Category Archives: Cats on the Cut

Tall Tales. 12th June

Bugbrooke Bridge to Nightingales Bridge 46 ish

Another miserable day in the making. At least it started off dry, for a while. All the boats around us moved off and carried on their journey and it was soon time for us to do the same. With Stoke Bruerne flight closed we decided to move along to before Gayton, mooring up where Tilly could go off and explore.

Get that door open!

I helped push off and then left Mick to it whilst I did some work below. I’d been putting off checking a few things out on my ground plan for panto. So I started the day with the drawing board out. I made a list of potential problems and then worked my way through them. Details of the trap in the stage had only just been confirmed, the size and position having changed a touch since last year! It didn’t matter for Aladdin, but this year it does. A bit of problem solving and I have a couple of options.

Mick moved us on, far less traffic on the cut than in the last few days, most probably due to the broken lock ahead. He pulled us in after almost three miles cruising at the last big M on our map before Gayton Junction. Here there is armco to make it easier to moor, but the trains are quite close. Trains are a feature of the Grand Union Canal that you have to get used to. The line does move away at times but hugs the canal the remainder of the way to London.

I’m busy!

Seven Hours! Blimey! What could I do with all that time?! No need for it to rain as the grass was good and soaking which got me very wet too. Marvellous.

More of my model got painted this afternoon and Mick went for a walk up to the junction to see what he could see and give me a bit more room to work. He returned just after it started to rain again, I made him some room on the table in return for him not nudging it too much as I painted thin lines of turquoise and dark red.

Boozer and The Nick

If you are looking for something to help fill these rather wet times avoiding being outside, can I point you in the direction of a friends blog. Jan is a story teller based in Edinburgh (Link to her blog). She is also a Theatre Designer, textile artist and curator. Last July Jan joined the crew of tall ship Tenacious as a volunteer, hauling sails, climbing the rigging, hearing and telling stories. This year she is aiming to tell tales on ten tall ships and will be joining the crew on board The Lord Nelson sailing up the Norwegian Coast as part of the tall ships race. The first posts on her blog take her to the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies, she featured on Ramblings on Radio 4.

Jan on Tenacious last summer

Stay dry. Oh, this afternoon there was an update on Stoke Bruerne (on the website not an email) saying that the locks are open again, so dependant on how much water is falling from the sky I will either be working or we’ll be heading to descend the locks. Fingers crossed.

0 locks, 2.72 miles, 1 dry start, 1 very wet end, 62 trains, 1 tail held high, 6 hours of soggy moggy, 1 hour of exhaustion, 1 set of new tenants, 1 hat (of mine) headed for the high seas this summer, 10 tall ships, many tales, 900mm wide not 700, 1 trap a touch bigger than planned.

Waiting Out The Rain. 7th June

Around about Bridge 80 to around about Bridge 87

The forecast was for rain, followed by more rain and then…. yep you’ve guessed it, more rain until about 4pm.

The blog took an annoying amount of time to sort, the internet being so intermittent. Just when you thought it was all sorted and eventually uploaded, I’d put it into preview mode and not only did the photos not appear but half of what I’d written had too! After a lot of frustration I gave up, I didn’t want today just to be about the blog, a rainy day meant I should be getting on with some work.

Dunchurch Pools Marina in the rain

I headed off into the woods. Once the trees had been climbed, I’d done quite a lot of that yesterday, Then some pouncing, I wandered that little bit further. There was a big brick wall. I prefer stone canal walls as they are climbable after some calculations. But this wall had very little claw factor (C) 0.1, Height (H) 1.3 trees high, Friendly cover (FC) 0, Angle (A) 90, Breakfast (B) 15 biscuits, wetness (W) 7.4, Tilly (T) 100%.

Drying off before my next adventure outside

I did my calculations (B x C $} T/W ~ FC x 0.7>A^H+C = :(abort attempt. Back to putting my arms down holes and climbing trees. After an hour or so the wetness rose to 8.2 time to dry off!

I drew out my scenery, everything starting from one point on the whole set means it takes a bit of marking up, but I got there in the end. It will be me painting this part of the scenery, I need to either simplify the floor design or manage to find a very quick way of marking it out.

A mound of scenery

We waited for the rain to ease. NB Chertsey braved the rain as did several hire boats. Every now and then the patter of rain stopped on the roof, Mick would look out of the windows, but by the time he’d stood up the rain had started again. At around 4:30 he decided to move. The annoying internet could not be lived with for any longer and we both knew what happened to Douglas Bader. Getting closer to Braunston would be good for tomorrow and hopefully improve the signal.

Seasonal wool decorations

We cruised only a couple of miles, to be within eye and ear shot of the Banger Spire of Braunston. Internet signal was checked, good, so we pulled in. Tilly went out and explored again, Mick got the stove going and we enjoyed the last of the pancake batter from the freezer.

BANGERS!!! Our mooring for this evening

With only one thing left in the icy box that went into the fridge for tomorrow night and the power was turned off at last. Just how long has it taken to empty the freezer!? But now that mission was accomplished. It will defrost over night have a clean, then be lifted out of the drawer to see if we can improve it’s ventilation anymore. Fingers crossed our combined skills can come up with something.

A rather lovely mooring

0 locks, 1.99 miles, 1 very wet day, 1 very wet cat, she may as well have fallen in! 664 inmates not the 625 it was built for, 2 hours wasted, 3 portals, 1 floor, 1 back cloth started, 2 much grey paint mixed, 2 savoury, 2 sweat pancakes each, 1 instep on its way.

Flue Fear. 1st June

Hopwas Wood Bridge to Meadow Lane Bridge 50, Coventry Canal

Pootling along today on the flat meant I’d be working, however having a snot filled head did mean that what work I managed to do, in between blowing my nose, may get redone at a later stage. I did manage to draw up my panel design for the boozer, but the painting of it isn’t as good as I’d like.

South please

Meanwhile up on deck, Mick pootled us towards Fazeley Junction where we turned left towards Coventry. This route avoids the numerous locks up into Birmingham and then the numerous ones down again off the plateau that the city sits on.

Joining the queue

Today we’d pass through two locks, Glascote Locks. There are nearly always boats waiting to go up or down and the slow filling chambers mean you have to be patient. Today was no exception, there being what looked like three boats ahead of us. We pulled in behind and waited our turn. The middle boat of the three turned out to be a C&RT work boat moored on the end bollard of the lock landing.

There seemed to be plenty of people around to help, but not many with windlasses. I walked up to help. The first boat rose in the lock as one was coming down from above. As we were mob handed I walked up to help the lady at the second lock, then walked back thinking that the crew would walk up with the boat, but they were the crew from the next boat in line. Snot induced lack of enthusiasm on my part, I stayed put and waited for Oleanna.

No extra pairs of hands for us

With each boat going up one would come down, but no more boats appeared behind us, so we were left to work the locks with just the two of us, everyone else had stopped for lunch.

We pulled up on the moorings above the locks, Mick popped up to the Co-op hoping that there would be a copy of our newspaper left whilst I put the kettle on. Success! After lunch we pushed off again our aim to get within striking distance of Atherstone. However our progress was halted very soon.

Quite a catch

From below I knew from the change in engine tone that a blast of reverse wouldn’t get rid of what ever had wrapped itself around our prop! Mick didn’t even try, instead we drifted to the side where he tied up then loosened the weedhatch. A small duvet and cover was the culprit and fortunately easyish too remove.

Little Chimney Company

I worked as we pootled along spotting various familiar sights, the numerous well kept gardens of Tamworth, Alvecote Marina, the boats that had been ahead of us, the railway coming and going. Passing moored boats Mick would slow us down, one of these boats he’d been keeping an eye out for, The Little Chimney Company Boat. Normally around this area, there it was just before the M42. We pulled in.

Since having Oleanna we’ve been a touch concerned about the height of our flue from the stove. Being a new boat we had to have a double skinned flue fitted, Ricky at Finesse had done his best to get the flue looking good inside the boat, but this had left us with quite a bit of extra height outside, around 10 inches that is fixed. So far low bridges haven’t been a problem, there are still a few we know of to try, but Standedge Tunnel could be a whole other matter.

From this
down to less than half

A second opinion was needed. Kim came along and had a look and could see our dilemma. He could cut it down to a more manageable height, the extra length of flue that we had in a locker we could then use to regain the height we’d be about to loose. But most importantly at low bridges or tunnels we’d have a lot more chance of getting through.

Kim cutting away

Tilly was locked in the bedroom so we could run an extension lead out to Kim for his angle grinder. He marked the chimney five inches lower, covered our solar panel and set to work. With any burrs ground off the cut edge, our extension piece was tried, a fit. Brilliant! Ten minutes of cutting and chatting and we were good to go.

5 inches lower with the top back on

I returned below to carry on working and to let Tilly out from the bedroom. Normally she is either asleep or chomping at the bit to get back into the rest of the boat, but she was nowhere to be seen! Behind the bed by the steps she was cowering, the first time I’ve ever seen her truly scared. I did my best to reassure her that all was fine but she wasn’t having it.

After quite a lot of coaxing she edged her way towards the bathroom. The towel rail must have been what was making all the noise! Low and slow, keeping it in her sight at all times, she edged past it. As we made our way onwards she stayed jumpy and very very cautious of the bathroom, but slowly she started to calm down.

Troublesome towel rail

We reached where we were meant to be tonight, Tilly had I hoped calmed down enough to come home again so normal shore leave was granted, off she went into the sideways trees.

A couple of hours later she reappeared but seemed reluctant to come back on board. Only one thing for it, I stepped off gave her some chin rubs and picked her up, we can’t have a cat afraid of her home! Inside she took things slowly, the bathroom still a problem.

Her litter tray was moved out so she could check behind it, that was fine. Still the towel rail was the centre of her problem, she’d jab at it, at one point even hissed at it! We removed the towels so that she could see there was nothing hiding there, still she was very cautious.

2 locks, 9.91 miles, 1 left, 3rd in line, 0 behind us, 1 full box tissues used, 5 inches lower, £20 well spent, 1 seriously scared cat, 1 very very scary towel rail, 2 hours of trying to hide, 1 hissing fit, 1 cat needing reassurance in her own home.

Toad In The Pudding. 30th May

Fancy Bridge73A to Magazine Bridge 55.

Today would be the day, had I avoided getting Mick’s cold?

Unfortunately I woke with the start of a sore throat, so almost certainly not. By the end of the day I was starting on the drugs too.

Last glimpse of the Shugborough Estate

Last night we’d considered having a walk around Shugborough, but then we worked out how many hours cruising we’d need to do to reach our next destination in time. Not being good at getting up and going early (unless we have to), the fact that we need to be doing around four and a half hours a day meant we’d not be hanging around today especially as we were in need of a proper shop.

The smell from this is wonderful

On our way late morning we passed a few boats and timed our arrival at Colwich Lock very well as a boat had just come up leaving the next awaiting boat’s crew to help us down. I took advantage on them being on the towpath side and headed straight to the bottom gates. Just here, in the lock cottage garden, is a rather lovely Black Elder plant. In the past it has given off such a wonderful scent I made a bee line for it. As with the more common Elderflower they are only just starting to come into bloom. Only a couple of heads were in flower today and the lack of sunshine meant it wasn’t producing it’s aroma. Next week it will most probably be at its best.

Colwich Lock

As ever below the lock there was a queue. We pootled onwards. Swans were taking advantage of their piece of canal bank and through Taft Bridge Dexta was high and dry.

No diesel today

NB Dexta used to be moored on the cut, red diesel would be pumped from the farm behind, to a tank on board to be sold to passing boaters. A favourite for many a boater, but we’d heard that the boat was out of the water. No signs anywhere about diesel. Either the boat is out for maintenance or they have stopped selling to boaters. Glad we’d known this and filled up in Stone.

Brindley Aqueduct over the Trent

Pootling onwards over Brindley Bank Aqueduct we now cruised past numerous moored boats. We were wanting to stop at Tescos to do a big shop, as we got closer we wondered if there’d be a suitable mooring.

A boat was just pulling out from the 7 day moorings, not wanting to risk not finding anywhere through the bridge we pulled in knowing from past experience we wouldn’t get into the side. A hire boat was just about to push off and offered us their space, they’d got into the side. It took forever for the chap at the back to untie his rope, a tsunami would have a job shifting them from that mooring ring. We pulled back and managed to get one end of the boat close enough.

Straight on today

A relatively big shop to keep us going for the next week or so and we were on our way again. Of course there was loads of space through the bridge! As we passed Rugeley Winding Hole, we were reminded that this is where we turned around in October 2017, our plans having changed. We’d been heading towards Derby for the court case and had received news that it would be postponed until the following year, so had turned round and headed north for Christmas. Today we continued southwards, you could say for Christmas.

The tunnel

With a couple more hours of cruising planned we pootled on. Through Armitage Tunnel, no body was coming so I was able to wave Mick into the narrow channel when I’d only got half way through. Would there be space above Wood End Lock to moor? We didn’t want to risk everywhere being full so tried a few places on the way.

Look what’s up there!

Lovely places, all suitable for Tilly, just too shallow for Oleanna. After Bridge 55 we pulled in as far away from the road as possible and let Tilly out. She was given a couple of hours but brought back a friend after three and a half!

This evening I had a go at Toad in the hole with a third of my buckwheat pancake mix. I added an egg and a touch of baking powder hoping that would help lift the heavier flour. It was tasty especially as I’d added some rosemary and thyme to the mix, but it certainly hadn’t reached for the sky. A good blob of ketchup on the side made it even tastier. I won’t be rushing to make it again. One third left to go!

Tastier than it looked

1 lock, 10.93 miles, 1 new Charity Wharf, 2 many shallow moorings, 1 boat too deep, 7 half hitches, 3 sheep shanks, 2 bowlines, 1 reef knot, 2 grannies just in case, 27 days, 4 boxes wine, 1 sore throat, 20 minutes behind schedule, 1 pudding with 6 sausages, 1 very lively friend.

The Secret Passageway. 28th May

Sandy Lane Bridge to Tixall Wide, Staffordshire and Worcester Canal

Because Mick is snotty and cross contamination isn’t wanted I’m trying out the sofa bed. This confused Tilly somewhat last night. First there was the excitement of me pulling out the pouffe from under the shelving. This reveals a secret passage behind the sofa. I know it’s there and quite often try to dig it out, emptying the shelves of leaflets and books, but this never works. But tonight it was there, open for me, just there!

The culprit!

What is down there? I hear you ask. Quite a few foil balls and some pens which are behaving themselves and staying on the floor, they did need rearranging though. She wanted to check that I was alright so I bobbed my head back out as everything changed again! Wow!! Which way to go next. The secret passage had become wider, more obedient pens, but the sofa had also gone flat! Both were good until the sofa folded up again, I think it may have been a touch drunk as it had fallen over. A duvet was brought out from the other side of the secret passageway and the sofa went flat again. All this excitement, but then I realised that the sofa being flat meant there was no easy access to the window above.

When the lights went out I didn’t know what to do. I normally spend most of the night keeping her toes warm and ‘hogging the duvet’. ‘How can such a little one take up half the bed?’ That bit’s easy. So Tom was on his own, leaving half the bed just for me, but he was making noises! She was on the drunk sofa, plenty of space for me, but did I trust it? Better to be safe and sleep on the cushion.

Oil Boat

Boats were coming past us early, we’d not be first to Weston Lock. When we were ready we could see in the distance a couple of boats coming towards us, both taking their time if they were moving at all, so we pulled out and headed for the lock. There a boat was just finishing going down and NB Ondina the oilboat was waiting to come up. NB Grace pulled up once out of the lock to stock up, once the transaction was done they came into the lock and rose. Mick wandered down and placed an order for 10 L of 15W/40. As soon as Ondina had risen enough the chap hopped down and delved into the front of the boat bringing out two plastic 5L bottles. The transaction was completed as the top gate opened along with the heavens.

Wonderful shape, just in need of some TLC

Behind us two boats waited to follow us down another arriving to come up. On we pootled past alpacas and old caravans. Apparently Llamas have banana shaped ears and Alpacas straight ones, you learn something new.

The sun out at Hoo Mill Lock

Hoo Mill Lock the last for today, we hoped, if our plan of drawing the crowds away to the north of the Trent and Mersey had worked. The water point at Great Haywood Junction was busy, two boats already filling. There was space on the end for us to wait, then another boat arrived and pulled alongside. As one space became available it was easier for the newly arrived boat to move up then we’d pull back when the other became free.

Which way shall we go to London?

As we filled we were joined by a hire boat and another boat waited through the bridge for their turn, all very busy. Two boats turned at the junction towards Tixall Wide, would there be enough space for all of us? How many git gaps?

Not a bad view

We turned onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal to see if our luck was in. Coming round the bend we could see boats, but there were also some spaces. The prime position is a mooring with a view of Tixall Gate House. The spaces we could see were just before this. Ahead a hire boat was plonked right in the middle of a two boat gap. The young crew said hello and then started to untie, yes! We winded and pulled in, nudging up to the boat in front.

Gate house behind the central oak

Our view isn’t quite as good as it could have been. We can see the gate house, just. If only a bit more offside pruning had been done!

Quite a big sneaky peek of the boozer

An afternoon of hunting, blowing a nose and finishing off my model. I then took a full set of photos ready to do a story board tomorrow which I’ll upload to Dropbox for everyone’s reference.

Lovely

2 locks, 4.46 miles, 1 right, 1 wind, 1 wet morning, 10 litres 15W/40, 2 Dreamies (only) a visit, 1 box of tissues nearly finished, 1 drunk sofa, 5 obedient pens, 2 pencils, 1 mooring with a view, 1 model finished.