Category Archives: Gardens

On The M25. 5th 6th June

Before breakfast Mick was heading off on the Brompton to pick up a hire car from Enterprise. So much for their slogan ‘The company that picks you up‘! Mick had called them yesterday to arrange a pick up from the marina. The website had suggested that the Weybridge branch was the closest so he’d chosen to book with them, after all they were only 3 miles away. Sorry we don’t cover that area, we’ll need to move your booking to Woking. This apparently was going to happen, so Mick called Woking to arrange a pick up, however because he’d prepaid the booking couldn’t be moved! We’ve come across this before. It just ended up being easier all round to keep the booking with Weybridge and either get the bus or cycle to pick up the car. The later was chosen.

Magic food bowl filled and timer set

As bags were packed with overnight things, Tilly got twitchy. Oh blimey not the super fast outside! She needn’t have worried, she was being left in charge of Oleanna. The magic food bowl came out from under the bathroom sink. Cod and Tuna please. And I got to select toys from my toy box, it smells so good in there!

Now where’s that fish gone, oh and snowman!

Once breakfasted and the car was packed we were on our way, back to Scarborough. At times the going was slow. The satnav took us on what we felt to be a long route to the M25, but looking at the map it kind of made sense. On the M25, rather than under it we spotted canal landmarks as we passed them. The big road viaduct across the Grand Union, we stopped at Watford Gap for a jacket potato lunch, Long Buckby, etc as we made our way round London and headed north. A comfort break at Doncaster and then we were crossing over the Yorkshire Wolds back to a sunny Scarborough.

The car was emptied and then Mick headed off to pick our evening meal. I did an idiot check from the last lot of lodgers. Quite a few things left, a new big turquoise cushion, but mostly shower gel and a few things in the fridge. All understandable as they will be returning in a few weeks time.

Obligatory fish and chips

Mick dealt with the compost and a mental note of jobs that needed doing was made.

It’s a good job there are four lots of bedding for the main two bedrooms, this means we can do a turn around quite quickly should we need to. However recently we’ve had a few change overs, one more than expected, so all but one set of bed linen needed ironing. Annie gets extra brownie points for having washed towels and sheets and left them to dry for us.

I spent much of the day ironing, whilst Mick had a blood test that he’d managed to arrange to coincide with our visit and then he got on with a tidy of the gardens. At least we can say we’d been part of No Mow May!

A Sainsbury’s delivery to restock the none perishables arrived, a few items for the house others went straight in the car. Showers were polished back up to standard, finger prints from kitchen cupboard doors removed and the worst bits cleaned from the ovens. Quite an exhausting day really. Mine wasn’t, it was very VERY boring! Apart from waiting for my magic food bowl to open, that kept me occupied for several hours, in fact I nearly fell asleep waiting. I’m sure She got the times wrong!

0 locks, 0 miles by canal, 252 miles by road, 3.1 miles by bike, 7 sets of bed linen, 2 showers, 1 forsythia, 2 lawns, 2 beds made, 8 towels, 2 of each, 6 boxes wine, 2 bags litter, 7 hours drive, 1 full on day.

A Purple Morgan. 27th August

Sileby Lock to Barrow upon Soar Visitor Mooring

The Empire Pool, apples, Canary Wharf and Water Butts were covered on the Geraghty zoom this morning and we wish one of our number a speedy recovery from Covid.

This got me thinking, I still had a headache. Maybe I should do a test. The first test I did was aborted as there was not even one drop of liquid to drop on the test strip, yes I had put the liquid in the tube! There just hadn’t been enough of it. So another was done, only one line, negative.

Sileby Mill

We pottered away the morning whilst it rained. Boats came past quite frequently everyone wrapped up in water proofs. How many boats were headed for North Lock on Tuesday? We opted to have an early lunch before pushing off.

Around the lock at Sileby there are wood carvings, every character seems to be looking down, all very calm and thoughtful. We dropped down the lock, both bottom paddles required being lifted as water bubbled up from under the top gate. Mick paused to pick me up, then we zoomed across the bottom of the weir and slowed to pass the moored boats. One had just filled up with diesel, £1.18.

Almost bank to bank carpet

Gosh the pennywort was bad along here. It almost reached right across the river in parts. Someone has been trying to clear it, dying mounds sit on the banks. But it’s obviously growing just as fast as it can be collected.

I’ll go down the front to get off somewhere

At Mountsorrel we were greeted with no available lock landing. The charity boat from yesterday was partly on the landing, then a Wheelyboat had tied to the next to last bollard. The crew from the charity boat rushed to make their stern accessible for me from our bow, then one of them picked up a windlass and came to help at the lock. Their passengers were enjoying Sunday lunch at the pub whilst they got to eat their homemade butties.

We spotted a couple of houses for sale. One by the Wharf for £1,000,000. They like funny sofas and toilets in corners.

One of the Dutch style houses in the award winning development, £525,000. For extra money you could moor your boat outside.

A box with a view

We rounded the big wide bend where Meadow Farm Marina sits to the side, almost cut off by pennywort. Grey boxes look down the river, a great view.

Long gardens on the north bank of the river gradually bring you in towards Barrow upon Soar. Several houses have boats, one cruiser looked like it can’t have been out for a few years as weed and reeds blocked it in.

Another house for sale, this one with an end of garden mooring. £675,000. If you can cope with the virtual tour (eventually coming into focus!) you’ll see that someone really likes their feature curtains. Have to say if we bought it the bungaloo would be replaced. But the mooring isn’t long enough for Oleanna, so we’ll not bother.

A car! A purple Morgan maybe? With a roll bar? On the river? Just how old was the driver! Thankfully Dad stopped pedaling so that we didn’t have a collision.

A purple Morgan?

A space on the 48 hour moorings was available, we pulled in. Tilly was over the moon with the choice of trees, however the nosy woofers did spoil her fun.

Just by our mooring is a very smart bench for Brian Henman, he was obviously a well liked local man. Mayor of Charnwood and possibly a Ukulele player.

A very fine bench indeed

A nice roast chicken with all the extras was enjoyed onboard this evening, just a shame we had to put up with some very bad karaoke from across the way later on.

2 locks, 2.6 miles, 5 boats heading to Leicester, 1 Jolly Lamb with lady, 1 head still not sorted, 1 carpet of pennywort, 3.5 hours, 1 morgan, 2 nosy woofers, 1 sunday roast.

https://goo.gl/maps/MMF44w1b1y6GcXs27

Timeshare Mooring. 18th August

Union Wharf to between Bridges 8 and 9 Market Harborough Arm

Mick had checked his weather app and rain would be with us at midday. The rain begged to differ and arrived at around 9:30am. Oh well, there was that phone call to make to the printers. Scott was helpful whilst not being as helpful as I’d hoped. Basically the print I received was the best they could do. A higher resolution scan of my model would do better, but it seems that most printers no longer do scanning, the majority of clients handing over their work in digital format. Enlarging to 25 times is a specialist job. He’s hoping he can help, he went away with questions to ask, I went away with places to find who’d be able to scan to a much higher resolution.

A hunt round google gave me many places that scan documents and images 1200/2400 dpi. I think I’d need to scan my model to about 9600 dpi! I passed the information on to John to keep him in the loop, the jury is still out. The best solution to this would be for me to paint the portals, guaranteed to get the best result. Next would be the company we’ll be using to print the cloths, they would be £1500 more, now we know why. I’ll see if I can find somewhere on our route to scan the model, get another sample. Thank goodness we don’t need it next week!

One good thing about the emails this morning was that I found out that the set builders had been given the green light, something that it would have been nice to know!

With the rain getting less wet we set off with the brompton and headed down into town to do a big shop. A pause to look in at the hardware shop. Wilkos, several people buying Christmas trees, we don’t need any lights after our purchase for the flotilla last year. The market looked inviting, but nothing grabbed me. So into Sainsburys for a stock up to last us to Leicester.

Union Wharf from the water

After lunch we pushed off, winding in Union Wharf Basin hire boats about to set off. We immediately pulled back in to empty our yellow water tank, the hire boat overtaking us. However just round the bend they were being shown how to pull in, so we overtook them and carried on out of town, our aim to find Tilly a suitable mooring for a few hours before dingding time.

The back gardens are large and pretty. One yesterday was having the grass cut by a robot, we wonder does it have to cut the grass every other day so as to keep on top of it. Maybe we should get one for the house, then the garden would look after itself, well the grass would. Wonder what a robot would make of cat poo in the middle of a lawn though?

A heavy guard

The towpath workers had packed up for the weekend. The bucket from a digger left so diesel theft would be hard.

A cormorant dived and fished, two mouthfuls of silver wriggling fish swallowed as we passed. A Kingfisher started to escort us along a wooded stretch, only to be bombed by a bird of prey. Diversionary tactics employed and it darted back past us to give the now following hireres a flash of electric blue.

Hello!

They were now hot on our heals, we pulled over to let them pass. They’d hoped we’d work the swing bridge ahead. Instead we decided to pull in for the day, a gap between us and a sign warning of a boat cat roaming. The cat’s owner soon walked by, his cat was likely to venture as far as us, but tends not to go out until dark. Between the two cats we’d found a timeshare mooring, Tilly would be in (we hoped) long before dark.

Time to tidy things away. The unruly pile of stuff on the dinette was all put back where it belonged, under the seat of the dinette, in the office cupboard, the cat proof cupboard got a tidy and things slotted in there too. Drawing pens, watercolours and sketch book still accessible. The corner of the dinette reclaimed. What a lovely feeling.

0 locks, 2.9 miles, 1 wind, 1200 not enough, 2 boxes wine, 0 christmas trees, 4 bags on a bike, 1 wet morning, 1 robotic lawn mower, 1 speedy boat, 2 cats timeshare, 2 pizzas, 1 green light for the build, 1 booking made for North Lock.

https://goo.gl/maps/d3EeG1kU7UJjW5oN9

Backwards With Purpose. 18th July

Kelmscott to Rushey Meadows

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

Pretty boat

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

Too short!

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

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

Thermopylae

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

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

Sad Oleanna

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

It’ll still take quite a bit of work

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

This is rubbish this!

Mick was on cooking duty again, kedgeree, yumm!

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

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

How Much Further?! 9th July

Pinkhill Lock 24hr moorings to Rushey Lock Meadows

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

Moo!

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

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

Hollyhocks

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

Could this have been where I was a bridesmaid?

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

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

Volunteer opening the gates for us

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

New hide

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

Safely passed

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

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

Pippin facing down stream

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

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

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

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

What a lovely mooring

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

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

Setting sun

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

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

Returning Home. 7th June

Morris Bridge 15 to Burrow’s Bridge 85, Shropshire Union Canal

Two boats had already gone past us by the time we were on the move this morning, well our first lock would be Minshull Lock more commonly known on Oleanna as the Queuing Lock. However both boats seemed to have pulled over, one for a comfort break for their dog the other to explore Yankee Candles. Would this mean we’d be first to the lock?

Some of the moorings on the Middlewich Branch are lovely, big views across rolling fields, the prime spots taken, but still plenty of room.

Aqueduct Marina

Aqueduct Marina, where we once spent a week iced in on NB Winding Down, we also picked her up there once in thick fog after she’d been blacked, we only made it out onto the canal that day.

What! No queue

No boats in the queue! Hooray!! Just one coming down to help. Soon we were joined below by two more boats, we were the front of the queue. It can be quite a wait as the lock is really quite deep.

NB Merlin moored at the barbecue mooring

Onwards we pootled, plenty of space at the barbecue mooring before Venetian, in fact just one hire boat NB Merlin, do Ian and Irene from NB Free Spirit still own her?

Cholmondeston Lock ahead

Now we were being transported back three years. This is where on the 22nd March 2020 we moored up for the night, slotting in between boats, laughing at a chap who was obviously coughing on purpose to avoid having anyone too close! The following morning we woke with a feeling that maybe we should retrace our steps and go back up Cholmondeston Lock as we had no idea what was ahead. That evening was when lockdown was announced.

Coming up onto the ‘Home’ pound

Today two volunteers helped at the lock which had been our last ascent before lockdown on 23rd March, and our first descent on 10th June when we had to start moving again. It’s been three years since we’ve been on the Nantwich pound, it felt quite odd to be back.

Lockdown Mooring 1

Where boats had been moored for weeks on end there was a queue for the lock. Venetian Marina was one of the places you could get parcels sent to, the very helpful lady there taking in Mick’s birthday present. Soon we passed what we called Lockdown Mooring 1, where we’d stayed for the first few days before we needed to fill with water. It hadn’t been an ideal place to be, a narrow towpath when everyone was doing their best to keep a minimum of 2 meters.

Barbridge Junction

More boats headed towards us at Barbridge Junction two came under the wide arched bridge, the way ahead was clear for us then. Here we turned left towards Nantwich and the south. Some familiar boats still on their moorings, others that had been abandoned for months now gone.

The fairies used to live at the bottom of this garden.

The pretty garden with flag flying high and a ramp for ducks. A wind sock? When and why? I waited patiently to see how the fairies were doing at the bottom of a garden, sadly their toadstool house now grown over with plenty of dead plants. Sad. The boat that had a repaint during lockdown still looks as fresh as it did three years ago.

No scrabble boaters hauling water down the hill

The white posts in the banks of Hurleston Reservoir, are there more than there were when we were in residence? ‘No mooring’ signs now sit at the bottom of the embankment, this had been where several boats had sought refuge away from the increased number of towpath users. No Scrabble boat, or the chap who was signwriting his boat, he’d also designed the yellow bicycle that we’d bought when in Hebden Bridge for the Tour de France back in 2014. Neighbours we just started to get to know towards the end of lockdown when our personal parameters were all clearly drawn.

Hurleston Junction sign post

A couple sat on the bench at the junction. The last people we’d seen sat there had been the owners of NB Somona, a Finesse boat that followed Oleanna out of their workshop. No sign of the testosterone filled pheasants on the bridge. Sadly no wheelie shoppers either, I so wonder who?what?why?

To our great surprise ‘Home’ only had a couple of boats moored on it. Normally this mooring is filled to the brim, yet back in 2020 this became where we moored for most of our time. Sharing it with passing boaters heading for water/shops/diesel. Our spot straight in front of the big gap in the hedge was free, we were tempted to stop for lunch. The field this year is just grass, no crop to watch grow. A good wide towpath where we could sit out, have barbecues and wonder just how far Tilly had managed to venture each day. We carried on.

Past the Flag Bubble mooring, their wide sitting out area overgrown now. No potatoes in the field opposite. Was this the cow that fell into the canal and gave us all an exciting day! The Lapwing mooring, the bus and Lamas, the horses who were always a bit frisky!

Coming into Nantwich we wondered if one boat had been moored in the same spot for three years on the one day mooring. We slotted in at the end of the embankment moorings where we’d been for the Beast from the East. Gosh this pound holds a lot of memories.

I love these almshouses

Lunch first then we both headed out. Mick to see if the chandlers had a float switch for the bilge pump, sadly not. They could order one, it would be here in two days, however we wouldn’t. I walked into town, far busier than when I’d last visited, no lines of queues for the essential shops either. Unfortunately WH Smiths didn’t have any mountboard. The lady suggested there might be an art shop up the street opposite, but the only interesting shop I found was a cheese shop, worth a visit next time.

I tried a picture framers shop, he could sell me some Conservation Mount but it would be £15! I could get a sheet twice the size I need with delivery for £10, he was trying to make an extra fiver. I decided to manage with what I have until I know where I’ll be able to buy some at half the price.

Nantwich Embankment needs some care to walk on. The bank is subsiding somewhat, the path drops by about six inches in parts, quite alarming. C&RT are keeping an eye on it, safe solutions as their signs suggest are hard to come by. A few more miles to do before we could pull up for the day. We checked the look of the stop gates at the next bridge hole, they looked like they’d help hold water back should anything happen at the embankment.

The last lockdown mooring was passed just below Hack Green locks. We only ventured out here once lockdown restrictions had started to be lifted, getting a feel for moving again before we had to start heading our way back towards Yorkshire and the house.

Hack Green

The lock was in our favour so we held up a hire boat with at least six chaps and their twenty or so empty bottles on the roof. Going up the second lock of Hack Green I had the assistance of a boat mover who’d stopped to have a bowl of ice cream, he was making the most of being on a boat with a working freezer, good man.

Hack Green top lock

Now we’d left the Nantwich pound. Today we’d spent 5 hours 13 minutes on our ‘Home’ pound, three years ago we spent 80 days. As Mick said, Michael Palin went round the world in 80 days! We pulled up a short distance further on, Tilly was given 1hour 30 minutes which ended up being extended.

Oleanna has been looking very grubby since we left Goole, so Mick suggested that maybe we could give her a wash. As he’d offered to help I put an hours worth of work on hold to take him up on it. Between the two of us the roof was given a very good wash, then the port side got a good going over. Drying her off in the shade meant I couldn’t quite see what the end result was going to be, hopefully a lot better than when we’d started, let’s face it she couldn’t be any worse!

Tilly enjoyed most of her extra towpath time, that was until the complaining Magpies contained one bird who simply wasn’t going to put up with her any longer. Tilly came running back to the boat all bushy tailed with a swooping Magpie close behind her. The second time this happened we decided it was her dingding time.

A strangely emotional day for us being back in Nantwich and reliving the days we spent here in lockdown. Perhaps it was good that we were only passing through, perhaps ‘next time’ we’ll stay longer and see if we get to spot the Wheelie Shoppers again.

4 locks, 12 miles, 1 left, 2 many memories, 5 hours 13 minutes, 80 days, 1 slipping embankment, 2 failed shopping missions, 0.5 day closing, 0 pies! 1 possible new digs, 0 wheelie shoppers.

https://goo.gl/maps/AL4gqcyEbTNRJkm8A

Paddles Up! 6th June

Croxton Flash to Morris Bridge 15, Middlewich Branch

What A Lark

A discussion was being had about todays aimed for mooring as a boat came past. As the stern came level with the hatch I noticed ‘Lark’. Was that NB What A Lark? We’ve never met Lisa and David and today they were rounding the bend at the flash before I managed to get my head out of the hatch. Hello!

No need to stop at Middlewich tip this morning, the need was more for jumpers, blimey it was cold, we almost brought out our coats too.

There was activity at Big Lock a boat just starting to go up, I walked up to help with the gates. It was their first lock in 18 months and their dogs first ever lock. He was so excited to see his owner as she stood by the open gate he tried to get off but his lead prevented this, just assisted it to slip off the side of the boat.

Our turn next, I made sure no-one appeared behind us that we could share the broad lock with. A new sign (?) points its way towards a Roman Fort, Middlewich was where five Roman roads met and was important due to the local salt. The Big Lock pub was popular, bacon butties and coffees norishing the gongoozlers sat outside.

We pulled up just past the park, collected shopping bags together and headed off to Morrisons. Lidl is closer but wouldn’t have various things such as the type of yoghurt I prefer. It turned out that this Morrisons didn’t either but had the next best. Hopefully we stocked up on enough fresh produce to keep us going for a while. Cruising around four hours a day, working and essential boat chores is taking up most of hours at the moment.

Middlewich Bottom Lock

After lunch we pushed off and headed to the bottom of the Middlewich locks, three narrow chambers raise the canal 31ft 9″ around a tight bend. A single hander was just in front of us, he’d been waiting for a boat to come down or for the volunteers to show their faces. A boat was coming down, exiting the middle lock and waiting for the bottom lock to fill. The single hander chatted away to the lady as I walked up, the pound between the locks getting lower all the time, those bottom gates must leak quite a bit. Well they did mainly because one of the bottom paddles was up by six inches. It took quite a bit of force to get it closed, the lock now filled up.

By the time the single hander was heading into the lock volunteers were showing themselves and the antipodean crew from a hire boat behind us had walked up to gleam information before working their first lock (they’d had help at Big Lock). The bywash did it’s thing and refilled the pound between locks. When it was our turn another boat was coming down the middle lock, so there was a do-ci-do to do in the pound between, followed by a very shiny boat coming down from the top lock with fresh out of the box walkie talkies, quite a manoeuvre getting round the bend with an oncoming boat for a new person at the helm.

Do-ci-doing

The walk along the towpath to the junction with the Wardle Canal is one I’ve done numerous times before, stooping low to get under the bridge. The single hander was just finishing going up, I closed up behind him and emptied the chamber, Mick holding Oleanna back until the initial wave had passed.

Maureen’s Lock Cottage hasn’t changed much since we last were here, just some children’s drawings in the window. This lock can be quite fierce so I took my time lifting the paddles, no volunteers to help here, have to say I like doing these locks on my own.

There was space along the moorings, but we wouldn’t be stopping just yet. On the off side a For Sale sign caught our eye. A wonderful garden with lots of lawn and borders even rhododendrons sat below a white bungalow, it even had a generous mooring.

A lovely garden

https://www.rightmove.co.uk/properties/135333491#/?channel=RES_BUY

Looking at the details the bungalow would require quite a bit of modernisation, or replacing. The garden was so lovely and had obviously been someone’s labour of love. We both spent a while considering it, it would certainly make moving Tilly to the boat a far less stressful journey than the hour and a half by car. ‘Tilly it’s time to go cruising, time to get on your shelf’. We wondered whether having house and boat so close together where she would prefer to be if she had the choice. I think it might confuse her, the outside not moving most days. The only thing not in the houses favour was that it wasn’t in Scarborough by the sea. We’ll leave it for someone else to buy.

Worn steps up to Stanthorne Lock

Stanthorne Lock a boat was just coming down, negotiating getting past the single handers canoe. By the time I got up to the lock his boat was rising with the assistance of the lady from the downhill boat, they knew each other and there was much chatting going on. He was taking it slowly not want to damage his trailing canoe, so one paddle was raised half way. It was however taking a very long time.

A typical view long the Middlewich branch

A click noise of a pawl came from behind. We all turned, people about to shout to stop the lock from being emptied. However it was Mick who’d noticed boiling water below the lock, he’d come to close both bottom paddles! All sorted the boat rose without wasting anymore water.

One hire boat to help down, they were hoping to reach Harecastle Tunnel to go through tomorrow, all the Cheshire Locks to do. They planned on cruising til 7pm today, maybe they’d make it in time before the tunnel closed, but they were showing signs of too many locks in a day confusion.

Were the new shutters there last time?

We pootled along, past the mooring where we’ve been for two bonfire nights. The cottage with shutters. Hang on another For Sale sign at the stables! Chance to have a good nosy around rather than just peek in through the kitchen windows. £850,000 including an air source heat pump. It’s a nice property, but lacks a touch of character in the photos, the kitchen is by far the best room in my opinion.

The stables

https://www.reedsrains.co.uk/property/detached-house-for-sale-nantwich-road-minshull-vernon-cw10-id-hch210052?searchId=9776cd17c2a5532f645e5e919cdfc1b9&offset=1

Onwards a while longer passing NB Linnet, yesterday the chap was sat on his tug deck in shorts, today he most certainly had long trousers and a jumper on. Eventually we pulled in to a mooring we’ve not stayed at before, just before Yankee Candles. It was 5pm, a longer colder day than planned. Only an hours shore leave for Tilly today. Time for a Tuesday night roast chicken to warm us back up!

6 locks, 6.2 miles, 3 canals, 1 right, 3 paddles left up, 1 new old fort, 3 volunteers, 1 canoe, 0 work, 14 strawberries, 1 roast chicken.

https://goo.gl/maps/VxMcKWfHeBjDUeas6

2022 Back To Exploring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast forward to 6:15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So our vital statistics for 2022 according to Canalplan are

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

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

731.7 engine hours

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

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

In America We Have Bigger Narrowboats! 16th August

Salters Lode To St Peter’s Wharf, Outwell, Well Creek

Yesterday a third boat crossed over from Denver, NB Watt Way with Anita, her dog and cat onboard. This morning she was nowhere to be seen, she must have pushed off early and it being an electric boat she had quietly passed us without waking us.

Bye Salters Lode

The day started off cloudy, heavy grey everywhere. In distant fields we could see clouds rising up. Was this caused by a tractor ploughing through the dry earth? Or wind catching dust? Or a fire? We couldn’t decide what it was but with no smell of smoke it was likely to just be dust.

No boats moored at Glady Dacks. Quite a few fishermen, one asking if there would be any more of us today, not until the next crossing or boats heading eastwards. Soon afterwards we came across the first east bound boat, a hire boat from March.

The blue house

Slow going on the Creek, shallow and narrow we pootled along. This gave us time to think about the coming weeks. The need to be near transport for my final model meeting, hire car to get up to Scarborough to do a turn around. We’d also planned on exploring the Middle Level and taking our time climbing up the River Nene as we’d come down quite quickly. But with the next three weeks being full of work for me, any time we’re not moving will be spent working, not good for wanting to explore the areas.

The old windmill

I made a suggestion. Instead of trying to work and explore, which won’t work and any pleasure out of each activity will be lost with concern over time or feeling like we’ve missed something, I suggested that we leave exploration to the next time. In a couple of years we could get a gold licence again and come back to spend time earlier in the year before school holidays and weed takes over. It would also give us the excuse to cross The Wash to get here. Mentioning The Wash swung it for Mick. We’ll just need to find a boat to do the crossing with. Anyone fancy it 2024?

We passed the blue house, the windmill, sunflowers drying out for seeds. Over the Middle Level Main Drain. A house called Riverside Dreams seems to have shut off the world, locking their dreams behind a big brown fence!

A moving boat!

30 Downham Road looks like it is straight from a theatre stage, a set John Godber wouldn’t require to be broken down anymore. I wonder who lives here other than the skeleton sat in the window today.

Spooky house

Round the sharp bend after St Clements Church. We took note of the fish and chip shop number, but sadly they don’t do gluten free.

Pork pie freshly cooked today

Narrower and shallower still we slowly progressed ducking under the bridges until we came alongside the wharf by St Peter’s Church. This would do us for today. With what looked like a butchers above we went to have a look to see if they had any pork pies. It being Tuesday the pies were about to go in the oven, they’d be ready for purchase at 4:30. Mick returned for one, we’ll let you know what it was like tomorrow.

Our mooring tonight

Behind St Peter’s we spied a brick tower. It turned out to be in the grounds of Welle Manor Hall rather than in the church yard. It used to be a tower at the former entrance to a courtyard, the 30m tower is all that is left now, built circa 1480.

Octagonal tower

The afternoon was spent tracing the designs onto my panto portals then carefully painting in the black. These will be the most time consuming part of the set. I’ll make some big patterns so that I can just draw round them to help save time as most bits are repeated at least four times.

During the day we had a few short showers. A lady with an American lad came for a chat, she said they’d had two inches in March (the place not month). She asked the boy if they had such boats as ours in America, ‘Yes some, but in America we have bigger Narrowboats’!

We had rumbles of thunder in the afternoon and a short shower, but by the evening rain came properly. The almost forgotten sound of rain on the roof, it almost made us turn the TV off to listen.

0 locks, 5.98 miles, 1 boat passed, 1 skeleton, 0 shore leave, 1 pork pie, 0 fish and chips, 2 portals blacked, 1 very achy hand, 1 cruising plan for two years time.

https://goo.gl/maps/QKhgkNGgnGuvTY9C9

Milling About. 6th July

Houghton EA Mooring to Hemingford GOBA Mooring to Houghton EA Mooring.

Last night we decided we’d head back towards Hemingford Grey to moor for the day and our visit to Houghton Mill. We knew where the mooring was and that it existed, where as if we’d have gone up the lock we might have been in a situation where no mooring opportunity showed itself.

Winding

After our cuppa in bed we rolled up the covers headed a short way up stream where the river was a touch wider. Mick then made use of the current and wind to help turn the bow round to face down stream. We pootled our way to the meadow and pulled in where there was maybe a touch too much goose poo, but it would do us.

Tilly checking out our mooring

With breakfast out of the way we set off to walk the mile and a half to the mill. On reaching about a quarter of the way Mick said he’d not got the National Trust cards, would they allow us in just with our booking confirmation email? Possibly, but he turned back to the boat. I said I’d walk onwards, we’d left just about the right amount of time to walk, would we make it in time?

I slowed my pace, took in the wild flowers on the verges. All the thatched roofs had straw finials, some quite amusing. Had Mick got back to the boat by now? Should I quicken my pace again, would we reach the Mill in time for the tour?

Across the field that had been cut yesterday

Mick appeared on the Brompton, I should have carried on walking at a normal pace and not slowed so he could catch me up. I had to quicken my pace now, the mill only open for tours on Wednesdays and the weekend, if we missed our slot then that would be it!

Thankfully we managed to arrive in time to stash the bike somewhere and have a quick comfort break, still with a couple of minutes to spare! Phew!!!

Houghton Mill

In 974AD the Manor of Houghton and the Mill were given to Ramsey Abbey, all the local farmers used the mill and a cut was taken off as payment, a mulcher, for the Abbey. The mill was kept very busy and the Abbey became very affluent. New sluice gates were added to the river to increase water headed to the mill, but this caused flooding in the village. After ten years of campaigning the villagers got their way and the river was returned to it’s old course.

After the dissolution of the monasteries, Ramsey Abbey was flattened, the mill was still seen to be very profitable and was taken over by the crown. Ownership passed to the Earls of Manchester who leased out the mill as a commercial concern.

In the 18th Century there was a rapid development in mill technology. The original mill had had one water wheel this was increased to three at it’s peak. Inside ten pairs of stones milled the flour operated by eighteen people. In 1850 the mill was run by the Brown and Goodman families and was producing a ton of premium white flour every hour. This flour supposedly improved if left for five to six weeks, just the right amount of time for it to have headed down stream to Kings Lynn, round the coast to the Thames estuary and in to London where it would reach the best price!

But in the later part of the 19th Century technology took milling away from mill stones and Houghton just couldn’t compete with steam driven mills. The repeal of the Corn Laws brought in cheaper foreign grain which was milled at the ports to help feed the growing work force of the Industrial Revolution. Houghton Mill moved to milling animal feed and the work force reduced down to two.