Category Archives: Flowers

A Wave To BBC. 10th April

Canal Wharf, Littleborough to above 1st Laneside Lock 54, Slattocks


Alarm set for before 7am! All because of the weather which we were hoping to beat today. No time to lie in bed with a cuppa, we were up and having breakfast, listening out for our Sainsburys delivery between 7:30 and 8:30. The beep beep of the van reverseing towards the canal caught our attention at 7:45, time to stow our purchases.

Goodbye Littleborough

By 8:20 we were ready to push off leaving the squabbling, nest sitting geese to it, time to head to the next mooring in towards Manchester.

New houses look like they will be going up soon along the south east bank heading to Smithy Bridge, two geese stood guard ontop of the earth works. Apparently there are plans to build 1000 new homes around Littleborough. Past Clegg Hall with a terrace of workers cottages, a long line of windows on the top floor for good light in the work rooms.

Stopped these two chaps who didn’t understand why the bridge went nowhere

This must be the longest pound on the Rochdale, around an hours cruise with no locks. But to keep you on your toes there are a couple of swing bridges. I went with my handcuff key and key of power just incase, just as well as they both got used.

Propmate kept out should we need it later

The canal at times was shallow, aided by supermarket trolleys, eroded banks, picking places to pull in took a bit of time. Then picking up some plastic on the prop required a stop. We tried pulling into the side but didn’t succeed, electing to just pause in the middle to get the prop mate out and clear the prop. No passing traffic so we weren’t in anyones way.

For the last few miles I’d been spotting what look like metal flowers attached to the off side. Outlines of three white petals with a yellow centre, at one lock this was accompanied by some leaves. On one of the bridges there is a mural of the same flower. Maybe a canoist has put these up where the plant growns?

Hello Rochdale

Just as we pulled in towards Rochdale, our slightly slower progress then planned, meant we got the first rain drops falling, we’d not beaten the weather! The empty lock looked to have wet sides, were we following that boat that had been on the water point? How much further had they got yesterday before they gave up? Would we catch them up and maybe have a partner for the rest of the locks into Manchester? We’d see.

I filled the lock, spotting that a bottom gate paddle had been left slightly up. Gongoozlers came and watched, three young chaps asked Mick for a lift. I think this is just a standard thing to say for youngsters, a little like when I’ve got my painting clothes on and people say ‘You’ve missed a bit’. Very original! They helped with the gates though.

Another chap arrived at the next lock promising to help with the gates, which he did. Well he helped with the top gates, not the bottom cranked beams! He was wise in this decision. Wet underfoot there was nowhere to push your feet against. Despite my slip resistant shoes it took forever to push the bottom gate open and then close it again behind us. There obviously used to be some other means of opening and closing these gates as there is a curved track in amongst the stonework.

Below Moss Lower Lock

Just below the lock there is an arm heading off to the north. This led to Drake Street where three arms were kept busy. In it’s hay day the Rochdale Canal saw around 50 boats a day transporting goods to and from the mills. I wonder how many boats cross the summit in a year now? On the Rochdale Canal facebook group there seems to be a campaign to pursuade the council to redevelope the warehouses and arms and get them reconnected to the canal. This would be wonderful, but would need to get an instant good reputation as somewhere to moor. It would be nice to feel you could explore Rochdale.

Culvert to the left, new tunnel to the right

Another longish pound. Some of this is a new channel. The canal had been built over and culveted for road building, so a new course was required along with the roundabout having to be rebuilt when the canal was restored. You can see where it used to go before you head into Edinburgh Way Tunnel. Mick remembers the road works lasting forever, the route to Anne (his sisters house) from the M62 affected for months.

Artwork alongside the lock

As we came into Castleton the lock ahead was just about full. Either the top gates leaked masses or a paddle had been left up. This is lock 51, the Lock Keepers had been called to it the day we crossed the summit. The offside gates are worked with your windlass and chains as a carpark for a mill now gets in the way. This does mean that access along the off side of the lock is for very skinny people or those who don’t mind limboing! I am neither of those. I closed the near side paddle and then noticed the rack went a lot further down than the one on the off side. If the offside paddle was still up by what might be inches then we’d be waiting an age to empty the lock.

I hopped onto the bow of Oleanna and Mick moved her up to the offside gate, here I could step off. Sure enough the paddle was up by a good few inches. I hopped back onto the bow and we headed for the lock. The lock beam has notches cut in it so that it goes over the top of the ladder handrail. We’d nudged the gate coming in, it needed to be opened again and then things aligned properly once more. With one bottom paddle lifted it was taking an age to empty, time to try to access the offside paddle. I managed to position myself in amongst the beam chains and lent over. I could have engaged the pawl if I’d flicked it with my windlass, but then there would have been no way of taking it off. So I just wound it up and held it until the lock levelled.

Hello somewhere over there

At Blue Pits Middle Lock I waved to Anne’s old house. Ten years ago you could just about see it, five years ago new houses blocked the view, now trees hide everything. I waved none the less.

Under the M62, the pontoon towpath was in situ today. This is also a new channel, the original used to pass a little further west with the Heywood Branch heading off to the west. If you look behind you you can see the way boats used to travel. Blue Pits New Lock 53 is a concrete affair, nothing old about it. It takes ages to fill and it’s surroundings were very bog like, I was quite glad the gates didn’t leak at either end which meant I didn’t have to wade through to operate the paddle on the off side. Puzzling why the bottom gates have these signs on them, they are usually on top gates.


A boat was moored on the next bend, a perfect mooring for spotting trains as the line sits at a height a field away. If we’d been half an hour earlier we’d have been treated to a steam train!

Not much further we reached Slattocks, bollards marking our destination for the day. We quickly unrolled the covers, headed inside to give Tilly the disappointing news that there’d be no shore leave today, but more importantly it was time to dry off.

Tension ans stitch swatch

The last pair of socks I’d frogged were finished off this afternoon. A swatch was knitted with the new blue yarns for the next pair. I was considering giving Broken Seed Stitch a go, but I think that would be better suited to two solid coloured yarns rather than varigated. Instead they will end up being very stripy socks.

5 locks, 6.6 miles, 2 swing bridges, 1 man and 2 dogs held up, 1 almost tunnel, 4 boxes wine, 1 pork joint for the weekend, 2 hours early, 1 orangutan, 0 shore leave, 1 annoying towpath cat, 14th pair started, 12 meatballs, 2 soggy boaters yet again, 1 boat ahead still not caught.

Not A Chip In The Air. 1st September

Trent Junction to Beeston, Nottingham and Beeston Canal

We winded and headed along Cranfleet Cut. There would be few trains today due to a train strike, the sign marking where HS2 was planned to cross now looks a touch forgotten about.

What were the holes for?

The stone work along the bank has lots of holes in it. What were these for? Did there used to be a wooden structure that was supported by the holes? Is it to aid drainage from the land behind? If anyone knows please tell us.

Up ahead we could see volunteers at the lock. As we approached they all stood up and walked over to close the paddles and open the gates. Four chaps in blue with life jackets. Well I’d be superfluous if I hopped off so I stayed on board, allowing them to operate one of the few remaining manual locks for us this year.

Check your quarter wave

Now down on the river we zoomed our way towards Beeston. The level seemed to be a touch low, we could see where walls lerk below the surface ready to catch you out should you stray over to the eastern bank. We passed Barton Island where recently a boat sank, a problem with it’s weedhatch. They came past us yesterday being towed to a boat yard on the Soar somewhere.

The wooden houses by the river. Various styles. I like the slightly quirkier ones which look like they’ve been cobbled together from bits and bobs. A new one going up, a lot of sterling board being used, wonder what it’ll be clad in?

We pulled up on the long pontoon before Beeston Lock, a chap pulled his boat almost to the end, but not quite. A pause for us to empty the yellow water ready for disposal at the elsan, no notice that the services have been vandalised recently.


Up at the lock boats were coming from everywhere, well from Nottingham. I checked to see what people were doing, all stopping for water, just what we were after too. The lock was sorted to being in our favour, we dropped down to the canal level, only about a foot today, then pulled over to wait in line for the water point to become free.

5 miles to get back on the river again

The tap took it’s time to fill everyones tanks and bottles, you would think a place like Nottingham would have more than two taps!

Now to find ourselves a mooring. At first it didn’t look hopeful, but then I spied two gaps either side of a dutch barge. The second one looked like it might just be long enough for us, the chap from the dutch barge came out to help pull us in sideways, a couple of inches spare front and back, brilliant.

QUICK!!! I got on the internet, time to see if I could book a table for this evening, even Tilly didn’t know what was going on, Why wasn’t she giving me the rules and writing down the magic numbers?! 5:45 or 8pm. I opted for 8, my request had been received, but would it be accepted? An hour went by before I got confirmation of our booking. Hooray! We could go to the Victoria Hotel.

The Victoria Hotel

Apparently I am grounded. As there is no ground inside I really don’t know what it means. She says I’ve broken rule number 1 four times in the last 3 days. Only one thing to do, sulk!

Tonights menu

Our table sat waiting for us at the Victoria Hotel in the Middle Room, every other table packed. People stood at the bar to order drinks and food whilst others stood in front of the blackboard menu, also available on their website. What a choice, what a popular place. We’ve eaten here once before in 2016, but not managed to either get a mooring or a table since.

We made our selections, drank our wine and watched other peoples meals come out from the kitchen. Not one chip could be smelt, not one burger on the menu. One sausage or two with your mash though.

I’d chosen a Moroccan Lamb Tagine which came with rice and some slices of bread instead of couscous and a nan bread. Mick had a chicken skewer with pitta bread and a salad. Puddings were also partaken, Pistachio Chocolate Brownie for me and Bakewell Tart for Mick. All very very tasty. So glad we got a table.

As we finished our meal people lurked in doorways, waiting for tables to clear or for no shows. The kitchen stays open, so if you are lucky and get somewhere to sit they will serve you. Then the drinkers gradually take over, some sitting reading the newspapers with a pint, one chap inhaling some rather good looking cheese on toast.

On our return to Oleanna I counted six maybe seven campervans pulled up, thankfully noone would be opening their curtains in the morning to see us staring back at them. Tilly wasn’t interested in us at all, no knee sitting, just one very big sulk!

2 locks, 5.1 miles, 1 empty wee tank, 1 full water tank, 2 troughs of strawberries tidied up, 1 table booked, 1 sulky cat, 1 very good meal, 1 pub definitely worth visiting, 0 chips seen or smelt.

Post Office Beans. 10th August

Welton Hythe Marina to Cracks Hill

Tilly was keen to go out this morning, she likes it here. But as we are the custodians of the doors they stayed firmly shut, we had places to go.

A shady room at the Thai restaurant

Nebo switch flicked on, we were soon on our way, the M1 getting closer all the time. The old Thai Restaurant no longer has a terrace below a weeping willow, there is now an extension containing tables and chairs and TV monitors. This only slightly looks better from the canal than when the place was empty and run down, I hope it looks more inviting from land.

We’d already been passed by a couple of boats this morning, so we knew we’d not be straight up the Watford flight. But only one boat was pulled up in front of us, they were the third boat going up. I walked up to find the Lock Keeper with the book, thankfully he was the first one I came across at the bottom of the staircase locks.

Coming up the second lock to wait

For those who don’t know, Watford has narrow locks and the flight is made up of a couple of single locks, then a staircase of four followed by a single at the top. A staircase is where one lock chamber shares the gates of the next chamber, then the next, then the next depending on how many chambers there are. So boats cannot pass in the staircase and there has to be one chamber left empty between boats, so that you don’t steal the water from the boat ahead of you. Both here and at Foxton (where there are two sets of staircase locks) you have to check in with the Lock Keeper, be patient and wait your turn.

Pushing off from our holding mooring

Today it seemed that they were operating three boats up then three boats down. We were the fourth boat to arrive at the bottom, we’d missed the cut. Our instructions were to come up the two single locks and then wait for the boats to come down before starting up the staircase. More boats arrived behind us, they were told to come up the first lock and then have a cuppa whilst they waited.

We all moved into position, helping each other out. The boat behind us was from Ripon, the boat behind turned out to be from Blue Water Marina in Thorne. We all exchanged stories of sink holes, breaches and being stuck.

Filling the next lock and chatting

As the lead boat came down the staircase we all went to help, Mick and a lady from behind filled the lock below the staircase so that it would be ready for each of the three boats. I helped with gates as the following two boats were single handers, each with a lock keeper winding the paddles. This all helped to speed things up and made for a sociable hour.

Red before …

Time for us to rise in the staircase. ‘Red before white and you’ll be alright!’ the mantra many mutter to themselves as they ascend or descend. There are side pounds here to help conserve water. As you lift the red paddle water from the side pound enters the lower chamber. Then you lift the white paddle this empties water from the higher chamber into the side pound. When all three are at the same level you can open the gates between chambers and move your boat. Then repeat until you reach the top of the staircase where there are normal paddles to fill it.

The top single lock was sat empty waiting for us at the top so were the crew from the first boat waiting to come down, not such a sociable lot.

Now choices, where to moor for the day? We know the summit pound really quite well. Should it be the Sheep Mooring? The towpath not wide enough for a bbq and we needed some suitable supplies to cook. We continued onwards, tunnel mode engaged, me with a coat, Mick without.


The tunnel was wonderfully cool, the south portal very misty. One boat was passed and then at the far end we got a soaking from the tunnel roof. You always get a soaking in Crick tunnel.

So lifeless now

Around what used to be The Moorings (a restaurant) the area and buildings look like they are being prepared for redevelopment, an area behind the bins has been cleared. Wonder what will be there?

As we carried on past the marina we kept our eyes peeled for familiar boats. Was that our old neighbour? Was that someone we knew walking away with their back to us? Was that the bow of a boat we hope to meet up with? The towpath moorings here were busy as always, we carried on hoping for a space away from the marina.

House boat and crane

Hang on what’s that? A big cane was extended, what looked like a house boat below it. Are Aquavista installing house boats at Crick? Or is it something left over from the boat show?

On we pootled, fingers crossed. As bridge 14 came into view I zoomed in with the camera, the reeds making it hard to see if there would be space for us. Then as we rounded the last bit of the bend we could see that there was plenty of space available. Quickly we pulled in and tied up. A quick pace out in front of us to see how much room there still was before a boat would be in the way of the winding hole. Enough for another Oleanna.

Our preferred Crick mooring

As the weather was so good provisions for a barbeque were required, our shopping trip in Rugby had been on a rainy day, our purchases had reflected this. Across the fields, through the woods over the A428 on the little footbridge. It’s funny the first few times we visited Crick we sat on this road in long tail backs heading to Crick show, today only one car passed below me. A wiggle round the houses and I was at the Post Office.

Goody Post Office beans

Birthday cards popped in the post and a quick check to see what local grown veg was available for sale. Then down to the Co-op for some pork chops, milk and a few more bits before returning to the Post Office for some peppers and the obligatory Runner Beans. Back along the bridleway spotting little blue butterflies flitting this way and that, but none of them staying put long enough for a photo.

Some work emails to catch up with. New printing costs were in, with a few extra pieces added to the list we’d managed to get the price down by £1000. Still waiting to hear about everything else though.


Another Christmas rub/marinade was tried out on the pork chops, all very tasty sat outside. The evening wasn’t quite as sunny as the day had been, but it was nice to be able to sit out again. If the weather continues to be good we may have to find ourselves a new bbq as the one we’ve had for nine years now is starting to disintegrate.

Cracks Hill

A boat arrived wanting to wind. We watched as the70ft boat turned into the winding hole. Bow thruster, pole. The bottom was really quite silted up, another attempt to get tucked further in. Eventually they managed to have enough room to swing the stern round. So glad Oleanna’s not that long!

7 locks, 4 a staircase, 3.8 miles at the top of the Nebo report, 5.2 at the bottom, 1 tunnel, 1 boat passed, 0 mysterons, 1 pipe delayed rendez vous, 1 mooring just for us, 1 big bunch of beans, 2 cards, 2 chops, 4 kebabs, 4 hours shore leave, 1 tiny limp.

Welcome To Autumn. 5th August

Broughton Road Bridge

Glad we’d not planned on moving today, the rain wasn’t torrential it just hung around in the air keeping everything very wet. Mick kindly lit the stove, emptied the ash pan and filled the coal skuttle, today was definitely a day for a fire.

Moored just down the way

Thankfully Tilly wasn’t too keen on being outdoors, the stove was far more appealing. So the two of us got to stay cosy inside, unlike Mick who had to walk to the station to catch a train to Scarborough to do the next turn around between lodgers.

I had a long chat with Jo the props maker for panto. Going through the props list I’d finished off this morning. Jo does all the buying and making of props and with quite a good lead up time she is hoping to import a LOT of fake bananas, maybe 300! We talked beasts, plants, buckets, chairs, all sorts, taking 2.5 hours!

I did have to venture out for a pint of milk. The nearest shop looked like it would be Tescos so I set off along the muddy towpath, hopping over puddles here there and everywhere.

The people of Rugby don’t seem to be wanting to buy ice at the moment that’s for sure. I spent a bit of time by the lemonade bottles measuring them up to use as bases for lanterns. Then I found a route back to Oleanna through the housing estate to avoid getting muddy again.


Apparently it wasn’t raining in Yorkshire when Mick came through Standedge Tunnel on the train, but the River Ouse was up a touch and there had been some localised flooding in Scarborough, thankfully not near the house.

Propy bits

The afternoon was spent doing emails and sketches of props, whilst numerous hire boats cruised past each and everyone of them getting really quite soggy.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 trains for Mick, 1 very very full, 150 minutes props chat, 300 bananas, 4 sketches, 1 cosy boat, 1 long snoozy cat.

Back In The Room. 24th July

Aristotle Bridge

All wrapped up against the elements

With model box and drawings wrapped up against possible rain I set off to catch the bus to Chippy. From our mooring the walk was a far shorter one than if we’d been moored in Jericho. However the large puddles of water on the roads edge gave slight concern when buses passed by! Dry refuge had to be sought. Time ticked by, then more time. I’d arrived in plenty of time and with only one bus an hour I started to get very twitchy as even the Stagecoach app was jumping past the bus I was waiting for! Thankfully buses are colour coded in Oxford so when three came along together I knew the last one, gold, was my bus.

Oxford roads are totally messed up at the moment, road works here there and everywhere so it seems, but the bus made it through to Chippy only twenty minutes late, thankfully I’d aimed for a bus an hour early for my meeting, so I wasn’t late.

People! Louisa, Paul, Gemma, John, Liza and Sophie at the front

How nice it was to be back in a room full of people doing a model showing, only one joining via zoom today. We had the Lighting and Sound designers along with Sophie the costume designer, just Jo the props maker was missing today.

Sophie showed us her costume designs, I’d had a sneaky peek at them a couple of weeks ago to see what colours she was thinking of using, so our designs matched quite well.

Then it was my turn to show the model. Thankfully I didn’t get the model shakes which normally happens when showing a model to a full room. A couple of minor adjustments and additions were asked for by John the Director. All went well.

Trying to cut costs piece by piece

After this Gemma the Production Manager and myself sat down to see if there was anywhere we could try to save some money. Sadly my design has come in over budget, some tweaking and pinching of money from other places is possible, inflation and a few extra requests really hasn’t helped. Each set piece was looked at individually, the build discussed. I’d already amended drawings to include alterations to make the build easier. On the main set build we could only find a couple of things to reduce the cost, my painting would have to make up for this as extra details in the build may have to be cut.

How the rainforest portals would be put together was also talked about. Having the design printed onto canvas would be the best option as it would then match two cloths with the same look. Some work by me is required to get it printed in sections with overlaps to achieve the best outcome. Mike Todd asked about this process in a comment the other day. Basically my model designs are scanned at a very high resolution, then they can be printed onto various types of surfaces depending on what you want them to do. This is just like a very VERY big photocopy. Gauzes can be printed so that you can do transformation scenes, a scene in front of the gauze bleeds through to what is happening behind it. A front cloth which needs to be soft, far softer than could be painted by hand, this we’ve used a lot at Chippy. Scenic canvas for applying to set pieces, saving a Scenic Artist lots of work (in this case meaning I’d not have to work my socks off for an extra week). Designs can also be printed onto vinyl or mdf flooring.

Chair and notes

To do any of these your original artwork has to be as good as it can be, any mistakes will end up being 25 times bigger, the odd pencil line not erased will show up as a 1cm line. A jittery line will still be jittery, just bigger. In some cases painting by hand is more fluid, curves are so much easier to paint at 1 to 1 with a paint brush on a long stick. The mice and cats I had on the portals last year would have been enlarged from my model as blobby things, rather than the neat animal shapes I painted with the assistance of stencils. So printing has it’s place, but it comes at a cost.

The theatre

I could paint the portals this year, adding a week to my work load, this would save the budget about £1000. That decision in the end will likely happen next week when new prices come in for printing and building the set. So unfortunately the relief I normally feel on a day when I hand over a model was not present and I still have more work to do before the design can be signed off. Heyho!

Holly Hocks on Spring Street

Some time was spent checking what paint was already in stock at the theatre and making sure it was stored safely to be used in a few months time. Plans were printed and scanned for distribution. Time to catch a bus home.

The S3 gold I caught was also running late and it headed to Charlbury, I’ve never been there before. So by the time I got back to Aristotle Bridge it was 7:30pm, too late to do a few work jobs. Dinner was left over roast chicken pasta, an easy meal once the chicken carcass had been stripped.

An emptier bag than I went with

Mick had spent the day getting quotes for insurance for our house. The costs have gone up, hasn’t everything, and companies seemed to be reluctant to cover us for three lodgers at the house at a time. Mick got in touch with a broker to see if they could find a policy that wasn’t too pricey for us. We’ll see what he comes back with.

0 locks, 2 late buses, 2 many thousands, 1 and a bit increasing my work load, 3 possible days near Plymouth, 1st proper model showing since the pandemic, 2 boxes of paint, 4 litres Bona Mega, 2 not 3, 1 bored cat.

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.

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.


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.


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.

Margee Bargee. 12th June

Pendford Bridge 4 to Wolverhampton off side mooring, BCN

Today we allowed ourselves to have breakfast before pushing off, other boats that had moored near us had already moved on by the time we’d got ourselves ready. A pause in the long grass by bridge 2 for me to walk to Morrisons to pick up a bag of salad (we’d forgotten to buy yesterday!) and some blueberries.

Last of the Shropie locks for this year

The hire boats were in at base by Autherley Stop Lock, the staff working hard to do the turn arounds. This made it hard to get off Oleanna, crossing the stern of a boat and then managing to get round a cart of equipment required for engine services. Four inches higher and we’d finished our time on the Shropie.

Sorry Chester, maybe next year

Right please!

Then left! Onto the Wolverhampton flight.

Going up!

The bottom lock is always a photo opportunity. 21 carved into the two bottom beams. Up Oleanna came, on to the second lock, here only a single bottom gate, the only one on the flight.

By the time Oleanna was coming into Lock 19, our third of the flight, two figures could be seen walking down the towpath. Our altered schedule meant that we could give some more ex-boaters a canal fix, we like to do our bit for boaters mental health. Today we were being joined by Alison and Laura from NB Large Marge.

Here they come

We first met The Margees on the Chesterfield Canal when we couldn’t exit a lock just below Shireoaks Marina, we ended up cruising with them and their parrot Jaffa for quite a few weeks before our routes headed off in different directions. We’ve met up a few times since and when we’d been in touch a few days ago Alison had expressed an interest in helping us up Wolverhampton.

Windlasses at the ready

The last time we’d seen them we kept our distance, elbow bumps the new way of greeting each other in early 2020, today there were hugs all round before windlasses and hand cuff keys were handed out. A hire boat was hot on our tail, so we’d best get a move on!

Laura heading to set the next one

Leapfrogging of crew started quickly, two working the current lock, one heading upwards to set the next chamber, nobody having to go back and forth or walk round a lock several times.

Even Mick got to chat too

The hardest bit of today was trying to remember the two conversations you were having as you leapfrogged locks and people. There was plenty of news to catch up on, more than the annual Christmas round robin we share. Old hands make for easy locking just as had happened at Audlem with Carol and George.

Swapping in a pound

We met a boat coming down, apparently there had been a problem yesterday, a boat getting stuck in a lock, front button. They’d had to wait for C&RT to top up some pounds, so had had a delayed start to their descent. A while later we came across a second boat coming down.


All the way up the flight there had been wild flowers, but by lock 12 (possibly) the shear number of Oxeye Daisies was amazing. Wonderful, you’d hardly know you were heading into Wolverhampton.

Onwards and upwards

A pause at the half way mark for drinks before carrying on. Hydration important on a day like today.

Think we know where that water went!

Then a flooded pound, thankfully there was an alternative higher path so we didn’t all have to wade to the next lock. Two locks up we could see where the water had possibly come from, the next pound decidedly low. Someone had possibly been letting water run through the lock without realising. Laura headed up to the next lock to let water down, Mick bringing Oleanna along at a crawl. Once we were up that lock we dropped the water to help the hire boat behind us.

Coming in

Another low pound towards the top of the flight had us running more water down. The level was so low that Mick had to back into the lock so as not to be sat on the cill. The pound above had dropped so warranted a top up too, Laura was concerned that would just push the problem up hill, the next lock happened to be the top lock, so not a problem.

The ladies at work

We pulled out of the top lock 2 hours 42 minutes after we’d pulled in at the bottom lock, a job well done on a hot muggy day. The moorings above the lock were all free so we pulled onto one for lunch. A cold collation was enjoyed by all with plenty of drinks.

Top Lock

It was gone 3pm by the time we said our farewells, not enough time to really get anywhere so we pulled along to the offside moorings for the night. Tilly wasn’t impressed with this as she’s not allowed out here. She spent sometime working out a route up the plant covered wall. I could easily make it up there! But it’s the getting down again that would be the problem Tilly!

Todays crew

Another lovely day working locks in the company of friends.

Bye bye, until next time

Now who can we find for the next few flights?

If I get up to that bit, nudge across then it’s straight to the top!

22 locks, 4 miles, 1 right, 1 left, 2 margees, 0 jaffa, 3 downhill boats, 2 low pounds, 4 volunteers litter picking, 1 bag of salad, 3 cheeses, 2 meats, 1 pate, 4 chocolate chip cookies, 1 bored cat, 1 drizzly moment, 1 downpour again!

Orchids! They’re Two A Penny! 3rd June

Dunham School Bridge to George Gleaves Bridge.

With the drawing board still out I continued doing sketch drawings for panto as Mick stood at the helm moving us along the Bridgewater Canal. Archways that need to do so many things took up much of my morning.

It’s exhausting being a boat cat!

Our arrival at Lymm was well timed, tucking into a mooring near to Sooty’s house. I headed off to be papergirl today and to stretch my legs. Sooty’s house is still quite a picture, just not as well tended. The hanging baskets used to be brimming with colour when Matthew Corbett owned the house.

Lymm was busy, by the Cross was a fishmonger, another stall was the food bank filled with supplies. By the time I’d picked up a newspaper and a few bits everything had been taken at the food bank and the fishmonger was packing up, no point in stopping to see if I fancied anything for a barbecue this evening.

Drawings drawings drawings

Early lunch and then we were on our way again. Back to my drawings, rostra, more archways, the coach, canopies. Then the Town Square. My sketches had suggested I had more room on stage than I actually have, Chipping Norton Theatre is very compact. Sadly one request from John may not be possible, but I’ve not ruled it out yet.

All pink

The occasional look up from the drawing board to see where we were. Rhododendrons in full bloom, how wonderful. I know they are in invasive species but I grew up with a bank of them in our garden, with happy memories of hiding between them and piling leaf mould around their bases. The deep red and dark purple ones my favourites.

Mick kept slowing Oleanna, were we coming in to moor? Out of the hatch I could see the tower of Daresbury Laboratory. A hire boat were pulling over to moor up, ropes at the ready to hop off on the off side. One chap asked if they could moor there, Mick replied that he thought they wouldn’t like it. Through the very next bridge you most certainly can’t moor on the off side, numerous large signs inform you of this. Their pulling over however gave us the advantage of going on ahead to hopefully find a good spot for a barbecue.

So many boats moored up, some of the better places already taken. Then a stretch where the road stayed away, the railway was across the far side of a field and maybe just maybe the towpath was wide enough for us to cook outside today.

My sketch drawings finished enough for me to start making a white card model the drawing board was stowed away. Time to marinade some steaks.

At Christmas, Kath, Mick’s sister had given me a selection of barbecue spices which you can make into marinades or just rub on fish, meat or veggies. Time to give one of them a try. With some sizzle steaks (wish I’d spent more on the meat) in some of the Montreal spices and some veg kebabs we sat outside enjoying the evening sunshine.

Our mooring was filled with buttercups and so many Marsh Orchids, they’re really common round here!

The steaks themselves were a little tough, better quality meat required next time, but the spices were very nice. Plenty of that mix left, and there’s another three flavours to try too.

Some more knitting of socks. My current pair are for a friend who’s feet do not match each other and need to be that bit longer than I normally knit. I’ve been happily knitting away over the last few evenings, but realised that I’ve too many stitches on my needles to turn a heel over an inch, so the main foot is most probably an inch too long. This means pulling out quite a lot of rows, a recalculation is required before I do though.

A sunset for two

0 locks, 13.3 miles, 1 stop for a paper, 3 in the queue for water, 0.5 tank will do us, 6 sheets of drawings, 1 drawing board put away, 4 hours shore leave, 0 secret handshakes, 0 secret milkshakes, 2 chairs on the towpath, 4 steaks, 4 kebabs, 68 sts rather than the usual 48 or 52, 1 lovely evening.

The Pumpkin In The Room. 2nd June

Plank Lane to almost Dunham School Bridge, Bridgewater Canal

Our start was delayed by Mick having to return the car to Enterprise this morning. As I worked on a couple of new ideas for panto, scribbling them down in my sketch book John was sending through new ideas and new excerpts from the script. I had to pause to read through what he was sending and adjust things accordingly.

Once Mick was back we soon were ready to push off. It suddenly got very busy! NB Petroc was pulling in for water and then most probably to use the bridge. As we pulled out another two boats approached, one immediately taking our mooring the other pulling in behind the line of moored boats.

Being on the flat for a few days it’s time for me to take advantage of not being needed to work locks or bridges and crack on with work. A planned place to pull up for lunch was agreed, this would coincide with a zoom meeting with John.

I stayed up top to pass Pennington Flash a very popular mooring, we’d have moved up last night if there hadn’t been the car to return. Then it was time to scan images, add a few new references to folders I’ve shared with John, all the time keeping an eye open as to where we were. In Leigh I popped up top as we said farewell to the Leeds Liverpool and hello to the Bridgewater Canal, you now have to book your passage on the C&RT website before entering.

Marsh Orchid?

Mick pulled Oleanna into the bank at 12:40 right alongside what I thought were orchids. My meeting went well, just a couple of small adjustments and things I want to alter when I make the white card model. We’ve come up with a slightly different idea regarding the coach, normally the design is based around a pumpkin, well I’m not going to say anymore as I don’t want to spoil it for those who’ve already booked tickets.

Cruising through builders tea

No stopping here or the day, we have a schedule to keep up with and today we needed to skirt round Manchester. A boat came past just as we were ready. This chap was cruising whilst his dog followed him along on the towpath. The boat’s speed left something to be desired! We trundled along in and out of gear following.

Tilly likes the drawing board

With my drawing board set up on the dinette table I got on with sketching out a groundplan and trying to solve problems I’ve given myself. The flying bars just aren’t quite in the right place and an angled wall is a touch annoying, but I’ll get there.

Landmarks still need to be seen. Worsley with it’s half timbered building and orange water. There were a couple of interesting boats moored at the boatyard and photos were being taken of a wedding party.

Very blue today

I managed a photo of the lighthouse and then made sure I waved towards our friend Cat who lives just by the M602. Then it was time to be back up on deck as we approached the Barton Swing Aqueduct, thankfully no ships were passing on the Ship Canal today so we could cross without a long wait.

On the far side of the aqueduct a boat faced us, a zoom in with the camera showed that it was moored to the bridge bollards, hope it’s left enough space for a widebeam to get past!

Onwards past the Trafford Centre to Waters Meeting. I bobbed my head out of the bow doors to make sure Mick would be turning right. Just because I’m working doesn’t mean I can shirk my navigational duties.

Not THE facade

Mick thinks there were more boats moored on the Bridgewater than he remembers, meaning our progress was slower. Through Sale and on to Altringham where I bobbed back outside again so that I could see what has happened with the development at the Linotype Works. The clock tower still stands and the base of a chimney, but where was the frontage? Had they removed the writing?

He doesn’t like them either!

No, the iconic building which was going to be converted into flats was deemed not structurally sound, so had to be taken down. The developers are going to rebuild it using as much of the original materials as possible as it’s a listed building. Have to say we don’t think a lot of the new builds surrounding it, in fact they are pretty ugly from the canal, maybe they are more eye pleasing from the road.

This has potential!

Not far now, we’d wanted to moor near to Dunham Massey tonight, but time was ticking on. So as soon as we reached somewhere green enough without a nearby road we pulled in and gave Tilly three quarters of an hour of shore leave. At first she didn’t think much of it, too many runners and woofers. But then she must have discovered the meadow behind the fence, she was gone for quite a while. I heard her bell, only to find that she’d found a friend to bring home. A badly timed walker on the towpath meant Tilly headed for Oleanna where the front doors were open and a chink in the cratch cover allowed her access! Damn!!!

Soon after we’d settled in we were joined by another three boats, at least one setting up a barbecue. We settled for Crispy Lemon stir fried chicken.

0 locks, 18.8 miles, 2 canals, 1 right, 1 aqueduct, 1 wave to Cat, 1 thumbs up, 1 pumpkin in the room, 1 sketch groundplan, 2 portals drawn up, 1 iconic building gone, 1 friend or should I say starter! 1 almost Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.