Category Archives: Arts and Crafts

Hammer And Tongs. 10th June

Jubilee Gardens, Ely

Oops, not Sunday!

Thankfully we didn’t have a shouting cat this morning demanding to go out. Tilly had managed with this outside, but wasn’t overly impressed. We took advantage of this and headed out to explore for ourselves and hopefully come back impressed.

The East end of Ely Cathedral

Where else could we go other than the cathedral.

Just look at that front door!

We walked up through Jubilee Gardens, climbed up Cherry Hill Park past where the castle once had stood. Surrounded by King’s School buildings we walked up to the South transept of the cathedral then followed the paths anti-clockwise round the cathedral to the west door where we could enter.

Coronation dress

Stood in the nave was a replica of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation dress. This had been commissioned for her diamond jubilee by Harrods and was used in the filming of The Crown. Bejewelled, embroidered in gold and silver thread by a team of costume specialist makers it took 4 months to make. A rather stunning job they did of it too.

Etheldreda was ‘ere

The first monastery was founded by the Saxon Queen Etheldreda in 673, followed by a Benedictine monastery in 970 which was the second wealthiest in the country. It stood high on the hill , the Island of the Eels.

Looking down the Nave from the choir

The Norman building was started in 1081 and became a cathedral in 1109 where the remains of Etheldreda lay. Pilgrims flocked to her tomb which necessitated the building to be extended adding the presbytery in 1252.

Looking east to the alter

Cracks began to show around the structure of the central tower, the monks moved their services outdoors. On the 13th February 1322 just after a 4am service the Norman central tower collapsed. It is thought that water had undermined the foundations of the tower which had been caused by the building of the Lady Chapel.

What we going to do?!

Work began to rebuild the tower, redesigned by Alan de Walsingham. Firmer foundations were found further out than the original ones and the idea of building the Octagon came about. The width, at 74ft, was too wide to support a stone vault, so it was built from timber, glass and lead all standing on eight massive pillars. It took 18 years to build with an internal height of 142 ft.

The Octagon

At the centre is a painted wooden carving of Christ surrounded by fan vaulting, this is followed by stained glass windows, below that painted angels followed by more fan vaulting. You just have to take a seat and stare upwards. There are tours up the Octagon, but sadly they have to be booked in advance and would have upped our entry price again.

1349 the lady Chapel was completed, the largest in the country. Originally it was richly adorned with statues of saints, bright paintwork and tall stained glass windows. But in 1541 came the dissolution of the monastery’s, windows were smashed, all but one sculpture were defaced, chipped away or removed completely.

Red roses on the ceiling, why so uneven?

In 1566 the chapel became Holy Trinity Church the parish church for Ely. The walls were white washed and the windows filled with plain glass, which is more or less how it looks today. A small amount of colour remains on the stone work by the alter and roses on the ceiling, but this is upstaged by a sculpture of the Virgin Mary made by David Wynne. A modern figure of a woman dressed in azure blue. The chapel was handed back to the cathedral in 1938, but it was cold and dark in the winter months. Restoration works in the 1990’s changed this, today when we walked in the chapel was decidedly warm, it’s now used for services and concerts.

The north side of the nave is currently the home for A Table for the Nation. At 13m long by 1.5m wide it has been made from a 5000 year old giant sub-fossilised black, or bog, oak tree which was found in 2012 near Downham Market. It has taken ten years to make. First the tree was cut into planks which then had to be dried out over 9 months removing 400 gallons of water and shrinking in depth by 50%. We had first seen it on the local news when it had been positioned under the Octagon and was turned round. Today it sits in what feels like a corridor, information panels alongside and big bright lights blasting into it’s black grain. It feels a touch side lined and is almost impossible to photograph.

Can’t forget the organ, present case by Sir Gilbert Scott

Our tickets included a visit to the Stained Glass Museum which was well worth a visit.

Hammer and Tongs c1920 by Karl Parsons

Up the stairs in the West Transept the museum fills one side of the balcony of the nave. Examples of stained glass through the centuries are displayed all back lit, showing the techniques that were developed.

From black or brown painted on lines, paintwork scratched through for extra details. Yellow stains applied to the back of the glass to enamel pigments that came in in the 1500s. Leading and solder that hold all the glass together keeping out the weather. Add into the mix coloured glass. Square bottles of glass that were cut into their four sides. Patterns added onto the surface and details added.

Portraits created in glass following the styles of artist of the times. The Victorians drew on the pageantry of the Middle Ages, Burne-Jones influenced greatly by the Italian Renaissance.

Several 1:6 scale models show how stained glass is made. Small details in the models, receipts from the renowned Alec Tiranti, a large box of Wuffomeat and the jumper a lady wears knitted on what must have been tiny needles.

Modern windows are shown too. Some more to our taste than others, I think we prefer colour to the darker windows where lead or black paint take over.

Just why was the North West Transept dismantled?

A very interesting afternoon, although it would have been fascinating to see what lay in storage covered in decades of dust on the opposite balcony.

It’s rubbish round here!

Tilly was given some shore leave when we got back. She still wasn’t that impressed with Ely! Thank goodness we’d enjoyed our day.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 collapsed tower, 1 removed transept (why does no-one mention that, including me?), 8 sides of wonder, 1 very blue lady, 1 hammer, 1 tong, 1 replica dress, 5000 year old wood table, 1 corridor, 1 disappointing font, 1 slice of pizza dropped from heaven.

Are the captions better Dan?

A Chance Meeting. 8th July

St Pancras Cruising Club

A day of work for me today. Time to tot up everything I’ve been spending on panto and #unit 21. Mick was on a mission to finish washing anything and everything he could get his hands on, so the rugs round the multi fuel stove and Tilly’s bed got a wash along with trying to get the laundry drawer empty. When you are paying £2 an night for electric you want to make the most of it, however we did stop short of washing the curtains!

A Sainsburys order arrived to help restock the wine cellar and replenish the wooden cat litter.

When will they move the outside again?

I had a couple of things to return to Primark, I’d considered doing this in Huddersfield but the queue there was sooo long I decided to do so at Tottenham Court Road. Then I headed back to MacCulloch and Wallis as I was wanting to buy myself a darning mushroom so that I can mend some tops that have developed holes. But unfortunately the shop that sells everything sewing wise failed me. They sell everything sewing wise other than darning mushrooms or eggs! The lady apologised and suggested John Lewis or just finding a door knob.

Some wonderful tiling on Russell Square Underground Station

My route back to St Pancras brought me to Heals. I’ve not been inside Heals for years so decided to go and have a nosy. There was a sale on, but I still couldn’t justify spending £650 on a wibbly glass bubble of a pendant light, we’d just end up hitting our heads on it on Oleanna anyway!

The staircase

I did however find the Cecil Brewers staircase which was completed in 1916. Pillars stand proud at each landing, the curve is beautiful and a light fitting cascades down through the centre. It is a lovely thing.

One very sleek cat

The main reason for visiting was sitting on the window cill facing the front of the store. The Heal’s cat is a tall sleek bronze creature, designed by the French sculptor Chassagne. It quickly became the shop mascot and when Dodie Smith worked in the store (prior to writing 101 Dalmatians) she passed around the rumour that the cat would grant wishes. So today I touched the cat’s paws and made a wish myself.

Mary Ward House

My walk back involved walking past Mary Ward House built in 1898 which is now a conference and exhibition centre. Mass industrialisation in England had created an overworked, undereducated, and unvalued lower class. Mary Ward campaigned against the injustices and her work went on to define her life. She became the figurehead for the settlement movement which sought to alleviate poverty by getting the rich and poor to live more closely with each other, breaking down the physical and educational boundaries between classes. Education, day care and healthcare were provided for those living below the poverty line. Amazing what you find out when a building catches your eye.

As I put together a macaroni cheese for our evening meal we could see a boat winding and then reversing into the basin. Anyone who has followed boat blogs for a while will know this boat, NB Chance, they were to be our neighbours for the night.

A Chance meeting

It took a lot of effort to get in beside us the amount of weed has certainly increased in the week since we arrived, but in the end Richard and Victoria were breasted up with us.

Looking through Chance

This evening we were joined by Mick’s nephew Richard for a drink in the garden. Richard has been working for BBC Media in Action in Bangladesh for about ten years, so we have only really seen him on big family occasions over the last decade. But late last year he returned to London and will now be based here. We had a lovely couple of hours with him before he decided he should head home. Hopefully we’ll get chance to meet up again in a couple of weeks time.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 t-shirts returned, 0 mushrooms, 30%, 1 cat, 1 chance encounter, 1 nephew, 1 last night in the basin.

Three Types Of Each. 4th March

The Black Country Living Museum

The back gate

With our entrance tickets bought from the Dudley Canal Trust we walked up through the buildings towards the bus stop in the museum. Despite the time tabel suggesting there would be a bus every 15 minutes we decided to walk up the hill to the main entrance. We soon saw the bus and an old car bipping it’s horn at everyone it saw, both were heading to where we’d come from.

Beep beep!

First thing was to change our paper receipt for an annual pass. We can now visit as many times as we like for no extra cost. This may only end up being once more, but you never know.

Quick catch that bus!

It was a touch damp now outside so we caught the double decker back down the hill to have a walk round. We first visited the museum about eight years ago when we were moving our shareboat NB Winding Down down the country. We had a very good day, but wished we’d had longer. This time we’d go down the mine and have fish and chips!

Hobbs and Sons or the Chippy

Once the chippy opened we checked out the claims from the website. The claims were correct and we could place an order for later, but we were expecting company and had no idea what time we’d like our lunch, so we would risk there being a long queue.

Still fills up with petrol on the main road once a week

As midday got closer we caught the bus back up the hill to meet up with Marion (Mick’s sister) and John who were coming for a day trip from Eastbourne. As they had train tickets they could do the Days out two for one.

One of the houses

With winter hours being a little bit tight we chose to head back down the hill again, by bus to the thick of the buildings. There is a large area being redeveloped, if that’s what you can call it when the buildings will all be 1940’s to 60’s that already exist. Sadly this means the mine and funfair are closed at the moment.

Fires blazing away in kitchens

Lines of school kids zigzagged through the streets following their period dressed guides. Huddles of them stood in dimly lit shops listening to the proprietors talking about what they sold and what it would have been like there in the 20’s and 30’s, some even earlier.

The radio workshop kept John busy for a while and ladies sat in their kitchens kept warm by their ranges, no cooking going on today. A school mistress taught a class speaking very slowly and awarding two pupils a certificate.

The Gentleman’s Outfitters

The tailor didn’t have quite what John was after but was very well stocked with Peeky Blinder caps and waistcoats.

Mum’s chosen

The tobacconists would have kept my Mum stocked up with her favourite brands and I’m sure my Dad would have found suitable tobacco to make his own mix from.

1920’s living room with fantastic wallpaper

A 1920’s living room with very smart fan wallpaper had a rug on the floor. I was asked why I thought there were two round marks on it. Was it because something had been placed there and the pile had flattened. No it was a fashion to have rugs which had a pattern, not in colour but in the texture, shag pile and short pile. I’d once aimed to shave one from some carpet for a show, but had run out of time.

Frying full time

By now we were a little bit peckish so joined the queue in Hobbs. Luckily it wasn’t too long, there’s a sign outside where you can sit to while away the half hour before getting served! Our orders were placed. 2 vegetarian, cooked in sunflower oil. 1 gluten free. 1 standard, everything cooked in beef dripping. We found a space to sit and wait, jumping whenever any of the ladies said anything. It didn’t take long, lashings of salt and vinegar were poured into the cones of paper. I have to say it’s the first time I’ve not noticed a difference with gluten free fish. The batter was wonderful and crisp with chunky cod inside. We all wolfed them up whilst inhaling the vinegar fumes.

They were very very good

Lower down on the site a chap demonstrated a beetle Demon and talked about the wallpaper trimming machine in the hardware shop.

Wallpaper was sold with edges that needed trimming, either with scissors or on one of these, at a cost!!

The greengrocers was manned by a lady who told us the history of the shop and the lady who’d run it whilst her husband was away in the 1st world war, he had to retrain when he got home as she wasn’t going to hand it back over to him.

Hardware shop front

The cinema sat silent awaiting the next showing. A chap hammered away in the dark of his workshop whilst it rained outside, presumably making nails.

Nail maker working away in the dark

We timed a visit to the more industrial end very well with a chain making demonstration about to happen. The metal was heated up to white hot, bent round and then bent further with a hammer. Linked to the previous link the ends were flattened and reheated. We were asked to move back, he them gave the two ends a very big whack to weld them together showering sparks. The link was then reshaped with the help of a hammer operated by his foot. The chain makers had to make so many links a day, 200 and something before they would get paid. For some it took six hours others a lot longer.

Chain making

We then took a walk up to the Workers Institute where a guided tour was due. The lady we’d seen in the schoolhouse was ready and waiting. Due to the rain we started off indoors. We were on a bit of a tight time frame due to return trains to the south coast, the lady imparted her knowledge, pointed out important people in the photographs, handed round photographs of chain makers, more photos of people, they just kept coming, was she going to give us the life history on everyone in the group photos?

So of it’s time

Time was ticking, there was still the tat in the shop to look at and still more photos were handed round. We made our excuses , did a quick flit up the stairs and back down as the tour were about to go that way. I’m sure the tour would have been very interesting, but we simply didn’t have the time.

They managed to get a better rate of pay through the unions

Up the hill in the rain for a purchase or two before heading back down to be through the bottom gates before they closed at 3:45pm. Time for a quick cuppa and warm up back at the boat before Marion and John headed off to return southwards. A very good day.

The Chemist waiting for customers

0 locks, 0 miles, 12 month passes, 40’s 50’s 60’s coming soon, 2 day trippers, 2 veggie of each, 1 gluten free of each, 1 full everything of each please, 1 school, 1 institute life time, 3 bus rides, 1 link, 0 horses, 17 radios, 1 rug, 1 cinema, 2 visitors, 1 living and breathing museum, 0 shore leave yet again!

Day 6, Morning

It’s been bubbling overnight and then deflated.

Day 6 Night

About three hours after feeding. There is hope of sour dough bread this weekend

2019 Round Up.

Checking our vital statistics for a years worth of cruising takes a while. We have a trip computer which records almost all our journeys, sometimes it counts locks twice, sometimes it doesn’t quite catch where we reached before we wind. Before we used this method of recording our journeys I would use canal plan to work out our distances. This method can also miss out parts of our journey but it does give me more statistics. You know how I like numbers! How many bridges, how many narrow locks and what distances we travelled on different types of waterways. So inputting a years worth of cruising takes some time.

Anyhow, here is our round up of the year.

The New Year was seen in at Crick. From here we decided to head to Sheffield to have the last snagging jobs done on Oleanna, we were fortunate that the route north was open with no winter stoppages in our way until we reached Yorkshire. Once in the top chamber at Foxton it was going to be downhill all the way to Keadby.

Going down at Foxton

Sadly our blog started to loose it’s photos, which is a great shame. It was a problem shared by many bloggers who were all doing their best to get things working again. Have to say we ended up jumping ship from blogger to wordpress, but posts still lacked their photos when moved. We hope gradually to rectify this by replacing the missing photos, I miss them when looking back. But this will be a long job.

Waiting at Cromwell

During January we cruised down stream on the River Trent, the weather was getting colder the further north we got. Our route was clear but at Keadby the lock off the river was being dredged, so our journey was held up a touch. Then with February came cold nights and the canal at Keadby froze over. So we waited at Cromwell for things to improve.

First go at Gluten free puff pastry for cruising sausage rolls

Daylight hours and tides meant we split our tidal journey at Torksey. The early morning start from Torksey was very cold, so I was very glad I’d knitted us both balaclavas, we remained cosy cheeked for our journey.

Cosy heads

Our journey up towards Sheffield meant we coincided with the bicentenary of the opening of the canal and a very unseasonably warm weekend. The chaps at Finesse replaced a leaking window, gave us a new one (our choice), sorted out our gas locker lid amongst other bits and bobs. It had been a good decision going to Sheffield, it saved them time coming out to us and it saved us money on the extras we’d asked for.

New galley window going in
200 years old

Next we headed for Goole, the lure of cheap diesel and a night away to see our friends Bridget and Storm on the otherside of the Humber was a bonus. We then hunkered down to sit out storms and rising river levels. Our original plan had been to go to York, but flooding put paid to that, so instead we went by train.

Bridget and Storm with their lovely house

Towards the end of March we decided to give a trip up the Ouse another go, the rivers were at better levels and we still haven’t taken Oleanna there. But first Bank Dole lock wouldn’t fill due to silt, then when we reached Selby the Lock onto the Ouse had a fault which would take too much time to mend for us to wait. This was a relief for Tilly as this was where she’d discovered the difference between grass and duck weed and ended up learning to swim a couple of years ago.

Mark came to meet us from York

At the beginning of April we headed to Leeds. From here we had a day trip to Derby Crown Court for the sentencing of our original boat builder (Stillwater) who had finally pleaded guilty for fraud. I also spent a more pleasurable day in London, having a meeting for Puss in Boots.

Derby Crown Court

With panto in mind we planned our cruising for the remainder of the year. The remainder of April we made our way up the Calder and Hebble and onto the Rochdale Canal.

Being a foot shorter it wasn’t as tight as it had been on Lillian

Our friend Frank joined us to do the stretch from Sowerby Bridge to Hebden Bridge, which included the deepest lock n the network, Tuel Lane. He’d not done this stretch back in 2014 when he and I walked from Manchester locking Lillian over the Pennines to get to the Tour de France.

Tuel Lane the deepest on the network

Once over the top we picked up a boat to share the locks down into Manchester. Clare and Graeme were over from New Zealand for a few months and proved to be very good company.

Mr Blue Sky and Oleanna

On the 1st of May, with the help of a Canal and River Trust volunteer our passage down into Manchester went well. The following day both boats headed down the Rochdale nine with an extra pair of hands from an old college friend of mine, Doug.

Nearly there!

During May we cruised down the Bridgewater and onto the Trent and Mersey Canal gradually heading southwards. A short detour up the Middlewich Branch to look at where the breach had been before we carried on southwards.

Climbing the Cheshire Locks

A pause in the Cheshire Locks meant we got to meet up with Tom and Jan who were over for a visit. For Micks birthday we moored at Barlaston and had a nosy at the wonderful hall on the hill, our plan still stands if any of our family are interested!

Tom and Jan

We saw the end of May out mooring at Tixall Wide before rejoining the Trent and Mersey and heading onto Fradley Junction where we joined the Coventry Canal. With Atherstone Locks out of the way I spent time below working whilst we cruised familiar waters on the flat, it might have rained too!

Tixall Wide

A day trip to London from Rugby for us both, me to a seminar for Separate Doors 3 and Mick to catch up with his friend Siobhan who was over from Australia. Continuing down the North Oxford Canal to Braunston where we joined the Grand Union Canal to head to London.

Busy Braunston Locks

A visit to the Royal Ordnance Depot at Weedon meant I bought some lovely yarn to make a cardie for myself (it’s nearly finished!) and caught up with our friend Heather Bleasdale, who just so happened to be moored there as well.

Yummy yarn

Our route then up and down the Grand Union meant we managed to get to see both Mikron shows this year as well as teaming up with the cast and NB Tyseley to climb the locks up to the summit.

Sharing the locks with Tyseley

Tilly was left in charge for a couple of days whilst we headed to Scarborough to check on our house as we had a change of tenants. This meant we got to stay with Jaye and Duncan and catch up on the news from home.

I’d be in trouble if this photo wasn’t on the blog again!

We now pressed on down to London where we booked a mooring in Paddington Basin for a week in early July. This gave us the opportunity to catch with with friends and family before we headed back out west and down the Hanwell flight. I made the front cover of Canal Boat for July.

Mid July we locked out onto the Thames cruising the Tidal section to Teddington. From here we transited to the River Wey, brand new waters for us.

Up onto the Wey

With my final design for panto delivered to Chipping Norton from Guildford we could enjoy our cruising a bit more, despite the soaring temperatures which had us hiding under trees for a couple of days.


On the 26th July we ticked off our third point on the compass, reaching Godalming the furthest south you can get on the connected network. On our way back to the Thames we met up with Adam from NB Briar Rose, both he and Tilly got wet that day.

Furthest South

The original plan had been to cruise the Basingstoke Canal whilst we were there, but sadly the levels were too low and the canal closed before we got there, so we spent a while longer on the Wey.

Hampton Court Palace

Onto the Thames where we managed to get a space outside Hampton Court for a couple of days and I discovered the joys of standing in line for some fresh veg. Gradually we made our way up the Thames. Waking early and getting going worked for us as mostly we managed to get moored where we wanted around lunchtime. Three years ago we did from Teddington to Oxford in a week but with a months licence we took our time.

Waterway Routes
No Problem XL

The further upstream we got the quieter the river got, less hustle and bustle. We met up with Paul and Christine (NB Waterway Routes), missed Carol and George (WB Still Rockin), finally got to have a proper conversation with Sue and Vic (WB No Problem XL) as we headed upstream.

Kelmscott Manor

As the rivers bends got tighter, the banks were harder to get up. A mooring by Kelmscott Manor required a rope from the post to help us get on and off the boat, but it was worth it to visit the house.

At the end of the navigable Thames

On the 26th August we winded at the furthest point we could reach on the Thames on Oleanna and started to head back eastwards. Tilly gave one of our moorings a double stamp of approval and stayed out well after dark!

Isis lock, Oxford

An incident with engine coolant nearly stopped us from reaching Oxford to see War Horse. But a nice man from RCR got us going again so we had a narrow lock fix and headed to the show catching up with Matt and Bill for a drink afterwards.

Lovely chaps

Then at the beginning of September we turned off the Thames onto the Kennet and Avon. For the last five years we’ve been meaning to head this way, but for one reason or another it hadn’t happened.

Gangplank land, the K&A

With tales of lack of mooring we kept to rising early hoping we’d get moorings. This mostly worked and wild moorings were very rarely needed, we did still have to use the gang plank every now and again. We only encountered one pound on our westward journey where even the longest plank wouldn’t have helped which meant we had to carry on up a flight with the clock ticking before locks were locked around us.

Over the summit

At Devizes we met an Instagram friend Frankie who’d been working on the flight over the summer. Despite following another boat down the flight we made good time with the help of the volunteers.

The photo of the year, Devizes

Onwards to Bath and Bristol. Here we moored with HMS GB in the background and met up with two of my old school friends for lunch. A big shame we couldn’t stay longer as there was more we wanted to do and see whilst there, we’ll just have to save up for next time as the mooring fees are quite pricey!

In good company
Old school friends

The section between Bath and Bradford upon Avon was our favourite, with the aqueducts and views along with the second deepest lock on the network.


Mick and Tilly got to enjoy it for a week longer than me whilst I headed off to Cornwall to eat gluten free pasties and start painting my panto set for a week.


Once I was back we had two weeks to reach Oxford, but the weather had different ideas. What felt like the monsoon season started. There was rain on most days, luckily not the day we did Devizes. We managed to team up with two couples from Bristol on a hire boat, by the time they reached the top of the flight they could work uphill locks with their eyes closed, we left them to master downhill on their return journey.

Tilly enjoying the big trees

Our second low pound struck as we tried to leave Cobblers Lock, Oleanna was sat firmly on the ground and unable to leave the lock until a good flushing of water set her free. The rain actually did me a favour as whilst we sat in Newbury hoping for the Thames to drop I managed to get my model for A Regular Little Houdini finished.

A Regular Little Houdini

At the end of October I headed off to panto land leaving Mick and Tilly a short distance outside Reading, hoping they would be able to get up the Thames in the following week. Our friend Paul came and helped Mick out onto the Thames reaching Goring on their first day. Here Mick and Tilly got to met Carol and George (WB Still Rockin’) who’d been clinging onto the moorings there before heading downstream.

Photo courtesy of Carol WB Still Rockin

Paul returned later in the week and despite the engine overheating and having to deploy the anchor they succeeded in getting to Abingdon where Oleanna had her second visit from RCR. Mick battled on against quite a downstream flow and reached Sandford Lock before tying up. Here the levels rose and fell, the engineer came for a second visit and found lots of crud in our cooling system.

A calm paws on the Thames at Sandford

With the engine in better fettle, Mick nudged his way up towards Oxford and finally made a dash up Osney Lock and onto the canal despite that section still being on red boards. It turns out he’d chosen his moment well as the river has stayed on red boards since then.


Once I left all the singing dancing and glitter behind and returned to narrowboat life we had to sit out high levels on the Oxford canal and on the River Cherwell. We loitered in Oxford, but as soon as it looked like things were improving we were on our way.

Lakes not meadows

We paused in Banbury for Christmas haircuts and shopping before pulling in for a few days at Cropredy Marina, from where we headed to London for a Sibling get together at my brothers.


Onwards to the top of the Oxford Canal the day the locks reopened and down the other side continuing onwards to Radford Smelly for Christmas.


In Warwick we met up with my family and then picked up crew Mike and Chris to help us up the Hatton and Lapworth flights.

Our final visitors of 2019

The last few locks were done on New Years Eve bring us up to the Birmingham level for the new year.

Narnia Lock our last for the year

Quite a busy year. So our vital statistics for 2019

According to Canalplan

Total distance is 1199 miles, ½ furlong and 886 locks . There are 119 moveable bridges of which 22 are usually left open; 139 small aqueducts or underbridges and 20 tunnels – a total of 8 miles 2 ¼ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.

This is made up of 207 miles, 4 furlongs of narrow canals; 399 miles, 5¾ furlongs of broad canals; 102 miles, 5 ¼ furlongs of commercial waterways; 226 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of small rivers; 212 miles, 5 furlongs of large rivers; 49 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of tidal rivers; 150 narrow locks; 626 broad locks; 109 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.

838.2 engine hours

That is 255 miles and 272 locks more than last year! But 246.4 hours less engine running, just goes to show it’s worth having solar panels.

1336.93 litres diesel, 9 (although we’ve got 2 empty now) gas bottles (used for central heating as well as cooking), 6 overnight guests, 6 packs Dreamies, 1 cover cat, 32 friends, 17 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval, 1 double stamp, 5 pairs socks, 3 pairs gloves, 1 baby blanket, 2 shows designed, 1 cover illustration, 5 lots gluten free puff pastry, 9 supermarket deliveries, 39 boxes of wine delivered, 12 bottles of wine delivered.

Thank you for sharing our year with us.

Oozells To Look At. 4th January

Oozells Street Loop

The chap across the way had been running his engine until 11pm both nights we’d been moored opposite the giraffe. The first night we considered going over to see if everyone was alright on board, but it’s quite a long way round. So on the second evening we were relieved to hear the engine going, but not for the length of time it ran for! So this morning we decided to move.

NB Sola Gatia had been round on the Oozells Loop along with another boat, both had moved off. So we decided to move round the corner and see if it would be any quieter, less foot fall for certain.

Oozells Street Loop

There was plenty of room for us, so we chose to tie up in the middle, leaving room for boats infront and behind, but we’d be away from both bridges.

In the afternoon we headed into town. Should we walk down into the Jewellery Quarter to look at museums? Go to the Art Gallery? Or go to the top of the Library?

There’s Lillian down there, lovely and yellow

Back in October 2014 Mick had discovered the wonderful gardens and views from the library whilst I was working. He even managed to get a photo of NB Lillyanne (Lillian) moored at Cambrian Wharf. When I had free time we tried again, but high winds meant we could only stay indoors as the gardens were closed.

Going up
and up

Today we went to the top, to the viewing gallery and the Shakespeare Library. Then we walked down the 90 steps to the garden. From here we could see for miles. If we hadn’t moved Oleanna this morning we’d have got a photo of her too from up here, but now she was tucked away behind the Sealife Centre.

No Lillian today
The boat with the noisy engine on the right

Below was busy and the new trams came and went from the station.

New trams

It was a touch late in the afternoon by now to pay to go into a museum, so we opted for the Art Gallery and headed straight for the Pre-Raphelites and Burne Jones. Mick said we’d been before, but neither of us could remember when. It turns out that after we’d been to see Dippy the dinosaur we had a little look round, that was only 18 months ago!

She is meant to be asleep

The same paintings caught my eye. One study for Burne Jones painting Briar Rose is my favourite, I prefer it to the final painting.

A study in perpsective

But this time we also got to see a bit more of the display. Superduperspective by Patrick Hughes could not be ignored. It’s first view should be straight on, an image of paintings from the gallery in two corridors. But then as you move round you realise the whole thing is 3D and painted in such away to trick your eye. When fooled the furthest parts of the painting are actually the closest to you. Very clever use of shading, but a touch nauseating too.

But the wrong way round

0 locks, the same 0.14 miles mentioned yesterday, 150 yards from engines running, 1 library, 1 art gallery, 100 Euros, 1 adaptor, 1 bored asleep cat, 1 sock finished.

Very pretty

Door To The Imagination. 24th August

Radcot Meadow to Kelmscott Manor


The spiders overnight work was being shown off by the morning dew, a very pretty sight to open the curtains to.

Radcot Bridge

Not far today, but we were still up and away early to hopefully find a mooring. Passing all the glamping teepees and tents by Radcote Bridge (the oldest on the Thames) we wondered how many slices of pig were being fried up for breakfast.


A rowing boat was heading towards us, nothing surprising there. This turned out to be a novice team rowing from Lechlade to Teddington raising funds for the NSPCC. Their back up team running the towpath warned that they weren’t so good at steering, well they’ll have a problem when they come to the next twists and turns!

Wonderful view

After a mile and a half we reached Grafton Lock, although on self service there was a Lockie doing his checks, he opened up the bottom gates and worked us up. Another boat appeared from above which he worked down too, how long would it be before he could head off to the next lock?

The cratch will remain rolled up tonight
That rope will help us to get up the bank

Today the Twists and turns have been replaced by pill boxes, they felt as though they were every few hundred yards as we made our way to where we wanted to moor, The easy moorings were full, round the bend was full also. Signs on posts stood high above the friendly cover so it looked like there might be more places to moor round the next bend. We pulled into the cover, no chance of me getting off at the bow, but Mick managed with a scramble.

Pinned in at the front and tied round the post at the stern we had a handy rope to help clamber up the bank. Why here? Why not go on further? Well just through the trees we could see the reason Kelmscott Manor, William Morris’s holiday home.

Kelmscott Manor

In 1871 William Morris and fellow artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti took out a years lease on the house, it was to provide them with a country retreat away from London and the pressures of work. Originally built around 1570 the Elizabethan house had captured Morris’s imagination. The lease was continued, Rossetti moving out in 1874 being replaced by Frederick Startridge Ellis, Morris’s publisher.

By the Brewhouse door

The house and surrounding area gave inspiration to Morris for 25 years, influencing his poetry, textiles, wallpaper designs. The traditional architecture of the area reinforced his convictions about the integrity of craft-based work and design and the importance of conserving ancient buildings for future generations.

From the croquet lawn

Morris managed to secure a 20 year lease of the house and later after his death in 1896, Jane his wife continued to be a tenant moving from London to live in the house full time. In 1913 she managed to buy the freehold of the manor along with 9 1/2 acres of land. In 1914 May, their daughter, inherited the house and in 1938 when she died she left the house to Oxford University. By the 1960’s The Society of Antiquaries of London was looking after the house and serious works were needed to save it from major problems with the stone slating and wall masonry, damp and timber decay. Much work was carried out and by 1967 the house was ready for it’s new lease of life and to have visitors.

The Green room which currently isn’t green

Entrance to the house is by timed entry ticket, this gave us enough time to look at some of the grounds and the posh William Morris tat in the shop. A one way route round the house was in operation and volunteers guided you through the house and were on hand to answer questions.

Table and chairs

Many items have remained with the house from Morris’s time and before. These items living up to Morris’s maxim, Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. That reminds me we need to reapply this to Oleanna.

Burne-Jones zodiac drawing
Rossetti portrait of Jane

Morris fabric hangs from many walls, and wonderful embroideries by his wife and daughter accompany drawings by Burne-Jones, Rossetti, and furniture from other Arts and Crafts designers. Albercht Durer and Breughel works hang on walls all important influences on Morris.


Various styles of Sussex chairs with their dark wood, rattan or rush seats sit comfortably all around the house.

Window latch

Tapestries. light fittings with reflectors.

Reflecting upstairs

A circular mirror hangs on the staircase wall echoing the Portrait of John Arnolfini and his Wife by Jan Van Eyck.

framing views

Windows framing views of the garden literally held in place by the window catches.

Intricate embroidery

A recent acquisition is the wonderful ‘The Homestead and the Forest’ cot quilt. A circular Thames encircles Kelmscott Manor and outside are animals from across the world.


Lions, cats, flamingos, crocodiles.

Loft steps

A loft staircase, takes you up to the attic rooms. Here is what captured Morris’s heart and ours.

Look at those beams

The rooms below are very nice with great views, but you really can’t beat the slopping roof and exposed beams of an attic room.

You just have to mind your head

This house doesn’t just have one room up here, it has several. I’d quite happily live up on the top floor of the house. What wonderful rooms.

A door painted by the Scott-Snells

A steep spiral staircase brings you down the house, pausing at first floor level there was a display of paintings by Edward and Stephani Scott-Snell who leased the house for a few years after May died. Then back down to the ground floor.

Built to accommodate three

The gardens are worth a view too, a brewhouse, three seated privy, a mulberry tree and Medlar tree sit around the house.

The Mulberry tree

We could have headed back to the boat for lunch but decided on sampling the cafe. My usual safe jacket potato was followed by a very nice slice of gluten free carrot cake, Micks coffee and walnut cake also got the thumbs up, all at reasonable prices.

William in contemplation

A look around the village was next. More lovely houses with their tile stone roofs. Past the pub to St George’s Church. A simple small village church where William Morris, his wife and two daughters are buried. Interesting that William gets a loop on his M’s on the stone, but the others don’t.

M with a loop

Inside the church is simple, but hidden behind the small organ in the north transept are medieval wall paintings dating from before 1280 depicting Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel.

Medieval paintings

Normally when we visit churches of this size we are the only visitors, possibly for days, but today we had plenty of company. Shame we were the only ones to pop some coins through the whole in the wall to help with the upkeep.

St George’s

The manor was well worth a visit. This year it has been open from April to the end of August on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Only two more days to visit this year. Then the whole operation will close down for major works to take place enabling them to accommodate more visitors and do much needed remedial works on the house. If all is going well they will open for limited time next year, but the house will reopen to visitors in 2021 the 150th anniversary of when William Morris first moved to the house.

Which way?

After avoiding the hot outside all day, then avoiding the woofers and people, then avoiding the wobbly lads on day boats I headed out to see what I could see. I’d been warned that the friendly cover shouldn’t be pounced in as this outside might be missing some floor in places. So I headed across the field to a large wood pile. This was very interesting to climb and poke my arms in. A few friends kept me amused for a while but it was all over too quickly when She came calling for me.

Morris’s bed

1 lock, 3.04 miles, 0 bacon for us, 1 clambering mooring, 12:10 entry, 1 Elizabethan house, 3 floors, 2 peacocks, 1 wonderful attic, 2 slices cake, 2 cups of tea, 3 seated loo, 200 lbs of Mulberries, 1 little church, 4 in one, 3 hours, 1 big log pile, 1 cooling breeze, 1 cardigan back to where it should be.

2018 Round Up. 2nd January

HOORAY!!! Proper signal again, sorry for the delay. Here at last is a round up of 2018 and our vital statistics, who they are vital to I don’t know!

THAT Aqueduct!

We started off the year up on the Llangollen having spent Christmas up in the basin, if it hadn’t been for me getting some work I think we’d have headed back there this year as we enjoyed it so much. On our return journey we dropped down onto the Montgomery Canal for a few days. Then we gradually worked our way along the canal stoppage hopping, the last bridge holding us up by a few days whilst work over ran, but we were first through and soon back down on the Shroppie  at the end of January.

Ellesmere Port

A pootle up to Chester and then Ellesmere Port where we spent several days looking round the museum, mooring on site made this very easy.

Shuffling with Brian on NB HarnserDry bottom

Oleanna had a day in the dry dock at Chester to check out why our bowthruster had stopped working and gave me chance to do a quick touch up of the blacking.

Jaq from NB Valerie

We then made our way back to Nantwich where we sat out the Beast from the East and at last got chance to meet and spend a bit of time with Jaq from NB Valerie.

The magical Shroppie

Then we climbed the Shroppie to Autherley Junction turned right onto the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal and made our way down to Stourport where the river rose on us over night and left us stranded for far too long. This did mean that Tilly had her annual jabs gaining shore leave for another year. A hire car gave us a few days away from the flashing lights of Stourport, a trip to Beverley and to catch up with the John Godber Company in Bromsgrove along with a recky trip to Droitwich.

Long routeShort routeIn the end we got bored of waiting for the river to drop and decided on going the long way round to Droitwich. Of course about two or three days into ‘the long way round’ the levels dropped and we could have done a quick journey down the River Severn.

TardebiggeLock 40

Oh well we enjoyed all the locks having good weather for the Tardebigge Flight.

Once in Worcester we turned onto the river and made our way down to the Gloucester Sharpness Canal where we pootled down to the end with all the swing bridges being worked for us, met up with Jaye and Duncan (I’d have got into big trouble if I didn’t mention them!), saw the hulks, all sorts of flamingos and got to watch tall ship Kaskelot pass us.

Duncan, Jaye, Mick and meTall Ship

Back up the Severn for Micks 60th birthday weekend where all our siblings joined us to celebrate. We watched cricket at New Road in Worcester, ate in Droitwich, caught steam trains in Kidderminster and ate some more in Bridgenorth, a very good weekend.

Family at the cricketBirthday Boy

About time there was a picture of meYummy

By now the summer had already started with wall to wall sunshine and our Sunday roasts became Sunday barbeques. We made our way back to Worcester and turned back down stream to Tewkesbury (I do like a good Tewkesbury!) and the river Avon. The last rain storm for a while slowed our progress upstream, but we stayed safe.

A lovely Avon mooringThe Avon was a picturesque cruise and we met up with friends from Australia and old work friends of mine in Stratford, taking advantage to see as much theatre as we could.

The Swan, Stratford

Whilst in Stratford I heard that I’d got the job designing Panto in Chipping Norton this year. This would now affect the remainder of the year slowing us down somewhat. We headed back into Birmingham up the Lapworth flight (meeting NB Chuffed) to rendez vous with NB Blackbird and crew.

One last kiss with NB BlackbirdPerry BarHere we planned to explore all the back waters of the BCN, but the sun was now on permanently and the thought of spending weeks surrounded by brick work and concrete reflecting heat at us was not attractive. So we chose a route out of the city that we’d not done before (via Ryders Green and Perry Barr) and headed for the shade of trees.

Sheltering on the Ashby

Work and heat were the feature of the next few months. On days we wanted to cruise we tried to be up early to make the most of the cool hours before the sun got too high in the sky to avoid. We hopped from mooring to mooring hunting out good places with maximum tree cover, not so good for the solar panels but it meant we didn’t cook inside.

Loads of cars in CoventryCoventry BasinWe gradually cruised the Coventry Canal,  the Ashby Canal for the first and second times, all the way into Coventry, down the North Oxford onto the Grand Union and on up to the Leicester Section. All our favourite moorings on the summit pound were visited and the London Leckenbys visited us at Foxton. All this slow cruising was interspersed with Panto meetings in London and Chippy, necessitating being near to stations, but this worked out well with a bit of planning.

The finished model for Aladin

Leamington Spa was a handy station back on the Grand Union for my final  model meeting in mid September, freeing us up until rehearsals started a month later.

Well worth a visitLeamington Spa StationWe made use of the Heritage weekend visiting places in both Warwick and Leamington. Oleanna got to visit the Saltisford Arm where we worked our way through the dirty washing drawer before heading back towards the Oxford Canal crossing bows with NB Tentatrice on the way.

Lift bridges on the Oxford keep Oleanna smilingStunning sunsetsThe South Oxford Canal then became our home for the next three months.

Lunch at the Turf Tavern

First we cruised all the way to Oxford taking our time to return to Banbury. I then spent four weeks working my socks off in Chippy enjoying being creative again on Panto, returning each weekend to wherever Oleanna was with my head full of song lyrics and dance moves.

Final dress rehearsal

Once Aladdin was open and hoards of kids were shouting ‘He’s behind you!’ I could return to my normal life at 3mph, the boat, Tilly’s friends and Mick’s breakfasts.

What a way to spend Christmas Eve

Due to winter stoppages leaving the south Oxford couldn’t happen until near Christmas so we slowly made our way northwards breaking off to have a pre-Christmas in London and then once Napton Lock 9 was open we headed into the middle of nowhere for Christmas. The year ended with us returning to Crick and sadly missing out on the festivities at The Red Lion with friends.

We’ve had a great year travelling, meeting up with old friends and new. We’re looking forward to where 2019 will take us and who we shall meet along the way.


So our final statistics for the year are.

Total distance is 944 miles, 1 ¼ furlongs and 614 locks. There were 170 moveable bridges of which 77 are usually left open (although three of those weren’t); 131 small aqueducts or underbridges; 39 tunnels and 2 major aqueducts.

This is made up of 669 miles, 1 ¼ furlongs of narrow canals; 118 miles of broad canals; 35 miles, 5 furlongs of commercial waterways; 42miles, 7¼ furlongs of small rivers; 78 miles, 3 ¾ furlongs of large rivers; 476 narrow locks; 129 broad locks 9 large locks.

1084.6 engine hours, 7 hire cars, 1,383.63 litres diesel, 10 gas bottles (we do have gas central heating), 54 bags of coal, 2 waterway museums, 3 big houses, 3 versions of tuperware, 60th birthday, 2nd solar panel fitted, 7 overnight guests, 6 packs of Dreamies, 26 friends, 1 snake, 9 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval moorings, 7 pairs socks,  6 pairs gloves, 11 supermarket deliveries, 56 boxes wine delivered!

Illuminating Oxford. 16th November

Jericho Wharf

Living on a boat means that I couldn’t put off unpacking the four bags I’d returned from Chippy with for long. Any spare space on the boat had been taken up by them last night, so after a slow start to the day I started to unpack. Returning things to where they’d come from meant taking out the back steps and dismantling the dinette to return my sewing machine, steel toe cap boots and paint brush bag back to the depths they normally live in. Mick had managed to empty the washing drawer earlier in the week, but I filled in again! My dungarees, that had been gradually getting duller have now had a brightening up with primary colours, hope it clings on in the washing machine.

An afternoon of watching Lego Masters and knitting was followed with a walk into the city. My landlady in Chippy had mentioned that she would be singing this evening at the Ashmolean Museum, this was to be a small part of a light festival. Looking it up I discovered that the light festival was right across the city, lantern parades, street markets, food markets, installations and performances. A quick look through the website and we decided to head to Broad Street where there would be a market and several other things going on as it got dark.

Broad Street

Broad Street was cut off to traffic and filled with a market, both foody things and craft bits and bobs. Chippy panto seems to have set a trend with various camel themed items for sale throughout the market.

Rising highBright whiteColour changingWhat we’d actually come here for was to watch the Heliosphere. Up ahead a large white balloon sat tethered to a heavy truck. A lady climbed inside a harness and strapped herself in. The lights were turned on in the balloon as it was unclipped and allowed to rise from the ground taking with it the lady. In a spangley catsuit, similar to that of Queenie the Genie (Chippy Panto) the lady rose up above the crowds suspended below the balloon. Two chaps also with harnesses had guide ropes, as they moved close to each other the balloon went higher, further apart the lower it came above the crowd. The lady span round, twisting and turning in her harness floating along the street, pausing to touch hands with the crowd before rising high up between the University buildings all the time a follow spot doing it’s job (making it hard to get good photos of her) and the balloon changing colour.

Shimmer Tree

Further along is the Shimmer Tree by Dan Fox. A 6m high sculpture with twelve branches which suspend a cymbal on each. Lights shine up to the cymbals and sounds are created. The cymbals act as directional speakers and resonate as the lights chase round. From a distance this didn’t seem like much, but stood below it was quite mesmerising.

Wonder if this will still be here tomorrow or a new one on its way

We decided to hunt out the other installations around the city. Down by the Castle people took turns to sit in an ice throne lit from below.

A food market, only a few stalls, is hoping to grow in time and become a regular thing. Round the corner, after following oddly positioned signs we got to the Voice Park.

Voice ParkOdd bodsSpeaker or egg waiting to hatchLast Sunday I’d come across people who looked like they were poor imitators of the Ghost Busters. Apparatus on their backs with empty water containers, surely to collect any stray ghosts. But no, they were collecting voices from people. Here pods not unsimilar to growing Chrysalids are joined by pipes and cables. Speakers with lights embeded inside their red pods. If you make a suitable noise next to them they respond by playing human sounds back. I got one to work by saying hello, but Mick struggled as his voice was too low for it to react. One for the kids.

Modern Diseases

We then set out to find projections on museums. These were further afield, north out of the centre. The Radcliffe Humanities Building had a large projection to do with Diseases of modern life. This was amusing in it’s animation of Victorian illustrations.

Natural History Museum

Weaving our way further east we reached the Natural History Museum where vast projections created by Luxmuralis covered the front of the building. There are to be more of these over the weekend, moving around the city and projecting onto other buildings. Torchlit tours of museums were also being held, but we were a touch pooped by now so we’ll return in day light. So we wove our way through the streets back in the direction of the canal for a quiet evening in front of the stove with some nice food.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 poached eggs, 2 slices toast, mushrooms, 4 bags unpacked, 1 homeless bag, 0.5 glove knitted, 1 large balloon, 12 cymbals, 5 uninspired cubes, 2 SILENT signs, 1 noisy man, 3 illuminated buildings, 4 soggy bums, 1 bench a touch too close to the boat, 1 tree, 1 cat, 1 squirrel, 1 ft away, 1 unfair advantage.

Apples, Flowers And Bells. 15th September

Leamington Spa

Choo Choo!

The Heritage Open days are keeping us busy. Today we got the train over to Warwick as there were a few things there that appealed to us. Handy hint, if you want to do this journey without your boat go by train, not by bus. My train fare was £1.80 return compared to £5.50 on the bus, only downside is that the bus takes you closer to the town centre than the train, but not by miles.

We’d selected three places to visit, Hill Close Gardens, The Court House and St Mary’s Church. Starting off at the furthest we found our way to the Gardens. Just by the race course hidden away (there are brown signs to it) we came in through the visitors centre. We expected to only be there for an hour tops, but found ourselves weaving through the gardens for two.

RobinHill Close Gardens are rare survivors of Victorian gardens once used by townsfolk who lived above their businesses, to escape the busy town. Back yards were full of wash houses, workshops and privies, no room for flowers or grass. So these businessmen rented a plot of land on the outskirts of town. In 1845 Hill Close pasture land was divided up into plots that Warwick people could rent. In these Detached Gardens they planted apple trees, grew fruit and veg, kept pigs and chickens and built small summer houses from which to enjoy their gardens. At a later date people could buy their gardens and  by the early 20th Century parts were sold off for housing, but what remains today has been saved and restored by volunteers.

View from a summer houseParsley, sage, thyme, chives and moreBy the 1990’s most of the gardens had been sold off, but 16 remained, 2 still tended, the other 14 in very bad shape. By 1993 the council had bought much of the land and planning permission had been granted for 30 new houses to be built, the locals were stirred into action researching the site, one of only four left in the country. By 1994 local activists had managed to get four of the summer houses Grade 2 listed so the development was halted. The gardens themselves became Grade 2* listed shortly afterwards. By 2000 the council had helped to set up a trust to manage and restore the gardens for all to enjoy.

Wonderfully laid out

Heritage Lottery Funding in the mid 2000s enabled major restoration and by 2008 the gardens were opened up to the public frequently.

History of owners

Each garden has a short history about its owners and has been laid out how it once would have been.

Ruby redHumoungusMasses and massesWindfalls60 varieties of apples grow here, some ruby red, some huge, some abundant on their trees, all producing many windfalls.

Beans in every gardenFantastic vineGrape vines, figs, pears, beans (how are yours Frank?), courgettes, all sorts.

PurpleOrangeRedMore purpleWe were also taken aback by the amount of colour still in the flower beds, oranges, reds and purples shouting out at us.

Bra malfunctionPig styCosy summer houseSunny spotThe summer houses, small with their fireplaces, look out over lawned areas all hedged in for privacy from one another. These are very smart posh allotments lovingly cared for and so worth a visit.

We left by the town entrance hidden away behind a modern development and made our way into town. Hungry we decided that we’d have lunch before looking at The Court House. The Market Place Pantry had a free table so we enjoyed toasted cheese and ham sandwiches of full gluten and non gluten varieties followed by a slice of cake each, all very tasty.

The BallroomWhat was Ruth doing here?

By now we’d missed the start of the tour, but went to have a look at The Court House ourselves. The tour was just finishing and they must have been given access to other areas that we couldn’t get to see. The ballroom upstairs was open but that was pretty much it, we’d seen the display downstairs last time we were in Warwick. So we walked up the road to get in line for the tour of the Bell Ringing Chamber at St Mary’s.

Just a small amount of what's already there

The church is being filled with poppies at the moment. A huge community project to mark the end of WW1 is underway. Panels everywhere are already covered in knitted, crocheted, paper, felt and tissue paper poppies. The main columns have been covered in black fabric and poppies are starting to be applied to them too. By November the whole church will be a riot of red. Intermixed with all the poppies there is the occasional white and purple ones. The white are for conscientious objectors. The purple for animals. The other day I came across a poppy I’d made for my friends in Scarborough that must have got away from the others, so if we end up coming this way I’ll drop it off to be added to the thousands.

The chamber

Shortly before 4pm we were allowed up the circular stone staircase to the bell ringing chamber. St Mary’s bell chamber is built at the West end, added on, as the ground wasn’t thought to be stable enough to carry it over the main church. We were joined by about twenty others along with four of the bell ringers. There are ten bells, the oldest dating back to 1701, the current clock from 1901. The clock in recent years has been electrified saving a twice weekly job of winding it up, but this has meant that the quarter hour chimes are just slightly out at the moment due to this summers hot weather.

A model of how the bells work with their wheels was demonstrated to us and then a bell was rung. Large boards around the room celebrate the peals that have been rung for certain occasions and under a box (used to stand on) there is written a note to mark Queen Victoria’s death. Much history has been marked by the ringing of the bells.

BellsThe towerAfter we’d had everything explained to us we then took our time to climb the next 40 or so steps to see the bells. I’m not too keen on heights and Mick normally does such things on his own, but I felt today the official photographer should be on hand. The floor a metal grid was a touch unnerving for me, but once the ringers started to explain about the bells  and point out the hammers etc I felt a lot better. Our visit here was timed so as not to coincide with any bells ringing! Then we all made our way up another 50 or so steps to the top of the tower.

The castleThe roof

From here we could see for miles. The race course, the castle stood out very easily. Leamington Town Hall and church too. We tried to spot the Hatton flight of locks, we knew where it should be but it was being shy amongst the many trees. We’ve only done the flight in spring or autumn and wondered if you still get a good view of the church at this time of year.

I still don’t understand how people can stand leaning against the bars looking over the edge of such buildings, I can not get closer than two foot away. But I did my best and took photos at arms length.

Dong dong

Back down the stairs, much easier to descend backwards, there was chance for people to ring the bells. Mick held back, but I could tell he really wanted a go and in the end he succumbed, not having to jump into the air as much as the younger members of our party.

A very good day had by all. Except me!

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 trains, 16 gardens, 60 varieties of apples, 2 hours around the gardens, 2 toasties, 2 pots of tea, 2 slices of cake, 1 tour missed, 10 bells, 1701, 1901, 150 steps, 1 big boy bell ringer, 4 fantastic views, 1 rat to watch all day!

Which One Says Snake Most?. 14th September

Leamington Spa

Unicorn filling up at the water point yesterday

With the cooler temperatures my Etsy shop seems to have caught peoples eyes. One pair of hand warmers went off in the post from Crick. I have a large order for a friend in Australia. Then a pair of socks.

This morning just as I was about to head up to Wool Warehouse another order popped into my inbox! Another pair of socks, good job I’d not left earlier to buy wool!

My main reason for visiting the warehouse was to audition yarns for a character in panto. Fazil is a snake, so obviously he will be a puppet, made from a very long sock. Yes I could go out and buy a sock, but I can make him more colourful if I knit him instead. So I’d made a short list of yarns I wanted to look at and Gemma had said that the lady in the shop would happily pull out yarns for me to see.

Wool Warehouse

A fifteen minute walk from the boat in the middle of an industrial estate is the warehouse. The shop is small and displays of single balls of yarn are laid out to tempt you. The biggest crochet hook (it must have been 2 inches) I’ve ever seen hung amongst all the hooks and pins on the wall. I was fortunate as I was the only customer and had to press the big red button for attention.

A lady arrived and took my list, noted stock numbers and went off to hut out all the balls I was wanting to look at. I was soon joined by another lady, also wanting to peruse a few colours for some gloves. My bucket of wool was brought for me to look at whilst the lady carried on serving. Someone else arrived and we all exchanged knitting and crochet ideas and thoughts about our favourite yarns, whether we were toe up or top down sock knitters and the joys of magic loop knitting. As one of the ladies said, knitting has changed a lot since we were kids, I suspect due to the generation below giving yarn and patterns a whole new life.

Which one says Panto Snake the most?

My shortlisted selection of yarns was quite good. Straight away I could discount most as they simply weren’t ‘panto’ enough. I was down to two and asked the opinion of the lady next to me, she agreed with my gut instinct. Here’s hoping it knits up how I think it will!

Weaving ends in

When I returned to the boat I decided that it would be wise to put a note on my Etsy shop. With the orders I have at the moment and 3 Fazils, my needles and hands are going to be full right up to when rehearsals start in Chipping Norton. So I am not taking any more orders until after the show is open, no point in being knitted out before I have to start painting Egypt!

This weekend is Heritage Weekend, when places not normally open to the public open their doors and you can have a nosy around. Last year we got to look around the Egyptian balconies of Preston Art Gallery. This year we have made a short list of things we want to see and do in Leamington Spa and Warwick. We’ve already done a few of them, even though it’s not the weekend yet. But I’ll tell you about them in another post.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 walk south of the canal, 3 orders, 3 snakes, 1 audition, 6 to choose from, 1 successful ball, 600 grams of yarn, 1st pair complete for Australia, 1 so bored cat, 2 heritage tours done, 4 more to do, 1 obsession with that cat.