Category Archives: BCN Main Line

2023 A Sociable Year

A long post, it’s the annual round up.

January, we sat waiting. Waiting for a new alternator to arrive, for the River Trent to come out of flood and then for the canal to defrost sufficiently for us move. This meant Pip doing work on the boat instead of in the house, this made for smelly days and a very cold workshop under the pram cover.

After almost three weeks we were on the move again having to navigate through thick fog, navigational aids helping us not to bump into the banks! Ahead of us in Yorkshire was a troublesome swing bridge, closed to boat traffic. Our plans had to change, we arranged to moor up in Newark and head back to Scarborough by van. Chin rubs nearly made the longer journey better, but I really don’t like the outside moving SO fast!

Four days later we were back on board, the bridge ahead was now open. Tides were checked, locks booked, cupboards stocked for a few days cruising. Winter cruising can be so so pretty, yet so so chilly. A display by the Red Arrows as we left Torksey kept us amused and a defrost was very welcome when we arrived at Keadby. After four days cruising we were moored up in Goole and walking to catch the train back to Scarborough.

#unit21 in Huddersfield kept Pip occupied for much of February. Then it was time to give the house some TLC in between lodgers. A back bedroom got a makeover just in time. Mick had trips to see Oleanna, a jobs list left with Alastair and the covers headed off for some much needed mending. Tilly was kept busy checking out the neighbours, they stay inside so I get free reign of their outside!

April arrived along with two lodgers, it was not possible to do more work on the house, Pip chose to knit socks instead. Dementia UK her chosen charity this year. Donations of yarn came from dyers and Pip’s needles started to click away, keeping up with requests. 15 pairs knitted and her target met.

May, visits were made to Oleanna preparing her for cruising, these were interspersed with visits from family, delivering socks, getting the house ready and starting work on the design for panto. On the 9th of May we loaded a van and returned to life afloat. Tilly the happiest cat once she was back onboard! A day later we set off heading west. Leeds for a few days for Pip to head to Matlock for work and then a wonderful visit to see 93 year old Betty in Harrogate.

Working our way up the Leeds Liverpool Canal, locks and the new stupid swing bridge much lighter work with two boats. Our favourite canal with wonders of the waterways, friends on route, Mick’s birthday and a trip to Bowness to see the latest Ayckbourn play. We managed a night on our favourite mooring on the network sadly it was too windy to enjoy the view with a barbecue.

Up over the top, we teamed up with NB That’s It, thankfully descending the Wigan flight in a window between vandalism and blown cills that have hampered the flight this year. Then along the Bridgewater Canal, panto designing whilst on the flat. Through Preston Brook Tunnel and onto the Trent and Mersey turning right onto the Middlewich Branch.

Back on lockdown ‘Home’ waters we cruised the Nantwich pound, 5 hours 13 minutes including a lunch and shopping stop, back in 2020 we’d spent 80 days here. We cruised southwards on the Shropie joined for a day by Carol and George from WB Still Rockin’. Laura and Alison from NB Large Marge joined us for the ascent up the Wolverhampton 21.

Through Bumingham and on to Lapworth and then Hatton where we had an extra pair of hands from Jane, who hopefully now has her own narrowboat. A well deserved burger at the Cape of Good Hope with Emma and David, then a lovely evening with Lizzie (NB Panda) at The Folly, it was turning out to be quite a sociable June.

Oleanna wiggled her way across the summit of the South Oxford, very familiar water to us. Despite the sunny weather and us cruising most days our batteries were not happy, turning themselves off overnight! Diagnosis was required, we pulled into Cropredy Marina to plug in and run tests. One of our three batteries was dead, bad enough but thankfully nothing more. Once a panto meeting had been attended we could move on, except there was an emergency closure at Banbury Lock. C&RT worked hard to get the canal open as quickly as they could, thankfully our hold up wasn’t too long.

We met up with the crews of NB Azzura (Liz and Mark) and NB Perseus (Julie and Simon) both Finesse boats, had a visit to London for Andrew’s birthday. Then had a rendez vous with Paul and Christine and enjoyed a good catch up onboard NB Waterway Routes.

Down to the River Thames where we turned upstream onto waters we’ve only cruised once before. Such a lovely stretch of river, sadly with fewer moorings now. We sped up to Lechlade where we took up residence for a week so that we could attend a get together at Pip’s cousins which coincided with the Royal International Air Tatoo in Fairford. It was great to be with family on a jolly occasion.

Work took over for Pip as we made our way back down stream to Oxford, Cinderella had to go to the ball and the model needed to be finished. Then we sauntered our way back northwards. One day had us meet up with Frankie NB Discovery, NB Dusty the local coal boat and Graeme on NB Misty Blue, it was good to catch up with Graeme and hear of his adventures since we’d seen him last year.

A trip for us both back to Scarborough to do a turn around of lodgers, see a show and pick up post. Mick would have to return the following weekend to swap bedlinen over again, this time by train from Rugby. Stand still budgets and inflation required Pip to do more work on panto so her days were kept busy reducing Cinderella’s carriage from £2000 to £400.

Stoppages around the network meant we had only one real route we could take to head back north. We winded and climbed our way up to the Leicester Section. Here we met up with Ken and Sue NB Cleddau at Houdini’s Field sitting out till way after dark. Then a small detour to Welford to meet up with NB Panda and Lizzie for an evening before we continued our way north.

Another detour to Market Harborough before Leicester where North Lock had a badly leaking cill which required a crew of C&RT chaps to force the bottom gates open, booked passage was required, this meant we got a few days to enjoy the city whilst we awaited our turn.

Sadly by now the lack of water on the Chesterfield Canal meant the top end of the canal was closed, no point in rushing up the River Trent for a return visit. In Nottingham Pip’s little toe had a kerfuffle with a cupboard necessitating a visit to the drop in centre for her little pinkie to be realigned. This meant Pip had to hand the windlass and key of power over to Mick for the last locks of the year.

Downstream on the River Trent, stopping at all our favourite moorings. Pip’s knitting needles came out again to knit more socks for Dementia UK. We had a trip into Lincoln along the Fossdyke Canal, we actually managed to finally visit the Cathedral this time!

Tides were not helpful for the rest of our trip north so a couple of days at West Stockwith was needed, but that did mean we’d be sharing the tidal waters back to Yorkshire with NB That’s It whom we’d met earlier in the year.

There was time for a catch up with David as we passed through Bramwith, a jaunt up to Doncaster and then finally along the New Junction and onto Goole where a space had been found for us in the marina. A train ride to Scarborough to pick up a van and see the latest show before packing up the boat again for the second time this year.

Planned works at the house then went very smoothly. Scaffolding arriving the day after we arrived, new windows later in the day with four carpenters and two days later the decorator who was to give the house a much needed new coat of paint outside.

Mid October Pip moved to Chipping Norton for a month to work on panto, Mick and Tilly left to welcome a new lodger for the Christmas show in Scarborough. Panto was as much work as normal with the addition of Pip getting covid after the first week of rehearsals. The show opened to toe tapping audiences and many many bananas, getting great reviews. Mick had a days trip to London to support boaters who had gathered outside the Houses of Parliament for a Fund Britain’s Waterways rally.

Back in Scarborough Christmas came early with a visit from the London Leckenbys at the beginning of December, they hadn’t been to Scarborough for ten years. A few more house jobs have been done but a list has been compiled for the new year along with those on Oleanna. We’ve had a lovely Christmas, catching up with Scarborough friends, Tilly has slept lots, we’re lucky to see her before 2pm most days! I’m just resting for when the outsides start changing again.

Don’t worry Tilly the count down has started.

This year our plans changed all because of an invite from Pip’s cousins. We travelled our favourite canal, cruised many familiar waters , visited ‘Home’, climbed trees and pounced, caught up with many boating friends and made many new ones along the way. One very sociable year.

So our vital statistics for 2023 according to Canalplan are

Total distance of 805miles, 2.25furlongs and 436 locks.

There were 121 moveable bridges, of which 33 are usually left open; 151 small aqueducts or underbridges and 16 tunnels – a total of 6 miles, 5 furlongs under ground and 7 major aqueducts.

This is made up of 244 miles, 1.25 furlongs of narrow canals; 251 miles, 5.5 furlongs of broad canals; 69 miles, 1.5 furlongs of commercial waterways; 95 miles, 4.75 furlongs of small rivers; 57 miles, 3.75 furlongs of large rivers; 87 miles, 1.5 furlongs of tidal rivers; 185 narrow locks; 223 broad locks; 28 large locks.

Although according to Nebo we did

815.09 miles and 431 locks! Hmm maybe my maths isn’t so good. But then we only started using Nebolink in August, tracking our every move rather than just on our phones.

470 engine hours, 789.8 litres diesel! Ouch, having to run the engine to top the batteries up on an evening didn’t help with this, 150amp hours down to 100, 3 gas bottles, 120kg coal, 19.5 litres oil, 2 oil filters, 2 fuel filters, 1 shower mixer, 1 domestic alternator, 1 set new engine mounts, 1 overnight guest, 3 packs Dreamies, 1.5 packs Bonkers, 39 friends, 6 brought in, 34 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval, 34 pairs of socks, £1132 for Dementia UK, 2 shows, 9 lodgers, 10 supermarket deliveries, 33 boxes wine, 1 toe, 6 months cruising, 3 boat mover sightings, 209 posts, 184 likes, 9,503 visitors, 31,309 views!

Thank you for following our journey during 2023. We have a plan for 2024, but there are several invites and a rendez vous with some New Zealanders. Will we stick to our plan? Have to alter course to fit everything in? Wait and see, we’re already counting down the weeks to being afloat again.

G’day. 16th June

Sheepcote Street Bridge to Dicken’s Heath Narrows, Stratford Upon Avon Canal

Heading out of town

Both awake early this morning, we decided to push over to the services and use the water tap before anyone arrived wanting to spend some money. We made use of the time and also had breakfast. Shortly before 9am we were ready to push off and leave BUMingham. I stood at the bow to check the way ahead was clear as we turned at Old Turn Junction towards Gas Street Basin.

Have a G’day

Yellow seemed to be the colour of the day! As we came towards Broad Street Tunnel we had three antipodean gongoozlers taking our photo. Mick called out to them. ‘I won’t wish you good look! But I hope you have a Good Day’. What a shame to be leaving BUMingham on the first day of the Ashes Test Match. If only we’d looked for tickets when I first booked my dentist appointment!

Happy as ever

Through Worcester Bar and onto the Worcester Birmingham Canal.

Are there bins round the corner?!

At Holliday Wharf I wondered if C&RT had got confused with their signage. A bucket with a lid means an Elsan point, a bucket with the lid hovering above means rubbish bins. The new blue sign suggests there are bins to the right, the door on the right has an old sign for an Elsan. I don’t recall there having been bins here before, there are some at the services near Cambrian Wharf. Hmmm? Too late to go and have a look.

A few small thing to do here, not much

I bobbed back below to get on with work. Time to put model pieces back in the model, take notes of things to alter, add, finish off. Not quite a side of A4, but small handwriting! Some big jobs like putting bits of model on sliders so that they don’t constantly fall over or require blue tack to hold them in position. Then easier jobs such as adding details to the floor and backdrop.

Mick warned of Edgbaston Tunnel, I made sure the lights were on. Then about half an hour later we were pulling in to moor in Selly Oak. Time to pick up our click and collect order from Sainsburys and also find a birthday card for my God Mother Betty.

We pushed off again, Mick at the helm and me trying to squeeze everything into the fridge. I almost succeeded, once we’d eaten tonight everything that required cooling was found a space in the fridge.

Kings Norton Junction

Past Bournville we were soon arriving at King’s Norton Junction. I bobbed out the front to check for oncoming boats. All clear. The toll house at the junction has had it’s wrappings removed this year after a fire caused damage a few years ago. Two chaps were busy replacing the pillars by the front door, they took a short break to watch us turn the corner before they got back on with making clouds of dust.

The guillotine stop lock

Through the guillotine stop lock. Who gave Tilly a spray can!!!

We pootled on to Soliull. The house we’ve watched through the years being transformed still has a scaff tower next to it, I wonder what’s happening now?

Remember don’t try to open this bridge with your boat!

Time to open Shirley Draw Bridge. I waited to let any arriving vehicles cross before starting the process. Of course a chap in a van couldn’t be bothered to wait, so crossed the bridge even thought the warning lights were flashing! No harm done, just annoying.


Three horses grazed the bank of the canal, their riders having a refreshing drink at the pub. We did think the diddy pony might just follow us along the towpath, but it was only after a rather tasty patch of grass.

It was sunny and time to stop for the day. We pulled in just after the rail bridge and narrows, some possible shade from trees. Just a shame the sun was on the wrong side of them!

I think I’ll go this way, first

Tilly headed off, making full use of her four hours shore leave. Mick listened to cricket and England declare late afternoon. I got on with model making jobs, only a short list of things left to do before I have another look at the model.

The boat heated up nicely during the afternoon, what a shame I’d decided to use up lots of things from the fridge in a tray bake, so the oven heated us all up some more. We really must get another mesh made for the stern doors, just need to finish designing panto first.

0 locks, 10.6 miles, 2 tunnels,1 right, 1 left, 1 full water tank, 1 wine cellar replenished, 1 far happier cat, 393 for 8 declared, 1 coach still to improve, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Daddy Bear. 15th June

Sheepcote Street Bridge, BUMingham

A morning of work before heading up to the dentist. I am gradually doing my best to conquer my fear of dentists but today the sounds as I walked in through the door really didn’t help! From one of the two consulting rooms the sounds of a large bear retching echoed around the practice. The receptionist and I did our best to get words in edgeways for me to check in, then I was sent to the far waiting room. Selfishly I really hoped my appointment wouldn’t be held up, sitting waiting for a few minutes is bad enough, but with someone sounding so ill! What had they done to him?!

My dentist appeared carrying a cup off something, said hello and that he was just about ready for me. I hoped that was true. I’m not sure the cuppa was for the poor chap but if it was it certainly did the job, the noises ceased and my check up appointment went ahead on time. Followed by the hygienist, this was the chap I’d seen at my first appointment after lockdown, thankfully today the full Darth Vader mask isn’t required. All good, I could be on my way.

The Library

Lunch then a touch of shopping. We both required a few new items of summer clothing. It’s not worth spending too much on t shirts etc that may get covered in grease so we both planned a visit to Primark. Mick has a dodgy calf so was going to take the tram, I have dodgy legs which required a walk having been sat down for much of yesterday.

I returned with 2 t shirts and a new pair of shorts, whilst Mick only managed some floppy topped socks, nothing else took his fancy.

Daddy Bear, he likes his porridge

More work for me, some statues, crates and a few more ideas for the coach were scribbled into my sketchbook. Mick got on with setting up his new tablet and making himself Daddy Bear, at least this one didn’t growl!

Plenty of people were keeping The Distillery busy this evening. Orders for food being shouted across their open kitchen, timers sounding that dishes were ready to be served. Gradually the general hub hub of food switched to louder and louder music. Our TV had to be turned up for us to hear it. Mooring opposite a pub you expect it to be noisy, but we hadn’t expected quite such decibels on a Thursday. We did manage to watch, and hear, the first two episodes of Significant Other, a new comedy on Itv X. It may start off a little bleak but it is really quite funny. Hopefully we’ll get to the end of the series before our free trail ends.

Pleeeease move the outside!

0 locks, 0 miles, 9 retches at 101db, over 85db are harmful, 2 t shirts, 1 pair shorts, 3 pairs socks, 2 trams, 1 walk, 1 cat sooo bored of being hot in BUMingham pleading to move on. Don’t worry Tilly tomorrow!

More Than Just A Handful 14th June

Sheepcote Street Bridge

The spiders have been busy overnight

Our mooring here isn’t in the shade all the time, sun shines down on us until about 11am and then again in the late afternoon, thankfully these times coincide with the morning still being cool and then the temperatures starting to drop down. However this does mean that the solar panels are a touch redundant during the best part of the day, so unfortunately the engine had to be run for hot water and to top the batteries up.

Float switch, used to detect water in the bilge and turn the bilge pump on

Mick unwrapped the float switch, this was as close to being fitted as it was going to get today, he had more important things to do. The tablet I bought him five years ago has gradually been failing. First it was the detachable keyboard, then the screen cracked and then yesterday it ceased to turn on all together. A hunt round for a second hand tablet started.

So Mick caught a tram out to West Bromwich to visit Cex, he’d also hoped to get a new (to him) phone, but they didn’t have anything he fancied. There was a tablet that would do the job. He also paid a visit to Screwfix for a new mixer bar for the shower. I think this is now the third one we’ll have had, the current one doesn’t really like to mix the water anymore which is fine in the cooler months, but should you want a cool shower you’ve had it!

A sunny morning

Across the way a few boats arrived to use the services. The pumpout can only be used up to 11:30, that is when the pub behind the service block opens. They must have had customer complaints.

I set to on trying to have a productive day model making. First extra greenery. Then I moved on to the scene where the Fairy Godmother casts her spell. I now needed to make a lot of bananas. All at 1 to 25 scale, or as close as I could manage.

I could have spent hours mixing up milliput (an epoxy modelling putty), rolling out individual bananas, then joining them together to make hands. As I was wanting to make hands that were still attached to their stem rather than bunches of fives, I decided on a different method which I hoped would be quicker and give the general idea.

Circles of foamboard were cut out, split in two. Then I cut the edges into a flower shape to represent the bananas. These were a touch too broad, you don’t really get bananas 5cm thick, but for my purpose they would do. These then got slotted onto cocktail sticks and bent in one direction. Once glued in position I then covered them in small pieces of tissue paper and pva glue, hoping to retain the shape whilst making them easier to paint and more sturdy. They do the job and give the idea.

Just about all the dressing made

I now need to work on the coach.

Tilly came and went every now and again. The occasional long stare came in my direction, I know she was willing us to move the outside. She’ll just have to wait a day or two. Plenty more boats arrived today, so maybe we didn’t miss a memo.

0 locks, 0 miles, 3 trams, 1 flat switch, 1 tablet, 1 mixer, 1 shower head, 400 plus bananas, 1 bench, 1 tea chest, 3 crates.

The Shady Winding Weedy Route, Or The Straight Sunny One? 13th June

Wolverhampton Off side mooring to Sheepcote Street Bridge Moorings, BCN Main Line

Mick woke early and was getting dressed at 6am, Tilly and I stayed in bed hoping we’d be able to sleep a little longer. We managed about twenty minutes more but were aware all the time of the covers being rolled up and the bow being pushed out. We were on our way just before 6:30am.

Passing iconic buildings on our way

Time to get on with work, we’d be stopping for breakfast at some point. Research first, what should THE clock look like? Would there be Grecian statues in a Colombian garden? Would it matter, it is panto after all? I remembered to have the lights on for going through the tunnels today, nothing worse than getting so far drawing something out and having to stop and wait for the sun to come back out. I’d rather the sun didn’t go out in the first place! Where’s it going out to?

Today’s studio along with the usual assistant

The smell of fresh morning came through the hatch. Then the sound of the engine finding it harder to move Oleanna. We’d reached the narrows by the house where weed always seems to collect. No point in clearing the fowled prop until we were through it all. Mick struggled on until we’d cleared the worst of it then pulled us almost to the side, turned the engine off to see how much was round the prop.

Time to replace the floor in my model box. I’ve been using the one from last year to mark positions of things, but I’d grown bored of looking at cobbles, I’m still undecided as to quite what the floor should look like this year, having it white will help.

Factory Junction

At Factory Junction Mick made the discission to go right, so far his plan was to follow the Old Main Line which is more wiggly, but likely to be more weedy. In Tipton we pulled in to the water point and refilled our tank whilst having breakfast, hopefully no-one would arrive wanting to top up as we ate our cereal. Mick cleared the prop again just as a chap walked by saying ‘Welcome to Tipton’.

Left as the temperatures started to rise, it was 10am now. Mick would see how the weed was before making his final decision on the route into Birmingham. If it was bad he’d drop down Brades Hall Locks, if not he’d stay on the flat. A peek out the hatch suggested the weed situation had improved, we’d be staying on the flat.

Changing the floor to white card also means the steps into the auditorium needed to go white. I could remake them, or just recover them, they got recovered.

Staying on the flat meant a slower pace but a good stretch of the canal sits directly under the M5 meaning there was a good stretch of shady canal to cruise. A beep on the horn as we neared Oldbury Locks Junction, just in case someone was about to pull out.

An old bridge under the M5

At about 11:30 we saw the first moving boat, zooming along in the shade towards us. Tilly and I held onto my model box as Oleanna tilted over. Over the top of the New Main Line, right at Spon Lane Junction, staying in the shade for a while longer.

Just gone midday we were back out in the sunshine only to duck into the dark for the summit tunnel. Time to get a handcuff key out and be ready for action.

Plenty more geese down the flight

The three Smethwick Locks were just about in our favour a touch of topping up required but not much. I walked ahead to open gates at the next lock whilst Mick lifted a paddle to start emptying the lock above. By the bottom pound was a large creche of geese, the youngsters all different ages. I ended up walking past the hissing guards three times. No matter how many times I told them I didn’t want to hurt their babies, they still hissed at me!

On the bottom lock the top gate says No 10, on the bottom gate No 3 ?

Left at the junction and then straight on, past loops to the north and south. My steps were now dry, time to get on with thickening up arches and making the clock.

Where is everybody?

In the centre of Birmingham the mooring time limits are soon to be altered for a trial period. The majority of moorings right in the centre are currently 2 days with a few 14 days and an ambiguous stretch which suggested it was both. After a consultation they will be trying out new 4 day moorings, Cambrian Wharf will be Leisure Moorings (so no visitors), the not so central moorings will all be 14 days. This all sounds rather good to us. Our visit this time will be for three days, some shade would be nice so that we’d not be cooking inside all day. We pulled in opposite The Roundhouse, a 14 day mooring and shade by 1:30pm.

Lunch, then time to head off to the art shop Cass Art for some card. The walk got a touch confusing when I spotted that the hoardings in the city centre had moved yet again and now Victoria Square, the large area in front of the Art Gallery and Museum was cordoned of and being repaved. Thre was also a horse playing a keyboard. Just after I’d put my camera away it reached for a bottle of water and started to drink, a better photo opportunity missed.

Card, at last there is card!

I found my way to where I wanted to be and a rack of mountboard sat waiting. Time to find the least damaged sheets in the rack, I hate dinted corners! I also purchased some new drawing pens and a set of very fine paint brushes. The shades of green paint didn’t quite say rainforest to me or they were really quite expensive, I didn’t need them just yet so they can wait.

Few boats on the usual moorings

My walk back to Oleanna took me up the last few locks on the Farmers Bridge flight, one boat going down another moored on the lock landing one lock from the top. Cambrian Wharf was just about empty and only three boats sat outside the Sealife Centre, not one boat moored on Oozells Street Loop. Is there something we don’t know? Why is Birmingham soo empty of boats?

The view from Barajee

Today we’d reached Bumingham a day ahead of schedule, this is our forth destination met so we decided to head out for something to eat to celebrate. Everywhere with outside seating was bustling. We headed to Barajee the Indian Restaurant that straddles Broad Street Tunnel. With only being one chap eating we were given the best table in the house, overlooking Gas Street Basin. How different this whole area must have looked before it was opened up to the outside world and redeveloped. One gate used to open into Gas Street and most of the bridges near the Sealife Centre didn’t exist, neither did the Sea Life Centre or the Lego giraffe! We thought about Manchester Castlefield Basin, what a shame it doesn’t have a similar feel, open to visitors, places to moor, numerous cafes etc. It used to be better but now mooring there is hard for visitors.

3 locks, 14.1 miles, 2 rights, 2 lefts, 9 straight ons, 2 overs, 1 full water tank, 2 weed hatch visits, 1 new floor, 1 white set of treads, 1 clock, 2 sheets card, 6 brushes, 6 pens, 2 poppadums, 2 mains, 1 side, 2 rice, 2 glasses wine, 4th destination achieved, 1 resigned cat.

Round. 21st April

Cast Iron Roving Bridge to Shirley Railway Bridge, Stratford Canal.

Looking in from the road

Before moving off today we wanted to have a look at The Roundhouse. Last year it had just opened when we were in Birmingham, but you had to be on a booked tour which were all fully booked. Now there is a visitors centre which is free and booked tours, which sadly there was only one space left, so we opted to just have a look at the visitors centre.


I’d always assumed that the Roundhouse had been to do with the canal, stabling for the horses to rest up. But it was actually the stables and stores for Birmingham Corporation’s Public Works Department. The result of a design competition the Roundhouse was built in 1874 to a horseshoe design by local architect WH Ward.

Strawberries, currants and gooseberries planted alongside the towpath

In 2013 the National Trust and Canal and River Trust got together to save the Grade 2* listed building. Monies were raised and by 2019 full scale renovation works were begun. Now the building is sectioned off for different purposes, it houses local offices for both C&RT and the National Trust, there will be a cafe and has other spaces that will be let out. It will act as a hub for walks, canoeing all sorts of activities.

Time line

It was a shame not to be able to do a tour today as the visitor centre is small and only had a couple of displays to look at. A big time line of the building fills a wall.

Then a horses stall is filled with interesting facts and sayings about horses. Did you know a horse has 100 muscles in it’s ear where as we only have three?

Multi coloured diddy people

Another room is used for exhibits, today a bit of a mix of things. A wall comparing night workers of the 1800s to todays. Then it was lamp lighters and night soil men, today take away workers and factory workers.

The building itself is a gem. The ground ramping up from the road to the rooms on the first floor whilst access is still possible through the centre of the building at canal level. The renovation has been done with a sympathetic modern touch, large windows giving views out over The Distillery and canal at the back. Next time we’re in Birmingham we’ll make sure we book tickets for a tour in advance.

Time to move on.

On our way back to Oleanna, Scorpio and Butty Leo were being brought round from the Oozells Street Loop, the crew on board showed how to handle the pair turning the steep corner without touching the sides.

Reversing up

For us it would be a reverse back to Old Turn Junction to wind and face the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. We timed this very well with one of the trip boats turning out from that way! Both skippers indicated their intentions and manoeuvres were made accordingly so both boats could be on their way. Oleanna swung round as if she knew where we wanted her to head, through Gas Street and round to the Mailbox Services.

Under Broad Street

Sadly here there was a queue for the water point, so we carried on, our need not urgent. One chap was looking for the bins by trying his key in any gate he could find, we informed him there were no bins, so he just added his rubbish to the nearest public bin, this must happen all the time.

Edgbaston Tunnel. Under the new footbridge that is being built for the University Station. Then past what we think will be a winding hole to aid access onto the restored Lapal Canal when it opens. There is a section of it in water hidden behind screens close to the new Sainsburys.

We pulled up on the new rings just through Bristol Road Bridge to do a top up shop to see us through into next week and have lunch. Then pushed of again following a 70fter through Bournville and on to King’s Norton Junction where their long length gave them problems in turning. They let us pass as we were aiming to turn left also, this would leave them with more space and less pressure to get round the bend.

Too long to turn in one

All this stretch seems to get pulled out and stretched even longer each time we do it. Those land marks you wait for get further and further apart. Thankfully the guillotine lock is where it should be and was remarkably clean of graffiti today.

A clean guillotine gate

Bluebells fill the banks of the canal, and local boaters huddle around junctions and water points. Then the house we’ve watched come back from dereliction over the years, all spruced up.

At a bend we came across a boat with it’s engine turned off, just sat off centre in the cut. We were almost about alongside when the chap started the engine up and proceeded to move off, he’d not checked behind. Mick shouted as we would have difficulty stopping now. The chap saw us and knocked the revs off, he’d just had to clear his prop.

Shirley Drawbridge

Shirley Drawbridge soon arrived. I hopped off the stern, waited for a gap in traffic then pressed the buttons. The boat now following us had pulled in, so only Oleanna to go through this busy bridge, eleven held up.

Now with more countryside about we pulled over onto some arnco, Tilly could have some shore leave in better surroundings than she’s had the last few days.

0 locks, 10.32 miles, 3 canals, 1 reverse, 2 lefts, 1 round house, 0 tours, 70ft, 1 wave goodbye, 90 minutes, 1 happier cat.

Fitting Into Boxes. 20th April

Cast Iron Roving Bridge

Some dog filming going on in the city today

Mick was away seriously early this morning, he arrived in Scarborough just after 10am and arrived at the house shortly before our lodgers left for work. He had an hour or so to wait before a plumber arrived to try to solve the boiler problem. The boiler was taken to bits, everything checked, lots of head scratching a valve in the airing cupboard was changed (possibly the third such valve this year!). Thankfully all was back working, but why the valve stops working is a mystery. Hopefully this will now have solved the problem, the boiler has a few good years left in it, but if the valves keep failing we may have no choice but to replace it. Fingers crossed.

Grand Central reflections

Back in Birmingham Tilly and I pottered on as normal. Tilly had some shore leave and when she came back I decided to head off for a walk. My main purpose was to find some more comfortable FFP2 Masks. We still wear masks in busy areas such as shops and trains and as very few people now wear them they may as well be more for our protection. The one’s we have now are actually for woodwork so the elastic goes over the back of your head, so they are not quite as user friendly as they could be.

Gas Street

I headed to Boots to see what they had, 5 for £10. That would do. I then had a look around a few shops before I got a touch twitchy about being amongst sooo many people. I decided to walk back to the boat via Gas Street Basin, entering from the north east side where two arms used to head off, I’ve not been this way before. You get quite a good view across the boats.

Worcester Bar

The bridge at Worcester Bar didn’t used to exist, it was just a wooden plank which could be swung across for access using a chain.

Back on board Tilly requested more shore leave, but as I opened up the back I could see another cat coming from the boat behind us. Maybe this was one of the cats that was running along our roof last night! Not wanting to have a towpath turf war Tilly was allowed in the pram cover but, luckily she hadn’t seen our neighbour!

An interesting darn. I do need a magnifying glass

My hygienist appointment went well, although I still can’t imagine why anybody would want to do the job. At least now it is no longer necessary for them to wear the full Darth Vader outfit to clean your teeth! I was asked if I’d like to book my six monthly appointments, this is when boaters don’t always fit into a box. Depending on stoppages I’m likely to come by train after panto has opened in Chipping Norton. So booking an appointment today would be risky. I know when it should be and that will do for now.

He’s tall

No sign of the other cat when I got back, so Tilly was allowed an hours shore leave before ding ding. I took the opportunity to hear how a meeting had gone for David today.

Boaters, Continuous Cruisers don’t fit into normal boxes. Banks find it hard, Doctors quite often need to be reminded that they can register people without an address, having to declare yourself homeless to be able to vote, etc are all things that need to be dealt with by boaters. The people who provide support that David is now entitled to would like him to fit into one of their boxes, for this it would be easier for them if he lived in a house, this however would not be so good for David’s mental health. Soon he will need to start moving his boat again, which will cause problems with the continuity of his care. To receive counselling over the next few months he would need to remain in an area, that area could be challenging to CC in.

Ooo flowers on my strawberry plants

Then there have been other boaters, those who have also put him in a box, the one of the overstayer/continuous moorer, just what you need when you are not well and the visibility of your illness is not obvious! David is going to seek advice from the Welfare Officer at C&RT and from the NBTA, there has to be a way round this. He has come so far and needs support to carry on going in the right direction. Surely the corners of a few boxes can be push to make them fit him and his situation?

On a lighter note, here is Brain Cant fitting into a box.

0 locks, 0 miles, 4 return tickets, 5 hours for the boiler, 7 hours on trains, 5 masks, 2 shore leaves, 1 t-shirt darned, 40 minutes cleaning, 0%,1 more pat on the back, 1 box needing to have the corners stretched.

Litter Panic. 19th April

Cambrian Wharf to Cast Iron Roving Bridge, BCN Main Line

Time to make use of the final hours of having a car. Last night we’d put the finishing touches to a click and collect from Tescos, so Mick headed off to do that first thing. I on the other hand headed off to the Dentist for a check up, the main reason for coming into Birmingham. Thankfully I got another pat on the back from Colin and he managed to move my hygiene appointment to tomorrow which will save us loitering for a few days.

The walk to the dentist and later our mooring

Meanwhile Mick had chatted to the plumbers in Scarborough and arranged to meet them tomorrow morning, he’d be going by train this time. Our lodgers were informed and hopefully everything can be sorted whilst they are out at rehearsals.

Over the last few days we’ve had one of our CO alarms go faulty on us, replacing the batteries hadn’t done the job, so that needed replacing. Then last night the heat sensor in the main cabin had started beeping, this one you can’t change the batteries so it would also need to be replaced. Although after testing it the beeping stopped, we’d still rather have a new one.

Neither of these had been available to add to our click and collect order so we headed out in the car to Selly Oak where we’d have a choice of shops. We also needed to hunt for wooden cat litter.

The cat litter is as important for Tilly as it is for us. We use it in our composting toilet, both as a base layer and as cover (slightly fluffed up with water). Recently we’ve not found any in supermarkets, maybe all supplies have been diverted into generating electricity at Drax. Mick the other day managed to find somewhere we’d be able to buy a tonne of it, but that would be a touch excessive and we’d need to adjust Oleanna’s ballast.

30 Litres is less than a tonne!

There was none in Tesco’s Sainsburys, Wilkos. But we did manage to get replacement detectors. The search continued at the next retail park where there was a Pets at Home. They obviously knew we were hunting for wood pellets as there was a big pile of 30L bags right by the front door. We normally get 10L bags which tuck away easily. We looked round 15L was the smallest they did, Hmmm? If the shortage continues we’d be daft not to have stocked up. So we panic bought 30L’s of cat litter. All we had to do now was get it back to the boat and find somewhere to stow it where it wouldn’t get damp and expand!

Lego giraffe

Mick returned the car to the airport. I had a good catch up chat with David, he is sleeping better and eating, all progress in the right direction, still a way to go. Then after lunch we moved over to the water point. Here a load of washing was put on, rubbish disposed of and the hose connected to replenish our water supplies.

Only needing to be in Birmingham for a couple more nights we moved over to opposite the Arena and pulled in where we knew Tilly would appreciate the friendly cover. Almost on straight lines Mick added a spring line so we’d not get pushed and pulled around with the trip boats so much.

An original bridge

Just as I was putting down the cratch cover a group of ladies shouted across from the other bank. ‘Where can we buy tickets?’ Sorry, tickets?! ‘For a boat trip. How did we get over to you?’ It took a little bit to explain that this was my home, but I thought they might be able to get a trip if they headed back towards Gas Street.

Much more interesting than a lock

As Mick spent hours booking train tickets to get to Scarborough (4 returns costing about half the price of a ticket for the whole journey), Tilly explored the friendly cover and I got out my knitting needles for the first time this month. There are pairs of baby socks to knit.

Baby sock

Today Versus Arthritis announced the final figure that they raised during the March Challenge which was £138,676.84. I personally raised £320, knitting 9 pairs of adult socks for donations. Now over the next week or so when we’re not boating I’ll be knitting at least 9 pairs of premature baby socks, one for each person who sponsored me. Thank you to everyone who sponsored me and also a big thank you to Lisa who donated some wonderful yarns. I’ll be changing the Redlockmakes page to show the finished socks on the feet they were knitted for soon.

Ali’s socks and feet!

I really enjoyed the challenge and it gave me something to do whilst we weren’t busy boating, sorting the house or working. I’m considering maybe doing it again next year, but for a different charity. I wonder if there are any other Indie Dyers who’d like to donate a skein or two of yarn to the cause?

A sockathon, but for which charity? Alzheimer’s Society. Down Syndrome Association. Mind. British Heart Foundation. Cinnamon Trust. Or maybe to a charity who offer disabled people trips away on a boat. So many to choose from, any suggestions please.

0 locks, 0.22 miles, 1 hire car back, 4 return tickets, 2 detectors, 6 monthly check-up, 30L cat litter, £320, 1 full water tank, 1 spring, 1 full day, 2 hours towpath exploration.

2021 An Adventurous Year

Time for the annual round up. Put the kettle on or pour yourself a glass of something stonger, put your feet up, this is a long post.

Looking out into a cold world!

As midnight turned from 2020 to 2021 we saw the old year out and new one in at the house in Scarborough, a quiet affair with just the three of us.

January and February brought ups and downs with them. Oleanna rose and fell with the water level at Viking Marina due to the breach at New Bridge whilst the country locked down. Despite the restrictions on travelling we made use of having a hire car for a few days at the beginning of the year to keep an eye on Oleanna.

Jobs around the house continued, our bedroom was redecorated and reclaimed from troublesome tenants. Tilly and I ventured out into the nearby park for the occasional walk, dependant on the number of woofers and the weather of course.

We walked, we ate, we drank, did our best to stay well and I started on the design for Chipping Norton’s panto in my reclaimed work room.

The spare living room was used as a workshop doing some work for Animated Objects, scrimming giant sci-fi guns and then painting model buildings all for The Odyssey. Beetroot burgers were made and pancakes consumed.

Then March came along and some easing of restrictions. Colour came back in nature with the daffodils popping up and my panto model started to get coloured in. A design for some origami paper arrived ready to be folded up to be part of 1000 ships display that would happen a couple of months later along the Yorkshire coast.

With new freedoms we had a couple of trips to Goole to check on Oleanna. First one was to swing her round and finally put fire extinguishers on walls all ready for her Boat Safety Inspection which she passed with flying colours and a comment that we seemed to like CO and smoke detectors, well I’d rather have too many than not enough!

The cofferdam at the breach site was completed and an access ramp created. My posts about the breach put us in touch with several people in Goole and at the beginning of April The Goole Escape Facebook group was formed. Due to the breach and lack of water in Goole Docks no leisure boats were allowed to use Ocean Lock out onto the Tidal Ouse. A joint calm voice was needed to try to find a way out for those boats wanting to leave, including us.

Of course March was also when Mick and I got our first vaccinations. Who’d have thought having a jab would put a smile on peoples faces! Not that you could really see them behind all the masks. A bathroom got a make over and we discovered parts of Scarborough we’d never been to before.

April was a very busy month. With lodgers on the horizon house jobs needed finishing. The roof needed attention along with a wall in my work room, both jobs were for the professionals. Pictures went up on walls, finally. The bathroom needed finishing with Frank fitting us a new bath surround.

Mid month out attention moved back to Oleanna. Way back when, we’d booked her in at Goole Boathouse to be blacked. We had a night on board before moving her from one marina to the other to come out of the water. She was jet washed down and the chaps began applying layers of 2 pack to her hull. We visited most days with jobs to do ourselves. Mick busied himself inside whilst I ground back rusty bits on the gunnels, repainted them and the tunnel bands. Inside the oak floor had a good clean and then was treated to two coats of oil. The weather had been perfect for it and she went back in the water a week after she’d come out, enough time for the 2 pack to cure. She looked smart again, well the cabin sides still needed a good wash!

Whilst in Goole we met up with David, Karl, Wendy and Martin, four members of The Goole Escape group. David had managed to negotiate with ABP passage for leisure boats through Ocean Lock at Goole Docks, this was limited to specific times of the tide. So escape was now possible but everything would have to come together to make a sensible plan. We wouldn’t be ready for a few weeks and hoped that there wouldn’t be a mass exodus before we could join people.

As I carried on trying to finish my panto model Mick made good use of his time doing a VHF radio course, we’d need to be able to use the radio to meet the criteria for going through Goole Docks and out onto the Tidal Ouse. Tilly visited the vet and got a years worth of flea and wormer treatments, we were all set to move back on board.

The first of May was that day. We’d hoped that Tilly would remember the boat after seven months on shore, within about two seconds of being back it was obvious she knew where she was. News that Goole caisson gates were now open and cruising up towards the breach site was possible we headed off to give Oleanna a good run and so that Tilly could venture back onto dry land. It was very good to be back on the move again. On our second such trip Tilly remembered how to swim!

Whilst in Goole Mick took his Short Range VHF Radio exam and passed. I carried on painting my panto model. We both had our second vaccinations. Heather Bleasdale came to visit joining us for an outdoor lunch. We got to know the Goole Escape Committee and discussed plans. We watched work going on at the breach site. Mick had a birthday and Joan’s Home Kitchen provided us with a celebratory meal a couple of days before we hoped to escape.

On 21st May an escape committee meeting was had early on, the weather looked hopeful for the tide in the afternoon, we were booked in at Ocean Lock. Our escape was to be via Selby, the Lock keeper was called there and our plan confirmed. At lunchtime we moved up to fill the diesel tank and await the other escapees, Sea Maiden and Lullabelle. Given the go ahead by the docks to proceed we were soon passing through to Ocean Lock where there was plenty of space for the three of us. At around 14:30 the large lock gates opened to reveal our way out of Goole onto the Tidal Ouse.

All three boats arrived safe and sound

We headed upstream following Sea Maiden being pushed along with the tide. Would we make it to Selby before the tide turned. Each boat arrived individually and was locked up into Selby Basin. We’d made it, now all we had to do was escape Selby as the swing bridge out of the basin there was broken.

We waited. Tides, times, weather and the amount of fresh coming down stream all had to fit together. Bridget and Storm came to visit. We twiddled our thumbs. The Environment Agency came and closed the flood barrier. We twiddled our thumbs. Daily escape committee meetings were held. By the 27th everything was looking to fit together apart from one thing, Keadby Lock would not be manned at a suitable time for us to get off the river. Sea Maiden and Lullabelle decided to stay put in Selby. Heather Bleasdale was joining us for the trip but Oleanna would be out on the river on her own heading to Trent Falls.

What a day that was! David’s advice was spot on. Leaving Selby just before 10am Oleanna zoomed downstream with the out going tide. We followed our charts keeping to the channel. At the Apex light Mick swung Oleanna round to head upstream onto the Trent our progress slowing instantly.

We then crawled our way to find where we should wait for the tide to turn. Two hours of very little, drifting on our anchor. We’d picked the day well, it was wonderful out there.

When Oleanna started to move round a touch more we managed to pull the anchor up and found our way back into the main channel to head upstream with the incoming tide. One plan had been to moor up in Gainsborough, but we decided to carry on and arrived at Torksey just as the last light was fading at just gone 22:00, 64 miles in a day, I doubt we’ll ever beat that.

Over the next few days we made our way up the Trent, dug out our windlasses to work locks in Nottingham. Once we rose up Derwent Mouth Lock onto the Trent and Mersey we had completed our escape. The going would now be much slower along shallow canals and plenty more moored boats to slow down past.

Now we should make our booked mooring at Rembrandt Gardens, every day would be a boating day unless the weather was either too hot or far too wet to cruise. Along the Trent and Mersey, pausing to stock up in Alrewas. At Fradley we turned onto the Coventry Canal to head southwards. We gave a tow to NB Burghley Girl to the bottom of Atherstone.