Category Archives: Graffiti

Parcel Collection 1st October

Doncaster Visitor Moorings

Mick glanced up from making tea, ‘There’s a boat coming’. Heading towards us was the bow of NB Siochanta, the newest Finesse boat with it’s owners Rachel and, oh I don’t know his name, sorry. They were on a bit of a mission to move the boat down to Thorne where it’s being lifted out for transportation to Liverpool. They’d set off from Sheffield yesterday morning and got drenched, today the weather would be kinder to them.


We had chance to say hello and have a short chat as they silently cruised past. They had their snagging visit quite a while ago in Sheffield so their maiden voyage had been a long time coming. Big beaming smiles on their faces, including Sprocket’s. Hopefully we’ll meet up with them somewhere sometime and be able to have a longer chat with them.

Futures Past and Present, click photo for more info

The Geraghty zoom included chainsaws, giant nail brushes, belisha beacons and covid. A full house this morning.

Have you forgotten something?!

A train journey up to soggy wet Sheffield. Gosh the train was busy, but thankfully we managed to get seats for the half hour journey. A post on the gluten free Sheffield facebook page had suggestions of where we’d be able to get some lunch, not too far from the station. Kollective Kitchen had been selected and a table for three booked. Fran Mick’s niece soon joined us.

Some catching up to do, very nice food to eat and a parcel to be handed over, well hardly a parcel, not much bigger than an envelope. I had a Shakshucka, Fran a loaded croissant and Mick bbq benedict which was bbq brisket on toast with poached eggs and hollandaise, I nearly had food envy, but mine was soo tasty! We all chose a cake for pudding too.


Alongside the cafe is Site Gallery. We went into a darkened room to see the current exhibition. Appau Jnr Boakye-Yiadom is learning to play the drums and cameras had been positioned in and around the drum kit. In the darkened room were screens of all sizes showing the images. We watched, sat down and watched, walked behind the screens. It didn’t really do anything for any of us. Time to leave.

Lovely to have a catch up with Fran and thank you for the delivery.

Fran, Pip and Mick

Back at Oleanna Mick slotted the new RAM into my laptop. I watched a youtube video that said it would teach me all about Photoshop in 17 minutes. I picked up a few pointers and then had another go at the songsheet. Second go and I had what I was wanting, just a shame I’d forgotten to remove the hairs that seem to appear on everything I do at the moment. Hopefully I’ll be able to remove these.

Baked beans on toast this evening. I checked the gauge of my latest pair of socks. Using a mixture of yarns the tension was looser than I’d expected, meaning that they would be bordering on being a touch too big. They were pulled out and I started again. Size 9, these may take a little while to knit up!

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 new shiny boat, 2 smiling boaters, 1 waggy tailed woofer, 5 siblings, 2 trains, 1 soggy Sheffield, 1 niece, 1 lovely lunch, 1 small envelope, 16, 1 songsheet, 14 hairs, 8 but don’t tell her!

Muller Or Ski? 2nd September

Beeston to Sainsburys, Nottingham

A walk into Beeston this morning to post the design for one of my cloths to Promptside. I’ve been in contact with Peter regarding the scan of my artwork and it may be that layering up leaves hasn’t helped, a scanner focuses on one level. He suggested I send him some artwork and they will do a test print. If it turns out rubbish then I will have to re-do the model of the cloths and portals. But if anyone can get the print to work it will be them, fingers crossed.

Canary Girls

I passed a mural on my way, depicting the Canary Girls of WW1 who worked at the National Shell Filling Factory in Chilwell. During the war it filled 19 million shells with high explosives. On the 1st of July 1918 eight tons of TNT exploded destroying a sustantial part of the factory and killing 134 people of whom only 32 could be identified, another 250 were injured. The following day the factory was up and running again.

On my way back I walked along Humber Road wondering why it was called thus as it’s quite a long way from the Humber Estuary. Then a rather nice looking building came into view. Now a dance and fitness studio it had the look of a posh garage.

The Humber Factory

Circular motifs were on the walls with men walking round in circles. Then I spotted a blue plaque. This is where Thomas Humber the engineer made bicycles, motorcycles and cars before moving to Coventry, his factory opening in 1880. In 1868 he had developed a safety bike where the pedals drove the rear wheel. He then produced his Spider Bicycle an early form of ordinary bicycle, Penny Farthing. By 1892 he was employing 1200 people at the Beeston works and when he branched out into motorcar production it rose to 1800.

Time to move on. We rolled up the covers and pushed off from our tight mooring.

A Muller of Yoghurt pots

Each time we come through Nottingham we feel that there are more and more moored boats. Today this was most certainly true. Little communities of cruisers have grown up along stretches of the canal. One chap was busy doing his washing, his twin tub powered from a genny. We wondered what a collection of cruisers would be called? Maybe a Muller or a Ski of Cruisers.

Castle Marina is still in the process of replacing it’s pontoons, but there seem to be more boats in residence than there were in January when we last came through. We pulled up just past the main entrance through to Sainsburys and managed to find suitable rings to tie to.

A restock shop was required and with the weather set to get warmer again we had another look for a barbeque. Only the disposable ones were available, but we did managed to pick up some kindling for when we next light the stove. The shopping trolley accompanied us back to Oleanna and everything was stowed away. By now it was quite late in the day so we decided to stay put for the night much to Tilly’s dismay as she is still grounded.

This chap had a drum and cymbals on his extended bike

0 locks, 3.2 miles, 1 cloth on it’s way, 4 miles walked, 0 shore leave, 2 boxes wine, 2 much christmas, 0 bbq, 1 fridge stocked up.

He Must Be Called Frank. 22nd August

Gees Lock to Friars Mill Moorings

Tea with breakfast and we were ready for the off at 8:30, early for us.

Last night Mick had closed the bottom gates on Gees Lock and thankfully they’d stayed that way. At Blue Bank’s Lock it was full and a chap walked up and opened the top gate for us. He was a Scout leader and was on a walk down to see if the river was at a suitable level for the scouts to use later in the day. He also stayed to help close up and have a bit of a natter. Thank you!

Look horse, the tea room doesn’t open until tomorrow!

King’s Lock. Long before the tea rooms ever existed the cottage had been vandalised and set on fire. A young chap called Ade and his partner Lou approached British Waters to see if they could rescue it, it was due for demolition. They worked hard on the cottage and today it is a popular spot with walkers and boaters. Ade and Lou now are set builders and have built Chippy panto every year I’ve been designing it.

Sadly they only open Wednesday to Sunday, we always seem to pass when they are closed, one day we’ll actually go inside. By now I was taking note of moorings that were available, I knew one person waiting on the other side of North Lock 42 in Leicester who may be looking for a mooring later today. Two boats below the lock, plenty of room for several more boats.

So sad

A sign on the lock beam warned us of a sunken boat between bridge 107 and Aylstone Lock, there it sat, half submerged having been set light to, thankfully no-one had been onboard at the time.

Not hard

As we pulled up at the lock a boat was exiting below. There was time to have a quick ‘Are you carrying on? We’ll wait for you!’ conversation. Brilliant we’d now have two people filling locks and coping with swinging gates. Aylstone Lock took its time to fill and empty, the smell of fuel at the bottom gates was really quite pongy. Now the narrow stretch that today made us feel as if we must have gone the wrong way. But the dye factory was still there even if the gas tower opposite has totally vanished.

St Mary’s Lock

The walls round St Mary’s Lock are still covered in graffiti tags as always, the smell of fresh spray paint emanating from the walls. There sat the boat waiting for us, NB Blue something, didn’t catch their full name, surrounded by C&RT volunteers, they were preparing to paint the lock gates. It always amuses me when someone suggests hoping/jumping back on your boat as it descends into a lock when I can just simply step back onboard below as it leaves. As there were numerous blue shirts about many with windlasses I decided to walk on to the next lock along with the crew from the other boat.

Heading along the straight into the city

Freeman’s Meadow Lock sits by a big weir opposite the football ground. Two boats were just pulling away below, we’d been following a convoy. The other lady and I chatted , they were heading for North Lock, booked through today. It was their first time on the Leicester Section. I made suggestions of where they might be able to loiter should the lock cut be full of waiting boats.

Friars Mill

Our arrival into Leicester was earlier than originally planned. Our plan had been to arrive as the moorings emptied out with boats heading to North Lock for their assisted passage. We’d not been able to book for today, but decided to keep the pace up and have a couple of days in Leicester before our booking. Castle Garden moorings were empty and at Friars Mill there was enough room for two narrowboats behind a couple of cruisers who looked like they lived there. We pulled in, our plan had worked.

We decided to go and see what was happening at North Lock, how many boats would be waiting? How were they going to open the gates with the top cill being in such a bad state?

Looking above

Above the lock seven boats waited, below only four, the rest were holding back where there was more space and would move up once they heard boats were on the move. Plenty of chaps in blue and life jackets milling about, a list of boat names booked for today sat on a lock beam, 8 uphill 8 down. The bottom paddles slightly lifted and the water at the top end bubbling away, both sets of gates chained shut.

Below with more further back

Familiar faces and boats from our journey across the Leicester Section, the people from Ripon, our lock partners from today and right at the front of the queue NB Golden Eagle.

The road alongside the lock is a busy one onto Frog Island, so everyone had to keep an eye on their backs as huge wagons pulled in with inches to spare receiving a round of applause from everyone waiting for the lock. On the other side there is a new development being built, fencing and neat planting to a showroom, behind which is a complete building site. A forklift came along and moved away barriers, two chaps moved piles of breeze blocks and undid several panels of solid fencing this was so a vehicle could be brought alongside the lock.

C&RT undid a section of the neat fencing, swinging it out of the way. A 4 tonne chain winch and strops attached to the offside lock beam. A signal was given, a C&RT old pick up was driven round through the building site, the aim to use it’s towbar as an anchoring point for the winch. The pickup was turned round and then maneuvered into such a position that the towbar was just in line with the lock beam. Everything was attached and ready to go as the lock was drained.

They waited for the level to reach a mark that couldn’t be seen from our side of the lock, from here on the level would stay just about even, the same amount of water coming in through the cill as was going out through the bottom paddles, now is when they needed to encourage the bottom gate to open just an inch or two to empty the lock fully.

All the time this one chap had been leaning against the off side beam. ‘He must be called Frank’ I said. ‘Give me a leaver and a fulcrum and I’ll move the world’ says our friend Frank. He’d most certainly have been that chap leaning against the beam if he’d been here!

A pull on the chain winch, another, the beam moved a touch, a gap appearing in between the bottom gates, the rush of water leveling things out. Brilliant! The first two uphill boats were ushered into the lock, paddles would up and they were soon on their way, cheers all round.

Then the first two down hill boats. Once they had reached a certain level they were encouraged to move forward should anything more happen to the cill behind them. The whole process was repeated everything now where it needed to be. It took 14 minutes from the first boat entering the lock to the last one exiting. Job well done.

Going down

Chatting to a C&RT man he said that they’d been getting calls for assistance a couple of times a day in the last few weeks. People had started to improvise, a Spanish windlass attached to a handrail, a forklift truck and numerous passersby had been commandeered to help open the bottom gates. This morning they’d just been informed that there would be a stoppage to replace the cill around the 4th September. Until then assisted passages will happen twice a week.

Bubbling away

I sent an update to the boat waiting out of view that boats were on they’re way towards them now. The second batch of uphill boats now entering the lock. We’d seen enough now. A little spec in my vision suggested either I’d been looking towards the sun or a migraine was on its way. We headed back to the boat for some pills, my sight not having improved sadly. I spent much of the remainder of the day in bed listening to Tilly complaining about not being allowed out!

Ready for the next two

Mick popped into one of the railway archways near Friars Mill, a car repair shop to ask if they might know someone who’d be able to look at our alternator that went faulty on us earlier this year. The chap said he’d get someone to look at it and let us know, his deadline being Friday morning when it’ll be our turn to go through North Lock.

Half the uphill boats pulled up in Leicester the rest chose to carry on. We’ll keep our Welcome to pull alongside notices in the windows for when the next group of boats arrive for the lock. Our neighbours behind us won’t be moving on, as they told us, They live here!

Up in Yorkshire work took place on the Stainforth and Keadby Canal, 20 tonnes of clay were used to block the leak and and then plug the bank. The leak now stopped before anything more serious happened to the bank.

6 locks, 2 shared, 4.3 miles, 3 resident boats, 1 plan paid off, 15 or maybe 16 boats through the lock, 4 tonne chain winch, 1 Frank, 6:30 start for one boat, 9 men in blue, 2 big thank yous to C&RT, 3 pills.

G’day. 16th June

Sheepcote Street Bridge to Dicken’s Heath Narrows, Stratford Upon Avon Canal

Heading out of town

Both awake early this morning, we decided to push over to the services and use the water tap before anyone arrived wanting to spend some money. We made use of the time and also had breakfast. Shortly before 9am we were ready to push off and leave BUMingham. I stood at the bow to check the way ahead was clear as we turned at Old Turn Junction towards Gas Street Basin.

Have a G’day

Yellow seemed to be the colour of the day! As we came towards Broad Street Tunnel we had three antipodean gongoozlers taking our photo. Mick called out to them. ‘I won’t wish you good look! But I hope you have a Good Day’. What a shame to be leaving BUMingham on the first day of the Ashes Test Match. If only we’d looked for tickets when I first booked my dentist appointment!

Happy as ever

Through Worcester Bar and onto the Worcester Birmingham Canal.

Are there bins round the corner?!

At Holliday Wharf I wondered if C&RT had got confused with their signage. A bucket with a lid means an Elsan point, a bucket with the lid hovering above means rubbish bins. The new blue sign suggests there are bins to the right, the door on the right has an old sign for an Elsan. I don’t recall there having been bins here before, there are some at the services near Cambrian Wharf. Hmmm? Too late to go and have a look.

A few small thing to do here, not much

I bobbed back below to get on with work. Time to put model pieces back in the model, take notes of things to alter, add, finish off. Not quite a side of A4, but small handwriting! Some big jobs like putting bits of model on sliders so that they don’t constantly fall over or require blue tack to hold them in position. Then easier jobs such as adding details to the floor and backdrop.

Mick warned of Edgbaston Tunnel, I made sure the lights were on. Then about half an hour later we were pulling in to moor in Selly Oak. Time to pick up our click and collect order from Sainsburys and also find a birthday card for my God Mother Betty.

We pushed off again, Mick at the helm and me trying to squeeze everything into the fridge. I almost succeeded, once we’d eaten tonight everything that required cooling was found a space in the fridge.

Kings Norton Junction

Past Bournville we were soon arriving at King’s Norton Junction. I bobbed out the front to check for oncoming boats. All clear. The toll house at the junction has had it’s wrappings removed this year after a fire caused damage a few years ago. Two chaps were busy replacing the pillars by the front door, they took a short break to watch us turn the corner before they got back on with making clouds of dust.

The guillotine stop lock

Through the guillotine stop lock. Who gave Tilly a spray can!!!

We pootled on to Soliull. The house we’ve watched through the years being transformed still has a scaff tower next to it, I wonder what’s happening now?

Remember don’t try to open this bridge with your boat!

Time to open Shirley Draw Bridge. I waited to let any arriving vehicles cross before starting the process. Of course a chap in a van couldn’t be bothered to wait, so crossed the bridge even thought the warning lights were flashing! No harm done, just annoying.


Three horses grazed the bank of the canal, their riders having a refreshing drink at the pub. We did think the diddy pony might just follow us along the towpath, but it was only after a rather tasty patch of grass.

It was sunny and time to stop for the day. We pulled in just after the rail bridge and narrows, some possible shade from trees. Just a shame the sun was on the wrong side of them!

I think I’ll go this way, first

Tilly headed off, making full use of her four hours shore leave. Mick listened to cricket and England declare late afternoon. I got on with model making jobs, only a short list of things left to do before I have another look at the model.

The boat heated up nicely during the afternoon, what a shame I’d decided to use up lots of things from the fridge in a tray bake, so the oven heated us all up some more. We really must get another mesh made for the stern doors, just need to finish designing panto first.

0 locks, 10.6 miles, 2 tunnels,1 right, 1 left, 1 full water tank, 1 wine cellar replenished, 1 far happier cat, 393 for 8 declared, 1 coach still to improve, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

It Bends The Other Way! 21st January

Derwent Mouth Lock to Boots Footbridge, Nottingham and Beeston Canal

Ice surrounded us this morning, maybe we should have followed the boats yesterday. Was today going to be another day breaking ice, or should we sit tight and hope that the sun would make a difference? 7 hours cruising between the Trent and Mersey to Stoke Lock for our booked passage on Monday morning. We suspected we’d not be able to cancel the booking now in time to save a volunteer from coming out to meet us. Oh well, we’d see what happened.

Thank you!

Well what happened was the high bow of NB Hadley came past at quite a lick heading for the lock, churning it’s way through the ice. ‘We’ll be following you, thank you!’ Mick shouted out of the hatch. By the time we’d had breakfast another boat had come up Derwent Mouth Lock and reset it for us, brilliant!

Solid ropes

Frosty mornings means stiff ropes. Wiggles of lines are hard to untie from T studs and then pull through nappy pins, it’s a bit like that game where you move a hoop round a bent wire trying not to connect the circuit by touching it.

Green! Plus a first outing for new waterproof thermal kid gloves

Fog. There was a lock somewhere ahead of us, it had been there yesterday, honest! The river level was now in the green, below the lock a channel cut through the ice could be made out vanishing into the fog. Working the lock I took care not wanting to slip. Frosty lock beams were avoided as much as possible meaning walking round the lock more than I normally would, but I’d rather the extra exercise than slip in.

Derwent to the left, Trent to the right, I think!

Life jackets on, anchor attached we were ready for the river. Straight on where the Derwent meets the Trent, we were glad we know the river quite well. The pipe bridge, the M1 bridge, keep right so as not to get too close to the weir.

Come on sun, you can do it!

Would Sawley Flood Lock be open or closed? Where was Sawley Flood Lock? At about three boat lengths away the lock beams could be seen. Was it open? No. The flood lock has a paddle left open at both ends to keep a flow of water heading to the locks at the other end of the cut back onto the Trent.

Key of power time

We soon arrived at Sawley Locks, the right hand one out of use currently. Time for the Key of Power. The lock was in our favour but still had to work it’s way through it’s programming of opening the sluices a bit at a time, four times before the next press would actually open the gates.

Ron helping out

The lock cottage, tea rooms and pub have recently been sold and today we got to meet it’s new owner Ron Gooding who came out to say hello, he then offered to work the lock for us so I could hop back on board. A friendly chap who is used to Thames Locks, he’s a BSS Examiner and a marine gas engineer, according to his card. The pub will reopen at some point, ‘there’s lots to do’ along with the tea room. Today must have been his first go at working the lock, which doesn’t work in the same way as the Thames locks. I kept saying to press and hold the button til it started to flash, but he was too busy chatting.

Back on the main river Oleanna skidded round with the flow of water coming from the weir. Here we most certainly needed Waterway Routes! ‘The river bends here Mick’ ‘In the other direction!’ Landmarks appeared out of the gloom, moored boats, the scout place, the pontoon, Erewash, mind that rib, left now, mind that other rib, we’d made it to Cranfleet Cut and the flood gates that have been closed for a month.

Ratcliffe Power Station could only be made out by the clouds of steam rising above the fog back lit by the sun doing it’s best to burn it’s way through.

Setting Cranfleet Lock

At Cranfleet Lock the Lock Keeper was a touch frosty sitting at an angle in his flower bed. The lock was full of logs and crud brought down by the floods. Both bottom gates needed opening as there was so much sitting behind the gates to get one fully opened.

Adding to the fog on the river

Now onto the long reach to Beeston, the fog kept coming and going. Small cruisers appeared round bends swerving to our starboard to avoid us, we’d already moved over to give them more room, so they ended up being a long way over.

£325,000 2 bedrooms though

We wondered how high the floods had been along here, had the houses on stilts been affected, did they ever flood? One house has just recently been sold. It has it’s own floating pontoon and is on a double plot. Rather a lovely house. Link to it’s details.

Beeston Lock

Beeston came into view, the sun having cleared most of the fog by now. Pulling in to the lock landing took a bit of doing, the flow preferring to keep us moving towards the weir. A few days ago we’d seen pictures of how much rubbish was just outside the lock gates, thankfully most of it had been moved away but both gates required opening.

Familiar from the Great Ouse last year

As I worked Oleanna through the lock a lady with blue hair and a dog chatted away. Obviously a boat owner wanting to head upstream. How had our trip been, speedy! What was it like at Cranfleet? We chatted away, me wondering where we’d met before. After she’d walked away I realised it was the lady from NB Watt Way who had been at Bedford River Festival and she’d followed us across the tidal section to Salters Lode.

I think I preferred the donkeys!

A top up with water, we then carried on a short distance to find a mooring for the day. Some shore leave was allocated to Tilly, but she really wasn’t enamoured with the wall and all the foot fall.

As soon as we’d tied up I had a look at The Victoria Hotel’s website to see if there might just be a table for us this evening. Last night I’d checked and there were quite a few left, but now there were none. Oh well, we’ll go another time when the weather might not stop us. Instead of very nice pub food we had the remains of our chilli with jacket potatoes, not quite the celebratory meal we’d hoped for on reaching Nottingham, but a tasty one never the less.

A better solution is required, this one was free though

Checking Nebo as we were moving today, my phone kept up with us very well. However the phone inside seemed to stall a couple of times and had only recorded four miles of the eight plus. I remember this occasionally happening early last year when I was trying it out, it would loose us for a while, I’d assumed it was because I was using my phone for other things, but maybe that wasn’t the case. We’ll keep recording on two devices for the time being.

5 locks, 1 a flood lock, 1 set of flood gates open, 9.54 miles, 1 straight, 1 left not left left, 1 left, 1 very white day, 2 many bits of tree, 1 lady, 1 disappointed cat, 1 canal without ice, 0 table.

Third Up. 11th September

Lock 17 to Gayton Junction, Grand Union Canal

Tea in bed with the Saturday newspaper! Followed by a cooked breakfast, no fresh tomatoes on board so beans took their place on the plate. Yum.

Hmmmm Yummmm

Then we joined the Geraghty zoom, much of the conversation this week was about the queen and a memorial for archaeologist. It was good to see everyone as always.

Binty Bint has been busy adding bees

Time to get a move on, we’d already been passed by NB Ivy May and just before we started to roll up the covers a cruiser came past, so any advantage of the locks having drained overnight or from a late night boater coming down the flight went to Ivy May. There is also another way of looking at it, if there was lack of water on the flight, they would need to sort it.

The flight is known for it’s weed

The first four locks are quite a distance from each other. Here depth is lacking. I think it’s always shallow, just exacerbated from having spent most of the last 19 weeks on rivers with plenty of water under Oleanna’s hull. Add in the amount of reeds floating around and you make slow progress. Mick only had to go down the weed hatch the once though.

A charred border to the canal

Along the off side bank there seems to have been a fire recently, lot of the sideways trees and friendly cover burnt to a char. It appears that there have been two such fires in the area when the ground was so dry, maybe even started deliberately.

Rising up

Once under the M1 the thick of the flight starts. The murals under the bridge reminded me that next time we are down this way we’ll need to spend a few days in Northampton to explore properly.

The M1 from below

The bottom gates have their handrails on the other side to normal, so my kicking the gates open method was not going to work, or it would end up giving me aches in my knees, not what is needed at the best of times let alone in the run up to Panto. I don’t step across the bottom gates as many do, the railings prohibiting this also. I did however have an idea that might save walking round the lock for a second time.

Mick closing up

Maybe the boat hook could be of use. I requested it and managed to pull the off side gate closed, however the gates were just that bit too heavy to push open with the hook. I was very glad of my very grippy shoes as I pulled the gates closed, we’ll see what muscles ache in the morning.

Setting the lock above

After a bit of thinking we got our rhythm back again, me walking ahead to set the next lock as the one below filled, not wasting any precious water. Mick closing up the lock below once Oleanna had risen and exited the lock.

Only one boat came down the flight, the boat ahead getting the advantage of any empty locks apart from one for us.


The higher we got the better the views across Northamptonshire.

At the bridge below the second to last lock a figure stood looking down the flight, waving cars on as they arrived. This could only be one person, Leon. We met Leon eight years ago when we brought Lillian up the flight after just buying her, he helped with a few locks that day.

Leon on the bridge

Today there was a lot of banter and I’m certain it wasn’t water in Leon’s water bottle! He is well known in these parts and apparently very handy with a windlass, he’s been known to assist boaters far and wide, he just asks for 24 hours notice.

Last lock of the flight

As we rose in the last lock of the flight a Diamond Resorts boat arrived under tuition. They proceeded to wind in front of us as we waited in the lock. They were followed by another boat who did the same, don’t mind us we’ll just wait here! It was a bit of a shame that neither boat had let us pass as we now followed them both at a crawling pace back to Gayton Marina, where they both pulled in.

Slowly does it

Should we top up on water? We decided that it could wait for tomorrow if there was space around the corner to moor. Sure enough there was, we turned right and pulled into the first space available, just far enough away from the road for Tilly to go out.

A very welcome cuppa followed, then a shower, then a touch of work, followed by roast pork and a glass or two of wine to celebrate reaching the Grand Union Canal proper and being just a touch ahead of schedule.

16 locks, 4.87 miles, 1 right, 2 ahead, 1 coming down, 1st cooked breakfast in an age, 1 Leon, 1 joint of pork, 1 crabbies, 2 glasses of wine, 2 hours shore leave.

207 Years To The Day. 1st May

Evans Bridge 42 to Westbridge Pipe Bridge

In need of the services at Gayton Junction we prepared, emptying the wee tank whilst the outlet was on the towpath side. Then we pootled our way to the junction.

What a difference from yesterday! I got sunburnt yesterday, today we could just about see our breath! Layers and long sleeves were certainly needed.

Gayton Junction, which way?

At the junction there was already a boat on the services, but fortunately they had just finished. We pulled in alongside and let two other boats pass before we could swap places and tie up. There was a hive of activity around the service block, the local IWA branch were busy weeding and giving the place a general tidy up. We filled and emptied as required then were ready to push off.

IWA all hard at work

We’ve pulled up at the services here before, but only once been along the Northampton Branch. That was just over eight years ago when we’d just bought NB Lillyanne, she’d been moored on the River Nene and her licence had just run out, so we spent a couple of long days getting her off the river and onto C&RT waters. Quite a rush, not enough time to take much in or write a blog.

Last year was all about seeing family and friends, this year we want to explore again. Today we’d be heading down the Northampton Arm towards the River Nene, Middle Levels, Great Ouse, River Cam etc where we plan on spending the summer. We have our Gold Licence, have joined Friends of the River Nene and The Great Ouse Boating Association. There are different licences to buy, keys and windlasses (that are also called keys), all very exciting!

Fancy swing bridge

But first we needed to stop for an early lunch, there’s nowhere really to stop in the flight of locks down into Northampton so we pulled up opposite Gayton Marina. This is where all the hire boats were aiming for this morning and also where we came to view the first second hand boat we looked at inn 2014, it had too much leatherette for our tastes and really bad storage for a liveaboard boat.

From eight years ago I’ve had this thing that Gayton Marina had to be on the main line of the Grand Union near the junction, every time we’ve passed since I’ve wondered where it had gone! Now I know it wasn’t just a mirage.

NB Caress of Steel came past just as we pulled in, another Finesse boat with space for a motorbike in the tug deck. Then we watched the swing bridge at the entrance swing, all automated, a barrier and flashing light. There was no-one to be seen operating it, do moorers have a fob that they can press to open it? Or is someone watching on CCTV?

Top Lock

Time to set off, with sixteen locks ahead of us before we could stop we needed to get on with it.

We remembered narrow locks, going under the M1. I remembered trying to ride a Brompton up the gravelly track between locks, our lock operation has changed since then going up hill. Today I’d be walking much of the flight three times to set ahead and then let Mick and Oleanna out of the lock above.

What would be different to the locks? There’s always something different on each canal. The beams were wide, easy to cross. Here the handrails on the bottom gates were on the downhill side of them. Would I still be able to push the gates apart to save a walk around the lock? Have they always been like this or is it to put people off stepping across from one gate to the other?

Beep beep!

At the second lock I stood and worked out if I could push the gates from the centre safely holding onto the railing. This actually would be a touch easier to start off with, but to guarantee getting the gate into the recess I would need to change the angle to which I pushed. After a few locks I decided that the angle I was pushing at was not being kind to my knees, so I chose to walk round instead. Thankfully Mick closed the other gate for me with the boat hook, saving a second trip round.

The thick of the flight runs through twelve locks seemingly in countryside, the last one however sitting underneath the M1 near junction 15A. All quite pretty, I suspect the views would have been better if the sun had been out.

A family walked up the flight, crossing over the gates of each lock. They were obviously keen to lend a hand with a gate or two.

Red roof

In the pound below lock 6 I could see a red arc. This turned out to be the roof of a cruiser, the chap on board appeared when we had a couple of locks still to go to reach him. Obviously a single hander, I headed down to lend a hand with gates as he bow hauled his boat into the lock. He said that he’d stopped in the pound overnight and some nair do wells had opened all the paddles and drained the pound, he’d woken up with his boat on the silt.

The bywash was flowing and had got him afloat again, the level still quite low. It took time for Oleanna and the cruiser to pass. We’d left the next two locks ready for him, I suspect he made use of the open gates and then settled back down for another night, waiting for the next down hill boat to leave gates for him.

It won’t go down!

The level below Lock 6 was low. Oleanna ground to a halt exiting. I lifted one of the top paddles to see if I could flush her out. This worked quite quickly, but then the paddle wouldn’t close fully. I managed to force it down a touch, but had to call for Mick to see if he could get it further. Thankfully this worked.

The canal was built by the Grand Junction Canal, with a height difference of 32m between the Grand Junction at Gayton down to Northampton. 17 narrow locks were built to connect the River Nene to the canal network. The first boats arrived at Far Cotton in Northampton on the 1st May 1815, 207 years ago today! However today we wouldn’t be greeted by crowds cheering, it would just be geese crapping everywhere!

Farms were cut in half by the canal, so seven lift bridges were put across so that sheep, cattle and machinery could cross. Today only one such bridge is still fully in tact, just below lock 5, two more sit beside the canal.

Under the M1 are murals painted by local school children. One side depicts the canal through the seasons, the other is a time line of Northampton which is very interesting, bright and jolly. For 100 years the canal was very busy transporting coal, grain and timber, by WW2 road competition took over and trade declined.

A heron flew away from the lock

In 1968 a group of local enthusiasts formed the IWA Northampton Branch, in 1971 the IWA National Rally was held when 650 boats gathered. The branch fought to keep the arm open, objecting to road plans that would affect the route. Today they look after the upkeep of the flight. Mosaics sit near the top gates of each lock and as seen at the top of the arm today work parties keep the thick of the flight trimmed and tidy.

The pounds very full lower down

Once under the M1 the last few locks are set further apart. New housing sits alongside and the amount of reeds increases, this is also something we remembered from eight years ago. Gradually the canal becomes more urban.

Reeds reeds and more reeds

Local boats sat making use of the few rings above Lock 17, but there was space for us infront. We used the last ring and the girders holding the pipe bridge up to moor and moved the geese along taking care not to stand in their pooh.

Last night we had unwrapped the pork joint, dried it off and left it in the fridge to dry out. Before starting the flight I had left it out to come up to room temperature. Once down Lock 15 I turned the oven on, gave the joint a dry off and added some more salt to the leathery rind. Down Lock 16 in it went. By the time we were moored up it had done it’s 30 minutes at gas 7 and could be turned down. The effort paid off as we enjoyed the best pork crackling I’ve ever made along with a quarter of the meat. A good celebration to mark the anniversary of the arm and the start of our exploring this year.


16 locks, 6.5 miles, 1 left, 1 full water tank, 1 grey day, 1 left of 7, 34 mosaics, 1 slow boat to Gayton, 1 Tilly not too impressed, 2 hrs 42 minutes, 1 joint of pork that will last us four meals, 18 train tickets booked (making use of the Sale before it ends), 2 tired boaters.

Hanging Around For Twelve More Months. 26th April

Wedgenock Lane Bridge to Radford Smelly

No rushing away for us this morning, in fact we’d not be able to move off until mid-afternoon as there was an important appointment to be attended. So there was nothing for it but to have a cooked breakfast, whilst listening to Tilly complain at the back door about the lack of shore leave, AGAIN!

Are you still there Ade?

We waited and waited , several boats came past. I began to prepare tonights meal and we all waited.

Then at 2:15pm I collected past medication together, passport, popped a puppy pad in the escape pod and bundled a begrudging Tilly into it, zipping the door up behind her. She loves it in there apart form when the door is closed! I was very aware that some of her protestations this morning had been toilet based, preferring to use shore based facilities than the box onboard, so she’d kept her legs crossed. I really hoped the stress of her visit to the vets wouldn’t end up being damp or smelly!

So far Tilly has only seen the same vet twice, that was when she had her first vaccinations in Tamworth. Each year I look at our route and try to find a practice as close to the canal as possible, we then time our cruising accordingly. Last year we’d gone to the vets in Scarborough, five minutes by car, not a popular choice for Tilly! The last two years we’ve had to chat to a vet in a car park and hand the escape pod over because of the pandemic, this year I was to be allowed in with Tilly.

Cat waiting area, shame you have to walk past the woofers to get to it

Avonvale Veterinary Centres have several branches and the Warwick one was under a five minute walk from our mooring, the closest we’ve managed. Tilly shouted most of the way there and whilst we waited in the cat waiting area.

We were soon greeted by Sidney our man in green. Everyone bar Tilly wearing masks. A quick chat checking on her history, weigh in, teeth, heart, tummy, all squeezed and checked over. Then the jab in the neck.

I’d asked for a years worth of wormer and flea treatments. That was fine, although Tilly and I wanted to try her on a different wormer as we’ve worked out that the pills she’d been given last year gave her the shakes/tremors. Sidney obliged and we’ll try a spoton wormer. Hooray something else on my neck!!!

A years worth

All very efficient, friendly, most importantly understandable as last years vet had a very thick accent which was next to impossible to understand without seeing her lips along with the ambient traffic noise in the car park. Just a shame about the price, just shy of £200, but that is everything she should need for the next year.

Tilly’s passport was signed, another year of shore leave granted, we just needed to move Oleanna now to somewhere suitable to kick start that year.

I vant to be alone!

Back on board Tilly stretched out on the bed like lady muck to relax. Mick had got Oleanna ready, so we could push off as soon as possible.

Goodbye Cape

At Cape Top Lock a pair were just about to exit the lock and pull up on the water point, Mick held back and then we descended.

There’s a new car park for the hospital with a brightly coloured surround to it. Plenty of building work around Kate Boats base. We did wonder if the hire fleet were still based here as there were no signs of it, maybe the dust from the building site opposite has made them move base for a while.

Mad Hatter

We soon passed NB Mad Hatter, whom we’d shared Hatton with last year.

A new stretch of rings has been put in between bridges 42 and 43, we’d always wondered why there was nothing here. We pulled in and I hopped off to do a shop at Morrisons, we’d get 10% off if using our credit card. Mick stayed onboard as the nearby benches were occupied.

With two heavy bags of shopping stowed we pushed onwards, time ticking away before cat curfew. We waved to our friends John and Gemma who live overlooking the canal, no visit to Wool Warehouse for me today. The cat is still here, almost unblemished, someone looks to have scrawled something on the mouse, but it’s mostly been cleaned off. This still has to be the best graffiti art on the network.

Back on the towpath

Soon we reached Radford Semele. We found a space and pulled in at the end of the arnco, a distance away from the next boat where a woofer was playing. I checked that their dog would be fine if I let Tilly out then gave her an hours leave. Thank goodness I could hardly keep my paws crossed any longer! That new litter smells a bit funny!!!

On top of the world again

The finishing touches were put to the quiche and popped in the oven. Todays missions accomplished, we now just need to crack on to meet the next deadline.

Quinoa crust chicken quiche, click for recipe

2 locks, 4.69 miles, 6 hours waiting, 5 minutes walk, 1 very nice Tom in green, 1 Tilly wanting to escape, 1 jab, 2 wormers, 12 fleas, 1 clean bill of health, 12 months shore leave granted, 2 boxes wine, 2 loaves bread, 1 quinoa quiche.

Oh BUM………ingham! 16th April

Cambrian Wharf

How did they do that? You turn your back for one minute! They go and tie up BUMingham again!

Bricks Bricks Brick!

This bit of BUMingham has lots of bricks but mainly on the bottom, it also has a lock for moving the outside up and down. I don’t often get to sniff these things and She wasn’t too keen on me doing that. To be truthful I wasn’t too keen on doing much in BUMingham anyway. Far too many Shes and Toms about the place and some of them were moving the outside with all three of us in it. I so hope they’ve tied BUMingham up very very well!

Hmmm, how do they move these things up and down?

The first boat into the locks was at 8am.

Down bang on 8am

Last night we’d heard the lock being filled, it was dark. Mick peeked out of the curtains and could see Coal Boat Roach being bow hauled into the lock, it looked like Rich was wearing waders. We didn’t think that Farmers Bridge was on his normal route and he’d been moored up in the afternoon, fully laden with coal. What do we know?

Then quite a while later we could hear the top paddle being wound up again, the lock was filling. It carried on filling and filling and filling. Was someone trying to empty the Birmingham level?! A chap had gone down the locks earlier single handing leaving paddles up.

Zoom not working properly this morning

No this was Rich from Roach again. ? Mick went out to see what was happening.

During the day Roach had managed to get a bicycle around its prop. To remove it they had dropped Roach into the first pound down the flight, then drained that pound so that the problem could be dealt with easier out of the water, hence the waders. A bright green bike was pulled off the prop, the pound refilled and Roach was brought back up onto the Birmingham level.

After half an hour we got pictures but no-one could hear us

Today didn’t start off quite so exciting. The Flapper pub across the way is very much open again and last night proved to be a popular place for birthdays, we think things died down there at around 1am. Our mooring may be handy but it is noisy, however it will serve our purposes until after Easter.

The Antony Gormley is back in town in a slightly new position

After having difficulty joining the Geraghty Zoom Mick headed off to pick up a hire car from Budget at Birmingham Airport. He’d hunted round for the best deal over the Easter weekend and this was the one around about £120 for 3 days. A reckie for parking places nearby had been done and he’d registered with RingGo Parking. This left Tilly and myself onboard pottering.

Scrubbing to get rid of the graffiti

The boat dipped! Hang on! Yes you guessed it someone was having their photo taken stood on the stern of Oleanna. They were apologetic when I asked if I could go and stand in their living room to have my photo taken!

Blimey it’s busy all of a sudden!

The general hubhub gradually increased over the next hour, followed by dull thudding noises. I peeked out through the curtains to see twenty maybe more young men gathered around the lock, the thudding noise was coming from them taking it in turns to jump across the chamber.

How many narrow locks have we seen with memorials alongside for people who’ve tried to jump across, usually under the influence of alcohol, and it’s all gone very wrong! This was my first thought.

Then as I watched it was very obvious that they knew what they were doing making the jump look so so easy. These were free runners. There are several places in Birmingham where you can train to free run, but I suspect it’s a lot cheaper to jump over the top lock at Farmers Bridge! It also seemed to be a big social thing.


Several people took photos, others filmed the more experienced runners. The younger chaps just jumped the chamber, others continued on to jump up the wall opposite towards the scaffolding, one or two more did summersaults. Everyone practicing their particular moves, wiping dust from the soles of the trainers before setting off.

Tilly was interested too, so we went out the back to watch. I could show them a thing or two! But I’ll leave it for now.

It was interesting watching them all, yes there was some danger in their actions, but I wouldn’t be the one to haul someone out of the lock with a head injury. The skill that some of these chaps had was impressive. A couple of old queens sat on the bench watching them, maybe attracted by the skill or maybe just by the six packs on display!

After an hour they gradually moved off, heading into the city centre in front of the library to practice tumbles along with the street dancers.

Cass Art window

Now the entertainment had finished I headed to stock up on card to make models from. As we’ll be on totally new waters in a few weeks I’d rather have what I need on board already to make a white card model for Panto. Once I was back, the drawing board slot was emptied, new card added to the big folder of card and then everything stowed away again until needed.

Our mooring at the top of Farmers Bridge

We sat back, enjoyed our evening meal, then wondered what time The Flapper would close tonight! Cambrian Wharf eventually quietened down at around 1am again.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 train, 1 hire car, 1 photo, 30 plus free runners, 0 injuries, 1 cat wanting to join in, 1 new hobby for Mick? 2 sheets card, 1 designer ready to design, 1 very noisy pub.

There Is Only One Way. 8th April

Stoke Lock to Trent Junction

Needing to catch up and the sun being out meant we were happy to push off this morning. Blue skies lift the heart and thankfully there were blue skies back in Newark too making life that bit easier.

Radcliffe Viaduct

Three sunny miles cruising up to Holme Lock. Mick tried radioing ahead in case there was a Lock Keeper on duty, but officially they start back next week. No reply came so I was to work the buttons.

Holme Lock is huge and always takes an age to empty and even longer to fill. Add to that the button controls and their flashing lights! Well we were there for sometime before I could even open the gates. With Oleanna in the lock I started to press the open button to bring her up, water gushing in, yet the level taking forever to fill.

It takes forever!

All of a sudden the towpath opposite there was a todo! A family had been walking their dog on a lead when another dog appeared and attacked it, it kept coming back for more no matter what the people did. The lady said things to me which I really couldn’t hear and I was trying to concentrate on Oleanna. I think she thought I was a Lock Keeper and would know which boat the dog eventually ran off to. Unfortunately I couldn’t help.

Now on our way into Nottingham, the reach was quiet, no sailing boats out today and despite the cricket season having started there was no-one playing at Trent Bridge.

Hang on! Were there people in the garden of Southfork? This is the first time we’ve ever seen anyone near this house! New builds are still going up along the river, including a new development overlooking Meadow Lane Lock.

Meadow Lane Lock

A widebeam was coming down in the lock, the lady saying they were going up the river, so I signalled to Mick that they would be turning upstream. Well that’s not what she meant at all, they were heading downstream to Stoke. Fortunately Mick had moved so they could pick up crew anyway.

We pulled onto the water point where I jumped ship and headed off to Hobbycraft to buy myself a sketchbook and some tracing paper so that I can be ready to start Panto when the next version of the script arrives.

The writing’s on the door

Mick topped up the water, emptied the wee tank and rinsed off the roof before I got back.

Along the next stretch I stood in the bow with a tape measure. We’d offered to measure the height of the new rail bridge for David to see if he’d be able to get under it. When on the River Wey a few years ago we managed to work out our air draught to the top of the horns. The new rail bridge was 88cm above them. The tape came out again once round the 90degree bend as some of the bridges seemed low too. In fact one of them only measured 75cm above our horns.

Approaching the Sainsburys moorings we were surprised at the number of boats moored up near the student accommodation. We pulled in to the last gap we could see, just as well as round the corner it was nose to tail boats! Yes we moored right in front of a no mooring sign, yes we had lunch, yes we went shopping and no we cannot work out why there is no mooring there!

Nest making, we also saw a pair necking today

Mick called round to check on diesel prices. Castle marina £1.75. Mercia £1.78! Then Shobnall, if we wanted over 50 litres it would be £1.20. Being twelve hours cruise away we should be fine until then and at that price it will almost certainly save us £50! We did however pull into Castle Marina for some coal £13.50 for 25kg of Excell. They had some Marine 16 too but at over £30 Mick decided to leave it and see how much it might be at Shobnall.

Beeston towpath full

Back onto the Nottingham and Beeston Cut we pootled our way westwards catching up with an extreamly slow boat who thankfully let us pass. Starting to get cold we wanted to stop so tried pulling into a gap. The wind did it’s best to push Oleanna away from the bank and even with both of us clinging on we couldn’t get her into the side, we’d try further along. Well there were no gaps further along. Nottingham seems to have had an increase in local continuous cruisers, we reckon there’s about five times the amount of boats than there used to be.

Beeston Lock where windlasses are welded onto the paddles

Only one thing for it we’d have to carry on along the river and hope for space on Cranfleet cut or at Trent Lock. It was cold and threatening to rain, but we had no choice.

We did our best to keep towards the western bank, after hearing the story of NB Legend getting stuck on an old submerged wall last year we really wanted to avoid any possibility of re-enacting the incident.

Soon Cranfleet lock was in view and we tried to remember if we knew which paddle to lift first. No recollection at all. Having four gate paddles it’s confusing, thank goodness you can hang back in the lock. It turned out that I guessed correctly choosing the paddle on the same side as Oleanna, but in the middle first followed by the outer one.

Ratcliffe on Soar Power Station just across the way

At the junction we popped out far enough to see if there was space on the pontoon at Trent Lock, there was, but on the inside so no view. However there was a space on the wall at the junction so we pulled in at 7:30, stoked up the stove and got warm again.

5 locks, 15.2 miles, 2 rights, 1 junction, 1 beautiful day, 5 times as many boats, 3 bags coal, 0 diesel today, 8ft 8inches we think, 1 inch too low, 2 boxes wine, 1 shopping trolley back to the boat, 0 shore leave, 1 tidier boat, 1 more good day for David.