Category Archives: Environment Agency

2023 A Sociable Year

A long post, it’s the annual round up.

January, we sat waiting. Waiting for a new alternator to arrive, for the River Trent to come out of flood and then for the canal to defrost sufficiently for us move. This meant Pip doing work on the boat instead of in the house, this made for smelly days and a very cold workshop under the pram cover.

After almost three weeks we were on the move again having to navigate through thick fog, navigational aids helping us not to bump into the banks! Ahead of us in Yorkshire was a troublesome swing bridge, closed to boat traffic. Our plans had to change, we arranged to moor up in Newark and head back to Scarborough by van. Chin rubs nearly made the longer journey better, but I really don’t like the outside moving SO fast!

Four days later we were back on board, the bridge ahead was now open. Tides were checked, locks booked, cupboards stocked for a few days cruising. Winter cruising can be so so pretty, yet so so chilly. A display by the Red Arrows as we left Torksey kept us amused and a defrost was very welcome when we arrived at Keadby. After four days cruising we were moored up in Goole and walking to catch the train back to Scarborough.

#unit21 in Huddersfield kept Pip occupied for much of February. Then it was time to give the house some TLC in between lodgers. A back bedroom got a makeover just in time. Mick had trips to see Oleanna, a jobs list left with Alastair and the covers headed off for some much needed mending. Tilly was kept busy checking out the neighbours, they stay inside so I get free reign of their outside!

April arrived along with two lodgers, it was not possible to do more work on the house, Pip chose to knit socks instead. Dementia UK her chosen charity this year. Donations of yarn came from dyers and Pip’s needles started to click away, keeping up with requests. 15 pairs knitted and her target met.

May, visits were made to Oleanna preparing her for cruising, these were interspersed with visits from family, delivering socks, getting the house ready and starting work on the design for panto. On the 9th of May we loaded a van and returned to life afloat. Tilly the happiest cat once she was back onboard! A day later we set off heading west. Leeds for a few days for Pip to head to Matlock for work and then a wonderful visit to see 93 year old Betty in Harrogate.

Working our way up the Leeds Liverpool Canal, locks and the new stupid swing bridge much lighter work with two boats. Our favourite canal with wonders of the waterways, friends on route, Mick’s birthday and a trip to Bowness to see the latest Ayckbourn play. We managed a night on our favourite mooring on the network sadly it was too windy to enjoy the view with a barbecue.

Up over the top, we teamed up with NB That’s It, thankfully descending the Wigan flight in a window between vandalism and blown cills that have hampered the flight this year. Then along the Bridgewater Canal, panto designing whilst on the flat. Through Preston Brook Tunnel and onto the Trent and Mersey turning right onto the Middlewich Branch.

Back on lockdown ‘Home’ waters we cruised the Nantwich pound, 5 hours 13 minutes including a lunch and shopping stop, back in 2020 we’d spent 80 days here. We cruised southwards on the Shropie joined for a day by Carol and George from WB Still Rockin’. Laura and Alison from NB Large Marge joined us for the ascent up the Wolverhampton 21.

Through Bumingham and on to Lapworth and then Hatton where we had an extra pair of hands from Jane, who hopefully now has her own narrowboat. A well deserved burger at the Cape of Good Hope with Emma and David, then a lovely evening with Lizzie (NB Panda) at The Folly, it was turning out to be quite a sociable June.

Oleanna wiggled her way across the summit of the South Oxford, very familiar water to us. Despite the sunny weather and us cruising most days our batteries were not happy, turning themselves off overnight! Diagnosis was required, we pulled into Cropredy Marina to plug in and run tests. One of our three batteries was dead, bad enough but thankfully nothing more. Once a panto meeting had been attended we could move on, except there was an emergency closure at Banbury Lock. C&RT worked hard to get the canal open as quickly as they could, thankfully our hold up wasn’t too long.

We met up with the crews of NB Azzura (Liz and Mark) and NB Perseus (Julie and Simon) both Finesse boats, had a visit to London for Andrew’s birthday. Then had a rendez vous with Paul and Christine and enjoyed a good catch up onboard NB Waterway Routes.

Down to the River Thames where we turned upstream onto waters we’ve only cruised once before. Such a lovely stretch of river, sadly with fewer moorings now. We sped up to Lechlade where we took up residence for a week so that we could attend a get together at Pip’s cousins which coincided with the Royal International Air Tatoo in Fairford. It was great to be with family on a jolly occasion.

Work took over for Pip as we made our way back down stream to Oxford, Cinderella had to go to the ball and the model needed to be finished. Then we sauntered our way back northwards. One day had us meet up with Frankie NB Discovery, NB Dusty the local coal boat and Graeme on NB Misty Blue, it was good to catch up with Graeme and hear of his adventures since we’d seen him last year.

A trip for us both back to Scarborough to do a turn around of lodgers, see a show and pick up post. Mick would have to return the following weekend to swap bedlinen over again, this time by train from Rugby. Stand still budgets and inflation required Pip to do more work on panto so her days were kept busy reducing Cinderella’s carriage from £2000 to £400.

Stoppages around the network meant we had only one real route we could take to head back north. We winded and climbed our way up to the Leicester Section. Here we met up with Ken and Sue NB Cleddau at Houdini’s Field sitting out till way after dark. Then a small detour to Welford to meet up with NB Panda and Lizzie for an evening before we continued our way north.

Another detour to Market Harborough before Leicester where North Lock had a badly leaking cill which required a crew of C&RT chaps to force the bottom gates open, booked passage was required, this meant we got a few days to enjoy the city whilst we awaited our turn.

Sadly by now the lack of water on the Chesterfield Canal meant the top end of the canal was closed, no point in rushing up the River Trent for a return visit. In Nottingham Pip’s little toe had a kerfuffle with a cupboard necessitating a visit to the drop in centre for her little pinkie to be realigned. This meant Pip had to hand the windlass and key of power over to Mick for the last locks of the year.

Downstream on the River Trent, stopping at all our favourite moorings. Pip’s knitting needles came out again to knit more socks for Dementia UK. We had a trip into Lincoln along the Fossdyke Canal, we actually managed to finally visit the Cathedral this time!

Tides were not helpful for the rest of our trip north so a couple of days at West Stockwith was needed, but that did mean we’d be sharing the tidal waters back to Yorkshire with NB That’s It whom we’d met earlier in the year.

There was time for a catch up with David as we passed through Bramwith, a jaunt up to Doncaster and then finally along the New Junction and onto Goole where a space had been found for us in the marina. A train ride to Scarborough to pick up a van and see the latest show before packing up the boat again for the second time this year.

Planned works at the house then went very smoothly. Scaffolding arriving the day after we arrived, new windows later in the day with four carpenters and two days later the decorator who was to give the house a much needed new coat of paint outside.

Mid October Pip moved to Chipping Norton for a month to work on panto, Mick and Tilly left to welcome a new lodger for the Christmas show in Scarborough. Panto was as much work as normal with the addition of Pip getting covid after the first week of rehearsals. The show opened to toe tapping audiences and many many bananas, getting great reviews. Mick had a days trip to London to support boaters who had gathered outside the Houses of Parliament for a Fund Britain’s Waterways rally.

Back in Scarborough Christmas came early with a visit from the London Leckenbys at the beginning of December, they hadn’t been to Scarborough for ten years. A few more house jobs have been done but a list has been compiled for the new year along with those on Oleanna. We’ve had a lovely Christmas, catching up with Scarborough friends, Tilly has slept lots, we’re lucky to see her before 2pm most days! I’m just resting for when the outsides start changing again.

Don’t worry Tilly the count down has started.

This year our plans changed all because of an invite from Pip’s cousins. We travelled our favourite canal, cruised many familiar waters , visited ‘Home’, climbed trees and pounced, caught up with many boating friends and made many new ones along the way. One very sociable year.

So our vital statistics for 2023 according to Canalplan are

Total distance of 805miles, 2.25furlongs and 436 locks.

There were 121 moveable bridges, of which 33 are usually left open; 151 small aqueducts or underbridges and 16 tunnels – a total of 6 miles, 5 furlongs under ground and 7 major aqueducts.

This is made up of 244 miles, 1.25 furlongs of narrow canals; 251 miles, 5.5 furlongs of broad canals; 69 miles, 1.5 furlongs of commercial waterways; 95 miles, 4.75 furlongs of small rivers; 57 miles, 3.75 furlongs of large rivers; 87 miles, 1.5 furlongs of tidal rivers; 185 narrow locks; 223 broad locks; 28 large locks.

Although according to Nebo we did

815.09 miles and 431 locks! Hmm maybe my maths isn’t so good. But then we only started using Nebolink in August, tracking our every move rather than just on our phones.

470 engine hours, 789.8 litres diesel! Ouch, having to run the engine to top the batteries up on an evening didn’t help with this, 150amp hours down to 100, 3 gas bottles, 120kg coal, 19.5 litres oil, 2 oil filters, 2 fuel filters, 1 shower mixer, 1 domestic alternator, 1 set new engine mounts, 1 overnight guest, 3 packs Dreamies, 1.5 packs Bonkers, 39 friends, 6 brought in, 34 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval, 34 pairs of socks, £1132 for Dementia UK, 2 shows, 9 lodgers, 10 supermarket deliveries, 33 boxes wine, 1 toe, 6 months cruising, 3 boat mover sightings, 209 posts, 184 likes, 9,503 visitors, 31,309 views!

Thank you for following our journey during 2023. We have a plan for 2024, but there are several invites and a rendez vous with some New Zealanders. Will we stick to our plan? Have to alter course to fit everything in? Wait and see, we’re already counting down the weeks to being afloat again.

A Somber Eynsham. 20th July

The Ferryman Inn to King’s Lock

What’s he doing? At 3:30am? Why’s he going out the back? I could hear the zips on the pram cover and the doors being opened. Apparently we’d developed a list and Mick had gone out to loosen the ropes and try to push the stern out. By the time it was daylight we were on a jaunty list again, further pushing out required, would we now be able to reach the bank to untie?

Breakie

Supplies had got very low, in fact we’d run out of milk of all varieties, only one thing for it a cooked breakfast, well as much of one as Mick could manage with what was available.

Yesterday you had to walk down the gunnel a few feet to be able to get off the boat, this morning you had to get to the centre and then hope that knees were capable of hoiking you up onto the bank. He made it and ended up having an hours wait for our supermarket delivery. Heavy bags were split and then passed in through the side hatch, thankfully nothing landing in the drink.

Cupboards, wine cellar and freezer replenished. Our battery capacity is just about managing to keep up with our needs so we’ve decided to keep the freezer on, it definitely needed restocking.

Above Pinkhill Lock the picnic moorings were empty apart from one cruiser, they were leaving and followed us towards the lock. Here a volunteer and Lock Keeper opened the gates and we were asked to nudge as far forward as possible, the cruiser slotted in behind.

Conversation at the bow was about flying Spitfires, at the stern it was far more sollom. There was mention of a Lock Keeper who had passed away and a planned memorial service.

The toll bridge

On leaving we let the cruiser pass us, they were aiming further than us today. Past all the same boats on the meadows that had been there nearly two weeks ago we pulled up behind the cruiser as the lock was being filled. The chap on board said the Lock Keeper would penn us down separately. In they went the gates closed behind them.

The bottom paddles were raised slowly and the chap from the cruiser walked round to the little cabin by the lock adding a bunch of flowers to several others. The Lock Keeper who had died was the very nice man we’d met the day we arrived on the Thames nearly two weeks ago. Nik Vallely, had passed away on the 10th July, a big sign stood by the lock cottage saying Private House, Do Not Disturb. How very sad.

Eynsham Lock

The Lock Keeper on duty is here until things get sorted, his normal patch further downstream. He apologised for not penning us down with the cruiser but he’s not accustomed to the dimensions of Eynsham Lock yet. Another EA chap walked up for a chat. The funeral is being held at the lock on the 28th July at 12:30pm. There were discussions about cutting grass, I suspect the lock and surrounding area will be immaculate for the day.

A pause to drop off rubbish and then we were on our way downstream, no room at the moorings below the lock today. The river now wider and more boats nestled into the banks.

Kings Lock mooring

At Dukes Cut Junction we turned towards King’s Lock and pulled in on the lock moorings leaving space for a shorter boat between us and another boat. Mick walked up to see the Lock Keeper and to pay our £6 for the night. He chatted about the level dropping above Pinkhill Lock last night. Thames Water sometimes extract water from that reach, but usually the EA are informed before hand and react accordingly. There is also a warning system which alerts the Lock Keepers of changing levels, even in the middle of the night, but no alert had been given last night.

I’ll be queen of the island!

We settled in, Tilly headed off across the neat grass into the trees and friendly cover. A short while later a boat pulled up onto the pontoon close by, a family with children who were excited to be on an island. Noisy blighters! I’d been enjoying having the outside to myself.

Time to make notes on my model. I was going to work my way through all the scenes, but changed my mind knowing I wanted to alter the colours of some of the town square setting. This could take sometime. A check in the model box and an alteration of the clock towers colour too. I think my alterations were wise, here’s hoping I still think so tomorrow!

I put a bolognaise sauce on to cook and left Mick to cook some spaghetti as I added details to the Ugly Sisters boudoir. The rest of the scenes will have to wait for tomorrow. We enjoyed our spag bol with a glass of wine, it may only be Thursday but it is our last night on the Thames! That was our excuse, we stuck to it and had a second glass to keep the first one company.

2 locks, 6.4 miles, 1 delivery, 1 boaty list, 1 queen of the island, 3 pesky kids, 1 town square make over, 1 soggy chair, 1 wet back.

https://goo.gl/maps/975WANjreCPBiAap9

Backwards With Purpose. 18th July

Kelmscott to Rushey Meadows

A touch further to go today, we pushed off and soon passed a boat we’d be leapfrogging, NB Narrow Escape. Is this the Narrow Escape that we met on our first time on the Oxford, did they suggest Somerton Meadows to us? It’s a while ago now, but it could be them.

Pretty boat

We pulled in at Grafton Lock to fill with water, a load of washing had been on the go since we’d set off, the tank now after a week needed replenishing. Here the tap is not situated well for a downstream facing narrowboat. The short hose ‘someone has left’ was about 2 foot too short to reach our tank even with us pulled as far back as possible and the hose threaded through the cabinet door. A sign suggests the Lock Keeper may be able to assist, but Mick decided to see what he could do first.

Too short!

Some tape and our hose at least meant we’d get some water, but it would be far slower and such a waste of water as it dribbled along our hose and filled up the cabinet. Mick walked up to ask the Lock Keeper if there was a better way. There was, facing upstream would help. Words are carefully used by the friendly Lock Keepers on the Thames. They don’t want to be seen to give you an inch.

It was soon obvious that we knew the uphill boat in the lock, John on NB Thermopylae, we’ve met him a couple of times on the St Pancras Cruising Club Tideway Cruises, last year he’d offered to crew for Mick when I was in Chippy on panto. Being a single hander he was keen to stop for a cuppa, the Lock Keeper was not keen on him pulling into the layby but he could breast up to us as we filled with water. NB Narrow Escape came along also wanting water, they were waved into the lock as there’d be an hour wait.

Thermopylae

Thermopylae was tied to Oleanna and the kettle put on, time to set the world to rights with John. Just as we finished our cuppas the water tank started to overflow. We did a do-si-do so John could fill with water as we headed for the lock, all watched over by a rather beady eyed cat.

We hoped for a space above Rushey Lock on the meadows, another few miles ahead and one more lock. As we approached we spotted a possible space some distance upstream. The next one was taken, NB Vienna’s stern sticking way out. Then the good length of mooring was just about full, NB Narrow Escape having grabbed the last space. We tried pulling in at the near end, but bushes would have given our paintwork an exciting look at the stern.

Sad Oleanna

Only one thing for it, reverse. It was quite a way to the space we’d seen before, but Oleanna quite likes going backwards with purpose and thankfully the wind played fare. We pulled into a space by ourselves, long grass stretching out as far as you could see, we thought Tilly would love it. Well she didn’t maybe because from her level all she could see was tall grass, there were some sideways trees and a tree too, but she wasn’t too bothered with it all.

It’ll still take quite a bit of work

More work for the walkdown of Cinderella. A tiled rostra and steps, maybe a touch complicated, but if I can make up some big stamps for each colour it should be quicker to paint.

This is rubbish this!

Mick was on cooking duty again, kedgeree, yumm!

2 locks, 5.9 miles, 0.5 in reverse, 1 full water tank, 1 cuppa with John, 3rd brood, 1 spot reserved just for us, 1 unimpressed cat, 4 steps, 15 lanterns.

https://goo.gl/maps/2nSXAxVYUh4Lcrpr5

Gone Bananas! 16th 17th July

Cow Field, Lecklade to Kelmscott

Sunday, we could have returned to watch the airshow at Ian and Sally’s today, but work needed to take over again. During the Geraghty zoom the planes started to go over head, not as loud as I’d thought they would be so hopefully on Saturday Tilly wouldn’t have been bothered by them too much.

Red Arrows?

I concentrated on stone work and archways today. Mixing colours that I wouldn’t normally put together, they seemed to be right for what I was after, it is panto after all!

Orange and purple!

Mark and Liz from NB Azzura popped by to say hello. They’d arrived in Lechlade yesterday and had serious fun winding up by the Roundhouse in the wind. They had booked the electric boat mooring at St Johns to charge their batteries for their return journey. Good to see them again.

Monday. Time to start to make our way back down stream. Many people seem to travel back to Oxford in a couple of days, we’d be taking it slower and todays move was more about giving Tilly some shore leave than anything else.

A mile marker ?

We didn’t need to push off today due to the wind. What we needed to do was plan our departure well. Mick took out the extra spikes that he’d hammered through the loops on the first ones, crossed spikes had helped us cling to the bank for nearly a week. Then the bow spike was pulled out, I coiled my rope and climbed onboard whilst Mick headed to the stern to pull the spike out there. Whilst this was happening the wind blew the bow out from the bank, just as it started to loose it’s power the flow downstream took over. Oleanna did exactly as planned and winded herself, Mick hopping on just at the right moment to help keep her away from the off side.

Lounging around at St John’s Lock

Sunday had seen a few boats leave the moorings, this morning at least one narrowboat had left and four cruisers had headed to St John’s Lock. Our arrival wasn’t timed so well as the last two cruisers were sat on the lock landing waiting for the lock to fill. There was no room for us and the wind was really quite strong. Mick reversed us upstream so the wind was more to our stern so wouldn’t be pushed into the offside bushes. As soon as the cruisers moved off we moved up.

At last! Untie it!!

A volunteer and Lock Keeper helped us down the lock, now we pootled our way downstream. The slight increase of flow sped up our journey. That line of trees coming and going again.

On the biggest tightest bend we of course came across a boat heading upstream. Mick kept Oleanna under control as both boats passed carrying on towards different locks.

Cruisers ahead

At Buscot Lock we caught up with the cruisers. They checked if I’d be alright closing up after them, not a problem especially as Mick was already heading to lend a hand with the gates. Lock refilled and we were on our way down behind them. Using the long pole to open and close the bottom gates was fairly easy, the gates move a lot easier than most broad locks on the canals.

Above Buscot Lock

We wiggled some more watching those tree come and go again. Then as we approached Kelmscott we had our fingers crossed for a mooring. Not wanting to climb the steep bank and fight our way through the undergrowth, we carried on past the first moorings. The good space had a boat on it, so we carried on to the hard bank which was free.

See ya!

Mick had thought here would be better, but the height made it a little awkward to get on and off for us, but we managed and tied up ready for Tilly to have the rest of the day as shore leave. The gap and height of the bank was not a problem for her. Off she went to explore the friendly cover and sideways trees.

Bananas of many sizes

An afternoon of working again. It all went a bit bananas!

Not your average farm vehicles

Mick had a walk round Kelmscott, still as pretty as it was four years ago. A shame we’d arrived on a Monday, the house not open until Thursday and the pub not doing food. Next time, the house is certainly worth a return visit. Mick was incharge of our evening meal tonight, sausage slop. Instructions were given whilst I continued to paint more and more bananas.

2 locks, 3.4 miles, 1 perfect wind, 2 in front, 1 excited cat in the window, 1 long pole, 1 high bank, 5732 bananas, 6 sausages chopped into 24.

https://goo.gl/maps/qJZb2gGybBe27xmY7

How Much Further?! 9th July

Pinkhill Lock 24hr moorings to Rushey Lock Meadows

The covers were rolled up after breakfast then we sat down to chat with the Geraghtys, we’ve missed a few zooms recently so it was good to see those who were there and hear of a recent visit to near York.

Moo!

Time to make a move, we had a destination in mind for the day a few hours cruise away. The sun was out, blue skies that every now and then were covered with cloud.

The Thames now wiggles and winds it’s way. A look at our map for moorings, did we remember them from four years ago. One came past, yes we’d stopped there maybe for a night.

Hollyhocks

No other boats seemed to be heading the same direction as us, in fact there were few boats on the move at all. At Northmoor Lock I hopped off with the boat hook so as to be able to grab the bow line once in the lock, the rope having been left on top of the cratch for ease. More wonderful Hollyhocks and roses at the lock cottage.

Could this have been where I was a bridesmaid?

Onwards upstream. New Bridge, was this the pub where my cousin had his wedding reception back in the 70’s. A check of photos later suggests not as there isn’t a stone bridge featured in the photos.

At Shifford Lock the sign said Self Service, but as I walked up to open gates a volunteer came out from the hut, we’d disturbed his lunch break. Yesterday had been a really busy day for them, 26 boats, today we were one of just a few. This was where we’d hoped we might be able to moor for the night. The volunteer pulled a face, he didn’t say we couldn’t but he also didn’t welcome us. The mooring on the back of the lock island is reserved for electric boats until 4pm, so he was right to discourage us.

Volunteer opening the gates for us

I then asked if we could pull up right at the far end of the lock landing so we could have lunch. Another face pulled, the Lock Keeper would be back at 2pm and he’s quite strict! I spied a water point, we’d fill up and have lunch, sorted. This we did and were soon on our way again.

New hide

I checked the blog for where we’d moored four years ago. One place was not far away, we kept our fingers crossed that it would be free, even if Tilly had stayed out to really late there! As we rounded the bend it was obvious the mooring isn’t used so much anymore due to the overgrown friendly cover on the bank. Peeking from inside was also a sign saying no mooring, Nature Reserve. Fair enough, they wouldn’t want Tilly out looking for friends! What a shame it was a lovely mooring. A new hide stands opposite.

Safely passed

Where should we try next? Next possible was at Tadpole Bridge. More wiggles to navigate, this time with canoes and paddleboarders thrown into the mix, several not knowing they should pass on the right.

Would there be space at the pub? Would we have to go in for a pint? Would the sausages I’d defrosted have to wait for tomorrow?

Pippin facing down stream

NB Pippin sat tied to two posts. Behind there would have been space for us except there was a canoe. Mick called out to the owners of Pippin, despite the front door being open no-one was home. No-one came to the canoe. We decided to pull alongside Pippin . This was all happening as the latest test match in Leeds was getting very close to a conclusion. As the English team scored runs Mick stood out the back of Oleanna incase someone returned to Pippin.

Across the way a young lad went overboard from his canoe. Dad took photos of the poor lad clinging on for dear life. Plenty of drinkers enjoyed sitting by the river, just not the people we wanted to see. Oleanna was far longer than Pippin and getting off would be tricksy, Tilly certainly wouldn’t be allowed out here. We conferred. We could stay, not an ideal mooring or carry on, the next mooring on our map at least 90 minutes away. Onwards!

A Lock Keeper was on duty at Rushey Lock, they’d just penned down a boat so the gates were open for us. As we ascended I asked if being a good gardener was one of the qualifications required to be a Thames Lock Keeper, the lady nodded. Mick asked if there was anywhere to moor nearby, we had recollections of Sue from WB No Problem XL having a favourite mooring here. The Lock Keeper described it’s position not five minutes up stream. Right then left and there it would be.

The right needed negotiating as a boat was just coming round it. Then to the left. Yes we remembered it now, have to check to see if we stayed here last time or not. No-one else was moored so we had the pick of the bank. Where I hopped off there was a sign warning of a wasps nest, we pulled along a touch further and banged our spikes in. This would do us, far Far better than the pub mooring.

What a lovely mooring

Tilly was given three hours, the long grass something to be negotiated. I did a couple of hours painting in banana palms before we set up outside to cook the sausages that had been destined for a toad in a hole. Just enough veg for kebabs too, I just need to get reacquainted with cooking on lumpwood charcoal again to reduce our carbon intake! Everything was cooked through and edible just a bit dark on the outside.

What a lovely mooring to watch the sun go down. Thank you Sue for having mentioned it years ago and to the Lockie confirming it still existed and giving us directions.

Setting sun

3 locks, 13.2 miles, 1 full water tank, 1 sneaky lunch break, 0 room for us, 1 git gapped pub mooring, 3 lovely gardens, 2 close calls, 1 perfect mooring all to ourselves, 37 half leafs painted, 6 sausages, 2 and a bit kebabs, 0.5kg potatoes, 1 sunset.

https://goo.gl/maps/9doQwctj1yhBrgzQ8

Nine Shades Of Blue. 8th July

Below Eynsham Lock to Pinkhill Lock 24hr moorings

Today was going to be wet, how far should we travel? And would we get soaked?

Lock ready and waiting for us

By the time we’d had breakfast Mick had spotted a Lock Keeper, time to get ourselves a licence. We’d deliberated as to what duration to get. Two weeks would be £155, if we stayed on the river for longer then a months licence would be cheaper than three weeks. Mick returned having spent £155 and in return we had a licence to display in a window. I was all ready to tape it to the inside of the cratch where it can be seen by Lock Keepers no matter which side they are on.

Covers were rolled up and we pushed off into the lock soon followed by a second narrowboat that had just come into view.

Pippin and Oleanna rising together

The Lock Keeper was on duty for both here and Pinkhill (the next lock upstream) today. Unless there was a problem up stream she’d likely be staying at Eynsham. We chatted as we turned the wheels to operate the sluices. The EA has kept the same number of Lock Keepers, but reduced the number of seasonal keepers this year. She said the locks were the same as ever at this end of the Thames, but we’d notice things were different up stream, our last visit being four years ago.

On leaving I thanked her and wished her a dry day. This was not to be however as the heavens opened fairly soon after leaving. Waterproofs on we wound our way round the meanders of the river. Most of the moorings along here were occupied, one boat was the first boat we ever went to look at NB Cream Cracker, it had cream leatherette panels in the ceiling and a trad stern so we’d discounted it very quickly.

We kept up with NB Pippin, I hopped off on the lock landing and went up to help open the bottom gates. Here the Hollyhocks stood proud in the lock cottage garden, muted colours suggesting they’d faded with the sunshine. Not much of that for us today, it was now really quite wet.

Pinkhill Lock

NB Pippin was on a touch of a mission, they hoped to reach Lechlade today, then would take their time returning over a few days. We let them go first whilst I closed up the lock behind. We might see them at the next lock, but might not.

As we rounded the next bend a space on the picnic moorings called to us. If the weather forecast for today was correct then we’d only be getting more and more wet as the hours went on. Or we could just stop and sit out the rain. We decided on the latter and pulled in.

What!!!!

Tilly was not impressed! Rain at both ends of Oleanna, So not fair! But the rain passed over and shore leave was deemed to be okay again and off she went looking for friends.

Should we stay the day or risk the rain. The weather didn’t seem as bad as it had been forecast, but had we not seen the worst of it yet? One job for my panto model would require several hours in one sitting to paint the backgrounds for the majority of the set. Today could be that day, or tomorrow. We chose to stay put.

Blue

The paints came out and I mixed my first shade of blue, azure mixed with white for a pale shade, this was for the floor. After two coats on relevant model pieces more blue was added, the next band painted, two coats. This continued throughout the afternoon until I’d reached the top band which was just about black at the top of the cloths and portals.

Mick had to be Dreamie monitor for the afternoon to try to keep Tilly away from my model bits. A shake of wetness could leave marks that would end up being printed twenty five times bigger! However I tend to be the Dreamie dispenser, so she naturally came to me on returning from shore leave. Thankfully though my model survived without any added splodges.

Shades

The weather was surprisingly not constant, we had sunny intervals and rain at times. Paddleboarders came for an explore, dropping into the river between us and our neighbours. A family came to fish, the kids playing whilst Mum and Dad sat with rods to our bow, the rain didn’t seem to bother them much. All afternoon groups of teenagers walked past, the lead person with a big map in hand, everyone carrying big rucksacks on their backs. Were they doing a Duke of Edinburgh walk? Or was it a whole school year walking the Thames Pathway. They kept coming and coming until early evening.

In one sunny spell we headed outdoors ourselves. Time to set the towpath barbers up and give Mick a haircut. Much better now.

2 locks, 1.6 miles, 1 wet day, 1 miffed cat, 5 hours painting blue, 0 barbeque, 6 paddleboarders, 79 walking kids, 12 Dreamies, 9 shades, 3 blue fingers, 1 thumb, grade 3,1 smart and tidy boy again.

https://goo.gl/maps/PPHFgkjpJTWrcqjT8

Scampi Shardlow. 20th January

Willowbrook Farm Moorings to Derwent Mouth Lock

1.21m down 11cm from yesterday

Ice again this morning. Whilst I attended a zoom production meeting for #unit21 Mick went for a walk along the canal towards Shardlow Lock to assess the ice situation. My meeting went well and Mick’s verdict was that after lunch we should be fine to move as the sun was out melting the ice. He’d phoned Tracy at the farm to arrange a meter reading and a settling up as we’d be moving on today.

Zooming

Just before midday we unplugged ourselves and walked up to the stables. Here we could say goodbye to our noisy neighbours, two donkeys who were rescues from Blackpool quite a few years ago. In three weeks we’d used 150 units of electric, we’d not run our engine other than to check the alternator and once to warm the engine bay up. The occasional blast of electric heating in the morning, washing machine and dishwasher along with the electric kettle, sewing machine and iron. Yes we have an iron but it comes out very rarely and mostly for work. We thanked Tracy for helping us out at new year and allowing us to stay for three weeks.

Lunch, another C&RT notice! Stoke Lock was still not operational by boaters so needs to be booked 24hrs in advance. A phone call was made straight away, when would we be there? Monday morning. The lady rang back confirming that a volunteer would be at the lock waiting for us.

Pushing off for the first time this year

Time to roll up the covers for the first time this year. The new version of our trip computer spluttered into life, an old phone placed in a window, this will run Nebo and track our route and miles. I turned Nebo on on my phone too to record locks as we go through them. We untied and I walked ahead to open the lock whilst Mick reversed Oleanna back to meet me.

A patch of thicker ice slowed his progress just as he arrived at the three widebeams. A chap on the last boat stuck his head out and complimented Mick for his reversing skills. He also warned him of thick ice below Derwent Mouth Lock.

The top gates needed a couple of attempts to get them open, the ice behind holding firm on the first go.

Reversing in ice seemed to be quite good. Blasts of forwards every now and then sent water backwards breaking up the ice in front of the blunt end of the boat. The odd blast from the bow thruster also helped to steer the stern towards the lock.

Look at that sun

Down gently in the lock, the ice there breaking up as the water lowered. The aroma of scampi coming from the pub was soon followed by slightly burnt garlic.

The Clockwarehouse

I left Mick to wind whilst I popped to the post box.

Maybe we’d have to moor up

Cat ice was about, easy enough to push your way through. Then at the pub bend we came across thicker ice. Would our escape from the Trent and Mersey be thwarted on this bend? It is quite hard to steer in ice. Narrowboats pivot in the middle and sideways force on ice isn’t very productive. Right on the bend it took several forward and backward manoeuvres to help get into a good position to start carving our way through the ice again. We wouldn’t have to moor there over night. Scampi here too! Maybe on Fridays Shardlow has a special for fish Friday on Scampi!

Both rivers open

The red traffic lights were both turned off at the EA flood lock, both the rivers Soar and Trent were open to boats.

Constant ice ahead

Now we slowed our pace to pass the line of moored boats by Chapel Farm Marina. Is it better to go slowly? Or does it just eek out the noise of cracking ice? A thick patch by the last line of boats had me at the bow, trying to keep us away from a Dutch barge. My pushing only moved the barge and not us. But eventually we worked our way through.

Cracking

Up ahead was the widebeam that has been waiting for the river for a couple of weeks. More ice in front of them, we’d had enough and wanted to see what the ice was like below Derwent Mouth Lock before venturing any further. We pulled in. A quick cat H&S meeting was held, too much ice, Sorry Tilly! Harumph urumph!!

That’s better

Below the lock the river was in the amber, the lock landing all very visible now. However the chap on the widebeam had been correct the ice below the lock looked thick, snow still sitting on it in the shade. We’d done enough ice breaking for the day, we’d be staying put, after all we’d reached our goal. Hopefully tomorrow the ice would have melted some more to make our journey easier.

Below the lock, thick ice!

We settled down for the remainder of the afternoon to listen to Tilly’s complaints. Then a crack and crackle with music came from the cut. A narrowboat with three chaps at the stern came along, we’d broken the ice for them, would they continue. Sure enough they headed for the lock.

If only we’d known, they could have broken the ice for us!

A little while later Mick popped his head out of the hatch, the widebeam had also gone. Should we follow too? It was too late now to get much further. A check on the weather forecast. We’d both remembered it as getting warmer at the weekend. The forecast didn’t agree, -3C tonight with fog! Oh bum! Would we end up being iced in now away from water and electric?

A rather nice sunset behind tonight

To try to keep the engine bay from getting too cold overnight Mick ran the engine again for an hour, hoping that would help the batteries which don’t like charging at low temperatures.

Nebo Trip recorded from inside Oleanna, lots of back and forth
Nebo Trip recorded in my pocket including a walk to the post box

My Mum’s American Sticky Chicken was made up and sat on the stove to bubble away for 90 minutes before we enjoyed it with some rice noodles. It isn’t the healthiest of recipes, but it’s nice.

1 lock, 1.2 miles, 150 units, 1 reasonable mooring, 2 donkeys, 2 scampi pubs, 2 more overalls, 1 hour breaking ice, 1 challenging bend, 0 red lights, 1 frozen river, 1 ice breaker forging ahead, 1 widebeam, 1 Oleanna who maybe should have followed! 2 sticky chicken thighs, 1 box of rosé!!!

https://goo.gl/maps/Ucc6B8c8Yahk51j5A

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.