Category Archives: Gluten Free Cooking

Fueled by Ginger Buns. 13th September

Sir Hugh Stockwell Lock to Lower Foxhangers Lock

The secret gate

The locks were being unlocked as we had breakfast. We’d no intention of being the first down the flight, but got ourselves ready should another narrowboat arrive that we could share with. According to Frankie volunteers would be about today, so we waited for signs of them. I soon realised I’d made a mistake whilst getting dressed this morning and changed from a C&RT blue to Environment Agency Blue t shirt.

Beautiful morning for it

A chap from the cruiser walked down to set the top lock for them, they were wide so no sharing with them. Where are our friends on days like this, Bridget and Storm, Clare and Graeme, Alison and Laura, Aileen and Mike! It looked like we’d be making the big descent on our own. Oh well.

Pete lending a hand

Mick walked down as there were signs of Volunteers, three on duty this morning. There were two wide beams who’d already been offered assistance, but they’d do what they could for us too. If one of them set the lock ahead after the cruiser had gone through that would be just fine. The cruiser headed down and by the time we’d rolled back the covers they were a couple of locks ahead of us.

NB Wishbone heading upwards

Oleanna was sat in the sun, but the top few locks were very much in the shade as I filled the top chamber for us. The off side gates on the top lock are very close to the fence, the bottom one so tight I couldn’t squeeze past, so I did an undignified scramble along the floor only to be shown up by a volunteer using a secret gate in the fence!

Nearly out of the shade

The volunteers had split up, Lez went down with the cruiser. Mike/Mick went down to help with a narrowboat coming up the flight and Pete came to help us down. The lock below would fill as we entered the lock above and we made steady progress down the flight.

What a view

There are 29 locks in all at Caen Hill, yesterday we did the first 6, today we’d complete them. The next 16 locks are designated as a scheduled monument. If you’ve ever seen photos of a flight of locks it’s likely to have been Caen Hill one of the seven wonders of the waterways.

Taken from C&RT website

The pounds in between each lock aren’t very long but stretch out to the side. None of them have bywashes, so if the pound fills enough water flows over the top of the upper gates and fills the lock. Once that is full the water backs up and the top couple of pounds can flood the surrounding area, the C&RT workshop being one of them.

Out in the sun

The flight was John Rennie’s solution to climb the steep hill and it was the last section of the 87 mile canal to be opened in 1810. The last commercial cargo was transported up the flight in 1948 and the flight was the last stretch to be restored in 1990. The lock gates are all metal and the paddle gear varies from being low geared to clunking stiffness.

Tilly watching as we dropped down the flight

After three locks we waited for the narrowboat coming up so that we could swap chambers. This was NB Wishbone that we’d last seen in Abingdon a few weeks ago. There was time to chat to Alistair and his wife as their lock finished filling. Hope the rest of your cruise back up the Oxford is a good one.


Pete and I carried on downhill, a hired wide beam gradually coming uphill to meet us with plenty of crew. The pound between us was a touch low so we held back and let them ascend.

Mick with Mike/Mick

The rest of the flight was ours, straight down gradually catching up with Les and the cruiser who had inexperienced crew on board. Mick/Mike came and joined us locking down hill making a very efficient team.

Les joining the team

With a couple of locks left in the flight we offered ginger buns around but there were no takers, oh well more for us.

Here’s one with the chaps. Thank you!

The chaps suggested I walk ahead to the next lock after the flight so that I could get THE photo of Oleanna at the bottom. Apparently nobody takes the photo with the volunteers in, so I took two one with and one without. Thank you all, you made the flight easy.

THE photo

The cruiser had pulled over for a well earned break, managing to plonk themselves slap bang in the middle of the available space, they did offer to nudge up should we want to stop too!

Refueling for the next seven on our own

With encouragement from the Lockies we decided to continue on down the next 7 locks to Foxhangers. The general consensus was that the cruiser would hold us up and there was still plenty of energy left in our tanks. A ginger bun and a swig or two of water at the next lock would keep us going.

Further down the flight

The next seven locks are further apart so I resisted setting the one ahead, most were in our favour anyway, just needing a touch of topping up. We passed one widebeam coming uphill on their fortnightly move.

Yet another lock
Yet more gates to push

The 48hr mooring at the bottom of the locks had enough space for us so we pulled in opposite the Foxhangers Hire fleet, all their engines running, charging the batteries for the days hirers. Tilly was allowed out and the oven lit ready to bake well deserved sausage rolls.

A picture just for Steve

They were tasty but my pastry is far better than shop bought.

Waiting for the last lock to fill
Down the final lock

We’d entered Lock 44 at 9:39am and exited Lock 22 at 1pm.

What! The chicken and cheese treats have run out!

The afternoon was spent with the cricket on. Several boats came down the locks and a few headed up. I prepared a paint order for Puss in Boots and Tilly explored the old railway bridge just by our mooring. Just about all the hire boats headed out, one stayed put for the night and two returned back to base a night early. I think we will sleep well tonight.

Lower Foxhangers Lock 22

23 locks, 1.52 miles, 4 miles walked, 2nd down, 3 volunteers, 3 boats passed, 4 hrs 21 minutes, 188ft 10”, 2 ginger buns, 12 sausage rolls, 8 hire boats out, 1 paint order, 1 test match looking up, 1 pooped cat.

Flight Preparation. 12th September

Horton Bridge to Sir Hugh Stockwell Lock 44

Mondrian inspired

We allowed ourselves tea in bed this morning as we’d not got far to go. Tilly’s Dutch Barge on closer inspection this morning was a touch rusty and in need of some TLC, but maybe she prefers boats worn in and a touch more organic than shiney.

As we had breakfast we ran the washing machine, then topped up the tank from the tap that was within hose distance, a second load ready to go in. Pushing off a little before 11am we had a few more miles to tick off before arriving at Devizes.

We’ll be waiting for a while

Through Brickham Bridge our path was blocked, a digger was passing fresh tarmac from a skip boat onto the towpath where a new path is being laid. We hovered and eventually someone spotted us. The skip boat was nudged around by the digger and when it came to rest in front of him we were waved through. The next stretch has also had posts and coir sausages added to protect the bank, behind is filled with chunky aggregate,presumably this will end up with a covering of earth and then grass.

Bank protection

Two and a half miles and we’d reached Devizes Wharf, here we pulled onto the 72 hr mooring, quite a bit of space available. A top up shopping trip was needed so we walked into town and found Sainsburys. Packs of three leeks thwarted my shopping list, I only wanted one! I’d spotted signs for the market so we headed that way.


A covered market with something for everyone, a second hand tool shop for Mick and a crafty shop for me. Here I was reminded that I was in need of six buttons for the cardigan I’ve been knitting. Nothing suitable at the market, but a shop nearer the wharf came up trumps.

You can’t keep the boy away from pies!
Nice market square

Through the other side we came out to the Market Place which was filled with stalls today. In days long gone such markets would be full of fruit and veg stalls, some flowers, hardware and a big pants stall. Now you have to hunt through the designer clocks(!) and Vape stalls. When you do get a veg stall they tend to be selling bowls of things, admittedly cheaply, but half of the contents would go off before we got to use them. One stall had leeks, ‘3 for a Pound’. I only wanted one, ’50p then’.

The home of 6X

If we had more time it would be nice to have a good wander around Devizes, but our schedule has to be kept to as we’ve now Mickle’s funeral to add into the mix. Back at the boat we had lunch and decided to get the first six locks done today, rather than adding them to the sixteen locks minimum tomorrow. Mick did a recky on his bike to check on mooring before we committed to them, there was space.


Pushing off we passed a short boat with a great back door, luckily Tilly didn’t notice the cat flap in it. A lady on another boat asked if we used to moor at Fradley, no but we did moor next to them about six weeks ago on the River Wey.

Top of the Caen Hill Locks

We knew we were following the trip boat from the wharf, but a hire boat had been coming up, so we hoped that not all the locks would be against us. The top one needed topping up, but then most needed filling on our way down.

Low top gates

The top gates are different, low with an angled section before the horizontal that you can walk across. My legs don’t feel long enough so luckily there are footbridges at the bottoms of each lock to walk round. The bottom gate paddles are geared. At first it seemed that those on the port side were a touch stiffer to work but your arm didn’t have to become a windmill to lift and close them. By the fourth lock I wanted to check my theory.

Half way down the six

The bridge across the lock however was a road bridge and quite a walk round. Below I could see that the trip boat was coming back up, crew at the lock below. But they were all taking their time so we filled Manifold Lock, by the time the back gates were closed a crew member had come up to set the lock so she got what I thought would be the geared paddle. She had quite a bit of difficulty lifting it, but got there on the end, my theory out of the window.

Waiting for the lock to fill

Mick exited the lock as the trip boat headed towards him across the pound. He had to make his presence felt by bipping the horn, twice. The gates were pushed back open for us.

Last pound before the main flight

An hour and twenty minutes later we were pulling up in the pound above the main flight, a cruiser with a German Shepherd who didn’t like cats. A quick look round and I could see a C&RT quadbike at the next lock. There are signs further up asking to keep dogs on leads because of the quadbikes. This along with a pack of dogs in a garden meant Tilly would be staying in for the rest of the day.

So not fare!

As I broke the news to Tilly, I could hear Mick chatting away outside to someone who at first I thought was American. Then the penny dropped as Mick called me to the stern, not American but Italian! I knew who this was before I’d even seen her. Frankie from NB White Swan.

Frankie on her quadbike coming up the flight

Frankie is currently a seasonal relief Lock Keeper on the Devizes flight. She was working the late shift today, 4pm till lock up time at 8pm and had spotted us coming down the locks on her way into work. When she got to the top of the flight on her quad bike she came to say hello. Think she’d been hoping we’d be going down today. It was great to actually meet her to talk to, rather than the wave we got last winter when she passed us on the South Oxford.

Tomorrows work

I’d been hoping to get a touch of work done today, but it was a touch too late and there were far more important things to do. Have a look at the flight from the top and Baking! Ginger buns to eat on our way down the flight for extra energy and sausage rolls as a reward when we reach the bottom.

Fuel for tomorrow

6 locks, 3.42 miles, 1 new towpath, 1 box wine, 2 pints milk, 1 pack gf pastry, 6 gf sausages, 6 blue shell buttons, 1 pork pie, 1 trip boat, 6 locks out of the way, 4 low geared paddles, 1 fat cruiser, 3 swans, 1 Frankie, 1 quad bike, 0 shore leave, 1 bored mardy cat, 10 sticky ginger buns, 16 sausage rolls, 1 near mistaken identity, 2 boaters ready for the morning.

THE Red Boat. 7th September

Photos now added.

Greenham Lock to Vicarage Bridge 76

Lighthouse in the midle of Newbury

Saturday, a newspaper to get and some fresh food, so after breakfast we walked back to Tescos and stocked up. With everything stowed we made ready to push off. An ABC hire boat came past with a large crew on board, Mick enquired as to if they were heading for the next lock, either the chap answering didn’t now or he didn’t understand the question, I think they were from Norway. Not much further on they pulled into a space, that answered our question.

An interesting looking place

We decided this morning that we’ll have a look round Newbury on our way back and get some miles ticked off towards Bristol today. Just as well as fairly soon after we’d pushed off I got confirmation of a production meeting and a run through of A Regular Little Houdini in Newport which would be timed with me being close to Bristol. Dan the actor/director gave me the thumbs up for my white card model, I just have to hear back from Josh (the director) now and see if there are any adjustments needed.

Cloughs just like on the Leeds Liverpool, didn’t notice them until we were up

Newbury Lock had eager Mums and sons ready to help with the gates and grey haired boys stood hoping they’d get chance with the top gates. Jenny Maxwell had been right the locks are now not so fierce, ground paddles not gate paddles.

West Mills Swing Bridge

A bit further along was West Mills Swing Bridge, the only one of the day. As I walked up a couple were crossing it, the lady saying ‘They must go under the bridge otherwise they’d be stranded!’ Such comments always make me smile. I pulled the key of power out of my pocket and slotted it into the keyhole, turned it clockwise, pressed the open button and waited. Barriers down, wedge removed then the bridge started slowly, very slowly, very very very slowly to turn. Blimey it felt like a whole life time before it had opened enough for Oleanna. By the time it had closed Mick most probably would have made it to Bristol without me!

Guyers Lock lay ahead, the stern of a boat visible on the lock landing below. Marvelous lock partners. I zoomed in with the camera, it was a red boat, would it be the red boat that late yesterday afternoon had given us a very big bump? The chap at the helm not apologising! It sure was.

Is it? It is!

Did we want to share the lock with them? We’d made a point of them hitting us yesterday, so they were bound to remember us as we did them. But there was nowhere for us to go without making an even bigger point by refusing to share the lock. So we pulled in alongside them, an atmosphere could be felt. Eventually the silence was broken and I chatted away with the chap working the lock and some civil words exchanged at the helm.

Once up the gates proved problematic to close. The chap from the red boat jumped onto his boat saying the gate was stuck, so he was just going to leave it! I then couldn’t close mine, but we certainly wouldn’t leave the gates for the next person to come along. Mick hopped off and we both pulled and tugged at each gate to get them out of the recesses. Eventually we got them moving and closed.

A34 Newbury Bypass Bridge

When we saw a chance to pull in before the next lock we decided on an early lunch, letting the red boat get ahead. We took our time and were just about ready when another boat came past. The next two locks were shared with the crew of NB Pippin who were out for the weekend, it being someones thirtieth birthday tomorrow. Much more conscientious locking partners than the red boat had been. But they stopped for lunch, possibly to let us get ahead!

There they are again

Above Dreweat’s Lock there was the red boat again. Technically not on the lock landing but between it and the lock. They had stopped for lunch with some friends and had a table and chairs out on the towpath. A third black mark, we won’t be sharing with them further up the way!

Who you looking at!

Across in a field two Roe Deer were chomping away at the lush green grass. They stayed for a while but eventually sought safety of a wood as we passed by.

What’s going on here?

Just below Kintbury Lock there was a widebeam pushing off. A dog walker suggested staying where we were as the boat would go right across the cut and then head onto it’s mooring on the off side. It pushed out then a rope was thrown to the bank where it was attached to a horse. They weren’t mooring up for the day, but just setting out, so we waited hopefully out of their way and waved at all the passengers.

Steering away

Up the last lock and ahead the moorings looked busy, but a boat (possibly NB Harold) pulled out leaving an Oleanna sized space which we very quickly filled. Cat Health and Safety Committee convened, the railway line was deemed to be too close to our mooring and no visible barrier so no shore leave today for Tilly. She did her very best to charm me into opening the doors, you try explaining to a serial killer why you are not letting them out!

Mick got chatting to the boat behind, Charles and Karen on NB Sanity At Last. They are also heading to Bristol and suggested pairing up to do Cain Hill. As we chatted away it sounds as though they take things a lot slower than us. We have a schedule to keep up to so no loitering for too long in one place. But we’ll see what happens.

Pleeeaase let me go out!!

Despite buying fresh supplies this morning we decided to eat out and headed across the bridge, up the hill into Kintbury to find The Blue Ball. The butchers looked interesting, apparently they do very good sausage rolls (not a patch on my GF ones) sadly they will be closed tomorrow but we may visit on our way back.

The Blue Ball only had a few options for me, the usual steak and gammon. I did consider trying out how gluten would now affect me as there was a Steak and Kidney Pudding on the menu. But I opted for the steak, I’ve had better but the chips were good. Mick had liver and bacon which was very nice indeed.

8 locks, 6.12 miles, 1 swing bridge, 0 held up, 1 set of stubborn gates, 1 red boat, 3 strikes, 1 much nicer boat, 1 horse, 2 deer, 2 plans for Christmas! 2 new boater friends, 1 steak, 1 liver and bacon, O shore leave, 2 horrid selfish boaters!

Sideways thumb for TV, due to loss of reception when ever a train passed.

Teaming Uphill. 6th September

Froudes Bridge to Greenham Lock

Black Cat

Todays goal was Thatcham, further if we could. As we had breakfast it rained, but only gently, not enough to be an excuse, so we pushed off at just gone 9am.

A serious digger

Ahead major works were happening. Two big diggers one each side of the canal, there was a very big hole on the towpath side and lots going on. The chaps halted what they were doing as we approached.

Then one digger gave a skip boat a great big shove, pushing it and a chap on board across the cut. A tug then biffed it over some more to where the other digger could claw it in towards the bank.


We’d passed a length of blue rope hanging down from a tree approaching the works, and just past them there was another with an A4 sheet attached warning boaters.

Swing Bridge
Lock and the river coming in from the left

We soon reached Woolhampton and heeded all the instructions in our guides and those from other boaters. Here there is a swing bridge, The Rowbarge (a nice pub, although too early to stop today), the river then comes in from the left just below Old Woolhampton Lock. The river can cause quite strong currents and the advice is not to stop between the swing bridge and lock. So heading upstream you should have the lock set in your favour and open, if heading down stream you shouldn’t leave the lock until the swing bridge is open.

Must remember the radios when heading down stream

The lock was empty, I opened the gate and walked back, the flow from the river hardly noticeable. Key of power and the bridge swung open, letting Mick through and only holding four up, bit disappointing really. The current was a touch stronger than it looked but Mick made into the lock fine and was sat waiting for me.

As we filled the lock a lady walked up the hill towards us, windlass in hand, boat down in between the bridge and the lock, good job the flow wasn’t stronger. They were in a narrowboat so we said we’d wait for them at the next lock, they were aiming for further than us today and sharing some locks would be good.

High tech lock

A swing bridge was next, this one with a lock on it. I think the manual one yesterday most probably had the same locking mechanism on it as I noticed the nut welded onto the bridge, the chain and shackle must have been out of sight. I left the bolt loose, so the boat following us wouldn’t need a windlass to loosen it and on we carried to Heales Lock which was empty and waiting.

Lock side art

NB Harold with Maddy and Simon soon arrived and we filled the lock. They were having a few days helping to move a friends boat back from summer cruising to it’s mooring further down the K&A. They quite often hire boats with friends and are planning on doing the Four Counties next year.

Time to put my feet up waiting for the last foot to fill

The lock took forever to fill the last foot and it took both Mick and myself on one gate to ease one side open to level things out. As we left another boat appeared below. The crew standing by their boat, it took them sometime to realise nobody was going to empty the lock for them.

A volunteer boat getting a new lick of paint

The locks are spaced out fairly evenly about a mile apart, enough to keep wondering if you could make a cuppa, but not far enough to drink one too. A couple more locks and we reached Thatcham. This is where our plan was to stop for the day, Maddy and Simon wanted to pause for lunch. Last night we’d checked for stoppages on the K&A and noticed that the 48hr moorings here were suspended. So on to the next lock.

Monkey Marsh Lock

Monkey Marsh Lock, is the other turf sided lock. This one was rebuilt in 1990 to it’s original form. Plenty more ladders and a railing to keep people from falling down the turf banks into the lock. Both boats came into the very long lock and we filled it up, all the time the level slowly rising. The ladders and walkways proved useful as Maddy had made a cuppa which could be passed over to her once the boats had risen far enough.

I hadn’t noticed the extra L

Our next aim was to reach Newbury two more swing bridges and another four locks further on. We’d stay to close up a lock whilst Maddy went on ahead to open a swing bridge or get picked up. Mick would stop Oleanna in the throat of the lock and help with gates then we both could step back on board. Simon preferred to pull over to a lock landing, sometimes Maddy would be there other times he’d miss it and plan to pick her up elsewhere. Plans are good things, but lets just say they didn’t always work out for Simon and NB Harold.

Nearly there

Below Ham Lock we were all in need of food and it was starting to rain. As NB Harold waited for the lock to empty, somehow their stern rope fell off the back and neatly wrapped itself around their prop. A nice tight rope going down into the water. No need to turn the engine off, it had stalled. Simon tried to pull the rope up, but no chance. The centre line was passed up and Harold was pulled to one side as Simon undid the weedhatch and investigated. The rope was wrapped around the prop at least six times. Mick had a routle on Oleanna and arrived with our incredible sharp rope knife. Only one thing for it, cut the rope off. With this done both boats were soon in the lock, although NB Harold seemed to have a touch of difficulty with reverse.

At Greenham Lock we waved Maddy and Simon goodbye as they headed to the boat yard to fill and empty as necessary and hopefully buy a new rope. We tagged onto the end of a line of moored boats. A late lunch well deserved, some shore leave for Tilly. A shopping trip was put on hold by a downpour mid afternoon, so we made do with a recipe I adapted from the internet for chicken and squash couscous, swapping couscous for quinoa and adding a few chilly flakes instead of harrisa paste. It was quite tasty.

Too much rain even for Tilly

The stove was lit and we cosily sat and watched the first episode of Scarborough the new BBC sitcom. It wasn’t the funniest thing on TV, but we got to see Scarborough at it’s sunny best. We wondered how many days they had to wait for the sun to set without sea fret for the final shot.

9 locks, 8 shared, 7.53 miles, 5 swing bridges, 4 held up, 2nd turf sided, 2 diggers, 1 very short stern rope, 1 renamed pub, 1 renamed salon, 3pm lunch, 1 down pour, 2 fingers crossed, 1 folder of model photos sent, 1 sunny Scarbados.

There Is No Such Thing As A Free Cup Of Tea. 2nd September

Beale Park


The ‘Next Time’ list got a little bit shorter today. After a leisurely cuppa in bed followed by a sausage sarnie ( those sausages were nice), we walked upstream to find the nearest church, St Bartholomews.

St Bartholomews

Built in flint with stone dressing in the late 13th Century it is Grade 1 listed and owned by the Churches Conservation Trust. It is a simple building with a brick bell tower that was added later. Surrounding the alter are tiled walls. The church is open daily but the next service isn’t until mid October. We weren’t really here to see the church but to visit the resting place of Jethro Tull.

Looking up the aisle
Jethro’s headstone

Jethro Tull was born in Lower Basildon in 1674. His life work was key to major developments in the agricultural revolution which took place in the early 18th Century. He invented the first mechanised seed drill which was horse drawn. Rows of seed could now be cultivated reducing waste and enabling an amount of weed reduction. His innovations didn’t make him a wealthy man and nobody knows exactly where he is buried in the church yard. A modern stone donated in the 1960’s marks that the church yard is his resting place.

From here we walked up the hill, over the railway and along the busy road to the gate houses of Basilson Park, a National Trust property sitting high above the valley now surrounded by trees. We showed our membership cards and got a note to use in the tea rooms for a free cuppa, these are given out if you arrive by public transport, bike or on foot. The walk up to the house is through a thick yew wood which a week ago would have been a wonderful place away from the searing heat. Today kids climbed through the branches pretending they were caught in a maze of lazers.

Basildon Park

On the drive we got our first view of the house. A Palladian Mansion, possibly one of the finest in the country. You are directed up one of two curved staircases to the guests entrance. Here a guide introduced us to the house with a quick bit of history. The estate was acquired in 1771 by Francis Sykes who had made his fortune with the East India Company. He commissioned the architect John Carr of York (the founder of my Fathers architectural practice) to build him a splendid mansion with neo-classical interiors.

Two grand staircases to enter by

The Sykes owned the house until 1838 when it passed onto the Morrison family. During WW1 it was used as a convalescence home for officers and in WW2 it was requisitioned first by the Americans for D-Day training and then by the British and used as a prisoner of war camp for the Germans and Italians. The house didn’t fair well during this time. During the 1930’s it’s owner had wanted to sell the house to America, hoping to make a fortune. Doors, fireplaces, mouldings were removed and taken to the States as examples of the craftsmanship to try to entice buyers but the depression put paid to that and the house remained firmly on the hill above Lower Basildon.

The library

In 1952 Lord and Lady Iliffe bought the house and set about restoring it to its former glory. Other John Carr properties were visited at one in Lincolnshire they were able to buy doors, frames, fireplaces etc from the house as it was about to be demolished. Here the detail with which John Carr gave to his buildings meant that fireplaces just slotted in at Basildon and doors didn’t even need new screw holes drilling for the hinges as everything fitted perfectly.

Reused curtains decorate the walls

Not many of the rooms are as they would have been back in the 18th Century. In the green drawing room the original ceiling is still there, untouched other than by some water damage from a leaking washing machine above and a fire detector. The walls however have been covered with green damask curtains which were found by Lady Iliffe in a ballroom. You can make out where the fabric used to hang in pleats due to the fading of the cloth.

The dining room, the frocks upstaging the room a touch

As you enter the dining room columns of faux marble cut off the servants end of the room, large paintings and details on the ceiling look down on a very long dining room table with a fantastic broderie anglaise table cloth. The paintings from the ceiling were one of the elements that ended up in America, the ones there today were painted only a few years ago. They are good but nowhere near as good as they would have been in the original house.

The Octagonal Room with red baize walls

Around the first floor is a collection of dresses from the 1950’s. Two in the entrance hall were made and worn by Lady Iliffe, the others are on loan from the Fashion and Textile Museum. the displays are not as intrusive as we’ve come across at other NT properties, but because of the dresses the curtains in each room are closed and spot lights highlight the clothes. This does mean the lighting is very dramatic, no chance to see outside to the views from each room and details in the rooms are hidden in dim corners. Quite a shame in the Octagonal Room.

Decorative panel on the wall made from shells
My favourites, Argonaut shells

Up the stairs to first the Shell Room. Lady Charlotte collected shells, vast quantities of shells. She wasn’t interested in them for scientific reasons, she just loved their shapes. Whilst on holidays she would leave her husband to socialise so that she could be down on the beach collecting shells. Her collection not only sits in display cabinets but also adorns them too.

The panelled door has been rehinged
part way through it’s panels

The Iliffe’s added modern conveniences to the house, heating and plumbing. One bathroom has a wonderfully deep bath which necessitated the door to the room to be altered.

Quite a bed

The Crimson Bedroom has 1950’s wallpaper, but central to the room is a very ornate red Georgian bed that Lady Iliffe bought for £100. This was one of their guest bedrooms with a huge vast wardrobe which may at one time have been used by Disraeli.

Quite odd in such a house

At the top of the family staircase we could smell cooking wafting up from below, so we followed our noses. First into the houses kitchen, decked out with worn 1950’s units. A drawer full of familiar kitchen utensils sat out on the long kitchen table opposite a fake Aga. The aromas hadn’t been coming from here. Down more steps and we reached the ground floor and the tea room.

The guest staircase

Time for our free cuppas and something to eat. Mick chose a sandwich and a roast veg frittata took my fancy. We handed over our hand written chit for tea and the young lady then asked us for £12! ‘Er don’t we get free tea?’ ‘Oh Yes, £8’.

An original study for the tapestry in Coventry Cathedral

Quite a few of the tables were occupied, but we found one and put the tray on the table along with our number for food. A waitress said ‘Is that number 13?’ Yes it was. She lifted the number from the tray onto the table to one side, I thought that was a touch too helpful. She then proceeded to pick up our tray. She was clearing it all away before we’d even sat down! ‘Excuse me we’d like to drink our tea and eat our food!’ Oh, right! She did apologise briefly when she came through with my frittatta, which was very tasty.

Free tea!

A look around the gardens, plenty of fushia out and wilting roses. The front lawn looks out across the valley. We tried to work out just where Oleanna might be behind all the trees. Then we made our way back down the hill and across the railway. A permisive track took our fancy so we climbed the style and followed mowed pathways through wooded areas. We guessed we were heading in the right direction, cut across a road and then into more fields.

From the front lawn

Oleanna should be just about there, but the path took us this way then back on our selves. Eventually we popped out on the river bank a few hundred feet away from our bow.

It had been a good day and well worth stopping to look round the house, ticking off another John Carr building, but they certainly didn’t want us to have that free cuppa!

More outside time!

0 locks, 0 miles by boat, 5 miles walked, 1 gravestone, 1 Jethro, 1 Carr house, 3 staircases, 18 frocks, 26 preparatory paintings for a tapestry, 2 Japanese lamps, 1 red bed, 5m table cloth, 732579 shells, 2 cups of tea, 1 ham sandwich, 1 frittatta clung onto for dear life, 2 repeats in wallpaper, 1 crumbling balustrade, 3 hours for Tilly, 1 woofers ball.

Working Down the Thames. 1st September

Day’s Lock to Beale Park


With the sun out again this morning our mooring was lovely. Lots of sky, sun glowing on tree trunks, views, a lovely spot, maybe one of our favourites.

The orange buoy in the water is a swimmer. What’s left of Didcot in the background

Time to crack on again. We waited for a couple of swimmers to pass before we pushed off. there was quite a distance between them and when we arrived at the lock the first lady was sat on the bank having a snack. Hope her friend got to have a break when she arrived. They were swimming down to the next lock where they had left a car, another four miles!

We were joined by a cruiser on a bit of a mission to get back to their mooring at Cookham, once we’d dropped down the lock we let them head past us, although we caught them up again by Benson Lock.

Benson Lock

Maybe it was change over day at Le Boat, quite a few of their cruisers were in but the waterside cafe was heaving! Not one table spare, do they do a very good Sunday breakfast or were people just taking advantage of the last sunny Sunday morning before the schools go back?

Here we caught up with our canoe friends with the crocodile. They are paddling their way to Pangbourne for their silver Duke of Edinburgh Award, today their last day.

That ridge with the chains kept us both pushing Oleanna out from the side

Dropping down Benson Lock we seemed to keep getting slightly caught on the chains as the water dropped. This turned out to be due to a change in profile of the lock, not enough to cause us to get hung up, just a little disconcerting.

Six deep

Over the weekend Wallingford had been busy with Bunkfest. A free music festival. The town moorings were very full and further out boats were six abreast. We were later joined by a couple of cruisers who’d been to the festival, the music was great, but the drinks a touch expensive.

Goring Lock with the canoe coming in last

I bobbed back from working below to hold ropes at Cleeve and Goring Locks. The lock keeper at Goring being a touch too officious with a canoe that were holding onto our gunnel whilst waiting for the lock. They were in the way of everyone! This they knew, but there was nowhere else obvious for them to go. They moved to where they were directed to so the lock could empty then bigger boats could enter the lock before they were finally waved in to join us. I suspect if the Lockie had used Please or Thank you his instructions would have come across even more rude.

I love this boat house

Now to find a mooring along Beale Park. The first spaces were occupied, then one with a tree in the middle, we kept going. In the end we pulled in between a couple of boats with not much view on the park side due to friendly cover. Tilly was given six hours which at first she was reluctant to take, but after an hour she was being far far too busy to even come home for some Pocket Pillows.

One of the Newport transporter bridge legs

Most of the day I continued working on my model. The section of the transporter bridge has taken quite a bit of working out from reference photos from the internet. Now I understand it that bit better. It has taken a long time to build, this nearly always means it will take a long time to build in reality too! I’ve been to literal with it and now need to adapt it for strength and ease of building, which will mean a new version. But for my white card model this will do fine.

Quick take a photo before it’s all gone!

Tonight we’ve enjoyed our lamb shoulder. I meant to take a photo of it when it came out of the oven, but forgot. Then I forgot again and started to eat, so here is my Sunday dinner half devoured. I found the last beetroot from Hampton Court Palace today. so that went in with the roast veg. Yummy. Looking forward to cold lamb tomorrow.

4 locks, 13.76 miles, 1 croc, 2 forward wild swimmers. 1 backward wild swimmer, 6 deep, 2 portacabin boats, 901 miles in total, 1 of four legs, 1 lamp shoulder, 6 hours, 1 cat called at DingDing time, 1 cat home quickly, phew! 1 cardigan bound off.

Seventeen to Twenty. 30th August

End of the Oxford Canal to East Street

With a delivery slot booked for Saturday morning at East Street we needed to time our arrival at the moorings well. Too early and no body would have moved off, afternoon then the spaces would have filled up, lunchtime people would stop for lunch at The Punter. We opted to time our arrival at around 11am.

Our mooring last night was surprisingly quiet, we only just started to hear people passing us as we got up. Or was it that we’d had quite a few glasses of wine and a late night! It’s a shame the road is so close here, meaning no shore leave for Tilly despite there being some very good looking trees.


The windlass was brought out again and we made our way back towards Isis Lock. A lady was just bringing her boat into the lock to come up off the river. I gave her a hand whilst she clung onto her boat. She was interested in where we’d been moored, so on exiting she moved out of our way and then started to reverse down the arm. With a breeze and no bow thrusters (mechanical or man powered) this was going to be hard. As we were just dropping down to the river she asked how far it was to reach the space at the end. A quarter of a mile. She decided to abort her idea and see if she could find a space up ahead.

Back on the river we turned to head downstream, as we came under Osney Bridge the moorings looked full. But then we were passed by a boat that had been moored towards the other end, there was hope. In fact there was more than hope. Our shopping was booked to be delivered to 17 East Street and there was a long space just there, Bingo! The bollards didn’t work for Oleanna’s length so we nudged up closer to 20 leaving a space not quite big enough for another Oleanna behind. This was soon occupied by a 55fter, perfect. All we needed to do now was alter our delivery instructions from 17 to 20.

With more shopping added to our virtual basket it was time to get some real shopping. Blog reader Steve last year had pointed us in the direction of Osney Food Shed, a fish market and Meat master Cash and Carry. From the moorings on East Street both are very close, we needed something to eat tonight and I fancied getting a lamb joint to roast with plenty left over to try some of the Charlie and Ivy’s Raspberry and Beetroot dressing that is meant to be a perfect accompaniment.

Half a pig

First we headed for the meat. Here there were joints the size my Mum used to get when she bought half of half a cow. Giant gammons that would have strained the sides of my mums biggest catering pans. Amongst the big joints there were more domestic sized joints, we found a suitable lamb joint, some gluten free sausages and some bacon.

Fishy fish

Next the fish. Two sea bass, some smoked mackerel and a few veg bits. We really must get the freezer back on so that we can stock before we head north after Panto. Mick returned to the boat with our food and I carried on to Hobbycraft to pick up some bits for my model. A couple of balls of yarn might just have jumped in my bag too!

Unpacked veg

I called into Waitrose for a few more bits to keep us going until our delivery arrives tomorrow. Here the veg and fruit isles are doing their very best to go plastic free, Unpacked. Large displays of containers greet you as you walk in and crates of pick your own fill the displays. Strawberries and Raspberries in cardboard punnets for you to put lids on yourself. There was still quite a bit in bags, but a lot better than most supermarkets.

Now there’s an idea

Along the back wall was a section of dry essentials, beans, nuts, grains etc that you can purchase loose, an up market version of weigh and save shops, although those had plastic bags. You can also refill your Ecover washing up and clothes liquid bottles. One thing that I did find amusing was that you can also buy wine and beer unpacked. Bring your bottles for a refill. I wonder if they’d refill a wine box?

1 lock, 0.73 miles, 150ft in reverse, 20 not 17, 2 sea bass, 16 pork sausages, 1 joint lamb, 3 fillets, 1 lemon, 0.5kg potatoes, 1 bunch basil, 70grams olives, 1/4inch thick balsa, 1 sheet tracing, 1 blue ball, 1 sheet card, 1 red ball, 4 boxes on order, 1 bored cat, 2 apologies to Kath and Clare, he wasn’t much of an Adonis!