Category Archives: Ashton Canal

Sideways Snow. 31st March

Thorne Lock to Thorne Services Visitor Moorings

A phone call to Sean to see if he’d be visiting Thorne today or tomorrow came up with the answer we’d been expecting. The weather was not suitable for him to fit boat covers so he wouldn’t be making a trip to Thorne this week. Only one thing for it, the Senior Citizen Railcard would be put to use and Mick would go and collect it from Cottingham, which is north of Hull. We checked the times and prices of tickets, then checked a split ticket website and managed to get £5 off if Mick got one return to Brough and another to Cottingham.


In a lull between snow storms we headed out, Mick to the station and myself to Sainsburys for some milk as we’d run out. I thought today might not be so interesting, other than the sideways snow, so took a photo of The Little Shop. It’s one of those shops I really want to go in, but sweeties from a big jar are not something we need. Maybe next time I’ll have to arrange to have a young person with me, the need then will be greater.

Back at Oleanna I had some lunch and set about weaving ends in on my socks. Then the world got busy!

Across the way a narrowboat was being brought down the slipway back into the water. No bung in the exhaust just the engine running to keep any water from going into the engine. Once floating the boat was winded alongside us, then it vanished! Where had it gone? I’d sat down to do some more weaving for just a couple of minutes and it had vanished. It must have gone into the dock opposite.

Then another narrowboat arrived. The tractor came down the slipway to meet it, but the prevailing wind really wasn’t helping things, the bow missed the opening and as they went into reverse the boat was blown down past us, necessitating a more powerful return.

Ooo, new gates!

Two boats in the mean time had just come up Thorne Lock, they stemmed the wind waiting to get past. Once they were clear the rumble of a big boat came close, in front of it a big skip boat filled with generators and big hoses. C&RT getting ready for the work at the lock. Earlier on I’d seen a chap setting out mesh on the grass on the offside, maybe this is where the generators will be positioned next week.

Cabin top dropped to get under low bridges.

Then another skip boat came past, Robin Hood pushing the new lock gates. These will have been made at Stanley Ferry and most probably have come all the way by water. The top of Robin Hood’s cab had been dropped to get under the railway bridge in Thorne.

Lots of big blue boats

The two boats and their skips breasted up on the lock landing, hopefully there will be a volunteer on duty for the weekend to help single handers through.

Is that our cover?

Mick soon arrived back with a very natty package including handle, we had our cratch cover back.!

Goodbye Staniland, we did try waving to Jonathan.

In what we thought was a lull in the weather, we untied. Mick kept Oleanna on the mooring until I’d got the bridge open, stopping a reversing bin wagon in the process (not sure how many you get for one of those!), then he zoomed her into the lock avoiding being pushed this way and that by the wind.

Going Down Thorne Lock

A chap came over to chat and watch. Next week he’s picking up his first narrowboat from Lymm, cruising up the Bridewater, up the Rochdale 9, Ashton canal, over the Pennines via the Huddersfield Narrow and along the Aire and Calder to Thorne to moor. Thankfully he’s getting help with his first ever locks on the Rochdale 9, but then single handing from there. He hadn’t been aware of Thorne Lock closing on Monday for over a month. I wished him luck and told him to take his time and enjoy himself.

One space left

We pootled to the services, but would there be space for us? One side of a pontoon was available so we could get water, phew! Here is a 24 hour visitor mooring behind gates with the services, until tomorrow unless other wise signed all visitor moorings have been 14 days. We slotted in and started to fill the water tank. This would take a couple of hours as the pressure could compete with all the slow taps on the network. We also did a load of washing and got the dishwasher earning it’s keep.

The cratch cover went back on, the zips all sewn back in by machine, much better than my hand sewing. SPL had also darned a couple of little tares, one that had been there since it was made, the other possibly from a tussle with NB Billy a couple of years ago or when we’d got too close to a lock gate. Not bad for £25 plus a train fare to Cottingham.

By now we were both very cold. What was the likelihood of someone passing wanting water? It was getting dark after all. We decided that we’d stay put for the night and if no-one else had moved off in the morning we’d pull out and leave a space available.

The last batch of socks

My aim of knitting ten pairs of socks during March was achieved, admittedly the tenth pair being a diddy pair. All adult socks were packed up and addressed ready to be sent off. I’m going to let my fingers and needles have a bit of a rest for a few days, hopefully I won’t get twitchy fingers and start on something else.

1 lock, 0.37 miles, 4 trains, 1 cratch cover, 1 boat through the impending stoppage, 1 swing bridge, 1 reversing bin wagon held up, 2 tugs, 4 gates, 2 boats swapped, 1 hour of sideways snow, 20 frozen digits, 1 full water tank, 10 pairs, 1 March Challenge completed.

Consulting With The Tunnel. 4th October

Murrys Winding Hole to opposite Tescos………

Two years ago we crossed the Pennines from east to west via the Rochdale Canal with Clare and Graeme on NB Mr Blue Sky. Last year we crossed via the Leeds Liverpool visiting friends and family in Skipton and Leeds. Earlier this year we dodged the hills by taking the route south via the River Trent. There is one other route which we have only done once before, six years ago, the Huddersfield Narrow and Broad Canals.

Snake bridge

Recently all routes have had their problems. Lock floors, stuck boats, lack of water etc etc. The Huddersfield Narrow has problems with water levels towards Huddersfield on a good year, but this year those problems have been greater. Then over the last month the bottom end of the Huddersfield Broad Canal has been found to be empty on several occasions.

And another

The C&RT stoppage notices that come from this area are far more informative than you normally get, they explain what has happened and what measures are being taken to rectify the situation. However what we wanted to know was, was the situation going to improve or would Oleanna be stuck in Huddersfield all winter if we went that way.

I think we’re going to see a lot of the chap on the right

The amount of work needed to reach the summit, the tunnel passage and then working down the other side is more for those who like a challenge than those who prefer a life on the flat with a glass of wine in hand. Before we committed to this route we wanted to talk to someone on the ground with local knowledge. For the last week Mick has been trying to call Standedge Tunnel Control to speak to someone, but with no luck. Today however was different he got through.

This year the canal has suffered more from the lack of water as one of the reservoirs has been drawn down for inspection and maintenance (several others on the system have also been lowered). But the rain we are having has been doing a good job of filling the canal up. The chap sounded positive, which is what we wanted to hear. Decision made before we’d even got out of bed this morning. Huddersfield Narrow it is!

We’ll be going right please!

About a month ago we’d booked our passage through Standedge Tunnel and our cruising has been planned for us to reach Diggle portal the day before. We have also booked a ranger to assist for a day on our descent from Marsden, then you also have to book for Lock 1E to be unlocked to let you out the bottom and into Huddersfield.

Time to get moving!

A boat came past, possibly the boat that had followed us down Marple yesterday, at speed. They then met a Black Prince hire boat at the next bridge, we just waited for both boats to pass before untying. The Black Prince boat might just arrive in time to start the flight before midday.

They’ll need warp drive to reach the locks in time!

Soon after pushing off ourselves we were approaching a big bend when the bow of another Black Prince boat came charging round it. Thankfully it seemed that the person at the helm had some experience as we narrowly avoided a collision. If they could keep their speed up we reckoned they would miss the locks by about ten minutes! Not good if you are trying to the Cheshire ring in a week!

We pootled along at a reasonable speed through the long winding wooded valley. A chap was blowing leaves off his astro turf. Maybe it’s best to keep on top of such things, but what a never ending job!


Under the M67. Was this the face of a local graffiti artist on the wall here? Was this going to be the local ‘Ghost’? It was, we were to see plenty more pupilless faces today.

We caught the boat ahead of us up at Duckingfield Lift Bridge. Here you need an anti-vandal key, or handcuff key to get the lock off the mechanism and they hadn’t got one. The chap was tinkering with the lock as the lady knocked on a boat to see if they could help. We pulled in for me to hop off just as they got the lock unlocked. At least it saved me doing all the winding, but I did make sure it was locked back up once it was down again.

Mick asked them which way they were going. ‘To Ancotes’ was the reply. He pointed out that they would need a handcuff key for the locks. But the lady said they wouldn’t be doing the locks today. They’d still need a handcuff key no matter what day they were doing them.

Dukinfield Junction

They turned left at the junction, we turned right onto new waters for Oleanna and Tilly. Under the Asda Tunnel and out passing moored boats and three flying ducks.

Then on towards Bridge 111, the first of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, just below 1W Ashton Lock, the first lock of the canal.

Broken even with the price tag still on it!

Now six years ago we’d just bought ourselves a long reach aluminium windlass. I was nursing my lack of little finger so was at the helm, off went Mick to set the lock. He soon returned with the brand new windlass in two pieces! The advantage of the longer reach no longer available he struggled with a standard windlass. A while later we replaced the broken aluminium windlass with a long reach one made from steel, now my best friend.

Lock 1W finally open!

Today it would be me working the locks and 1W made itself known quickly. The lock was full so I went to empty it. The towpath side paddle being extremely stiff took some work. A couple of clicks, then adjusting the position of the windlass to give me more umph! Eventually it raised. I then tried the off side, this just slipped every half turn, so I left it closed. The gates were stubborn too, one side with a cranked beam. If this was to be the case at every lock we were going to be working hard for the next few days!

Plantation and Tame Lock were much easier. Hills just in view ahead and old mills alongside the canal.

River Tame

The River Tame aqueduct took me by surprise, I nearly had to do a Giles as I’m not too keen on having nothing on one side of the boat!

Now we cruised through overgrownness on both sides approaching Stalybridge. Railings and lamp posts hide in amongst the sideways trees. At one time someone thought the canal would be a popular place to walk, it is but only on one side, the other left to grow over and collect rubbish.

Salt shaker vent

The canal was built over 17 years, originally opening in 1811 Standedge Tunnel being the last stretch to open. For a while the canal was profitable being a shorter route connecting Manchester to Leeds than the Rochdale, but bottlenecks were created at the tunnel where it took four hours to leg a boat through! In 1845 the canal was bought by the Huddersfield and Manchester Railway Company who’s route was to follow the canal up the Tame and Colne Valleys. Standedge Tunnel was used to remove the spoil when they built the railway tunnel. Once the railway was open there was no need for the canal which fell into decline and ended up closing in 1944.

In 1974 the Huddersfield Canal Society was formed with the aim of re-opening the canal. Whole sections of the cut had been filled in, built over and several bridges had been removed. Volunteers with the support of local councils worked hard and by the 1990’s all sections that had not been filled in were restored. The Huddersfield Canal Company was set up to co-ordinate the reopening of the remaining sections, one of them being a half mile through Stalybridge which had been filled in and partly built over. But in May 2001 the canal was reopened. Plenty photos of the building work here.

4W mossy but new

Lock 4W is more or less where the major works in Stalybridge started. A whole new lock was built with it’s approach under a road. I’d remembered this and the railings which meant dropping crew off to work the lock had to be done at the start of the tunnel/bridge.

The bottom gates were problematical to close. In fact after pushing and bumping the gates there was still a six inch gap between them. We tried adding water pressure to the equation, but all that was going to do was deplete the pound above. The paddles were closed, gates reopened, Mick tried prodding around with a boat hook but the water was too deep. The gates closed a touch better and water pressure did the rest of the job for us, up the 11ft 1″ Oleanna rose, the pound above looking a bit short on water.

Looking back to 4W

I walked ahead and dropped the water from 5W which aided our need to get over the cill. Mick decided to leave the ground paddles open until Oleanna was safely across the cill, this would help water move around her should I have needed to let more water down. Once clear of the gate he then dropped the paddles. As on quite a few of the Huddersfield Canal Locks both ground paddle mechanisms are on the same side as the gate beam, handy as there are no walkways over the top gates.

Stalybridge Civic Hall and hills

We had a similar problem at 5W with the gates closing. An extra nudge and water help again. Now we could see the Civic Hall and the hills behind as we made our way through the new cut to 6W.

Nice trees, a shame about the weeds

Up at lock level there is masses of paving everywhere, a municipal feel to the town centre, all revamped when the canal came back through town. Once exciting I’m sure, but now it feels just a touch soulless. An art installation sits near the lock, Holy Trinity and Christ Church a little behind it. Then once up through Lock 6W Tescos takes over, car park on both sides of the canal. We pulled in where another boat was moored right opposite the checkouts. The chap on NB Texas Star had a very pretty dog and he was trying his best to get a coat of paint on the back of his cabin just as it started to really rain.

Two paddles and Tescos ahead

After a late lunch we put together a big shopping list, enough supplies to get us into Yorkshire. This must be the closest we’ve ever moored to somewhere you can leave your trolley and get your £ coin back. The only problem is the railings between the car park and boat. I passed the shopping through and Mick popped them on the boat. It was then either a walk round for me or a scramble through the railings.

Look what they’ve just bought!

This afternoon we’ve had the following through from C&RT

Huddersfield Narrow Canal – Water management information
Starts At: Lock 1 East, Stanley Dawson Lock
Ends At: Standedge Tunnel

Monday 4 October 2021 14:30 until further notice

With the support of the EA, during the 2021 boating season we installed a temporary river pump at Britannia bridge, in Milnsbridge, abstracting water from the River Colne into the Huddersfield Narrow canal to aid continued navigation on the canal. We have unfortunately been unsuccessful in gaining an extension on this abstraction from the EA which we had hoped would continue until the end of the 2021 boating season, so as of 30th Sept 2021 we have ceased abstraction for this year.

The canal is currently looking healthy and we are relying on supply from our reservoirs, natural feeds and of course wet weather to maintain water supply, with the recent rainfall proving beneficial. The local team will continue to do their best to manage water levels in order to support safe navigation and if we are faced with the need to implement restrictions or closures, we will update the notice accordingly.

At least the rain is doing some good to the east of the Pennines, here it has stopped us from heading out for an explore, instead we stayed by the stove keeping dry and warm. Outside it was someone’s birthday, maybe they were having a car park party! Thankfully they quietened down after a while leaving us with the car park lights and the very raucous Canada Geese!

Today we have learnt something that we’ll never forget. Did you know that a Moorhens skin type is fur ?! No we didn’t either until we were checking what juvenile Moorhens looked like. Check this link if you don’t believe me!

6 locks, 61ft 3″ climbed, 5.89 miles, 1 lift bridge, 1 boat held up, 1 right, 2 canals, 1 Asda tunnel, 6 furry Moorhens, 1 pretty woofer, 6437 giant spiders, 1 car park mooring, 1 box, 2 bottles wine, 1 trolley almost to the boat, 1 very damp evening, 0 shore leave.

So our route today

Murrys Winding Hole to opposite Tescos, Stalybumbridge, Huddersfield Narrow Canal

2020 A Long And Winding Year.

Get yourself a cuppa and put your feet up, this is a long post.

Into BUMingham

Having seen New Year in on the North Stratford Canal we commenced the new year by cruising in to Birmingham or as Tilly would have it know, BUMingham, she’s not too keen!

What a stripy world!

A meeting with Amy from Dark Horse Theatre Company about a project in the summer set out our years cruising as I’d need to be in Huddersfield then York for the show. Then it was time to pack and get myself ready for ten days in Vienna. This would be the longest I’ve been away from boat life since we set out in 2014. Half of my clothes were packed up along with a basic scene painting kit and I jetted off to what was a mixed experience. Despite the problems I had a wonderful time working with a great team in the theatre, I hope one day to return.

Whilst I marvelled at the wonderful scenes in Vienna and pulled my hair out at work, trying to keep a calm exterior, Mick and Tilly headed back out into the countryside towards Tardebigge on the Worcester and Birmingham. Here they met up with a friend Chris who was planning a boat build.


Mick and Tilly came back into Birmingham to pick me up and then we set about exploring the BCN. There is plenty to explore and we didn’t quite manage to go everywhere, but we did our best.

Smethwick Locks

We headed up Smethwick New Locks onto the Old Main line. Stopped at Dudley Port Basin, coconuts accompanied us down Brades Staircase, then through Netherton Tunnel where we’d planned on visiting Hawne Basin, but thick ice thwarted our first attempt. The following day we succeeded and had a bumpy ride along the Dudley No 2 to fill our diesel tank.

Emma and Ted

Factory Locks brought us back onto the Old Main Line, we visited Wolverhampton, turned onto the Wyrley and Essington Canal and wiggled our way through the rubbish to Pelsall Junction. Here we had a wonderful get together with my bestestest friend and her son Ted (my Godson) who were over from Sydney, an all but too short lunch with them before they headed onwards on their whistlestop tour of England.

The Cannock Extension and Anglesey Branch were ticked off followed by the Daw End Branch, The Rushall Canal, Tame Valley Canal and up the Ryders Green Locks back into the centre of BUMingham early February.

The Jewellery Quarter kept us busy with visits to Smith and Pepper a time warp jewellery manufacturers, The Back to Backs, The Coffin Works. We watched the film 1917.

The Garden white card scale model

I designed costumes and made the white card model for The Garden for Dark Horse whilst we sat out storm Ciara which was to wipe out the Figure of Three Locks on the Calder Hebble. The damage to the locks looked great and not fixable quickly, a rethink to our cruising route was needed for me to get to work in the summer.

We went to the Symphony Hall and listened to Schubert and Berg spurred on by Dimitrios from NB Galene. Storm Dennis kept us from cruising to our next evening of entertainment at Titford Pump House, a bus replacement did the job so that we could see Alarum Theatre Company’s Acts of Abandonment. Little did we know at the time that this was to be our last live theatre until December.

A night out in the countryside for Tilly and a last night in the city to fill our bellies with curry. Then we were off again, up Smethwick Locks under the M5 where the scaffolding was being taken down. We turned up the Oldbury Locks following a boat that turned out to be NB Sola Gratia. A spin round the Titford Pools was in order before we returned for another diesel top up at Hawne Basin.

The Walsall Canal now beckoned us, that was a bumpy ride over trolleys, trees and all sorts! A fantastic fabric shop, the New Art Gallery right by our mooring and The Leather Museum kept our interest for a couple of days before we climbed up the Walsall Locks back up to Wyrley and Essington Canal.

The garden at Urban Moorings

The ladies at Urban Moorings welcomed us for an overnight visit, time to work the washing machine hard as we plugged into the electric. Then we kept our fingers crossed for a mooring at The Black Country Museum, which thankfully worked.

Marion and John came to meet us for an afternoon at the museum and we all enjoyed fish and chips with plenty of salt and vinegar in between visiting shops and watching chain links being made. The following day we took a boat trip into the Dudley Tunnel, had a second visit to the museum along with a portion of chips before heading out to moor in Tipton and have a visit from Heather from NB Bleasdale, followed by a pie at Mad O’Roukes Pie Factory.

The 7th of March saw us descend the Wolverhampton 21, leaving the Birmingham plateau behind us. Blimey we managed to pack a lot into the first ten weeks of the year! Just as well really. Onto the Shroppie where I had my first successes with gluten free sour dough bread, Tilly got to remember life in the countryside and we were treated to Shroppie Sunsets again.

Burgers with the Margees

The recent storms had brought down numerous trees and caused landslips so our progress was a touch slow heading northwards. We had a lovely lunch with Alison and Laura the Margees at Norbury Junction, they were to be our last visitors on board Oleanna for quite sometime.

Passing NB Bessie Surtees on the Tyrley Locks we actually got chance to chat for the first time. A stop to stock up in Market Drayton, we saw our first homemade mask (a pair of y fronts repurposed) and the start of empty shelves in supermarkets with people gleeful to have a twelve pack of toilet roll under their coat.

The Audlem flight was busy with plenty going down and NB Mountbatten coming up, delivering coal as they went. Theatres closed that day and we started to put into practice new ways of working locks hoping to keep ourselves safe. As we socially distanced around the shops in Nantwich people were joking about the virus. We shopped, adapting what we bought to what was available and then got ready for our first Zoom with family on the 21st March.

We stocked up with NB Halsall at Calverley then made our way onto the Middlewich Branch and down Cholmondeston Lock. The following morning (23rd March) we listened to our gut instincts. If lockdown was to happen we’d rather not have to negotiate locks to get to shops or services, so we winded and headed back up Cholmondeston Lock onto the Nantwich pound. Our gut instinct was correct.

Adam and Adrian on NB Briar Rose

The next few days we saw plenty of boats moving, finding places they wanted to spend the coming weeks, heading for home or temporary ones like NB Briar Rose. Jac my sister in law eventually managed to get a flight back from Melbourne where she’d been to celebrate her Mum’s birthday, at last everyone was where they should be.

We tried different moorings out for size as the need to fill with water or get shopping arose. It was also good to keep Tilly moving, both to stop her from getting bored and to help the local wildlife survive.

Our decision to be on the Nantwich pound turned out to be a good one, we ended up mooring at the bottom of Hurleston on the visitor moorings most, this became ‘Home’ for us where we watched spring turn into summer.

Watching the field behind the hedge be ploughed, planted and start to grow. Listening to the Lapwings enjoying the bounty in the potato fields. Getting to know our neighbours at a distance. The wheelie shoppers. The huskies out for their morning walk. The egg farm at the top of the locks. Weekly veg boxes from Nantwich Veg Boxes which we collected for ourselves and NB AreandAre. Supermarket deliveries were sought each week, sometimes only managing click and collect. The sun shone and Tilly had freedom. The coal boats kept us stocked up with fuel and our waterless (composting) toilet took one need to move out of the equation.

By mid-April my design for The Garden had been reimagined into an illustrated audio play. I was to do the illustrations, then they would have audio and some animation added to be available online. Chippy panto started to gear up with the hope that all would be back to normal-ish by the end of November for the show to be mounted.

We winded, went for walks, watched plays on the internet, winded, ate cheese scones, winded again! Tilly ventured further afield, across her field. We had barbeques, brownies and watched the reservoir banks get mown by remote control.

By Mid-May we were allowed to travel, so we hired a car for a day trip to Scarborough to see how our house was after the tenants had lost it during lockdown. In need of some tlc we now made plans for the rest of the year. We would be returning to life on land for a while, but planned on cruising as much as we could before then.

On the 23rd of May the suspension of the 14 day rule was lifted, our ‘home’ mooring was now 48 hours only so it was time to start moving again. Some boats around Hurleston headed off straight away, others remained a full 14 days before pushing off. We spent the next two weeks pootling to the far ends of the pound, Hack Green and Calvereley, the gunnels got a repaint and we said farewell to NB AreandAre who were heading up onto the Llangollen.

Cholmondeston Lock

With a full boat of veg and fruit from Nantwich Veg boxes, a Sainsburys shop and a visit from NB Halsall we were ready and on the 10th June we pushed our ‘home’ mooring away for the last time this year, Calverely was visited for a top up of water a toilet refresh and then we were off, turning onto the Middlewich Branch and descending Cholmondeston Lock, our first lock in 80 days. New gardening gloves became my boaters PPE and worked well, better than sanitising every five minutes.

Across onto the Trent and Mersey where we headed for Bramble Cuttings for a couple of nights. We’d been hoping to be able to drop down onto the Weaver but the Anderton Boat lift was still closed. So instead we winded at Whatcroft flash and headed up the Cheshire Locks hoping to catch Bosley Locks being open for a day to make our way onto the summit pound of the Macclesfield.

Nice Lock

It was nice being back on familiar ground again, although it took a little while to be able to do the Trent and Mersey hurdles over the lockgate beams with ease after sitting still for so long.

Our chairs were brought out onto the towpath to watch the setting sun at Tilly Railings and a barbeque was enjoyed on the Dane Aqueduct as we waited in line for Bosley Locks to open.

Bosley Locks and The Cloud in the background

With a single hander in front and one behind everyone helped out where we could making our passage up the locks a very jolly if hot one that only took 2.5 hours. Over the next ten days or so we pootled our way along the Macclesfield Canal, such a lovely stretch of water and oh those bridges! Still our favourites.

Calling in at Bollington Wharf we had our gas locker lid mended and had a top up of diesel. Foxgloves filled the canal banks and woods, we stopped at favourite spots along the way turning under the snake bridge at Marple onto the Peak Forest Canal at the end of June, heading for Whaley Bridge and Bugsworth Basin.

Saturday 4th July the pubs could re-open, we however went for a walk and waited for our delivery from Sainsburys along with a diesel top up from NB Alton. A batch of cheese scones were made to help us down the Marple flight on the 7th, we were the second boat down and it felt like we were pioneering boats going where no one had gone for months.

A couple of nights at Droylesden Marina saw to the washing pile and to recharge our batteries before we descended into Manchester. Our last narrow lock of the year was to be Ancotes Bottom Lock 1 on the Ashton Flight where we paused for a night at Telford Basin before tackling the Rochdale 9 on our own the following day. Patience and sheer determination got us out of Lock 92 at the bottom and was rewarded with a cheese scone as we made our way out to the Bridgewater Canal and Worsely.

The 14th July saw us rising up the Wigan Flight. We’d made arrangements to share the locks with NB Billy but it was decided by the volunteer lock keepers that they might be over long to share with, so instead we teamed up with John and Lindsey on NB Merganser. With the help of the Wigan Flight crew setting ahead we made good time up the flight, we then slowed down leaving the others to head off ahead of us.

The next few days we found ourselves leapfrogging NB Billy, or should that be hopfrogging? But we finally caught them up at Blackburn to share the locks. Another spectacular sunset was enjoyed by all near Foster Swing Bridge.

We’d planned to take our time along this stretch, but with local lockdowns looking possible in the area we decided to push on. The Burnley Embankment was busy with walkers and not a place to stop so we continued on to the bottom of Barrowford Locks. The following day we were caught up again by NB Billy so we shared the final flight up to the summit with Clare and Pete.

Our sixth anniversary of being fulltime boaters happened to coincide with pulling up at our favourite mooring on the network, the curley wurlys above Bank Newton. The following day the clouds lifted and we got to see the view. A barbecue was just managed before it started to rain.

It wasn’t quite plain sailing down into Skipton as the skipper of NB Amelie ended up in the cut at the bottom of Bank Newton and then we had problems with lock gates and swing bridges. Mick and I had an overnight in Scarborough leaving Tilly in charge and with the magic food bowl primed. On our return to Skipton we were met by two octogenarians leaning out of the upstairs windows of their house waving. We joined Margaret and Robert for a lovely meal, good to see them even if we were a bit nervy being in their company inside.

Sunny weather accompanied us onwards and finally I managed to take the photo I’ve been after for four years, Oleanna coming towards me under Parson’s Bridge. Now we have the matching pair, Lillian going away from us, Oleanna towards.

At Bingley five rise we teamed up with NB Barley to descend with the help of Lock Keeper Clare, carrying on to Saltaire in the sunshine.

A pause in Rodley meant we could meet up with friends Graham and Tracy in their new garden room, very nice to have a good catch up with them. The following day we took the opportunity to have lunch with my cousins Julie and John, our first pub in months.

Meeting up with Jenny and Andy on NB Barley again we shared the locks down into Leeds with them early the next day. A lack of water meant it took an hour to do one pound as water was let down from above, but we made it in the end to Granary Wharf. Shame the lack of water followed us, in fact the basin did a good job of emptying itself overnight. It took quite a few hours before boats had enough water to be afloat again, we all made a hasty exit as soon as we could.

Back into the big locks of the Aire and Calder we motored on to Ferrybridge where now only three of the power station cooling towers remain, a very sad sight.

Down Bank Dole Lock, the slow filler and we headed to Selby. Our trip up the Tidal Ouse was an interesting one a there were SO many trees floating about, we had to try our best to loose them before passing through what few bridges there were. Kingfishers escorted us just about all the way to Naburn which was a real treat. Instead of pulling up in York we decided to head on up to Ripon, we’d spend time in York on our way back, or so we thought!

Above Boroughbridge a familiar boat came into view, NB Billy. This was the last time our bows would cross this year. At Oxclose Lock we had some time for Tilly to explore before heading up into Ripon Basin to meet up with Robert and Margaret again and for Tilly to show off her ability to spot otters.

I’d get it in the neck if I didn’t include a photo!

On our way downstream the river was rising, we stopped off for a meal at The Dawney Arms making the most of the Eat out to Help out deal. Wonderful food and chance to meet up with Kerry the Landlady and hoped that the river level would ease overnight. Fortunately it did and we made our way in to York. We had hoped to meet up with old friends whilst we were in the area, it turned out the only people I got to see where Jaye and Duncan for lunch. Social distancing, rising rivers sadly put paid to seeing other people.

Over the next ten days the river rose twice. On one fall we made it back into York to pick up a supermarket delivery but very quickly headed back to Naburn where we ended up breasting up in a line of four boats tied to the floating pontoon by the water point. Levels didn’t rise so much as to necessitate wellies or waders, but it did put paid to the London Leckenbys joining us for a few days at the nearby campsite. A big disappointment all round.

But on the 31st August levels had dropped sufficiently for us to head back to Selby accompanied by Richard and Heather on NB Isabella, new boat owners. Naburn was their very first lock, Selby was to be their second! It was such a beautiful morning, we led the way but then let them go first when we reached Selby, we were likely to be able to stem the tide better, but they managed the lock with ease.

Lovely to see Bridget and Storm

At West Haddelsey we had a visit from Bridget and Storm, so lovely to see them. We’d planned on being good and sitting out, they’d even brought their own chairs and the camper van for their own toilet. But as it started to rain we bent the rules taking shelter inside Oleanna. This was the day I gave a second phone to the god of the cut.

For a replacement we headed down to Goole, calling in at Viking Marina to check we would have a mooring later in the month. After filling up with cheap diesel we then headed off up toward Doncaster and Sprotbrough where we caught up with Mick’s niece Fran, before returning back onto the Aire and Calder to do maintenance jobs and enjoy our last days onboard.

On the 18th September we pulled into our berth at the marina, finished off the contents of the freezer and started to pack. Two trips in a hire car to Scarborough and we were moved, Tilly joining us the second time.

Back then we imagined we’d be down to Oleanna doing jobs on day trips and by now we’d have had a couple of weeks out on the cut, but this simply wasn’t to be.

Living Room reclaimed

Jobs in the house keep me busy, along with starting work on the postponed Chippy panto. Mick for a while applied for supermarket jobs, hoping to be a delivery driver. The only job he was offered was as a meet and greeter just before Novembers lockdown. We both decided that maybe we’d cope without the money.

Not as low as she got after the breach

Then before Christmas came the news of the Aire and Calder breach. Fortunately plenty of people are keeping an eye on all the boats including Oleanna.

Blimey what a year!

So our vital statistics for the year 2020 according to canal plan are

Total distance is 792 miles, 2 ½ furlong and 339 locks . There are 82 moveable bridges of which 5 are usually left open; 233 small aqueducts or underbridges and 41 tunnels – a total of 19 miles 6 ¾ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.

This is made up of 365 miles, ¼ furlongs of narrow canals; 242 miles, 4 ¾ furlongs of broad canals; 81 miles, 3 ¾ furlongs of commercial waterways; 76 miles, 1 ¾ furlongs of small rivers; 0 miles of large rivers; 27 miles of tidal rivers; 202 narrow locks; 118 broad locks; 18 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.

Sadly with Oleanna’s log book where it should be, onboard, I’m not able to offer up the engine hours, litres of diesel, gas bottle or bags of coal. This year I can’t even work out how many boxes of wine we’ve gone through!

However I can tell you that from one page of journeys on our trip computer, missing out all the journeys in between the start of the page and the end, the total distance travelled would have been 2.25 furlongs. Instead it actually amounted to 56 miles 7.5 furlongs with 19 winds (turning around). This was of course in Lockdown 1. Grand total number of winds this year, 67.

Christmas Day 2020, Scarborough Spa

Here’s hoping that the pandemic calms down, we all get vaccinated and the breach on the Aire and Calder gets sorted so that we can go boating again. After all we didn’t plan to move back on land permanently!

Not a bad view

Semi-detached Chandeliers. 10th July

Telford Basin to half a mile west of the M60, Bridgewater Canal

Another yawny morning with the alarm going off, time to tackle the Rochdale 9. First time we did this we had 6 crew, although one of them just wanted to sit in the bow and be seen in her white fluffy coat! Second time was last year with Graeme and Clare on NB Mr Blue Sky along with an old college friend of mine Doug. This trip involved avoiding needles and torrential rain.

Telford Basin

Last night a boat had pulled up on the otherside of the canal, managing to tuck themselves into a very short arm on the towpath. We’d tried to get their attention to see which way they were heading, to see if we could team up, but no one was to be seen last night. This morning we got a wave from the galley as we turned out of the basin, a very tight fit for a 58 ft 6″ boat. Nobody came dashing to see which way we were heading so we carried on on our own.

We made sure we turned down the Rochdale, as this is where six years ago Derek made the mistake of turning right and ending up teaming up with us to go across the Rochdale, giving himself a longer route back to his mooring than planned!

Very tight turn

Dale Street Lock 84 is the first, currently with scaffolding giving a bit of shade from rain on the southern side. Here as at most of the locks the water was way above the level of the top gates. Some extra leg power was needed to get the top gate open, then I could empty the chamber. The walk way across the top has two hand rails, which with my camera bum bag and the extra inch around my waist from Lockdown made it quite a squeeze to cross over the lock gates.

Both paddles needed to be lifted otherwise the incoming water would have overtaken the outgoing, keeping the lock at a level too high to be able to push open a bottom gate. I waited, and waited, had the level equalised? Were the gates stuck? Was I a weakling after yesterday? I swapped sides. Tried and tried again. Waited some more, then tried and tried again. Blimey!!! It felt like we’d be stuck here forever, Mick being deafened by the waterfall behind him.

In the end extra body weight was needed. Oleanna was pulled over to beside a ladder and Mick climbed out, his and my combined weight got the gate moving at last. By this point in the rain I had just about decided that this would be the last time we’d come this way, would things improve the further down the locks we got, or just stay such hard work?

Piccadilly Lock

From here we’d only have to deal with the amount of water in the pound above the lock, a far shorter pound of high water than at the first lock, so hopefully patience would work rather than brute force.

The next lock was decidedly quiet, yes it was only a little after 8am, but last time there had been lots of activity at Piccadilly Lock, two chaps having just scored and preparing to make the most of their investment.

I let him help occasionally!

The lock took a bit of time to open, only one paddle seemed to be needed at the bottom end. I couldn’t see in the dark if the level had equalised so had to ask Mick for a closer observation down in the lock. The bottom gates on Piccadilly Lock are worked with your windlass and chains around a drum. I pulled up the slack on the chain and then lent on the windlass the gate flexed a touch, water still cascaded over the top gate. Re-adusting the windlass for more leverage worked and a chink between the gates allowed the excess water to pass through, job done.

Lock 86 has no towpath access from either end, so a lift was needed. This lock needed topping up a touch and the last boat through hadn’t quite closed the paddles at the far end. With this all settled we could carry on downhill.

That’s handy!

Back onboard to reach 87 where a boat was handily moored on the lock landing. Only one thing for it but to walk through Oleanna to her bow then walk across their stern. The back doors were open and a slight sign of life within. Maybe it’s a good place to moor, maybe they were broken down and awaiting an engineer, who knows, we managed.

Making our way in

On Canal Street proper now, bunting and rainbows to be seen everywhere along with the odd giant bumble bee.

As it says Canal Street

It rained, it stopped, my poor hood was getting confused. Each lock was descended then a wait for the moment when that little bit of an extra push would get the gate moving and we could be back on our way again. Tilly sat in the window and watched as I made the outside go up. She does it quite well, glad she kept moving the outside as there were no trees to be seen!

Hello Tilly!

At Tib Lock 89 two police constables walked up, had a little chat with Mick just after I’d opened the bottom gate. They seemed a touch disappointed in not being able to help, so I suggested they could close the gate for me. One pulled at the gate not allowing the other to help, he said he was being Gentlemanly, but a woman’s touch was needed to finish closing the gate. I think we made their day.

New building from last time

The building alongside Albion Mills Lock 90 is now almost complete, this was a building site last year. I wondered what was behind the shaded glass on the ground floor as I squeezed past the lock beams, hopefully those inside can only see as much as I could see in.

Bridges Bridges Bridges

The bars below Deansgate/Castlefield Metro Link looked like they were setting up for the day, masked people on the trams and top decks of buses waved to us, I think they were smiling as we waved back.

Flooding the towpath

The amount of water coming down Tunnel Lock 91 had already brought the water below the lock up to the same height as the towpath through the tunnel, all I could do was add to it. I took my time opening the paddles hoping not to swamp a runner on her way through.

A short walk now to Lock 92 Dukes Lock. I timed my walk alongside Oleanna, keeping level with her meant she sucked the water from the towpath as I walked along, keeping my feet relatively dry.

Our first time through Dukes Lock the sun was out, drunk gongoozlers at the pub made daft comments and the fluffy coat sat in the bow as Mark and I struggled to get the bottom gates open, two of us on one windlass pulling at the chain and Anne trying to do the same on the other side of the lock. I now know at such places two windlasses are far better than one for extra leverage. Today however there was just me and one windlass.

Going down Dukes Lock

Mick could have climbed up a ladder to help, but he was concerned about the water cascading over the gates and would rather stay on the boat to keep it well away from being submerged. I waited and waited, hoping the amount of water coming down would ease soon.

It rained and rained. No gongoozlers today. No one around to offer an extra pair of hands. This lock was not going to beat me.

First I took up the slack on the starboard gate chain, adjusted it’s position for maximum movement should the bloody thing move. I tried bouncing it. I tried waiting some more.

Then I tried the port side. Adjusted the windlass again, bounced it, bounced it some more all the time the water still flowing over the top gates a good four inches thick. If only I could just get it open enough to release the pressure on the gates and get the level to equalise.

The bottom!

The next bounce felt different. I re positioned myself and tried again a chink between the gates appeared, was it enough. Another go and it moved just a touch more, water rushed out between the gates. Thank f***k for that! I had beaten Dukes Lock 92! Mission Manchester was complete.

New tower blocks finished

A week ago we’d planned on staying in Castlefield for the night, tomorrow I’d be joining a demonstration at St Anns Square in front of the Royal Exchange Theatre to raise awareness of the sectors plight, at the time nobody thought the government would come up with a rescue package.

Tweety Pie

The demonstration was to be socially distanced and one thing that all theatre people know and understand is how to find ones mark. With enough Stage Managers and LX tape we would all have a mark to stand on 2m away from everyone else, masks were also to be worn. I was willing to make a stand amongst strangers from my theatre family, if at any point I felt unsafe then I would leave.

Such a pretty building

But last Sunday the package from the government changed all that. Feeling was that we should see how the package was to be distributed and what guidance came out before coming together to stand.

So there was no need to find a mooring for the night. We did however take a little jaunt up to Grocer’s Wharf. Frank and Helen’s boats were socially distancing themselves at opposite ends of the arm. A chap in a widebeam warned us of how shallow the end was so we took great care not to get stuck, winded and came back. All just for a bit of filming I wanted to do.


Now we could have a cuppa and a cheese scone each as we left Manchester, well Tilly had to have one didn’t she!

With deep water beneath us Oleanna could cruise along at speed.

Bet he goes slowly

As Waters Meeting came into view so did a narrowboat with it’s pram hood up, going the same way as us. We both hoped that it wouldn’t be a slow boat, we’ve followed them along here before. Fortunately the slow boat soon pulled over to let a friend hop off, Mick took the opportunity and cranked Oleanna’s engine up to overtake. The chap at the helm had no idea we were there, not surprising with his pram cover up! But his mate soon shouted to him as we sailed past.

We wont bother thanks

What was the rush? Well we had trees to find, as soon as possible!

View downstream
View upstream

Barton Swing Aqueduct was in our favour and we sailed straight across, a large ship moored a short distance upstream. Then slow going past the moored boats until we reached the M602 where we slowed right down. An old work colleague was stood at her gate chatting to her neighbour, she’d not seen a message I’d sent. We’ve tried to wave hello whenever we’ve passed and today at last we succeeded. It was lovely to see Cat, maybe one day we’ll get chance to stop and have a proper chat, maybe even a drink.

Parin Lane Lighthouse

The lighthouse is still there, today surrounded by the aroma of steak and chips from the pub opposite. No stopping yet.

Onwards the water gradually turning orange. This stretch has changed through the years we’ve been passing. A new line of houses now look older next to the even newer ones. The semi detached houses must have come with the option of a chandelier above the staircases as we could see them through each first floor window above the front doors.

Cars and chandeliers

The other thing we are noticing more and more is the number of cars parked outside peoples homes on week days. Are these people working from home? Are they furloughed? Are they going to still be able to afford the repayments on their red Porsche parked on their drive in a couple of months time?

A Leeds Liverpool Short Boat

Two Leeds Liverpool Short boats sat outside Worsley Dry Dock as a big wide beam approached us. Mick pulled us in to one side allowing them to pass.


The amount of water they sucked out from beneath us created a five drawer moment inside. I wondered if I should have put all the pots and pans away and hoped that Tilly was managing to cling on to the sofa as we tilted right over.


Obligatory photo at Worsley, the orange water contrasting with the white and black.

We then ducked under the M60 and it’s slip roads and headed out into green countryside. Once we were far enough away from the road noise we pulled over to find a suitable spot with sun and trees. We’d have power whilst Tilly had trees.


Freedom at last! After negotiating her way across the towpath between the speeding cyclists and runners she shot straight up a tree.

Happy cat again

I suspect over the next five hours she conquered most of the trees in the near vicinity.

9 locks, 9.81 miles, 2 winds, 1 very tight turn, 2 much water, 0 druggies, 0 Graeme and Clare, 1 fluffy white coat required for next time (there will be a next time as it wasn’t that bad), 2 lefts, 1 right, 1 rainy day, 1 slow boat, 2 motorways, 1 canal highway, so many boats all of a sudden, 3 scones, 1 cheery wave, 5 drawers, 1 happy cat, 42 trees!

Image may contain: 2 people

Don’t forget that from Tuesday 14th July The Garden Lockdown Edition will be available to watch on line. Get your tickets now! Link here

Eighteen Down. 9th July

Drolysden Marina to Telford Basin

The aim was to push off at 7:30, but we finally made it just before 8am, managing to avoid the majority of the rain. Our stop off here had been very useful and the people around the basin were very friendly, another place to add to our list of handy moorings.

Droylsden Marina

As we reversed out of our space, Mick remembered one thing he hadn’t done yesterday, he’d forgotten to clear the prop, there was something down there but luckily not too much to inhibit steering Oleanna. So once we were out on the towpath at the top of the locks I went ahead to set the lock and Mick undid the weedhatch, a small collection of stuff was retrieved.

Fairfield Top Lock

I’ve been down these locks once and on that occasion we had the assistance of Anne, Mick’s sister. Having two crew made a big difference, no need to walk back to a lock after setting one below. Mick has also single handed the flight six years ago, texting me after every lock was successfully descended. On this occasion he met several boats coming up hill and also let one go past him. Back then the Cheshire Ring was in full swing, now it’s possibly just waking up from a long slumber!


The top lock is covered in a memorial to a young chap who had tried to jump the lock, hoping to impress some young ladies. Sadly he hadn’t make it, hitting his head and ending up in the water face down. The lock beam is covered in messages to him, someone has even covered it in sticky backed plastic to help preserve it.

As we worked our way down the flight Mick made notes of what wasn’t working at each lock. A note taken at each lock to start with, but thankfully things improved as we worked our way downhill into Manchester.

Rainbow Monty
Snorkelling Monty

Monty’s sat by the canal. A rainbow Monty, is he celebrating Pride or the NHS? I suspect Pride. The other chap was actually about to dive in with a snorkel on his head (not visible in the picture) even though it looks like he’s about to do something else!

There is a canal isn’t there?

We ducked under trailing willows yet again. The first swing bridge now held by a C&RT padlock not just a handcuff key. Then on a touch further to where the second swing bridge should be.

What’s that?

On our Waterway Routes map it suggested that normally the bridge is left open, but something was definitely across the cut, but not a swing bridge. A zoom in on the camera showed that the footbridge just beyond it was having work done to it, so maybe this was a temporary bridge?

I hopped off, this was a scaff type bridge, nothing I was willing to move myself. I went in hunt of a banksman and found a chap sat in a welfare pod, just about to tuck into some food. I explained our problem, so he came out to see what he could do. The only words he said, ‘You only need it moving a little bit?’ Well sorry no, it needs to move right out of the way for us to get through.

Slide and swung

I could see the cogs going in his head as he tried to work out how to move the bridge. He slid it towards himself, the scaff hand rail not fixed in position, which didn’t help trying to pull it across the gap. Once it was off the far bank it sat at an alarming angle, just ready to fall into the canal and become more of a problem.

Left until

After he pulled and tugged, I helped swing it out of our way, one thing the chap hadn’t thought of, to me it was obvious. We were soon through and the chap could get back to his food. The bridge stayed well and truly on the bank.

Today’s catch

A while further on a football shirt required removing from our prop, so Oleanna sat in a lock whilst Mick cleared the prop with our prop mate, a very handy tool.

Opposite the Strawberry Duck

At Lock 13 The Strawberry Duck pub looked all boarded up, but out the back in their beer garden things looked very inviting. We refrained as it was only 9:50!

Football straight ahead

Locks lined up with the Etihad Stadium and as we worked our way down towards all the sports venues I could hear the rumbling of a Fountains team following us down the flight.

Fountains behind

All the winding of the hydraulic paddle gear was starting to take it’s tole, my arms ached.

Wind wind wind

These are meant to make it easier to lift the paddles, but the repetition of winding them round and round gets to your arms after a while, at least my arms should be slightly more toned when we reach Manchester.

Hope it has a cycle path on that bridge
Circular flats

The National Cycling Centre, the Velopark sprawl out on both sides of the canal, followed by circular blocks of flats.

A slot to get down from the lock

Beswick Top Lock has an interesting bridge configuration. There is a road bridge and canal bridge, but between the two is a curving metal bridge that carries the towpath from one side to the other, not a snake bridge as the tow rope from a boat would have to be disconnected from the horse.

Test centre

Across some waste land we could see the white structures, tents of a covid testing centre, more and more people on the towpath were now wearing masks. We carried on with the job in hand, locks, more of them.

How pretty

In one of the bridge holes Oleanna managed to pick me some buddleia, the off side very overgrown in places.


Between Beswick Bottom Lock 4 and Ancoats Top Lock 3, I caught a ride, this being the longest pound on the flight.

New Islington flats showing their age now

We now passed old warehouses and factories, and very soon we were surrounded by new tower blocks, more being built in every direction.

History standing its ground

Sitting between the last two locks is a rather lovely looking lock cottage, this sits with it’s new lawn tucked behind the wooden fence, one tree and tower blocks looking down on it’s history.

The last lock of the day

At Ancoats Bottom Lock Mick pointed out that this was likely to be our last narrow lock this year. Our travels will see us staying in the north for sometime. The Ashton Canal is the northern most narrow canal, so from now on we will now be in the land of wide locks.

Well used PPE

Working through the lock I was reminded of when we came this way on Bergen Fjord in 2008 with Anne. As we’d just started to empty the lock Mick’s friend Mark was just crossing the road bridge in a car coming to meet us to help with the Rochdale 9 through the heart of Manchester. Back up crew were needed on that occasion, today we’d be stopping short of the 9. Five hours top to bottom, all but three needing to be filled, thankfully without much rain.

Goodbye narrow canals

A glance back as we passed under the road bridge, the bottom of the lock showing the worn steps down from the bottom gates and the water rushed round the bywash on the offside. I wonder what the area looked like when the lock was first built.

What did it used to look like here

A short distance on and we reached todays destination, Telford Basin. A small basin that we used last year, on that occasion we tucked three boats in amongst the flats. Access to the basin is through a keycoded gate, today we weren’t bothered about this, a late lunch and a rest were more on the cards than an explore.

A Downing Street briefing was held today, announcing the next stage of lockdown easing. Gyms and Leisure centres will be able to reopen in a couple of weeks and from this Saturday night outdoor performances will be allowed. This means that the season of outdoor concerts and operas that Glyndebourne have planned will be able to go ahead, just as well as the £100 tickets have already sold out! I suspect other theatre companies will be giving the idea some thought. Organising such events and selling tickets are likely to take that bit more time than just two days. It’s a start, as is the funding but neither mean the sector is safe. But then no sector is safe.

18 locks, 3.64 miles, 1 right, 1 swing, 1 slide, 3 weed hatch visits, 1 diver, 1 last narrow lock, 1 tight turn, 2 pooped boaters, 1 stove lit, 27 items of washing dry, 1 empty wee tank, 0 code required, 2 days to mount a show.

Washing Washing Washing. 8th July

Droylsden Marina


Yesterday they moved the outside up, lots. Today what do they do, nothing. Nothing but bloomin washing! There is more to life than bloomin washing!!!

Washing out the back

They washed so much that even the outside didn’t have enough room for it all. Then She said they had to wash the bedding too! More rumbling from the cupboard and Grrring from under my booster block to see out the front window.

more washing!

Whilst the poor machine was over working they weren’t idle. There was that bacon to eat up, so they took their time over that. Extra time needed because the gas ran out just as Tom was about to start cooking, it was going to happen soon as we’d just seen Alton at the weekend. She had a quick look on face book to see if Brian Tom, the bearded chap who moves everybodys outside, might be delivering in Manchester in the next few days. Over their dingding there was lots of tapping and it turned out that Brian Tom would be delivering to this outside today! Good timing or what!

Thank you Brian Tom

She got an email with a brief in it, then got paid for half of it even though She hadn’t done anything yet. Then She started to take down the mushrooms. Well she called them mushrooms but they didn’t look much like mushrooms to me. They were in fact the under mushrooms.

Filthy dirty under mushrooms

Four little screws were taken out of the top and put in a small box for safe keeping. I offered on several occasions to help keep them safe, but She wasn’t too keen on the idea, so all I could do was sit and watch. The silver ring got polished and the meshy bit had a bath in the sink and a very very good scrub. Previous methods of cleaning the under mushrooms hadn’t been quite as successful, so today She was pleased with the result, just not so happy putting the four little screws back into the top to hold them back up there.

Shiny clean under mushroom

She then got carried away and wiped all the walls down in the kitchen. Then She cleaned away the evidence of numerous murders she’s carried out from the comfort of her own bed with her puzzle book. Once this was done She decided that She’d had had enough of this, her arms couldn’t take any more and anyway they needed to be ready for more locks not worn out.

Mushroom stalk

Tom has also been busy. He first cleaned his glasses and tried his mask on. Apparently soap is meant to stop you making your own little clouds in your glasses, but this didn’t work for Tom. She suggested trying wearing his glasses over his mask, all of a sudden no little clouds! She is clever like that, She is a Theatre Designer you know, they tend to be quite clever, so She says.

Bored Me

So Tom went to Tescimouse for a few bits which isn’t far away. He enjoyed this as he got to see trams. I didn’t get to see any trams as I wasn’t allowed out, all day!

Half done

Then Tom started to work on the new fender, taking the old one off first of course. This all took quite a long time as the Tom from next door really liked to chat, I think he’d put his blue gloves on just to chat as they weren’t keeping his hands clean as he wasn’t doing anything to get them dirty!

All done now

Tom tried the new shackles and ended up using a mixture of shackles and cable ties to hold the new fender onto the front, this helps to protect Oleanna’s nose when we’re in locks and we’ve quite a few of those to do soon.

On the dingding shelf

A She from down the way came and fed the electric for us, a couple more pounds would do. She was very nice and they didn’t mind talking to her. Tom gave her some money as they have decided that we’ll be moving in the morning, they hope the weather might be dry long enough to move the outside up some more without getting wet again. I suppose I’ll just be sat inside for another day. Where did she put those cotton buds?

Lamb and spinach curry

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 top up, 1 gas bottle, 4 rashers of bacon, 2 sausages, 2 eggs, 1 brief (not knickers), 5 loads of washing, 0 shore leave, 16 boring hours, 56 cotton buds on the floor, 5 under mushrooms, 20 screws, 1 new fender, 5:45 dingding.

It Wouldn’t Be The Famous Canal Street Without …. 2nd May

Thomas Telford Basin to Staffordshire Arm, Bridgewater Canal

We were awake before Houdini spoke this morning, are we getting used to these early mornings? Maybe tomorrow we’ll get chance to have a cuppa in bed again.

2 Varieties

Mick lifted the weedhatch to see what goodies had been caught yesterday. Our steerage hadn’t been inhibited, but it was worth a check anyway. He found quite a lot of urban jelly fish (a Tom term from Waiouru), with them removed we were now ready for more as we made our way down the Rochdale nine.

There being three boats going down, 2 in one lock and one in the other, we aimed to leave a lock in between. This would mean that as the boat in the lower lock emptied their chamber it wouldn’t be filled up by emptying the one above.

NB Lottie Jane
NB Mr Blue Sky
A touch tight

Each boat turned out of the basin in turn, NB Lottie Jane leading the way, followed by NB Mr Blue Sky then us. There seemed to be only just enough space to get round out of the basin, Oleanna touching the edges on two sides whilst there were a few inches spare to pivot round until the next bit touched.

Starting the nine

Turning back out onto the Rochdale we could see that NB Lottie Jane had already set off down the first lock on their own, leaving us to share with Clare and Graeme. We filled the chamber and I walked down to help Sue at the second lock.

Walkway into the dark

Lock 85 Piccadilly Lock, sits underneath 111 Piccadilly a tower block. A walkway across the water leads you to the lock where Sue was stood on the off side the lock still emptying. I helped open the bottom gate and dropped the paddle. Once they were clear I lifted the paddles to fill the chamber for us.

As I stood waiting for the lock to fill, two chaps climbed over the top lock gates. They didn’t look like gongoozlers, boats were the last things on their minds. One chap headed off again almost straight away, the lock was now nearly full. I made a call up to Mick as they obviously couldn’t see that they were clear to empty the lock, I then headed up to open and close a gate, not wanting to be on my own kicking around used needles.

Back at 85 I crossed over the top gates and opened it whilst Graeme made his way down from the previous lock. The chap who’d disappeared came back, climbed onto the still closed gate and very nearly carried on crossing, just stopping in time before he ran out of somewhere to put his feet. ‘Sorry you’ll have to wait for the boats to come in’. I said morning to the other chap as the two of them exchanged looks. There was obviously something that couldn’t wait for the boats, so whilst standing on the bottom lock gates they passed a thin 10 inch silvery object between them.

Signs everywhere to try to discourage people from falling in

Mick was bemused, what was Graeme doing? He hadn’t realised that the chap climbing the gates wasn’t him, why wasn’t the second gate open? As both boats came into the lock I decided that nobody should be on the off side. We should leave the two fellas to do what they were doing. So I said we’d only be using one paddle and one gate. This would mean that we’d be in the lock longer, but neither Graeme or myself would have to walk past two men rolling their sleeves up, shooting up, throwing up and what ever else was going to happen. I suspect they were far too occupied to have harmed us, but I still didn’t know what had been passed between them. Better to go slower but safely through the lock.

The chamber took forever to empty. As it got close the amount of water coming over the top gates was going to make it hard to open the bottom gates which are moved with a windlass, pulleys and a chain. Both Graeme and I put our windlasses on, our combined effort got the gate to move enough to help equalise the water. At last we were good to go.

We hopped onto our boats as there is no access to the next lock from land. I remember managing to walk there eleven years ago whilst on a hire boat holiday and squeeze through a gap in the wall, clamber down stone steps to the lock. But that entrance has long since been blocked off.

Back in the open

Waiting above the lock was an old college friend of mine Doug. He is currently the Lighting Designer for some plays at HOME, he’d taken the morning off to come and meet us, see Oleanna and ask us questions about life on board as he’s considering downsizing to a boat. Quite fortunate that we happened to be here whilst he was.

All he could do was watch from on high as we worked our way down to the next lock where he was handed a windlass so that he could learn the ropes and lend a hand.

Doug catching a ride

Manchester then started to do what it does best, Rain, quite a lot of it. Doug had no waterproofs so quickly popped his bag inside Oleanna meeting Tilly and retrieving a brolly from our bathroom. This did though mean he got chance for a little ride into the lock before helping with paddles and gates again.

It wouldn’t be the famous canal street without …

Lots of catching up to do, questions about boats to answer whilst we worked our way down the locks. The sun would show it’s face just long enough to consider taking a layer off, but then the heavens would open again. Well it is Manchester!

Floating flower beds

A wicker sculpture of a horse sits by a bridge, floating flower beds line one pound. At one lock we gained some shelter as a new building straddles the canal. Will this be an attractive section of the canal, redeveloped, shiny and new or another dark hole for the druggies to inhabit away from sunlight?

Mick giving some bowthruster assistance to NB Mr BS

Ian the Volunteer yesterday had suggested that if there was more than an inch of water coming over the top gates on the bottom three locks, then we should lift a paddle at the bottom of the lock to lower the level of the pound above. This would mean we’d have a fighting chance to open the bottom gates.

Got to have a photo of that viaduct

At Lock 92 NB Lottie Jane was just exiting. We’d not seen them since the top of the flight, so hopefully the water we’d been sending down hadn’t caused them too many problems with gates. Another boat waited to come up and swapped with them. One paddle only wound up by a couple of turns, the other went all the way. Gradually they rose and it was our turn.

Last Lock on the Rochdale

As we entered the lock I lifted a paddle to help reduce the level above. This is when the heavens opened. Torrential rain slammed down on us, Doug managed to find cover at the canal side pub whilst the rest of us got a very good drowning of water. You could tell it was the last lock of the Rochdale, we all showed signs of fatique. The boats took longer to bring in and as we dropped it soon became evident that the sticking paddle at the top was still open. This wouldn’t help open the bottom gates.

On our hire boat we’d had great difficulty opening these gates and I was prepared for a fight with them. Doug once the rain had stopped was on hand with a second windlass should it be needed for extra umph. But Ian’s handy hint had helped, the gates opened with hardly any straining. We were down, off the Rochdale , the 7 day clock now ticking on the Bridgewater Canal.

She wouldn’t put her phone down so I could get a photo!
Bedraggled Graeme

Clare and Graeme were planning on carrying on out of Manchester today with NB Lottie Jane, we planned on finding a mooring. So it was time to say our farewells. Hugs all round in our soggy water logged waterproofs. It’s been a great few days of hard locking with great company. Our paths may not cross again this year, but hopefully they’ll be back from New Zealand sometime and we’ll meet up again.


We pulled over into the Staffordshire Arm where there were a few spaces. We’ve not stayed on this arm before, but decided to give it a go. Once all our wet layers were off we could sit down for a cuppa with Doug and chat boats. There is a lot to take in, he’d got his eyes on a lovely 10ft widebeam down in Oxford, but we pointed out that he’d not be able to cruise it up to Liverpool as it would be too wide. But he quite fancies the idea of being able to cruise up and down the country. He left us to head to work with plenty to think about.

Railway map at Victoria Station

Now (as the sun came out!) Mick headed off to catch a train to Scarborough. We’d not managed to register for a proxy vote in the council elections, but could turn up in person. With a special ticket for over 55s and his OAP railcard he could make the journey for a fraction of what it would cost me. So off he went to cross back over the Pennines, passing through Leeds 45 minutes after leaving Manchester, it’s taken us four weeks!

At the polling station Micks name was eventually found, not alongside our address there, but at the end in a list of Special People. He made his crosses, popped the ballot paper in the box and left heading back to Manchester on the next train.

A tasty yellow fluffy morsel

This outside was deemed not suitable! Why had they tied it up? Rubbish!!! I had to spend the afternoon watching tasty looking yellow fluffy things walking all around everywhere. She took over the table and spent the afternoon listening to music and drawing lines all over this big white board. Something to do with a Puss, but I’m the only Puss in her life and she gave me no attention all afternoon!

9 locks, 1.77 miles, 3 miles walked, 62 ft 9 inches down, 164 ft lower than Sowerby Bridge, 2 lefts, 3 canals, 3 boats, 2 druggies, 2 windlasses, 1 college friend, 1 boat coming up, 4 drowned boaters, 1 soggy lighting designer, 2 farewells, 10ft, 1 parcel returned, 1 stroppy email, 2 trains, 1 tram, 1 bus, 1 special person, 3 crosses, 4 hours tech drawing, 1 bored cat, 3 games of paw ball, 1 dish of chickeny pasta ready on Micks return.

Walking Into Manchester. 1st May

Irk Aqueduct Moorings to Thomas Telford Basin, Ashton Canal


Houdini spoke and we were out of bed, dressed, breakfasted, covers rolled back with tea in our thermos mugs ready to go a little before 8am. We had a rendez vous to keep a few miles away at Lock 65. The morning was a touch damp and water proofs were required for some of the time as we pootled our way to the first lock of twenty for the day.

Thunderbirds are

After Lock 64 came Grimshaw Lane Lift Bridge, Graeme walked on to operate it with his key of power. Going through here at 8:30 meant we were guaranteed to stop a lot off cars, but they all sat and waited patiently for the two boats to pass under. Grimshaw Lane is not your average lift bridge that pivots up to let you through, oh no. This bridge lifts on four rams, one in each corner, as if it was in the opening sequence of Thunderbirds.


At Lock 65 we worked our way down. This was where we were to meet Ian a C&RT volunteer who would help us down the next 16 locks. We’d arranged this before we’d met up with Clare and Graeme, knowing that today would be a hard day for the two of us. At 9:30 we moved on towards the next lock, no sign of Ian, so Mick sent him a text message to let him know we were carrying on.


A few minutes later the sight of a blue sweatshirt and life jacket appeared on a bicycle on the towpath, ‘Are you Ian?’ ‘I most certainly am’. He headed on to the next lock and made it ready for us.


With three of us on the ground locking was easy. At times Ian would go ahead, lift a paddle on the next lock or more, return and help with gates. Who ever was a spare part would walk down and wait at the next lock.

Team Manchester
Change in lamp posts
Concrete just below the surface.

Between Locks 68 and 69 we were told to get back on our boats. Along the next pound the canal changes from being in Oldham to Manchester, this is shown by the change in lamp posts on the towpath. With the change from black to grey also comes where the canal was blocked off when it was abandoned. Here the channel was filled with concrete. When it was reopened a narrow channel was dug just off centre, you can see the concrete shelf lying just under the surface on both sides. Ian said to stay in tick over all the way, this would mean we’d get to the next lock, slowly but without having to clear the prop or getting stuck on obstructions below the water.


Newton Heath Lock 69 (the one with the pub alongside that has a cage around it’s outside seating area), I drew the short straw of the day, the bottom paddle, the only bottom paddle. I thought I heard Ian say it would take 32 turns to wind it. But it was far more than that, my arms felt like jelly afterwards. I counted as I wound it down, I’d missed him saying 100 before the 32!

How much water!?

On we worked, low water never an issue. Most locks below were full which meant that we were taking a lot of water down with us, a lot! The bywashes were torrents, even Mr Happy seemed a bit dazed as he span round in an eddie current on one.

Ten. Carrots Cabbage and Cauliflower
Mr Happy having fun in the bywash

Goslings with their Mum and Dad didn’t know where to go as we approached, first throwing themselves off a wall onto the towpath then being swept over lock gates by the overflowing water.

Don’t jump!

Ian headed down the locks to try to avert the possibility of flooding up ahead. But on reaching Lock 80 the towpath below the lock was decidedly wet and as the lock emptied no dry route was possible without taking a detour. The lock paddles have inhibitors on them, reducing the amount of water that can leave, but when there had been so much water coming down the bywashes this didn’t really help. According to Ian the bywashes here are council ones, narrow and without enough fall to be able to cope with the amount of water coming towards them.


Five years ago, Lock 80 was where we caught up with Derek a singlehander. It being a Saturday and a bit later than we’d intended we ended up having hassle from a group of lads who’d just finished football practice. That was the start to a very long day working our way up the locks. The full story is here. Today we had no such hassles, just too much water!

Flooded, it got worse

Ian had lifted a paddle on Lock 82 already to help move some of the water down. Both boats had to avoid bumping into the submerged towpath and a duck island on their way there. Here Ian told us to get back onboard and he’d let us down. This was where he’d leave us, just two more locks to do before we could call it a day.

New Islington Marina

We passed New Islington Marina where work is on going and visitor moorings suspended at the moment.


Lock 82 was surrounded by builders all having their lunch, Graeme and I bent double to work the paddles. At 83 more builders watched on from behind a fence like inmates as we emptied the last lock of the day.


Mick took the lead. We’d decided to pull into Telford Basin which meant negotiating some very tight bends to get onto the Ashton Canal, tomorrows Rochdale 9 locks just in view.

We’ll leave that one for tomorrow

The turn into the basin itself was very very tight, but doable. We then winded and pulled in onto one side of the basin. NB Mr BS pulled in, winded and tied up on the other side. Within five minutes we were joined by NB Lottie Jane who had just come down the Ashton locks. Sue and Tony had shared the Calder Hebble locks with Clare and Graeme a week or so ago, so knew they were on their way down today.

Third boat in the basin

NB Lottie Jane seemed familiar, one of those boats we’ve seen about. It could be that we were both on the Gloucester Sharpness last year at the same time. After introductions we all retired inside our boats for lunch only to reconvene later for a few glasses of wine and much conversation on NB Lottie Jane to mark the end of a long day for all of us.

20 locks, 7.36 miles, 4 miles walked (a better ratio), 1 lift bridge, 1 great volunteer, 1 bike, 3 goslings, 187 ft 3 inches down, 101 ft 3 inches lower than Sowerby Bridge, 1 spare rib, 3 C’s, 1 peddle car, 1 Mr Happy, 132 turns both ways! 2 flooded pounds, 6 hours, 0 stops for the weed hatch, 0 guns, 0 kids, 1 rather nice, if hard work, day down into Manchester, 1 gate code, 3 boats, 1 yarn parcel returned, 2 glasses wine, 2 hours of conversation, 1 plank.’44.8%22N+2%C2%B013’34.4%22W/@53.4802824,-2.231518,15.96z/data=!4m6!3m5!1s0x0:0x0!7e2!8m2!3d53.4790972!4d-2.2262201