We visited Crick boat show in 2015. Right back at square one where we’d been in 2012, looking for a boat builder. There was still a very slim possibility that we had a shell of a narrowboat somewhere, if we did and the police recovered it what would we do with it?
People we’d met in the past asked us how our new boat was going. Andy from bearBoating even offered to finish the build for us after hearing the tale. Other builders would rather not take over a project from where someone else had left off.
We were kidding ourselves, we already knew that there was no shell with my name on the weedhatch. Ian who’d worked for Stillwater had been told, the day after the photos were taken, to angle grind my name off the boat. The larger bow locker lid had only been laid on top of the original smaller opening for the photograph. The shell was then worked on for someone else, we’d most probably met the owners at the Action Group get together in Tamworth.
We looked at numerous boats, many too expensive for us, others we didn’t like the sound of their contracts (we were being very VERY careful this time). Three were shortlisted, visited, credit checked, contracts checked over. In the end we chose Jonathan Wilson, he knew of our past and wanted to help us believe in boat builders again. Oleanna would cost more, a lot more, but we’d end up with a boat this time!
Mid February 2016, NB Oleanna’s base plate was laid on the floor at Tim Tylers workshop in Newcastle Under Lyme, we got to stand on it that day. This time this was most certainly our boat, those cheesy grins that had eluded us at Ripley were well and truly planted on our faces. She moved over to the Sheffield workshop a few weeks later, her shell finished by Jonathan and fitted out by Finesse.
Every now and then we’d enquire as to how things were progressing with the case against Richard and Kevin. DC Jones would report back saying that he still had more statements to take. He was hoping to be in a situation to interview Richard and Kevin before Christmas.
In April 2016 I missed a phone call as we cruised out to Horsenden Hill, it had been DC Jones wanting to talk to me as he’d just handed over the file to the CPS. His request to the CPS had centred around some of the individual boat builds with support from all other witnesses from the Action Group, my statement was very much at the centre of the case. When he and his sergeant had interviewed Richard they had left the photographs of the locker lid and weedhatch till the end of their conversation. Richard could not explain them, he had been speechless.
Now the waiting started. First the CPS reviewed the case. In July we heard that both Richard and Kevin had been reported for two counts of carrying on a business with intent to defraud creditors/ for other fraudulent purposes. Court dates would now be arranged.
In October 2016, I was asked to keep a week free the following October to be called as a witness at Derby Crown Court. This we did and arranged the years cruising around the dates. We wanted to be able to attend the rest of the hearing once I’d given my evidence, so planned on being as close to Derby as possible by boat. Later in the year I was informed that the hearing would take two weeks.
In late September the court dates were confirmed, as there were lots of witnesses there would be a meeting to decide on who was to be called when. Two weeks later, ten days before the trial was due to start we’d reached Stone on the Trent and Mersey Canal only to find out that the hearing had been postponed. When I asked what the reason was for the delay I was told it was either that the defence wanted longer to prepare or that there were too many witnesses and a longer time in court would be needed. The hearing would now start at the end July, 2018 and span four weeks. A new date to plan around.
Life continued on board. We’d moved onto NB Oleanna in April 2017 (two years ago today!) and continued to cruise the network all year round. In June after we’d passed through our thousandth lock on Oleanna, we were asked if we could be available for the hearing two weeks earlier than planned. The reason for this was explained to us, the dates either hadn’t been put in the judges diary properly or he’d booked a holiday for the last two weeks. Without him there was no trial.
Not enough of the witnesses could be available at short notice. There was a chance that Richard and Kevin would change their plea to Guilty, but this didn’t happen. So the next date we all wrote in our diaries was 13th May 2019. A four week trial. Another year of planning our lives around a court case. We planned to head to Langley Mill on the Erewash and see if we could get a mooring there so we could attend court when we wanted to.
Then on 13th March a letter dropped into my inbox from the Witness Care Unit. At a hearing the previous day at Derby Crown Court, Richard had pleaded guilty to Fraudulent Trading. The case had been adjourned for sentencing. The CPS had decided to offer no evidence again Kevin, therefore the hearing would no longer take place.
After all this time, there was now a guilty plea. We no longer had to be around Derby for four weeks, I’d no longer be giving evidence. Although relived at not having to stand up in court, I also felt cheated. We of course knew what had happened to us, but I wanted to know what else had gone on and experience a Crown Court hearing. Why was no evidence being offered against Kevin, there was no explanation.
Only one thing for it, we made plans to go to the sentencing.
Meanwhile in 2019. 7th April
My migraine has been easing, but we decided to stay put for another day and then push on in the morning. Tilly liked this idea.
Because we forgot to take sausages out of the freezer last night we had to make do with a partial cooked breakfast. Not bad, but also not up to Mick’s full standards.
This afternoon we went for a stroll. A fishing match was going on behind us towards Lemonroyd Lock, one chap was just reeling in a catch. He thought all the fish had moved to his patch, but a chap further up said he’d thought that too a short while back.
A man stood puzzled by the bottom control paddle for the lock. His keys were in the panel but nothing was happening. We stopped for a chat, he said he was waiting for the lock to empty. Well, he’d be there a very long time if he didn’t open the sluices! I pointed out the button to press and he set the lock in motion. He was quite concerned that the lights didn’t work and he’d been waiting for them to illuminate before he did anything. Not all locks have lights that work, but then as we found out coming down through Leeds Lock not all lights that do work work at the right time!
We stayed for a while chatting. I wondered how he’d got to the lock by boat without having worked one like this before. There are automated locks in all directions from here. But when his wife brought the boat into the lock the penny dropped, it was a shiny green shareboat, they must have just picked it up today or yesterday.
They shared the lock with another boat. We’d warned him that they might want to pass a rope around one of the risers as the lock gets a bit unruly as it fills. But we’d forgotten that one of the top sluices is out of action at the moment. He must have wondered what we’d been on about as the two boats gently bobbed about below.
We walked to the two weirs, the two of them together couldn’t make up the full height of the lock, there are another two before the river reaches the one at Thwaite Mills. Between the river and the cut is the old Bayford Thrust Oil site. Some of the buildings have been knocked down, a rather perilous entrance for wagons leads straight into a pond, but the oil storage tanks looked in reasonable nick and the earth around them has been worked over recently. We’d heard rumours of more commercial boats up around here, but we thought they were going to be from gravel, maybe they are.
Mick has spent much of the remainder of the day trying to work out what is wrong with our UK Waterways Sites Ranking. Since moving the blog over to WordPress our ranking has gradually been falling. We’re normally ranked around 8 or 9, today we have fallen to 16. This happened when we had our NB Lillyanne blog too. Mick may have sorted it by adding an S to some code, time will tell if it’s worked or not.
0 locks, 0 miles, 9.5 hours Tilly will be exhausted, 0 sausages, 1 roast chicken, 2 weirs, 1 very full lock, 0 clues, 1 sluice makes for an easy ride, 2 ‘S’s, 1 camera needing replacing, 2 years of being the very proud owners of NB Oleanna.