Category Archives: Gluten Free Cooking

Empty. 10th July

Fishery Lock to Sharpes Lane Bridge

The air looked like it had potential to be wet this morning, waterproofs put on over t-shirts just in case. A boat had not long gone past us when we pushed off ourselves, we’d not catch them up before the first lock though.

Very funny!

Two chaps were working on an old day boat below Boxmoor Lock, new engine boards and a lot of cushions, not sure the cushions really gave the luxury look suggested in the company name. The boat ahead was just finishing going up, the crew returned to lift a paddle, that was nice of them, maybe they’d wait at the next lock for us.

Boxmoor Lock

Our turn, the bottom gates were clogged a touch with towpath clippings, Mick tried to clear them before I filled the lock. New signs on the lock beams ask for the lock to be left empty, so I returned to lift a paddle. I suspect we’ll see more of these new signs as we climb towards the Tring summit.

Below Winkwell

Under the railway that had kept thundering past last night, we’ll not be shot of it for some distance, but we’ll also be glad of it too. The boat ahead was just finishing again at the next lock. One of the chaps shouted back to me that they’d wait at the next one for us. As we rose he walked back and said they’d operate Winkwell Swing Bridge and that we could go through first. This bridge has it’s off days so I was quite glad not to be the one pressing the buttons, but it behaved impeccably. Nine held up between the two boats.

I opened one gate at the next lock, Mick would move Oleanna over to let our lock partner in, I waved them in. The chap at the helm was obviously used to single handing, his crew vanished below and left us to it.

That’s the sort of sign I’d make

I hitched a lift to Winkwell Top Lock. There must have been another boat ahead of us as it hadn’t quite finished emptying when I got there. I opened up the second paddle to help and then one gate. As this was happening a boat arrived above NB Burnt Oak, I’ve seen them before, maybe even chatted to them. The lady came and helped, dropping a paddle and opening the other gate for us. Here another sign asked us to empty the lock a rather good home made one with a 2.5D model boat.

Our locking partners were stopping for lunch, we thought we’d carry on. But then changed our minds a short distance on, this would possibly be the last Tilly suitable mooring before Berkhamsted, so we found a space with no overhanging trees and tried to pull in. The pound was quite high, I’d been warned that the towpath further on was under water. A bit of jiggling about got us closer to the bank.

Tilly 5 hours! Brilliant!!! Off she went. A few returns and then gone for what felt like hours, so long I felt the need to just see her and called, but no sign, she was too busy.

Wow! This outside was great, plenty of friendly cover, I went self catering. This took quite a while as there was a banquet waiting for me. After I’d had my fill I returned inside to tell them all about it and get some Dreamies to finish off, maybe have a little kip. That’s when everything changed.


I wasn’t very well. Understatement there Tilly!

Sheee! I don’t feel too good

Someone’s eyes had been far too big for their belly! After a while things settled down and as cats do Tilly had some biscuits as she was now running on empty. A blade or two of grass did the trick outside. Then she returned inside and carried on being ill. Her food was removed and the doors closed. I’d planned an afternoon of painting and cooking, but spent most it washing the floor and making sure Tilly stayed on hard surfaces. Both of us were starting to wonder if this was more than over indulgence, had she eaten something really bad. We’d wait a while. Thankfully things calmed down.

Tilly sat on the drawing board slot eyes closed sat upright. I started to cook, a beef and beetroot curry popped in the oven and a batch of cheese scones, a necessity to use up the mass of yoghurt about to go off. Tilly gave head nudges, had a little snooze. After an hour or so she climbed onto the ‘Feed Me‘ shelf. Was this a good sign? No food until normal ding ding time though.

A small amount of whitefish food was put down. It was eaten. Half an hour passed, she was allowed a bit more. Phew, she seemed to be better. A long snooze before bedtime, then a short round of the fishing rod game before she snuggled up for the night.

4 locks, 2 shared, 1.5 miles, 1 bridge, 9 held up, 1 jaunty mooring, 3 push off required during the day, 5 hours curtailed to 3, 1 large friend or was it more? 1 very sickly cat, 1 clean floor, 1 last test match, 12 cheese scones, 2 meals worth of curry, 2 gf naan breads, 1 final, £1015 sockathon total, 9 pairs of socks still in need of toes.

Watching The Radar. 7th July

Iron Bridge Lock to The Grove Bridge

Bacon Butties before zoom. Subjects included, who has sat in Pauls chair, Jet 2 Man, The Pigeon Society and plastic free Beetle Drives. Everyone was present and in jolly mood.

Time to make a move, cruising plans altered to only two hours a day instead of three. I was just closing the side hatch when the heavens opened! How long would it last for? We checked the weather radar. There would be a gap in the rain after 12:30.

Tilly was offered some more shore leave, she reluctantly took it.

Is it really that far?

More rain, more checking the radar. It kept changing! Gaps of quarter of an hour weren’t going to get us very far. During one downpour a coal boat came past. They rang their bell, we didn’t want anything. The lady at the bow said ‘No-one will come out because of the rain!’ ‘Ring the bell!’ said the chap. She had, we just didn’t want anything.

A window of opportunity possibly from 2:15. We waited, the radar still seemed hopeful and around 2:10 the rain stopped. We quickly got ourselves ready, rolled up the covers, donned waterproofs. The section of canal we were on had risen with yesterdays rain and at one point we’d been floating, but today we’d come to rest again on the bottom, just closer to the bank than when we’d arrived. It didn’t take too much to push out and we were on our way, hooray!

Not sure if you can make out the steam rising

Cassiobury Park Bottom Lock is left empty, a paddle left up. As we worked our way up the sun shone, steam rose from the lock beams and towpath, it felt like being in a sauna.

Are these stop planks for somewhere? Currently moored between the locks

A chap walked by with his two dogs. He asked if we could leave the lock open at both ends, Mick asked why. Apparently the bywash was blocked, this chap wasn’t a boater, but the level was up and with so few boats moving the canal was becoming stagnant. I’m not sure if he was asking us to leave the top gates open ‘just a bit’ and a paddle at the bottom up. We said we were to leave the lock empty which we did, a chap from the lock cottage came out to check.

Like the shingles on the roof

The next lock was full, it should have also been left empty according to the signs. The dog walker asked us to leave this one open too. We considered his request, but decided that maybe he wasn’t too ofay with water management. We left the lock how we were meant to with a paddle up at the bottom to empty it.

The mill buildings, most probably flats now

The level was up, the weirs by the mills rushing water down to the river. No moorings available along the first section. Round the bend there was a gap, but had we gone far enough yet? Not really. A look at the map, ahead few cat friendly moorings for a while, roads too close for comfort. Through The Grove Bridge was a space we pulled in and hammered spikes into the soft ground, not much further but just enough for today and anyhow the storm clouds were massing again overhead.

Tilly was given two more hours as rain showers came and went, I did a bit more painting and Mick watched cycling and tennis.

At last out of the freezer

The Bream I’d bought back in Oxford with mind to have them on the bbq were defrosted. Some Jersey royals , tomatoes, red peppers, garlic added and roasted for a while before adding the fish. A Rick Stein recipe, which after doing all the prep I realised was meant to go with Seabass. However they were very very tasty with the saffrony potatoes, think I’ll be doing them again, I do like Bream. But it was just as well we’d not had them on a bbq, dissecting them would have been a pain with our plates on our knees.

A very tasty tray of fish and veg

2 locks, 1 mile, 1 very rainy day, 4 claps of thunder, 2 outsides, 2 Bream, 1 painting with mid tones, 4 stitches too many, 1 sock frogged, 1 Traitors reunion, now what to watch?

Bramble Birthday Bakewell. 28th June

Paddington Basin

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

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

Adding eggs to creamed marg and sugar

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

BT Tower without all the aerials

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

Pip, Mick, Andrew, Gabrielle, Josh and Jac

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

Finn enjoying our Ikea bag

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

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

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

Birthday Boy

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

Removing Her Smile. 12th June

Frimley Lodge Park to Fox and Hounds

Seriously slow going this morning. Within a hundred meters it was time to lift the weed hatch lid and see what could be found. The canal being quite clear helps with this operation as you can see rather than feel what might be around the prop. On most canals we’d pull into the side to do this, but as we’d already had another boat come past heading towards the Deepcut Locks we doubted we’d be seeing anyone on the move for a while today.

The end of the railway

Plenty of chaps were out doing work on the miniature railway, the track leading way off into the woods. I watched as a chap did a test run whilst Mick battled with weed, a rag and some steel cable around the prop. All clear we carried on, only to have to stop another short distance further on. Was the canal going to be this slow all the way to the end? We hoped not, but it could be, maybe our lunch date tomorrow would have to change venue as we might still be fighting our way along the canal!

The services at Mychett were just up ahead. We slowly got closer, hopping off at the bow easier to go and work the swing bridge. I had to wait for two ladies walking six dogs to cross the bridge before swinging it open. Next task was to find the water point, were the moored boats in front of it? I checked my map for the location, it was further along on the offside, past the rowing boats. Those 5 digit grid reference locations Paul uses on his maps really help in such circumstances to find taps etc.

The muddy weedhatch

Tied up we started to fill with water, pumped out the yellow water for disposal at the elsan, Tilly’s pooh box got a refresh and we headed off to find the bins, a code needed for access available from the visitor centre. We had a quick look round at the information boards, a longer visit planned for our return. A chat with Andy on NB Olive, he was busy doing an engine service and it looked like they were busy touching up the paintwork.

There was still time to clear the prop again before the water tank was full. One of the chaps from the visitor centre came to chat, checking what type of weed we’d found. Thankfully not the invasive weed that we’d find further along.

Smiling at the new position of our nebolink

Today we’d positioned the nebolink ontop of the cratch board, so nothing boatwise in the way of it and the satellites, or sim connection. Still no email to say we were on the move. Looking at the map of the country I could only spot a couple of boats on the move, shown by a boat not a dot. Could this be a problem others were having? I sent a message to Tim from the Doggie Boat, knowing they use Nebo (without a nebolink). His journey tracking was working fine, he did point me to a face book group for Nebo users where I might be able to ask the same question.

Opening out into the lake

Mychett Lake gave us some respite from the trees, seeing the sky above us a change. Here there are moorings that may well be good for Tilly on our return. An oncoming boat signalled that they were going to moor up, NB Rum A Gin who had dashed down the country to take part in the Fund Britains Waterways campaign cruise on the Thames.

Coming into moor

Plenty of back gardens to look at, more and more trees. The sky opened up again as we passed over the A331 aqueduct a walker stopping to take photos of us, old transport going over modern, we were now on an embankment, stop gates at both ends should there be a breach. It was strange to think that we were high up but soon we’d be climbing the last lock on the canal to the summit pound.

The aqueduct

The canal makes two big loops to the south, here on the embankment was one of them, would this be the furthest south we’d make it on the Basingstoke Canal? Or would we be able to cruise the other loop to be the furthest south, only possibly by a matter of feet, but still! Soon we’d find out.

Ash Lock

The bottom lock gates were being closed by someone at Ash Lock. We bipped the horn, but weren’t heard. I walked up to see what was what, no-one about and no sign of a boat either. Up Oleanna came to the summit pound, Hampshire Pound. Here a handy mooring on the offside was pulled into. Now to make preparations to give us the best chance of cruising to the navigable end of the canal. Ahead lay three very low bridges, 5ft 10″. We think Oleanna measures 6ft 2″ to the top of her horns. Taking them off is possible, we did this for Standedge Tunnel, but would the brackets they rest on need to come off too, would the bigger metal support require removing also? The top of the chimney was taken off, easy. Poles brushes etc laid off the rack lower down the roof, well below the line of the mushroom vents, our aim for the highest point on Oleanna to be the vents.

Oleanna’s smile was removed, the horns sat on the top of the cratch for a while all sad and forlorn before being popped inside for safe keeping. The brackets were well and truly fixed to the metal support. would we be better off trying to remove that? We pulled the cratch cover away revealing six screws holding the support to the wood, these thankfully came out easily. However cables to the horns and tunnel light would have to be undone so as to be able to remove it fully. We opted to leave them connected and see how we faired at the bridges.

Look to the right!

My phone started to bing at me. Email after email that Oleanna was on the move! Hooray! Had we done something to get the nebolink reporting again? I checked her location on the map, a boat not a dot. After a while she had moved to last nights mooring, after a longer while she had just about caught up with her actual location. Were things resolved?

The depth of water and lack of weed made our progress much better, normal canal cruising speed again. For what felt like miles we were surrounded by fences, keeping soldiers in their camps, even footbridges were enclosed with barbed wire.

Farnborough Road Bridge

As Farnborough Road Bridge came into view I moved down to sit in the well deck, spreading our weight hoping to keep the bow low enough to not have to remove the tunnel light support. From my position I couldn’t see if things looked okay, but as Mick had only slowed down and wasn’t stopping it felt favourable. The horn supports cleared the bridge by a good few inches, maybe the horns would have been alright being left on. I glanced back to the chimney, glad we’d had at least 9 inches removed from it a few years ago as it would have been a problem. Then Mick crouched down, still able to just about see above the boat. Oleanna who sits low in the water, hunkered down had made it through with plenty of space. We’d not have to reverse a mile to the nearest winding hole, phew!

Farnborough Road Bridge does however sit at an angle, was the 5ft 10″ at the lowest point? The next low bridge was noted at the same height!

A worrisome tree

Should we carry on and get all the low bridges done today? A mooring at the end of Farnborough airfield was available, we decided to carry on and get the bridges out of the way.

Pondtail Bridge

Pondtail Bridges next. I headed to the bow again, this bridge leant the opposite direction, still plenty of room above the horn supports. Reading Road Bridge at 6ft, I didn’t bother going to the bow, we knew we’d be fine. Hooray we’ll be able to get to the end of the canal! Tilly however wasn’t too please as our late arrival and proximity to a road means there’ll be no shore leave whilst we are here!

Moored by the pub

The Fox and Hounds pub mooring, Ann-Marie and Dave had said how good their steak and ale pies were. We didn’t sample them today, instead I made up a couple of my own pies, chicken, tarragon and mushroom in little pots, pasty both top and bottom to use up some of the roast chicken from the other day. Very nice they were and a more sensibly sized portion than I normally do in the big pie tin.

Chicken pies ready for the oven

Mick busied himself putting things back together on the cratch board. Oleanna’s smile reinstated. We’ll approach the low bridges carefully on our return but hope that she’ll be able to smile at us all the way.

1 lock, 9.8 miles, 13 nebo moving emails, 1 report, 1 report to find from two days ago,1 very slow start, 4 weedhatch visits, 1 full tank of water, 1 rollered cabin side, 0 rubbish, 1 clean pooh box, 1 empty wee tank, 2 moving boats, 3 very low bridges, new measurements required of Oleanna, 1 smile safe inside, 1 smile restored, 1 bored cat.

The First Boat. 9th June

Domino’s Mooring to Brookwood Park, Basingstoke Canal

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

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

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

Turning away from the M25

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

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

Waiting for Chris the Lock Keeper

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

First lock done

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

A passing boat

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

Chris on the right

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

Leaving the bottom flight behind us

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


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

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

Hit for 6

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

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

What a beauty

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

Shop bought pastry so not up to normal standard

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

The second flight

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

Will the rope be long enough?

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

New gates

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

Possible aromas of garlic, but not cat friendly

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

Not Kath’s house, click photo for details

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

A long blue house boat

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

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

It was further out than the photo suggests

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

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

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

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

Stone Crew. 28th April

Barlaston Winding Hole to just off the end of Stone Visitor Moorings

Bacon butties were enjoyed before we joined the Geraghty zoom. Topics covered today were Peanut Butter grouting, news from the north was ‘murcky’ and parasitic worms.

Four Windlasses!

Our aimed for departure was 11am, we were slightly later than that, hopefully my guestimate based on travel times on the Waterway Routes maps would have us arrive at the locks at a suitable time to meet our extra crew for the day. There was also time to pop down below and roll up balls of biscuit dough I’d made last night, roll them in two types of sugar and pop a tray in the oven for ten minutes. The Lemon Crinkle biscuits were left to cool as we approached the top of the Meaford Flight.

This lock was in our favour and just required a top up. You can only see ahead if you either walk over the bridge or once the lock gates are opened, no boats in sight.

As we approached Meaford Road Lock I could see that there was a boat ascending the lock below and coming along the towpath were our extra crew for the day, Bill and Lisa. Windlasses were handed out and instructions given. We lowered Oleanna down to the next pound and left the gates for the uphill boat. Below however the gates had been closed and the lock was refilling.

New crew in training

When we got down to the next lock there seemed to be plenty of crew, eager to close the bottom gates behind the uphill boat, however none of them had windlasses. They were just gongoozlers pleased to lend a hand. We helped the crew out lifting paddles and pushing gates, then it was our turn.

Bill and Lisa picked up what to do and when very quickly and were quite happy to stand and watch as the locks emptied and filled, marvelling at the engineering and how it’s not been bettered. We all hopped on board and caught a lift down to Lime Kiln Lock.

Click photo for link, it’s rather a nice house

Lisa grew up in Stone, we passed where one of her teachers used to live, one of the houses for sale. Then just before the lock there is a short line of modern houses, this when she was a kid was The Rising Sun pub. Her Dad used to drink in there and she was allowed to play around the canal, yet she didn’t really remember any boats on the canal at that time (mid 80’s). This was the first time she’d got to work a lock.

Lisa and Bill

The locks are pretty into Stone with their stone curved steps to push the lock beams along and their bridges. They are also easy locks to work, no real need for extra crew today other than spending time with friends and sharing what we do.

A lady heading to the shops with her trolley opened up top gates for us at one lock. One of her two dogs refusing to cross back over the lock bridge ended up crossing over the back of Oleanna, Cheeky! Obligatory photo taken. The chandlers will soon reopen as something completely different, presumably the new owners are the ones who don’t want the boaters rubbish point. At Yard Lock it was being emptied, boat movers moving a boat up to the Macc.

Star Lock, the last for the day

On to Star Lock the last for today. A Mum mallard was trying to encourage her ducklings out of the water where the bank was quite high, so for a while I lost our extra crew. Then it was time to find ourselves a mooring. There had been space above the lock but that wouldn’t have been so good for Tilly, now there were no spaces, just a long line of boats. We pootled on, a new length of armco going in, after this we pulled in. Here the bank was so soft you could almost just push the mooring spikes in by hand. Mick double pinned us, but we weren’t convinced this would last too long.

Time for a cuppa and sit down with some of those biscuits. Tilly was given an hour and thankfully she returned just as we’d finished our drinks. She was left in charge whilst we walked back into town.

Where Ben’s Dad was born

We paused to find our friend Bens Dad’s birth place just down Adies Alley. No 28 was the place, photo taken to send to Ben. Then on to find a pub, Crown Wharf was chosen. Blimey it is a huge pub and very popular on a Sunday. We quickly found ourselves a booth to take over, the general hubhub from the pub adding atmosphere yet we could all hear each other. Sadly no gluten free beer, I was a little surprised at Joules, but hey a glass of wine on a Sunday afternoon was nice enough.

Team Stone. Lisa, Mick, Bill and Pip

It was soon time to say goodbye to our friends, what a lovely Sunday afternoon with very good company. Hopefully we’ll see Bill in a few months time as he’ll be a lodger for a couple of months in Scarborough.

Back to the boat via M&S for something to eat this evening, pies. Sadly my gluten free version was really rather crispy hard. The mooring spikes were only just still holding in the soft ground, one was exchanged for a chain.

We were just settling down for the evening when a phone call came from Scarborough. A strong smell of gas in the pantry and it was getting stronger! Landlord mode kicked in, the leak was reported to the gas board, our lodger opening doors and windows, leaving the house until an engineer arrived. Thankfully someone was there about half an hour after we’d reported it. The tap that turns the gas off and on at the meter was the culpert and once it was replaced the problem solved. You can get quite a good flow of air through the house so thankfully the gas cleared quickly and Georgia could relax for the rest of the evening, as could we.

8 locks, 4.1 miles, 2 extra crew, 1 lovely afternoon with sunshine! 12 lemon cakey biscuits, 2 pints, 1 coke, 1 large wine, 2 pies, 2 jackets, 1 lodger and house still in tact.

The Three P’s. 20th April

Pickering’s Bridge to Longacre Wood Trent and Mersey Canal

Another pretty frosty morning, no photo sorry as I actually wanted a bit more sleep before having to function properly.

Warm enough to knit outside today

A flat pootle today along the Bridgewater. We planned to stop at Thorn Marine to see if their chandlery might have a 200amp slowblow fuse for the bowthruster, we need to replace the spare that is no longer spare. I also wanted to stock up on Fertan and white spirit for when I start repainting the gunnels, grabrails, welldeck, locker lids, patches of rust. A boat was moored on their service mooring, but we found space under the bridge to tie on rings.

Red and fancy

As Mick went into the chandlery, I headed off with a shopping bag. Yesterday we’d forgotten to buy more potatoes, a roast chicken just isn’t right without roasties, especially when there is duck fat to use up! With a Sainsburys Local not far away I set off to walk into Stockton Heath.

Some wonderful terraced houses with ornate terracotta tiles and lots of red brick buildings that Manchester does so well. I also spotted an F type Jaguar, 2 Porche, a Lotus all within my short walk to Sainsburys. I think Stockton Heath may be for Footballers!

A wellie woofer

I was on the look out for the three Ps. Potatoes, a Saturday Paper and Porridge oats. Only standard white potatoes and expensive porridge available, I made note where newspapers were and went to see what Aldi round the corner had to offer. Somehow some pate managed to go into my basket along with other P’s, oh well!

I’d checked there were papers at Sainsburys, but not which flavours. I suspect our flavour had been where there was now a big empty space. I asked the assistant where there was a newsagents, ‘Morrisons across the bridge in the village’. That would be across the ship canal towards Warrington, not too much further to walk.

Not a good photo click it for details, there’s a train set in the attic.

Morrisons tend to have a good gluten free isle, so I picked up a few things there, some Pepper crackers, Pudding of the black variety, some sPread and a Paper. At least they all began with P, well sort of!

Back at Oleanna, Mick had disposed of the yellow water, not had any luck with a fuse, forgot what else he was meant to be buying other than a bag of coal. He had also found a recycling centre which had a skip for general rubbish. Bins are scarce on the Bridgewater so despite there being signs for no pedestrians, Mick made use of it.

The last cooling towers at Fidlers Ferry, soon to be blown up

Plenty of people were on their way to Walton House and Zoo. I’d not heard of it until recently, I think it was Are and Are who visited. The towpath was extreamly muddy not encouraging us to pull in. Families with pushchairs, children clinging onto Grandads hands tried their best to walk round the quogmire of mud. Another place to visit maybe later in the year. We paused for lunch then continued.

Click photo for details, right next door to the Post Office

Should we take a detour down the Runcorn Arm? We went there on NB Winding Down and headed off to the lauch of The John Godber Company in Wakefield years ago. It deserves another visit, even if it’s only just to show Oleanna and Tilly what they’ve been missing all these years. However it has been added to the next time list as we still don’t know if we need to put another day aside for Mick to return to Scarborough in the next couple of weeks.

Shhhhh!!!! Black milkshakes!

Shhhhh! Lots of building work around Daresbury. A new black stealth building has gone up, wonder what will go on in there? Shhhh! A touch further on there were lots of earthworks going on. It looks like there is going to be building work on both sides of the canal here, a huge housing development.

New housing estates

The time for Preston Brook Tunnel south bound passage is at half past the hour for ten minutes. Would we make it in time? A call in to Midland Chandlers would be handy, for those things Mick hadn’t managed to get at Thorn Marine, but would that mean we’d miss the next window of oportunity?

NB Spey

Too close to call, we pulled in. No fuse, expensive white spirit but Fertan on offer. We then had to stand and wait whilst the chaps had a little chat. Was there enough time? Outside NB Spey was moored up, Where there’s brass was an interesting read when Tom posted regularly. He’s now busy with a book and album.

A boat came towards us from the tunnel, we slowed down to pass. With a window of only ten minutes to enter the tunnel we still wondered if we’d make it. No need to worry, we entered the tunnel just as our clock said 15:30!

Preston Brook Tunnel

The tunnel was a little bit wetter than we remembered, with the tunnel light on and a torch poitning to the roof at the stern we could see the drips approaching. Someone seems to have ripped several of the arrow signs off the walls that inform you of which way out is nearest. I didn’t spot the halfway mark either. My job as navigator is to make sure we both know which way is out, so I felt a touch redundant.

Seventeen minutes later we popped out the other end, no waiting boats, just sunshine.

Lock 76 Trent and Mersey Canal

Dutton Stop Lock 76 was in our favour, up we rose the 2 inches, now properly onto the Trent and Mersey Canal. Where to moor for the night? Should we head to the rings at the breach site which are very popular moorings. But now the hedge has grown there is little view down across the valley which was the main attraction there. Or we stop where the wood was thick with trees and wild garlic. A length of armco showed itself, we pulled in, tied up and Tilly was given two hours. So NOT enough time! Just a tease amount of time!


Two ladies stopped for a chat, Tilly showed off her climbing prowess, then got spooked by bicycles and then ommited to see two woofers. There was however enough time to get on the roof and the chap was good at popping his dogs on leads. Then Tilly was off into the thick of the aroma. Mick picked some wild garlic, I made some garlic butter which went ontop of a lamb hotpot. The recipe I looked at which suggested this had a very misleading photo, the top of their hotpot had no way seen any wild garlic as it was golden brown and not green! It was a very tasty hotpot and there was some butter left over for our chicken tomorrow.

Lamb hotpot with wild garlic potatoes

1 lock, 9.4 miles, 1 tunnel with 3 mysterons, 2 chandlers, 3 P’s, 2 many posh cars, 20kg coal, 1litre fertan, 15grams wild garlic, 1 green hot pot, 1 astounded cat, 1 Mrs Tilly’s stamp of approval.

Cheering Dave On. 14th April

Trafford Park to Patricroft Bridge to Bollington Underpass

Subjects on the Geraghty zoom included Woodcraft Folk, empty lofts, line drying and phonics. Joans little chair was being enjoyed as a place to sit for the latter by Penelope.

More moving boats than we’ve seen all year

Yesterday Mick had started to show the symptoms of a cold. A drug run to Asda was required. I headed off, the car park thankfully only partly full and most of the shops still closed. Asda was open and provided me with Lemsips and tissues. If Mick has the lurgy I am more than likely to follow soon. I hope Paul doesn’t come down with it too.

Sadly not wide enough here to wind

As I arrived back Mick was rolling up the covers ready to push off. We’d thought we might be able to wind before the Barton Swing Aqueduct, but a chap on the boat behind us last night said he couldn’t turn there and his boat was shorter than Oleanna. We cruised on northwards to be able to head south. Across the aqueduct, a line of boats could be seen in the distance following us. We got winded before they came past.

Back over the swing aqueduct and back past Kellogs. Yesterday it had smelt of coco pops, we weren’t too sure what was being produced today. Right at Waters Meeting and onwards heading south now, the correct direction.

Runners in the marathon

As we approached Edge Lane Bridges it was time to cheer on the Manchester Marathon runners. An old collegue from the SJT, Dave Jackson was taking part, so he deserved a shout out when ever the course came close. ‘Go on, Dave you can do it!’ He won’t have heard us, but hopefully our support helped him over the 26 and a bit miles.

Long and straight. This is a stretch I quite often spend down below working, not today. I got to see all the houses, cyclists, dog walkers, pubs, moored boats, runners. Just about every bridge we went under we could see heads bobbing up and down running along. The trams all crammed with people, Manchester is one busy place. By the time we reached Timperley the majority of runners must have passed. The broom coach possibly already picked up the straglers, those determined to continue asked to carry on running on the pavements so that the roads could reopen.

A house for sale by the Linotype Works. £435,000 for 3 bedrooms. Work is still on going. The top of the facade currently removed, new terracotta pillars added. It will be interesting to see what it ends up looking like when it’s finished. Behind the facade, walls of breeze blocks suggest something not so special will but onto it.

Trees and bird song again

Now the countryside came to meet us. Bird song rather than pedestrian chatter. Mud rather than tarmac. Quite a lot of mud, in some places you would definatly require wellies. We made our way towards a favourite mooring just close to Bollington Underpass. Here the bank to the north is good cat country. To the south is Dunham Massey and a bus into Altringham.

Yep, She promised it would be better.

We moored up. Tilly was given 3 hours and off she went. She came back a few times as walkers or dogs came past. But then nothing was seen of her for a couple of hours, she returned with just nine minutes to go before cat curfew would be called.

That’s a joint of pork!

After last Sundays disappointing roast pork, we’d got ourselves a joint. The skin was scored and librally salted, a little bit of sechuan seaweed sprinkled on top too. Potatoes, parsnips and carrots roasted in some duck fat, coloured up wonderfully and the crackling was good and crisp. There’s plenty left over too for the next few days.

0 locks, 11.5 miles, 1 wind, 2 trips across Barton Swing Aqueduct, 2 boxes tissues, 16 cold pills, 16 lemsips, 2 pints milk, 2 packets gf mini cheddars, 5 shouts for Dave, 1 submerged decorator, 18 moving boats (more than we’ve seen all year!), 1 favourite mooring, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval, 1 proper joint for 8.

12 Stamps And Some Of The Good Stuff! 31st March

Hedbum Bridge

The towpath was a touch quieter this morning, were people still in bed having not put their clocks forward? We got cuppas ready and settled down for the Geraghty zoom. At 10:05 no-one had showed apart from us, 10:10 still no-one else. Were we the only ones to have sprung forward? No last week when we’d only bobbed into the zoom they had decided that as so many people would be away doing other things today there was little point, they’d just omitted to tell us. Oh well!

Easter breakfast

Before Mick was allowed to get the bacon and eggs out I needed certain things from the galley. Time to make some Hot Paw Buns. I tried a bit of an experiment and added a couple of extra grams of yeast and a teaspoon of Psyllium husk to see what effect that would have. The gooey mixture was left on the top shelf to rise for an hour whilst we had breakfast.

Tilly had another go at liking Hebden Bridge, but it didn’t last long and she resigned herself to sleeping for much of the day.

With a duck race on Monday …

I also decided to take one lot of rising out of the process of making Hot Paw Buns. So I mixed the fruit and spices into the gooey mass. Prepared the marzipan balls for inside and then rolled out a long sticky sausage to cut into twelve which in turn had their centres added and were rolled up into balls. All popped on a baking tray to rise again. Sadly the top shelf isn’t big enough for the tray so they took up space on the table.

Yesterday we’d omitted to buy some potatoes to go with our duck this evening and a visit to the cheese shop had to be made. Mick stayed onboard to hang up some washing. The Co-op was closed, the bakers open (however no queue today), Nisa and One Stop shops were both open and so was the cheese shop!

Cheese cheese cheese!

Now what on earth to buy? I chose a couple and then a third as the lady started to serve me. The third wedge of cheese I required a bit of assistance with. I wanted some proper Wensleydale cheese. In the 70’s Mum used to buy whole Stilton and Wensleydale cheeses, wrapped in their muslin. The top would be sliced off and kept to act as a lid and WO betide anyone who went in for a scoup! Slices cut into wedges were the only way cheese was consumed from these huge beasts of cheese. They kept exceptionally well. For a few years Father Christmas used to give me a small version wrapped in muslin, creamy but rather crumbly, my favourite cheese long before Wallace and Gromit were even a glint in Nick Parks’ eye.

…there’s a duck window display competition

This last Christmas I bought a small muslin wrapped cheese from Hawes dairy, sadly it was the modern version of Wensleydale, a disappointment to be honest. Today I wanted some of the good proper stuff! Yes they had Hawes, then there two more to choose from. I asked which was the better one. The mature one was wrapped in plastic, not a good sign so I opted for the other (when I get them out to eat I’ll let you know which one it is). This one had dark muslin, it’s been aged and turned and turned. The lady offered me a taste, but there was no need I could see this is what I was after. She agreed with me and commented about how so many people thought that Hawes Wensleydale was the true cheese, ‘but that means there’s more of the good stuff left for those who know!’

Back at Oleanna, marzipan paw prints were cut out and added to the buns. Mick was sent off for a bottle of cider to make gravy for the duck and some red cabbage had cinnamon, cloves, balsamic vinegar and sugar added to it to slowly cook on the stove top. The buns went in the oven with a tray of boiling water on the shelf below for the first ten minutes, covered in foil for the last ten minutes, then were left to cool having a sticky glaze added. The smell far better than the previous buns I’d made. Once cool enough we both enjoyed one with some butter melting into them.

Hot Paw Buns cooling just enough to eat

A much better bun, even Mick said they were better than the Bakery bought ones. My tweaks to my recipe had improved them and omitting a third rise I think had helped also. I’ll have to find time to amend the recipe page.

Late afternoon we had someone to meet. Alexandra Mathie is an actress I’ve know since the mid 90’s and she was one of the first people to be a lodger in our house in 2021, she lives here in Hebden Bridge. She has just returned from Sheffield having played Rebecca Nurse in The Crucible (review here). We sat and caught up on news of mutual friends and future plans over a pint at The White Lion for an hour. I’m not sure how long she and Angie have lived here, but she says that it simply isn’t the same. The town has become a destination for hen and stag does and on summer evenings the town isn’t somewhere they’d choose to go anymore. We’ve certainly heard the rowdy lads heading to the station over the weekend. It was so lovely to see her and there was an added bonus of gluten free beer on tap!

The lovely Alex

This evening we’ve enjoyed our Lidl duck. Not as good as those we buy for Christmas, but that was to be expected. A very full plate of food followed by a few chunks of Easter Egg. Tomorrow we’d best start working off the calories and carry on climbing up the valley.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2kg potatoes, 3 treat cheeses, 1 bottle cider, 12 paw stamps, 1 snoozy cat, 2 chocolate eggs, 1 Alex, 1 changed Hebden Bridge, 1 duck, 2 very full boaters.

400 Spiced Buns. 30th March

Hebden Bridge

A touch of a lie in then Tilly sampled the towpath. Hedbum Bridge! Far too many woofers and the wave of walkers along the towpath after a train arrives isn’t conducive to feline fun. Plus there is very VERY little friendly cover! The flower beds are very well kept in the park!

I’ve actually braved it twice!

We had a slow morning. I spent quite a bit of time trying to sort out lodgers in the house in the coming months. We get quite a few returning actors who want to stay with us which is fantastic. The only problem comes when someone who would stay for 9 weeks is taking their time thinking about it and someone else wants to book just 3 weeks which would overlap with them. We obviously would prefer someone for 9 weeks, but at the same time if they don’t want to stay we’d rather not have the house empty.

Next on the agenda was to hunt out the bakery we’d visited five years ago, it was coming up to Easter then. Saker Bakery on Market Street also has a shop in Todmorden and is most definitely worth a visit. The shop was full, we joined the queue. The menu board outside advertised the loaves available today, Black Russian, Sour Dough, plenty more and at the bottom were Spiced Buns.

The aroma filled the street, trays of freshly baked buns. ‘Two Hot Cross Buns Please’ everybody’s first line. Some added a loaf. One Japanese lady only want the one bun, but as she wanted to pay by card she had to up it to two. I suspect Spiced Buns are not just for Easter, as from this bakery they normally come with a CND logo on them rather than a cross, but today the chap didn’t have time for this so had resorted to mostly crosses , he did have 400 to do! Mick opted for two buns and a loaf of wholegrain with molasses.


Next it was to Valley Organics. Here was full too, I knew exactly what I was after, Chestnut flour and some Tapioca Starch. Tapioca is used in a lot of gluten free baking as it adds a chewy texture to things. Chestnut flour makes wonderful gf pastry and this is the only place I’ve seen it for sale (suspect on our next visit to the Gloucester Sharpness canal I’ll find it too).

Hebden Bridge

We then had a wander about, the market was full of interesting things nobody really needs. There was a new (to us) cheese shop, we’ll come back to have a closer look and another bakery that had some fantastic looking vanilla slices, sadly they stayed in the window, but Mick did buy himself a pork pie.

Vanilla yummyness

Back at Oleanna Tilly tried and tried to go outside. We managed to put dog walkers off using our ash bin for their pooh bags. Tillys and our toilet were refreshed and we smartened ourselves up for an evening out.


The 592 bus heads between Burnley and Halifax, we caught it and headed towards Todmorden following the canal and river all the way. The hire boaters that had arrived in Hebden this morning were working their way up the locks, wonder how far they got before dark? It was also interesting that most of the river is corralled in by walls. At Tod the bus veered away from the canal and river heading up another steep sided valley towards Burnley. The sun shone on the hill tops as the road wound itself up the hill.

We hopped off at The Staff of Life pub where we had a rendez vous. Two friends from Croydon College, a couple of years above mine, Alan and Doug. I try to meet up with Alan when we are near and Doug helped us down the Rochdale 9 into Manchester five years ago.

Alan, Doug, Amanda, Pip and Mick’s hand

We had a very nice meal in the pub. The others had walked over the tops to get there so deserved their pudding more than we did. We then walked down the hill a short distance to Eagles Cragg Brewery. Here they open their doors on the last Friday and Saturday of the month for themselves and anyone else who like to join them sampling their ale. Mick had already sampled some at the pub and had a second pint, sadly they haven’t managed to filter a beer yet for them to have a GF beer, but the chap said that maybe next month they’d have one.

There was a DJ playing half of my Dad’s record collection, so the music was good, just a shame it was really quite loud which made it hard for us to carry on our conversation without shouting. After a pint Mick and I headed for the bus stop, just outside and made our way back to Hebden Bridge. If you find yourself in the area at the end of a month it’s well worth a visit.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 buses, 2 hot cross buns, 1 special loaf, 1 chicken supreme, 1 gammon steak, 2 college friends, 1 girlfriend, 1 Mick’s hand, 2 bags flour, 100,000 all-time views of the blog!