Category Archives: Coventry Canal

2022 Back To Exploring

Time for the annual round, a long post so sit back, put your feet up and enjoy.

The New Year kicked off with winter maintenance in the house. Having two hallways proved time consuming refreshing the woodwork and patching up the worst of the wallpaper. But this was broken up with weekly walks to see the sea. I resumed work on the development showing of #unit21 for Dark Horse and a Christmas present of a cheese making kit proved very tasty in creating my first ever Yorkshire Curd Cheese Cake from scratch. I plan on having a second go at this soon!

In February work progressed in Huddersfield towards opening night, the floor painted, final costume fittings and then the set and lighting added. All while Mick serviced our life jackets and Tilly grew more and more bored of life in the house.

Once the show was opened we had a trip down to London to catch up with the London Leckenbys for a belated Christmas, on our way back we visited Oleanna. When ever we could we visited Blue Water Marina to do jobs and have a pack up lunch. The stove was reblacked, walls washed down and cupboards sorted through.

Then at the end of February, Mick and I left Tilly in charge of the house, we packed enough clothes and food for a couple of days boating and headed to Thorne to move Oleanna through Thorne Lock before a winter stoppage began. Blimey it was chilly out there, but wonderful to be back afloat and moving Oleanna to Goole. Now we were all set to move back onboard and have a few weeks of pootling about in Yorkshire.

Back at the house we made it ready for the first of this years lodgers. Our boat Christmas tree was retired into the back garden where we hoped it would thrive, this of course was before we knew a drought was on it’s way! Tilly said goodbye to the dragon that lives up the chimney, left Seville and Valencia to look after the house before having to endure the car trip back to boat life.

After a few days sorting ourselves, including having one of Joan’s gluten free Chinese takeaways, we unplugged Oleanna and backed out from our mooring at Goole Marina (Boat House). We spent the next three weeks bobbing about between Pollington Lock, Doncaster and Goole. Maintenance jobs were ticked off the list.

Alistair did engine and weedhatch jobs, Frank joined us a couple of times to do carpentry jobs, our galley drawers no longer have a life of their own, the covers had a good scrub and a spray of Wet and Forget to help them keep clean.

In March I’d set myself a charity challenge, to knit as many pairs of socks in the month as I could. Nine pairs knitted for people in return for sponsorship, I also got a very generous donation of yarn from Lisa on NB Summer Wind.

Our plans had had to change as Thorne Lock still hadn’t closed, but was about to! Plans to visit York and West Yorkshire were abandoned, we’d bought ourselves a Gold Licence for the year so wanted to make the most of it. So on March 24th with all the jobs done we turned our backs on Goole and set off into the sunset to see where 2022 would take us, all three of us grinning from ear to ear.

We made our way to Keadby ready for our booked passage on the tidal River Trent, the fast route south. A phone call from a boating friend in need of support meant we’d be doing our best to make use of the spring tide to reach Cromwell in one go despite the weather forecast. We spent a couple of days doing what we could to help in Newark before we needed to be on the move again.

On upstream to The Trent and Mersey keeping up our cruising hours and Tilly hoping we’d stop with enough time for her to explore each day before cat curfew.

Up to Fradley then onto the Coventry Canal, we played leapfrog with NB Free Spirit for a couple of days.

Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, up the Curdworth Flight then a turn left onto a section of the Grand Union we’d not been on before at Star City. Up Garrison Locks, Typhoo Basin and then the Ashted Locks where we now have the measure of that Tunnel! A mooring space at the top of Farmers Bridge had our name on it. This was handy for a road trip to swap lodgers and for visits to the dentist. It also meant we were in shot when a group came to jump the top lock!

Fast forward to 6:15

Our route out of Bumingham saw us through Edgbaston Tunnel, down Lapworth followed by Hatton. A pause was needed for Tilly’s annual visit to a new vet, the one here the closest to the canal we’ve visited so far, also handy for The Cape of Good Hope!

At Napton we joined the Oxford Canal and headed for Braunston, pausing to stock up on goodies from the butcher. On the Grand Union we made our way up over the hill and started our descent down The Long Buckby flight back towards tidal waters.

On the 1st of May we turned left at Gayton Junction onto the Northampton Arm dropping down the flight to the River Nene. We’d only been this way once before and that was when we’d just bought Lillian (NB Lillyanne) back in 2014. We bought ourselves a second Abloy key, showed our Gold Licence to the chap at Northampton Marina and started our journey down stream, time to explore.

A decision was made to head down to Peterborough taking note of places we’d want to visit on our return journey. We worked our way through the guillotine locks, many button operated and others with the wheel of cardiovascular overload.

Tilly loved many of the moorings apart from those in Peterborough where crowds surrounded the boat and meant returning from shore leave was impossible for several hours.

In two weeks we reached the end of the river at the Dog in a Doublet Lock. Here the river becomes tidal, we’d save that trip for another time and turned back upstream to head for the Middle Level.

Here we wanted to explore all the drainage channels, but decided we’d do that on our return too. So we took the direct route and crossed the low lying waters in three days arriving at Salters Lode on Mick’s birthday. The levels out on the tidal stretch of the Great Ouse needing to be just right to get through the lock, turn and head upstream to Denver Sluice.

A lovely GOBA mooring was found on the River Wissey and eventually the sun came out for a birthday barbeque, we’d made it to the Great Ouse.

The remainder of May was spent exploring the River Wissey, Ely and The Little Ouse. Brandon Lock sits at the most easterly point on the connected navigable network for boats Oleanna’s size. Sadly a build up of silt stopped us from getting her bow into the lock, but we did get her as far east as was possible, ticking off the fourth point of the compass.

There was a trip to Hull Truck to meet old friends at a gala evening followed by a meet up with Micks family back in the Fens. At the end of the month we got to know Neil the seal at Ten Mile Bank moorings as he basked in the sun and took sunset dips in the river.

The Jubilee was seen in at Denver, we lit our guiding lights as a Lancaster Bomber flew overhead heading to see the Queen. The Relief Channel gave us a good mooring to be able to have a trip away to celebrate Dawn and Lee’s 50th Birthdays in Scarborough, we went as Wallace and Gromit and won an Oscar!

Another visit to Ely to see the Cathedral, Farmers market and meet up with Heather from NB Bleasdale, the first of many this summer. The River Lark was explored, the end of navigation reached with a handy mooring outside a pub.

We headed for the Cam, our paths crossing for the first time with Ken and Sue from NB Cleddau. Then onwards in to Cambridge where we visited colleges, ate chilled medication and had a day trip to Duxford so that Mick could sit in the pilots seat of a Trident 2, a seat his Dad had sat in on many a flight.

Oleanna squeezed along each of the three Lodes, Wicken, Burwell and Reach. Wicken Lode a magical place and a day visit to Anglesey Abbey with it’s wonderful gardens.

Then we headed onto the Old West a river with a very different feel than the Ely Ouse. A pause was needed when we reached Earith for us to have a tour of Heathers new to her boat GT. Once off the tidal water we were on a different Great Ouse again. Here St Ives, St Neots and Hemingford gave us sunsets, D shaped locks, huge meadows and wonderful towns and villages to explore.

As the temperatures started to rise I needed to do some work. Cruising happened in the mornings, my Panto script and sketches were done in the shade of what trees we could find. White sheets were bought and we hoped for a mooring with shade for the really hot days that were to come. Tilly took to lying on the floor and we took to wearing wet t-shirts to help us to keep cool. Thankfully the hot blast only lasted a couple of days then the temperature dropped and we could continue to head upstream.

July 21st we reached the navigable limit of the River Great Ouse, having to reverse some distance to be able to turn round and return to Bedford for the River Festival.

Here we met up with Ken and Sue, Jennie and Chris from NB Tentatrice and Heather again. Plenty of things to see, do and hear. The boat parades, raft races, vintage cars, all sorts kept us busy for the two days.

Now at the end of July we alternated the days between cruising and my work. More beautiful days cruising and more wonderful sunsets, one day off to visit Cambridge for some more chilled medication and to see the Hockney exhibition.

August saw more hot days. Trips to London to celebrate birthdays, panto meetings, catch up with best friends and travellers over from Australia.

On the 15th August we crossed back from Denver Sluice to the Middle Level having really enjoyed our three months on the Great Ouse. Now water levels were a worry along with having enough time to reach Oxford for me to go to work in October. We made the decision to come back and explore the Middle Level another year, maybe we’ll cross The Wash to get there!

By the end of August our progress up stream on the River Nene slowed to a halt. First one lock broke then another two ahead of us. We’d recently been accepted to join the Reflections Flotilla on the Thames to mark the Queens Jubilee in a few weeks time, now that time was ticking away.

When we did get moving again we had to make up our cruising hours. With the news of the passing of the Queen we didn’t know if the flotilla would still be going ahead, we carried on at pace waiting for news. Back up the River Nene, turning onto the Grand Union, working our way southwards. The news came through that the flotilla would go ahead, but now in remembrance of the Queen.

With a couple of days to spare we squeezed into the Eco-Moorings by Islington Tunnel. Two days of catching up with family and more friends over from Australia before we joined boats heading along the Regents Canal towards Limehouse Basin. An afternoon of activity saw numerous narrowboats festooned with white lights.

On the 24th of September the Thames barrier was closed and we all headed out of Limehouse Lock up stream to Chelsea where we clung onto buoys until the early evening when the flotilla started to muster.

Getting on for 150 boats all displaying white lights got into formation and headed down stream. Crowds stood on the illuminated bridges and Tower Bridge opened up in a royal salute as we passed underneath. What a truly amazing day.

Now we had to head towards Banbury, back round the Regents Canal as a leak in the engine bay needed testing on the calm waters of the canal rather than the tideway. By the time we reached Brentford we were confident with Oleanna’s engine again. On the Thames Tilly got a birthday present of a night on a Cliveden Island. Sadly we got an unexpected present on our arrival in Oxford, a second red line on a covid test! Panto painting couldn’t be put off so we made our way gradually up the Oxford Canal keeping our distance from people at locks and taking maximum doses of paracetamol.

A week of painting in Banbury before I moved to Chipping Norton to stack up the hours over the next four weeks getting the 50th anniversary panto ready. Rendez Vousing with Oleanna at weekends in Banbury and Coventry kept me sane. Mick had to single hand across the summit of the Oxford Canal to avoid the first of the winter stoppages.

All three of us were back onboard by mid November, covid free and vaccinated. We took things slowly now, time to rest up, meet friends, gather family and pootle towards Christmas. Our 20th Anniversary was celebrated with a Chinese takeaway at Alvecote Marina, a planned stop which ended up being extended due to plummeting temperatures. The canal froze, there’d be no moving the outside for Tilly!

Temperatures lifted dramatically and the ice just about vanished in a couple of days, we could now be on our way to Christmas. Alrewas was a good place to spend the festive days, a very good butchers and a village with lots of character and humour.

Bookings in the New Year had been made for passage on the tidal River Trent for us to reach Yorkshire, but this would not be. The Trent had risen before Christmas, Cranfleet Flood Gates were shut ahead of us, so no New Year at Hazelford Lock. Instead our alternator played up and we sought out a mooring to hook up to and see in 2023.

This year we’d been wanting to explore again. This year we cruised miles of new water, made new friends, got too hot, got iced in, got stuck, got to be in the first illuminated flotilla on the Thames for 300 years. What a great year it has been.

So our vital statistics for 2022 according to Canalplan are

Total distance is 1249 miles, 6½ furlong and 555 locks . There were 88 moveable bridges of which 29 are usually left open; 156 small aqueducts or underbridges and 18 tunnels,  a total of 7 miles 2 ¼ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.

This was made up of 227 miles, 1 1/2 furlongs of narrow canals; 363 miles, 2 furlongs of broad canals; 85 miles, 5 furlongs of commercial waterways; 269 miles, 1 furlong of small rivers; 234 miles, 7 1/4 furlongs of large rivers; 69 miles, 6 furlongs of tidal rivers; 176 narrow locks; 232 broad locks; 54 large locks; 2 locks on major waterways.

731.7 engine hours

1156.1 litres diesel, 5 (although we’ve got 1 empty now) gas bottles (used for central heating as well as cooking), 28.5 litres oil, 3 oil filters, 1 fuel filter, 2 air filters, 1 water pump, 2 new belts, 690kg coal, 1 overnight guest twice, 6 packs Dreamies (not enough!), 56 friends, a record breaking 41 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval (4 in one day!), 15 pairs socks, 2 shows designed, 9 lodgers, 2 lots gluten free puff pastry, 9 supermarket deliveries, 30 boxes of wine delivered, 2 lost unicorns.

Thank you all for joining us on our journey. Wonder where we’ll get to in 2023?

Christmas On A Bike. 21st, 22nd December

Sutton Road Bridge to King’s Orchard Marina, Coventry Canal to Common Lock 14, Trent and Mersey Canal

Christmas on a bike

Mick headed off with the bike this morning to see if he could find some engine oil no luck. But he did return with one of the B&Q Christmas Trees, possibly the smallest one they had. This morning they had been reduced again to £3! Bargain. It stands at about the same height our old tree had grown to, but has been potted in a very haphazard way. The old tree had one side that was angled in line with Oleanna’s tumblehome (angle of the cabin sides), the new tree has only one face that looks straight, any movement to one side and it has quite a lean. If it copes with life onboard, when it gets repotted I’ll try to straighten it up. But then I don’t want to encourage it to grow too much otherwise it won’t fit inside next year and may have to be retired after one festive season!

All this meant we had a later start than planned, but at least we now had Christmas on board with us. Time to pootle along the long pound towards Fradley.

Our usual mooring

Very few boats were in Hopwas. We passed where we normally stop, I’m sure Tilly was looking longingly out of the window at all the trees, but stopping here wouldn’t get us to our Christmas bird in time. A lady passed by on her horse. We were surprised to see a boat moored along the length opposite the danger zone. Here a wide concrete edge tends to put most people off mooring, maybe it was intentional. But this boat had taken it’s ropes a good three foot in on the towpath to find somewhere to hammer into.

Sunny day

The clouds cleared and we soon had blue skies, lovely if a touch chilly. Fields are newly ploughed and sewn, some with shoots of a few inches high, obviously enjoying the wet weather.

One of my favourites

Approaching Whittington I waited for the weathervane of the Grey Fergie. It has to be one of my favourites and today I got to see how much detail there is on it.

Our turn to go through

Just before the bend under Whittington Bridge there is a tree half way across the cut. This of course is where we met a boat coming the opposite way, Mick had just enough time to slam on the breaks to let the other boat through. Phew!

Huddlesford Junction

Past the Lichfield Canal the sun making the house at the junction look so picturesque. Behind it soon appeared the works for HS2. Red piledriver, Yellow piledriver, not the same as lorries but just as hard to say.

We don’t remember the huge pile of earth that must have been here a while opposite Kings Orchard Marina, it must be more to do with HS2. We pulled in just after the marina entrance and as soon as our ropes were tied I was inside reciting the shore leave rules to Tilly. She didn’t listen or care. JUST OPEN THE DOOR!!!!!

Hurry UP!!!

Sadly within two minutes of her paws touching the towpath a chap and his dog came from under the bridge and Tilly was straight back inside the boat. Then a walker too! So not fare! Tilly was good, came and went a few times and was back on board cleaning between her toes a little before 4pm, cat curfew.

It was too late to start putting the Christmas lights on the outside of Oleanna, well that’s the excuse Mick used. However there was plenty of time to bake the Lebkuchen and decorate the Christmas tree.

The Christmas hamper was released from the top shelf of a cupboard. Lights and baubles and silver ribbon hung and wrapped round. A star popped on the top of the tree, Lebkuchen iced. As soon a they were deemed dry enough it was time for a cuppa and biscuit. Christmas has just about arrived on Oleanna.

0 locks, WE 6.63 miles, Pip Nebo 6.6 miles, Mick Nebo 6.6 miles, 1 sad gits Christmas tree, 0 ice, 2 hours! 1 happy cat, 1 disgruntled cat, 250ml evostick,1st tidal stretch booked, 15 biscuits, 2ft decorated.

Thursday 22nd.

A grey drab day compared to yesterday. Padded trousers and layers with the top one being waterproof. We pootled our way towards Fradley Junction.

Signs on the towpath suggested there was work going on. Then two sections of fencing lay on the ground suggesting that the towpath had been closed. This was where there had been a closure recently due to a leaking culvert under the canal. The off side field had a muddy track through it and where the leak had been there was even more mud and a new manhole cover on each side of the cut. A couple of chaps were busy putting in new fencing along the towpath.


A short distance further on a group of chaps stood around one of those small tractor hedge cutters with big huge tyres, suitable for most terrain. Well apart from terrain that had recently been dredged to use as back filling behind some new wooden piling. The tractor had sunk on one side up to it’s belly. To get it out the chaps were digging the back filling out and dropping it back into the canal. Wonder how long it took them to get it out?

Not the last of the ginger today

Now should we stop for water before the junction or after? The tap at the services is extremely slow, the one before not so, but it is a longer walk away from the bins. As we approached the swing bridge was being opened by some paddle boarders, they left it open for us, so we carried on to the junction.

Fradley Junction

I stepped off, leaving Mick to close the gate and walked up to set Junction Lock. No queues, no boat coming from the next lock up. Mick pulled Oleanna in, a handy post box had caught his eye right by the lock landing, the last Christmas card popped in the post. Then Oleanna dropped down in the lock to the services.

Going down

Water, bins, shore based facilities, Santas, Christmas suits, present hunts, onion slicing and frying, bread chopping, plenty of time to get things sorted as the water tank filled.

Mick and I swapped over. Below Keepers Lock a boat was coming into the next lock, Mick waited to empty our lock until they were filling theirs. Our lock emptied quicker than theirs filled and they took their time exiting the lock, pulling in to the landing. Below a moored boat had come adrift and needed pulling back in before we emptied our lock. Mick headed down with the other crew to see what they could do.


The bow rope was still attached, the centre line passed to Mick and then the stern line, the boat pulled in. The mooring pins were thankfully still attached to the ropes (handy those loops on some pins) and somehow they were pushed back into the ground. We don’t think they’ll hold for long.

We dropped down Hunts Lock, our intention had been to do Common Lock too and moor up in the next pound for the night, but the lock landing had a boat length of armco before it, so we pulled in to make use of it rather than cling on with spikes below.

Bit damp his outside

1pm, 3 hours shore leave for Tilly. Pastry rolled out, filling mixed together (I don’t like the new sausage skins Sainsburys are using, they’re like jelly!), rolls rolled and cut to length, then baked. Warm sausage rolls for lunch, yum.

Whilst Mick attached our Christmas lights, I did secret things inside and Tilly made the most of the friendly cover and sideways trees. She also made the most of having very wet paws to trample all over the boat when she came in! Why can’t cat’s learn to wipe their feet! Because they have PAWS!!!

No photo today of the finished lights, I’ll try to get one tomorrow.

3 locks, WE 4.16 miles, Pip Nebo 3.1 miles (operator error), Mick’s Nebo 4.2 miles, 1 swing bridge swung, 3 paddle boarders. 1 all terrain vehicle stuck in the terrain, 1 canal being filled up, 1 water tank full, 8 sausage rolls, 2 more tidal bookings, 1 long line of lights, 5 presents wrapped, episode 2 of season 2 Happy Valley.

Ice! What Ic…. Ooh! 20th December

‘Avecoat Marina to Sutton Road Bridge, Birmingham and Fazeley Canal

Alarm set just in case we slept in. Breakfasted, water tank filling and rubbish disposed of as the first boat came past on the canal heading towards Tamworth. This boat, a short while later returned and pulled in on the towpath opposite us.

Smiles all round this morning

Just before we rolled back the covers the chugging of an engine started up, NB Capricorn was about to reverse out from it’s mooring. There she went, no problem, no ice. None what-so-ever. Covers rolled up and ready for our departure I tapped on NB Mr Blue Sky’s roof to wish John a Happy Christmas. He then stayed to watch our departure, which thankfully went well.

Reversing out and turning there was just enough room. Then the steep right to the entrance and left to the service area on the towpath. NB Capricorn was moored up chatting away, they pulled forward having topped up their tank. Time to fill ours and pay for our extra days in the marina. We’d originally planned to stay for ten nights and ended up staying seventeen. Out of those the marina was frozen for twelve nights.

Hello Harnser somewhere over there

We could have carried on to top up the diesel elsewhere where it may have been cheaper, but we didn’t want any detours today, there was shopping to do. As Mick headed off to pay a lady arrived to see how big the queue was, she’d pulled in some distance away and was wanting a top up and coal. We chatted away, it turns out we may be neighbours for Christmas as our destination is the same. Sandy has only been living afloat for 14 weeks, the last ten days iced in at Polesworth. Her journey so far today had involved some pretty thick ice. As we pulled out she ran back to get her boat, we think she was next in line.

Capricorn topping up

The plan had been to follow NB Capricorn along the canal as they were heading the same direction as us, but they seemed settled for a while and we wanted to be off. I pushed the bow out and off we set, free from all the ice. What ice! It was as if there had never been any.


Okay, so in sheltered places we came across cat ice that crackled itself out of our way, someone had already been through it. Past the house where they must hoover the lawn. Past the end of garden mooring where we got to know the owners when Tilly was a very new boat cat and had to have her vaccinations. No boat here today. The supermarket trolley that Mick had seen on the ice a few days ago was now visible on the bottom of the canal. Thankfully it was to one side so not a problem for us. If we’d tried to pull it out it would only end up back in the canal and most probably in a worse position for passing boats.

A Lock!

Glascote top lock came into view, no boats on the Co-op moorings. I decided to work the locks, hoping my leg was recovered enough. I filled the top lock, walked down to lift a paddle on the bottom lock so it could fill as we emptied the top lock. Paddles lifted lock emptied, gates opened, then closed, yep my leg still had a problem, more evident when pushing and pulling gates. I walked down opened the bottom lock where Mick and I swapped roles.

Glascote Top Lock

Just as I brought Oleanna out of the bottom lock I could see the bow of a boat coming round the bend and under the bridge ahead, we could leave the gates open.


More patches of ice gradually getting that bit thicker. Large sheets of it, the surface melted in places creating an undulating surface. A few boats were moored near the Tame Aqueduct, here the ice was the thickest, maybe about an inch, someone else had already broken it up. We slowed right down, a boat coming towards us, the ice chinking against the armco and moored boats.

A sea of ice

At Fazely Junction we headed right to Fradley and the North. Two boats sat at the water point filling up their tanks. From here on it felt like we were the first boat through. Thankfully what ice we came across wasn’t too thick, but it did sound like we were surrounded by a primary school assembly every child with some rudimentary percussion instrument.

Fazeley Junction

We counted the bridges to where we hoped to moor, there was space. Tilly was very very excited. Trees!!! Sideways trees!! Friendly cover!!!!!!!!!! But things needed to be done which would mean we’d be out for the afternoon, so no shore leave. Boring b***********!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Another day added to the eighteen she’d already endured without stepping off the boat wouldn’t hurt.

Looking back

Lunch, NB Capricorn came past and then Sandy pulled up behind us. At least we now knew someone else would be breaking the ice ahead of us.

Time to tick off the last Christmas shopping and things for work. First B&Q who had some possible small Christmas trees, reduced to half price. Still twice as much as I paid seven years ago in Newark, but the trees were twice the size. Asda had some very dinky trees, not worth the effort. The tree purchase could wait for tomorrow.

One of those might do!

I walked to the furthest shop I wanted to visit, M&S. Then crossed over the queues of traffic to Hobby Craft. Here I had a long list of things to buy for work. Some things needed rethinking due to what was available, a £1 canvas bag and stuffing would go together to make a pregnancy bump. Could I make chip cartons from sheets of A4 card? Would the 4 sheets of A1 foam cor fit in an Ikea blue bag to aid carrying them back to the boat. Sadly no!

It appeared as if the population of the Midlands had all decided to come out in their cars to sit in traffic jams to go slowly round the round abouts in the retail park. So many people and so few ways to walk from place to place with streams, fences, walls in the way. I nearly got run over walking the wrong way through the McDonalds drive through, did you know they are open 7am to 11am on Christmas Day!

Ow much!!!!

Mick had popped to Sainsburys. I visited Pets at home, successfully buying Tilly a present for Christmas. Then we made our way back to Oleanna in the dark, the fairy lights on her wreath guiding us home. Finding places to stow things on board is getting quite hard.

That way please

2 locks, WE 4.45miles, Pip’s Nebo 4.9 miles (including walking between locks), Mick’s Nebo 4.5 miles, 1 ice free marina, 66 litres, 7 extra nights, 0 to 1 inch ice, 1 new Christmas friend, £600 not £5,000, A1 things, 250grams stuffing, A4 card, 6 secret things, 2 boxes wine, 10 litres litter, 7+gravy food, 2 boaters and 1 boat cat free again!

Last Of The Ginger. 19th December

‘Avecoat Marina

Cracked water

The view out the back was very different this morning, water! Water everywhere! But it was still on top of a layer of ice! Would we be able to move today? Maybe, but the wind picked up quickly, making any manoeuvring in ice even harder. We’d be waiting another day.

We’re quite used to seeing steam rising from the canal early in the morning during warmer months. Today it was as if someone had put Dried Ice into the canal. Smoke/steam rolled off the top of the ice, blown about in the wind. I tried to take a photo but it just didn’t come out.

Still icy in the middle

Cracks in the ice could be seen, along with sticks sitting on the surface. As the day progressed, with the wind heading straight for us we would get these almighty crunching, grinding noises down the sides of the boat.

What’s going on!!!???!!!

Oleanna was being pushed towards Victoria by the wind and the ice between us was breaking up. Tilly really did not like this! Some thing was Grrrrrrring outside my boat!!!

A sitting stick

Things were found to wash, the drawer emptied. Lists for shopping were written out. If we can get a mooring near the retail park I’ve a lot to pick up for work and then some present shopping.

A batch of gf puff pastry was started. Dough ingredients mixed together and butter bashed flat before going back into the fridge to rest. Six roll fold and turns followed each after an hour in the fridge, the last turn being just before 10pm. We shall have sausage rolls!

Then maple syrup, treacle and butter were melted. Flour, spices including the very last of my homemade ground ginger from two years ago were mixed together to form a sticky dough. That’s a batch of Lebkuchen sat waiting in the fridge to be cut out and baked. The boat smells sooo Christmasy when I make these.

Activity came from across the way on NB Capricorn. A car was being unloaded their chimney smoked. Then later on the engine was started up. Were they going to make an attempt to leave the marina tonight? No just turning the engine over checking things.

More ice got blown into Oleanna, was this all breaking up or just grinding it’s way along to fill the gap between boats? Nothing could be seen in the dark or prodded with a boat hook. It was breaking up.

The start of our decorations

As I’d been hanging our wreath on the cratch in the afternoon someone walked past saying how yesterday the ice had been at least two three inches thick by their boat. They were astonished that now it was only half an inch, no trouble pushing through that.

Neon prop

Tomorrow we’ll do our best to be up early. There are chores to be done, then we will hopefully head for freedom!

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 wreath hung, 2 steel cable ties, 1 very noisy day, 1 windy day, 1 big batch of puff pastry, 1 batch of Lebkuchen at the ready, 2 boaters at the ready, 1 neon green bunny leg.

Solid. 16th & 17th December

‘Avecoat Marina

It’s been going to happen, inevitable really with -6 or -7C overnight. Oleanna this morning was frozen in solid. No sea legs required on board this morning. The sliding galley window above the cooker is also frozen shut and the condensation on our bedroom window in the morning is solid! Oh for double glazed windows and thermal break frames! But where does all the moisture in the air go to in such situations? It’s still there. Does it just find another cold surface to condensate on? Like in the back of cupboards, under the gunnels? I think I’d rather see it and mop it up than discover damp clothing.


The weather forecast for next week is looking like there should be a thaw, but how long will it take? The only boats trying to move at the moment are the coal boats, and a few odd bods. NB Bargus one of the coal boats on the four counties ring had been forging on until today when 3.5inch thick ice stopped Jason’s progress. NB Mountbatten on the Llangollen, managed 50 yards before the ice was too thick, so Richard ended up reversing back to his mooring, another attempt to move will be made tomorrow.

All the groups are full of discussions about breaking ice. Back in the day there were special icebreaking boats with extra pointy bows to help cut through the ice. Some boats had rigs that the crew could hang onto as they rocked the boat from side to side cracking the ice.

Footage of our next door neighbour breaking ice was come across thanks to a link from Brian on CWF. I wonder if they’d be willing to have a few turns around the marina on Monday to break everything up for us.

A tap on the roof mid afternoon turned out to be a chap from across the way. He had our new water pump! Mick very quickly fitted it and water pressure was restored. It’s noisier than the last good one, but we can cope with that.

Wonder if it’ll give us turbo power?

Mick tried leaving our ash pan next to the water tap, he also poured hot water over it. No joy, still frozen. He then walked up and down trying taps and found one still with a flow a bit further along. Time to fill the tank. The immersion heater was turned on and later on in the day I enjoyed my first shower since London. Oh it’s good to have clean hair again.

Ooo water again!

Later on in the day Oleanna broke free from the ice and was bobbing about again as we moved around inside. Fingers crossed it keeps thawing.

Frost caught by the sun

Saturday, both of us were wanting to head back into town to the Ventura Retail Park to do more shopping. However getting there was proving so complicated. Two buses each way, or a longish walk at both ends of one bus. Buses only every two hours made it hard either to have sufficient time to do shopping or to be back on board for a festive zoom. Looking at the maps we decided we’d do our best to pull in once past Fazeley Junction, then we could walk to the retail park. Here’s hoping we manage to get moving with enough time to conclude our Christmas shopping!

We’ll be following that blue boat

Mick popped over to the office to pay for the new water pump. Word is that at least two boats are hoping to be able to escape on Tuesday. NB Capricorn being one of them is moored further into the marina than us. Hopefully they will do the job of breaking what ice there is, if they manage to escape we will be close behind them.

Cuddling coal

Our coal, delivery arrived just before lunchtime. 10 bags of unknown smokeless coal. Here’s hoping it’s good as our roof and well deck are now filled with it.

Across the road from the marina we’d spotted some ruins when we arrived. I headed over with the garden sheers hoping of finding some ivy to make a wreath.

Alvecote Priory

Alvecote Priory was founded in 1159 by William Burdett who on returning from a crusade stabbed his wife as he’d believed she’d been unfaithful, the monastery was founded for his penance. The ruins that can be seen today are from a house which was built using the stone from the Benedictine Priory. A large arch stands at one end and hidden nearer the canal is quite a substantial Dovecote which would have been two storeys and been able to house 350 birds.

Big arch and me

The trees and bushes around the area provided me with three differing types of ivy and some old seed heads were also picked. The seed heads are quite fragile, but if they survive they will add a bit of interest to my wreath.

The iron came out and was used to add patches of felt to a 40 year old duvet that is currently adding insulation to us over night. Sadly the fabric is starting to give up and leave feathers everywhere. If I can keep it going for a while longer before I sew it into another cover, that will be good.

Fuzzy felt duvet

Mick headed to try to find a parcel and send another on it’s way. There is plenty of stuff that’s been thrown onto the ice of the canal, including a supermarket trolley under Bridge 70. If it’s still evident when we reach the bridge we’ll have a go at hoiking it out.

The surface of the canal is now showing signs of a thaw, puddles appearing on top of the ice. The tap by our mooring was back working, so a top up of the tank was soon followed by plenty of clothes going through the washing machine.

Grumpy chops

A catch up festive zoom with the Scarborough chums was had with festive hats, mince pies and lots of cheer. Good to see those who could make it and sending festive to cheer to those who were battling with snow to be with family or plumbers.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 new pump, 1 boat frozen solid, 2 pottering days, 2 awol parcels, 1 on it’s way, 10 bags coal, 1 boat starting to free up, 2 loads washing, 6 chums, 1 bag of ivyness.

Clouds and puddles

I Keep Tropical Fish. Or, Is That You Brian? 15th December

‘Avecoat Marina

Morning cuddles

Cabin fever must be starting to set in. As we lay in bed with our morning cuppa today we could see the outline of John our neighbour moving about next door. In unison we both said ‘Ullo John! Gotta New Motor?

The ice creaked and groaned as we moved about, it’s just about touching the sides of Oleanna now. For those who’ve never experienced being on a boat when the canal is frozen, movements can ping and twang for quite some distance. We wondered if Brian had just stepped on board NB Harnser on the other side of the marina.

Definitely cabin fever setting in!

Tilly’s pooh box got a refresh, one less reason for her to complain. The facebook groups today were full of tales where cats are being kept in. One cat a few years ago fell through the ice and had to be rescued by it’s owner as it desperately tried to find a route back up for air. Thankfully both the owner and cat survived the ordeal.

Icy still

Keeping water usage to a minimum is now required as the tap today is frozen. Mick tried pouring boiling water over it as had someone else, with no luck of defrosting it. I’d rather like a shower, but that can wait a few more days. Anyhow we’re still working with the slow water pump.

With temperatures due to reverse (up into double figures) at the beginning of next week we are hopeful that we may be able to get back out onto the cut. It all depends on how long it takes for the ice to melt in the marina. If someone was to try ice breaking that would aid the melt, but we don’t fancy being the first!

Solid canal

Years ago we had a week on our shareboat NB Winding Down when she’d been iced in at Aqueduct Marina. A group of people did their best one day to move a boat to the slipway, breaking ice in front and to the side of the boat, having to give up as they couldn’t turn it towards the exit. However the following day with temperatures that little bit higher the marina was just about ice free and an orderly queue formed to use the pumpout! The next morning it was frozen again.

Mick had a walk to Tescos along the towpath to post Christmas and buy more stamps whilst I rolled out pastry to make mince pies.

These might be nice, but Tom doesn’t like peaches!

This time I rolled it out thicker and built the edges up a touch higher than those I’d made a couple of weeks ago. Jennie had given me a handy tip of adding a strip of greaseproof to help lift them out once baked, I gave this a go too. Blind baked, then I made the frangipane topping. This was adjusted using smaller eggs and caster sugar with a bit of light muscovado, hoping they’d be slightly less treacly. Everything was put together and popped in to bake. The frangipane still melted, but not as much as last time. Maybe on my next batch I’ll try adding a bit of self raising flour to make the mixture a little bit stiffer. But that’s not likely to be this year, so I’ll have to remember.

Once baked they sat in the tin, smelling very good, for ten minutes. Jennies handy hint had worked very well, a knife was only needed to loosen the frangipane top that had splurged onto the top of the tin, the others came out like a dream! Thank you.


A cuppa was made and quality control tasting. Very nice, very nice in deed. Even Tilly thought they were pretty good, lip smackingly good!

I’d have preferred the chicken though!

The chicken carcus was put on the stove to make some stock, then all the meat was pulled off the bones whilst I cooked some onions and carrots. Everything was popped back in the pot and back on the stove. A mushroom, some tarragon and greens, when it was just about done I tried out some Zenb Agile pasta. This is a bit like Orzo in that you can add it to stews and it will cook in the sauce. It took only a couple of minutes and was very tasty. I’ll be using that again.

0 locks, 0 miles, 4th Jan a possibility, 0 tap, 1 slow pump, 1 neighbour with fish in his underpants, 40 Christmas cards in the post, 12 mince pies, 1 feline assistant, 3466 pieces of Agile, 1 chickeny pasta stew.

The Big Shop. 13th December

‘Avecoat Marina

A phone call just before 9:30am, Sainsburys. Mick quickly put on his shoes and coat and headed to the car park, they were early. He and the delivery chap arrived with five crates of goodies for us. These were all put in bags and carried onto Oleanna. The fridge and veg bag both put out the back under the pram cover, well it’s as cold out there as in the fridge! The stowing of everything could wait for later as it would take time and we were wanting to head into town.

Wine delivery

Mick headed across to the marina office on the other side of the canal. We’d originally booked in until today. We didn’t think they’d have a problem with us staying a few more days! Mick was told to settle up when we eventually leave. Bags of coal were ordered for delivery to Oleanna on Friday and a 24volt water pump would be ordered for us.

Front doors wrapped up for Christmas

It’s a fifteen/twenty minute walk to the bus stop from the marina and with a bus only every two hours we really didn’t want to miss it. Over £11 return for the two of us, not quite as expensive as a taxi both ways, but far chillier!

We’ve not really explored Tamworth before, it’s set just that little bit too far away from the canal. There are many big smart buildings about the place. Today we’d come to do some Christmas shopping and hoping to find a small tree as it was market day.

Green grocer with wreaths

Town seemed to be buzzing, maybe due to the market. No suitable tree to be found, only those six inches high sprayed with white stuff, not recommended if you have a cat. Mission Christmas tree failed. Mick and I went our separate ways to do secret things.

The usual cheap shops, Wilko, Home Bargains and numerous charity shops, but nothing to inspire Christmas shopping proper. I picked up things to plug present gaps but sadly didn’t find any nice independent shops.

A great tool and hardware shop

It turns out that the Peel family had a lot to do with Tamworth. Robert ‘Parsley’ Peel moved here from Lancashire where his textile mills had been damaged in riots, he set up mills in Burton on Trent around 1790. His son, Sir Robert Peel, established cotton mills in Tamworth, one inside the castle. Textiles became Tamworth’s main industry, Peel established several banks and moved into Drayton Manor, he became the areas member of Parliament from 1790 to 1820.

His son also Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet is the one we’ve all heard of. He served as the towns member of Parliament from 1830 to 1850 becoming Prime Minister in 1834-35 and 1841-1846. In 1834 he unveiled his Tamworth Manifesto which created the modern Conservative Party. Whilst serving as Home Secretary he helped create the modern concept of the Police Force. A statue stands in front of Tamworth Town Hall.

Sir Robert Peel and a pig

In amongst the flower bed stands a pig wearing a policeman’s helmet. Tamworth pigs are also famous. The breed of ginger pigs also known as Sandy Backs or Tams, are a vulnerable breed in the UK with only 300 registered breeding females. But this is not why they are famous. Back in 1998 two pigs being taken for slaughter in Malmsbury escaped, squeezing through a fence and swimming across the River Avon. They became known as Butch and Sundance as the media followed them during their week of freedom before recapture. The Daily Mail paid for them and their upkeep until they reached old age, 13 and 14. This explains why there is a pub called the Crafty Two whos logo is of two pigs.

Just what was needed

After a couple of hours I was in need of a sit down and something to eat, so Mick and I reconvened at Cosy, a cafe that seemed to be popular. Thankfully they had an upstairs and jacket potatoes on the menu. Collections of 70’s Spanish paintings, telephones and typewriters adorned the walls as we tucked into our lunch.

We’d maybe have explored a little bit more but the next bus back was due to leave shortly. Back on the same chilly bus we hopped off early in Amington. Here a shop was looking after two deliveries of yoga mats for me. The man really didn’t understand that the parcels would be quite big on matter how many times I told him. But he got there in the end!

An Ikea bag of yoga mats

Outside we summoned a cab via an app and were soon on our way back to the marina.

The Sainsburys shopping still needed stowing which meant finally getting to put away my paint brush bag under the back steps, well the wine cellar was about to be filled right up! Stocks of mince and sausages were repacked to take up less room in the freezer. A large chicken was jointed and bagged up for four meals, the carcus left in the fridge to make a stewy something in the next few days. The larder drawers were reorganised and an amazing amount added to them. Considering we’d had five crates arrive in the morning you could hardly tell where it had all gone to. This should last us a fair few weeks and we’ll only need milk and fresh veg to keep us going till the new year.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 marina well and truly frozen, 5 crates, 6 boxes wine, 6 bottles wine, 25% off couldn’t be missed! 2 chickens, 3 lots of sausages, 500g mince, 2 bags potatoes, 6 wraps not 4, 2 buses, 2 pigs, 0 Christmas trees, 2 jackets, 2 mugs tea, 5 bright green yoga mats, 100g neon green wool.

Petering Out At Watford, 12th December

‘Avecoat Marina

Mick headed off before breakfast to Bethnal Green to see if he could get his parcel, it wasn’t there. Because he’d requested it to be forwarded to a different post office he then made his way over to Homerton. It wasn’t there either. It must have been on it’s way, a suggestion that it might arrive by midday was made, he came back to the house for some breakfast and to discus what to do.

One of us needed to head back to the boat today no matter what. Rail strikes tomorrow. There are only two compartments in the magic food bowl, so Tilly would be getting hungry. The other reason was that neither of us had turned off the stop cock from the water tank. The boat was being kept warm by the electric central heating (we hoped), so no worry about frozen pipes. However as a matter of routine in cold weather, we’d put the shower head into the shower tray and left all the taps open, with the water pump off. This is good practice should anything freeze. However, the shower head was now lower than the level of water in the tank, therefore a syphon effect would be happening, gradually emptying the water tank with the aid of gravity! If both of us loitered for another couple of hours would it make much difference? We decided to risk it.

A tracking notice came through, Mick’s parcel had arrived. Time to say farewell to the Leckenbys and a big thank you for hosting the get together yesterday. Andrew gave us a lift to the post office and then on to a bus stop.

New departure boards at Euston

At Euston several trains were cancelled, ours thankfully was just late, but everyone seemed to be waiting for it! We got a seat and enjoyed the ride back northwards through the snowy landscape, every canal we saw frozen. It seemed like the north south divide at Watford was being adhered to by the weather, as soon as we’d passed the junction the snow covering petered out. By Milton Keynes only small patches of frost were visible.


Tamworth station was easy today as we arrived at the platform by the entrance. Another Acorn Taxi back to the marina. Here the haw frost we’d seen when we left had shrunk. There were reports of some snow, but it hadn’t hung around for us. Tilly greeted us shouting at the front door.

About bloomin time! I was starting to look for the next flipping lid to open! And I was getting wet toes when going for a drink!

First job, check the shower. About an inch of water sat in the tray, it maybe could have lasted another day before it spilled over onto the bathroom floor. All taps were turned off, shower head put back up where it belongs and the water pump turned back on.

To the top of the tray, but not as high as the enclosure

Next the central heating was given a boost, the stove fire was laid and lit. Soon Oleanna was warming back up.

The water pump was making a bit of a funny noise, had been for a couple of days. Mick opened up the front step to see water. Maybe the pump had got cold and when warmed up it decided to leak, or maybe it had been leaking for a while. The nappy it sat on was soaked and couldn’t hold anymore.

I had to wash my feet to get a drink!

Mick pulled out the other water pumps we have, ones bought cheaply last year, known to possibly have a fault. The one with the tick on the side was plumbed in. Noisy but it pumped water, a good outcome. Even so a new water pump will be required, a job for tomorrow.

0 locks, 0 miles, 3 visits to post offices, 0 presents arrived for the Leckenbys, 1 big bag to take home, 1 bus, 1 train, 1 taxi, 1 not as frosty Tamworth, 1 shouty cat, 1inch away from the top, 1 stove, 1 pan of emergency tuna pasta, 1 shopping order checked over.

Supermodels. 10th December

‘Avecoat Marina

Oleanna’s frosty nose

With Tilly left staring into the corner of the boat, ‘in charge’, we headed off with overnight bags to meet a taxi which took us to Tamworth Station. Today we’d not be heading northwards but south to London. For this we needed the platform opposite the entrance. Getting there you really need to read the signs, as just getting the lift up to the higher platform doesn’t actually work! You need to take the second lift, hidden round the corner under the viaduct to be on the right side of the higher tracks to then be able to take another lift down to the correct platform. Tamworth Station may be handy for access to different parts of the country, it however is quite confusing.

Jahn Court

We were lucky to get seats as the train very quickly filled right up. An hour and a half later we arrived into Euston. A 30 bus took us the short distance to Kings Cross where we alighted and walked round the corner onto York Way. We were looking for a recessed courtyard at Jahn Court and the Supermodel exhibition.

Glowing next door

Architects Piercy & Company have put together an exhibition of architectural models based on buildings they have designed, some built, some not. All the models have a life given to them, some with sound, all with light and several with moving elements.

Awaiting a new life

They were made over a period of five years between projects. Jahn Court building is part of Endurance Land’s ten-year plan to revitalise the Regent Quarter to the east of Kings Cross. The building is currently in a stripped out state awaiting redevelopment and gives an interesting background to the exhibition.

Each model had either a motion sensor or a button to press which would set things in motion. Projected people moving about staircases and landings. How passing daylight affects a building, revealing different things as the day progresses including a giant balloon dog.

A camera on a track through and around a model, the footage projected onto a screen close by. A choir singing as light directs your eye around a modern church.


By far the best was Two Villas. Two Georgian villas open up like a cantilevered metal tool box to display the rooms inside.

This was closely followed by Steel House. This was the first model of the collection, it is modeled on a steel framed house that had to be craned onto its site. The buildings slide or rise upwards, a bird flies over the roof, a puff of smoke comes from the chimney. Apparently there was an aroma of cinnamon, but we didn’t notice it.

Footage of the models being made and the rather nice benches to sit on.

A very good way to spend an hour, thank you Heather Bleasdale for sending me the link to the Ian Visits article about it.

Falling off the bone

Back on the 30 bus and out to Hackney and the London Leckenby’s where a warm welcome awaited us. Plenty to catch up on as we tucked into a wonderful beef stew. Josh headed out to meet some friends to watch the England game whilst Mick, Jac and Andrew settled in the living room to also watch.

Meanwhile I busied myself in the kitchen, blitzing digestive biscuits, beating cream cheese and sugar together, melting chocolate and grating the zest off oranges. I managed to occupy myself for just about all of the match aided by my assistant Finn. By the time we’d had another glass or two of wine, pudding for tomorrow was baked and cooling on a rack.

Finn who comments all the time as you cook

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 very frosty Tamworth, 1 taxi, 3 lifts, 1 train, 30 bus twice, 8 models, 1 beef stew, 1 chocolate orange baked cheesecake, many glasses of wine.

‘In Charge’ 10th December

Avacoat Marina

In Charge!

They were busy busy busy again this morning, even though they pretended not to be! Tom did the yellow water and She put things in bags. Tom topped up the water and chatted to Next Boat Tom. Apparently because Oleanna is plugged into the water post that is why it is keeping on flowing, Next Boat Tom is pleased about this, Oleanna is keeping the water post from freezing.

But I’m always in charge!

I was relieved when the magic food bowl came out, that meant I wouldn’t have to go anywhere fast. But it did mean that they were leaving me ‘in charge‘. Now the ‘in charge’ bit is okay, I don’t mind that, I’m always ‘in charge‘. It’s the being on my own and being ‘in charge‘ that I’m not too keen on. No-one to hear me shouting at the back doors, no-one to sit on in front of the stove, no-one to cuddle up to in bed at night and most importantly no-one to play fishing rod with at bedtime!

It was time to sulk!

Two pouches of food in the magic food bowl!!!! Double sulk time!!

NO choice of toys today, She said I still had the good ones out from last time they went away. Triple sulk time!!! Then She put all the cables away, so no surfing the internet! Quadruple sulk time!!!! One for each paw!!!!!

Tom put so much black stuff on the stove, that should keep it warm for ages and ages. But then it was closed right down. ‘Right for night.’ It might last ages and ages and ages but it wouldn’t be Full Body Stretch Out Cat Warm! Tom said that when the black stuff ran out then the central heating would come on. But that wouldn’t come on until it was Round Cat Chilly! Think I might need to make use of the extra duvet on the bed.

Two flavours though!

Then there were head nudges, I turned round for those. She said it would only be for a couple of big sleeps. Well that would be no time at all as that is all I’m doing here in ‘Avecoat Marina, sleeping! They stepped outside, leaving me inside. Closed the door, made the rattly noise. Then stepped off Oleanna leaving her to get surrounded by more and more ice!

Ice all around now

Time to shut myself down for a while and hope they are back before I run out of dingding.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 pouches of food, 2 compartments closed, 1 black stuffed stove, 2 big sleeps, or 58 big sleeps? 1 cat home alone, 1 cat in charge.