Category Archives: Boat cats

A Right Soaking. 5th July

Below Black Jack’s Lock 85 to above Iron Bridge Lock 77

Waking up on the hour just about every hour last night, phone checked, seats racking up for Labour all the time. So it was a slow start this morning. The first boat to pass us was NB Tyseley, the Mikron boat heading for the Thames with volunteer crew whilst the actors have a few days touring further north in the van. I’m not sure we’ll be able to catch one of their shows this year, depends how quickly we move.

Before setting off today Mick turned the TV so that we could watch Rishi Sunak heading to Buckingham Palace to resign as PM. Last night Mick had managed to sort the TV to work via the internet, today it was being obstinate, so we got broken up signal. I did find that Akshata Murty’s dress reminded me of Razzle Dazzle camouflage that boats were painted in WW1, only her head was really visible.

Black Jack’s Lock not as pretty as it used to be

A light spattering of rain meant we had our waterproofs close when we set off. No crocodile on the bank below Black Jack’s anymore, lots of walkers setting off up the canal and a big wooden fence around what used to be the café alongside the lock, I wonder when it closed?

As we progressed, new things caught the eye. A pair of underpants, a lotus sitting frog and NB Watt Way whom we’d met on the Great Ouse two years ago and saw at Cropredy last year. Mick logged onto the BBC with the tablet at the stern so that we could keep up with the days goings on back in London. Watching wasn’t really an option as the sun glinted on the fingerprinted screen, but at least we could listen.

Springwell Lock over flowing

Two years ago we were heading towards London on this stretch of the GU, on the day of the Queens Funeral. Today we were watching Keir Starmer heading to the palace, then to Downing Street. What will we watch next time we cruise between Uxbridge and Watford?

Rubbish was added to the C&RT bins below Copper Mill Lock. The monkey hanging high above the canal seems to have had a brain explosion, maybe it’s days are now numbered, good job there’s a bear in a canoe to keep boaters looking upwards.

Stockers Lock

We paused for lunch above Stockers Lock and with the towpath on the port side emptied the yellow water tank ready for disposal at the elsan at Batchworth Lock.

That doesn’t look so good!

Whilst Mick did the necessary I headed to open the lock. The steps up to the lock on the services side were closed, so I walked over the road bridge to reach the other side. I could already see why as the steps up to the lock were buckling and subsiding. From the other side you could see that the arc where you push the gate open and closed had dropped by quite a few inches. I avoided that side of the lock as much as I could. Then one of the top ground paddles had nothing to lift on the end of it, so I had to swap sides.

Batchworth Lock

Coming out of Lot Mead was a wide beam so the gates were left for us. I take extra care to lower paddles on this lock, we know how far away Watford A&E is by cab! It started to rain as we approached Common Moor Lock, this was to continue for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

The car/boat has settled onto a mooring. NB Bargus was spotted now a Jules Fuel boat. A. Evans’ boat glowed bright red in the rain. Should we pull up now or carry on as we were already quite wet? We opted to carry on.

Cassio Bridge Lock was taking a while to fill. We were just starting to wonder why when a lady appeared at the bottom gates peering over the gates. I went to see what she was looking at, Oh blimey! Water boiling up majorly from under the bottom gates. Was something on the cill? Or had the cill blown? The lock was nearly full, but just wouldn’t go any further, the lady offered to lend her bum to the beam. Thankfully the three of us managed to nudge the gate open just that little bit, bringing the level up to meet the pound above. We wouldn’t have to drop back down and find somewhere to moor.

That should not look like that!

Dripping wet now we carried on to Iron Bridge Lock, the aim to get off a pound that could drop should the lock be used again. I lifted a ground paddle, it was quite easy, it did nothing. I crossed the gates and did the same on the other side, only to have the same result. Gate paddles were lifted and very slowly the level rose. Something wasn’t right below the lock, a gentle boiling. It took forever for the lock to get near to full and then took a big umph from the two of us to open the top gate. At least this next pound gets topped up from the River Gade and it wouldn’t be running out of water with the amount of rain today!

Wet at Iron Bridge Lock

We pulled in as soon as we could, suggested Tilly could have a quarter of an hour, knowing she wouldn’t be keen. Then we peeled off our wet layers and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening listening to the rain hammering down on Oleanna.

9 locks, 6.5 miles, 1 new PM, 1 brain explosion, 1 cat in charge for an hour, 1 cat asleep on the job, 1 collapsing lock surround, 2 stubbornly filling locks, 2 very wet boaters, 1 dry second mate.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/XcQywbMzZpFBVzWx9

Not A Day For A Thumbs Down! 4th July

River Colne Aqueducts to below Black Jack’s Lock 85, Grand Union

Goodbye Slough Arm, maybe we’ll give you another go sometime

A boat whizzed past us this morning, they were aiming for the end of the arm. They apparently made it….. but did they make it back?!

We pushed off just before 11am, things to do today and a minimum three hour cruise. Left at the junction and we were heading northwards again. Another stretch of moorings where there was plenty of space. Where have all the boats gone? If we’d wanted we could have moored up below Cowley Lock, however Puss Puss’s boat was moored there so we’d have chosen to move on anyway. Puss Puss is now quite an old cat a stray who adopted some humans. He quite often used to head to the pub with them giving woofers little leeway!

Cowley Lock

A volunteer at the lock saw us coming and set it for us, bunting zigzagging above. He said how quiet the canal was, a lady had walked down to see if there was room below the lock, room for at least twelve boats today. The cafe here now seems to be gone and the pub is having a serious makeover, Mick wondered if it will still be a pub or a private house.

Rubbish dealt with and the water tank refilled we were on our way again. Slow going to start with past all the moored boats. One of the Uxbridge boys was on their mooring, we’d played leapfrog with them and another boat early in 2015 as they made their way up to the Lancaster Canal.

A long length of towpath is being worked on, all the permanent boats moved elsewhere. Now when I say all the boats moved elsewhere, there were still a couple tied up, one most definitely sat on the bottom not capable of moving anywhere. We turned onto the service mooring at Denham Marina, time to fill up with diesel. 138 Litres later at £1.04 we reversed back out onto the cut and headed up the lock.

The curvy building of Uxbridge

Mick climbed up to help with the gates, these have short beams and are weighted to help, but they are rather heavy for a painful knee to do both. The lock cottage is for sale again, or is it still for sale?

Good luck Larry

It felt apt to take a photo of our Larry for PM banner with Uxbridge in the background, we’d once been in town when the ex PM was buying himself a pasty from Greggs!

We pulled in for lunch a short distance on from NB Old Nick, waving as we passed. We’ve never met but read their blog. A short break as more miles needed to be ticked off today.

Denham Deep

Denham Deep was set against us so required the top gates to be closed and then emptied. Caution required as the lock is so deep, but keeping Oleanna back and adopting out GU paddle routine worked and brought her up quite quickly. A couple sat and watched, aghast, it was their first lock as Gongoozlers.

The older railway bridge

Now I had to be ready for photos. The HS2 viaduct could be seen stretching off into the distance across the lakes, but only glimpses could be seen from the canal between trees. Then high above us we were dwarfed by concrete overhead. A glance to the west revealed a rather pleasing curve, plenty of air around the structure.

We wondered for a while what the extra bits were and why there were only two of them. Now looking at my photos closer it is obvious that they were the next concrete sections heading along the viaduct to be positioned.

Another section making it’s way to be added

A chap waved from above, his tiny size emphasising how big the hole thing is. I wondered who the engineer was who designed it.

The Bear in the Barge is now called The River Garden, a shame as I used to like their pub sign, the new one is easily forgettable, in fact I forgot to take it’s photo! Wide Water Lock was set ready for us, new paint work just about dry! Up we came deliberating on a return trip to London, sadly not to be.

Now we wanted a mooring, one suitable for Tilly, TV signal and the internet. We should have checked the blog for thumbs up or down at our planned for mooring today. Plenty of room below Black Jack’s Lock we pulled in to a gap between trees. Tilly was given a couple of hours, which she used pretty well. Mick set about tuning in the TV.

Hello all the way up there!

I now checked the blog, on one occasion there was a upward thumb, good tv, another a downward thumb, no tv signal. Oh blimey what a day to be without live tv! Mick worked his way round things, thankfully we had good internet coverage and it was a relief when we got more than just ITV. Sometimes our tv won’t even use the internet if there is no terrestrial signal!

We settled down to watch an episode of Traitors. Then turned over for the election coverage. The family whatsap group constantly pinging with anticipation. I decided to turn the heel of a sock just at the wrong moment as the exit pole results were announced. Once turned I realised I’d knitted it in the wrong colour! Out it came and was redone whilst watching Blyth and Sunderland rushing to be the first to declare. Once nine or ten seats had been declared we headed to bed, Tilly had already given up and realised the fishing rod game would not be happening until much later today.

4 locks, 6.4 miles, 1 left, 1 right, 138 Litres, 1 full tank water, 1 very long curvy concrete line, 1 high up wave, 2 hours shore leave, 0 live tv, 1 cat outdoors, 1 internet, 1 traitor, 9 seats, 1 late night but not as late as others.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/VUV2o3WHAB5xYmF46

We’d Better Turn At Bridge Nine! 3rd July

River Colne Aqueducts to River Colne Aqueducts

After breakfast and spending time convincing Tilly that she didn’t need to go out this morning we got ourselves ready to venture onto new waters. The Slough Arm has only been cruised a short distance further on, to the next winding hole back in 2015, today we aimed to reach the end. As recorded by, I’m not going to say many, some boaters there isn’t much at the end. Mile posts suggest a basin, but that is most probably just a winding hole now. Our map shows a water point, although it does suggest it’s just about impossible to reach. We hoped to see for ourselves.

It was drizzling, but undeterred we got ready to push off. Akeem was getting ready to tow the boat he’d been painting yesterday down the canal to High Line Yachting to go on brokerage, it would be easier for him if we moved first. A check across the way to the chap in his tent, no sign of him this morning, his tent gone, maybe he’d started to walk to Milton Keynes?

Without the M25

Pootling onwards the rain came and went, not too heavy, my waterproof trousers keeping it at bay thankfully. A C&RT weed boat had been going back and forth this morning removing Pennywort, they turned and moved to a wider section of the canal to enable us to pass.

Everyone warns you of how shallow the canal is and about the amount of weed. Akeem said two or three boats had ventured towards the end in the last week, maybe they’d have cut a channel for us, stay in the middle, we intended to do so.

There’ll be enough room to get past

Under the M25. The straightish canal means you can see a long way ahead and up ahead Hollow Hill Lane Bridge looked to be full of boat. I zoomed in, breasted up boats on the other side of the bridge, hopefully they’d have left enough room for us to get through. As we got closer a third boat could be seen, then a forth, the going was quite slow, but we slowed even more and just managed to squeeze past.

We weren’t expecting to see so many boats here. Some four abreast, but mostly two stretching on towards the next bridge. Bright green blanket weed sat on the surface and clung to the hulls. A chap came over to chat as we slowly passed, he was sorry things were a bit awkward for us, but it was boat moving day. A crane on the bank and four boats now stood out on the hard, one having passed us this morning. He also suggested we didn’t try to get to the end, ‘There’s a winding hole after bridge 9’. We took note, we already knew this, but it would be a shame to get that far and not see if we could get to the end.

Most definitely a narrow canal

Once past all the moored boats the going got better. Less weed and a bit more depth, no problem. Then the reeds got closer, just enough room for us to pass through. It was obvious we’d picked things up on the prop, our progress getting slower. Blasts of reverse seemed to do a little to improve things. Bridge 9, then the winding hole, we carried onwards, still not too bad.

Plastic and weed

Then bridge 10, the going slowed more. The depth reduced, bubbles rising to the surface, blimey what a pong!!! Then we could see the amount of rubbish that laid below the surface and the increasing blanket weed. One stop to clear the prop.

As soon as Mick started up the engine, put Oleanna into gear we heard the weed suck straight onto the prop within just a few seconds. By the time Mick had cleared the prop again the water around us was clearing and we could see just how much weed was down there! A full carpet lying about a foot below the surface. As Mick cleared the prop he could have almost pulled the weed up through the hatch, but it would have kept going and going.

Ahead there may have been better patches. Ahead there may just be solid weed. Oleanna sits quite deep in the water, lining up the prop with the weed no matter how slowly we went. If we carried on we’d maybe not get back to where we started today for many hours. If we reversed we’d only have to do a third the distance than if we carried on.

Quite a bit more!

It’s not often we’re defeated, but today we were. With the prop clear we started to head backwards, at a very slow pace. This wasn’t by choice. The barge pole was required as Oleanna had no forwards propulsion to help alter our course and using the bow thruster would just be plain stupid! She could now only go backwards. Our course corrected a few times, the barge pole kept upright and handy at the stern rather than laid back on the roof, then all propulsion ceased. Time to clear the prop again, we’d only managed a hundred feet!

Mick opened up the weedhatch again. The super sharp knife, propmate all useful, but the weed was wrapped around the prop shaft, he’d need a longer blade without the length of the propmate. The not so good bread knife was produced and used to carve his way through the weed. This took forever, blood rushing to his head.

In the mean time I watched Red Kites circling. They’d been visible for the last mile or so, about four of them. Now their numbers had increased, eight, no ten, no Twelve! Were our days numbered? Were they circling with Hitchcock intent? Then I noticed that they were occasionally diving down to a grassy area between houses, they’d swoop down in turn then climb back with something in their talons. What had someone put out for them? I really couldn’t see.

I tried filming them several times, this is the best I could muster whilst Mick was hacking away below the water line.

A further mountain of weed and plastic was added on the stern. We carried on reversing, poling our way straight back to clearer and deeper water. On our way out we’d managed two miles in the first hour, a mile and a half in the next, then 0.1 mile in the third hour! If we’d carried on to the basin we’d have not returned until midnight!!!

Pretty in parts

Once we reached bridge 10 the going got easier. Shame the blackberries are not ripe yet as we’d have managed to pick bucket loads as we went. Back to the winding hole we turned to face the east. Forwards propulsion now possible again.

You can wipe that smile off your face, you’ve not been down the far end!

Slowly past the long line of boats, Akeem had not long arrived to deliver the boat for sale. He asked how it had gone, we just sighed and waved goodbye. There was plenty of space back where we’d started so we tied up to the big posts, opened the door for Tilly to have an hour and a half shore leave.

Within again!

After a couple of hours a motorbike zoomed along the towpath, time for Tilly to be home, no sign! Half an hour later after the motorbike had returned I tried again. Mad cat woman on the towpath! I called and called, was that Tilly? Called some more, was I going to have to trust her to come home. Then MEOW!!! I’m up here you numpty! Up on the bridge across the canal she stood and proceeded to run across towards the other side! Come and see what’s on this outside Thankfully when I got up on the bridge she came running, she’d obviously finished what she was doing. As much as it would have been nice to explore with her it was everyone’s dingding time! Time to get back on the boat.

0 locks, 7.2 miles, 0.1 mph, 1 mighty mountain of weed, 1 pole, 2/3rds of a mile from the end, 2 boaters defeated, 12 red kites, 1/3rds mile reversed, 1 wind, 1 bridge, 1 extra hour, 1 seduction refused.

Does anyone know what time of year the weed is less? Plus, is it due to be dredged anytime in the next few years?

Free The Paddington One! 2nd July

Ballot Box Bridge to River Colne Aqueducts, Slough Arm, Grand Union Canal

The diesel tank hasn’t been filled since Pyrford Marina, the gauge showing quarter full. Mick doesn’t like the tank to be so low, in fact it may only have been so low once and that was when we picked her up from Finesse in Sheffield, just enough diesel put in her tank for test cruises. The question was, how accurate is the tank gauge? Did we need to seek out diesel today or could it wait for another day or two. The tank was dipped, 10 inches, plenty to keep us going.

Serious clearing up by Ealing volunteers

We made our way back to Bulls Bridge, the moorings by Tesco empty today, well apart from the sunken boat! We pulled in, had lunch, made a shopping list, moved the Larry banner to the cratch for it to be seen better and then went shopping.

A better position for Larry

With everything stowed it was time to get Mick away from chatting to a chap doing his best to avoid polishing his boat, leaving it to his wife. We winded at the junction and started to head northwards. In the last two years quite a lot has changed. Today numerous cranes sat to the east, the start of some buildings. Tower blocks that were going up are now full of people and the landscaping we saw being put in is now tall with plants.

Three miles or so on is Murderers Bridge (Colham Bridge) where in 2015 we said our final goodbye to our first second mate Houdini. Today Tilly was shouting on the top step Free the Paddington One! Tree filled outsides for boat cats!! Friendly cover for all!!! This election has really gone to her head!

Cowley Peachy Junction

At Cowley Peachy Junction we turned westwards onto the Slough Arm. We only cruised the first stretch back in 2015 when we couldn’t get further due to ice. I’m not sure where we moored for the night back then, today we tried pulling in just after the entrance into Packet Boat Marina, Mick managed to get off with a rope, but that was it, Oleanna wasn’t going to come in any more.

The moorings further along looked busy, we chanced it, hoping for a space. Several boats moored up, most looked like they were busy doing jobs. One space between boats might have been long enough, we carried on, a space at the end, better for Tilly. A chap chatted and helped with ropes. A fellow came over from his campsite on the offside for a cuppa. Akeem, I think that was his name, was very chatty, he was busy doing up a boat ready for sale, a coat of red oxide going on the exterior today.

snigger!

When asked where we’d come from he said, ‘Oh you can’t moor in Paddington anymore!’ We explained that we’d paid and were quite grateful to know we had a mooring waiting for us. Through the years we’ve taken our chances in London like everyone else, reserved moorings when they were free, squeezed onto the Eco moorings when people have overstayed and paid to tie up in Paddington. I suspect we’d still visit London no matter what the mooring situation was, as we’ve both lived there and have friends and family we want to see. But now it’s reassuring to know we’ll have somewhere to tie up on arrival. Time will tell if there are now too many bookable moorings. Many visiting boaters won’t flock to London until they know the system is working, hearing tales of booked moorings being occupied on arrival doesn’t help the situation. London boaters choose to look when the moorings are empty. Yes they are not as full as they were when they were cheaper and the locations fewer. Only C&RT will know the true figures as they can see the bookings and get feed back from their mooring rangers.

A very vocal Tilly today

We settled in and Tilly was given a hours shore leave, at least it stopped her charging back and forth shouting about her rights and how once Larry was PM things would change, Salmon and real real chicken for dingding every day!

0 locks, 9.9 miles, 2 lefts, 1 wind, 2 boxes wine, 1 hour shore leave, 26.5 pairs knitted, 1 very political cat, 1 card returned, 1 knee improving, not much walking being done though.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/F77gbmv3LLaepQVC7

Percy And Barry. 1st July

Paddington Basin to Ballot Box Bridge

Our next door neighbour

Our four nights in Paddington were up. I think I’d looked at us staying a touch longer but the pre-bookable moorings weren’t available in Paddington. There’s always more we could see and do, lots of people to catch up with, but we’d rather take our London fixes in small chunks.

Heading off to explore more waters

The small sailing boat, wrapped up it’s covers and headed off first, it was so short it had had no difficulty getting into the mooring next to us. A look around M&S before we left provided us with another sad gits meal for tonight. Then it was time to reverse out from our mooring, wind and head off. The moorings outside the station had emptied out and the length at Little Venice only had one boat on it. It felt as if people had been for the weekend and then left this morning, would those moorings be filled back up by the end of the day?

Leaving Paddington Basin

The service mooring was empty, time to top up on fresh water and deal with the yellow water, we already had the 25litre container to empty from when we arrived. Mick had checked the C&RT notices in case the elsan was out of order, a notice from quite sometime ago was still live, however everything was in working order. We did the necessary and then waited for the fresh water tank to fill. Another boat arrived laid out his hose to mark his place in the queue.

Barry Caffery

Then a chap came along a BBC Radio London mic in his hand, he quickly said he wasn’t recording but would we be willing to talk to him about the general election, they were doing a feature on Floating Voters today! Good job we don’t have a pump out toilet! We both agreed, making sure he knew we were visitors rather than London boaters. Barry chatted to us for a bit and then turned his mic on, asked us a bit about ourselves and then if we were excited for the General Election.

Hello David

Mick went first. Whilst he did his bit a bow came through the bridge behind us. It was obviously NB Albert Victor with David onboard, we did the Tideway cruise with David a few years ago, he was just on his way back to his mooring after the latest St Pancras Tideway cruise on Saturday. I managed to say hello, but not much else as I was aware that Mick was being recorded just behind me. Shame we didn’t get chance to chat.

Next it was my go. I tend not to talk politics on the blog, even though I suspect most of you know which colour we lean towards, Larry for PM! What were the important issues? I didn’t bother mentioning the obvious ones, NHS, Environment, etc, but the more personal ones, funding for the arts and waterways and just generally to have a government that cares about the people rather than lining their own pockets. We were also asked if we’d be staying up all night for the results. I suspect we’ll last for a while, then put our heads down to wake early hoping for a good result.

Heading outwards

I asked if I could have a photo of Barry Caffrey, he obliged, he could hardly not. Then he moved on to the chap waiting for the services, I think the fellow said no so Barry caught the eye of a lady walking along the towpath.

Our tank had finished filling without interrupting the interview. The chap waiting came to help push us out. His opinion on the interview, ‘Floating Voters! We can’t vote because we haven’t got an address. What’s the point in talking to us?’ Well, he was wrong. Everyone is entitled to vote even without an address, you have to declare yourself as homeless with an interest in a particular constituency. So at least one good thing will have come from the interview, that chap now knows he was entitled to vote, it won’t help him now, but in the future. For anyone wanting information on how to vote without an address here is a link to the Government website.

Onwards and outwards, past all the same sights we’ve seen before. The lack of weed still surprising us, also the lack of rubbish we normally encounter is greatly reduced, well apart from that from boaters doing work on their boats and just leaving it along the towpath! We tuned into BBC Radio London. The first interviewee Lyndsey, whom we’d just passed leaving Paddington, a continuous cruiser, with similar views to ours. She had been concerned with a recent pollution incident in London, cooking fat in the canal. Maybe this was why the canal seems to be cleaner than we’ve known it before as quite some effort was needed to clean up the fat.

We tuned back in for the next segment and were surprised to hear ourselves in full. A few moments of local radio fame!

Some of those recycled windows

Our aim today was to moor somewhere Tilly could go out. She’s been getting cabin fever and trying to squeeze herself between the gunnel and the top of the sofa to get into the secret passageway! This doesn’t work, but she keeps trying!

Much better

After Ballot Box Bridge there was still plenty of room, we pulled in quite a good distance away from where we reckoned our neighbours with four cats would still be moored. This will do nicely! No mesh on the fence either! See ya!

Hello Simon

Another boat came into view behind us, another familiar boat, Simon Judge on NB Scholar Gypsy. Simon organised the tideway cruise this weekend for 34 boats. He’s also done the tideway between Teddington and Limehouse three times in the last few days! Nice to be able to have a chat with him, but then a boat came into view behind so he was on his way again.

Originally Tilly was given three hours, but when she came home after two we decided that it was curfew time, the speed that the bikes and scooters go at along here is comparable to that of cars. So as rush hour started we closed the doors and access to the secret passageway was attempted again.

Here’s where we travelled in June

0 locks, 7.7 miles, 1 wind, 65ft reversed, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank twice, 2 interviews, 2 passing boaters, 2 hours shore leave, 1 pink tablet, 1 knee rested for another day, 1 knitter in the top 15% of fundraisers last month.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/nE5CeyRg3qwvJwfg9

Halfway! 30th June

Paddington Basin

The boats on the pontoons reduced to two this morning, but by the end of the day we’d be joined by another two narrowboats and a little electric sailingy type boat. This had tarpaulins added to a frame over it so that the crew could sleep inside with some privacy.

The Geraghty zoom was a little depleted this morning, but we still covered subjects such as Strawberry eating squirrels, oppositional disorder and skeletons. Then it was time for breakfast, we’d nearly got everything but lacked a little on the bacon front. Being moored right outside an M&S foodhall is quite handy on such occasions, it’s just a touch expensive!

It all needed eating up, honest!

Mick was early, the shop not opening it’s doors until 11am and there was quite a queue. Yellow labels were around the shop, it would be worth me having a look before too long to see what bargains there might be. Whilst Mick cooked breakfast I scoured the shelves to see what we might have to eat this evening as we’d be at home tonight. With a lot of things less than half price I got us a feast.

Today Mick planned on heading off to explore Ealing stations that have been revamped with the dawning of the Elizabeth line. This being where he grew up along with being interested in trains it was an obvious way to spend his day. He caught the train out to West Ealing where the station has changed to a different road and platforms have moved through bridges. Then several buses took him to Ealing Broadway via Greenford. Ealing Broadway a very different sight to that I remember.

Ealing Broadway

Just before Mick left for his exploration a Police van had pulled up close to our mooring. Three Police Officers busied themselves putting a rib into the canal, no rush about it, it kind of felt like they were going for a Sunday jaunt up the Regents Canal. It took them time to get the engine mounted and even longer to get it going. Off they went and strangely enough they returned just as Mick did! Was this a coincidence? Or had he been on their jaunt too? Are the above photos his? Or was he on a mission with the police or helping with their enquiries whilst out on the boat?

I had planned a great day, for me. A bus ride down to the Thames and then some time at the John Singer Sargent exhibition at Tate Britain. Christine and Kathy had said how good it was, plus he’s one of my favourite artists. Then another bus journey was to take me to the National Gallery where the Last Caravaggio is on display, Caravaggio also another favourite.

My route was planned to make the best use of buses and therefore least amount of walking, however I’d be needing to walk around the exhibitions and my little walk into M&S today had proved to be quite painful with my knee. So sadly my very arty day was not to be, resting my knee more important.

Ends ends and more ends, what a Joy!

Instead I sat down and watched the second half of The Duke (2020), about the theft or borrowing of the Goya Duke painting staring Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren based on a true story. This was as close as I’d be getting to the National Gallery today. Whilst I watched the court and the verdict I spent time weaving ends in on three pairs of socks for my sockathon. On one pair I’d started this process a week or so ago as there were a lot of ends! A LOT!! But the next four pairs are ready to have their photos taken and be popped in the post to their sponsors. So by the end of the 26th week of #pipssockathon2024 I have finished 26 pairs of socks. I also got a message from a friend who now sings songs with people suffering with Alzheimer’s, her socks had arrived and will be worn the next time she’s out singing, flashing her ankles at everyone. Thank you Cate!

The latest pile of socks

Well our sad git’s meal from M&S turned out to be quite a feast, posh chicken kebabs with caesar dressing, frites and some vegetables on the side. Not all of the frites were consumed, but we gave it a good try!

Frites with chicken on the side

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 Lizzie lines, 3 buses, 0 art galleries, 4 pairs totally finished, 1 very bored cat, 2 sad git kebabs, 4 portions of frites, 1 Mick and 3 police officers?

It Must Be Election Time. 29th June

Paddington Basin

First things first. Time to vote. Signed, crossed and sealed, Mick walked to the nearest post box outside a Post Office and popped our votes in the post box.

Voted

Yesterday one of our items of post was a campaign t-towel for Tilly. This was hung in our window to show her allegiance to Larry. There was then a lot of Freedom for Cats in Paddington! shouted about the boat before she gave up and headed back to bed.

Vote for Larry

Last night the return from Hackney proved a touch painful for my knee. Yes we had to walk a distance, but not that far. Todays plan had been to head to Hampstead Theatre for brunch and have a look around Central School of Speech and Drama. To conserve my knee, brunch was moved to Paddington and a look around the college put off for another time. My college friend Kathy arrived and we found a table outside in the shade at The Union where we enjoyed a very nice brunch at a reasonable price and very good company.

Kathy, Mick, Pip

Kathy is a lecturer in Theatre Design at Central and spent some of our time together trying to convince me to join the Society of British Theatre Designers council. This would mean I’d have to join the society in the first place! I’d considered joining when my agent said she was retiring, therefore the commission I used to pay to her could go towards membership of such organisations. I’ll have a another think about it.

After a couple of hours it was time for her to head off to talk at the college open day, we returned to Oleanna for a quiet afternoon. Pair 26 of my Sockathon was cast off, I’m halfway through! £975 raised so far. The other day I had a sock shot sent from Liza Goddard showing off her Red Rye socks I’d knitted for her. Thank you Lil for your sponsorship, may your socks keep your toes cosy in many theatrical digs when you are on tour.

An exciting first day

It was also the first day of the Tour De France. Ten years ago we’d reached Hebden Bridge in NB Lillyanne for the opening stage of the tour. Today not so many people walked past Oleanna in Paddington as happened ten years ago and there was no big screen to watch the cyclists for longer than a few seconds zooming past the boat.

Not a big pudding!

Early evening we caught the tube to Kings Cross and walked up Pentonville Road to Mildreds. Here a quiet table tucked away had been requested by Nick and Kerry so they could bring Harry their whippet with them. Our table wasn’t quite as tucked away as hoped but the staff said we’d be better off where we were, sure enough they were good to their word, the other two thirds of the restaurant became packed out, our third just the five of us. Very nice food, I had a pineapple peanut curry with rice noodles followed by a plant based crème brule. Nick’s chocolate peanut butter fudge was what we’d jokingly expected, two cubes.

What a pretty crescent tucked away

A pint somewhere was now sought. A walk round to a nice quiet back street pub, sadly they’d a DJ in for the evening, so the pub was rejected. It did mean we got to see the wonderful Grade 2 Keystone Crescent.

Kerry and Nick

In the end we opted for a pint at The John Betjeman Arms at St Pancras Station. They had gluten free beer, they had an area where we could sit in the station, but that was closing in ten minutes! We made the most of it before moving inside for more beer and conversation. The last time all five of us were round a pub table in London it was the night of the 2017 General Election.

Nick and Harry

Another lovely day catching up with people.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 college best mate, 1 oldest best mate, 1 cat campaign, 1 Harry, 1 problematical knee!

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Bramble Birthday Bakewell. 28th June

Paddington Basin

Mick headed off this morning to get himself an Oyster card to which he’s added his senior railcard. When we were living full time on Oleanna our correspondence address was at my brothers, so he was able to have a Freedom Pass, but that has now expired, so whilst in London it’s worth being able to get some discount.

I busied myself with some baking. A batch of sweet pastry had been made yesterday, today it needed rolling out and blind baking. Then some bramble jam spread out with a bakewell topping added and baked until golden. My standard recipe but using dairy free butter, well Stork block margarine. The smell as the pastry cooked was different than from butter pastry, it whisked me back to my GCSE Home Economics and making pastry with margarine and lard.

Adding eggs to creamed marg and sugar

During the day the boats on the moorings changed a bit. One boat swapping with another and the boat on the hospital side left quite early to be replaced later in the day. Mick spotted a C&RT chap chatting to one of the other boats. We’d wondered if we might be able to move over to the hospital side as there’d be less footfall, but we decided against it. Apparently lots of people have suggested there should be electric hook ups on the pontoons here in Paddington, Mick also suggested that a water point would be a good addition. The chap said he’d put forward our suggestion and they were looking into electric hook ups.

BT Tower without all the aerials

The Bakewell Tart took some time to cool down, a box was found for it’s safe transportation across London to Hackney. We headed to catch one bus, but it was seriously delayed, so we ended up walking for ten minutes to catch the next bus, No 30 which would take us all the way to Hackney. Road works, delays, general Friday afternoon traffic meant the journey took us 2 hours.

Pip, Mick, Andrew, Gabrielle, Josh and Jac

Time to wish my brother a happy birthday. His present was a walking pole, he’s recently had problems with a knee and is soon to go on a walking holiday, so he’d requested a second pole. Drinks and nibbles with lots of conversation. We were joined for the evening by Gabrielle, the daughter of one of Jac’s best friends from Melbourne. Gabrielle now lives in London and has become an extra member of the London Leckenby family.

Finn enjoying our Ikea bag

Josh is now a free young man, having finished his A Levels a week ago. His music selection very very similar to mine at his age, in fact I don’t think I’ve heard so many Doors songs in years! Good taste.

Lots to drink, a big joint of crackling pork with salads and roasted new potatoes, followed by my Bakewell Tart with birthday candles. A very lovely evening.

We picked up items of post and then headed for a bus to catch the last Elizabeth line train back to Paddington. Maybe I should have borrowed Andrews walking pole to help with my knee problem!

Birthday Boy

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 bakewell, 1 bored cat, 2 buses, 1 lizzie line, 1 half pig, 2 many glasses of wine, 2 much food, 1 lovely evening.

Would You Like A Bigger Table? 27th June

Ballot Box Bridge to Pontoon 6, Paddington Basin

A lie in, wonderful! First boat went past at about 7am then it was quite a while before anyone else was on the move. The boat behind us spent some time in setting up their sun shade over their bow, this involved lots of banging of metal locker lids and a touch of swearing.

Just round the bend on the other side of the bridge we found all the moored boats, closer to transport links, that is unless you have an e-bike or scooter as then your location doesn’t matter as you can zip along the towpath at great speed!

Out on the hard

Bright blue skies to start with warranted sun cream, but after half an hour cloud covered the sky, a wind whipped up and we even considered putting jumpers on.

A really awkward Elsan

At Alperton we considered pulling in to deal with our yellow water, but the railings around the elsan point would make this a really hard job, so we just hoped we’d be fortunate to be able to do it later. The Keep Out sign did amuse us, has someone tried to get in the Elsan?

The narrowboat up on the bank surrounded by new office blocks now sells crepes, more building work continues further along. Today long stretches of the towpath were being dug up. The concrete topping lifted which covers cables. Temporary pontoon towpaths carried pedestrians and cyclists around the works.

Towpath works

The aroma of Buddleia filled the air, almost totally masking out the spices from the food factories along the canal bank. One lady on a work boat trimmed sections of it away so she could tie her boat up on the off side.

Buddleia tastic

The number of moored boats along Ladbroke Grove seem to have reduced, but then the towpath being worked on is making it difficult. The area that for some reason says No Mooring had been taken over by boats.

A timber store? Workshop?

We’ve been here at roughly the same time of year before. Today we were surprised at the reduced amount of weed in the canal, we only had to clear the prop once and that was due to urban jelly fish near Little Venice. Also the type of London boater seems to have altered, there are far more cruisers than we remembered. Where the Westway hovers above the towpath, where once there have been cafes, art spaces, there now seems to be something like a carpentry shop, one cruiser had a rooftop extension made of sterling board and was that chap gaining access to his wood store via a canoe? There do seem to be more and more boats reusing house windows in their extensions, I quite like some of the effects.

Heading for Paddington Basin

This year C&RT have increased their pre- bookable moorings in London. Some which were once free are now chargeable, others that you’ve paid for for a few years have increased in price. The London boaters have been up in arms as more places have been designated for pre-bookable moorings and often you see photos of areas empty of boats. The idea is to be able to open London up to cruising boats and make the capital more accessible to all licence payers. We’ve done the turn up and with fingers crossed and hope to find a mooring, remembering where there was a gap to breast up should there be nowhere else. The last few times we’ve been into London we’ve made use of the bookable moorings and are very glad they exist for peace of mind. Booking this week had been a touch hard and I think we were only left with one option at the cheaper price which we booked. There seems to be lots more availability of the £35 a night moorings, not hard to guess why. A shame that many of these are the old Eco-moorings with electric. Maybe C&RT have priced these too high, or is there not enough demand yet for so many spaces? Only time will tell.

Passing the restaurant boats

A boat was on the service mooring at Little Venice. We wanted to fill with water so chanced being moved on and pulled up at the water point just through the bridge, tucking in as close as we could to the cafe boat. The tap is very slow, but before we could be in the way to anyone, we’d topped up and made our way across the pool towards Paddington.

There’s our mooring, ready and waiting for us

We’ve heard tales of pre-booked moorings being occupied when boats arrive and mooring rangers having to be called. But none of that for us today as we sailed straight into our space on the pontoons. Having the hatch face the bank means we get a lot of ankles walking past and snippets of phone conversations ‘Well the aorta is 85 years old!’ a particular favourite from today. We joined two other boats on the moorings, another had gone for a cruise around and returned later on. Paddington Visitor Moorings, also pre-bookable, stretch from the pedestrian entrance into the station to the basin on the hospital side. By the station was chocka, only one boat made use of the hospital side today.

Tilly was shown the outside, filled with lunch break workers. A wheelie suitcase put her off getting off the boat, hopefully she’ll accept we’re in Longbum and spend her time watching through the windows or asleep.

Paul’s got his eye on the ham, egg and chips!

Late afternoon we headed to catch the No 27 bus to Camden to meet up with Christine and Paul. For the first time in many years we have managed to catch up with all of our siblings within a few months. This evening we met up at Jamon Jamon a Spanish Tapas restaurant in Camden.

Plenty to choose from even if it was a little bit confusing for me at times with the allergens menu. Once our order was taken the waitress asked if we’d like to move to the far end where there was a larger table. We ended up needing this for the number of dishes we’d ordered. The Gambas were very fine and the Spanish version of Ham Eggs and Chips looked like it had come from a glossy comic. Very nice food and very good company as always, thank you both.

When eventually our No 27 bus arrived and brought us back to Paddington we decided to see if we could walk back to the boat a slightly different route. A large white tower block that was being built last time we were here now appears to be complete. Outside the front door was a very large orange stone with a small yellow one on top. Human? Who was the artist? Nothing to inform us of anything. A hunt round on the internet later and the artist is Ugo Rondinone. It’s certainly big and bold! On the wall of the hospital there was a rather pleasing painting/photograph mural of diving swimmers which I think is by Catherine Yass. More can be found out here.

Sun set

0 locks, 7.7 miles, 1 snub, 1 bag on prop, 0 weed, 1 straight on, 1 full water tank, 27 twice, 1 disappointed cat, 1 little girl at 11pm peering in, 1 sister, 12 dishes, 1 big table, 1 olive doggy bag, 1 lovely evening, 5G less frustrating.

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Early Again. 26th June

Hanwell Moorings to Ballot Box Bridge, Grand Union Canal Paddington Arm.

SPCC

Another early alarm! Today we hoped we’d make better progress than yesterday, Nebolink was turned on at 5:15, we pushed off towards the locks slowly and quietly to avoid waking our neighbours. If you are part of the St Pancras Cruising Club Tideway cruise this weekend the moorings are already reserved at the bottom of the flight.

Starting up the locks

The bottom lock was just about empty as would be all but one chamber be up the flight. The lower intermediate pounds seemed to be level this morning, not much of any water running over the bywashes. As I filled the bottom lock the level dropped above, this is of course how they should work, enough water to get over the top cill, but would the pound be sufficiently deep to traverse across. With all but one lock empty this morning I wouldn’t be able to drop water as we went to help.

Heading up the flight

A dog walker crossed the gates, the occasional runner ran down the flight, then back up, but other than that we had the flight to ourselves.

The pretty Lock Cottage

The low sun made it hard to look back down the flight at times, but all was calm and sunny with the world, even my migraine seemed to have subsided to not really be noticed.

Shadowy

There is one pound that has nearly always been low when we’ve gone through Hanwell, the risk of setting off early and why we were cautious with levels. However this morning all pounds were full before I filled the locks. It must have been the easiest ascent or descent of the flight we’ve ever had.

Three Bridges

As always I walked along the towpath to reach Three Bridges before Oleanna did, a photo here is more than obligatory for us as the flight and the bridge is where Mick’s interest in the canals was kindled at an early age.

No spaces where we’d wanted to be last night

The pound was full of moored boats, only one we’d seen pass us yesterday. So maybe if we’d carried on we’d have found a space to moor for the day, but with zero shade. We’d made the right discission to call it an early day and not try to battle onwards.

As Oleanna rose up Norwood Bottom Lock we could see something was happening above at the top lock, was there a boat coming? It looked as if the lock was emptying. I spotted a blue t-shirt, someone was litter picking around the lock, 7:20, blimey that’s an early start for a volunteer!

Is that a man in blue?

The chap was an Explorer volunteer, part of C&RT education team. Today he was expecting a school group, so was giving the top lock a bit of a spruce up whilst he ran some water down into the intermediate pound which can get quite low. I said that this had been our best trip up the locks, no water issues on the whole and where there might have been he was already letting water down. I asked how far the school group would go down the flight, he might want to fish out the dead cat we’d come past, bloated and giving off quite a wiff.

Coots taking advantage as they do

A top up on water, disposal of rubbish before we made our way to Bulls Bridge. A weed boat, a sunken boat and one boat sat in some good shade on the visitor mooring outside Tescos. We just managed to squeeze in between them and the sunken boat. Time for breakfast and then a top up shop.

By the time we came out of Tescos the sun had started to crank up on the warming front. To catch up on ourselves we still had a few more miles to cover before we could stop. Two boats turned onto the Paddington Arm, we followed suit and started to head north eastwards in towards London.

Bulls Bridge

It was way too hot and bright for me today, I retired below to be with Tilly. Side hatch open and sheet over it hoping for a breeze inwards. The occasional high landmark would catch my vision, one such at Willowtree Marina. There having just had a top up of diesel was Nb Waka Huia.

I bobbed back on deck as we neared Black Horse water point, the moorings before it used to be chocka, today only a couple of boats. Round the bend however seemed to be more popular, maybe more solar there. The new buildings on the offside , we’d last seen being built, are now all inhabited.

Ooo Hello!

Several lengths of concrete edge keep moorers away, then the thin grassy edge returns as we approached Ballot Box Bridge. We pulled in a bit before we normally do, some trees overhanging for a touch of shade for an hour or so.

Tilly was given four hours and extra rules about not getting run over by the electric scooters and bikes. As she went off to try her best to find a gap in the fence and mesh we sat down to a late lunch. At one point we heard Tilly scurry across the towpath followed by the zoom of a bike. Mick went to open the back door, closing it quickly in Tilly’s face as she’d brought someone home for dinner!

She’s got the right idea

We were joined by another boat a while later. Tilly seen returning from one of the gaps was startled first that we had a neighbour, secondly by there being two cats on board! It turns out they actually have four cats, the two Tilly had seen she’d scared off with just the flick of her bushy tail. With speeding commuters mounting up in number on the towpath we decided to curtail shore leave today, better to be safe.

A quinoa, chicken and bean salad had been put together gradually today, all the hot bits done before the mercury had risen too high. Clothes washed and drying inside to help reduce the temperature. Knitting socks really quite slow. We tried to watch some of the main leaders debate on TV, but gave up and watched different people squabbling instead on Traitors USA.

8 locks, 8.8 miles, 1 right, 1 early start, 9 hours nebo, 1 full water tank, 1 volunteer, 2 pills, 1 cat, 1 bird, 1 paraquet feather, 1 block vegan butter, 2 types sugar, lots of moorings places, 4 cat boat, 1 ex blogging boat, 1 friend, 0.25 sock, 1 hot day, 1 weekends plan coming together.

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