Category Archives: BCN

Happy 8th Baseplate Day! 14th February

Well today marks the 8th anniversary of Oleanna’s baseplate being laid in Tim Tylers workshop in Newcastle under Lyme. It was another year and a bit before we finally moved on board to cruise her down to Crick to meet with Lillian and fully move onboard.

Mick stood at the stern 58ft 6 inches away, 8 years ago

If you want to look back and see Oleanna’s build this is a post from our first visit. Her story starts much earlier so here’s a link to the first Oleanna blog post, 1948 blog posts ago!

Currently we are gradually getting ourselves ready to move back on board, the date still a little bit up in the air.

Sunday in the Park with Mick

Mick went down to check on Oleanna on Monday. A chat with the bully boy batteries went well, the newly oiled floor had cured so the back steps could go back in. I’ve been busy covering new and old dinette cushions and today we should receive new cartridges for our life jackets, which are currently still inflated in a closed room well away from cat claws.

The world of canals and rivers is keeping us on our toes as regards to stoppages at the moment. There is a silt build up on the River Trent which needs dredging between Beeston and Cranfleet locks. The coal boat had serious difficulty passing that way a week ago and was having to wait for levels to rise again before attempting to return to base. Since then the Trent has gone back into flood.

Can we start packing yet?

The Don Doors on the New Junction are having issues with their gearbox so are closed to the canal currently. Even if we got past them Vazon Sliding Bridge is closed to boat traffic until mid March whilst strengthening works are carried out to the north canal wall.

However we’d planned on crossing the Pennines. The Rochdale, Lock 67 is suffering from subsidence which will be worked on next week. Lock 65 is also showing similar signs and will be looked at next week to see what should be done.

Round 1

The Leeds Liverpool has a navigation restriction near Burnley, Embankment 39, so it is still navigable. Works at Wigan have been slowed by the weather so the closure there has been extended by a week so that concrete has more time to go off, the concrete has as yet to be laid. Problems near Foulridge Tunnel seem to have been sorted.

Round 2

Then the Huddersfield Narrow and Broad. There are bridge works and a lock closure on the Broad along with repairs to a wash wall which should be finished mid March. On the Narrow locks on the east side are closed until the end of February, then there is a closure in Stalybridge which should open mid March.

Round 3

So at the moment the Leeds Liverpool is looking the most promising, followed by the Huddersfield canals. Further south there has been a substantial landslip on the North Oxford near Brinklow. We’d planned on heading southwards this way, but we strongly suspect it will take a while for this to be sorted so will have to head southwards through Birmingham. Or do we wait for the Trent to be sorted and out of flood then high tail it south along the Leicester Section?

Who knows! We’ll wait and see what is open when we set off.

Thank you Beth

In Sockathon News I now have sponsors for 29 pairs of socks and have raised £655 for Dementia UK. Pair 7 will soon be finished. I now have a very large box of yarn donations sent in from all over, details of which are on the Yarn Donations page. There are still a few more people who have pledged yarn donations so they will be added as yarn arrives. I think I may be knitting for a few years to use it all up! If you fancy a pair here’s a link to my JustGiving page

  • Thank you Debby for becoming pair 30!
My friend Morag looking across the harbour

0 locks, 0 miles, 8 years old! 4 routes from the north closed, 1 bathroom delayed, 1 best mate visit, 2 lodgers, 1 fair weather cat, 2 opticians appointments, 2 doctors appointments, 1 vets appointment, 1 gathering, 1 leg of lamb, 2 boaters nearly ready.

Busbars, Bridges And Bits And Bobs

Things are being ordered.

First things to arrive were some waterproof cases for our mobile phones. These won a Herbie Award, not these actual ones, but having waterproof cases to save having to replace a drowned phone. This is a common hazard living on a boat. I’ve lost two phones and Mick has dropped one phone and a tablet into the drink.

At Christmas Mick got me a new phone as my old one was looking a tad cracked after nearly becoming phone number three heading for the depths of Nether Lock last January. I’d like to try to keep hold of this one a touch longer if possible. So I’ve been looking round for cases.

Most of the cases I found are intended for swimming, keeping the water out is one thing. But being able to turn your phone on to take that photo of a Kingfisher is another, especially when your power switch is now fingerprint operated and on the side! One case I found has the outside area inflated, so it would act like water wings should your phone go for a swim. I suspect this would make it even harder to turn on.

I’ve tried taking photos through the case to see what effect it has. Reflections are one downside. I suspect our cheap waterproof cases will end up being used for the phone we run Waterway Routes on at the helm. The phone stays powered whilst we cruise so the power button won’t be a problem. Just need to try to find a case that will allow me to take photos and turn the phone on whilst keeping it dry. Yes Mick could have bought me a waterproof phone, but his bank account isn’t that buoyant!

Next a box came from 12 Volt Planet. This contained busbars and fuses to be used in our battery upgrade. I’ll let Mick write about the battery upgrade when he does it. The fuses are also because Oleanna seems to have been built without a main fuse! Well Mick hasn’t ever been able to find one, so he’s going to fit one when putting in the new batteries.

We got sweeties too!

Another box came from Bimble Solar. A voltage sensitive relay for our Nebolink. This will save us having to turn the Nebolink on and off manually when we are cruising, it will do it automatically when the engine is turned on and off. Yes it is likely to turn on should we want to run the engine whilst stationary, but the trip will show 0 miles and may not be recorded by Nebo. It is a touch larger than Mick had thought it would be and have to say I’ll miss flicking the switch on as we push off each day.


Mick has also treated himself to some rechargeable motion sensitive strip lights. These have appeared on his Christmas list for the last three years. Twice they have been ordered and twice they have not arrived! So this year they were given up on as a bad thing. Of course he has now managed to get some straight away with no hassle! These are to go inside cupboards on Oleanna and will light up as the door is opened, saving getting a torch out to check for things at the back of cupboards etc.

Whilst Mick has been reveling in electrical things I managed to find some Pan Flour. Since working on Chippy Panto I’ve been wanting to have a go at making some Arepas, corn cakes. A little after Christmas I followed the instructions on the pack of flour and maybe was a touch impatient on leaving the flour to absorb the water. My first go were tasty filled with the last of the roast duck and red cabbage from Christmas, A little reminiscent of popcorn! I’ll follow an online recipe next time though.

Experimental Baking

The remainder mince pie pastry in the freezer and mince meat required using up, so I came up with the idea of a hybrid mince pie and Yorkshire Curd Tart. I made some curds then used the pastry and mince meat a touch like a bakewell tart, adding the curd custard on top. The outcome was nice, a little strange, but nice. At least the pastry has been used up.

I’ve also finished my painting. Which is now hung in the not quite smallest room in the house. It’s positioning may be a slight problem for two reasons. 1, when sat down it isn’t quite in eye line of the mirror. 2, those who stand to use the facilities may get distracted!

The finished painting, Wolverhampton Flight, Lock 21. Emulsion on canvas.

However I’m very pleased with it and am considering doing a series of paintings in the same style based on places we visit on the network. We’ve come up with a few locations we should be visiting this year. I may even get some prints or cards made from them.

Anyhow, there’s jobs need doing.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 busbars, 2 gauges, 3 fuses, 2 cases, 4 lights, 1 switch, 4 arepas, 1 Yorkshire Mince Pie, or 1 Mince Yorkshire Tart, Lock 21.

0.75 Pairs knitted

51.25 Pairs to go

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.

You Have Reached Your Destination.


Nine weeks ago on the 9th May we moved back onboard Oleanna, leaving Goole on the 10th. Today we’d reached our planned destination, Lechlade.

The above map taken from data provided by our Victron Inverter

Our vital statistics for our trip down are as follows

Nebo 366.54 miles 270 locks

Canalplan 364 miles 1.25 furlongs 270 locks

Our Victron Inverter 403.5 miles (?)

Nebo’s map of our journey

Interesting how both maps have gaps in them, both in different places.

So,now where?

We need to make our way back northwards, currently there is only one route open to us, the River Trent.

Apologies to those who get their updates by email. You won’t be able to see the map from victron as it was embedded in the post. The IT department may see if he can replace this today, but you have already received the post, so you won’t be reading this bit anyway!

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.

Margee Bargee. 12th June

Pendford Bridge 4 to Wolverhampton off side mooring, BCN

Today we allowed ourselves to have breakfast before pushing off, other boats that had moored near us had already moved on by the time we’d got ourselves ready. A pause in the long grass by bridge 2 for me to walk to Morrisons to pick up a bag of salad (we’d forgotten to buy yesterday!) and some blueberries.

Last of the Shropie locks for this year

The hire boats were in at base by Autherley Stop Lock, the staff working hard to do the turn arounds. This made it hard to get off Oleanna, crossing the stern of a boat and then managing to get round a cart of equipment required for engine services. Four inches higher and we’d finished our time on the Shropie.

Sorry Chester, maybe next year

Right please!

Then left! Onto the Wolverhampton flight.

Going up!

The bottom lock is always a photo opportunity. 21 carved into the two bottom beams. Up Oleanna came, on to the second lock, here only a single bottom gate, the only one on the flight.

By the time Oleanna was coming into Lock 19, our third of the flight, two figures could be seen walking down the towpath. Our altered schedule meant that we could give some more ex-boaters a canal fix, we like to do our bit for boaters mental health. Today we were being joined by Alison and Laura from NB Large Marge.

Here they come

We first met The Margees on the Chesterfield Canal when we couldn’t exit a lock just below Shireoaks Marina, we ended up cruising with them and their parrot Jaffa for quite a few weeks before our routes headed off in different directions. We’ve met up a few times since and when we’d been in touch a few days ago Alison had expressed an interest in helping us up Wolverhampton.

Windlasses at the ready

The last time we’d seen them we kept our distance, elbow bumps the new way of greeting each other in early 2020, today there were hugs all round before windlasses and hand cuff keys were handed out. A hire boat was hot on our tail, so we’d best get a move on!

Laura heading to set the next one

Leapfrogging of crew started quickly, two working the current lock, one heading upwards to set the next chamber, nobody having to go back and forth or walk round a lock several times.

Even Mick got to chat too

The hardest bit of today was trying to remember the two conversations you were having as you leapfrogged locks and people. There was plenty of news to catch up on, more than the annual Christmas round robin we share. Old hands make for easy locking just as had happened at Audlem with Carol and George.

Swapping in a pound

We met a boat coming down, apparently there had been a problem yesterday, a boat getting stuck in a lock, front button. They’d had to wait for C&RT to top up some pounds, so had had a delayed start to their descent. A while later we came across a second boat coming down.


All the way up the flight there had been wild flowers, but by lock 12 (possibly) the shear number of Oxeye Daisies was amazing. Wonderful, you’d hardly know you were heading into Wolverhampton.

Onwards and upwards

A pause at the half way mark for drinks before carrying on. Hydration important on a day like today.

Think we know where that water went!

Then a flooded pound, thankfully there was an alternative higher path so we didn’t all have to wade to the next lock. Two locks up we could see where the water had possibly come from, the next pound decidedly low. Someone had possibly been letting water run through the lock without realising. Laura headed up to the next lock to let water down, Mick bringing Oleanna along at a crawl. Once we were up that lock we dropped the water to help the hire boat behind us.

Coming in

Another low pound towards the top of the flight had us running more water down. The level was so low that Mick had to back into the lock so as not to be sat on the cill. The pound above had dropped so warranted a top up too, Laura was concerned that would just push the problem up hill, the next lock happened to be the top lock, so not a problem.

The ladies at work

We pulled out of the top lock 2 hours 42 minutes after we’d pulled in at the bottom lock, a job well done on a hot muggy day. The moorings above the lock were all free so we pulled onto one for lunch. A cold collation was enjoyed by all with plenty of drinks.

Top Lock

It was gone 3pm by the time we said our farewells, not enough time to really get anywhere so we pulled along to the offside moorings for the night. Tilly wasn’t impressed with this as she’s not allowed out here. She spent sometime working out a route up the plant covered wall. I could easily make it up there! But it’s the getting down again that would be the problem Tilly!

Todays crew

Another lovely day working locks in the company of friends.

Bye bye, until next time

Now who can we find for the next few flights?

If I get up to that bit, nudge across then it’s straight to the top!

22 locks, 4 miles, 1 right, 1 left, 2 margees, 0 jaffa, 3 downhill boats, 2 low pounds, 4 volunteers litter picking, 1 bag of salad, 3 cheeses, 2 meats, 1 pate, 4 chocolate chip cookies, 1 bored cat, 1 drizzly moment, 1 downpour again!

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.