Category Archives: Grand Union Canal

2019 Round Up.

Checking our vital statistics for a years worth of cruising takes a while. We have a trip computer which records almost all our journeys, sometimes it counts locks twice, sometimes it doesn’t quite catch where we reached before we wind. Before we used this method of recording our journeys I would use canal plan to work out our distances. This method can also miss out parts of our journey but it does give me more statistics. You know how I like numbers! How many bridges, how many narrow locks and what distances we travelled on different types of waterways. So inputting a years worth of cruising takes some time.

Anyhow, here is our round up of the year.

The New Year was seen in at Crick. From here we decided to head to Sheffield to have the last snagging jobs done on Oleanna, we were fortunate that the route north was open with no winter stoppages in our way until we reached Yorkshire. Once in the top chamber at Foxton it was going to be downhill all the way to Keadby.

Going down at Foxton

Sadly our blog started to loose it’s photos, which is a great shame. It was a problem shared by many bloggers who were all doing their best to get things working again. Have to say we ended up jumping ship from blogger to wordpress, but posts still lacked their photos when moved. We hope gradually to rectify this by replacing the missing photos, I miss them when looking back. But this will be a long job.

Waiting at Cromwell

During January we cruised down stream on the River Trent, the weather was getting colder the further north we got. Our route was clear but at Keadby the lock off the river was being dredged, so our journey was held up a touch. Then with February came cold nights and the canal at Keadby froze over. So we waited at Cromwell for things to improve.

First go at Gluten free puff pastry for cruising sausage rolls

Daylight hours and tides meant we split our tidal journey at Torksey. The early morning start from Torksey was very cold, so I was very glad I’d knitted us both balaclavas, we remained cosy cheeked for our journey.

Cosy heads

Our journey up towards Sheffield meant we coincided with the bicentenary of the opening of the canal and a very unseasonably warm weekend. The chaps at Finesse replaced a leaking window, gave us a new one (our choice), sorted out our gas locker lid amongst other bits and bobs. It had been a good decision going to Sheffield, it saved them time coming out to us and it saved us money on the extras we’d asked for.

New galley window going in
200 years old

Next we headed for Goole, the lure of cheap diesel and a night away to see our friends Bridget and Storm on the otherside of the Humber was a bonus. We then hunkered down to sit out storms and rising river levels. Our original plan had been to go to York, but flooding put paid to that, so instead we went by train.

Bridget and Storm with their lovely house

Towards the end of March we decided to give a trip up the Ouse another go, the rivers were at better levels and we still haven’t taken Oleanna there. But first Bank Dole lock wouldn’t fill due to silt, then when we reached Selby the Lock onto the Ouse had a fault which would take too much time to mend for us to wait. This was a relief for Tilly as this was where she’d discovered the difference between grass and duck weed and ended up learning to swim a couple of years ago.

Mark came to meet us from York

At the beginning of April we headed to Leeds. From here we had a day trip to Derby Crown Court for the sentencing of our original boat builder (Stillwater) who had finally pleaded guilty for fraud. I also spent a more pleasurable day in London, having a meeting for Puss in Boots.

Derby Crown Court

With panto in mind we planned our cruising for the remainder of the year. The remainder of April we made our way up the Calder and Hebble and onto the Rochdale Canal.

Being a foot shorter it wasn’t as tight as it had been on Lillian

Our friend Frank joined us to do the stretch from Sowerby Bridge to Hebden Bridge, which included the deepest lock n the network, Tuel Lane. He’d not done this stretch back in 2014 when he and I walked from Manchester locking Lillian over the Pennines to get to the Tour de France.

Tuel Lane the deepest on the network
Frank

Once over the top we picked up a boat to share the locks down into Manchester. Clare and Graeme were over from New Zealand for a few months and proved to be very good company.

Mr Blue Sky and Oleanna

On the 1st of May, with the help of a Canal and River Trust volunteer our passage down into Manchester went well. The following day both boats headed down the Rochdale nine with an extra pair of hands from an old college friend of mine, Doug.

Nearly there!

During May we cruised down the Bridgewater and onto the Trent and Mersey Canal gradually heading southwards. A short detour up the Middlewich Branch to look at where the breach had been before we carried on southwards.

Climbing the Cheshire Locks

A pause in the Cheshire Locks meant we got to meet up with Tom and Jan who were over for a visit. For Micks birthday we moored at Barlaston and had a nosy at the wonderful hall on the hill, our plan still stands if any of our family are interested! https://oleanna.co.uk/2019/05/23/the-plan-20th-may/

Tom and Jan

We saw the end of May out mooring at Tixall Wide before rejoining the Trent and Mersey and heading onto Fradley Junction where we joined the Coventry Canal. With Atherstone Locks out of the way I spent time below working whilst we cruised familiar waters on the flat, it might have rained too!

Tixall Wide

A day trip to London from Rugby for us both, me to a seminar for Separate Doors 3 and Mick to catch up with his friend Siobhan who was over from Australia. Continuing down the North Oxford Canal to Braunston where we joined the Grand Union Canal to head to London.

Busy Braunston Locks

A visit to the Royal Ordnance Depot at Weedon meant I bought some lovely yarn to make a cardie for myself (it’s nearly finished!) and caught up with our friend Heather Bleasdale, who just so happened to be moored there as well.

Yummy yarn

Our route then up and down the Grand Union meant we managed to get to see both Mikron shows this year as well as teaming up with the cast and NB Tyseley to climb the locks up to the summit.

Sharing the locks with Tyseley

Tilly was left in charge for a couple of days whilst we headed to Scarborough to check on our house as we had a change of tenants. This meant we got to stay with Jaye and Duncan and catch up on the news from home.

I’d be in trouble if this photo wasn’t on the blog again!

We now pressed on down to London where we booked a mooring in Paddington Basin for a week in early July. This gave us the opportunity to catch with with friends and family before we headed back out west and down the Hanwell flight. I made the front cover of Canal Boat for July.

Mid July we locked out onto the Thames cruising the Tidal section to Teddington. From here we transited to the River Wey, brand new waters for us.

Up onto the Wey

With my final design for panto delivered to Chipping Norton from Guildford we could enjoy our cruising a bit more, despite the soaring temperatures which had us hiding under trees for a couple of days.

Finished!

On the 26th July we ticked off our third point on the compass, reaching Godalming the furthest south you can get on the connected network. On our way back to the Thames we met up with Adam from NB Briar Rose, both he and Tilly got wet that day.

Furthest South

The original plan had been to cruise the Basingstoke Canal whilst we were there, but sadly the levels were too low and the canal closed before we got there, so we spent a while longer on the Wey.

Hampton Court Palace

Onto the Thames where we managed to get a space outside Hampton Court for a couple of days and I discovered the joys of standing in line for some fresh veg. Gradually we made our way up the Thames. Waking early and getting going worked for us as mostly we managed to get moored where we wanted around lunchtime. Three years ago we did from Teddington to Oxford in a week but with a months licence we took our time.

Waterway Routes
No Problem XL

The further upstream we got the quieter the river got, less hustle and bustle. We met up with Paul and Christine (NB Waterway Routes), missed Carol and George (WB Still Rockin), finally got to have a proper conversation with Sue and Vic (WB No Problem XL) as we headed upstream.

Kelmscott Manor

As the rivers bends got tighter, the banks were harder to get up. A mooring by Kelmscott Manor required a rope from the post to help us get on and off the boat, but it was worth it to visit the house.

At the end of the navigable Thames

On the 26th August we winded at the furthest point we could reach on the Thames on Oleanna and started to head back eastwards. Tilly gave one of our moorings a double stamp of approval and stayed out well after dark!

Isis lock, Oxford

An incident with engine coolant nearly stopped us from reaching Oxford to see War Horse. But a nice man from RCR got us going again so we had a narrow lock fix and headed to the show catching up with Matt and Bill for a drink afterwards.

Lovely chaps

Then at the beginning of September we turned off the Thames onto the Kennet and Avon. For the last five years we’ve been meaning to head this way, but for one reason or another it hadn’t happened.

Gangplank land, the K&A

With tales of lack of mooring we kept to rising early hoping we’d get moorings. This mostly worked and wild moorings were very rarely needed, we did still have to use the gang plank every now and again. We only encountered one pound on our westward journey where even the longest plank wouldn’t have helped which meant we had to carry on up a flight with the clock ticking before locks were locked around us.

Over the summit

At Devizes we met an Instagram friend Frankie who’d been working on the flight over the summer. Despite following another boat down the flight we made good time with the help of the volunteers.

The photo of the year, Devizes

Onwards to Bath and Bristol. Here we moored with HMS GB in the background and met up with two of my old school friends for lunch. A big shame we couldn’t stay longer as there was more we wanted to do and see whilst there, we’ll just have to save up for next time as the mooring fees are quite pricey!

In good company
Old school friends

The section between Bath and Bradford upon Avon was our favourite, with the aqueducts and views along with the second deepest lock on the network.

Cornwall

Mick and Tilly got to enjoy it for a week longer than me whilst I headed off to Cornwall to eat gluten free pasties and start painting my panto set for a week.

Pasty

Once I was back we had two weeks to reach Oxford, but the weather had different ideas. What felt like the monsoon season started. There was rain on most days, luckily not the day we did Devizes. We managed to team up with two couples from Bristol on a hire boat, by the time they reached the top of the flight they could work uphill locks with their eyes closed, we left them to master downhill on their return journey.

Tilly enjoying the big trees

Our second low pound struck as we tried to leave Cobblers Lock, Oleanna was sat firmly on the ground and unable to leave the lock until a good flushing of water set her free. The rain actually did me a favour as whilst we sat in Newbury hoping for the Thames to drop I managed to get my model for A Regular Little Houdini finished.

A Regular Little Houdini

At the end of October I headed off to panto land leaving Mick and Tilly a short distance outside Reading, hoping they would be able to get up the Thames in the following week. Our friend Paul came and helped Mick out onto the Thames reaching Goring on their first day. Here Mick and Tilly got to met Carol and George (WB Still Rockin’) who’d been clinging onto the moorings there before heading downstream.

Photo courtesy of Carol WB Still Rockin

Paul returned later in the week and despite the engine overheating and having to deploy the anchor they succeeded in getting to Abingdon where Oleanna had her second visit from RCR. Mick battled on against quite a downstream flow and reached Sandford Lock before tying up. Here the levels rose and fell, the engineer came for a second visit and found lots of crud in our cooling system.

A calm paws on the Thames at Sandford

With the engine in better fettle, Mick nudged his way up towards Oxford and finally made a dash up Osney Lock and onto the canal despite that section still being on red boards. It turns out he’d chosen his moment well as the river has stayed on red boards since then.

Pantotastic

Once I left all the singing dancing and glitter behind and returned to narrowboat life we had to sit out high levels on the Oxford canal and on the River Cherwell. We loitered in Oxford, but as soon as it looked like things were improving we were on our way.

Lakes not meadows

We paused in Banbury for Christmas haircuts and shopping before pulling in for a few days at Cropredy Marina, from where we headed to London for a Sibling get together at my brothers.

Family

Onwards to the top of the Oxford Canal the day the locks reopened and down the other side continuing onwards to Radford Smelly for Christmas.

Christmas

In Warwick we met up with my family and then picked up crew Mike and Chris to help us up the Hatton and Lapworth flights.

Our final visitors of 2019

The last few locks were done on New Years Eve bring us up to the Birmingham level for the new year.

Narnia Lock our last for the year

Quite a busy year. So our vital statistics for 2019

According to Canalplan

Total distance is 1199 miles, ½ furlong and 886 locks . There are 119 moveable bridges of which 22 are usually left open; 139 small aqueducts or underbridges and 20 tunnels – a total of 8 miles 2 ¼ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.

This is made up of 207 miles, 4 furlongs of narrow canals; 399 miles, 5¾ furlongs of broad canals; 102 miles, 5 ¼ furlongs of commercial waterways; 226 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of small rivers; 212 miles, 5 furlongs of large rivers; 49 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of tidal rivers; 150 narrow locks; 626 broad locks; 109 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.

838.2 engine hours

That is 255 miles and 272 locks more than last year! But 246.4 hours less engine running, just goes to show it’s worth having solar panels.

1336.93 litres diesel, 9 (although we’ve got 2 empty now) gas bottles (used for central heating as well as cooking), 6 overnight guests, 6 packs Dreamies, 1 cover cat, 32 friends, 17 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval, 1 double stamp, 5 pairs socks, 3 pairs gloves, 1 baby blanket, 2 shows designed, 1 cover illustration, 5 lots gluten free puff pastry, 9 supermarket deliveries, 39 boxes of wine delivered, 12 bottles of wine delivered.

Thank you for sharing our year with us.

Letting The Side Down. 30th December

Hatton Top Lock to above Lock 6 Lapworth, North Stratford Canal.

We’d intentionally let the stove go out overnight as the boat had been a touch too hot, so this morning the boiler was put to use to take the chill off and provide hot water. Cups of tea in bed were disturbed as the boiler clicked in repeatedly. The gas had run out! Good job we carry three bottles.

After a round of bacon butties we pushed off and onwards. It was a chilly morning outside and Mike and Chris stayed inside keeping warm.

Emerging from Shrewley Tunnel

Shrewley Tunnel was clear and we sailed through accompanied by the Dr Who theme being recited from the bow where Chris was doing a time lapse of our journey. Link A shame there weren’t any air shafts for me to count the mysterons as I’m sure that would have been appreciated by the chaps at the front.

A wise old goat

Next the goats at Tom O The Wood, plenty in the fields today. We stopped at the water point to top up the tank and relight the stove so that it could get going before we reached the Lapworth flight, saving everyone getting a face full of smoke.

Smoke

From the stern we could hear Tilly protesting constantly inside. The sort of protesting she does whilst we are in tunnels. Blimey Tilly! SHUT UP!! Just what will Mike and Chris think of you?!

She’s silent about it now of course! But would she stop!!

Left please

Mick swung Oleanna round at Kingswood Junction leaving the land of widebeams behind and we slowly moved our way past the moored boats and new houses going up towards Lock 20. Sam from NB Red Wharf had warned us that Lock 20 had been out of use before Christmas so we were prepared to carry straight on through the link when we saw the hazard tape and chains holding the bottom gates together.

Straight on

When the Stratford Canal was extended from Hockley Heath south, it reached and joined the Warwick and Birmingham Canal (now the Grand Union) at Kingswood. The canal was built with the current lock No 19 in situ. The canal then stayed on a level to what is now the new link, here there was a guillotine lock which dropped down to the Grand Union level.

Lock 20 today

When the Stratford Canal was extended to Stratford the layout at the junction altered. The guillotine lock was blocked off and the current locks 20 and 21 were built. The Warwick and Birmingham therefore continued to receive a lockfull of water every time a boat passed onto their waters.

Heading through the link

In more modern times leisure boats heading from the south Stratford and those coming from the Grand Union, would drain the pound above locks 20/21 and so in 1996 the original guillotine lock was reopened but as a channel linking below the locks, thus saving water.

Swinging round to the right to Lock 21

So today we continued straight on, through the narrow link and turned right to head up the Lapworth Locks. A different crew briefing was needed along with pointing out the gap in the bridges that let the horse remain connected to the boat and the barrel roof of the lock cottage.

The wide basin below lock 21, the link to the left by the cottage

There were plenty of walkers out on the flight. Today’s comment being how narrow the locks were, at least nobody asked if we’d fit!

Making our way up

Most locks were empty, a couple full. With three crew we got into a rhythm again quickly. No boats coming down, we had the flight to ourselves. The sun had burnt it’s way through the morning mist that loitered, so whilst stood in the sunshine it was nearly warm.

The boys finishing up

Although each pound between the locks was on the weir they all felt a touch low, well we were taking a locks worth out of most of them. Oleanna took her time entering the locks, extra umph needed to get her over cills. Was this due to shallow water and our depth or maybe something around the prop. We continued, investigation could wait for later.

The lovely house on the bend

Chris did another timelapse of our trip up the locks. Lapworth in 30 seconds rather than our 1 hour and 24 minutes. When we reached the long pound before Lock 5 we pulled in. Here is better for Tilly, who was allowed straight out to save her continuing to let the side down with her shouting!

Bookends ready to close the gates

With three quarters of an hour of daylight left Mike and Chris decided to head off to catch a train back to Warwick. It had been a lovely couple of days with them and perfectly timed to help with the locks. Next time we’ll have to get our act together in the summer. We waved them goodbye as they made their way back down the locks to find the road.

Tilly came home after a good nose around. This is where she once lost a collar, but she hadn’t found it today. We’ve had a quiet evening in front of the stove, luckily Tilly has quietened down now that its just the three of us again.

The boys at the top.

15 locks, 5.92 miles, 1 left, 1 right, 1 full water tank, 1 very noisy cat, 1 short tunnel, 4 bacon butties, 1 hr 24 minutes, 4 more locks still to go, 5 back to 3, 1 quiet boat again.

Beardy Crew. 29th December

Cape of Good Hope to Hatton Top Lock

Josh’s odd feet!

On Saturday morning after breakfast the London Leckenbys headed back to London town. This had always been the plan, but they left early as their house alarm had been triggered overnight. It must have been a faulty sensor or a busy spider as the house was fine when they returned. Plans are in the making for us all to meet up in York this summer, here’s hoping the Ouse plays along.

All quiet again

The rest of the day we filled with water and pottered about allowing Tilly freedom of the bank next to the boat.

Baking

Sunday morning and a spot of baking was needed. A batch of biscuits were shown the oven and the stuffing for sausage rolls was put together for later in the day. At around 10.30 two figures climbed over the gates of the lock behind us with a large suitcase. This was my old college friend Mike and his partner Chris.

Five or so years ago they helped us climb up Stoke Bruerne Locks and had expressed interest in helping out at flights of locks. We’ve not managed to get our acts together for sometime but with Hatton on the cards and Chris having spent Christmas with his Mum in Solihull a plan just neatly fell into place.

We’d last seen them in Camden when Oleanna was new, so it was lovely to spend some time with them again. Cuppas were turned down and we headed straight towards the flight. At Budbrooke Junction we turned right, the stern of NB Hadar just visible down the Saltisford Arm.

Will they all be empty?

As the bottom lock came into view so did a boat, just pulling out of the lock. Would all the locks be in our favour? We hoped so.

Chris
Mike

Mike and Chris hadn’t worked paddle gear like this before and were a touch rusty on how to do things. So a chat through and demonstration were given. By the time Oleanna had risen in the second lock we could adjust our method a touch, with only one gate needed to enter or exit the locks people could be used elsewhere sooner.

First lock ascended

By the time the locks were getting closer together we had got into a rhythm with one person heading on to the next lock whilst the other two wound paddles, opened and closed gates to bring Oleanna up. We quickly became an efficient team. Sadly Tilly still hasn’t learnt how to make tea which would have been nice with one of my biscuits halfway up the flight.

Heading up

There were plenty of people out walking the flight. Many making obvious comments about the number of locks we’d got left to do. At a couple of locks I managed to get keen and eager kids to help with gates, one young lad managing to move a gate all by himself.

Looking up the thick of the flight

No boats came down and most of the locks were in our favour, just a couple had refilled themselves and a few just needed leveling out again before the bottom gate could be opened. The sun was out so as we worked our way up hill layers could come off as we generated our own heat.

St Mary’s Church visible down in Warwick

We’d entered the bottom lock at 11:12 and exited the top at 13:37, 2 hours 25 minutes. Not bad.

Last lock of the day in the sunshine

There was plenty of rubbish to dispose of and the water tank got topped up again whilst I made sausage rolls for our now worn our crew for a late lunch. Mick moved us along to a mooring. We’d hoped to reach Rowington for the views today, but it would have been dusk by the time we got there.

The Hatton Arms, just down the way would stop serving food at 6pm which would be a touch early for us. So we decided to stay put, let the incessantly protesting Tilly out and I popped a chicken stew on the stove for us to enjoy later.

The evening was spent catching up on news of fellow college friends and major critiques of Dr Who and His Dark Materials amongst other TV programmes.

21 locks, 2.88 miles, 1 right, 1 boat down, 2 beardy chaps, 2 hrs 25mins, 8 sausage rolls, 8 biscuits, 7 joints of chicken, 1 annoying second mate, 1 battery removed.

The Cape. 27th December

Cape Top Lock

One of two moving boats today NB Merlin, they’ve come a long way from Bunbury

A tidy up of Oleanna which included removing the last few weeks worth of cat fur from the curtains. A batch of gluten free chocolate chip cookie dough had been made yesterday so it was resting in the fridge ready to be sliced and cooked ready to fill the boat with a yummy aroma when our visitors arrived.

Photo credit should go to Tilly for final adjustment of the photo

The journey up from London for the London Leckenbys took a while longer than they’d hoped as traffic had been bad, but they got to us before 1pm. With all the light industrial units closed for Christmas they were able to leave the car close to the water point. As Andrew said if their car was a Ferrari then they would have moved it elsewhere. But as it’s a damp VW with moss growing on it’s windows and has various battle scars from through the years he wasn’t too worried of it’s parking location.

Tea and biscuits were accompanied by opening our latest post and Mick’s last Christmas present, an under pillow speaker so that he can listen to cricket during the night, hopefully without disturbing me.

Vetting photos

A stretch of the old legs along the muddy towpath was called for, the weather not really having improved from yesterday sadly so we didn’t venture too far before returning to the boat and donning our glad rags to go to the pub.

The Cape of Good Hope is a well known canalside pub run by a couple of Kiwis. Ages ago when on Lillian we moored in the Saltisford arm and wove our way through the housing estate to sample their burgers. Today we’d booked a table to be sure we’d get one, but it wasn’t as full as it had been in the warmer months. Today we just had to negotiate the lock gates after a couple of aperitifs.

What to choose?

Warm and cosy inside we chose a couple of starters to share, followed by mains. Dough balls, for the youngest along with haloumi and veg kebabs for the second youngest.

Josh with a steak nearly as big as himself

Main courses were steak which came with a festoon of vine tomatoes. A very tasty Blade of Beef with wild mushroom jus. A lamb shank. Two wild boar and chorizo gourmet pies. They all hit the spot being very tasty and were washed down with beer and wine.

A tasty pie

The lock gates were a touch more problematical on the way back, but nobody got wet so that was a relief. Birthday cake for pudding got the thumbs up from my brother as Queen of Sheba cake is a fond memory for both of us from our teenage years.

Wine and conversation

Putting the boat into sleeping mode for five meant the stove had been allowed to burn itself out so that Josh wouldn’t cook on the sofa. Luckily there was still an amount of heat coming from it to keep the chill off until morning.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 Merlin, 3 visitors, 8 biscuits, 4 slices fruit cake (thank you Nick), 1 damp walk, 10 muddy shoes, 4 muddy paws, 2 bottles wine, 3 pints, 2 bottles beer, 1 orange juice, 1 steak, 2 pies, 1 shank, 1 blade, 5 slices of chocolate, 1 afternoon and evening of conversation, 1 cat wanting a quiet life again, 1 apology to Duncan and Jaye due to poor phone signal.

A Bright Flash. 26th December

Radford Smelly to Cape of Good Hope

Yesterday we had bathroom doors not able to shut due to the amount of heat the sun was providing on the starboard side. Sadly today this wasn’t going to be the case as it was raining before we got up and it stayed a damp grey day. Just a day to go cruising!

What a grey day

I’d woken with images of my sour dough starter having taken over the cabin overnight. But it was still contained to the proving shelf and when I looked into the bowl it hadn’t done anything over night. I swapped out the cabbage leaves for newer ones and fed it, hoping things would improve. Unfortunately nothing happened to it all day, so it was another failed attempt. But this one definitely has worked the best, maybe if I’d fed it with the right quantities whilst sober. I’ve certainly not given up yet. It will have to wait now until I return from Vienna, as I don’t want to leave the responsibility of feeding it to Mick whilst I’m away. It does mean we’ll have to have some more braised cabbage on my return, oh dear, never mind!

Winding

Time to make a move. We pootled up to the winding hole, winded and headed back into town. Past the cat and water point and pulled in by Morrisons. We’ve visitors coming so needed a few things. Many of the shelves were bare, Christmas cakes were reduced and a huddle stood round waiting for the price reduction of the turkeys. One lady infront of us at the checkout had three birds and other stuff, her bill around £25! Well that’s certainly worth waiting for. If only our freezer was bigger.

Feline canal observers

Back at the boat, as we rolled back the covers a blue boat came past. It had been moored in town with us and then was the only moving boat yesterday. The chap at the helm said they’d had to turn round as the kids (presumably grand kids) had managed to block the toilet with paper. Their maserator hadn’t appreciated it! What a lovely thing to sort on Boxing Day! Maybe we’d be sharing the locks with him and his blocked loo.

No trains today

My new coat did a good job the drizzle preferring to roll off it than soak into it. I may be able to fit an extra layer under it after all the Christmas food and chocolate have become memories.

At Tesco’s we passed the blue boat. With McDonalds as well as Tescos, they had plenty of shore based facilities until the toilet gets sorted. We left him to see if reversing the macerator would help unblock it.

Moored boats

All was quiet at the boat yards, Kate Hire base had one car in the car park. Nowhere to get any gas, we still have a brand new bottle so we’ll be fine for a while, even if we need to use it for heating. Having guests means the sofa will be used as a bed, the stove is too close for this to be safe so we’ll let it burn out.

Hello!

Below the two Cape Locks a Kingfisher darted in front of us, brightening up the day no end. Then at the top lock a big boxer dog came to say hello and provided my new coat with it’s first mud.

Cape Bottom Lock

We’d expected a few boats to be moored here, but we seem to be the only ones. It’s most probably because the TV signal is poor again! Tomorrow we’ll pull back and top up with water and await the arrival of our first visitors.

2 locks, 4.85 miles, 1 wind, 0 turkeys for us, 1 wee tank, 75% off turkeys, 3 packs of bacon, 1 loaf bread, 3rd starter destined for the bin, 1st left overs meal, 1 damp drizzly day, 2 late for Tilly, 1 Kingfisher.

Smelly Christmas. 25th December

Radford Smelly

What a lovely day

What a beautiful day. Blue skies hardly any wind, a perfect day for cruising. So we stayed put, there was far too much present unwrapping , eating and drinking to do.

The boy was very happy with his new gloves

Our stockings were filled with chocolate, pens, socks, pants and a grease gun. The best thing in Mick’s was a new pair of Pond Gloves. His old ones had sprung a leak a couple of years ago so needed replaceing. They are ever so good for when you have to reach down to clear something around your prop and well deserving of a Herbie award for best gadget 2019.

Hmmmm Yummmm

Breakfast, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon accompanied by a glass of Bucks Fizz. Very nice.

Very useful

Christmas presents followed. A mitten each to hold hot/or cold drinks. New jeans. Pearsons new guide to the Black Country. A guide book to Vienna. A novel. Felix The Station Cat book. Cat t-towel. A food goodie bag. An endoscope. A stripey top. All sorts.

Then we walked off the early morning fizz, a nice romantic walk along the towpath to ….. the bins! There were plenty of people about, most of whom stopped before they reached the really muddy section, but we carried on not wanting to return to the boat with our bags of rubbish.

Mouse!

Tilly came and went for much of the day. When she was home she unwrapped her presents. Ziggy and Finn (London Leckenby cats) had got her a small catnip mouse. Thank you!

Joa (Tilly’s number one fan), Mungo and Dog got her a box of crinkly noisy things that she spent quite a bit of time getting out of the box. Thank you, thank you! The catnip sardines from us didn’t go down so well, but the new bedoinge ball from Father Christmas was batted around for quite a while.

She saw to her own Christmas dinner, which Mick spotted and managed to close the hatch just in time before she brought it in to eat on the table cloth!!

That’s grown!

Yesterday I’d decided to have another go at a sour dough starter. I’d come across a site explaining a bit more about them. The suggestion was to use a red cabbage leaf to help it get going, these have an abundance of natural yeast sat on their leaves (the white stuff). So as I started on the braised cabbage I popped a leaf into some sorghum flour and water. This method suggests stirring it frequently and feeding it every 8 hours. The quantities were a little bit large so I reduced them to start with, opting for a medium sized container. When I went to check it this evening,I lifted it down off the proving shelf. BLIMEY! A monster!!

Look at all those bubbles in 24hrs!

After 24hrs it had doubled in size. It was fed and put in a larger container. The quantities of flour and water became what ever I fancied (due to the wine I’d consumed), so I’ve possibly blown it now. But we’ll see whether I’m making bread in a days time or back to feeding it hoping and praying I haven’t killed it.

Duck with pinenut, apple and chestnut stuffing

The duck was cooked, roast veg roasted, new version of bread sauce reheated. Then we dug in. Our two plates straining under the amount of food. It was all very very tasty. There was no need for seconds and there will be plenty of left overs.

A very full plate!

Tree presents. A Christy Moore album for Mick and a new boaty cap for me.

We’d been given a firework Santa meant to go on top of your Christmas pudding or cake. With our low ceiling we decided it was most probably safer to light it out on the towpath. It played ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’ as it erupted. Very good fun, thank you Christine. Here’s a link.

Cake with a cuppa!

After a suitable sipe it was time for birthday presents. I did very well. A day rucksack that packs away into itself. The follow up book about Felix and Bolt his assistant at Huddersfield station. A bottle of The Kings Ginger. Socks. A cast aluminium low casserole dish. A new waterproof coat from Mick. This is a sailing coat from Decathlon so hopefully it will be far more waterproof than my old coat.

Make a wish

Birthday cake, now iced with runny chocolate and candles. We managed to squeeze a thin slice in each and then retired to the sofa and the TV with Tilly curled up dreaming of mice.

0 locks, 0 miles, 14 pairs pants, 7 pairs socks, 0 ash can, 1 bottle booze, 5 chocolate oranges, 1 ruck sack, 1 endoscope, 3 sardines, 2 mice, 3 balls, 1 waterproof coat, 2 pairs scissors, 1 cap, 1 tasty duck, 1 birthday cake, 3 bottles consumed, 2 crackers, 0 games of Mind The Gap, 1 firework, 1 tasty vole followed by shrew, 1 moving boat, 1 very lovely birthday. Thank you

All We Want For Christmas. 23rd, 24th December

Radford Smelly to The Big Cat, Leamington Spa

Moving into town was the way forward. So the alarm was set and we had our first cuppa with breakfast and cruised the mile and a quarter into Leamington Spa. There were more boats moored up in town than there had been a couple of weeks ago, people had come in to do their shopping. Mick headed off to get the hire car whilst I had a good sweep through Oleanna.

Our mooring turned out to be far better than it would have been back near the lock, here we can get the car to within 100ft of the boat.

The tip!

First port of call, Princes Drive Recycling Centre. Blimey it was busy! Engine oil, old electrical items and our old printer went in the skips. Tilly’s spiny chasey toy (the red flying saucer in the middle) that she’s grown out of sat in the middle of the skip making me feel guilty. Unfortunately they wouldn’t take used antifreeze without an appointment, which happens on Thursdays, apart from this coming week!

Peanut butter!

Next Morrisons for peanut butter and some Coffee logs that we’d like to try. This did mean us sitting in traffic to get into the store, then more traffic to get to the petrol station and even more traffic to get out to just sit in traffic again to return to the boat to drop off the antifreeze. The whole trip, there and back, would have been much quicker by boat!

Bangers!!!

Time to head across country. 14 miles as the crow flies was a good 40 minutes by road. Soon we could see the Banger Spire calling us up the hill into Braunston village. There were two parcels waiting at the post office, luckily the chap let me show him a copy of a bill on my phone as proof of ID as I’d left my cards on the boat.

Village meats

Then we joined the queue at the butchers. The chap in front was picking up his Turkey, a lady on crutches had a large order and another lady had the wind knocked out of her when she was told the price of her fillet of beef joint! She asked if they could make it a touch smaller, but the butcher explained he could but it would still cost the same price! Hope they know how to cook 3kg of beef fillet.

A pie did manage to get added to our shopping

Our order was as expected, sadly no gluten free bangers.

Lots of plumbing bits

Midland Chandlers only had imperial allen keys and open metal buckets for ash, but we did get a grease gun and spare water hose parts before heading back towards Leamington Spa.

Busy in there today too!

Screwfix provided us with Allen keys, then we joined traffic going into Sainsburys. Once parked we started on our main food shop. Five bags of goodies, everything we wanted and an opportunity to use our nectar points, a good cheap shop.

Shopping

The only thing left was an ash bin.

Homebase, No, but they did have some Gorilla Tape that is Crystal clear to mend a hole in the pram cover.

Lidl, No.

A Hardware shop in town, No.

They were closed!

A Fireplace and stove shop on Rugby road, No.

Leamington Lights

Time had run out so we returned to Oleanna fully laden but missing an ash bin, we’ll have to order one to be sent somewhere, but we don’t quite know where at the moment. Maybe a last minute note to Father Christmas might work?

24th December

Not an inspiring view at 7:30

Tilly and I had already decided last night that we wouldn’t be staying in town for Christmas. The view wasn’t much this morning when I opened the curtains, it was still dark. After a cuppa in bed, Mick headed off in the car to see if Morrisons would sell him a bottle of gas. Even though they’d just had a delivery this morning they didn’t have the right sized bottle for us, never mind we’ll get some up towards Birmingham.

Yarn heaven again

A quick breakfast and then it was time to return the car to Enterprise. I hitched a lift and then walked up to Wool Warehouse. The yarns that I first used for socks in my Etsy shop is now discontinued, so I was wanting to check out an alternative.

They just had to be bought!

There were far more colours to choose from and Oops! I came home with seven balls. I had to have the red and blue. And I wouldn’t be a boater if I hadn’t got the colourway called Kingfisher. So that’s January sorted.

More graffiti, just by the footbridge

We pootled up the way to the next winding hole, I hopped off at Morrisons for a couple of bits and by the time I returned to the canal Mick was just pulling up to wait for me. Back to Clemens Street Bridge where we topped up the water tank as I gave the floor a good wash. Then we were on our way again, retracing our steps to Radford Semele. We were surprised nobody else had turned up there, maybe they all know about the TV signal.

Christmas Eve wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without sausage rolls

The remainder of the day has mostly been about cooking. First lunchtime sausage rolls.

Pinenuts for the stuffing and cider gravy reducing

Then stuffing, gravy and bread sauce.

Cracking before it sinks

Followed by a Queen of Sheba cake. This will get iced tomorrow.

Braised cabbage

Then the braised cabbage got to sit on the stove top for an hour or so. The smell of it is so yummy! All of this lot will end up in the outdoor fridge overnight.

Then came the maple and mustard ham with dauphinoise potatoes. Yum!

One happy cat showing off her white bits

Tilly had a few good hours on the towpath, only having to escape from a grey hound once. We all agree this is a better place to spend Christmas, maybe not quite as nice as on the Oxford Canal, but I suspect there will be fewer boats moving tomorrow.

How does Santa Tom get through the air vent? He won’t get an ash bin through there!

The stockings are out and we are wrapped up and ready for tomorrow.

0 locks, 4.47 miles, 1 wind, 32 coffee logs, 1 duck, 1 gammon, £112 for a fillet, 2 parcels, 2mm allen key, 1 last pounce, 3 peanut butters, 5 bags shopping, 0 ash pan, 0 gas, 700 grams yarn, 8 sausage rolls, 1 new recipe for bread sauce, 1 vat of gravy, 1 pot of stuffing, 1 pan of cabbage, 1 ham, 8 sliced potatoes, 1 cake, 8 oz of chocolate, 3 stocking, 2 boaters and a cat all excited.