Category Archives: Grand Union Canal

Beware Of Black Jack. 16th July

Tring Reservoirs to Wilstone Visitor Moorings, Aylesbury Arm

Tilly was allowed some shore leave whilst we had breakfast, we reckoned she’d not venture far as the grassy bank alongside Oleanna had plenty to keep her occupied. After an hour or so she came in for some Dreamies and the doors were closed behind her, time to make a move.

The Goat Boat. Click the photo for details

Volunteers could be seen arriving to work the flight this morning, a single hander helped down through the lock behind us, but that’s as far as they ventured. As we got ready to push off I could see someone lifting paddles and setting the lock, maybe we’d have a locking partner for the last lock on the flight. As soon as we’d pushed off the lady walked along the towpath, she was obviously the advanced crew. When she caught us up at the bottom lock we were informed of there being two boats coming down, we were on our own.

Last of the Marsworth flight

Mick was wielding the windlass again today and I stayed at the helm. Trying to give my knee as much rest as possible whilst still moving.

Mick closing the bottom gate on the Marsworth flight

A left at Marsworth Junction, here we’d not be able to share as the Aylesbury Arm is narrow. We’ve not been down here since early 2015, so it was time Oleanna and Tilly ventured down the arm. The top two locks are a staircase, one locks bottom gates are the next locks top gates. Mick set them, top lock full, bottom empty, then we dropped down from one chamber to the other. No bridges over the bottom of the locks so a walk round required to cross over the top gates each time.

The next pound was high, it had just had two locks worth of water added to it from the staircase. The Aylesbury Arm doesn’t have bywashes, instead the locks fill themselves ahead of you. The top gate is lower then the bottom gates so excess water in the pound flows over the top and fills up the lock, we’d remembered this from last time. At lock 3 the water was at least a foot higher than the top gate, I kept Oleanna away from the incoming water so as not to get a wet stern.

Coming over the top

Black Jack’s lock 4. Pretty with it’s lock cottage alongside it but back in 2015 it left a scar on NB Lillyanne and has affected our cruising preparation ever since. During the winter stoppages at the end of 2014 this lock had been given brand new gates. The handrails on the top gate had been attached, the brackets with a nice design but the bottom part pointy. As we’d come up the lock a gust of wind pushed Lillian against the open gate and as Mick brought her out of the lock the pointy bracket chiselled it’s way along her gunnel and ripped the cratch cover. Ever since we have always avoided having the cratch cover down when cruising unless we know we’re entering a very leaky lock and the deflection of water is important.

Black Jacks Lock

Today the lock gate has had extra timber added to it, the chiseled point has been moved along too, keeping it well away from anyone’s paintwork or covers, the date plate now slightly green and slimey. Down we dropped, no problem.

There’s the offending chiselly bit

Well until I came to leave the lock, Oleanna wasn’t moving as she would normally, a blast of reverse to clear the prop. Only the next pound was filled with weed, so more wrapped it’s way round the prop. Progress was exceedingly slow, blasts of reverse not helping much, I seem to remember there being weed before. Oleanna limped into the next lock, Mick took off his jumper and lifted the weed hatch. My bad knee and lack of long arms means the weed hatch is a blue job, a handful of weed extricated we could carry on.

Red brick arched bridge

Showers came and went. How far should we go today? A couple on a walk stopped to watch, ‘It’s very narrow, will your boat fit?’ One of those questions like ‘Does your cat come back when you let her out?’ ‘No never, we have to get a new cat every day!’

Fenced off and scaffolding

A road bridge was being closed to traffic, blocks being moved into position by a fork lift, scaffolding holding the structure up over the canal. Not much further to reach Wilstone Footbridge and the moorings there. Would there be enough room for us, yes loads! Tilly was allowed out, not convinced at first but when the woofers gave her some time things improved, not worthy of a Mrs Tilly stamp but the best she’s likely to get for a few days.

Looking back up the Aylesbury

I filled out questions on NHS111 online regarding my knee. I was referred to my GP or an Urgent Treatment Centre. Our current location suggested Hemel Hempstead, further on High Wycombe. Obviously seeing my GP would be good, but distance and the likelihood of getting an appointment I could make not so easy. The jury is still out.

Today is Lizzie’s actual birthday and after a fraught morning with rain water she got round to opening some cards, ours being one of them. I can now show you what I was painting last week. Lizzie grew up along the Basingstoke Canal, teenage years spent driving a tug during the renovation of the canal. I’d had my spies trying to find out exactly where this had been. Fleet, Farnborough area. Sadly I didn’t have many photos worthy of painting in that area. So instead I chose one of the lock on the St John’s flight, Lock 8.

Lizzie’s Birthday Card

9 locks, 2 a staircase, 1.4 miles, 1 left, 0 rips in covers, 1 chisel bracket protected, 1 boat up the flight, 2 many woofers, 1 lost ball, 1 sock finished, 2nd one started, 1 birthday card, 8 Oxford sausages tonight with wedges.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/yL8Q6wyGFD7S6hJS6

Lunch Break. 15th July

Cowroast Marina to Tring Reservoirs, Marsworth

Goodbye to the lines of boats

Car returned, water filled, Tilly’s pooh box had a refresh, more loads of washing and drying done, we did manage to break into our £5 credit, but have left a generous amount for the next visiting boat. Push back was a little late, after midday and it took a little bit of time to get out from our mooring and wind to face the entrance/exit back out onto the Grand Union to do a right to head north.

The summit cutting

Long lines of boats to pass. Then into the summit cutting. Big puddles on the towpath would require wellies to pass through and the brambles were still all in flower, sun doesn’t get into the cutting much.

Outside number 1, just for lunch though

It started to rain and we wanted a break before arriving at the top of the Marsworth flight so we pulled in. If the Wendover Arm was navigable to the winding hole we’d have headed there for some much needed shore leave for Tilly, but stop planks mean a long reverse when you come to leave at the moment, so we opted for the cutting. Tilly checked the lay of the land, TREES! Friendly cover! Can I ? Can I??? We consulted with each other, ‘An hour Tilly, it’s only a lunch break’. If she got busy it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we stayed put for the day, it would just be quite dark.

She did get busy for about an hour and a half, so when she returned the doors were closed so we could carry on. As we pushed off a boat could be seen approaching. Would we have a locking partner? I hoped so.

Getting in the way!

More boats were moored towards Bulbourne, three in the winding hole! The breasted up pair would be very popular of you were wanting to turn a 70fter!

Wonder how long the white tiles will stay so bright

The building works at the old workshop/yard have now been completed, plenty of garden furniture about the place. The row of new houses at the rear have a monobrow look to them, but on the hole it all looks rather nice.

No-one following and no volunteers sadly

As I hobbled up to fill the lock a dog walker came past, ‘They’re all empty apart from one!’ The lock took a while to fill, all the time we watched over our shoulder to see if we’d have a locking partner, but no one arrived, we’d be on our own.

Normally here I’d set a lock, open it and Mick would bring Oleanna in closing the gate behind him, then he’d lift a paddle to start emptying it whilst I walked on ahead to lift a paddle at the next lock down, returning to open and close gates for him. This was not going to be possible today, it was to be one lock at a time due to my knee.

Temporary beam repairs

Mick closed the offside paddle for me and then we progressed down to the next lock. I took the walk slowly, but when crossing the gates to lift the offside paddle a twinge that’s been developing in the calf on my bad leg decided to escalate itself into a seriously big OW! No choice now I’d have to be at the helm. Actually I should have been there from the start of the flight, but I’m stupidly stubborn like that.

Mick took over with the windlass and we worked one lock at a time down hill, a different view from onboard. Rain showers came and went, the locks gradually filling themselves as we worked our way down. There are several lock beams that have had the temporary fix done to them, wonder if they will be replaced during winter this year?

Toblerhome

Quite a few boats were moored alongside the lakes, there was a big gap, white signs on posts putting people off mooring. I zoomed in, a fishing day on the 20th we could pull in. So we tucked ourselves in behind the Toblerhome boat (one of my favourites). Mick spent a while trying to find somewhere not too stonelike to hammer the spikes into and Tilly was given an hour and a quarter shore leave.

It has a lot of pawtential !

The bank was good, good friendly cover. A pounce within two minutes. A few too many woofer walkers, the roof was handy at times. A touch of self catering was achieved, when I returned for some ‘Thank you for coming home’ Dreamies Tom closed the door, I’d apparently had enough and he didn’t ‘want to have to wash the floor like She had the other day!’

A rainy night. The TV volume required turning up a LOT. Rain bounced in through the mushroom vents and a trickle of water appeared down the inside of the stove flue, it’s not done that since it was moored up in Goole for winter. The first episode of The Jetty was watched, we had to pause it so as to identify which lock Jenna Coleman lived alongside. Lob Mill Lock 16 on the Rochdale where we were accompanied by two cocky ducklings earlier this year.

6 locks, 3.6 miles, 1 car returned, 1 wind, 1 right, 1 full water tank, 1 clean pooh box, 2 outsides, 2 more DofE groups, 1 very troublesome leg, 1 solution required, 1 sock nearly finished, 1 very HEAVY rain STORM! 2 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval, 0 thumbs required, the internet is quite pants though!

After a request from Mike on NB Duxllandyn we shall be keeping the thumbs up for TV signal. There will also be, if I remember, an ‘i‘ to indicate how good the internet is at each mooring. Upright, good. Side ways, slow. Upside down, rubbish or none existent (we’re unlikely to be stopping here in future!). These of course are valid for our set up with our aerial and router on the EE network. Other networks may differ in signal.

Party Time. 13th 14th July

Cowroast Marina

A bus into Aylesbury for a hire car, £100 cheaper for the weekend than from Hemel Hempstead! The washing machine constantly on the go, an extra £5 added to the electric post needing to be used. We both packed a bag with party clothes, evening dingding was served three hours early, Tilly was left in charge. No magic food bowl?!

A grade 3 tidy up

If we’d wanted to we’d have been able to reach our destination on Oleanna, this would have meant some long days in the rain and on arrival it wouldn’t have been quite so handy. We could have taken the train and a bus or two, some distances to walk would have been involved but the fares were way more expensive than just hiring a car.

The Watford Flight is down there

Our route took us along narrow lanes, sign posts to Cheddington, glimpses of the Grand Union, through Ivinghoe, all places we know from the water. Grove Lock, around Leighton Buzzard, The Soulbury Three, Stoke Hammond. Then the roundabouts of Milton Keynes took us further east and up to the M1. We didn’t manage to glimpse a look at the Northampton Flight, or Long Buckby, but the big trees that accompany the canal to the Watford Flight were easy to spot after the service station. At Junction 18 we turned off, Crick, well the Holiday Inn at Crick.

Long corridors and bridges

We checked in, explored our compact room which of course was the furthest away possible! Mick flicked the TV on, Robbie Cumming making his way along the GU, only just managing to get through the Soulbury Three before it closed for winter maintenance, as if he didn’t know!

Time to join the party, Lizzie’s 50th Birthday party.

Lizzie with her Dad

What a lovely evening it was. People from most of Lizzies life, family, Watford Palace Theatre (where we first met in the 90’s), Cemex, the boating world, most of her current colleagues from Unusual were busy working on the Olympics in Paris, plenty to keep them busy out there.

Jeremy who was once the Production Manager at Watford Palace Theatre, He employed me to paint scenery for a while and the two of us interviewed Lizzie for the Scenic Artist job there shortly after she left college. Jeremy also helped Lizzie when she first bought NB Panda, moving her from Birmingham, Jeremy having lived on a boat during his Watford days. Our paths also crossed further north when we both ended up on the Yorkshire coast. He’s now quite a useful source of info on the Beverley Beck!

Over the last ten years we’ve gradually got to know various boaters through Lizzie. Noel and Carolyn, Noel had been the Harbour Master at Crick when we first bought Lillian, he managed to find a space for her in the run up to Crick Boat show in 2014 where we gradually moved on board.

Crews from NB Kamilli, NB Adagio and NB Leon before they sold her

Andy and Irene from NB Kamilli. Our bows have crossed a few times and hopefully they may do again this summer. The NB Adagio crew, I’ve lost their names now, but we wave whenever we pass the Cape of Good Hope.

Mick, John and Ali

Then John and Ali from NB Triskaideka. We’d once met on a street corner in Crick, only briefly, but Ali and I have been I touch recently. There was lots to talk about with them, very similar boaters to us with the same attitudes to boating and the waterways community. Plenty of red wine was drunk on our table and by the end of the evening we knew we’d be stopping to have a bottle or two more with them when our bows cross.

The Tuckeys

Several faces familiar from around Crick. One lady who worked for ABNB and Neil Stuttle who fits out boats. Then sat next to Mick were the Tuckey’s, yes the crane and boat movers. Lizzie used to help move boats around Crick marina before and after the boat show so has known them for quite some years. Both Mick and I asked them if they’d had lots of enquiries from boats on the Lancaster Canal, the sealock on the Ribble Link has developed a fault meaning boats could be stuck there through the winter. It was interesting as they are asked for quotes for such things, but people rarely tell them the reason, they had no idea about the stoppage despite having had numerous calls.

Cutting the cake

Plenty to talk about, some nice food and plenty to drink, we lasted until the big lights came on at the end of the night!

All a little bit tippsy!

In the morning we joined the masses for breakfast, plenty of people had stayed including Lizzie. Time to catch up again over a cooked breakfast before everyone headed off in their separate directions. A lovely time had by all, good to catch up with people, maybe we’d bump into them all again if we headed to Stratford, but we have other plans. Thank you Lizzie for having a big Birthday and for inviting us.

Not as good as one of Mick’s, but not bad

Back down the M1 being tailed by the Kamilli crew for about 20 miles. Then round Milton Keynes, past all the land marks back to Cowroast Marina and Tilly, who had done her job very well whilst we were away.

For the last week we’ve been trying to catch up with my college friend Jen who lives in Hemel, her current job not allowing her time to come and help us through some locks. As we had a car we headed back to Hemel, a slight diversionary route giving us more narrow roads and just missing Winkwell Swing Bridge back to the Fishery Wharf Cafe to meet up with her and her dog Monty a very well behaved Collie.

Fishery Wharf well worth a visit

Lots to catch up on, Jen is a fantastic scenic artist and used to work at the National Theatre. Now she freelances and has worked on various films and tv series. I believe she said she work on the props for the latest Ghost Buster film and currently is slapping paint on scenery for a new Netflix series about the Guiness family Last year she also painted some very wonderful panto cloths for Bury St Edmonds.

Mick, Pip and Jen.

Recently she’s had an operation on her foot, so the two of us hobbled away from the cafe after a couple of hours.

Back at the boat we settled down for some food and a night in front of the TV, Dr Who with the Beatles. It was obvious what our nearest neighbours would be watching tonight, but thankfully after one rendition of Sweet Carolyn they must have headed to the pub garden to watch the game. A muffled roar from somewhere made us check the score. The quietness that followed suggested that Spain had scored more than one goal. Everyone returned to the marina quite quietly.

A nice quiet evening knitting

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 Fiat 500, M1 twice, 1 very good party, 2 official photographers, 1 offer of crew, 1 problematic bridge, 1 tray, pair 29 well under way, 1 painter and hound, 1 free sausage, 1 nice cafe, 1 musical baddy, 1 quiet night in with Tilly, still 9.75 digits.

Getting Younger By The Hour. 12th July

Berko Visitor Moorings to Cow Roast Marina

Yesterday I thought I’d managed to fend off a migraine, this morning I knew I’d failed. Sadly we needed to keep moving. Dark glasses and a slow pace, aided by hobbling anyway, would be the way forward and upwards today.

Old lock gates nearly as old as I felt

At the two Gas Locks I was very pleased to see a volunteer, who set the second lock for us and closed up too, saving crossing gates. Blimey I felt rotten. Should I opt to be at the helm instead? Less walking, but guiding Oleanna into locks was not something my brain wanted to deal with. Thankfully by the time we reached our third and forth lock the Co-codamol had kicked in and I started to feel a little bit less than 97 years old.

The second Gas Lock

A single hander jumped onto his roof. Two boats approached Northchurch Lock from above, advance crew about to lift the wrong paddles. Mick corrected them, then I corrected them again. I apologise if I was a touch short, by now I’d reached 87 years old and was turning a touch crabby. Two more boats followed these guys.

At Dunswell Bottom Lock we could see someone filling the chamber, shame I’d have appreciated an extra pair of hands. I managed to chat to the chap with his dog, they were on a mission to do 24 lock miles a day to reach Limehouse in time, not sure what for though. He made comments to the lady at the helm via walkie talkie, I could only hear her side of the conversation ‘That’s because I wanted to do it that way!‘. The dog dictated that they wouldn’t go down the steps to get on the boat, but would walk over the bridge to get back on, leaving his gate open for me to close along with mine which I’d opened so Mick could come in on my side. Maybe aged 82 now I couldn’t be bothered with the chap. He apparently ordered the lady to pick him up from in front of Oleanna, she’d been hovering waiting for Mick to move into the lock. She was then told off for coming in too quickly, the dog fell in and was hoiked out on it’s lead.

I just love the mixture of brick, render and timber

Now 80 I could appreciate the cottages on the other side of the road, the sky was blue and they made a pretty picture, I’ve always liked them. I hopped on board to get to the next lock, here I noticed for the first time the hills and fields around us. Of course they’ve always been there, just grey days and aiming for the summit clouding them from view. Today at the good age of 77 I had time to admire them.

It’s mine, all mine I say!

A Heron preened itself sat in a tree, hunched over as if it was miserly counting it’s pennies, keeping them out of view from thieving prying eyes.

Boats lined the final pound up to Cow Roast. Where did the name come from? Well according to wikipedia the village lies on an ancient drovers route through the Chilterns and here was where cattle could be rested in pens on their way to market, Cow Rest which over time became Cow Roast.

Cowroast Lock

As always at this time of year a group of Duke of Edinburgh award walkers came past, rucksacks on their backs. As we rose up the lock they came past us again, they’d gone wrong somewhere and were having to retrace their steps. Quite a distance to the next road or two, if their route was meant to stay alongside a canal, they’d have all the way back to Bulbourne to walk for the Wendover Arm! Good job they were teenagers.

A narrow entrance

At 75 we turned the steep turn into Cow Roast Marina, steeper than we remembered it being. Camera zoomed in to check the numbers on the end of the berths, there was ours just to the left. Blimey they are narrow! All three of us held our breath as Mick did his best to straighten Oleanna up so she wasn’t jammed against the next boat and the pontoon at the same time. Finally we could go straight in, just enough room for fenders on both sides of us.

At 73 I accompanied Mick to the office, hobbling along, maybe a colourful walking stick might be a good accessory! We’d just caught the chap before he disappeared into the attic. A key fob and instructions on how to top up the post with electric were handed over then we were left to ourselves.

Not our natural habitat

Lunch then the finishing touches to my painting. I also wanted to scan it and our printer/scanner wasn’t playing ball. My 72 year old brain just couldn’t cope so handed it over to the IT department, after a while a new program had been downloaded and a decent scan of my painting scanned. I’ll show it to you in a couple of days, someone else needs to see it first.

A quiet evening of being in my late 60s. Pair 28 were cast off. Now I just need to make up my mind on what yarn to use for the next pair, purple, orange and turquoise, or scrappy socks of many many colours? I decided to leave that decision for when I’m back in my late 50s.

7 locks, 2.7 miles, 6 downhill boats, 1 soggy Pekinese, 30 years in a day, 1 heron, 1 disappointed cat, 1 fob, 1 tight squeeze, 1 more lodger booked, 1 risky plan paid off, 1 painting scanned and packed, 2 boaters hemmed in.

TV had to be watched via the Roku this evening as there was no signal to be had. I now have a question for ourselves. Is it worth continuing to post thumbs at moorings anymore? Or are they now redundant?

https://maps.app.goo.gl/htQhy9wFkDPVA2qs6

Prescription Architecture. 11th July

Sharpes Lane Bridge to Berkhamsted 14 day moorings

Thankfully Tilly had a quiet night, one or two requests this morning to go out were greeted with a ‘No!’ from us. It was time to keep moving anyway.

A boat came past before we were ready, we’d be following them. Last night Mick had pushed us out and loosened off the ropes a couple of times as we’d been developing a list. This morning we were listing again, the level dropping following on from rising with the recent rainfall. It took a bit of jiggling to get off the bottom, then we were on our way towards Sewer Lock where water from the sewage works comes in below the lock.

Brian chatting to Australian gongoozlers

As I opened up the bottom gates I could see a boat coming up behind, we had a locking partner. NB Louise Abbey has been out from Crick for the last 7 weeks, Brian is on what he calls his retirement gap year. They headed down the oxford, Thames then the K&A before returning back towards base. Originally from Lymm on the Bridgewater they moved their boat to Crick recently to be able to explore further afield.

Lock walls worn away no wonder you have to leave so many of them empty

It was nice to be able to share, we’d head off ahead to open up and they would close up behind, lifting a paddle at just about every lock now to empty it. Some of the chamber walls are not faring well at all.

Between Sewer and Bottom Side Locks the level was low, by about 2ft. We’ve been this way before when it’s been low, necessitating dropping crew off from the bow. On one occasion the level above Bottom Side Lock was even worse and on leaving the lock Oleanna grounded, a call on that occasion was put in to C&RT who ran water down as Oleanna crept along the bottom. Today the pound above was nicely full.

The Rising Sun

Turning into The Rising Sun Lock we had caught the boat ahead up, but we were already sharing, so they went on ahead. From here Berko shows it’s pretty self, this was Brian and his wife’s (sorry didn’t get your name) first time through here. I listed the things to look out for, totem pole, the lovely lock cottage, the wharf building and the castle where the railway cuts through it, the cinema, the roses and castles.

Look at how pretty that is

At Ravens Lane Lock the lock cottage, which I think a couple of years ago had just changed hands, is now looking splendid. Hollyhocks and lots of other lovely flowers along with the picket fence, chocolate box.

The Wharf house looks like it needs a bit of weeding and the hanging baskets are not as abundant with flowers as normal, but an Orangutan sits and watches boats go by and a naked lady reclines on a sofa waiting for her next cocktail to arrive. If you fancy being their neighbour next door is for sale at £2,250,000. I think it might have been for sale last time we passed too.

Click the photo for details

One more lock for us to share, Broadwater Lock. We’d caught up with the boat ahead now, they snaffled the last mooring having asked a widebeam to close a gitgap by the looks of things. We kept our fingers crossed for at least the shopping mooring to be free, it was. Time to wave our locking partners goodbye as they intended to carry on for a while longer today.

Moored up we had lunch, the chap from the boat next door said we’d be fine there overnight, the last boat had stayed for a week and got away with it, it’s a 4 hour mooring! It appears Berko may be returning to how it used to be with boats putting down roots. We saw the boat we’d been following pull away, they’d only stopped for lunch. We quickly untied and reversed back to their space, leaving the 4 hour mooring for a widebeam to pull into, we’d not have to continue cruising today if we didn’t want to.

A lovely front

Mick needed to collect a prescription, he’d arranged for it here in Berko. There had been a choice of Chemists, he chose the one with a wonderful original shop front, curved glass etc. The original shelving was filled with modern creams and lotions, topped off with a modern ceiling, bit of a shame. He made sure they knew their chemists had been chosen purely because of their architectural interest.

A wonder around Waitrose selecting yellow stickered items, these will keep us going for a couple of days before we’ll need to start defrosting food.

Tilly was kept in, I got on with some knitting in front of Red Joan (2018). A true story based on the life of Melita Norwood who worked at the British Ferrous Metals Research Association as a secretary, she supplied the Soviet Union with nuclear secrets which hastened the pace at which they developed nuclear bomb technology. A good afternoon film whilst knitting. Mick listened to the cricket and filled the stern greaser.

6 locks, 2.1 miles, 2 moorings, 2 sad git meals, 1 pretty chemists, 1 headache, 1 hobbling boater, 14 days? 1 bored cat, 20 rows left on pair 28.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/7XUzen85cgrC5mLx6

Empty. 10th July

Fishery Lock to Sharpes Lane Bridge

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

Very funny!

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

Boxmoor Lock

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

Below Winkwell

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

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

That’s the sort of sign I’d make

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

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

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

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

Bleurgh!!!!

I wasn’t very well. Understatement there Tilly!

Sheee! I don’t feel too good

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

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

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

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

https://maps.app.goo.gl/Quk1HFHERwd8VPz37

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Flippin’ Fishery. 9th July

Apsley Sainsburys to above Fishery Lock

Shopping list compiled this morning, Mick headed off with the bags, leaving me to not have to walk too far. Maybe we should have done a click and collect, it would have meant we’d got moving earlier. Never mind we only plan on cruising for a couple of hours a day.

The lock overflowing at night can be really quite noisy

We pushed over to the lock landing and I walked up to chat to the boat that was on the water point above. They’d not long started to fill their tank, might be an hour. We also needed water so we decided to ascend the lock and then breast up to wait, all in the rain!

How many bottles?!

Lunch was had whilst we waited for their tank to fill then we do-ci-doed as they entered the lock and we pulled onto the water point. Yellow water dealt with whilst the clean water filled, Tilly had a refresh of her pooh box too. All chores now done. As we were about to push off a car arrived by the services, two ladies brought out loads of plastic water bottles to fill at the water point. I’m not sure the boot of their car was going to be big enough once they were all full!

These houses make me think of beach huts

The smell of coffee wasn’t so strong at Apsley Top Lock, maybe the rain was keeping it at bay. Onwards. We really must visit the farm shop one of these days! But today was not that day again.

Watching our every move

At Boxmoor Bottom Lock a heron stood by the top gates, beady eye on us and the boat. It stayed put for quite sometime before it realised the lock wouldn’t be available for fishing for a while. This is another lock where holes have appeared. At the bottom end the towpath side the steps are cordoned off, a large hole obvious and parts of the concrete top looking to be slowly moving!

Fishery Lock is one that is kept empty, the paddle up waiting for us. I pushed the gate, not even a glimmer of hope. I crossed the gates in case the off side was holding the near side in, nope! I crossed again. Tried again. Mick gently brought Oleanna’s bow fender to the nearside gate and leant a hand. Flippin heck this took some doing! No handy walkers to lend a shove due to the rain, me trying to keep straight as I pulled to avoid aggravating my knee. Eventually it started to move, thank goodness.

Heffing jeffing gates!

Our plan had us moving up to nearer Winkwell, but there was a space with no tree cover, we pulled in, the mooring suitable for feline shore leave. Just as the spikes had been forced in the heavens opened fully, a major downpour. Tilly wasn’t impressed, but made sure she came and went as many times as possible demanding the door be opened frequently.

More painting, maybe it’s a bit too busy? I left it to dry and I’ll look again at it tomorrow to see how I feel.

Hopefully tomorrow the weather will be a touch drier.

Something prettier than the rain

4 locks, 1.6 miles, 1 empty wee tank, 1 full water tank, 2 boxes wine, 3 big beetroot, 1 red risotto, 2 much going on, 5 boats moving, 1 soggy day.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/gh6ydmKEy6jF5KLD9

You’re In Our Mooring! 8th July

The Grove Bridge to Apsley Sainsburys Mooring

A widebeam went past as we had our breakfast, then a narrowboat, I wondered if we’d catch the narrowboat up to be able to share.

Today was thankfully much drier than yesterday and the day before, the flow on the canal reminiscent of a river today, I don’t think we’ve ever noticed it along here before. As we pushed off the chap on the boat ahead of us was emptying water from containers on his deck. Several plastic bags filled with cans were piled up on the towpath, were these of his own drinking? Or is he a Womble?

Hands

Lady Capel’s Lock needed emptying. I looked for the hands in the garden behind the fence, they were still there, greener with age, still both right hands.

As I opened up the top gates I spotted dates all over the place. 1878 in the metal by the top gates, 1913 in the concrete topping to the lock. Then as I looked down as I pushed the beam there were date stamps in the raised black bricks, 1909, 1910, how many dates does one lock need! 1161, blimey that last one was old!

I never realised the Grand Union was SO old!

Below Hunton Bridge Bottom Lock a widebeam sat waiting their turn, the one that had passed us was rising in the lock. Maybe the narrowboat had overtaken them both. I walked up to help, both widebeams being single handers and an extra pair of hands to open and close gates would be welcome. The second widebeam really didn’t want to go in the lock. As the chap walked along his roof to climb off and tie her up she drifted backwards, stopping my gate from closing fully. She was pulled forward, my gate now able to move. She needed nudging another couple of times before both gates could be closed and the lock could be filled. When it was Oleanna’s turn she was much better behaved, but then Mick was stood at the helm to keep her in place.

I helped again at the top lock, time to admire the red roses and look at the cottages. The towpath side looked as if there are two houses, one with old windows, the other UPV double glazing. The double glazed side was on the market last year, not many interesting features. Today it sounded like work was happening somewhere inside, hammering and sawing. As we waited our turn our neighbour from last night walked past, a litter picker in one hand and a large plastic bag the other gradually being filled with cans. He is a Womble.

More help was on hand at North Grove Lock, a hire boat was waiting to come down so the chap on the widebeam was speedily raised and on his way. Then a charity widebeam arrived above, advanced crew walking the towpath suggested I hop on board Oleanna. Thank you but I’d rather be at the lock seeing my boat up and chatting to people, I get to talk to Mick all the time, why would I turn down the opportunity to talk to other interesting people. I helped the hire boat down, then it was our turn. Now there were many crew from the charity boat. They were obviously used to their widebeam, so I quickly requested the paddles to be lifted in the order we’d do them ensuring Oleanna wouldn’t biff about in the lock. One chap said ‘Our widebeam bumps about all over the place!’

M25 for the last time?

Time to cruise under the M25, possibly for the last time this year. Hang on a minute! There was no scaffolding! Was this the first time we’ve been under with no scaff? A look back to 2014, scaffolding, not much of it, but still scaffolding. So I think yes this is the first time we’ve been under the M25 without scaffolding. We’re heading north properly now.

Home Park Lock

A helping hand to the widebeam again at Home Park Lock, the one in front of him had already pulled up. We both agreed it was most probably time for some lunch. Just as we were about to push off again a narrowboat came past, Mick asked if they could wait at the next lock, we’d not be long, but they already had a partner just coming into view.

Time to chat with the crew of NB Cheswold who were from Strawberry Island, they’d been to Henley and were now on their way back to Doncaster, their partnering boat would be mooring up in the next pound so they’d wait for us.

Boats fast approaching the top lock

Above the top Nash Mills Lock a boat had just pulled up to fill with water, an awkward tap right by the lock which is on a bend. I checked that he was filling with water and that I wouldn’t be stealing the lock from him. He was a little bit puzzled that I wanted to use the lock and was not willing to wait. I did say we’d reset the lock for him whilst he filled his water tank as Oleanna and her partner were fast approaching from below. Once we’d risen we left the gates, the chap was still filling with water.

Boat filling with water above

One more lock to share then we’d be looking for a mooring. The ideal place would be Sainsburys. Damn the mooring was full, three boats. However there was a space opposite, not quite so handy but hey! As we made manoeuvres to moor up a chap popped out from opposite. I could hear Mick say ‘Your in OUR mooring!’ How rude of him! That was until I heard the replying voice, it was Paul the boat mover. Our summer is now complete after seeing him, although we may cross paths again before the year is out.

Paul, you’ve made our summer

He and the boat behind were about to move off after topping up on shopping, 4pm far too early for a boat mover to stop for the day. We had chance to chat whilst we do-ci-doed, slotting in where they had been. Always good to see Paul.

Nash Mills Bottom Lock temporary repairs on both beams

A small shop was required for something to eat tonight, we’d stock up properly tomorrow. Mick picked up a Roku box to add to our TV set up. Our TV now 7 or 8 years old, hasn’t liked using the internet if there is no terrestrial signal, it turns out that it is one of a few TV’s that you’ll never be able to watch live BBC on iPlayer, something we’ve noticed through the years but didn’t know when we bought it. The new box should enable us to do all the things the TV has been reluctant to do. Mick has plumbed it in, so far so good.

Small boats to the left please

This morning my knee had been feeling just about back to normal. A few days resting coming out from London, then working locks at a steady rate must have done it some good, or so I thought! On the last couple of locks today it had started to twinge again and walking round Sainsburys it really wasn’t happy! Time to sit down and rest it after all there’s still 66 locks to Braunston, plus a detour planned!

9 locks, 3 shared, 4.5 miles, 2 widebeams, 1 busier canal than of late, 0 shore leave for Tilly, 1 interesting email thank you Mike, 1 slow day cruising, 2 pizzas with extra toppings, 4 pairs of socks in the post, 1 annoying knee, onedrive full!

https://maps.app.goo.gl/5t8y3u7oXZinhjL16

Watching The Radar. 7th July

Iron Bridge Lock to The Grove Bridge

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

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

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

Is it really that far?

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

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

Not sure if you can make out the steam rising

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

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

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

Like the shingles on the roof

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

The mill buildings, most probably flats now

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

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

At last out of the freezer

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

A very tasty tray of fish and veg

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

https://maps.app.goo.gl/iQrsoCDDbvaQV7xs9

Giving Up. 6th July

Above Iron Bridge Lock

We went to bed with it raining, it carried on all night and we woke to it raining, it was cold too! Whilst still in bed it didn’t take us long to decided to give up on our current cruising plan. We have somewhere to be, but that place isn’t dependant on where Oleanna is, we’ll still head to where we’d planned, but in a more leisurely fashion which hopefully will mean we stay dry.

Make it stop

She said I liked this outside. She was wrong! She’s been promising me a sausage day. She said it was a soggy sausage day. She wasn’t wrong! I tried to make her stroke the rain away and make it a lovely sunny outside, but it didn’t work! Only one thing left to try, sit and stare at the wetness and will it to go away. She and Tom left me to try this on my own in the pram cover, they’d just given up! So much for supportive crew!

It didn’t work!!!

Has it stopped yet?

Tilly gave up too and came back inside. Mick headed off for a Saturday newspaper with a brolly, after he’d lit the stove. Sock pair 27 needed their ends weaving in and would then mean I could take photos of the previous four pairs which I could then package up ready for posting. This requires the use of the dinette table, so Mick being out made it a good time.

Labelling socks ready for sending

The boat started to warm up, yesterdays clothes started to dry out. It kept raining.

What shall I paint today?

Time to get my watercolours out. Some photo auditioning was required, a short list put together and then an image selected. By the end of the afternoon I’d drawn out and put the first colours on a painting. The rain also stopped and some boats were on the move. Tilly headed out for an explore., Mick watched the cycling and occasionally flicked over to check the football score.

Why wasn’t it like this ALL day?

A fox! Where was it? Somewhere quite close. Please don’t say Tilly was trying to round it up! The noisy screeching barks put us on edge, time to persuade Tilly to come in. Mick tried, then I had a go from the hatch. Thankfully she was much closer to the boat than the fox and came quite quickly. It’s good here, why didn’t you tell me I liked it!

Mandarin Spring Roll Ducks having a preen

Paprika Pork for dinner, a catch up on the news, pair 28 cast on and then the final of Traitors USA 2.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 newspaper, 1lb jersey royals, 1 floating boat, 4 pairs packed up, 2nd class postage, 1 fox, 1 soggy sausage day, 1 stove, 28th pair cast on, 1 finale, 1 fast moving canal, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval for late afternoon.