Category Archives: Baking

Removing Her Smile. 12th June

Frimley Lodge Park to Fox and Hounds

Seriously slow going this morning. Within a hundred meters it was time to lift the weed hatch lid and see what could be found. The canal being quite clear helps with this operation as you can see rather than feel what might be around the prop. On most canals we’d pull into the side to do this, but as we’d already had another boat come past heading towards the Deepcut Locks we doubted we’d be seeing anyone on the move for a while today.

The end of the railway

Plenty of chaps were out doing work on the miniature railway, the track leading way off into the woods. I watched as a chap did a test run whilst Mick battled with weed, a rag and some steel cable around the prop. All clear we carried on, only to have to stop another short distance further on. Was the canal going to be this slow all the way to the end? We hoped not, but it could be, maybe our lunch date tomorrow would have to change venue as we might still be fighting our way along the canal!

The services at Mychett were just up ahead. We slowly got closer, hopping off at the bow easier to go and work the swing bridge. I had to wait for two ladies walking six dogs to cross the bridge before swinging it open. Next task was to find the water point, were the moored boats in front of it? I checked my map for the location, it was further along on the offside, past the rowing boats. Those 5 digit grid reference locations Paul uses on his maps really help in such circumstances to find taps etc.

The muddy weedhatch

Tied up we started to fill with water, pumped out the yellow water for disposal at the elsan, Tilly’s pooh box got a refresh and we headed off to find the bins, a code needed for access available from the visitor centre. We had a quick look round at the information boards, a longer visit planned for our return. A chat with Andy on NB Olive, he was busy doing an engine service and it looked like they were busy touching up the paintwork.

There was still time to clear the prop again before the water tank was full. One of the chaps from the visitor centre came to chat, checking what type of weed we’d found. Thankfully not the invasive weed that we’d find further along.

Smiling at the new position of our nebolink

Today we’d positioned the nebolink ontop of the cratch board, so nothing boatwise in the way of it and the satellites, or sim connection. Still no email to say we were on the move. Looking at the map of the country I could only spot a couple of boats on the move, shown by a boat not a dot. Could this be a problem others were having? I sent a message to Tim from the Doggie Boat, knowing they use Nebo (without a nebolink). His journey tracking was working fine, he did point me to a face book group for Nebo users where I might be able to ask the same question.

Opening out into the lake

Mychett Lake gave us some respite from the trees, seeing the sky above us a change. Here there are moorings that may well be good for Tilly on our return. An oncoming boat signalled that they were going to moor up, NB Rum A Gin who had dashed down the country to take part in the Fund Britains Waterways campaign cruise on the Thames.

Coming into moor

Plenty of back gardens to look at, more and more trees. The sky opened up again as we passed over the A331 aqueduct a walker stopping to take photos of us, old transport going over modern, we were now on an embankment, stop gates at both ends should there be a breach. It was strange to think that we were high up but soon we’d be climbing the last lock on the canal to the summit pound.

The aqueduct

The canal makes two big loops to the south, here on the embankment was one of them, would this be the furthest south we’d make it on the Basingstoke Canal? Or would we be able to cruise the other loop to be the furthest south, only possibly by a matter of feet, but still! Soon we’d find out.

Ash Lock

The bottom lock gates were being closed by someone at Ash Lock. We bipped the horn, but weren’t heard. I walked up to see what was what, no-one about and no sign of a boat either. Up Oleanna came to the summit pound, Hampshire Pound. Here a handy mooring on the offside was pulled into. Now to make preparations to give us the best chance of cruising to the navigable end of the canal. Ahead lay three very low bridges, 5ft 10″. We think Oleanna measures 6ft 2″ to the top of her horns. Taking them off is possible, we did this for Standedge Tunnel, but would the brackets they rest on need to come off too, would the bigger metal support require removing also? The top of the chimney was taken off, easy. Poles brushes etc laid off the rack lower down the roof, well below the line of the mushroom vents, our aim for the highest point on Oleanna to be the vents.

Oleanna’s smile was removed, the horns sat on the top of the cratch for a while all sad and forlorn before being popped inside for safe keeping. The brackets were well and truly fixed to the metal support. would we be better off trying to remove that? We pulled the cratch cover away revealing six screws holding the support to the wood, these thankfully came out easily. However cables to the horns and tunnel light would have to be undone so as to be able to remove it fully. We opted to leave them connected and see how we faired at the bridges.

Look to the right!

My phone started to bing at me. Email after email that Oleanna was on the move! Hooray! Had we done something to get the nebolink reporting again? I checked her location on the map, a boat not a dot. After a while she had moved to last nights mooring, after a longer while she had just about caught up with her actual location. Were things resolved?

The depth of water and lack of weed made our progress much better, normal canal cruising speed again. For what felt like miles we were surrounded by fences, keeping soldiers in their camps, even footbridges were enclosed with barbed wire.

Farnborough Road Bridge

As Farnborough Road Bridge came into view I moved down to sit in the well deck, spreading our weight hoping to keep the bow low enough to not have to remove the tunnel light support. From my position I couldn’t see if things looked okay, but as Mick had only slowed down and wasn’t stopping it felt favourable. The horn supports cleared the bridge by a good few inches, maybe the horns would have been alright being left on. I glanced back to the chimney, glad we’d had at least 9 inches removed from it a few years ago as it would have been a problem. Then Mick crouched down, still able to just about see above the boat. Oleanna who sits low in the water, hunkered down had made it through with plenty of space. We’d not have to reverse a mile to the nearest winding hole, phew!

Farnborough Road Bridge does however sit at an angle, was the 5ft 10″ at the lowest point? The next low bridge was noted at the same height!

A worrisome tree

Should we carry on and get all the low bridges done today? A mooring at the end of Farnborough airfield was available, we decided to carry on and get the bridges out of the way.

Pondtail Bridge

Pondtail Bridges next. I headed to the bow again, this bridge leant the opposite direction, still plenty of room above the horn supports. Reading Road Bridge at 6ft, I didn’t bother going to the bow, we knew we’d be fine. Hooray we’ll be able to get to the end of the canal! Tilly however wasn’t too please as our late arrival and proximity to a road means there’ll be no shore leave whilst we are here!

Moored by the pub

The Fox and Hounds pub mooring, Ann-Marie and Dave had said how good their steak and ale pies were. We didn’t sample them today, instead I made up a couple of my own pies, chicken, tarragon and mushroom in little pots, pasty both top and bottom to use up some of the roast chicken from the other day. Very nice they were and a more sensibly sized portion than I normally do in the big pie tin.

Chicken pies ready for the oven

Mick busied himself putting things back together on the cratch board. Oleanna’s smile reinstated. We’ll approach the low bridges carefully on our return but hope that she’ll be able to smile at us all the way.

1 lock, 9.8 miles, 13 nebo moving emails, 1 report, 1 report to find from two days ago,1 very slow start, 4 weedhatch visits, 1 full tank of water, 1 rollered cabin side, 0 rubbish, 1 clean pooh box, 1 empty wee tank, 2 moving boats, 3 very low bridges, new measurements required of Oleanna, 1 smile safe inside, 1 smile restored, 1 bored cat.

Missing BumBag! 8th June

Pyrford Marina to Domino’s Mooring, River Wey

Mick was off again this morning to return the hire car, he also stopped off at Tescos for a few things. The menu for tonight had been changed so some fish pie fish was required.

Half this years crop!

Whilst we’ve been away we’d moved our wild strawberry plants into the cratch, the first berries had been just about ripe when we headed to Scarborough and we wanted to be the ones to enjoy them rather than birds! By this morning about half of our crop was ripe, I picked and rinsed them to be added to our cereal. They may be small, but they don’t half pack a punch of strawberryness.

As we were getting ready for the off, I couldn’t seem to find my bright blue bumbag. I keep my phone and camera inside whilst we cruise for ease of access and safe keeping. It normally gets put there or over there when we’ve finished cruising, but this morning it was nowhere to be seen. I’d done a bit of a tidy up for when Ann-Marie and Dave came, but where had I put it. The boat was searched top to bottom, inside and out. No bumbag! Places were double checked, Oh Bumbag! Still no bumbag!!! Recently I’ve also taken to having a bank card in it, that was frozen straight away. I’m hoping that ignoring it’s absence will soon bring it out from hiding.

Push back

Once we’d breakfasted and filled the water tank it was time to get moving. Push back, wind, just as a big widebeam was heading towards it’s mooring, then a little narrowboat came into the entrance winded and backed back to it’s mooring, blimey things were busy! We pulled out, turning right onto the navigation again, pulling up immediately on the posts, time to empty the yellow water tank whilst we were port side to the bank.

Our extra crew also arrived, Kath Mick’s sister who lives quite close by. Buses hadn’t been as expected, but she’d made it to the rendez vous point in the end. Time for a quickish hello and then it was time to wind and head downstream. Not far, just far enough for Tilly to have some shore leave away from roads.

Nearly there

A mooring marked on our map had been free when Mick had passed it earlier and thankfully it still was. We pulled in and tied up. In amongst the trees was a plaque in memory of Domino the boat cat. Not even a year old Domino had been attacked by a dog earlier this year. I always knew the woofers round here had no manners, now they have even less anything! Was the dog in question still walked along the towpath? What was the likely hood of the same thing happening again? Domino was a young boat cat, would Tilly’s eight human years serve her better? It would have been very unfair to keep her in especially as the mooring had serious stamp of approval potential.

Poor poor Domino

The afternoon was filled with chatting, snoozing and food preparation. I made up a batch of apple flapjack, some sad git’s puff pastry was defrosted and rolled around sausage meat ready to be baked tomorrow and a large fish pie was put together to feed the troops, very tasty it was too.

The locals came to say hello

A very pleasant evening with conversation whilst watching the sun go down. A very nice mooring despite being so close to the M25.

Mesh in the side hatch as the sun went down

0 locks, 0.7 miles, 2 winds, 0 bumbag, 1 empty wee tank, 1 full water tank, 2 packs fish pie, 1 car returned, 1 sister, 1 lazy afternoon, 1 lovely mooring, 1 black pawbanded Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Contraband Chips. 27th May


Hair cutting, Tilly exploring, breakfast and baking, what a busy morning, good job the sun was out. However we had reports of rain to the north of us, would umbrellas be required?

Presents time

A little later than originally planned Andrew and Jac arrived, the Oxford traffic having held them up on their journey from London. Time for birthday presents a coffee and freshly baked biscuits. Jac got a new table cloth with embroidered bees on it and Mick got a new expanding hose for Oleanna and a weed burner for use in the garden at the house.

Jac fashioning Mick’s new hose

Originally we’d planned on doing the next part of our journey by boat, but getting a mooring where we were heading could have been a risk, limited space and only 24hrs. So we headed to Sandford Lock on the Thames by car, having to sit in Oxford traffic for some of the way.

Sat outside the Kings Arms with her dog Baxter was Jenny Leckenby, she’d spent some time watching the second round of the World Championship Pooh Sticks that was taking place at the weir stream. Inside we found the rest of our party, Ian, Sally and Sam Leckenby, first cousins and those once removed. A few people missing from the table, Josh who is mid A level revision, Jo and his family who live in the States.

With eight of us it was quite a noisy affair, sorry to those other diners. Mick and I had seen everyone last summer at the Royal International Air Tattoo, but Andrew and Jac had been away on holiday so it was the first time they’d seen Ian and Sally since their wedding, way longer since seeing Sam and Jenny.


Sam and I chose our gluten free dishes from the separate menu, but were disappointed that we couldn’t have chips. This is because other things are fried in the same deep fat frier causing cross contamination which can be serious for those who are coeliac. Both of us are intolerant to gluten and were willing to risk a portion of chips between us. Solution was to get Jenny to order a side portion of chips to accompany her burger and chips. These were then passed over to Sam and myself to share away from panicking staff, our choice, our chips.

A long lunch, five hours. The service was slow, but that actually didn’t matter as there was tons to talk about. Ian’s plane that he’s building in France, the dogs cats horses goats, their granddaughter, news of Tim our other cousin out in Ukraine, all sorts.

All too soon it was time for us to leave the pub and restore the quiet. A shame we’d not brought Oleanna and Tilly as there would have been space to moor her. Hopefully we’ll get chance to catch up with Sam as we head downstream on the Thames in the next few days and it won’t be too long before we can all get together again.

Sally, Andrew, Ian, Mick, Jenny, Pip, Sam, Jac

An easier trip back to Jericho in the car and hopefully an easier drive back to London for the London Leckenbys.

River levels were checked again, it all looks pretty good for the next few days. With this in mind we looked at moorings in London. There are now more pre-bookable, payable moorings in London. For the dates we were looking at on the cheaper moorings we didn’t have much choice. Adjusting our dates a touch gave us a better window of opportunity. All booked, we just have to get there now.

0 locks, 0 miles, 3 presents, 8 biscuits, 22nd pair cast on, 1 bored cat, 8 cousins, 1 dog, 1 portion of contraband chips, 5 hours of noisy family catch up, 2 car rides, 1 plan came together, 1 lovely day.

Feline Approved. 26th May

Aristotle Bridge to St Barnabas, Jericho

Empty quiet mooring this morning

It may be Sunday, but there were things to do. We had a cuppa in bed and then rolled back the covers and pushed off before breakfast. Today our 2 days at Aristotle would be up so we decided to move on early. We were moored up opposite St Barnabas Church, the hoardings boasting about the redevelopment still, bacon butties just about consumed in time for the Geraghty zoom. Keeling over shrubs, planning permission, and no sign of that £26.4 million from last week, I think someone has spent it!


Before it got too late it was time to head out to do some shopping. Mick wheeled the Brompton his mission different to mine. Thank you Dave for warning us that the towpath along Sheepwash Channel is currently shut, and there being serious work going on at the train station. The rail bridge that crosses Botley Road is going to be expanded for more tracks. The road underneath is currently closed to traffic, buses turning at the station, but there is a footpath connecting both sides.

Rather serious works going on down there

At Osney Bridge, still single file traffic Mick and I parted ways. He was headed to Halfords for some engine oil and Currys to look to see if they had a rugid tablet, this had him heading straight on. I on the other hand crossed over the little bridge and walked down East Street towards Osney Lock.


The Thames here was on yellow stream decreasing boards, quite a bit of space to moor. One boat was familiar NB Mobius from St Pancras Cruising Club, it didn’t look like anyone was home and I needed to be somewhere before they closed. A cruiser pushed away from the moorings, winded and headed to the lock where two Lock Keepers worked them through, a pretty wooden boat waiting patiently for their turn below. The flow round to the weir was pretty strong, but we’ve seen it a LOT stronger here before, boats clinging on with their mooring lines straining to stay attached.

Yellow decreasing

I followed the footpath to Osney Mead, a Mum with her two kids walking at speed past me, ‘When we get to Meat Master you can cool down there Johnny’ if he stopped running and jumping all the time that might have also helped. My destination was the Fish Market, see what was on offer today. I had a little look around, some of the fillets being packed away already. 1 chose 2 giltheaded bream, these will either be barbequed of baked in the oven depending on weather in the next few days.


Then I headed to Meat Master to cool down myself. I didn’t need any of their humongous joints of meat or a ham, but had a good look round. Some gf sausages and smoked back bacon were purchased, far less than other people were piling up into their baskets.

Just a small amount of Prosciutto

Various things were needed to go with the fish so I called in at Waitrose, a slight detour, to get the necessary. A sign suggested a pedestrian and cycle route to Jericho was possible. I checked my map but couldn’t see where this route might cross the railway so played safe and continued back on the main route.

Back at Oleanna Mick had been successful with the oil, but not a new tablet. It’s looking like one will have to be ordered a delivery address to be thought about along with where to get our postal votes sent to.

Tasty smelling, very tasty!

Tilly checked out my purchases. Now that smells nice! Is that MY dingding? She approved and was disappointed that the brown paper package went straight into the freezer. Maybe She is saving it for a special occasion!?

The remainder of the afternoon was spent preparing things to bake, tidying up, answering messages on Whatsapp and Instagram, checking that Frank was still alive in Scarborough, sweeping through and washing the floors. Mick headed out to check on the parking situation locally, managing to avoid a serious downpour.

A roast chicken was enjoyed with all the usual accompaniments and pair 21 of my sockathon was cast off. I think it’s time to get out the red yarn next, I’m looking forward to seeing how this yarn knits up.

0 locks, 0.6 miles, 1 route through Oxford more blocked than it’s been blocked before, 2 bream, 10 litres oil, 16 sausages, 0.5kg bacon, 1 isthmus mooring, 1 roast chicken, 1 cleaner and tidier boat, 2 hour spaces found.

Archie Innie And Cary Outie. 21st May

Bridge 178 to Chisnell Lift Bridge 193

Blimey last night I had real difficulty in staying awake after we’d eaten and as soon as I got into bed my eyes closed and I was out for the count, very unusual for me. I’d had my first glass of wine since being on antibiotics, Colin my dentist had suggested I would be alright to drink again on Mick’s birthday, maybe waiting another day would have been better. This morning I woke up a good 90 minutes later than I usually do.

Kings Sutton Lock

Kings Sutton Lock sat full waiting for us, the second of the deep single bottom gated locks. Someone has been very busy chopping logs, maybe they are the only source of heat at the lock cottage here. We pootled our way along the next pound, some familiar boats spotted, but no-one to say hello to. No aroma of bacon cooking today as we passed the Pig Place, just a chap adding nails to the landing.

New bolts to hold the bridge together

As we came under the M40 we could see vans and work boats by Sydenham Lift Bridge 183. A couple of weeks ago there was a stoppage here as apparently a boat had run into the bridge, we don’t know how as the bridge is normally left open. As we passed through a carpenter was busy making handrails for the bridge and we could see that most of the bolts holding the platform together had been moved.

Lots of piling

At the C&RT work yard there was lots of new shiny armco piling, I wonder where this will be used. We’ve noticed sections where piling has been used quite low in the water and then the big sausage rolls used to keep the edge green, not too useful for mooring but certainly helping to keep the towpath in tact and wider than it has been.

We’ve limboed under here before

Nell Bridge Lock was also full, I checked the level below. The red green yellow board long gone, but plenty of head room today to get through the low bridge under the road. As I opened the bottom gate Mick told me of an oncoming boat, great I could leave the gate for them, I just had to cross over the busy road.

Random find on a wall

Yesterday had been sunny, today it was decidedly cold, we’d also made sure our waterproofs were close to hand. Someone must have thought so too as a hot water bottle lay on the wall over the top of Aynho Weir, random object found alongside the canal.

Aynho Weir Lock from the weir another possible painting

The lock was just about ready for us, just a little top up before I could open the gate. I know from experience along here to be patient, very patient when filling and emptying the locks especially the lozenge ones, they may look level but the gate will only give when it will give.

The lozenge shape ensures enough water heads down onto the canal to feed the next lock

We pulled in to Aynho Wharf, time to introduce ourselves. There under a few other boxes was one large Bully Boy box filled with our replacement battery. When we’d been thinking of somewhere we could get it sent to, various friends and acquaintances had been thought of, but here came to mind as Oleanna would be close to road access, the heavy box not needing to be moved very far. Sarah was very kind and was quite happy for us to have our new battery sent to them so that we could easily collect it.

Thank you!

A sack barrow was found and the big box brought out to Oleanna, the two of us lifted it onto the stern, it could stay there for a little while. 61 litres of fuel £1.24 a litre the most we’ve paid this year, but we wanted a top up and Aynho had been good to us. Sarah asked if we’d given the batteries names, maybe they would like to be named and that was what had gone wrong with the faulty one.

Name on the box

As we pulled away I looked down at the box, there was this batteries name, Archibald. Archibald would be going inside in The Shed, so Archie Innie. But what about the other one? What would be a suitable name to go along with Archibald? The first thing that came up on Google was about Archibald Alec Leach who was more commonly known as Cary Grant, I always have had a thing for Cary Grant. That was it, the second battery named, Cary Outie.


A little late for lunch we decided to pull in where we’d met with Paul and Christine on NB Waterway Routes last year just before Chisnell Lift Bridge. Tilly would have all the fields of long grass to play in, or so we thought! Well that’s just a rubbish outside, NO trees! She stayed up on the roof for quite a lot of the 4 hours she’d been given, meowing at us whilst leaning over the side above the hatch over the canal which always makes me really nervous.

Coo, I’ve not made one of these for ages!

I set about preparing tonight’s meal, a smoked salmon and camembert quinoa crust quiche, the oven being on went some way to warming us up. Mick got on with installing Archie Innie. The faulty battery had been sent back with the terminal bolts, the new one had come without any! He rootled through his tool box and boxes of bits and bobs and thankfully found two suitable for the job. The Shed was emptied, stern steps removed and Archie installed into his cubby hole. Cables attached, hello Archie!


Mick talked to him from his phone. Cary started to share his power, starting to get themselves levelled out. The engine was started up to assist, this will need a few more hours for them to get themselves sorted, hopefully tomorrows cruise will help.

The stove was lit, time to warm up. It then started to rain. Hopefully the weather won’t be too bad, we really don’t want the Thames to go back onto red boards, it’s only just come off! Time to start watching the EA levels and C&RT for Shipton on Cherwell, hopefully I’ll get to hand deliver a pair of socks this week if the river stays down.

This weeks yarn selection

This evening we watched the first of this weeks episodes of Narrow Escapes. Good to see Tim and Tracy again, we passed NB Sola Gratia last year on our way to the Thames, but we’ve not actually seen them since the day both boats climbed up to Titford Pump House back in early 2020, this I believe was the day they were picking up Ozzie, hearing assistance dog in training.

3 locks, 4.5 miles, 0 Frankie, 0 bacon, 61 litres, 1 new bully boy, 2 names, 1 disappointed cat, 1 really rubbish outside, 1 lodger heading home, 1 wet evening, 1 big quiche.

Pensioner Boy. 20th May

Slatt Mill Lock to Lift Bridge 178 (no longer exists)

Present time with our cuppa in bed. An electric shaver and some new pants, lots of them Well we can’t have Tom dingly dangling outside like that chap the other day can we! We certainly can’t Tilly, well done. Next up birthday breakfast. With a banana mountain ripening all the time I made us a batch of banana and blueberry pancakes, they were very nice, but maybe we should have had a third person to help us eat them!

Birthday pancakes

Time to move onwards and downwards. We just needed to find a gap in the down hill boats. With the familiar Sea Otter from yesterday having passed us we quickly untied and pushed off before the next boat could come down the lock. There was chance at the next lock to check if they were relieved to have had a pump out at Cropredy before they headed off ahead of us.

Uphill boats arrived and there was time to chat. At Bourton Lock there was a chap who remembered the old lady who used to live in the cottage, back then the gardens on both sides of the lock were wonderfully kept, now it’s just trees and sideways trees.

At Hardwick Lock a single hander helped open gates and wind paddles, he had offered to help someone the other day and been pushed over by them, a scab on his arm to show for his friendliness! I thanked him and then got out of his way.

If I ever had my hair cut again in Banbury, I’d give Izzy a try.

Two ladies waved from Dink and Malc’s house, we waved back, we always do. Then round past the permanent moorings, an opportunity for a hair cut on the cut. Past Sovereign Wharf and Spice Ball Park pulling up in front of the restaurants at Castle Quays, the closest mooring to Lidl available for us.

A reasonably big shop, 4 bags were brought back and stowed away. We’d checked the middle of Lidl today as we always do, finding several items that may be useful. A 12volt oil pump, a trolley with reasonably big wheels to deal with the towpath, Tcut to try to brighten up the cabin sides that have oxidised, a chunky kneeling mat and a rest for barbequing kebabs. Mick spent some of his Birthday money on these useful items, however he was reluctant to purchase a hoola hoop!

Bridge up

Lunch then I walked ahead to wind the lift bridge up before the lock. As ever people stood and sat to watch us operate the lock, the last with double bottom gates. Last year there had been a stoppage here whilst they did a temporary repair on the top gate. Today that repair is still there, the walkway over the gate still not replaced, the locals used to use this all the time but now they have to walk round as I did.

No walkway still

A family of four were soon enlisted to help push and pull gates much to their delight. Then it was time to top up at the water point and dispose of fishy smelling rubbish. Whilst Mick stayed to do the chores I headed off with a bag to Morrisons. Lidl is fine for most things, but not so good if you are gluten free. The only gf items on offer today all contained coconut, which unless it’s fresh or just milk I avoid!

Walking through Banbury I looked for a 488, the bus to Chippy and kept my eyes peeled should I know anyone. It would have been lovely to say hello to Tim, Alyce or Suzette who I know live in Banbury, but not one familiar face. If there had been something on at Chippy we fancied seeing we’d have jumped on the next bus so that Mick could use his bus pass for the first time. They are currently working up to two big community productions, Lark Rise and Barn Dance which take place next month. The other day Clare asked me if I was missing working on panto, the answer has to be yes. But I’m also really enjoying waking up every morning without a mental list going through my head of design jobs I need to achieve once we’re moored up at the end of each day.

A very arty cabin side

By the time I’d finished at the Morrisons check out, so had Mick at the water point. I walked back towards him from Tramway as he cruised towards me, perfect. Onwards now for one more lock, Grants Lock. Nothing has happened to the lock cottage since August last year, access to the property is owned by a college in Oxford who have refused to sell it, so access is very restrictive to be able to carry out any works on it.

We passed the hire boat who’d had their nice picnic at the services in Napton, they’d turned round today. Should we stop here? There? Round the next bend? Would the towpath get any wider so we could have a birthday barbeque this evening? A cut out area in the long grass showed itself, we pulled in, someone’s effort would assist in our quest for a wide towpath for the evening.

It was later than we’d hoped for, Tilly was given an extension, then brought a friend home! Betg a megfw meittn ton doew! She said with a mouth full as she and her friend were bundled out of the front door.

Possibly good for a slow roast

Mick set up the barbeque and got everything sorted on the towpath, I put together the kebabs and threaded asparagus onto skewers, the new one’s a touch too thick for this job, mental note taken for next time. The plan was to have asparagus for starters followed by burgers, kebabs and sweetcorn. Well the Lidl briquettes took forever to get going, then some more! I popped the asparagus on to cook, expecting to be turning it frequently. Not enough heat to do this! The spears gradually cooked, no charring a good thing. Sweetcorn was added, this normally needs turning frequently too as it colours up and cooks. No such luck.

Sadly all cooked in the oven!

In the end we decided that we needed a lot more coals as the rack was too far away from the heat for things to cook efficiently. But as the coals had taken over an hour to get hot in the first place and we were now starting to run out of day light we decided to turn the oven and grill on inside. Asparagus was eaten outdoors with our first glasses of wine in a week, but it was now getting chilly.

Birthday Boy and his cake

Food cooked and eaten indoors, it was now time to reveal the secret baking and blow out the candles. Happy Birthday Mick!

How on earth am I going out with a pensioner!

4 locks, 6.5 miles, 2 supermarkets, 2 hours shore leave, 1 friend, 14 spears, 4 kebabs, 2 burgers, 1 big chocolate and banana cake, 0 buses taken, 1 full water tank, 66 years old! 1 valid bus pass, 1 Mrs Tilly’s stamp of approval.

Disposing Of The Evidence. 19th May

Claydon Top Lock to below Slatt Mill Lock

Two Sea Otters

Everyone was moving before us, well it was Sunday. There was breakfast to eat and the Geraghty zoom to join. More attendees this week, subjects included; final is a bit terminal, volvo coaches, Piaff and how to spend £26.4 million, we requested some to go towards new casters for the pull out cupboard onboard Oleanna.

Gorgeous poppies

At the locks we pulled in behind a down hill boat, helped them down, then another up before it was our turn. This gave me time to admire the huge red poppys in the garden alongside the lock, the roses over the arch a little past their best.

Two volunteers were at the hut by the third lock, one siting down for his lunch the other helping us but looking forward to his prawn salad. Todays tally board made it look like it had been a busy morning, there were still more boats to come.


Time for a little chat with the boat ahead at most locks, then the crew of uphill boats too. One lady had owned their boat for a month, they’d done holidays before but now they had their own, I felt very excited for them. Another boat was crewed by a local volunteer and his wife, they were having alternator problems so were heading to wind and then return to the marina to sort it.

A lovely sunny day, no need for us to stop as we’d fuelled ourselves with breakfast. Time to spot NB Herbie at Cropredy Marina, shame not to have coincided with them, one day we’ll manage it, maybe.

Last time we came through Cropredy Lock there seemed to have been a flood as lots of rugs and mats were hung over the picket fence drying. Today it looked immaculate, everything neat and tidy. Someone has left a deep message on a lock gate for those who stand and wait for levels to equalise.

There was a boat woman to say hello to moored below Cropredy Lock, but they were having a leisurely lunch at the pub, we waved anyway and left Anne a message on Facebook.

A field of golden buttercups with Curlews calling

We’d already passed where we needed to be today, but decided we’d continue that bit further and down Slatt Mill Lock, spikes required but a slightly wider towpath to be able to sit out, less footfall for Tilly and safer surroundings. The pound above is often quite shallow, but today the bywash seemed to be blocked, so the depth was the best we’ve known it. We dropped down and pulled in at the end of the lock landing. Spikes were hammered in and we settled down for the remainder of the day.

Keeping an eye on the towpath whilst I got on with important things inside

Time to do a touch of secret baking. I’d had my eyes on a recipe for a chocolate cake, but over the last couple of days I’ve been wondering if this was the cake I’d made myself last Christmas? This took a lot of eating for the two of us. Hmmm. With a EU banana mountain in our fruit bowl I changed tack, it’s been a long time since I made a chocolate banana loaf alla Christine Gemson. The bananas were perfect for it and needed using up.

Quick before anyone sees!

The advantage of secret baking is that you have to dispose of all the evidence, Mick kindly sat out on the towpath whilst the oven was on. Alongside the birthday baking a chicken tray bake did it’s thing for our evening meal.

Another message from another Boat Woman had come through, Kate Saffin was heading up from Banbury. I mentioned there was space in front of us if she wanted to stop, but as she’s headed to perform at Crick Boat Show next weekend she’s on a bit of a mission. As soon as I got a message that she was on her way from the next lock we kept an eye out for her arrival. The two of us headed to the lock to assist with her ascent and to be able to have a chat about all things Thames, Cavalcade, Alarum Theatre and Tooleys in Banbury. Single handing she’s quite a way to go along with having to be at meetings here there and everywhere. If you are going to Crick and fancy watching a performance Kate will be there telling tales of women boaters from the past, well worth watching. Hopefully we’ll get chance to catch one of her shows sometime this summer as we’ve not been for sometime.

Bye Kate have a good time at the show

Kate had timed her arrival and departure very well, when we got back on board there was 1 minute left on the timer for the secret contents in the oven. It was brought out and left to cool surrounded by an invisibility cloak.

10 locks, 4.1 miles, 2 boat women, 1 hour baking, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Bloomin’ Heck. 14th May

Lidl to Bridge 41

There were a couple of things we’d missed yesterday on our shop, so Mick valiantly headed all the way back to Lidl! Some double cream and dark chocolate baking necessities for next weekend! I sat and updated the blog before we moved up closer to Leamington Spa to do a couple of things in town.

Clare and Graeme were only a few bridges up ahead, they fancied listening to a pianist in a church this morning whilst we were busy, then the plan was to team up again to work our way up the locks ahead. Well that was the plan!

I stood up from the dinette table, all of a sudden it felt like we’d got ten bags of coal on the roof and Oleanna was very top heavy. I fairly quickly realised that it wasn’t Oleanna swaying, it was me. I steadied myself and carried on with the setting off jobs, slowly. Stepping onto the bow to untie the bow line I still felt wobbly. Was this vertigo? It felt a bit different. As we weren’t moving far I stayed up front and sat down, ready to moor up, less to do, hopefully less wobbly head.

He he!

There were loads of boats through Bridge 41, the most we’ve ever seen. We pulled in behind the long line, NB Lottie Jane a couple of boats ahead. Mick stood waiting at the stern for me to tie my rope, I needed his assistance, the thought of stepping onto the bow again not appealing. Time to sit down.

I had planned to check on possible presents here in Leamington Spa and visit a new mural which from photos looks amazing. But that simply wasn’t going to happen. Was this vertigo or something to do with the tooth I’d had taken out last week? My gum is still quite sore. Mick bobbed into town to do the things he needed to do and I called my dentist for advice. The receptionist booked me back in for an appointment this afternoon.


The news was passed to Clare and Graeme, Clare bringing me a get well soon purple iris. They would stay today too.

Arrangements to get our new Bully Boy Battery delivered to us was simpler than we’d thought. A boat yard we will be passing was very happy to receive a large heavy package for us and keep it safe until we arrive. We just have to get there now.

Mick and I caught the train back into Birmingham, so much for me saying goodbye to the city yesterday! A walk to catch a tram across town and then a sit down in the waiting room at the dentist.


Colin checked around my mouth. No normal signs of an infection, but the clot itself didn’t look normal. I was given two options and I opted for pills, he agreed. Three days of antibiotics, started straight away before I left the surgery. If I had any concerns I was to ring. No alcohol for me for the next week.

One good thing about the day was being able to admire the gardens at Leamington Spa Station. A few years ago we’d been on a tour around the deco station. The architecture, chrome and lovely doors are just one side to the station, the flower beds and hedges another. The topiary steam engine is still there plus these wonderful flowering shrubs, with such delicate flowers. Does anyone know what they are please? Sorry for the bad photos.

Back at Oleanna, Tilly gave me a head nudge then complained about being cooped up for two days in a row! Mick cooked dinner and I cast on sock pair 20. Hopefully my head will start to improve in the morning.

0 locks, 0.4 miles, 200grams dark chocolate, 200ml double cream, 1 bag carrots, 1 new broom, 1 wobbly head, 2 trains, 2 trams, 9 pills, 1 green engine, pair 20 cast on, 1 mural left for next time.

Embankment Congregation. 10th May

Bridge 14, Stratford Canal to Rowington Embankment, Grand Union Canal

No relaxing in bed this morning, there were miles to cover and locks to work. Just ahead of us and a little bit quicker at getting away this morning was a hire boat. A stool and music stand to aid the helm. On the music stand was an enlarged version of a Pearsons guide, laminated and clipped on so it wouldn’t blow away.

Boat cat

We followed and pulled in at Lady Lane Wharf to top up on deisel, we’d hoped we’d be able to buy some more charcoal from them as we did last year. It was very cheap and good stuff, but this had been a one off sadly so we’ll have to restock by other means.

Pootling along under the tree cover was very pleasant, plenty of blasts of reverse needed as the lack of depth meant we had the potential to pick things up on the prop.

Up ahead in a dappled spot a blue boat, no sign writing. We always look carefully at such boats because it could just be….. The licence in the window faded but ……. Blue, then a person busy doing the washing up……. it was! Graeme on NB Misty Blue!

Graemes back

We pulled in for a chat and a catch up, we’d last seen him in Thrupp last year. He has plans for later in the year which sounded interesting, maybe we might want to join him? Maybe! As ever it was lovely to see the man who can’t help but smile, just too early in the day to stop for longer, after all we’d only just got started.

Fancy meeting you here!

Now the two lift bridges, time to flex those muscles, the first one a doddle to wind up, but winding it back down took far more effort. The second one goes on and on forever.

Not very Narniaesque today

Narnia Lock (Lapworth Top Lock), one of our favourites. I managed to get a photo from a different angle today, it may just end up being a painting.

For Sale on the Lapworth flight, click photo for details

The first four locks of Lapworth are spaced out and by the time we reached the bottom two boats were coming towards us. NB Hunky Dory that had been at the Electric Boat Show, because of the landslip on the North Oxford their lock count to get there had risen from 40 locks each way to 120, quite a lot of effort for a couple of days at the show.

After Lock 5 we paused, hammering in spikes, for lunch. On a normal trip this way this would be an overnight stop, but not today much to Tilly’s disgust.

Obligatory photo

Now to the flight proper, another fifteen narrow locks all down hill. No uphill boats to swap with, photo opportunities, no volunteers. We soon got into our rythmn. I’d open up a lock, walk down to the next one to set it whilst Mick brought Oleanna in, close the top gate and a paddle, he’d then lift a bottom paddle and return to the helm, as I walked back up to lift the second paddle and open the gates. Mick then closes the off side gate with a boat hook.

At the bottom of the thick of the flight

Then it’s repeat, until there are no more locks.

We made good progress. A boat was filling it’s water tank so no stopping there to do ours, down we continued. Taking the left hand lock towards the Grand Union I spied the nice new paintwork on NB Red Wharf, very smart.

Twit twoo! Nice paint job

Right onto the Grand Union, locks finished for the day, we just hoped the water point at Tom O The Woods would be free, it was. As the tank filled I had a shower, so that there would be enough hot water for Mick to also have one later when we’d moored up for the day.

Last Lock of the day done

Now there was a race on for moorings. This morning NB Lottie Jane had moved to the embankment above Rowington, our rendez vous point. Also we’d heard from Chris The Pink Hat Man, he was working his way up Hatton today teamed up with a hire boat. We’d checked Chris’s webcam at various points during the day to check on their progress. It had been good and topped off with a pint before they set off towards the embankment. Would we get there first? Clare and Graeme had been primmed that they may not hear Chris arriving, but they’d certainly see him!

I wonder if that pink boat has pink food inside?

NB Lottie Jane sat on the prime mooring on the embankment, a boat arrived just infront of us, pipped us to the next best spot, we pulled up infront. Our ropes were just about secured and Tilly given shore leave when up ahead NB Elektra came into view followed by NB Pip the hire boat Chris was travelling with. All four boats managed to moor up together. Introductions crossing three continents, then it was time for tea.

What a good name for a boat!

Out came the chairs and conversation over a cuppa and a slice of cake whilst Tilly checked out the friendly cover close by. That pheasant didn’t really want to come and play! Then we had a tour of NB Elektra, I impressed myself that my socks matched the interior colour scheme, just as pink as the exterior. It was very good to finally see his boat in person, Mick and Chris have known each other since their teenage years and we’ve followed his travels over the last couple of years. If you’d like to follow him cruising he quite often has a live feed via youtube. Just a webcam, slow tv from your armchair. We quite often tune in to have a guess at where he might be.

Time to settle down for the evening. So we all retired to our boats for food and the comfort of our sofas. I also had a bit of melting, mixing and baking to do ready for tomorrow and the Hatton flight.

19 locks, 8.4 miles, 1 leftish, 1 right, 2 lift bridges, 66 litres, 0 charcoal, 1 music stand, 2 Graemes, 1 rendez vous, 4 boats, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp, but please could I have another three days here!

Stone Crew. 28th April

Barlaston Winding Hole to just off the end of Stone Visitor Moorings

Bacon butties were enjoyed before we joined the Geraghty zoom. Topics covered today were Peanut Butter grouting, news from the north was ‘murcky’ and parasitic worms.

Four Windlasses!

Our aimed for departure was 11am, we were slightly later than that, hopefully my guestimate based on travel times on the Waterway Routes maps would have us arrive at the locks at a suitable time to meet our extra crew for the day. There was also time to pop down below and roll up balls of biscuit dough I’d made last night, roll them in two types of sugar and pop a tray in the oven for ten minutes. The Lemon Crinkle biscuits were left to cool as we approached the top of the Meaford Flight.

This lock was in our favour and just required a top up. You can only see ahead if you either walk over the bridge or once the lock gates are opened, no boats in sight.

As we approached Meaford Road Lock I could see that there was a boat ascending the lock below and coming along the towpath were our extra crew for the day, Bill and Lisa. Windlasses were handed out and instructions given. We lowered Oleanna down to the next pound and left the gates for the uphill boat. Below however the gates had been closed and the lock was refilling.

New crew in training

When we got down to the next lock there seemed to be plenty of crew, eager to close the bottom gates behind the uphill boat, however none of them had windlasses. They were just gongoozlers pleased to lend a hand. We helped the crew out lifting paddles and pushing gates, then it was our turn.

Bill and Lisa picked up what to do and when very quickly and were quite happy to stand and watch as the locks emptied and filled, marvelling at the engineering and how it’s not been bettered. We all hopped on board and caught a lift down to Lime Kiln Lock.

Click photo for link, it’s rather a nice house

Lisa grew up in Stone, we passed where one of her teachers used to live, one of the houses for sale. Then just before the lock there is a short line of modern houses, this when she was a kid was The Rising Sun pub. Her Dad used to drink in there and she was allowed to play around the canal, yet she didn’t really remember any boats on the canal at that time (mid 80’s). This was the first time she’d got to work a lock.

Lisa and Bill

The locks are pretty into Stone with their stone curved steps to push the lock beams along and their bridges. They are also easy locks to work, no real need for extra crew today other than spending time with friends and sharing what we do.

A lady heading to the shops with her trolley opened up top gates for us at one lock. One of her two dogs refusing to cross back over the lock bridge ended up crossing over the back of Oleanna, Cheeky! Obligatory photo taken. The chandlers will soon reopen as something completely different, presumably the new owners are the ones who don’t want the boaters rubbish point. At Yard Lock it was being emptied, boat movers moving a boat up to the Macc.

Star Lock, the last for the day

On to Star Lock the last for today. A Mum mallard was trying to encourage her ducklings out of the water where the bank was quite high, so for a while I lost our extra crew. Then it was time to find ourselves a mooring. There had been space above the lock but that wouldn’t have been so good for Tilly, now there were no spaces, just a long line of boats. We pootled on, a new length of armco going in, after this we pulled in. Here the bank was so soft you could almost just push the mooring spikes in by hand. Mick double pinned us, but we weren’t convinced this would last too long.

Time for a cuppa and sit down with some of those biscuits. Tilly was given an hour and thankfully she returned just as we’d finished our drinks. She was left in charge whilst we walked back into town.

Where Ben’s Dad was born

We paused to find our friend Bens Dad’s birth place just down Adies Alley. No 28 was the place, photo taken to send to Ben. Then on to find a pub, Crown Wharf was chosen. Blimey it is a huge pub and very popular on a Sunday. We quickly found ourselves a booth to take over, the general hubhub from the pub adding atmosphere yet we could all hear each other. Sadly no gluten free beer, I was a little surprised at Joules, but hey a glass of wine on a Sunday afternoon was nice enough.

Team Stone. Lisa, Mick, Bill and Pip

It was soon time to say goodbye to our friends, what a lovely Sunday afternoon with very good company. Hopefully we’ll see Bill in a few months time as he’ll be a lodger for a couple of months in Scarborough.

Back to the boat via M&S for something to eat this evening, pies. Sadly my gluten free version was really rather crispy hard. The mooring spikes were only just still holding in the soft ground, one was exchanged for a chain.

We were just settling down for the evening when a phone call came from Scarborough. A strong smell of gas in the pantry and it was getting stronger! Landlord mode kicked in, the leak was reported to the gas board, our lodger opening doors and windows, leaving the house until an engineer arrived. Thankfully someone was there about half an hour after we’d reported it. The tap that turns the gas off and on at the meter was the culpert and once it was replaced the problem solved. You can get quite a good flow of air through the house so thankfully the gas cleared quickly and Georgia could relax for the rest of the evening, as could we.

8 locks, 4.1 miles, 2 extra crew, 1 lovely afternoon with sunshine! 12 lemon cakey biscuits, 2 pints, 1 coke, 1 large wine, 2 pies, 2 jackets, 1 lodger and house still in tact.