Category Archives: Family

Free The Paddington One! 2nd July

Ballot Box Bridge to River Colne Aqueducts, Slough Arm, Grand Union Canal

The diesel tank hasn’t been filled since Pyrford Marina, the gauge showing quarter full. Mick doesn’t like the tank to be so low, in fact it may only have been so low once and that was when we picked her up from Finesse in Sheffield, just enough diesel put in her tank for test cruises. The question was, how accurate is the tank gauge? Did we need to seek out diesel today or could it wait for another day or two. The tank was dipped, 10 inches, plenty to keep us going.

Serious clearing up by Ealing volunteers

We made our way back to Bulls Bridge, the moorings by Tesco empty today, well apart from the sunken boat! We pulled in, had lunch, made a shopping list, moved the Larry banner to the cratch for it to be seen better and then went shopping.

A better position for Larry

With everything stowed it was time to get Mick away from chatting to a chap doing his best to avoid polishing his boat, leaving it to his wife. We winded at the junction and started to head northwards. In the last two years quite a lot has changed. Today numerous cranes sat to the east, the start of some buildings. Tower blocks that were going up are now full of people and the landscaping we saw being put in is now tall with plants.

Three miles or so on is Murderers Bridge (Colham Bridge) where in 2015 we said our final goodbye to our first second mate Houdini. Today Tilly was shouting on the top step Free the Paddington One! Tree filled outsides for boat cats!! Friendly cover for all!!! This election has really gone to her head!

Cowley Peachy Junction

At Cowley Peachy Junction we turned westwards onto the Slough Arm. We only cruised the first stretch back in 2015 when we couldn’t get further due to ice. I’m not sure where we moored for the night back then, today we tried pulling in just after the entrance into Packet Boat Marina, Mick managed to get off with a rope, but that was it, Oleanna wasn’t going to come in any more.

The moorings further along looked busy, we chanced it, hoping for a space. Several boats moored up, most looked like they were busy doing jobs. One space between boats might have been long enough, we carried on, a space at the end, better for Tilly. A chap chatted and helped with ropes. A fellow came over from his campsite on the offside for a cuppa. Akeem, I think that was his name, was very chatty, he was busy doing up a boat ready for sale, a coat of red oxide going on the exterior today.


When asked where we’d come from he said, ‘Oh you can’t moor in Paddington anymore!’ We explained that we’d paid and were quite grateful to know we had a mooring waiting for us. Through the years we’ve taken our chances in London like everyone else, reserved moorings when they were free, squeezed onto the Eco moorings when people have overstayed and paid to tie up in Paddington. I suspect we’d still visit London no matter what the mooring situation was, as we’ve both lived there and have friends and family we want to see. But now it’s reassuring to know we’ll have somewhere to tie up on arrival. Time will tell if there are now too many bookable moorings. Many visiting boaters won’t flock to London until they know the system is working, hearing tales of booked moorings being occupied on arrival doesn’t help the situation. London boaters choose to look when the moorings are empty. Yes they are not as full as they were when they were cheaper and the locations fewer. Only C&RT will know the true figures as they can see the bookings and get feed back from their mooring rangers.

A very vocal Tilly today

We settled in and Tilly was given a hours shore leave, at least it stopped her charging back and forth shouting about her rights and how once Larry was PM things would change, Salmon and real real chicken for dingding every day!

0 locks, 9.9 miles, 2 lefts, 1 wind, 2 boxes wine, 1 hour shore leave, 26.5 pairs knitted, 1 very political cat, 1 card returned, 1 knee improving, not much walking being done though.

Bramble Birthday Bakewell. 28th June

Paddington Basin

Mick headed off this morning to get himself an Oyster card to which he’s added his senior railcard. When we were living full time on Oleanna our correspondence address was at my brothers, so he was able to have a Freedom Pass, but that has now expired, so whilst in London it’s worth being able to get some discount.

I busied myself with some baking. A batch of sweet pastry had been made yesterday, today it needed rolling out and blind baking. Then some bramble jam spread out with a bakewell topping added and baked until golden. My standard recipe but using dairy free butter, well Stork block margarine. The smell as the pastry cooked was different than from butter pastry, it whisked me back to my GCSE Home Economics and making pastry with margarine and lard.

Adding eggs to creamed marg and sugar

During the day the boats on the moorings changed a bit. One boat swapping with another and the boat on the hospital side left quite early to be replaced later in the day. Mick spotted a C&RT chap chatting to one of the other boats. We’d wondered if we might be able to move over to the hospital side as there’d be less footfall, but we decided against it. Apparently lots of people have suggested there should be electric hook ups on the pontoons here in Paddington, Mick also suggested that a water point would be a good addition. The chap said he’d put forward our suggestion and they were looking into electric hook ups.

BT Tower without all the aerials

The Bakewell Tart took some time to cool down, a box was found for it’s safe transportation across London to Hackney. We headed to catch one bus, but it was seriously delayed, so we ended up walking for ten minutes to catch the next bus, No 30 which would take us all the way to Hackney. Road works, delays, general Friday afternoon traffic meant the journey took us 2 hours.

Pip, Mick, Andrew, Gabrielle, Josh and Jac

Time to wish my brother a happy birthday. His present was a walking pole, he’s recently had problems with a knee and is soon to go on a walking holiday, so he’d requested a second pole. Drinks and nibbles with lots of conversation. We were joined for the evening by Gabrielle, the daughter of one of Jac’s best friends from Melbourne. Gabrielle now lives in London and has become an extra member of the London Leckenby family.

Finn enjoying our Ikea bag

Josh is now a free young man, having finished his A Levels a week ago. His music selection very very similar to mine at his age, in fact I don’t think I’ve heard so many Doors songs in years! Good taste.

Lots to drink, a big joint of crackling pork with salads and roasted new potatoes, followed by my Bakewell Tart with birthday candles. A very lovely evening.

We picked up items of post and then headed for a bus to catch the last Elizabeth line train back to Paddington. Maybe I should have borrowed Andrews walking pole to help with my knee problem!

Birthday Boy

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 bakewell, 1 bored cat, 2 buses, 1 lizzie line, 1 half pig, 2 many glasses of wine, 2 much food, 1 lovely evening.

Would You Like A Bigger Table? 27th June

Ballot Box Bridge to Pontoon 6, Paddington Basin

A lie in, wonderful! First boat went past at about 7am then it was quite a while before anyone else was on the move. The boat behind us spent some time in setting up their sun shade over their bow, this involved lots of banging of metal locker lids and a touch of swearing.

Just round the bend on the other side of the bridge we found all the moored boats, closer to transport links, that is unless you have an e-bike or scooter as then your location doesn’t matter as you can zip along the towpath at great speed!

Out on the hard

Bright blue skies to start with warranted sun cream, but after half an hour cloud covered the sky, a wind whipped up and we even considered putting jumpers on.

A really awkward Elsan

At Alperton we considered pulling in to deal with our yellow water, but the railings around the elsan point would make this a really hard job, so we just hoped we’d be fortunate to be able to do it later. The Keep Out sign did amuse us, has someone tried to get in the Elsan?

The narrowboat up on the bank surrounded by new office blocks now sells crepes, more building work continues further along. Today long stretches of the towpath were being dug up. The concrete topping lifted which covers cables. Temporary pontoon towpaths carried pedestrians and cyclists around the works.

Towpath works

The aroma of Buddleia filled the air, almost totally masking out the spices from the food factories along the canal bank. One lady on a work boat trimmed sections of it away so she could tie her boat up on the off side.

Buddleia tastic

The number of moored boats along Ladbroke Grove seem to have reduced, but then the towpath being worked on is making it difficult. The area that for some reason says No Mooring had been taken over by boats.

A timber store? Workshop?

We’ve been here at roughly the same time of year before. Today we were surprised at the reduced amount of weed in the canal, we only had to clear the prop once and that was due to urban jelly fish near Little Venice. Also the type of London boater seems to have altered, there are far more cruisers than we remembered. Where the Westway hovers above the towpath, where once there have been cafes, art spaces, there now seems to be something like a carpentry shop, one cruiser had a rooftop extension made of sterling board and was that chap gaining access to his wood store via a canoe? There do seem to be more and more boats reusing house windows in their extensions, I quite like some of the effects.

Heading for Paddington Basin

This year C&RT have increased their pre- bookable moorings in London. Some which were once free are now chargeable, others that you’ve paid for for a few years have increased in price. The London boaters have been up in arms as more places have been designated for pre-bookable moorings and often you see photos of areas empty of boats. The idea is to be able to open London up to cruising boats and make the capital more accessible to all licence payers. We’ve done the turn up and with fingers crossed and hope to find a mooring, remembering where there was a gap to breast up should there be nowhere else. The last few times we’ve been into London we’ve made use of the bookable moorings and are very glad they exist for peace of mind. Booking this week had been a touch hard and I think we were only left with one option at the cheaper price which we booked. There seems to be lots more availability of the £35 a night moorings, not hard to guess why. A shame that many of these are the old Eco-moorings with electric. Maybe C&RT have priced these too high, or is there not enough demand yet for so many spaces? Only time will tell.

Passing the restaurant boats

A boat was on the service mooring at Little Venice. We wanted to fill with water so chanced being moved on and pulled up at the water point just through the bridge, tucking in as close as we could to the cafe boat. The tap is very slow, but before we could be in the way to anyone, we’d topped up and made our way across the pool towards Paddington.

There’s our mooring, ready and waiting for us

We’ve heard tales of pre-booked moorings being occupied when boats arrive and mooring rangers having to be called. But none of that for us today as we sailed straight into our space on the pontoons. Having the hatch face the bank means we get a lot of ankles walking past and snippets of phone conversations ‘Well the aorta is 85 years old!’ a particular favourite from today. We joined two other boats on the moorings, another had gone for a cruise around and returned later on. Paddington Visitor Moorings, also pre-bookable, stretch from the pedestrian entrance into the station to the basin on the hospital side. By the station was chocka, only one boat made use of the hospital side today.

Tilly was shown the outside, filled with lunch break workers. A wheelie suitcase put her off getting off the boat, hopefully she’ll accept we’re in Longbum and spend her time watching through the windows or asleep.

Paul’s got his eye on the ham, egg and chips!

Late afternoon we headed to catch the No 27 bus to Camden to meet up with Christine and Paul. For the first time in many years we have managed to catch up with all of our siblings within a few months. This evening we met up at Jamon Jamon a Spanish Tapas restaurant in Camden.

Plenty to choose from even if it was a little bit confusing for me at times with the allergens menu. Once our order was taken the waitress asked if we’d like to move to the far end where there was a larger table. We ended up needing this for the number of dishes we’d ordered. The Gambas were very fine and the Spanish version of Ham Eggs and Chips looked like it had come from a glossy comic. Very nice food and very good company as always, thank you both.

When eventually our No 27 bus arrived and brought us back to Paddington we decided to see if we could walk back to the boat a slightly different route. A large white tower block that was being built last time we were here now appears to be complete. Outside the front door was a very large orange stone with a small yellow one on top. Human? Who was the artist? Nothing to inform us of anything. A hunt round on the internet later and the artist is Ugo Rondinone. It’s certainly big and bold! On the wall of the hospital there was a rather pleasing painting/photograph mural of diving swimmers which I think is by Catherine Yass. More can be found out here.

Sun set

0 locks, 7.7 miles, 1 snub, 1 bag on prop, 0 weed, 1 straight on, 1 full water tank, 27 twice, 1 disappointed cat, 1 little girl at 11pm peering in, 1 sister, 12 dishes, 1 big table, 1 olive doggy bag, 1 lovely evening, 5G less frustrating.

Last Boat Left. 22nd June

Brookwood Country Park to Batter and Bowler Bridge

Kath joined us again this morning and once we were untied the two of us stood in the bow and we crept past NB Olive. A slight twitch of a curtain, we were maybe a touch early leaving, but the pound had been quite shallow on our way up. We suspect the depth today was up after the Authority had lowered the pound to check on the troubled lock a few days ago.

We had a nosy at peoples gardens. The buttresses that hold the railway embankment. The long blue house boat, was it built here? was it too long to fit in the locks? The old Bantam, paint peeling off.

Approaching the top of the locks I could see the two boats that we’d been following yesterday, NB Rum a Gin and NB Four Some. We compared notes of the flight yesterday, chatted about the campaign cruise on the Thames last month and watched big sausage butties be passed out from the galley, they smelt good!

NB Rum A Gin also from Yorkshire

There was no sign of NB Olive at 9am, Mike the Lock Keeper gave them a call, they’d be with us at 9:30. Mick popped to the shops for a newspaper whilst we waited for the first two boats to go down the top lock. Olive arrived. Mum had waited at the top of the locks yesterday until 5pm, she’d seen Liquorice a few times, but every time she tried to entice her she just walked further away. There was a phone call from the chap in the dry dock, he’d keep an eye out for her and be around to open a gate for them later on.

Waiting for a lock to fill

Our turn at the locks. With three on the ground this meant we could send someone ahead to fill the lock once the boats in front had left. They also sent someone on ahead. We all leapfrogged our way down the locks, catching the boats ahead up and lending them a hand.

As we came down I suddenly thought would a cat trap help to get Liquorice back. I sent a message to Tilly’s number one fan Joa who fosters kittens for Cats Protection. She found the contact details for the local branch and gave some handy tips which I passed on to the Olive crew, Josh had been thinking something similar, maybe a tranquiliser dart!

Kath huffing and puffing opening a stiff paddle

At the last lock of the Brookwood flight we waved NB Olive and their crew goodbye, wishing them luck. They would be continuing on down to the River Wey today, we’d be having a pause in Woking. We pootled on past the mooring by the Beefeater and headed for the footbridge in the centre of town.

Last lock today, Mike ashing up behind

Sadly not a cat suitable mooring, much to Tilly’s dismay, the car park just behind the friendly cover wasn’t good on a busy Saturday. Lunch with Kath and then it was time for us to say our goodbyes to her too.

In the afternoon we wandered over to Jubilee Square where there was a celebration of 30 years of dance in Woking taking place. We had a walk around whilst waiting for things to kick off. Around the centre are several painted bronze sculptures. A couple of big thick set chaps stand watching people pass by. From behind they reminded me of Jack Brady the actor who sadly passed away a few weeks ago.

Woking Station isn’t anything to look at from outside. But I spied something on the walls at the far end. A mural depicting shops and the station in Edwardian times. Soldiers waiting for trains, ladies in the fabric shop, a suffragette campaigning on the steps. On the gentleman’s outfitters section the faces looked far too modern, they were 21st Century people surely. When we found a board about the mural, sure enough the outfitters still exists in town, under a different name, but the faces on the mural were those of the staff in recent times.

We headed back to the square the performance we were waiting for was about to start. We sat down and waited, and waited. Then a loud hailer from behind us brought with it Free Palestine protestors who congregated in the square. We didn’t have a problem with their protest, but wanted them to hurry up. What would have happened if the dance display had already been underway? Would they have carried on with their protest whilst the Belly Dancers danced and coloured ribbons were wrapped around the Maypole? After a good three quarters of an hour they dissipated.

Maypole dancing

Local dance groups showed off their latest choreography. Then the maypole was positioned in the middle of the square. At first kids were keen to join in, but there were just so many ribbons people began to loose interest before they’d even started to do any dancing. But the lady was pretty good at keeping them going once they’d started. I suspect if you had dancers all of the same sort of height it would help.

High Tea (with a twist)

Then eventually after waiting for a good hour and a half Levantes Dance Theatre started their performance of High Tea (with a twist). A couple of years ago I was approached by an old work colleague to see if I’d be interested in working on Levantes next show. I seem to remember the dates not being so good with panto that year. Of course I’d looked them up so was very aware that the show would include more than just dance. The thick base that their table and parasol stood on also suggested this.

Their costumes were strongly influenced by Frida Kahlo. They danced around the audience. The high tea laid out on the circular table, one dancer leading the other who had their eyes closed. A volunteer from the audience poured out drinks from the tea pot. A proposal with a ring hidden in a French Fancy. A wedding. A child being born. The parasol was removed and replaced with a big hoop, now the two of them span round doing acrobatics round the hoop. A very entertaining half hour that had been worth waiting for.

Quite tired from yesterday we decided not to visit the Lightbox, a Grayson Perry exhibition on there. Instead we returned to Oleanna for a lazy few hours recuperating and listening to Tilly complain about the lack of shore leave, I reminded her that one cat was getting a lot more shore leave than she’d bargained for!

5 locks, 3 miles, 4 boats in convoy, 1 extra crew member, 1 Saturday paper, 3 sausage butties, not ours, 3 boats heading onwards, 1 lovely Joa, 1 early lunch, 4 birthday cards, 1 protest, 8 belly dancers, 2 many ribbons, 1 fancy, 2 dancers, 1 lazy afternoon, 0 news, 1 noisy road.

Liquorice. 21st June

Frimley Lodge Park to Brookwood Country Park

Cormorant taking off

Knowing that the going was likely to be slow heading for the top of the locks we set off at 8:30 an hour before we were due. Fairly soon I was sent up to the bow to distribute the weight better, around 50 minutes later we arrived.

No boats!

There were four boats heading down the locks today, us, NB Olive and two others, there was no sign of them they must have already been ahead. One BCA van arrived and drove on down to the next lock, soon followed by a second one. Our instructions were to wait above the top lock, not to even fill it, someone would be with us in a while. They headed off to the next lock too.

Into the top lock at 10:28

NB Olive arrived and there was time to have quite a lengthy chat on the towpath. Chris the lock keeper walked up to see us. Now if there was bad news he would be just the chap to send to tell us, however he had good news. The other two boats had got through the problem lock, the whole team were there to assist and were awaiting our arrival. The lock was filled, Mick brought Oleanna into the lock. Then from behind we heard ‘CAT’S OUT’ One of Olive’s cats had spotted an opportunity and jumped ship! I think it was Liquorice, a shy cat who rarely comes when called. What to do?

Oleanna crew present and correct

As cat owners we knew the worst thing we could do was offer to help get the cat back. Tilly runs a mile when people try to help. We backed off. Discussions were had with Chris. Could they stay and go down on maybe Monday? Could we wait a while to see if the cat would come back? Phone calls were made ahead to the person in charge. It had to be today, all the team were out to assist, they just needed to get them down through the troublesome lock and then they could come back to find the cat. I suggested that maybe Mum should stay with a cat carrier and anything they thought might help and wait for Liquorice, at least then she wouldn’t be totally abandoned.

Going down

We dropped Oleanna and Olive down and headed on to the next lock. Five members of the team were there waiting. The lock was full. The top gates were opened. No-one was allowed to be in the lock, so engines off and each boat was bow hauled by the crew into the lock. The top gates shut and one paddle lifted, both boats held away from the bottom gates.

Last Friday a boat had hit the near side gate, opening up the mortice and tenon joint into the heel post. The gate had also been pushed out of square, twisted. When they took down the first two boats the gate needed five of them to slam it shut, now a ratchet strap was in place holding it slightly squarer, however they could see that it had dropped. But thankfully both boats were now down and through the lock, we could continue as normal down the flight.

The lock heros

No news from the top of the locks, still no cat. I walked ahead, filled the next lock and opened the gates. It was decided that on leaving I’d open the gate in front of Olive, Mick would bring Oleanna across to use the same gate, saving me quite a bit of walking and pushing and pulling. Then because you leave these locks empty and with gates open I could walk on ahead to set the next lock. Sadly the distances between locks are that bit too far to set ahead and return to open gates, especially with a gammy knee.

Heading to Lock 26

I looked back over my shoulder to see Josh on NB Olive heading straight across the pound towards the offside bank, struggling with the tiller. The rudder had been knocked out of it’s cup as he came out of the lock. Mick went to assist, pulling Olive away from the far bank and assisting Josh to the bank where he hopped off and pulled back onto the lock landing. The boats could have been breasted up, but the width and depth of channel would likely make that impossible. Josh said we should carry on, not much we could help with, muscle and possibly a dry suit would be needed to get things back working.

On our own

We carried on alone. Lock after lock. Walking between locks and round them to lift paddles, I’d certainly be getting my steps in today even with hobbling. A pause in a lock for a comfort break and some flapjack was required.

A snake joined us in one lock

Going down the locks is far more work. The first half of the flight the boats ahead had closed the bottom gates and paddles, I just needed to fill each one and then down we could go. About half way down the occasional paddle was up on the bottom gates, more walking round required. Plenty of people walking dogs, one chap with ten, yes ten woofers. He didn’t seem too bothered about the fence keeping his dogs away from the shooting ranges.

The bollards get in the way of the gates, so you need to lift the beams

A couple stopped to chat to Mick. Did we know there was a boat following us? A few locks away, two Lock Keepers helping. I started to close the bottom gates and paddles as much as I could without too many extra steps.

Bottom of the Deepcut flight

The bottom of the flight was a nice site, time to have a breather before the Brookwood flight of three. As we popped out from under the bridge two friendly faces appeared on the towpath. Kath and Sean had come to help us down.

Happy chap waving to us, is this the house where Mick Gemson grew up?

With three of us I could walk on down to the next lock to set it leaving Sean and Kath to lift paddles and open and close gates. By the time Oleanna was going into the middle lock Sarah one of the rangers had arrived in her van to work the top lock for Olive.

Extra crew Kath and Sean

We were asked to lift a paddle to fill the locks as we left, then we waited in the last lock. The two boats that had started out together this morning were sharing the last lock of the day. Sadly still no good news from the top lock about Liquorice. Sarah and Chris closed up behind us. Thank you guys for all your help today. Chris give Josh a fist bump, between the two of them they’d got the rudder back in it’s cup, steering was now possible, even though it didn’t quite feel right.

Exiting the bottom lock with Olive at 16:40

Kath and Sean walked to the Brookwood Country Park there to assist with ropes on the mooring. Both boats pulled in and eventually we were moored up with land access from the bow only.

Mooring up at a distance

Time to walk up through the park to visit Kath and Sean’s house. They moved to Knaphill a couple of years ago and at last we were here to see their new (to them) house. A lovely house with a nice garden and plenty of room for them and all their things. We had a very lovely evening with yummy food and wine and conversation. A little bit pooped we left just as the sun was going down. Some more steps to add to the days tally ending up with 20,714, 8.5 miles! I wonder if I’ll be able to walk in the morning?

Ayckbourn first night glasses

17 locks, 5 miles, 4 locks shared, 1 lock bow hauled, 5 extra crew, 5 cats in the locks not 6, 1 awol cat, 2 extra crew, 3 slices of flapjack, 1 wiggly walk up the hill, 1 straight forward walk down the hill, 1 set of plans, 1 aching knee, 1 very bored Tilly safe inside Oleanna, 2 boaters and 1 cat hoping for good news in the morning.

Family. Tree. 18th June

Mychett Visitor Centre

A slow start to the day. Tilly was given the rules but decided she’d rather not have any shore leave. The geese can have this outside!

What to do with ourselves? A look in guide books didn’t really bring up anything that was of interest nearby. Yes there are several museums, but they are all military and that didn’t really appeal to us. But one thing jumped out on Google maps which wasn’t too far away. Just what was Melissa’s tree?

To the east of the visitors centre is a large wooded area which has ‘Managed Access’ meaning the MOD use it for training at times and right in the middle of it was a pin for Melissa’s Tree.

Anyone lost a shoe?

At the far end of the car park there is a gate in a fence, this was open so we assumed we’d be safe going for a walk today. Thick with trees and bracken it felt like we were about to have to run for our lives ducking and diving through the friendly cover to avoid the enemy fire, hoping to cross a border in a WW2 film or The Handmaids Tale. However well trodden paths zigzag all around the woodland, but how would you know where you were?

A unique tree, if we could find it again!

A Snowman nailed to a tree would be a land mark, not ever tree would have one surely!

The fleeting glance of dogs running around trailing their ears behind them. The odd runner bouncing above the bracken. Trees. More trees. Do we go this way or that? We had google and OS maps open on our phones, should we take that path or this? Eventually the tree level dropped and we were in what might be called a clearing, although younger trees were busy growing around us, a little like a Christmas tree farm.

I think that could be it

Up ahead it was obvious which was Melissa’s tree, soaring high above the younger trees, it stood out from the crowd. Pinned to the trunk a brass plaque, some fresh flowers and a photo of Melissa. Melissa Sardina passed away in February this year. She was a graphic designer but is known locally for having fostered many dogs before they moved onto their forever homes, here is where she walked her dogs.

What a lovely memorial

Should we head to see what we could see at the locks? Too far to walk today. Instead we walked back a different route, well it could have been the same, we’d not really be able to tell to be honest. One chap walked past with his two dogs, now where am I? I know! Several dog walkers with five dogs each, some on leads others allowed to roam freely.

A large track with signs warning not to pick up anything military, a wise suggestion. We gradually made it back to the gate in the fence and the visitors centre.

We checked in at the office, was there any word as yet from the engineer? He’d been but they had no news for us yet. They’d be in touch when they heard what he had to say.

27 the troublesome lock

The back door was left open for Tilly, but she only occasionally popped her head out the back to check, Still rubbish! An afternoon of pottering and knitting. I selected yarn for pair 25 and cast on the toe. The sewing remaining to be done on pair 24 will be done in spits and spurts over the coming days.

Late afternoon Mick popped into the office to see what news there was, they were just ringing round. Today one of the boats waiting by the lock had been used as a trial boat going through the lock. It was successful, but water levels needed to be restored which would take a while. So on Friday four boats would be heading down through the lock. No-one will be allowed onboard whilst descending the lock for safety reasons, we’ve had this before at Marple, just in case the lock gate should give way. However Tilly will be allowed to stay on board.


Early evening we had our own visitor, Sam my cousin once removed. We’d not managed to meet up whilst on the Thames near Windsor, but we were still close enough. It was nice to show Sam round Oleanna and for her to meet Tilly, she was allowed to have a head rub, more than I normally allow a stranger. But she is family.


Time to find some food. We’d shortlisted a few places nearby, but having a car was handy to go a little bit further. The Kingfisher on the Quay which overlooks a fresh water lake quite close to the A331. Quirkily decorated and I suspect quite cosy in the winter with big log fires the place was heaving. Luckily there was a table by a window, although the view was masked by parasols on the terrace.

The Kingfisher

A good gluten free menu for Sam and myself, all three of us opted for a Wagyu Burger. The waitress seemed to be new, not knowing about their hand pulled beers, so we all opted for glasses of wine. The conversation didn’t stop flowing and we could have carried on for a lot longer, but the pub was wanting to close up, the kitchen had closed for puddings already!

Sam, Mick, Pip

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 woodland walk, 0 shots fired, 1 memorial tree, 1 rum tree, 1 snowman, 4 boats waiting, 2 extra days, 3 lock flights booked, 1 cousin once removed, 1 guided tour, 1 head nudge, 3 burgers, 3 glasses of wine, 3 canoe urinals, 5 water ski loos, 1 very pleasant evening, thank you Sam for visiting us.

Let Him Eat Pie. 13th June

Fox and Hounds to Double Bridge Moorings

Roofers at work

A pottering morning. The flat roof at the pub was being re-felted, this was keeping the pub cat busy being clerk of works from the top of it’s rather large cat tree. A very good vantage point on a normal day.


At 12:30 we were dressed up and ready for visitors. We kept a keen eye out for a grey car, only to see our visitors arriving on foot. Marion, Mick’s sister and husband John had got the train up from Eastbourne then a bus out to find us, perfectly timed.

Ann-Marie and Dave had sung the praises of the Fox and Hounds steak and ale pie last week, the menu had looked good with plenty of options for all. It was certainly popular, thank goodness we’d booked as every table was full!

Mick was the only meat and gluten eater, so it was down to him to see if the recommendation was true. A new beer was sampled by Mick and John, it got the thumbs up. I tried a gluten free larger which was nothing special apart from it’s strength, I certainly wouldn’t be having a second one.

Christmas time!

Plenty of time for conversation whilst we waited for our food to arrive. A trip to Shetland, the most northerly bus stop and the shortest scheduled passenger flight in the world had all been enjoyed. There was also the delivery of our Christmas present, far too heavy to post, so it had to be hand delivered. A Baked Potato Cooker that sits onto of your stove and given time will bake your spuds.

Marion had the most generous jacket potato with cheese and beans I’ve ever seen. John’s Haddock and chips looked very cripsy. I had a gluten free burger with bacon and a choice of cheese, I chose brie, possibly the best burger I’ve had in a long time, definitely homemade.

What a pretty looking pie

Mick of course had the steak and ale pie. What a pretty looking pie, pastry top and bottom with a crimped top edge. A gravy boat is always a good thing, I personally don’t like my food swimming in gravy but others do, it’s nice to have the choice. Served with green beans, broccoli and chips. The greens were a touch over done and we both agreed later that the chips although nice could have been triple cooked then it all would have achieved a full five stars from us.

Pip, John, Mick, Marion

A lovely lunch was followed by a cuppa back on board Oleanna before the south coasters had to head to catch the bus, hoping to avoid busy trains leaving London. Thank you for visiting and for the present.

Time to do a bit of cruising and find a suitable mooring for Tilly. Covers were rolled back, Nebo clicked on, today put on top of the cratch board. Yesterday I’d joined a Nebo group on Facebook. Two people had already mentioned they were having the same problem as us. We’d also received an email from customer support which said.

There was an error in the feedback we gave you previously, the errors are due to your SIM card trying to join the wrong network, so it is an issue with cell tower signals. We are not sure why your SIM can not get a lock on a suitable network provider, it is a roaming SIM that has full coverage in the UK and about 40 other countries.

They still thought positioning it with a clear view of the sky should improve matters, hence being on the top of the covers. We of course can’t do anything about the amount of trees, or being in the bottom of locks, the nebolink having first been developed for use on a cruiser in Australia out at sea.

Towpath strimming

We pushed off about 3pm. More and more trees. Surly we must run out of them soon! A touch grey today and jumpers and waterproofs required. We passed a chap trimming back the towpath, just a strimmer along the edges of the path not a full cut back.

A swing bridge to operate. I got myself ready to hop off just as we passed a Kingfisher in a bush, just at arms length away, you could almost have given it a stroke! I wonder if it’s a very good fake so the Lock Keepers can say ‘Did you see it, its always there!’

Zebon Copse Swing Bridge took quite a bit to unlock. The padlock awkwardly positioned but in the end it sprung open. A stone mile marker faced the offside.

Round down to the furthest southerly loop of the canal. Here what looked like tank traps lined up into the trees and partly across the canal. A pill box a good vantage point in both directions. We wondered how the occupants would have stayed warm, possibly a paraffin stove.

Our most southerly point this year

Just after a narrowing where Coxmoor Bridge once was we reached the most southerly point of the canal, also the most southerly we’d be cruising to this year, not enough time to head to Godalming.

Nice house, sadly not for sale

NB Olive had been on the previous mooring, one handy for their van. We hoped the next mooring would be free and just far enough away from the road for safe Tilly exploration. Plenty of room when we arrived and some very good woodland (surprisingly!) for Tilly to play in for a couple of hours before cat curfew.

Quite a nice mooring so long as we’re not under trees when it rains

The stove was lit, by now it was raining and Mick popped our Christmas present on top of the stove so that the paint could cure. We watched Heidi’s (The Pirate Boat) go at cooking an omelette in hers from 2 years ago. She got bored and bunged it inside the fire box for 8 minutes. The omelette charred around the edges, but what was edible was very tasty. We’ll have to wait for when the stove is lit all day before we try it out properly. As the weather is going at the moment that might be next week, we’d best get some potatoes in.

Right, Where to start?

The nebolink worked today, one patch missing and a straight line rather than following round the bends of the canal. Tomorrow I think we’ll try it back where it was under the cratch board.

0 locks, 2.7 miles, 1 swing bridge, 2 pints, 1 bottle, 1 orange, 1 fish and chips, 1 jacket spud, 35678 baked beans, 1 burger, 1 very good pie, 1 lovely lunch, 1 slightly damp cruise, 2 hours shore leave, not quite enough to judge it for a stamp.

The First Boat. 9th June

Domino’s Mooring to Brookwood Park, Basingstoke Canal

Last week Mick rang the Basingstoke Canal to buy a licence and book our passage up through the locks, this needs to be done in advance. Back in 2019 when we came onto the River Wey we tried to do the same, only to be told the canal was closing that Friday, for the rest of the year, they’d run out of water. So ever since we’ve had a plan to return earlier in the year in the hope that they would have sufficient water. However this time Mick was not able to book over the phone for another reason.

The booking system was in the middle of transitioning from phone to on line, maybe later in the day it would be up and running for us to book. We tried it and it wasn’t there. However the following day it was, Mick popped our details in for a licence. The canal is run by the Basingstoke Canal Authority but owned by Surrey County Council and Hampshire County Council. Later in the day we got an email back from Louise.

Thank you for completing the on-line visitor application form.  You are also our first boater to use this brand new system 😊’ Oleanna has made history! There was a link to pay for our licence on line followed by, ‘We realise there is a glitch with the form which should ask you to let us know which dates you are going through all of the flights? So if you could email back the following information I can update our system.‘ By the end of Thursday last week we had paid for our licence and were booked to do the lock flights. This morning we just had to get there on time.

Turning away from the M25

Breakfasted we pushed off to cruise back to the junction alongside the M25. We’d left a few minutes later than planned, but turned Oleanna’s bow onto the Basingstoke at 8:57, at least we’d be in view should the Lock Keeper be waiting for us! Well in fact we were early, the locks would be unlocked at 9:30 not 9:00 as Mick had thought.

Lock 1 was sat empty, a paddle raised on the bottom gate, we opened the gates and pulled Oleanna in to wait. This did mean that when Chris the very enthusiastic, incredibly welcoming Lock Keeper arrived Mick missed out on all the spiel. What a warm sunny morning to start on new waters.

Waiting for Chris the Lock Keeper

Chris gave Kath and myself instructions about the locks and unlocked the top paddles so we could start up the Woodham Locks. Normally on the Basingstoke we would ascend a lock, close the top gates, lower the paddles at that end and then lift one of the bottom paddles, leaving the lock empty, Chris would then follow us up the flight to ash the top gates shut. This is done to help reduce the amount of water leaking through the gates, therefore holding back as much water as possible. However today there was a boat also coming down the flight, so until we passed them we were to leave the top gates open for them with all paddles down. Our normal C&RT windlasses would also work on the canal, no need for anything different. Instructions received and understood, we got going.

First lock done

Having an experienced extra pair of hands was good, not that the locks today were hard. Most paddles lifted easily, most gates opened up easily too, plus being able to leave the top gates open was also a bonus. At 10am Mick joined the Geraghty zoom for us all to wave to everyone else, then we got on with the job for the day, locks.

A passing boat

Such a leafy green corridor, very pretty and with the sun shining it was glorious. Kath and I soon got into a rhythm. Then Chris returned, getting ready to ash up the locks as the boat coming down the locks left each of them. It may have been between locks 4 and 5 that we passed MSC Frodsham a replica Manchester Ship Canal Tug. They had to slow right down and wait whilst Mick brought Oleanna past a line of house boats.

Chris on the right

From now on today we’d be closing up the lock gates and lifting a paddle at the bottom end for them to drain.

Leaving the bottom flight behind us

We were soon up Woodham Locks and pootling our way along the long pound. Our map suggested it would take getting on for two hours before reaching St John’s Locks which we also planned on ascending today. Time for a cuppa and some flapjack.


After passing Monument Bridge I popped down below to finish off preparing some sausage rolls, sliding them in the oven hoping to have timed them well to be ready for a lunch break.

Kath knows the area quite well so could point out certain landmarks to us. We had a nosy at gardens, one with a good sized slot perfect for a narrowboat mooring, another with a bar and bunting where two ladies were sat enjoying a Sunday tipple and gossip.

Hit for 6

After Cobham Road Bridges we passed the Lightbox which is an art gallery and museum. Then a footbridge with a bowler and batter at either end. Unfortunately the view of the bowler from the canal was impeded by trees, so we’ll have to have a walk on our way back to see him.

The first stretch of moorings came next. Space for Kitty the trip boat and a cafe boat and then there were three visitor boats, two of which we’d been told to keep an eye out for by Heather Bleasdale. Christine appeared at the hatch of NB Katura, I think to apologise for one of the boats being double breasted. Instead she got a ‘Hello, you know Heather!’ We had chance for a short chat as we passed. NB Katura had managed to get to the very end of the canal under three very low bridges. I did a quick compare of cabin heights and I think we are maybe a little bit lower, so there is hope we’ll reach the end. We waved goodbye and carried on.

What a beauty

Now that booking is done on line there is no need to display a licence apparently. It felt a bit weird passing boats showing theirs. NB Bobcat’s second mate watched us closely as we passed, a ghostly face behind the pram hood.

Shop bought pastry so not up to normal standard

The sausage rolls were out of the oven and cooling by the time we reached the first service mooring. As we were ahead of where we needed to be and with an hour before we should be starting on the next flight of locks we decided to stop for lunch to refuel. There was also the opportunity to dispose of fishy rubbish too, just so long as it was bagged up as the bins here are emptied by hand.

The second flight

Five more locks in the St John’s flight, more leafy green and dapples of sunshine. Closing the top gates at Lock 8 proved difficult, my side didn’t want to go further than half way. But with Kath and myself both giving it a push and pull, then a running push whatever had been the problem was shifted and it closed.

Will the rope be long enough?

Plenty of gongoozlers today. Several little children being shown by Dad how the locks work. One lady suggested that you only get locks when the water is uneven. Kath and I wondered how many children are shown the locks like this and how many then go on to live onboard boats like Mick did after being taken to the Hanwell flight as a young boy.

New gates

One down from the top lock the gates leaked quite a bit, the date carved on them 2024. Presumably the oak hasn’t had enough time to expand with the water or there’s just a lot of crud on the cill. It did feel a little odd to fill the lock and then empty it after we’d finished, the pound above gradually draining into the lock and then downhill. Should we send Chris a message to say we’d finished on the flight? He’d been very good with his instructions at the beginning of the day, so we were sure he’d have told us if we needed to. Hopefully it wouldn’t be too long before he arrived to lock up anyway.

Possible aromas of garlic, but not cat friendly

On now to find a mooring. The first one had space for us, but was alongside an Italian restaurant, quite a busy road with buses that would take Kath back home. Not very good for Tilly. Mick had spotted in the guide we’d been given that there was mooring at Brookwood Country Park where there was a water point. This altogether sounded much more like it and would be closer to Kath’s house.

Not Kath’s house, click photo for details

The canal got shallower. Was our extra ballast not helping matters? Did having three people on the stern not help? Kath and I decamped to the bow, things seemed to improve a little, then not so. Oleanna ground to a halt, Mick turned the engine off, time to discover what goodies had caught themselves on the prop and hope that improved things. Plastic and some weed. The canal was still shallow, but gradually things improved and our speed grew without increasing the revs.

A long blue house boat

The water point at Brookwood came into view, a wooden pontoon, rings! Ah except the pontoon didn’t actually have a top to it. That’s why it wasn’t shown on Waterway Routes! There was unlikely to be anywhere else to moor in the pound so we pulled in as best we could. The far end at least had solid ground under it. The bow came in quite well, but the stern needed help, maybe an Andy was needed.

I passed my rope round the wooden edging near some bolts, Mick put some power on and pushed the tiller towards the bank, she came in, but only by a couple of feet. Maybe we’d be able to pull her closer in. I hopped off and caught a rope, a touch closer but not much, this had the effect of pulling the bow out too. How to tie up was going to be the next problem due to the lack of solidity close to the wooden edging.

It was further out than the photo suggests

Between Kath and myself , with use of the boat hook and some careful dangling we pulled the rope round the wood and passed back to tie onboard. We all agreed it was very unlikely that a boat would come past us tonight as we’d only passed one boat facing the same direction as us, plus the next flight of locks hadn’t been open today so no boats would come from the other direction.

Time for a cuppa and more flapjack before we said goodbye to Kath. It’s a shame she has to go to work tomorrow as she’d have really liked to join us up the next flight.

Tilly spent quite a bit of time outside, once she’d managed to get past all the woofers. What a holey outside they’d tied up! I had to be extra careful as I claimed the edging. Once that was done I got across the woofer highway and into friendly cover it improved greatly. I managed to use up all my hours shore leave before returning bang on time for dingding.

11 locks, 8 miles, 1 left, 25 minutes early, 1 karabiner to keep phone safe, 1 jolly welcome, 1 sunny tree filled lovely day, 12 sausage rolls, 3 left, 2 of Heathers friends, 1 batter, 1 bowler, 1 park mooring, 4ft mooring guidance, 3ft6 maybe 5ft, 6 flapjacks, 1 sister out law, 1 bumbag found behind the sofa! Tilly?!? 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Missing BumBag! 8th June

Pyrford Marina to Domino’s Mooring, River Wey

Mick was off again this morning to return the hire car, he also stopped off at Tescos for a few things. The menu for tonight had been changed so some fish pie fish was required.

Half this years crop!

Whilst we’ve been away we’d moved our wild strawberry plants into the cratch, the first berries had been just about ripe when we headed to Scarborough and we wanted to be the ones to enjoy them rather than birds! By this morning about half of our crop was ripe, I picked and rinsed them to be added to our cereal. They may be small, but they don’t half pack a punch of strawberryness.

As we were getting ready for the off, I couldn’t seem to find my bright blue bumbag. I keep my phone and camera inside whilst we cruise for ease of access and safe keeping. It normally gets put there or over there when we’ve finished cruising, but this morning it was nowhere to be seen. I’d done a bit of a tidy up for when Ann-Marie and Dave came, but where had I put it. The boat was searched top to bottom, inside and out. No bumbag! Places were double checked, Oh Bumbag! Still no bumbag!!! Recently I’ve also taken to having a bank card in it, that was frozen straight away. I’m hoping that ignoring it’s absence will soon bring it out from hiding.

Push back

Once we’d breakfasted and filled the water tank it was time to get moving. Push back, wind, just as a big widebeam was heading towards it’s mooring, then a little narrowboat came into the entrance winded and backed back to it’s mooring, blimey things were busy! We pulled out, turning right onto the navigation again, pulling up immediately on the posts, time to empty the yellow water tank whilst we were port side to the bank.

Our extra crew also arrived, Kath Mick’s sister who lives quite close by. Buses hadn’t been as expected, but she’d made it to the rendez vous point in the end. Time for a quickish hello and then it was time to wind and head downstream. Not far, just far enough for Tilly to have some shore leave away from roads.

Nearly there

A mooring marked on our map had been free when Mick had passed it earlier and thankfully it still was. We pulled in and tied up. In amongst the trees was a plaque in memory of Domino the boat cat. Not even a year old Domino had been attacked by a dog earlier this year. I always knew the woofers round here had no manners, now they have even less anything! Was the dog in question still walked along the towpath? What was the likely hood of the same thing happening again? Domino was a young boat cat, would Tilly’s eight human years serve her better? It would have been very unfair to keep her in especially as the mooring had serious stamp of approval potential.

Poor poor Domino

The afternoon was filled with chatting, snoozing and food preparation. I made up a batch of apple flapjack, some sad git’s puff pastry was defrosted and rolled around sausage meat ready to be baked tomorrow and a large fish pie was put together to feed the troops, very tasty it was too.

The locals came to say hello

A very pleasant evening with conversation whilst watching the sun go down. A very nice mooring despite being so close to the M25.

Mesh in the side hatch as the sun went down

0 locks, 0.7 miles, 2 winds, 0 bumbag, 1 empty wee tank, 1 full water tank, 2 packs fish pie, 1 car returned, 1 sister, 1 lazy afternoon, 1 lovely mooring, 1 black pawbanded Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

The Hunt Continues. 31st May

Sonning Lock to Medmenham Meadows

The first boats came past whilst we were still in bed, then the Lock Keeper walked along to check on the moorings which was soon followed by a busy half hour of boats arriving for the lock. We took our time and waited for the rush to abate before pushing off, winding and heading to the lock ourselves.

Getting closer to Henley I was on the look out for the location of my cousin Tim’s first wedding. I was the only bridesmaid and I’d love to know where the reception was held. My cousin Ian has said it was Henley and Sally said it was at The Bell in or near Henley. Well there is an Old Bell in Henley, but not by the river.

The bride and me

There are lots of photos taken with water in the back ground so I’m discounting the Old Bell. This was about 50 years ago, so buildings may have changed, stopped being restaurants, but the proximity of water and bridges in the photos almost certainly won’t have. The Bull in Sonning doesn’t have the right kind of bridges in view so has been discounted. If anyone has any ideas please let me know.

The Lockie was jolly this morning. On the lock island there is an extension to one of the houses underway and along the towpath new fencing is being erected, pretty sturdy fencing.

The houses now have grown somewhat. Huge wide lawns sprawl down to the Thames all with their obligatory stripes. Some boat houses look to have big Granny annexes, I would quite happily live in the boat house and let Mick and Tilly have the annex.

So sad the campsites are closed

The water point above Shiplake Lock was free, we pulled in to top up the tank, the tap already taped so as to assist using a long hose. All round the lock island was fencing, only access to the pumpout, elsan and water tap possible. Here there have always been numerous sheds with canvas canopies attached, a rather lovely camping area. With cut backs this year the EA have closed all of their campsites, so the whole site normally very interesting looks very dead. Along with the lack of campers there is also the lack of bins, the rubbish barge removed by the EA.

Vessels of all sorts on the Thames

However at the lock there was a Lockie and a volunteer, in fact today every lock was manned, they don’t have to wait 20 minutes for a lock to go through the whole process of emptying when it’s already empty, so things were much quicker.


Approaching Marsh Lock I kept my eyes peeled towards the west bank for the wedding reception venue, possibly tucked away behind an island, no longer a restaurant, the walkway over the weir possibly in one photo, but the other bridge couldn’t be seen.

Click photo for details

On the eastern bank a house for sale, set way back from the river with terraced gardens and water frontage. It was hard to make out which the house was.

The weir

The Lock Keeper here said how quiet the river was, today was his busiest so far this year. Below the lock the water gets confused, the Lockie had warned us, first we’d get dragged towards the weir then we’d be pushed away, Mick upped the revs to compensate.

A semi for sale, click photo for a nosy

Which side of the islands, we chose to go to the west, see if there were any other possible venues. None, but there was quite a lot of mooring available, too early for lunch.

I hope one day to see this boat out and about

The beautiful Tiddley Pom Pom was spotted on it’s mooring, my Grandfather on my Mum’s side was called Pompom so I always look for it, hopefully one day we’ll see it out and about.

Preparations for the regatta are on going. Well it does take 3 months to set up. All the white posts are in position and planks are hooked on to make the lanes. Marquees spread out on the west bank and stands have been erected. We took the eastern side, access to moorings marked by flags. We decided to carry on passing Temple Island and being passed ourselves by a big trip boat.

Temple Island

Hambledon Lock was also manned and there was plenty of room for us to share the lock with the trip boat. As the lock emptied the stern got closer towards us, ‘She always likes to sit in the centre of locks’ the lady said as she pulled the back away from our cratch. They were heading for Marlow where presumably boat trips will start this weekend.

Oxford our big locking partner

Now to find a mooring, we hoped there’d be space for us along Medmenham meadows. The first field had quite a few camper vans in it, no mooring room. On a bit further and close to Fredrica and Little Fred there was a length of bank that looked possible. We winded and approached slowly. I hopped off, Mick brought the stern in, yep this would be good we just needed to get some spikes in, the trees a touch too far away to be useful to tie to.


Once secure the doors were open, Four hours Tilly! A wind swept Tilly explored for a while, but thankfully she heeded my warnings of climbing trees over hanging the river, or hunting right on the bank. No, it was just far FAR to BLOWY! She gave up and retired indoors for much of the afternoon. The occasional check on the wind was taken from under the pram cover, still not suitable. Here’s hoping we find a suitable mooring with suitable weather for her in the next couple of days.

4 locks, 10.5 miles, 0 reception venue found, 50 year old memory failing, 0 self service locks,1 nicely mown patch, 4 hours of blustery wind, 0 sitting out, 1 Tiddly Pompom, 2 blowy for cats.