Category Archives: Dudley No 2 Canal

Round. 21st April

Cast Iron Roving Bridge to Shirley Railway Bridge, Stratford Canal.

Looking in from the road

Before moving off today we wanted to have a look at The Roundhouse. Last year it had just opened when we were in Birmingham, but you had to be on a booked tour which were all fully booked. Now there is a visitors centre which is free and booked tours, which sadly there was only one space left, so we opted to just have a look at the visitors centre.


I’d always assumed that the Roundhouse had been to do with the canal, stabling for the horses to rest up. But it was actually the stables and stores for Birmingham Corporation’s Public Works Department. The result of a design competition the Roundhouse was built in 1874 to a horseshoe design by local architect WH Ward.

Strawberries, currants and gooseberries planted alongside the towpath

In 2013 the National Trust and Canal and River Trust got together to save the Grade 2* listed building. Monies were raised and by 2019 full scale renovation works were begun. Now the building is sectioned off for different purposes, it houses local offices for both C&RT and the National Trust, there will be a cafe and has other spaces that will be let out. It will act as a hub for walks, canoeing all sorts of activities.

Time line

It was a shame not to be able to do a tour today as the visitor centre is small and only had a couple of displays to look at. A big time line of the building fills a wall.

Then a horses stall is filled with interesting facts and sayings about horses. Did you know a horse has 100 muscles in it’s ear where as we only have three?

Multi coloured diddy people

Another room is used for exhibits, today a bit of a mix of things. A wall comparing night workers of the 1800s to todays. Then it was lamp lighters and night soil men, today take away workers and factory workers.

The building itself is a gem. The ground ramping up from the road to the rooms on the first floor whilst access is still possible through the centre of the building at canal level. The renovation has been done with a sympathetic modern touch, large windows giving views out over The Distillery and canal at the back. Next time we’re in Birmingham we’ll make sure we book tickets for a tour in advance.

Time to move on.

On our way back to Oleanna, Scorpio and Butty Leo were being brought round from the Oozells Street Loop, the crew on board showed how to handle the pair turning the steep corner without touching the sides.

Reversing up

For us it would be a reverse back to Old Turn Junction to wind and face the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. We timed this very well with one of the trip boats turning out from that way! Both skippers indicated their intentions and manoeuvres were made accordingly so both boats could be on their way. Oleanna swung round as if she knew where we wanted her to head, through Gas Street and round to the Mailbox Services.

Under Broad Street

Sadly here there was a queue for the water point, so we carried on, our need not urgent. One chap was looking for the bins by trying his key in any gate he could find, we informed him there were no bins, so he just added his rubbish to the nearest public bin, this must happen all the time.

Edgbaston Tunnel. Under the new footbridge that is being built for the University Station. Then past what we think will be a winding hole to aid access onto the restored Lapal Canal when it opens. There is a section of it in water hidden behind screens close to the new Sainsburys.

We pulled up on the new rings just through Bristol Road Bridge to do a top up shop to see us through into next week and have lunch. Then pushed of again following a 70fter through Bournville and on to King’s Norton Junction where their long length gave them problems in turning. They let us pass as we were aiming to turn left also, this would leave them with more space and less pressure to get round the bend.

Too long to turn in one

All this stretch seems to get pulled out and stretched even longer each time we do it. Those land marks you wait for get further and further apart. Thankfully the guillotine lock is where it should be and was remarkably clean of graffiti today.

A clean guillotine gate

Bluebells fill the banks of the canal, and local boaters huddle around junctions and water points. Then the house we’ve watched come back from dereliction over the years, all spruced up.

At a bend we came across a boat with it’s engine turned off, just sat off centre in the cut. We were almost about alongside when the chap started the engine up and proceeded to move off, he’d not checked behind. Mick shouted as we would have difficulty stopping now. The chap saw us and knocked the revs off, he’d just had to clear his prop.

Shirley Drawbridge

Shirley Drawbridge soon arrived. I hopped off the stern, waited for a gap in traffic then pressed the buttons. The boat now following us had pulled in, so only Oleanna to go through this busy bridge, eleven held up.

Now with more countryside about we pulled over onto some arnco, Tilly could have some shore leave in better surroundings than she’s had the last few days.

0 locks, 10.32 miles, 3 canals, 1 reverse, 2 lefts, 1 round house, 0 tours, 70ft, 1 wave goodbye, 90 minutes, 1 happier cat.

Tilly Tunnel Practice. 18th September

Coombeswood Canal Trust to Dudley Port Basin

An audience

Last night we joined the first event of the Waterways Alive! Festival which is taking place this weekend at Batchworth Lock. Since the formation of the Waterway Arts Collective this has been the first opportunity to put together an event. Events are happening live and some available on line and last night we joined a large zoom gathering to hear about how a Mikron show gets put together. Hosted by Kate Saffin, there was Marianne McNamara (Artistic Director of Mikron) and Poppy Hollman the writer of A Dog’s Tale one of their shows this summer. A very interesting hour hearing how the company works and what their plans are for next year. Sadly this year we didn’t manage to get to see either of their shows, here’s hoping we manage to be in a suitable place next year.

This is a good outside

Tilly was given an hour and a half whilst we had breakfast and then just as we joined the Geraghty zoom she came in, cabin crew went straight to the doors and closed them, just to make sure we’d be ready for departure when we’d finished chatting to the family. Topics covered today Chorley Cakes (made with shortcrust pastry, an Eccles cake is made with flaky puff pastry) and whether to have butter on them or not, The Medway and it was nice to see Sean home between tennis tournaments in the States.

A rather pleasant mooring for the night, thank you

Last few chores were done before leaving the close proximity of a water tap and recycling bins. The shop was closed today so we couldn’t leave a donation, instead we did one on line later in the day. Thank you to the trust for a very pleasant stay.

Overgrown industry on the offside

One chore that hadn’t been done, checking the weedhatch. There was almost guaranteed to be something around the prop, we’d pull in where we’d had lunch, except there were fishermen there. We’d pull in at the tunnel waiting mooring, perfect. Mick pulled quite a bit of plastic off the prop and by the time he’d finished we thought we could hear a boat in the tunnel.

Hello Aunty Gill!

This gave us time to pose for a selfie in front of Oleanna to send to Mick’s Aunty Gill. Thankfully the sun was out, the birds were cheeping, hard to imagine the amount of heavy industry, noise and soot that would have hung in the air below Stewart and Lloyds.

Chug chug chug

The Trust workboat soon appeared from the tunnel a large chunk of charred tree trunk on the bow. A few years ago a boat got stuck in the tunnel due to a log getting wedged alongside it. We wonder if the work boat goes through the tunnel once maybe twice a day to check it’s clear. Just a shame the tunnel was now full of a cloud of diesel fumes.

With diesel and water tanks both full, we now sit lower in the water, progress was slower through the tunnel. Back out the other side we had a few more moments were there was no telling Oleanna which way to go as we headed to the offside bank! Two boats headed towards us, no such problems for them.

Fourth tunnel in two days

Netherton Tunnel was empty except for a fisherman and a couple of pedestrians who were around a third of the way through. I slid open the hatch a touch to check on Tilly below. A couple of years ago she started to shout at the stern doors, not happy with the imposed darkness that a tunnel brought. Yesterday there had been two tunnels, today the same two again. How was she faring? Very well it seemed, sitting at the dinette, keeping a beady eye on me peeking down through the hatch. Yes yes I’m fine! Tunnels are nothing to worry about. I shouted because I was in need of shore based facilities that just so happened to coincide with the outside turning the lights out! I’m an experienced boat cat you know! I can cope with tunnels!!! Just as well as there’s a big one planned soon.

We popped back out into the sunlight 34 minutes later and headed back to the New Main Line. Here it was right, then another right onto the Gower Branch towards Brades Locks. About ten days ago NB Briar Rose had done the same trip, only when they reached the staircase lock there was a problem, the top chamber being completely empty.

One of the paddles between the two chambers was leaking so much that the top chamber would never fill. They ended up having to reverse all the way back to the new main line to find an alternate route. News had come through to us that the problem had been sorted and our ascent was fine.

Old Main Line again

A quick check for oncoming boats on the Wolverhampton Level before Oleanna pulled out turning right, would we ever turn left again! After about a mile we did, turning into Dudley Port Basin. So far the water on the Wolverhampton level had been quite clear, some duck weed and quite a lot of lily pads floating about. Here in the basin it seemed that the lilies had taken over, would we have problems. We chose where to moor, there are rings all the way round the basin, the stern would have quite a clear line towards the side.

It still took a bit of doing, churning up quite a lot of stinky blackness from the bottom. Hopefully the smell will dissipate quickly! With a mooring in sight of the road we could finish off our Sainsburys order for delivery in the morning.

The last leaf…..I hope!

This evening I succeeded in finishing cutting the scalloped edges of the 3588 leaves for panto whilst watching Great Canal Journeys. I now have an Ikea blue bag full of them, hope there is enough! But one disappointment for the evening was not getting to see any of the Marple flight and only one lock of the Ashton flight into Manchester on GCJ. But with a very mature novice crew on board we suspect Sheila and Giles are being saved all the hard work and the recounting of John Thaw’s early life in Manchester was far more interesting.

3 locks, 2 a staircase, 7.57 miles, 2 tunnels, 8 mysterons, 1 cool cat, 3 moving boats, 4 rights, 1 left, 1 screaming baby, 1 barking woofer, 1 big order made, 3588 leaves, 1 bag of panto ready, 1 goldfish, 1 coconut, 1 mardy cat.

The Right Left. 17th September

Sheepcote Street Bridge to Coombeswood Canal Trust, Dudley No 2

Goodbye BUMingham

An early start, well almost, slightly delayed by an incident whilst moving a bucket off our roof. All I can say is that the contents were a lot easier to clear up than those from any other type of boat toilet and as it was a secondary bucket there was no smell whatsoever.

Cloaked in cloud

Time to say goodbye to Birmingham, the tops of the buildings hiding in the morning cloud. We decided to make a slight detour on our way out of the city. Mick had once taken Lillian around the Soho Loop whilst I had been out show shopping so it was only right for Oleanna to follow the old line around the loop.

Soho Loop

The first stretch was as urban as I’d imagined, a building sight on the island and a graffiti wall alongside the towpath. Then things started to green up a touch. Then the tone of Oleanna’s engine changed. Mick tried a blast of reverse, but no this wasn’t going to get rid of what ever we’d just caught on the prop. Oleanna drifted towards the towpath, but then bumped into something under the water a couple of times, then she found herself listing on what ever it was. No chance of getting into the side now. Engine off and the propmate was put to work clearing black sacking.

We continued round missing going up to Hockley Port, after all we’d made an early start for a reason, that little jaunt can wait for another time to fill with water. As we approached Winson Green Junction a chap with white head phones walked over the bridge closely followed by an excited ginger and white cat. Dad’s home!!!! We turned back onto the Main Line and continued to head North West.

Hello Ghost! this years tag

Junctions old and not so old went past. The older ones left over from 1827 when Thomas Telford straightened out the Old Main Line reducing travel times. Lots of the loops were left to service existing factories and wharfs, others over time have been blocked off and built over.

Over flowing from above

At Smethwick Junction you can head up three locks to stay on the Old Main Line at the Wolverhampton Level or continue along the New Main Line the two canals sitting quite close together before the Old Line crosses over the New under the M5 and wanders off south westerly. Today the level on the Old Main Line must have been good, we don’t remember water cascading down what must be an overspill.

Now the canal stretches out straight ahead, Gauging stations (speed bumps) slowing passage down splitting the canal in two. Long reaching bridges span across the water and towpath. In the cuttings high up bridges tower above, one of them being platforms for Smethwick Station.

The water on board would now be hot so I left Mick to cruise the straight line and headed below for a shower. He was left with instructions to find the right left, not the left right. Navigation around the BCN can be so confusing!

A Blackberry jungle up above

I was back up top in time to make sure he made the correct turn at Dudley Port Junction down towards Netherton Tunnel. Long straddling tendrils hung over the opening of the north portal, bet there are some good blackberries above!

Despite Netherton Tunnel being 2776m long you can easily see right through. Today we could just make out the shape of a boat ahead of us, the first moving boat we’d seen. It took us half an hour to reach day light at the other end. Our second moving boat came into view now, just making the turn left at Windmill End, the way we were going.

A boat!

The Dudley No 2 can be shallow in parts, some bridge holes awkward as your boat becomes unresponsive to the tiller. We followed NB Jasper at a reasonable distance, were they heading this way for the same reason as us? Or do they moor down here?

Toll Man Was Ere

Luke Perry’s informative sculptures keep you amused, my favourites are the Toll Man spraying his mark on his dilapidated office and keep your eyes open for coots about the place on walls and in bridge holes.

Two boats!

When we reached Gosty Hill Tunnel the boat we’d followed through Netherton were mooring up alongside the busy road and the boat that was directly in front of us was now gradually making progress through the tight fitting tunnel. We pulled up still in day light our bow just about inside the portal and waited. Not being able to see the stern of the boat in front we wanted to give them plenty of space, so we waited a good five minutes to make sure they were well on their way.


Gosty Hill Tunnel starts off reasonably high, but then there is a big step down in the roof. This is why we’d taken the bucket off the roof and the top off the chimney, however there was still plenty of inches above the grabrails and horns.

Time to duck

Out on the far side we pulled up just before the Coombeswood Canal Trust permanent moorings for some lunch. This would hopefully give the boat ahead time to fill with diesel or get back on their mooring. However NB Mr Bojangles came past, soon followed by another boat. Only one boat came back past us, so all we could assume was that the others were returning to their moorings.

A tight turn that many have missed

We pootled up and turned through the tight bridge, a couple of moored boats sticking out across our path, but Mick expertly got past them. NB Mr Bojangles was on the diesel point but we were invited to pull alongside. They were making full use of the facilities before returning back to their mooring in the morning. They lent us heir hose so we could fill with water and the diesel was easy, but emptying our yellow water would be a touch problematic breasted up.

The very helpful lady from the basin suggested we could pull up on a vacant mooring just outside the basin to pump into our container and then use the elsan. Then as Mick paid for the diesel she asked if we’d like to stay the night on the mooring too.

To encourage boaters to use the canal down to Hawne Basin the trust not only has the cheapest diesel on the network (currently 65p a litre) but if they have space available you can moor there for free for a week, any longer then it’s £4 a night.

What’s down here?

We pulled back out of the basin and pulled as far in onto the available mooring as we could, the lady coming to help us. A very friendly reception and somewhere suitable to let Tilly out.

What’s under here?

Rules were read then the front door was left open for her to come and go. She went this way then that, then checked over the bridge. This outside is SO much better than the last two! Can we keep this one?

Just going over there

0 locks, 12.17 miles, 6 straights, 2 lefts, 3 rights, 2 tunnels, 8 mysterons, 3 moving boats, 6 herons, 118 litres, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 1 free mooring, 3 hours, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Facing Fear. 15th September

Cast Iron Roving Bridge to other side of Sheepcote Street Bridge

There are peoples names that stay with you through your life, some for good reasons, some for bad. One such (bad) name for me is Jeff Farrow, he has affected my life from an early age right up to today and most probably beyond. Then there is Colin Pocock, I met him February last year and spent quite a bit of time in his company. Our reason for coming to Birmingham was for me to see him again, the pandemic and all that has happened in the last 18 months has meant putting off a visit. But 18 months is far better than the 30 plus years before. Today it was time to visit Colin again, my (good) dentist.

Can we have a new outside please!

Today was for a check up and I came away with a pat on the back from Colin, a new toothbrush head and an appointment for tomorrow morning to see a hygienist. We’d allowed a week in our schedule should appointments be hard to get or more be required.

Wonder If I could get that ball?

Back at Oleanna our 2 day mooring was up, we would need another day. Last year we’d asked C&RT for permission to allow us to be in the area for longer than normally permitted for me to see Colin. We’d chatted with the local enforcement officer, she checked our cruising record and had no problem, today this wouldn’t be needed. We looked around and spotted a 14 day mooring just through Sheepcote Street Bridge.

Not such a popular outside for Tilly

Tilly had somewhere new to explore, a little bit noisy as the balconies on the flats we are moored below are having some work done to them. The sideways trees are not as neat as through on the other side of the bridge, but maybe this made them more interesting to her.

Undercoat on

With the sun showing it’s face I got the undercoat out from a bow locker, gave it a very good mix, sanded back any excess primer and then gave the bits on the grab rail a coat. That’s the next layer of protection on. Top coat next and I may actually use the tin of wrong red for this and save the proper red for when I do the full length of the boat next year.

Can I come with you?

There was still an amount of afternoon that needed using. Maybe a look around the recently opened Roundhouse opposite. They are doing guided tours, but none were available today as they are only available on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays currently.

Tram tracks

Instead I decided to head off for a walk and to see how the city centre has progressed in the last 18 months. I walked around the houses a little bit until I got to Broad Street. Here the tram tracks are still going in towards Five Ways, but back towards the canal the road is open again.


In front of The Rep the mirror pool looked stunning today with the sunshine, not quite all the buildings are complete yet around the area, so a few cranes feature in my photo.

The Rep is surrounded by hoardings. The theatre is getting a facelift with a new front of house area and cafe. I’d been so transfixed with the reflections in the pool and what shows were going to be at The Rep that I completely forgot to turn round to see what the Symphony Hall looked like. Last year the front of the building was being demolished, hope it’s weather proof now!

Modern reflections of historical buildings

I then walked past the Hall of Memory, over Paradise Circus which is now open to traffic and towards the Museum and Art Gallery. New buildings shine and show off the stonework, domes and spires of the old, a rather pleasing vista.

Forward Together

Besides the Town Hall and Museum is a new Luke Perry sculpture. Luke’s works are all around the BCN. The Dudley no 2 sports a fine collection, at Titford Pools the Rock Driller works at the top of a ladder, a very tall man fishes near Walsall Wood. Today I got to see his latest sculpture Forward Together, A Diversity Monument that will be on display until Christmas then moved to Colmore Square until August next year.

The sculpture is a reimagining of the city’s crest being raised by a line of 25 figures, all of whom are local extraordinary everyday people.  From those that suffered domestic abuse, to cancer, to disabilities, violence and bloodshed (Holocaust), to simple acceptance in society, to racism, to mental health. The monument visibly represents the cities multi-coloured multicultural society. Quotes from Benjamin Zephaniah are embossed on the crest, “No one is here without a struggle” and “We all came here from somewhere”.

Five of the twenty five

This evening we have treated ourselves to an Indian take away from Amir’s a short distance away on St Vincent Street. I chose some dishes we’ve never come across before, Lamb chops Shatkora Bhuna being our favourite, a traditional Bangladeshi dish. As ever we ordered too much food, so we’ll be having the left overs tomorrow night with homemade gluten free nan bread. Yum.

0 locks, 0.36 miles, 15 minutes, 1 pat on the back, 14 day mooring for 1 more day, 7 patches of undercoat, 1 sunny afternoon, 1 new sculpture, 25 locals, 2 onion bhajees, 1 chicken dish, 1 lamb chop dish , 1 sag aloo, 2 pilau rice, 3 free popadoms, 1 still unimpressed cat.

2020 A Long And Winding Year.

Get yourself a cuppa and put your feet up, this is a long post.

Into BUMingham

Having seen New Year in on the North Stratford Canal we commenced the new year by cruising in to Birmingham or as Tilly would have it know, BUMingham, she’s not too keen!

What a stripy world!

A meeting with Amy from Dark Horse Theatre Company about a project in the summer set out our years cruising as I’d need to be in Huddersfield then York for the show. Then it was time to pack and get myself ready for ten days in Vienna. This would be the longest I’ve been away from boat life since we set out in 2014. Half of my clothes were packed up along with a basic scene painting kit and I jetted off to what was a mixed experience. Despite the problems I had a wonderful time working with a great team in the theatre, I hope one day to return.

Whilst I marvelled at the wonderful scenes in Vienna and pulled my hair out at work, trying to keep a calm exterior, Mick and Tilly headed back out into the countryside towards Tardebigge on the Worcester and Birmingham. Here they met up with a friend Chris who was planning a boat build.


Mick and Tilly came back into Birmingham to pick me up and then we set about exploring the BCN. There is plenty to explore and we didn’t quite manage to go everywhere, but we did our best.

Smethwick Locks

We headed up Smethwick New Locks onto the Old Main line. Stopped at Dudley Port Basin, coconuts accompanied us down Brades Staircase, then through Netherton Tunnel where we’d planned on visiting Hawne Basin, but thick ice thwarted our first attempt. The following day we succeeded and had a bumpy ride along the Dudley No 2 to fill our diesel tank.

Emma and Ted

Factory Locks brought us back onto the Old Main Line, we visited Wolverhampton, turned onto the Wyrley and Essington Canal and wiggled our way through the rubbish to Pelsall Junction. Here we had a wonderful get together with my bestestest friend and her son Ted (my Godson) who were over from Sydney, an all but too short lunch with them before they headed onwards on their whistlestop tour of England.

The Cannock Extension and Anglesey Branch were ticked off followed by the Daw End Branch, The Rushall Canal, Tame Valley Canal and up the Ryders Green Locks back into the centre of BUMingham early February.

The Jewellery Quarter kept us busy with visits to Smith and Pepper a time warp jewellery manufacturers, The Back to Backs, The Coffin Works. We watched the film 1917.

The Garden white card scale model

I designed costumes and made the white card model for The Garden for Dark Horse whilst we sat out storm Ciara which was to wipe out the Figure of Three Locks on the Calder Hebble. The damage to the locks looked great and not fixable quickly, a rethink to our cruising route was needed for me to get to work in the summer.

We went to the Symphony Hall and listened to Schubert and Berg spurred on by Dimitrios from NB Galene. Storm Dennis kept us from cruising to our next evening of entertainment at Titford Pump House, a bus replacement did the job so that we could see Alarum Theatre Company’s Acts of Abandonment. Little did we know at the time that this was to be our last live theatre until December.

A night out in the countryside for Tilly and a last night in the city to fill our bellies with curry. Then we were off again, up Smethwick Locks under the M5 where the scaffolding was being taken down. We turned up the Oldbury Locks following a boat that turned out to be NB Sola Gratia. A spin round the Titford Pools was in order before we returned for another diesel top up at Hawne Basin.

The Walsall Canal now beckoned us, that was a bumpy ride over trolleys, trees and all sorts! A fantastic fabric shop, the New Art Gallery right by our mooring and The Leather Museum kept our interest for a couple of days before we climbed up the Walsall Locks back up to Wyrley and Essington Canal.

The garden at Urban Moorings

The ladies at Urban Moorings welcomed us for an overnight visit, time to work the washing machine hard as we plugged into the electric. Then we kept our fingers crossed for a mooring at The Black Country Museum, which thankfully worked.

Marion and John came to meet us for an afternoon at the museum and we all enjoyed fish and chips with plenty of salt and vinegar in between visiting shops and watching chain links being made. The following day we took a boat trip into the Dudley Tunnel, had a second visit to the museum along with a portion of chips before heading out to moor in Tipton and have a visit from Heather from NB Bleasdale, followed by a pie at Mad O’Roukes Pie Factory.

The 7th of March saw us descend the Wolverhampton 21, leaving the Birmingham plateau behind us. Blimey we managed to pack a lot into the first ten weeks of the year! Just as well really. Onto the Shroppie where I had my first successes with gluten free sour dough bread, Tilly got to remember life in the countryside and we were treated to Shroppie Sunsets again.

Burgers with the Margees

The recent storms had brought down numerous trees and caused landslips so our progress was a touch slow heading northwards. We had a lovely lunch with Alison and Laura the Margees at Norbury Junction, they were to be our last visitors on board Oleanna for quite sometime.

Passing NB Bessie Surtees on the Tyrley Locks we actually got chance to chat for the first time. A stop to stock up in Market Drayton, we saw our first homemade mask (a pair of y fronts repurposed) and the start of empty shelves in supermarkets with people gleeful to have a twelve pack of toilet roll under their coat.

The Audlem flight was busy with plenty going down and NB Mountbatten coming up, delivering coal as they went. Theatres closed that day and we started to put into practice new ways of working locks hoping to keep ourselves safe. As we socially distanced around the shops in Nantwich people were joking about the virus. We shopped, adapting what we bought to what was available and then got ready for our first Zoom with family on the 21st March.

We stocked up with NB Halsall at Calverley then made our way onto the Middlewich Branch and down Cholmondeston Lock. The following morning (23rd March) we listened to our gut instincts. If lockdown was to happen we’d rather not have to negotiate locks to get to shops or services, so we winded and headed back up Cholmondeston Lock onto the Nantwich pound. Our gut instinct was correct.

Adam and Adrian on NB Briar Rose

The next few days we saw plenty of boats moving, finding places they wanted to spend the coming weeks, heading for home or temporary ones like NB Briar Rose. Jac my sister in law eventually managed to get a flight back from Melbourne where she’d been to celebrate her Mum’s birthday, at last everyone was where they should be.

We tried different moorings out for size as the need to fill with water or get shopping arose. It was also good to keep Tilly moving, both to stop her from getting bored and to help the local wildlife survive.

Our decision to be on the Nantwich pound turned out to be a good one, we ended up mooring at the bottom of Hurleston on the visitor moorings most, this became ‘Home’ for us where we watched spring turn into summer.

Watching the field behind the hedge be ploughed, planted and start to grow. Listening to the Lapwings enjoying the bounty in the potato fields. Getting to know our neighbours at a distance. The wheelie shoppers. The huskies out for their morning walk. The egg farm at the top of the locks. Weekly veg boxes from Nantwich Veg Boxes which we collected for ourselves and NB AreandAre. Supermarket deliveries were sought each week, sometimes only managing click and collect. The sun shone and Tilly had freedom. The coal boats kept us stocked up with fuel and our waterless (composting) toilet took one need to move out of the equation.

By mid-April my design for The Garden had been reimagined into an illustrated audio play. I was to do the illustrations, then they would have audio and some animation added to be available online. Chippy panto started to gear up with the hope that all would be back to normal-ish by the end of November for the show to be mounted.

We winded, went for walks, watched plays on the internet, winded, ate cheese scones, winded again! Tilly ventured further afield, across her field. We had barbeques, brownies and watched the reservoir banks get mown by remote control.

By Mid-May we were allowed to travel, so we hired a car for a day trip to Scarborough to see how our house was after the tenants had lost it during lockdown. In need of some tlc we now made plans for the rest of the year. We would be returning to life on land for a while, but planned on cruising as much as we could before then.

On the 23rd of May the suspension of the 14 day rule was lifted, our ‘home’ mooring was now 48 hours only so it was time to start moving again. Some boats around Hurleston headed off straight away, others remained a full 14 days before pushing off. We spent the next two weeks pootling to the far ends of the pound, Hack Green and Calvereley, the gunnels got a repaint and we said farewell to NB AreandAre who were heading up onto the Llangollen.

Cholmondeston Lock

With a full boat of veg and fruit from Nantwich Veg boxes, a Sainsburys shop and a visit from NB Halsall we were ready and on the 10th June we pushed our ‘home’ mooring away for the last time this year, Calverely was visited for a top up of water a toilet refresh and then we were off, turning onto the Middlewich Branch and descending Cholmondeston Lock, our first lock in 80 days. New gardening gloves became my boaters PPE and worked well, better than sanitising every five minutes.

Across onto the Trent and Mersey where we headed for Bramble Cuttings for a couple of nights. We’d been hoping to be able to drop down onto the Weaver but the Anderton Boat lift was still closed. So instead we winded at Whatcroft flash and headed up the Cheshire Locks hoping to catch Bosley Locks being open for a day to make our way onto the summit pound of the Macclesfield.

Nice Lock

It was nice being back on familiar ground again, although it took a little while to be able to do the Trent and Mersey hurdles over the lockgate beams with ease after sitting still for so long.

Our chairs were brought out onto the towpath to watch the setting sun at Tilly Railings and a barbeque was enjoyed on the Dane Aqueduct as we waited in line for Bosley Locks to open.

Bosley Locks and The Cloud in the background

With a single hander in front and one behind everyone helped out where we could making our passage up the locks a very jolly if hot one that only took 2.5 hours. Over the next ten days or so we pootled our way along the Macclesfield Canal, such a lovely stretch of water and oh those bridges! Still our favourites.

Calling in at Bollington Wharf we had our gas locker lid mended and had a top up of diesel. Foxgloves filled the canal banks and woods, we stopped at favourite spots along the way turning under the snake bridge at Marple onto the Peak Forest Canal at the end of June, heading for Whaley Bridge and Bugsworth Basin.

Saturday 4th July the pubs could re-open, we however went for a walk and waited for our delivery from Sainsburys along with a diesel top up from NB Alton. A batch of cheese scones were made to help us down the Marple flight on the 7th, we were the second boat down and it felt like we were pioneering boats going where no one had gone for months.

A couple of nights at Droylesden Marina saw to the washing pile and to recharge our batteries before we descended into Manchester. Our last narrow lock of the year was to be Ancotes Bottom Lock 1 on the Ashton Flight where we paused for a night at Telford Basin before tackling the Rochdale 9 on our own the following day. Patience and sheer determination got us out of Lock 92 at the bottom and was rewarded with a cheese scone as we made our way out to the Bridgewater Canal and Worsely.

The 14th July saw us rising up the Wigan Flight. We’d made arrangements to share the locks with NB Billy but it was decided by the volunteer lock keepers that they might be over long to share with, so instead we teamed up with John and Lindsey on NB Merganser. With the help of the Wigan Flight crew setting ahead we made good time up the flight, we then slowed down leaving the others to head off ahead of us.

The next few days we found ourselves leapfrogging NB Billy, or should that be hopfrogging? But we finally caught them up at Blackburn to share the locks. Another spectacular sunset was enjoyed by all near Foster Swing Bridge.

We’d planned to take our time along this stretch, but with local lockdowns looking possible in the area we decided to push on. The Burnley Embankment was busy with walkers and not a place to stop so we continued on to the bottom of Barrowford Locks. The following day we were caught up again by NB Billy so we shared the final flight up to the summit with Clare and Pete.

Our sixth anniversary of being fulltime boaters happened to coincide with pulling up at our favourite mooring on the network, the curley wurlys above Bank Newton. The following day the clouds lifted and we got to see the view. A barbecue was just managed before it started to rain.

It wasn’t quite plain sailing down into Skipton as the skipper of NB Amelie ended up in the cut at the bottom of Bank Newton and then we had problems with lock gates and swing bridges. Mick and I had an overnight in Scarborough leaving Tilly in charge and with the magic food bowl primed. On our return to Skipton we were met by two octogenarians leaning out of the upstairs windows of their house waving. We joined Margaret and Robert for a lovely meal, good to see them even if we were a bit nervy being in their company inside.

Sunny weather accompanied us onwards and finally I managed to take the photo I’ve been after for four years, Oleanna coming towards me under Parson’s Bridge. Now we have the matching pair, Lillian going away from us, Oleanna towards.

At Bingley five rise we teamed up with NB Barley to descend with the help of Lock Keeper Clare, carrying on to Saltaire in the sunshine.

A pause in Rodley meant we could meet up with friends Graham and Tracy in their new garden room, very nice to have a good catch up with them. The following day we took the opportunity to have lunch with my cousins Julie and John, our first pub in months.

Meeting up with Jenny and Andy on NB Barley again we shared the locks down into Leeds with them early the next day. A lack of water meant it took an hour to do one pound as water was let down from above, but we made it in the end to Granary Wharf. Shame the lack of water followed us, in fact the basin did a good job of emptying itself overnight. It took quite a few hours before boats had enough water to be afloat again, we all made a hasty exit as soon as we could.

Back into the big locks of the Aire and Calder we motored on to Ferrybridge where now only three of the power station cooling towers remain, a very sad sight.

Down Bank Dole Lock, the slow filler and we headed to Selby. Our trip up the Tidal Ouse was an interesting one a there were SO many trees floating about, we had to try our best to loose them before passing through what few bridges there were. Kingfishers escorted us just about all the way to Naburn which was a real treat. Instead of pulling up in York we decided to head on up to Ripon, we’d spend time in York on our way back, or so we thought!

Above Boroughbridge a familiar boat came into view, NB Billy. This was the last time our bows would cross this year. At Oxclose Lock we had some time for Tilly to explore before heading up into Ripon Basin to meet up with Robert and Margaret again and for Tilly to show off her ability to spot otters.

I’d get it in the neck if I didn’t include a photo!

On our way downstream the river was rising, we stopped off for a meal at The Dawney Arms making the most of the Eat out to Help out deal. Wonderful food and chance to meet up with Kerry the Landlady and hoped that the river level would ease overnight. Fortunately it did and we made our way in to York. We had hoped to meet up with old friends whilst we were in the area, it turned out the only people I got to see where Jaye and Duncan for lunch. Social distancing, rising rivers sadly put paid to seeing other people.

Over the next ten days the river rose twice. On one fall we made it back into York to pick up a supermarket delivery but very quickly headed back to Naburn where we ended up breasting up in a line of four boats tied to the floating pontoon by the water point. Levels didn’t rise so much as to necessitate wellies or waders, but it did put paid to the London Leckenbys joining us for a few days at the nearby campsite. A big disappointment all round.

But on the 31st August levels had dropped sufficiently for us to head back to Selby accompanied by Richard and Heather on NB Isabella, new boat owners. Naburn was their very first lock, Selby was to be their second! It was such a beautiful morning, we led the way but then let them go first when we reached Selby, we were likely to be able to stem the tide better, but they managed the lock with ease.

Lovely to see Bridget and Storm

At West Haddelsey we had a visit from Bridget and Storm, so lovely to see them. We’d planned on being good and sitting out, they’d even brought their own chairs and the camper van for their own toilet. But as it started to rain we bent the rules taking shelter inside Oleanna. This was the day I gave a second phone to the god of the cut.

For a replacement we headed down to Goole, calling in at Viking Marina to check we would have a mooring later in the month. After filling up with cheap diesel we then headed off up toward Doncaster and Sprotbrough where we caught up with Mick’s niece Fran, before returning back onto the Aire and Calder to do maintenance jobs and enjoy our last days onboard.

On the 18th September we pulled into our berth at the marina, finished off the contents of the freezer and started to pack. Two trips in a hire car to Scarborough and we were moved, Tilly joining us the second time.

Back then we imagined we’d be down to Oleanna doing jobs on day trips and by now we’d have had a couple of weeks out on the cut, but this simply wasn’t to be.

Living Room reclaimed

Jobs in the house keep me busy, along with starting work on the postponed Chippy panto. Mick for a while applied for supermarket jobs, hoping to be a delivery driver. The only job he was offered was as a meet and greeter just before Novembers lockdown. We both decided that maybe we’d cope without the money.

Not as low as she got after the breach

Then before Christmas came the news of the Aire and Calder breach. Fortunately plenty of people are keeping an eye on all the boats including Oleanna.

Blimey what a year!

So our vital statistics for the year 2020 according to canal plan are

Total distance is 792 miles, 2 ½ furlong and 339 locks . There are 82 moveable bridges of which 5 are usually left open; 233 small aqueducts or underbridges and 41 tunnels – a total of 19 miles 6 ¾ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.

This is made up of 365 miles, ¼ furlongs of narrow canals; 242 miles, 4 ¾ furlongs of broad canals; 81 miles, 3 ¾ furlongs of commercial waterways; 76 miles, 1 ¾ furlongs of small rivers; 0 miles of large rivers; 27 miles of tidal rivers; 202 narrow locks; 118 broad locks; 18 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.

Sadly with Oleanna’s log book where it should be, onboard, I’m not able to offer up the engine hours, litres of diesel, gas bottle or bags of coal. This year I can’t even work out how many boxes of wine we’ve gone through!

However I can tell you that from one page of journeys on our trip computer, missing out all the journeys in between the start of the page and the end, the total distance travelled would have been 2.25 furlongs. Instead it actually amounted to 56 miles 7.5 furlongs with 19 winds (turning around). This was of course in Lockdown 1. Grand total number of winds this year, 67.

Christmas Day 2020, Scarborough Spa

Here’s hoping that the pandemic calms down, we all get vaccinated and the breach on the Aire and Calder gets sorted so that we can go boating again. After all we didn’t plan to move back on land permanently!

Not a bad view