Category Archives: Canal and River Trust

The Last Pull Down. 24th May

Shipton Bridge to Aristotle Bridge

Byebye Fin

Chores to start the day, yellow water tank to empty whilst it was on the towpath side, then we moved onto the services. A boat was already filling with water, so we pulled along side one of the boat club boats to be able to use the second tap. This of course meant that the water pressure dropped so both hoses trickled into tanks, at least we were filling whilst the washing machine did it’s thing. Tilly’s pooh box got a refresh and the bathroom a bit of a clean, rubbish disposed of, all sorted.

Aubrey’s Lift Bridge

There was an offer from someone to work the bridge, but I’d already got the key of power in my hand, I wasn’t going to be deprived of a possibility of stopping cars. Up the bridge went, one car stopped from exiting Annies Tea Rooms. There are lots of signs about regarding paying for parking now, Annies has a few free spaces, but the rest are now pay as you park.

Plenty of room in Thrupp to moor this morning, had everyone moved on towards Oxford and would we be able to find a mooring there, the river Thames still rising and some reaches on red boards.

Pair 21 coming along nicely

We soon caught up with the boat we’d been following yesterday, chatting at the locks, somehow I was always left to close the bottom gate for them, hmmm!

Still temporary

The bottom gate was closed at Roundham Lock, the temporary beam that had appeared last summer is still doing it’s best to hold on, wonder if it will get an upgrade this coming winter? A dad sat for a rest from cycling, a little lad in a trailer and little girl had been perched on his cross bar. As I went to open the top gate she walked up, I asked if she’d like to help, a quite ‘Yes Please’ was her answer. She did the same at the bottom gate and as I thanked her she said something like ‘my pleasure’. The family climbed back onto their bike and peddled off.

Normally this is where we would stop for the day, a good outside for Tilly before entering Oxford. Not a jot of armco to be had, it was chocka block. We would have to wait for lunch.

Drinkwaters Lift Bridge 231, was one of the first to be converted to hydraulic windlass operation, saving the boater on the offside constantly coming out to assist in lifting the bridge. We caught the boat ahead up again at Dukes Lock, one of the bottom paddles playing up, a little bit of tinkering and it rose, a joint in the gear possibly wearing away.

Thames on red boards at Dukes Cut

I closed the bottom gate and Mick filled the lock for us. Once down we aimed for a possible mooring at the junction, red boards towards the Thames and a boat just about to come out of the lock there, the Sea Otter we’d been following earlier in the week returning from Oxford giving up on a cruise on the river. The mooring was not really suitable, a wade through long grass to struggle to pull the boat in not worth the effort.

Wolvercote Bridge, THAT bridge! The one everyone hated before it was dismantled and left under the A34 bridge. Today after several years there is a new oak bridge. No need for a chain to pull it down, no chain to be stollen, no need to jump up and shimmy along the beam to try to use your body weight to pull it down, no need to enlist passing cyclists to push or pull it, no sitting on the beam to keep it open then hope you’d be able to close it again. All that is required, a windlass and several turns of the hydraulic pump to lift it and then lower it. All the fun and games gone!

The Last sit down

Perrys Lift Bridge however is still manual, the last one I think. This bridge always seems to be weighted in favour of being open to the canal. You unlock it with the key of power and quickly run across to the offside to aid it to open. I then assumed the seated position on the beam making sure it didn’t move whilst Mick brought Oleanna through. Someone has added a piece of wood to the beam, which gives a handy hand hold to be able to lift the beam back up. An umph then a dash to stand on the bridge to keep it closed whilst you turn your key of power to lock it again. I’m slightly sad that this may well be the last time I sit on a lift bridge beam on the Oxford.

At Elizabeth Jennings Bridge a boat was moored on the water point, has been three days apparently! How wonderful city boating can be, glad we filled up in Thrupp. No point in stopping now, well there wasn’t anywhere to moor up anyway!

Wolvercote Lock

At Aristotle Bridge the boat ahead was just pulling in, they nudged up a space to give us room on the end. At last we could moor up, however the proximity to the bridge, not a busy one, meant no shore leave for Tilly. Constant traffic tends to be a deterrent, but the occasional car can set Tilly into panic and send her high tailing it back to the boat, possibly in front of those threatening tyres! Sorry Tilly.

Time to watch the last episodes of Narrow Escapes. A good mix of all types of boaters and everyone came across really well, just some continuity was out for those who know. The voice over saying ‘a day trip to see how NB Barbarella handles on tidal waters‘ the edit suggesting this was from Alrewas onto the tidal Trent, Cromwell lock some 25 hours cruise away! We’ve really enjoyed the series and I believe they are looking at making a second one.

A lufted bridge

4 locks, 6 miles, 3 gates to close, 5 moveable bridges, 1 left open, 1 to sit upon, 1 straight on, 3 boats at the junction, 0 shore leave, 3pm lunch, 1 boat hoping for levels to drop, 1 boat happy to sit it out, along with everyone else.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/hWMfoypfva5wGvJf8

Hand Over Toes. 23rd May

Dashwoods Lock to Shipton Bridge 220

Levels on the Thames were shown to be rising this morning. The same with stretches of the Oxford Canal that cross the River Cherwell. Behind us Nell Bridge is closed, ahead Dukes Cut and Isis Lock are closed too. Just one section shown as amber levels rising, between Bakers Lock and Shipton Weir Lock. Would it still be open for us when we got there or would we be spending some time on the lock landing?

Dashwood Lock

A College Cruiser hire boat was on the move before us and headed down Dashwood Lock. As we rolled the covers up another boat appeared from behind, we let them go first as we weren’t quite ready, but ready enough to lend them a hand.

The River Cherwell meanders close to the canal for much of the way. We could see it was quite high and that the flow was quite fast, was all this water going to scupper our plans!

Northbrook Lock was busy, boats waiting to come up and soon there was another boat arriving behind us. A German crewed boat followed by old friends both on hire boats, all having a good time.

Pigeons Lock

Pigeons Lock was a different matter, no other boats in sight. It needed filling which meant I got to take a photo from the bridge below it looking back. Now on past Kings Ground with their Design Studio/Office perched up high on the bank looking like a green double decker bus. A goods train ran across the bridge then we squeezed past a C&RT work boat and wondered what will become of the old pub that has been boarded up for years.

No queue at Bakers Lock, everyone ahead of us had carried on. A look at the levels board, flashing amber lights still saying level rising, but slightly more positive than the email notice had been ‘proceed with caution’ we were happy with that. A hire boat crew were at the lock looking back to see where their boat was, still pushing it’s way upstream, the lock was in their favour so we stood and chatted.

Right please

Then it was our turn, down onto the last river section before Oxford. The current stronger than normal, but nothing like the Tidal Trent. Mick kept the revs low, just enough so that he could steer. Next thing would be arriving at the lock landing and being able to stop and not continue along with the flow of water. A discussion as to who should get off first, me to get the lock ready? Or Mick with the centre line to tie up. I hopped off first, the lock sadly not full. Thankfully the pull of the current wasn’t too great so Oleanna was pulled in and tied to a post whilst the lock filled.

Shipton Weir Lock

Another lozenge shaped lock, the level difference between river and canal was about two foot today and it took quite a while for the lock to empty and level out. Now we wanted a place to moor for lunch. We tried several times to pull in, but the bottom was too close to the top. Just before the lift bridge things looked to be a touch better, we tried and got into the side just off the new bridge landing.

This looked like a very good outside, plenty to keep me busy. But the meanies didn’t open the doors, as much as I tried to be really nice and insist She stroke my head, it didn’t work!

Shipton Lift Bridge 219 now hydraulic

Not far now. I walked up to the lift bridge to wind it open. This bridge through the last five or six years had been gradually falling to bits and always seemed to be left open to boat traffic, it however is a right of way so needed reinstating and now comes windlass operated from the towpath. It also comes with another hand written sign from C&RT reminding boaters to leave it wound down. I wonder how long before a more official sign is added to these new bridges.

Through the flood gate

Just through the flood gate at Shipton we could see where we needed to pull in, on the off side, a vacant mooring right in front of the boat we were to visit. At last I was going to hand over a pair of my sockathon socks to a Boat Woman, Fin. She gave us a hand to pull in and tie up and then popped the kettle on. We were invited onboard for a cuppa and some sweet treats and a chat, a late lunch break for Fin who was working from home today. I handed over her Autumn socks, the pair I’d knitted for her last year being worn with some sheepskin lined sandals today. So lovely to get to meet one of the Boat Women who have sponsored a pair of socks.

We then pushed over to the towpath side of the cut, leaving Tallulah, Fin’s cat, and the expensive Bengal cats from the manor to enjoy their side of the cut and give Tilly some shore leave in the friendly cover opposite.

Not bad!

An email from the Company Manager at the SJT in Scarborough took over the next hour. We’d recently had a new lodger move into the house, but unfortunately due to an accident she has had to step away from the show for a few weeks. Could the new actress possibly move into the now vacant room? This actress turned out to be someone we already know and stayed with us last year. All perfectly fine, but no way we’d be able to check over things in Scarborough at such short notice. Messages went back and forth, Annie who was already staying with us had already washed sheets, what a star. Everyone was wanting to make sure we knew what was going on and were happy with things in case no one else had told us. Finally things calmed down and we could eat and I could get on with knitting again.

Latest four pairs of socks now with their sponsors

5 locks, 5.7 miles, 1 last river section crossed, 2 flashing amber lights, 1 lift bridge, £3000 for a cat! 1 wonderfully fluffy black cat, 1.5 hours of shore leave, 2 much footfall for a stamp, 1 Henry! 1 house playing musical chairs with lodgers, 1 actress who has a lot to catch up on, 1 pair handed over, 2 much Rocky Road, 1 sugar high. 1 river to watch now.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/tw1fJXvwpJEm9sZs9

Archie Innie And Cary Outie. 21st May

Bridge 178 to Chisnell Lift Bridge 193

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

Kings Sutton Lock

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

New bolts to hold the bridge together

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

Lots of piling

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

We’ve limboed under here before

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

Random find on a wall

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

Aynho Weir Lock from the weir another possible painting

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

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

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

Thank you!

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

Name on the box

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

Rubbish!

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

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

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

Archie!

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

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

This weeks yarn selection

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

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

https://maps.app.goo.gl/c8NoA1Bj3tYTpJL97

Goodbye And Hello Old Friends. 17th May

Gibraltar Bridge 20 to Priors Hardwick Bridge 123, South Oxford Canal

Our next and final rendez vous with Clare and Graeme was to be at Calcutt Locks. They had spent the night in Ventnor Marina just before the locks, so I sent a message as we pushed off from our mooring, thinking it would take us about twenty minutes to get there. It actually took thirty and they’d already helped a boat down the locks.

Hello again!

Today Graeme and I managed to open both bottom gates making the transit between the locks easier for the two boats to come in kissing each other. The sun was out along with the banter at our final three locks together.

The Grand Union Team

At the top Graeme and I swapped sides over the sterns of the boats. We needed water but they didn’t. A final hug, only just about possible, a final group selfie not. Instead Graeme showed his true colours, well he is from New Zealand!

How rude!

The last two weeks it has been lovely to spend time with Clare and Graeme again. Supporting each other down and up the broad locks from Birmingham to Napton Junction. So glad we managed to make our cruising plans coincide. Enjoy Crick show and the rest of your time on NB Lottie Jane.

That’s better!

It took a while for the water tank to fill, by which time another boat had arrived wanting to top up too. We chatted away, they had been heading towards the South Stratford. Once we mentioned that Lowsonford Lock 23 was closed they decided they’d not head that way, maybe spend more time in Leamington Spa where they’ve not stopped before.

Napton Junction

I popped up to the bow to check the way was clear, it was, two boats passing each other just in view towards Braunston and the back doors of Lottie Jane open, moored by the junction. We waved our final goodbye and turned right towards the Napton flight.

Hello old friend, we know the South Oxford rather well, it’s a bit like coming home now, except I won’t be working my socks off on panto this time, I’ll just be knitting and delivering some. Hire boats were being made ready, we wound our way round the hill of Napton towards the locks. Should we stop for lunch before, part way up or wait til the top? A space right on the end of the moorings showed itself, we pulled in.

Napton Bottom Lock

By the time we pushed off again the sun was out and quite strong, time to slap the suncream on. A volunteer quickly set the bottom lock for us, but we pulled into the services mooring. Here sat on the low wall was a group having a rather nice looking lunch with a glass of wine each. As I stepped off I apologised straight away as we were in need of emptying our yellow water, the gunnel fitting right in front of their delightful lunch! They chatted away as we did the necessary, they were heading for a week on a hire boat, picking up this afternoon from Napton and heading in the same direction as us, one chap seemed to have done a lot of research.

Bottom Lock

Then onto the lock flight. A volunteer reappeared to help at the bottom lock, a second volunteer a touch further up the flight. They normally just loiter around the bottom lock but maybe on busy hire boat days they spread themselves out a touch more.

Mum escorting her little ones past the lock before flinging herself off a 6ft high wall

At the second lock a chap opened the bottom gates for us then walked back to keep an eye on his boat which was waiting to come down. The third lock was where we met the second volunteer. A long term hire boat waited above to come down, the crew chatting away mentioned that the bottom gate at lock 12 didn’t want to stay closed. The volunteer said it’s done that for the last few years, I added that it’s done that for at least seven years and thank you for reminding me which lock it was.

Views of green

Downhill traffic was busy, I think there were only a couple of locks where I had to close the top gate and there was quite often someone there to help close the bottom gates, a nice easy ride up.

What noise do Water Buffalo make?

The Water Buffalo were having a good lie down, chewing their cud, muddy heads and horns seem to be the fashion this year.

One boat was stopping to visit the tearooms by Lock 14. Another travelling with friends, they were heading back to the Chesterfield Canal on their last cruise before putting the boat up for sale, it sounded like they’d had an eventful cruise!

The cow parsley is very fine on the Oxford

At Marston Dole Top Lock the top gates were open and both paddles up. A boat was moored just round the bend, I wound down the off side paddle, the chap now panicking that I was about to steal the lock from them. It was obvious that they were quite new to boating, a lot of running back and forth, one person knowing what to do and when the other looking a bit lost with a windlass in hand. The chap started to wind a paddle to empty the lock, I made sure I waited for him to get back on board before lifting mine too, a slight language barrier between us not helping. They were soon on their way and after doing the flight they’d be used to going downhill.

Plenty of cars to try to identify today above the top lock as always, then we started our meandering along the summit. Yes THAT boat is still there, now accompanied by some sheds that looked a touch like kennels or chicken coops. They weren’t there in August last year when we last passed.

I’m going for a cheeky walk dear

Not many walkers along this stretch today. One chap came striding towards us, everything swaying with each stride, he certainly wasn’t wearing any strides! I wondered if he wore sun cream instead?

A nice mooring on our own

Just how far should we go today? Just where had we stopped last year? That was a nice spot and suitable for a barbeque. Mick was certain it was the next bridge, I thought it was a touch further on. For once he was correct and the arnco was empty. We pulled in, tied up and gave Tilly two and a half hours shore leave. At first she wasn’t too certain about it, to be honest the noise of farm machinery behind the hedge and a sheep dog being called made me uncertain too. But it all soon calmed down and Tilly vanished for at least an hour.

During the afternoon the sheep came for a nosy. Mick put our chairs out and unpacked his Christmas present from Tilly, the new barbeque. Sitting in the shade was very pleasant, a jumper needed later on when we started to cook. Must remember that fleeces are not useful for moving kebab skewers when very hot though!

Our first barbeque of the year, salmon steaks with ginger and soya sauce, veg and haloumi kebabs (which got a touch too hot) and a potato and cabbage salad with some lime and chilli mayonnaise from Charlie and Ivy. All very yum. Even though I’ve now finished my antibiotics I’m not allowed alcohol for a few days, so I made do with a squash made with lemonade, not quite as good as a Pimms. Mick was very supportive and drank one of the alcohol free lagers we were delivered by mistake, only another 11 to go!

Charred veg, I’m out of practice

Tilly eventually returned a while after her shore leave had expired. Ding ding was provided and the doors closed. We were then told in a very loud meow SO unfair! Why are you allowed to be outside and me NOT!! I fancied some salmon too! Thankfully we wouldn’t have a repeat of last year when she stayed out till 10pm at this mooring.

12 locks, 3 final locks shared, 7.3 miles, 1 full water tank, 1 empty yellow water tank, 1 right, 1 final wave goodbye, 2 volunteers, 4 smelly picnics, 2 bum cheeks, 2 salmon steaks, 4 kebabs, 10 potatoes, 2nd sock cast on, 1 more change of mind, 1 new lodger, 1 quiet evening, apart from Tilly, 1 mooring demoted from thumbs up to side ways TV, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/oUvJyCe2vLJJzqrd8

Is This REALLY BUMingham? 6th May

St Vincents Street Bridge Moorings

Hang on! I thought they said they’d tied up that BUMingham outside!?! Too few bricks to be BUMingham. Maybe She can’t navigate so well anymore.

This doesn’t look right!?!

Our neighbours were due to depart around 9, so we needed to be up and dressed. Tilly was given the rules and the back door opened up for her to explore. There may be trees here and quite a lot of friendly cover, but the towpaths of Birmingham are busy with runners, cyclists and woofers. NO chance of a stamp of approval here!

We had a cuppa onboard Oleanna and pointed out moorings to Clare and Graeme in their Pearsons guide. They are headed towards Crick and had been concerned about how long it would take to get there. A look on Canal plan last night suggested they’d need to do under 2 hours of cruising a day to arrive in time for the show. They could take it easy and hopefully we’ll be able to catch them up too.

See you soon!

As NB Lottie Jane moved away Tilly was encouraged back on board, we untied and pulled Oleanna up onto the last rings on the moorings. A space large enough for a boat infront of us, so no git gap. The doors were opened again, Well this outside isn’t as good as the last one! A slow morning, catching up on blog writing, this was at first slightly problematical as Oleanna’s router seemed to have died last night, Mick occasionally resets the router and last night it didn’t power up again. Time to teather to a phone.

Taking it to bits, but would it go back together again?

The theory was that the switch was maybe faulty, so he took it to bits to see if a piece of wire could be used to get it working again, but it was deemed too complicated to try, turning circuit boards over, disconnecting everything and then it still may not have worked. Time for a new router, the last one had served us for seven years after all.

Not just a simple case of buying one off the shelf, it needed to work on 12 volts, which doesn’t tend to be noted on the Argos website or the outside of the box. Would they allow him to open the box to see? We both went for a walk into the city, I had some secret mission to do myself, it being May!

I left Mick to it and headed off towards the Bull Ring. Here there were so many people! Just what were people queueing for? Wing Stop had a controlled queue that zigzagged round, the store full. Chicken wings must be a favourite round here.

Look at those!!!

Another queue was outside a new cafe EL & N, it has only been open for three weeks. Billed as the most Instagrammable cafe in the world it is very pink! Flowers cover the walls. I peeked in through the window at the wonderful looking cakes. No I didn’t go in, no lables for anything glutenfree. A later look on their website and despite a huge menu with the usual thing about allergens, there were only two items on the whole menu marked as gluten free, plus they automatically add a 12.5% service charge to your bill! But should you want a cubed croissant and can cope with gluten this looks like the place to go, certainly many thought it was worth queueing for.

Cambrian Wharf used to be filled with boats

I picked a few items and several birthday cards, May is very busy for birthdays, then dropped into Tescos for a few bits before heading back to Oleanna. My route took me around Cambrian Wharf. The mooring durations have changed in Birmingham this year. The pontoons used to be half longterm moorings and half visitors. Today only three boats were moored up, it’s now all longterm mooring, although the space alongside the top Farmers Bridge Lock is 4 days. Most of the central moorings are now 4 days during the main season (April to October) and 14 during the winter months. Where we are moored is 14 days all year. Double check the signage, a quick glance may have you thinking you could stay for 14 days as 4 day moorings are not often seen on the network. The new mooring times will be reviewed again next January.

New!

Mick had been shown a router at Argos, but not been allowed to open the box to check if it was suitable for our needs. So there was nothing for it but to get on a bus to a Currys. Here the shop assistant took the wrapper off and opened up the box. Marvellous it ran on 12volts, SOLD! However when back onboard Oleanna it required a a different power plug which fortunatly Mick was able to sort. £85 and slightly quicker and still able to use the same external aerial. He had considered a 5G router, but they are still a touch too expensive.

This evening yarn has been selected for sock pair 19. I’m hoping to create something Joyous and musical with this pair, maybe adding a little bit of embroidery ontop.

0 locks, 40ft pulled up, 1 puzzled cat, 1 farrrr too busy outside, 1 rendez vous planned, 1 dead router, 1 supermarket order altered for collection, 2 buses, 1 alive router, 4 birthday cards, 1 bag of secret things, 0 treats to eat, 3 leeks, 1 pot humous, 2 rows or 3? 2.

All Bar Two. 4th May

Between Bridges 7 and 8 Shropie to Urban Moorings, Wyrley and Essington Canal, BCN

A short distance further on there was a winding hole, time to turn around. Through Bridge 8 is the first cutting of the Shroppie. All of the cuttings have large trees clinging on to the banks either side, landslips quite a common occurance. For a while the towpath along this stretch has been closed, not that you’d know it with the number of walkers bypassing the fences! A tree had come down and then a very large crack in the towpath were taped off. Nothing the size of the landslip on the north Oxford or further along the Shroppie, but still another section for C&RT to mend.

Busy at the junction!

We winded and then headed back to Autherley. The stop lock was busy, one boat coming onto the Shroppie and another winding on the Staffordshire and Worcester. When it was our turn for the lock we dropped off some rubbish at the bins then turned right back onto the Staffordshire and Worcester, then left to start our ascent of the Wolverhampton 21.

The first two locks were full. Did these locks leak on the top gates, or were we following someone up the flight? At the third lock I noticed that as I wound the bottom gate paddles up, accumilated rain water from last night that had been gathered in the cogs. I looked on ahead there was a boat. After zooming in on them I worked out that they were also climbing the locks, they were also the first boat through this morning. They’d had the advantage of most if not all the locks being empty. Oh well I’d be emptying them all for us.

I used to stand on the bottom gates and push one side open with a kick, but my knees this year have already told me this would be unwise. Not many of the bottom gates actually have a handrail anyway, so today there was a lot of walking round locks to be done.

Stepping off to close the offside gate

The sun was out, it started to warm up. On locks where Mick could step off below and bring a rope up with him, we adopted this to save me walking round the lock to close the bottom gates. Oleanna obliged by entering the locks on most occasions, but on two the depth over the bottom cill must have been very slight as she stopped part way into the lock.

Pretty when the sun’s out

At lock 17 we met a downhill boat, 16 would be empty for us. I spotted the remaining palm trees mentioned in NB Bonjour’s blog from a week ago. At lock 15 a lady stood and watched, she then had a go opening and closing the bottom lock gate. We made her day.

Lots of wild flowers

Maybe breakfast should have been suplimented this morning as by half way up I was starting to feel a touch peckish, the galley slave hadn’t thought ahead either so there was no handy flapjack to keep us going, just a sip of water was all that was on offer!

Look at that sunshine!

All the anti-vandle locks seemed to work, the boat still two locks ahead of us dutifully resetting them. Lock 3 was about a third full when I walked up. A boat could be seen entering Lock 2, only one paddle would unlock on the bottom gates so it took a while to finish emptying.

Passing Ferrous

A phone call to Mick to leave the top gates on the next lock was just in time to stop him. We swapped with NB Ferrous in the next pound, quite a distinctive boat that we’ve seen before. More details about her can be found here.

Wolverhampton Top Lock

Only two out of the 21 locks had been set in our favour today. The climb up to the Wolverhampton level had taken us just under 4 hours. Time was ticking away we had a rendez vous and a deposit to make, no time to stop for a late lunch, the only thing on offer an M&S gf millionaires shortbread which was halved for us to share.

Hooray!!!

Not far to go to Horseley Fields Junction where we turned onto the Wyrley and Essington Canal, very slowly through the stop lock. I checked our instructions from Jennie at Urban Moorings, we were to pull up alongside one of the moored boats on the main channel. We got the bow in and I passed a rope around the grab rail of the moored boat, Mick then put power on to bring the stern round, just at the moment of something spinning round and attaching itself to our prop! Reverse didn’t help, Mick had to resort to the propmate to clear it. Then the stern was brought round and we tied up alongside Urban Moorings.

A trolley was brought to aid the transport of buckets. Two buckets were trundled round to the huge compost bins made from sleepers, the lid of the current bin left open for our deposits to be deposited in the correct section where they will b eleft for around 14 months before being used on flower beds.

Urban Moorings an oasis of green

As always we had a very warm welcome from the moorers. Here they accept contents from separating toilets from passing boaters and I believe they now also have a club which local boaters can join. A guided tour of the moorings is always on the cards, improvements, more sheds, a community room, flower beds, fruit and veg, an abundance of greenery everywhere.

C&RT offered them some funding a little while ago to help provide C&RT services, a bin store, elsan etc. They have got so far in sorting the area, but not recieved the funding to finish it yet. They also hope to expand the moorings on the other side of Lycetts Basin which would free up a space to become a service mooring. Then they would be able to sell diesel, gas and coal more easily to passing boaters. The council has also given them premission to take over two more buildings by the site. One they hope will become a bigger community room, the other a cafe in the old toll house by the stop lock. Hopefully our donation will go towards something new for us to see the next time we pass.

Stop for a brew, they’ve plenty of kettles

Whilst I got the tour Mick chatted away about the big fire that had happened at the junction. Apparently the moorings weren’t known about, so they weren’t evacuated, but thankfully all the smoke was being blown away from them.

If we wanted we could stay the night, moored up as we were. This was appealing as we were a little bit pooped from the flight, we also really wanted our lunch! Back onboard we broke the news to Tilly that there’d be no shore leave today, too many woofers and a couple of resident cats on the moorings. They were welcomed, but I wouldn’t be!

A slow afternoon for us followed by a nice roast chicken dinner. Very well deserved.

22 locks, 7.2 miles, 1 right, 2 lefts, 2 empty, 19 full, 3 junctions, 1 warm sunny day, 2 buckets deposited, 1 donation made, 1 very warm welcome, 1 miffed off cat.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/wFx8Kbxa5y6q7HiGA

Gailey Walking. 2nd May

Penkridge visitor mooring to Moat House Bridge

Waking this morning there was some good news, the bits and bobs we win from time to time on our premium bonds were a little bit bigger this month, enough to cover some of the work my molar requires. Quite a relief.

Swapping with C&RT

After breakfast we were the only boat left on the visitor moorings, time for us to move too. Up at Filance Lock a C&RT work boat was coming down with ample crew. Mick had to tuck Oleanna out of the way for them to pass, then brought her into the lock. A couple were busy trimming their hedge, it sounded like it hadn’t been done quite right, not quite flat enough on the top.

It’s frothy man!

Thankfully there was space near The Cross Keys on rings so we pulled in, collected our shopping bags and set off to walk up to the Co-op. We think this is the larger of the two Co-ops in Penkridge and this mooring the closest you can get by boat. They had a reasonable stock of things and we filled a few bags which would keep us going until we can get a delivery next week.

A good tree house with a spiral staircase

Midday by the time everything was stowed away. We opted for an early lunch rather than stopping again in an hours time.

Approaching Otherton Lock

The canal now turns to run along adjacent to the M6 for a stretch. Penkridge may be set back from the motorway but its rumble is ever present no matter where you moor in the town, now it would get louder. At Otherton Lock a boat was coming down, our turn next as two more boats arrived above and another behind us, we were head of the queue again. As the lock filled the foam surrounded Oleanna’s bow, maybe I should have given it a mop at the same time making use of the suds.

Boggs Lock

I hitched a ride to Rodbaston Lock, no queue there and then walked the rest of the way to Gailey working the next three locks. Don’t think I’d noticed before that around each lock beam the whole area is bricked. It’s quite normal for the curved route you take below a lock beam to be brick or stone, but here there is a full semi circle of bricks.

Bricks

As I walked up to Gailey Top Lock there was a sign saying Volunteers were on duty, some helping hands for the cranked beams. Sure enough up top there were two chaps waiting to help a length of rope holding the bottom two gates together. It was nice to see the little shop in the tower open again, the lady chatting to the Lockies. Up Oleanna came to the summit pound, time to wiggle our way through the moored boats.

Gailey waiting for Oleanna to rise

It was warm, but quite grey as we pootled along. Past the chemical works where you are not allowed to stop, then the wiggly windy bit around Calf Heath. If we could turn left here a proposed restoration would have us climbing up to the Wolverhampton level and popping out to join the Cannock Extension Canal or the Curley Wurley on the BCN. But no chance of that just yet.

Maybe I should get a piggybank for a tooth fund

Now we were away from the M6 we wanted to find a mooring before the railway joined us. Somewhere suitable for Tilly to spend a few hours today. The first stretch was filled with several boats, but round a few more bends a length of armco presented itself and we pulled in. Shore leave rules were recited, two hours today and off Tilly went.

As we were taking Oleanna out of cruising mode a couple walked past and stopped for a chat. They love walking the towpaths and have a plan one day to own a boat, but first they will buy a motorhome to explore with. We chatted for quite sometime, they have an old cat whom they’d like to take with them on their travels. Tilly showed them what being a boat cat was about, climbing trees and pouncing.

This chap was pretending to be a gull at first, the length of his beak gave him away.

During the day we’d had a phone call from the boiler people. They were wanting to try to make a new appointment to upgrade the boiler in the house. Mick had been there for the last appointment which was cancelled on the day. This appointment would require a special trip, so he asked if it was possible to put a note on the job sheet not to cancel it this time! We opted for an appointment on a day when I’d be at the dentist, then a few hours later realised it coincided with rail strikes! We didn’t want to cancel it, but how could we make it work. Mick spent a long time on the computer trying to work out if he could actually do the trip by train, getting there easy, but returning only possible if he left Scarborough at 3pm, not returning to the boat until 11pm. Other options were concidered including an overnight somewhere. But in the end the easiest option was to hire a car, it was working out at a similar cost too. They had better not cancel this appointment!

6 locks, 6.1 miles, 0.5 of a tooth paid for, 1 frothy stretch, 4 light bags of shopping, 1 appointment, 1 week of train strikes, 1 slight detour planned, 2 hours shore leave, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/cCpAGZPNvwaTph3h8

This Way Out, Me Duck. 27th April

Between Locks 44 and 45 to Barlaston Winding Hole

No need to be up at the crack of sparrows to be through the tunnel at the first opportunity to get to see a matinee or catch the gas suppliers in Etruria, both these had been sorted on Thursday. However we were wanting to cover some miles. Our schedule had us mooring below Stoke Bottom Lock, not the nicest of places. Plus if we wanted to have some time with friends on Sunday it would be worth cracking on today.

Artwork on the hut between the paired locks at Plants Lock

Just as we rolled up the covers a boat came up the lock behind, it would be very rude to pull out infront of them, so we took our time and followed. Both of the paired locks were empty so the lady opened up the offside lock for us as she waited for her boat. Not many of the Cheshire Locks you can do this on at the moment as so many of the pairs are reduced to just one working lock.

We pulled in at the services, water, yellow water and rubbish dealt with before walking up to the next lock. A single hander was coming down with the assistance from another single hander, a young lady who was headed for Chorley and was covering as much ground as she could in a day. She asked how many more locks there were on the T&M, Thirty odd not a problem. I suggested she made that cuppa she’d planned on making before she got too far down the locks.

Last lock up to the summit of the Trent and Mersey

Up the last two locks to the summit. As Oleanna got within stepping off height for Mick I headed to Lidl. A few things required but mostly a copy of our Saturday newspaper as we needed to check if Mick’s letter regarding the Fund Britain’s Waterways had been published. I’d timed things very well, one copy left in Lidl and when I got back to Oleanna Mick had moved her out of the lock so an oncoming boat could use it, then he’d backed up to the towpath entrance to pick me up, he’d not even had to step off with a rope to wait.

Straight on! We passed a boat coming from the tunnel. The helm said we might be lucky as two boats had been waiting, we might be able to tag onto the back of the south bound passages. I put Oleanna into tunnel mode. All cabin lights on, curtains open, life jackets and waterproofs on, torch to have at the stern.

Is that a Keeper waiting for us?

As we approached we could see no waiting boats, just a C&RT Tunnel Keeper. As he looked up I beeped our horn and turned the tunnel light on, A quick chat with him to make sure we remembered the horn signals should we breakdown, we’d obviously been through before and a warning to mind our heads. Straight in, another bit of perfect timing.

Thank you

Into the tunnel at bang on 11am, following two boats ahead of us. Wet and chilly in there today. As navigator I make sure that we know which way is the closest should we need to get out of the tunnel ( a game really). In most tunnels this is just conveyed to the crew with ‘That way Out’ behind us or ‘This way out’ ahead of us. Mick confirms that he has heard, which means he is still stood behind me at the helm and hasn’t fallen off. But Harecastle always deserves the recognition that we are passing between the north and the south, after all the River Trent historically marked the divide between north and south. So here my wording is that bit different. ‘Tha’ knows!’ to the north and ‘This way out, me duck’ to the south.

At about 1km still to go we could see the doors at the southern portal open up to let a boat through. Harecastle has no ventilation shafts, so to deal with the fumes that modern boats produce there are doors closing the entrance at the south end. Then big fans are used to suck the air and fumes through the tunnel. As they kicked in the atmosphere in the tunnel became foggy and very noisy. At about 100m to go the fans were turned off and the doors opened letting light flood in.

Cup of strong tea? Or Heinz Tomato Soup?

Lots of people don’t like Harecastle and it seems to have been given a nick name, which we don’t really understand, Scarecastle Tunnel. It is one of the few tunnels were someone actually knows you are in there. If you have probelms you beep your horn once every 30 seconds and they will come and rescue you. You just need to face forwards so you know when to duck.

I do NOT like tunnels, stop it!!!

Onwards past Westport Lake, Stoke boats, and Middleport Pottery. Maybe one day we’ll have time to moor up and have a look around the pottery, on our way back? A pause for lunch on some handy rings and then onwards towards Summit Lock.

The mural starting to weather

We’d thought about mooring at Festival Park when we’d wanted to go to the theatre the other day, all moorings were full today. Inside the pub a lady was waving with great enthusiasm, Mick waved back. A minute or so later I got a message, it was Helen from NB Avalon 2, she was the waving lady. Hello!

Going down now

As we approached the lock someone was opening the top gate, no boat in the lock, how nice of them. Then we realised their boat was coming from the services, Mick backed away and let them come round the steep bend and into the lock. We helped them down and then followed on after them. I went ahead and helped them to close up at the lock below, then lifted a paddle to start filling it as Mick lifted a paddle on the top lock.

We worked our way down the Stoke locks. Some new graffiti and wall art to look at as we went. Not much was new until we came to Goods Yard. Here a new neighbourhood is being developed, 174 homes, hotel, workspaces, bars, shops and a green public space. The building closest to the canal looked like it had been an old warehouse and behind it a new build in rusting metal had echos of a red brick mill. The site used to be a goods warehouse where goods were craned between the railway and canal. For more info go here.

Getting greener

Past Shuffelbottoms, past the shingled boat which seems to becoming greener every time we pass, then the shooting range where you can see all the dints in the metal surround created from people missing the targets!

At Trentham Lock a couple were walking their parents dogs, they were walking as little as they could, so the chance to help with the lock was a good distraction. Rain was forcast for 5pm and sure enough just after we’d pulled in before Barlaston down it came. It wasn’t too much to put Tilly off a good explore. This is where I rounded up a fox once, they don’t think I remember places, but I do!

click photo for a nosy

Some baking preparation for tomorrow was needed, a recipe I’ve been wanting to try for a little while, required a rest in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight, perfect. We settled down to Turkey Schnitzel and tomato spaghetti infront of the stove. Quite a long day, a bit reminiscent of our boating holidays and shareboat days.

10 locks, 11.9 miles, 1 tunnel, 1.65 miles underground, I hate tunnels! 3rd boat through, 1 letter, 30 minutes lunch, 1 damp descent, 1 waving woman, 1 hour only! 0 fox, 0 time to find one! 7.5 hours cruising, 1 bowl of lemony mix, pair 17 cast off.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/dgQT4VE1xdeYun8cA

One Cat, Two Servants. 25th April

Pierpoint Top Lock 55 to above Kent’s Lock 45

A little bit of a chug first thing to reach the next lock, one of the few pounds on the way up to Stoke where there’s enough time to boil a kettle, however not enough time to drink the cuppa you’ve just made!

First lock of the day

At Thurlwood Lower Lock both chambers were just about full, I opted for the narrower chamber as this was just a touch lower. We rose up keeping an eye out to make sure Oleanna wasn’t too wide, she wasn’t so all was fine.

I love these gardens

Compared to yesterdays weather today was miserable, damp in the air, cold, then rainy, very little sun shining down on us. The locks would keep us busy and hopefully warm. There’s an honesty hutch above Thurlwood Top Lock for eggs, however this morning it was empty, no chance of us getting a lucky green egg.

There was plenty of mooring available in Rode Heath, a nice mooring unless you are a cat! That outside has soo much pawtential, just need to ban all the woofers!

Now the four Lawton Locks. These were once all paired locks, one of them now a single, the other three only one lock operational. Lock 52 offside had fencing around it, some serious work going on. Had the skip boat we’d just passed got new gates for it? CRT decided to work on this lock out of the winter stoppage season as it’s paired lock was operational. Looking down below my feet on the working side, I did wonder if there was much solidity below me, there seemed to be a lot of air holding up the bricks!

Swapping locks

At just about every lock there was a boat coming down, we were following NB Autumn Haze up, a nice flow of boats through the locks, each rise fed by the next lock being emptied, efficient.

Waiting for the pound and lock to fill

Church Bottom and Top Locks are very close together. Nb Autumn Haze rose up above then the lady returned to lift a paddle to help fill the intermediate pound for us. Thank you.

We’d noticed on facebook this morning that NB Halsall would be making her way up the Cheshire Locks behind us, likely to do the whole lot in a day, few boats to serve. I placed an order and said where we hoped we’d be moored.

Obligatory photo even if it isn’t the same as when we were yellow

Next came a big deliberation. The need for a station tomorrow, the need for another in a few days time, a stock up on food, a location to return the faulty battery, meeting with friends and a desire to see a play. When should we go to the theatre? Today, stopping at Red Bull, transport back would be a problem. Should we see if we could get a booking this afternoon for the tunnel, moor up at Westport Lake and go from there? Should we delay seeing the play by a few days and get a bus back to Newcastle? All options were considered, we opted to pull up at Red Bull, a much better mooring for Tilly. She came and went for a couple of hours, her servants opening and closing doors for her, Dreamies on tap.

Anyone for a good strong cup of tea?

Theatre tickets booked, a bus sused out to get there, a message sent to Halsall incase we weren’t on board when they arrived. That reminds me I must pay them! Just as we were about to get smartened up ‘Coal Boat!’ Halsall pulled up along side, Rachel and Brian onboard. Not much time for a chat as they wanted to be on up to the next lock once they’d made our delivery. Diesel, more coal and a new gas bottle. Thank you as ever Halsall.

Halsall

A walk up the hill to catch the 4A bus which took us to right outside the New Vic Theatre. We were here to see One Man, Two Guvnors their current production. In the cast several people we knew. Added bonus was our friend Bill happened to be watching the show too this evening, his partner Lisa (I used to work with in Scarborough) a stage manager on the show. I’d selected our tickets well, cheapest seats just because you have to walk along a row past other people to reach your own and the band would be in view throughout the show. It’s hard to get a bad view at a theatre in the round!

Hi NIck!

Mick said he hoped he’d not fall asleep as it was quite long. I knew there’d be little chance of that! What a show! Physical, farcical, at times hysterical. If you are having a bad day go and see this show, your face will ache from laughing so much. The whole company were brilliant, the energy from Michael Hugo and Nick Haverson exhaustingly funny.

Gareth, Nick, Pip, Bill, Mick

We met up with people in the bar afterwards, nice to be able to do such a thing rather than stand in the foyer waiting for people to come out from back stage. I ended up knowing five of the actors, Nick I’ve known since my college days and then lots at the SJT. Gareth could have passed me by without his long hair and beard, he’s been in a couple of Chippy pantos. Michael was in a show at Esk Valley Theatre I designed years ago, Alyce and Thomas stayed in our house last year. Sadly Conrad the director wasn’t about, I’ve worked with him twice, once here at the New Vic on a production of Oleanna by David Mamet.

What a great evening and so lovely to see everyone.

10 locks, 3.3 miles, 1 damp day, 1 canal turning orange, 2 hours, 2 bags excel, 1 gas bottle, 58 litres, 2 green tickets, 1 bus, 1 taxi, 6 actors, 1 DSM, £13 taxi, 1 great night.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/m4AXetxGWkUFmFHu8

Selfridges Isn’t Just For Footballers! 13th April

Thomas Telford Basin to Stretford Marine to Trafford Centre Visitor Moorings

Last night was nice and quiet in the basin. Only one goose sitting on a nest so there wasn’t another goose to squabble with and the human residents were quiet too. Before we headed to bed Mick logged onto our C&RT account to book our Bridgewater passage. The Bridgewater Canal is run by Peel Holdings therefore not covered by our C&RT licence. There is an agreement where boats can transit the Bridgewater Canal to reach C&RT waters, Leeds Liverpool, Rochdale or Trent and Mersey. It used to be that you could just enter their water without booking, so long as you only stayed 7 days. Now you have to book this via the C&RT website. There is also an option to extend you visit by 3 days. This is intended to be used within 28 days so boats can visit Liverpool and then return without having to stay off the Bridgewater for several weeks before booking again. This may come in useful for us, so Mick ticked the 3 day extra box.

Breakfasted, and wrapped up reasonably warm we pushed off, thanking the residents for our peaceful night. The entrance in and out of the basin is a tight one, but we know Oleanna can manage it, it just takes a bit of patience to get round.

Time for the Rochdale 9. I’m not sure how many times we’ve done these locks, maybe four times? Dale Street Lock 84 was surrounded by rubbish this morning, a council worker arrived to pick everything up from those who’d sat on the benches drinking last night. Water flowed over the top gate by several inches, not unusual for the Rochdale 9. Some of the locks have bywashes, others don’t.

I lifted a paddle to bring the water in the lock up to match that above. We brought Oleanna in and I lifted a paddle to empty it. Over the top gates there are handrails on both sides. These are very narrow and the hoik up onto the lock beam is quite high. Sixteen years ago I sprang up onto the beam and crossed over without thinking about it , today my knees make me nervous of such things, but both paddles were needed to level the lock with the water below. I crossed the gates twices then realised I should be able to walk round over the road bridge. This made me happier.

Piccadilly Lock

Now down into the depths for Piccadilly Lock 85. Today it was dark, relatively clean and we were on our own. I wondered if the top gates when they were replaced had been made higher, they certainly looked it. Climbing up to get over to the other side was not appealing, could I manage to empty the lock using only one side?

I lifted the paddle and watched as the water emptied. Gradually Oleanna descended. The bottom gates here have a windlass operated chain to open them as the building above has encroached on the space. This is usually quite hard to operate. I waited, worked out which way to turn my windlass. Water still rushing over the top gates, would it ever level out? I waited for the water below the lock to calm, tried the gate, waited some more. Then I could feel the gate just giving a little, phew I wouldn’t have to climb over the top gates.

Only accessible by canal

Access to the next lock is only by boat, sixteen years ago I remember climbing down some steps to it, but this route has now been blocked off, I suspect to keep people from the pubs on Canal Street away from the waters edge. Here I made a mistake, in that I lifted the bottom paddle on the offside. This ended up not being enough to empty the lock fully. Mick climbed the ladder, lifted the other paddle, my gate now opened. Maybe if we’d left it a few more minutes it would have obliged. If I’d started on the other side it maybe would have been easier as I needed to be that side to get back on the boat anyway.

Under bridges and buildings

Back on board we headed to Princess Street Lock. Here rainbow planters cheered up the banks, it was starting to rain. Several runners ran up the towpath and wanted to continue along the canal, only to find they were running onto a pontoon that led nowhere! Then more runners came, and more, and more! How many? I asked one chap if he was the last, no reply. When Oleanna was out of the gates Mick warned me that there were more runners to come all wearing kahki.

A C&RT workboat appeared to be on the lock landing at Tib Lock 89. Some helpful person had however untied it’s mooring lines and possibly had a rifle around in a cupboard. Only brooms to disturb in there. I retied it to some railings and a mooring ring, hopefully leaving enough room for a boat on the lock landing. Not sure how long it will last before someone else decided to untie it though.

Blossom instead of graffitti

Trees on either side of the lock were filled with pink blossom. The flag stones on the offside covered in a layer of slippy green that even my anti slip trainers couldn’t cope with. Working carefully we descended.

Very very high!

At Albion Mills Lock the building work we’ve been under has now finished, the tall building stretching high above the canal. Panels stand out from the building looking like someone has stuck sheets of steel deck haphazedly onto it. Here I ended up having to enlist some one to help with the lock gate, we’d waited quite a while for the level to equalize.

A good place to shelter from the rain

Tunnel Lock 91. Here a chap had made himself a home tucked up by the gate chain mechanism, well under cover of the building next to it. The offside here looked even greener, serious lack of footfall to keep it clear. The top gates were also high and very green too! I hoped that one paddle would do the job, it maybe had, but would the gate open!?! I asked the chap if people had difficulty with the gate and he said most did, it was rare for this gate to be opened. The chain slipped rather than doing anything productive. I’d have to walk round, climb over the beam, be hissed at by a goose to open the gate.

The End

Just before Dukes Lock 92, who should we pass but the boat from Littleborough. Had they come down the locks last night or early this morning? They were making use of the last moorings before reaching the Bridgewater Canal.

If only the sun had been out!

The top gates were open so Mick sailed straight in. Here there is no bywash, apparently it was bombed in WW2 and never replaced, so excess water comes over the top gates. Gongoozlers who didn’t mind getting wet loitered on the bridge to watch our progress. Paddles lifted and then patience was needed for the levels to equalise. The first time we ever did this lock was on NB Bergen Fjord and the bottom gates really didn’t want to open, we ended up with two windlasses on the chain gear. Now I know to wait for the water below to calm right down, take the strain on the chain. My first go had a small amount of movement, maybe if I adjusted my windlass to give me more umph then it would open. I took the strain again, one extra turn had the gate open just that bit, the levels equalised and I easily opened the gate. Looking back at the amount of water still coming over the gates I was surprised at how easy it had been.

Maybe one for a painting

Should we stop or continue? We continued in the rain, we were wet now anyway. A cuppa and some flapjack as we cruised our way out of Manchester as another huge running club ran the towpath. ‘Come on guys lets see if we can beat the boat!’

Runners

The Bridgewater is very familiar water, the sights in the rain were passed easily. At Waters Meeting a narrowboat came past, pram hood up as they do round here. We followed it to the left. He pulled over just before Stretford Marina so we could pass, only to find out we were pulling in to the services.

A flat cap wearing chap in a blue coverall took our ropes and asked what we were after. Diesel and coal please. The chilled medication cabinet was empty despite all the adverts outside! He pulled the long hose out and topped up our tank whilst I topped up our water. He chatted away to Mick. There were comments about having to stay alive as the state pension keeps going up, but how anyone actually spends it all puzzled him. He’d been to buy himself a new fountain pen, spent over £800 on one with a pot of ink. The shop assistant in Selfridges had seemed a bit off with him, ‘I brush my cap every day! Anyhow Selfridges isn’t just for footballers you know!’ What a character, he plays the flute and owns two baroque flutes.

A roaring trade

We winded Oleanna, time to head north. Left at Waters Meeting, we pulled up on the last rings outside the Trafford Centre. After a late lunch with the last of the flapjack we headed into retail hell. A Saturday afternoon at the Trafford Centre not my idea of a good way to spend our time, but a neccessary one. At John Lewis we waited and waited to be served. Numerous shop assistants walked past, none asking could they help or that someone would be with us soon. Eventually Mick managed to get someone to go into the back room for my laptop which was now mended with a new hinge, Hooray!

A new SD card for my camera was required, but despite there being numerous staff about the place none were available to unlock the rack so we could purchase one. I felt that MIck was on the border of a Geraghty strop, we left the store. Game had what we were looking for, it took some time to pursuade the staff that it would work in a camera and they weren’t just for games consoles. A very quick visit to Primark for a couple of t-shirts and we were out of there.

But it looks so good!

Time to sit down at last.

It’s nice to have my laptop back, I don’t keep aiming for the delete button and turning it off!

9 locks, 6.3 miles, 5.35 miles walked, 2 lefts, 1 extra bum, so much water, 91 Locks of the Rochdale finished, 32 miles traversed, 1 bored cat, 63.7 litres, 40kg coal, 1 laptop, £800 pen! hope the ink was free, 1 immaculate flatcap, 1 Bridgewater licence, 1 SD card, 0 flapjack left.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/s2wpsR6UFWcigi8e7