefully Tilly was alright. Then the creatures head popped up from behind the grass. Not a badger at all, just a German Shorthaired Pointer (I think).

P1440006smToday we have spent much of the day avoiding the wind and rain. The forecast had suggested that it would be worse than it seemed, but we still hunkered down. Tilly has spent much of the day coming and going, bringing more and more mud indoors and demanding Dreamies on each visit. Well I was told 6 hours and that she wanted to see me at least six times. So I made sure I came home six times in the first hour to get ‘Thank you for coming home’ Dreamies, then I could go off for a long time. Although I’m a little bit concerned as I could see the bottom of the Dreamie pot! Does this mean that my trips into the great outside will end when the pot is empty?! Maybe I’ll stay in for a while and save the last few.

Arrangements with the London Leckenbys for a family Christmas get together  were sorted and some Christmas shopping done via the internet.

P1430952smP1440005smI then added some decorations for sale to my Etsy shop, yes I know it’s not yet December.

P1430843smI’m working my way through my orders for knitted things much quicker than I thought, so if you’d like anything making, get in touch.

P1440012smSome Parsnip and Apple soup was put on the stove to cook away this morning. It was very tasty for lunch and will be for a couple more days too. Then this afternoon I got round to trying out my friends recipe for Beetroot Brownies. I altered the recipe to use gluten free flour and as we don’t have a microwave I cooked the beetroot on the stove for about 40 minutes until they were tender. This however meant I had to let them cool down before I could peel them, so they didn’t melt the chocolate as suggested in the recipe. But my zuzzer certainly chopped everything up and the end result was very tasty indeed. So we now have pudding to last us a few days.

P1440021smThoughts turned to next year and where we plan to cruise. We are undecided at the moment. The River Nene followed by the Middle Levels. Or The Kennet and Avon and the Thames up to Lechlade. Both options would mean a lot of new water for all of us and a gold licence.

When we bought Lillian (NB Lillyanne) we picked her up from Woodford Riverside Marina on the Nene. Her Environment Agency Licence had just expired so we felt under pressure to reach C&RT waters, we also only had a week to move her before having to be back at work. On a Saturday in April 2014 we sailed her away from what had been her home and cruised all the day light hours we could to reach Crick Marina. This experience of the Nene wasn’t the best, even though it was very exciting to be moving our first very own narrowboat. Finding moorings was hard with the limited info we had on hand, especially as we were pushing day light hours, the occasional lock landing did get tied to!

So to help us make our minds up which way to head we sat down to watch a DVD that we’d got from Paul, the Waterway Routes DVD of The River Nene. The popular footage DVD picks out highlights of the route from the bottom of the Northampton flight all the way through Peterborough and to the Dog in Doublet Lock. With commentary by Paul it is much like a TV programme, reminiscent of railway journeys. We also had a copy of the Bowcam version. This is a speeded up view of the whole journey. If you enjoyed the All Aboard! Canal Trip of the Kennet and Avon shown on BBC 4 a few years ago, this is very similar, just a lot quicker! Our DVD player can also do double speed with sound, this was very very amusing, the crew working exceptionally hard to get through all the locks.

We enjoyed watching the route we’d done on Lillian and paused the footage when the boat passed Woodford Riverside, only a glimpse on a bend. Certainly we think the river would be worth another visit, the churches look very picturesque standing high above the river. We’d be able to take our time, have much better maps, know about the Friends of the River Nene and their moorings and Sue from No Problem has also done a guide. But which way we go next summer is still undecided.

0 locks, 0 miles, 0 bridges, 1 storm, 0 badgers, 2 dogs, 1 C&RT boat, 1 boat seeking shelter, 6 portions of soup, 8 puddings worth of brownies (4 each that is), 1 wrist warmer nearing completion, 1 boat roof cleared, 1 stormy night ahead.

Perfect Or Bad Timing. 27th November

Muddy Slipper to Somerton Meadow

We were up at normal time and wanting to be making a move. Somerton Meadows was only two and a half hours away according to Waterways Routes and that is where we wanted to be able to hunker down for the strong winds and rain that were going to arrive this afternoon. Our aim was to reach there before lunchtime and be all settled before the elements took over.

P1430929smComing into Lower Heyford we decided that we’d give over a proportion of our lives and fill with water. Slowing past the moored boats we could see a boat coming through the bridge towards us, an unusual sight at the moment. It soon became obvious that it was NB Dusty the local coal boat, Katy Jock and Billy were all at the back having a chat to someone waiting for us to clear the way ahead for them. It looked like they were stocked up with coal, hopefully diesel too.

P1430934smStoppages on the Oxford have meant that they haven’t been able to do their normal runs down to Oxford and up to Fenny Compton for a few weeks. But they had decided to do a mini run to stock up boats in between the stoppages near their home mooring. They were just making their way back from Aynho where they’d stocked up, perfect timing for us. They had diesel and were happy to pull over to fill our tank having a chat as it filled. If we’d have thought about it we’d have pulled up closer to the water point and got the tap dribbling into Oleanna’s  tank whilst we did this, but hey.

P1430936smAs they pulled away from us it started to rain, only a drizzly bit, but this wasn’t meant to happen until 2pm! We pulled forward and started the tap, Mick walked up to the recycling bins and then onto the shop at the hire base to see if they had some eggs. We hadn’t calculated how many we’d need for kedgeree and a spot of baking. Luckily Mick returned with some so I can try out a Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil recipe I’ve been wanting to have a go at for sometime, photos tomorrow if it turns out well.

P1430943smP1430945smBy now the rain had started in earnest, but being very close to the railway we decided to get wet and push on to Somerton. Both a bit soggy around the edges we worked our way through the lift bridge and up two more locks, pausing to close the offside cratch cover in the last one. I then left Mick to battle on whilst I went inside to heat up some soup for lunch. By 13:40 we were pulling in at the meadows, the rain (which started early) now being joined by the gusting wind. Luckily this helped push Oleanna into the side, easing mooring.

The remainder of the day we hunkered down listening to the gales and sideways rain as Tilly made the most of being allowed out, returning to leave her muddy paw prints over everything!

DSCF7114sm3 locks, 4.77 miles, 1 boat moving, 6 bags excell, 90 litres diesel, 1 full tank, 6 eggs, 2 early to rain, spot on to moor, 1 blustery soggy day, 0 cows that way, 0 cow the other way, 4 muddy paws.

Are We The Only Ones Moving? 26th November

Shipton bridge to Muddy Slipper

Neither of us slept well last night which of course meant that we both managed to sleep in! A lie in was most probably needed but it hadn’t been the plan. We rarely set an alarm as we both seem to naturally wake at a reasonable time, but today we’d planned to get a good cruising day under our belts before the weather deteriorates. So that extra hour in bed put the scuppers on that, we’d not be able to reach our chosen mooring in day light.

P1430869smP1430874smWe did manage to push off a little after 11am. The sun was out but it was still really quite chilly, padded trousers needed. As we pulled in at Shipton Weir Lock a walker said we were lucky as they’d only just opened the lock. This slightly confused us as we’d received the notice saying it had opened earlier than planned last week, maybe they had been working on the lock again this morning. But no, the walker was referring to the stoppage that we’d known about.

P1430877smThe netting to one side of the lock was still there, where something underground is having some attention. It was like this when I last came through over a month ago. Maybe this is the part of the works that has been put on the shelf until they have dealt with Dukes Lock, meaning the closure didn’t need to be quite so long. The only evidence in the lock itself that work had been carried out was huge new pieces of timber which help to seal the gates, they certainly sealed better today.

P1430888smNow on the river section Mick opened up Oleanna’s throttle. Narrowboats chug along canals, but every now and then what they really want is a bit of a zoom, their engines would love to run like this more of the time, but depths, bank erosion and other boats limit the speed you can do on canals (along with the speed limit). Out on the river the depth is greater so a few minutes for Oleanna to blow away her cobwebs as Mick moved the tiller to get her round the bends as they came along far quicker than normal.

Up Bakers Lock we curved round Gibraltar. As we approached Enslow Bridge and Railway Bridge we thought a boat was coming towards us. The two bridges are quite close together and it looked like they were closest, so Mick held back allowing them space to manoeuvre. But they seemed to be doing the same. We waited patiently and still they waited too. My camera came out and zoomed in to see what was happening, maybe they were mooring up? It turned out that they were already moored up and it was just a trick of the light and reflections that made it look like they were away from the bank. We were the only boat moving.

At Pigeon Lock a delivery from a builders merchants arrived for the mill, which is having a fortune spent on it, carefully crossing over the canal bridge it soon stopped. The roadway looked a touch narrow for it to make it to the house, maybe it’s load was going to have to be craned off at the side of the lock and then wheelbarrowed through the gates.

P1430903smJane’s Enchanted Tea Gardens looked a touch more sorted today as we passed. Only white doves were at home and all bar one of the Morris Minor cars were out of view. The one we could see was possibly the smallest one on site. Sitting on the roof of NB Flower was a Sylvanian Family of rabbits in their Morris Shooting brake pulling along a caravan, hope they have a roof to pull up tomorrow!

We pootled on along through the woods with the River Cherwell and railway line hugging the canal and then veering away. An oak leaf carpet under my feet at each lock.

P1430915smIt was rather chilly so we decided to pull in at the Muddy Slipper mooring. The branch Mick had planted in the hole no longer visible, so we both carefully waited until we were sure of our footing before stepping off Oleanna. The branch had been chopped back by a passing strimmer, it was still there just far far shorter!

Tilly headed out for a couple of hours to worry the local pheasants. We could tell she liked it here as she was gone for ages before deciding to come home for a snack.

Tomorrow we’ll do our best to be away earlier and be moored up before the forecast rain and wind hits at 2pm, maybe we’ll set an alarm.

DSCF7114sm4 locks, 5.41 miles, 1 hour too long in bed, 1 snoring cat, 1 zoomy Oleanna, 1 stationary boat, 4 wheels too wide, 1 mini car and caravan, 1 sock completed, 5 stupid birds, 6 holes, 1 tree I like it here.

The Back Steps Have Got A Bit Higher. 25th November

Thrupp to Shipton Bridge 220

I was a very lucky cat today the shopping arrived half an hour early! Well I’d actually arranged this whilst they were out yesterday. However when a big orange van turns up I always get shut in the bedroom. This is so unfair as I could help direct him to us and not get in the way at all! But no I get closed in.

Today it took ages for the man to get to us. He and Tom chatted for ages and ages before he even got hold of any of the big trays. Eventually Tom carried over the first few and I could hear her putting things away. She’d had a good sweep round this morning, getting rid of lots of stuff to make room for all the things they had ordered.

Once the trays were empty and the man had gone I was allowed back out. Running around shouting always works when I want them to do things faster, so they were soon ready to move the outside again.

P1430856smFirst I had to inspect where she’d put everything. Apart from my pooh box stuff (they use it now too in their pooh bucket!) it all seemed to have been put under the back steps, I think they are a little bit higher than normal now. She wants me to point out to you all that there are far more things than just wine down there. Infact quite a bit of it looks to be for my dingding.

P1430849smThey were soon wearing their coats and ready to move the outside again. I sat in the window and made sure they untied this outside and let it go, it’s not a very good one and I was hoping another one would come by and be much better. She walked off with the key of power leaving Tom to push the outside away.

The key of power had a problem with the bridge. It only opened it up by three paws worth, nowhere near enough for Oleanna to get through. So she shut it waited a minute and tried again. It worked this time and Tom was soon bringing the outside near again. This one looked quite good, a bench for me to leave my scent on, a wall with sideways trees up it to climb. However they filled up the tank at the front until it boomed, left lots of rubbish and emptied the yellow water too. Oleanna seemed to be a bit more level now, she’d got a bit bottom heavy after the shopping had arrived!

P1430853smP1430862smThey then moved the outside again, not far, but apparently just far enough. Shore leave! At last!!

P1430848smExcept this outside had a lot of people walking in it. They kept scaring any potential friends away. So in the end I gave up and came back inside to sit by the fire. She’ll join me in a bit with her woolly things that I’m apparently too old to play with now as I’m a grown up cat. Growing up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

DSCF7114sm0 locks, 0.49 miles, 1 lift bridge, 3 paws high, 1 Oleanna high, 6 trays, 6 boxes of wine, 2 boxes dingding, 1 bag dingding, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 0 rubbish, 20 minutes instead of 60 taken, 40 on account.

Here’s one I Poohed In Yesterday. 24th November

Caution This Is A Toilet Post!


P1430831smToday we have been on a bus trip. The S4 picked us up from Thrupp Turn, a short walk away, winding it’s way around villagers taking us to Banbury. I picked up a parcel from the Post Office, more wool and handed over another with finished woolly things inside. M&S supplied us with lunch before we headed to Tooleys Boatyard.

P1430834smKate Saffin and Colin Ives were running a workshop on composting toilets this afternoon. Recently on a facebook group Composting Toilets for Boats and Off-Grid Living Mick had made a comment about the installation of our set up. We have a Separett Villa which doesn’t come with a collection tank for your yellow water, we had one built in under the floor and have a pump to empty it. Kate asked if Mick could write something to add to the files on the groups page and then invited us to join in at the workshop. As it was a free event we decided to go along and see if we could learn anymore about waterless toilets.

Kate Saffin (Alarum Theatre Company and doyen of waterless toilets) talked everyone through the basics of how a composting toilet works. The name ‘Composting Toilet’ is a bit of a misnomer. In the early days of boaters buying into this type of toilet the companies selling them suggested that the contents would compost, some saying within 6 weeks, the contents of the solids buckets could then be used as compost. This was never the case. If you are a vegan your deposits might be composted down after 4-6 months, a meat eater 12 months. No matter what diet you have all the bugs in the solids will have died off within 100 days.

We were talked through the differing types of waterless toilets, how people tend to use them. Kate had brought with her her three buckets. A single lady living on her own she tends to have a bucket in use, one stored away doing its secondary composting and a third either empty waiting to be used or fully composted down ready to be returned to the earth. Today she showed us a new bucket which she was preparing for use (wood cat litter pellets are her preferred base layer), a bucket that had been on her roof doing it’s stuff about eight months old and her third bucket which she had finished using yesterday. My out of focus photo is of her 8 month bucket and the one she’d been using for the last four months. The photo isn’t out of focus due to aroma as there was absolutely none.


Conversations were had about what cover to use in your buckets, whether to leave toilet paper in the mix, any concerns about being on medication, just about every question you could possibly think of was covered by the workshop.

Colin of Kildwick and The Little House Company started about four years ago, building himself and family a composting toilet to use on their boat. A family of four quickly filled up their cassette toilet and walking up a steep hill to the elsan was becoming a very regular thing. Colin designed and built his first toilet and then looked at how to improve it with a better separator etc. Other boaters asked if he’d make them one too. Over the years Kildwick has expanded and now they have difficulty keeping up with the demand. The Little House Company are now the UK stockists for Separett Toilets.

IMG_20181124_152907smThere were several of Colin’s toilets to have a look at, including one with, what has become known as, a glitter shitter. This is a separator that is glittered and has become very popular. I think that if we’d been aware of Kildwick when Oleanna was being built we’d most probably have gone with one of their toilets. Having said that we are very happy with our toilet and would never go back to a pump out. Having been in a house for almost a month doing panto, I was appalled at the amount of water being wasted everytime I flushed.

IMG_20181124_152807smIMG_20181124_172247smWe were already converts and our approach is very standard. However we seem to fill our solids bucket a little bit too quickly. Colin and Kate recon that we might be using a bit too much cover material, so we will try a bit less in future. We’d also been wanting to see options that people use for the secondary composting stage on boats. If we had a home mooring we’d be able to carry on the composting process on land, but we don’t. We came away with a few more ideas which need thinking about a touch more before we go for it. A very interesting afternoon.

By the time we got back to the boat we wanted something to eat so headed over to The Boat. The menu seemed to have changed since we last visited, but the chips were still not as good as they could be and most of our food wasn’t that hot. I say most, as my BBQ chicken bacon and cheese pot was bubbling away, but our peas were decidedly cold. Next time we’re in Thrupp we’ll try the Jolly Boatman instead.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 buses, 2 parcels exchanged, 3 balls of yarn, 2 jacket potatoes, 2 cups of tea, 1st visit to Tooleys, 2 poo experts, 3 toilets, 3 buckets, 8 months old pooh, 4 months old pooh, yesterdays pooh, 1 glitter shitter, 1 gammon, 1 cheese pot, 1 pint, 1 glass wine, 1 very very  very very bored cat!

So Close, Yet Miles Away. 23rd November

Kidlington Green Lock to Thrupp

We’d hoped to be able to find a handy sneak through to the main road in Kidlington by the lock. A big Sainsburys sits within half a mile (as the crow flies) from our mooring and we’d hoped to be able to do a big shop as well as have transport links. Mick had a walk  around and could only find paths that led to locked gates from the lock. Following the canal northwards you can cross at Yarnton Road Bridge and then wiggle your way around the houses. This route however was more than a mile and a half away, not close enough for a big shop. So we decided to move on.

P1430778smThe two work boats moored in front of us were on the move this morning, heading down to Dukes Lock to start work on Monday. We moved off ourselves after our breakfast and made our way up the lock. Not far to Thrupp today where we hoped there would be space for us between the permanent moorings and the winter moorers.

P1430784smUp high in a tree sat a bird of prey quite well hidden by it’s nest, it’s squawking gave away it’s location as we passed. Not sure what it was, maybe a Red Kite.

After Roundham Lock we pulled in near the water point at Langford Lane so that I could head up to the handy Co-op for a few bits and bobs. Then we carried onwards to Thrupp. A gap ideally positioned opposite a house for sale was waiting for us. This would mean we could get a delivery and spent much of the rest of the day thinking of things we wanted to buy. Possibly the biggest shop we’ve done, but then prices have gone up since we first started shopping this way and it is very convenient. Over the next week we will only see the occasional place to buy the odd thing, so we needed to stock up.

P1430803smDuring the afternoon and evening I spent what felt like a life time weaving in ends and sewing seams on a large order of knitted items destined for foreign climes. I’ve been working on this order for ages but tomorrow we’d be near a post office and it really needed to be on it’s way. Another episode of Inspector Morse helped while away the time.

IMG_20181123_191723DSCF7114sm2 locks, 2.25 miles, 1 noisy bird, 2 bananas, 1 head brocolli, £4.62 spent on Black Friday, 2 ears, 1 ideal mooring, 6 boxes ordered, 6 pairs completed, 132 ends, 1 Morse, 0 shore leave!

Through Dukes. 22nd November

Aristotle Bridge to Kidlington Green Lock

Someone last night seemed to have moved a street light! I woke up several times with the chink in the curtains glaring light down on my head. The someone was Tilly, having a good old peer out of the window as the almost full moon came into view and took it’s time to move across the sky. No matter how many times we ask Tilly to close the curtains when she’s finished she just ignores us!

P1430723smWe woke to quite a frost and the first thing to do was to hunt out the padded trousers from under the bed. With extra layers on and a bowl of porridge each in our tummies we were ready to push off. The canal was so clear you could see right to the bottom, all those leaves settling down there amongst the bikes.

Another load of washing was done before we reached the first water point where we stopped and filled the tank, emptied the yellow water tank and disposed of the contents of our bin, box and bucket, all of them. With everything empty or full we were ready again. I decided to walk on ahead, as some thoughtful person hadn’t picked up after their furry friend. This meant I could set the next lock and bridges ahead.

P1430734smToday it would be two locks and three lift bridges, the locks would be easy, but the bridges?

P1430748smP1430750smThere is a chap who seems to always be hanging around the first of the bridges. He most probably loiters for some conversation with passing boaters, not many of them around at the moment. Today he watched me unlock the bridge and then haul it up to sit on the beam. On closing it he said it looked like the lock was on it’s way out again, then asked how far we were heading. Our plan was to reach Kidlington Green today, ‘Well you won’t be going much further!’ said the voice of doom. I enquired why. ‘Well Shipton Weir Lock is closed, and will be for a while yet’. We were aware of the closure for works and had been planning our cruising accordingly. However yesterday we had a notice come through from C&RT saying that they were pleased to inform us that the lock had opened two days earlier than planned. Somewhere along the line we’d missed them moving the opening date by a week to accommodate works at Dukes Lock, never mind the two days! So I could inform Mr Doom and Gloom that the way ahead was actually open for us all the way to Banbury. His reply was that they’d be putting the licence fee up now! Jolly soul.

P1430754smThe next bridge was the hard one Wolvercote Lift Bridge. Walking towards it there seemed to be a cyclist loitering, maybe I could enlist his help, but he moved onwards before I got within ear shot. When last I came through here there had been a long chain added to the off side beams, this should help me pull the beam down. Except the chain was no longer there! Would I be able to manage? I was certainly going to give it a go.

I hooked my hands over the furthest part of the beam that I could reach, ‘Give me a leaver and a fulcrum and I’ll move the world’(F. Matthews), going through my head. The beam started to come down, but I knew I’d have difficulty changing my grip to get my weight above it. So I changed tactic, I walked my hands along the beam to increase my advantage over the weight, as it came lower I moved along and along until I was in a suitable position to change my grip. I quickly sat on the beam, Success!!!

P1430756smDukes Lock was full and a boat was sitting in Dukes Cut Lock facing the canal. The chap on board spotted me as I walked past to set the lock for us, he didn’t seem to be in any hurry. Dukes Lock closes on Monday for an emergency closure so we were glad to be through it. The next pound was a touch low, possibly to do with the badly leaking top cill at the lock, but we managed to make our way with one more lift bridge to open before we’d reach our destination for the day.

P1430770smUp ahead a Kingfisher showed us the way through the mist that now surrounded us. As we approached Kidlington Green lock it look like we’d be joining other moored boats. As we got closer we could see that it was actually two C&RT work boats, most probably heading from Shipton Weir to Dukes Lock. We pulled in, the second attempt getting us close to the side. My fields here have green tufts in them. I’m not sure whether they needed any digging, but I did some just in case the farmer hadn’t done enough. I have to say my towels on the boat are not as white as they once were, must have a word with the crew about that!

DSCF7114sm2 locks, 3.42 miles, 3 lift bridges, 1 straight, 1 mass of net, 1 Matthews mantra, 1 chilly day, 1 field well and truly tillied, 2 brown towels once white!