Category Archives: Grand Union Paddington Arm

Windy. 26th September

Paddington Basin

Having bought membership to the Imperial War Museum when we visited Duxford earlier in the year it would be silly not to make use of it. As we were now on Plan B we could make use of the bookings we’d already made. 10:30 the Churchill War Rooms and in the afternoon HMS Belfast.

An austere doorway into the underground world

The entrance to the War Rooms is located on Horse Guards Road opposite St James’s Park. Here a line stood waiting to be allowed entrance, we spotted a second empty line for members or those with a booking, we were both of those so stood at the front of the queue and waited to be let in.

Alarm system

Down the steps we went under the Treasury building. Handsets with commentary were handed out and we set forth to explore the underground world from which Churchill had run the British campaign in WW2.

Conditions above ground

Corridors painted cream stretched off, had they originally been white but had years of chain smoking turned cream? Fans were used to move air round, an early air conditioning unit may have helped, but it must have been horrible down there. Those who worked down here worked twelve hour shifts rarely seeing daylight, they were oblivious to what was going on above their heads. A sign in a corridor would inform them of the conditions ‘Fine and Warm’ today, but if it said ‘Windy’ London was having a ruff time of it.

The rooms were gradually expanded though the war, taking over more basement rooms. Wooden posts were added to reinforce them, steel girders and then a thick slab of concrete was used, one staircase was totally filled in for safety (it took 3 months to drill through it make a corridor for the museum), still it may not have been enough should the building have had a direct hit.

Map rooms with coloured telephones, conference rooms. Sleeping quarters for many were on the floor below in bunk beds. The higher up you got you’d have a room with a narrow single bed, higher up the pecking order you’d have a couple more inches of mattress and be given a section of rug for the floor of your room.

Three cookers

A kitchen for the cook to prepare Churchills three cooked meals a day, she may have had to move her preparation from one building to another to keep the man fed.

Charts of flying bombs, maps of where they landed. Many of the rooms were just left when their need was no more. When it was handed over to the Imperial War Museum in the 80’s inventories were done for each room. In a drawer in the map room was an envelope which contained three sugar lumps, a commanders secret stash.

Part way though the corridors you enter a vast room, where walls must have been removed to house the Churchill Museum. Here the history of Churchill is arranged starting with his war time speeches. If you stood over a small glass square in the floor you could hear one of his historic speeches. Very clever as the next speech was only a few feet away. I had been wondering why people had stopped in their tracks and were stood staring into thin air.

Churchills political history was laid out in modern museum form, how such places have changed in the last ten years. Interactive screens where you can paint one of his landscapes, animations totting up his war time air miles around the world (over 100,000) and a list of his favourite things.

A collection of his hats, a plum coloured velvet siren suit, his medals stretching out in one long cabinet. This is a man who when not a politician headed off to war stricken parts of the world.

Excuse the fuzzy photos everything is behind glass

His room is one of the last on display. A comfortable single bed, maps on the walls, telephones, ashtrays. He apparently only slept in this bed for three nights, but he did have kips every now and again, Nana Naps. During these a signal was put out and silence rang through the corridors of the basement until he was awake again, even the typewriters were silent.

A key for every door on a door

We stopped off part way at the cafe. A very poor selection of things I could eat, just flapjack bars from a jar. However it was interesting to see the coloured in large scale maps of London showing bomb damage.

Too right

Well worth a visit, we didn’t take it all in and if we are back in London within our years membership we may return to read the displays we edited out today. By the time we left it was far too late to take in HMS Belfast as well. That will have to be for another time.

Quite a gravely beach

We walked down Horse Guards past the end of Downing Street to The Mall. Union Jacks flying the hole length to Buckingham Palace where the flag remains at half mast.

Buck House

Whilst we’d been underground we’d received email confirmation that our booking in Paddington Basin had been cancelled and the refund was to be processed. Mick tried giving them a call to explain that our change in circumstances had changed again and that we were using our booking after all. But as the call was not answered and went to answerphone he had to leave a message. At least we have informed them.

The No 6 bus took us from Trafalgar Square back to Edgeware Road where we perused M&S food hall for sad gits reductions. Back in Paddington we had one new neighbour NB Firecrest. Cheryl and Eric had been down to watch the flotilla on Saturday close to the Millennium Bridge. Thank you for the photos.

Hello! Do you remember me!?!

Food and a sit down with Tilly on my knee in front of the stove, a nice relaxing evening. Tomorrow we start to head west to pantoland.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2nd IWM site visited, 0 gf options, 2 cups of tea, 26 medals? 3 square meals a day, 0 time for HMS Belfast, 1 thing added to the next time list, 12 hour shifts, 1 evening in with Tilly.

If you fancy seeing more photos of the flotilla here are links to Scholar Gypsy’s blog

https://scholargypsy.org.uk/2022/09/27/reflections-flotilla-post-1-of-3/

https://scholargypsy.org.uk/2022/09/27/reflections-2-of-3/

https://scholargypsy.org.uk/2022/09/27/reflections-3-of-3/

The last post has links to even more photos

The Morning After 25th September

Limehouse Basin to Paddington Basin

A bit of a lie in this morning was followed by Mick removing all the lights from Oleanna. I made my excuses from this as my knees have spent too much time over the last few days slightly twisted by standing on gunnels or kneeling and they need to have recovered by the time I start Panto painting. This morning Pam looked to be developing a black eye and had a bump on her head after her fall last night. She seemed jolly and was quite glad of having an excuse not to have to work the locks back up the Regents Canal.

Boats starting to leave

This morning Heather had decided to join us on the Tideway and she would chance getting in at Brentford with David. A fourth boat NB Thyme would be heading to Teddington with us, so everyone had a buddy. Locking time was confirmed as 11:30, just the final engine checks to be done.

Water swirling round to fill Limehouse Lock

A short while later Mick appeared from the engine bay. We had a puddle of coolant half an inch deep and the header tank was low. Yesterday we’d not overheated. It could be something simple to fix, but with Oleanna’s history of coolant leaks we weren’t sure. He checked the engine over. He tightened four jubilee clips on the hoses, they weren’t that loose.

Three in a lock

Should we go out onto the Tideway? Yes we’d be with other boats, after all the problem might now be solved. But on the other hand we’d be going out knowing that we might have a problem, be more apprehensive and know that we’d be relying on other boats to rescue us. That wouldn’t be right, and we wouldn’t enjoy the trip. So we aborted our chance of going under Tower Bridge for the third time in two days. A great shame, but we’d rather discover we didn’t have a problem anymore on the Regents Canal. Time to let Tilly know she could stand down and needn’t burrow into our pillows again.

Whilst Mick mopped up the engine bay I watched the three boats we should have been joining head back out onto the choppy waters of the tideway. The last boat out of the lock was NB Bleasdale, just as Heather completed the turn to face upstream she turned and waved. Not sure when our paths will cross next, but they will.

First lock today

Reverting to plan B we knew that our mooring in Paddington Basin hadn’t been cancelled and wouldn’t be until tomorrow, it would take us a while to get back up the locks and all the other boats heading that way had already left, we’d be on our own, we’d best get moving.

Not homemade gf pastry, but still yum

As we worked our way back up the Regents Canal the oven was put on, sausage rolls we’d intended for yesterday were baked between locks, cooled just enough by the time we’d risen Old Ford Lock and had a longer pound to eat them in.

Home

Today we had a wide cruiser ahead of us for one lock who made use of an empty lock, they were heading along the Hertford Union so we’d be going different ways. We shared Acton’s Lock with a young couple, they were only heading to the next available mooring and stopped just after the lock possibly to use the services there.

Just about every lock was set against us. At nearly every lock we had a crowd of gongoozlers watching our every move. Occasionally someone would lend a hand with a gate and occasionally we had to ask people to move for their own safety.

Electrified

For the first time we’ve passed the entrance to Victoria Park on a Sunday whilst the market has been on, today we didn’t really have the time or energy to stop for a nosy. The food smells were wonderful though, but my sausage rolls were just the ticket to keep us going.

City Road Lock

City Road Lock I had extra crew. A chap who works at the cafe there leapt into action, helping with gates, closing paddles, he even has his own windlass. Today he’d helped around twenty boats through, I wondered if he ever did any paid work at the cafe! This lock has yellow and red lines painted round it and signs all over the place. These suggest to boaters that if they consider members of the public to be in danger then to beep your horn five times at which the public will move away. These signs had been attached to the lock beams with cable ties, as I walked to get back onto Oleanna my foot caught on one. A trip hazard if ever there was one!

Islington Tunnel ahead

There is now a stretch of 14 day Eco Moorings near Camley Street Bridge, they don’t appear bookable on the C&RT website and they were very very full. At the bottom of the Camden Locks there was a boat coming down, I helped and chatted to the owner, they were having a bit of a cruising party to their next mooring an Eco mooring near Kings Cross.

As we rose in the lock I knew the top lock was being emptied, the middle lock managing to stay empty for us and the crew above taking their time doing everything! Sadly they’d left the wrong gate open on the top lock, I now knew why the volunteers don’t like using it. It opens over the steps and over the accompanying locks beam, so the beam is high up, but not high enough to crawl under once you’ve got it over the steps. All very awkward, but at least I kept an eye on where my feet were.

Now we just had to negotiate our way along through the zoo and Maida Hill Tunnel around all the Go Boats. This involved some zigzagging, being waved ahead of them at the tunnel and we managed to avoid them all.

Go Boats out on mass this afternoon

Little Venice we turned left and headed down into Paddington Basin where our not quite cancelled booked mooring sat waiting for us. Another three spaces available, it’s the first time we’ve ever seen room here.

Heading into the basin

We were tired and hungry, so despite having had pizza yesterday we headed to Pizza Express and filled up on a Classic pizza each. A longer day than if we’d have headed out onto the Tideway, but at least it looks like just tightening up the jubilee clips has done the trick.

Yummo

12 locks, 9.24 miles, 1 straight on, 1 leak, 1 plan aborted, 8 sausage rolls, 1 happier cat, 0 shore leave still, 2 pizzas, 2 glasses of wine, 2 pretty pooped boaters.

https://goo.gl/maps/WFQpSuhh8Y87u15S6

Crepes. 22nd September

Colebrooke Eco-mooring

Ahh, tea in bed again! Wonderful, well except it was quite early as we seem to have gotten used to early mornings now. Once breakfast was over I headed to catch a bus to Aldgate to buy some card.

All sorts of wood

4D Model Shop has just about everything a model maker could want, I think they used to be near Holborn and I visited them many years ago when I still lived in Brixton. What I was after today was some sheets of grey board, card that is fairly easy to cut and cheap that I could make stencils from for the panto portals, reducing the amount of time spent drawing things out to a quarter.

I did have a good look round. You could buy any tree or any colour at a variety of scales, plenty of scale people several having a great time in a bowl of breakfast cereal. All sorts of wood, card, styrene shapes, sphere’s of all sizes. I could have spent an absolute age here, but managed to refrain from it. Over the last couple of years I’ve been wanting to find a magnifying glass to help when doing very fine things. The chap showed me a pair of glasses on which you can change the lenses to increase magnification, Something to add to my Christmas list.

Mick, Siobhán and Patrick

Once back on the bus there was enough time for a breather before we had visitors arrive. Siobhán and Patrick arrived from Australia on Monday, Siobhán is an old school friend of Micks. We’ve not seen them for several years as trips back to the UK were cancelled due to covid. They brought along with them Fionnuala, Siobhán’s sister who came to visit us once in Paddington.

Wine sorted

We had a lovely few hours with them catching up, seeing photos of their new grandchildren. Tea on board was followed by a walk up into Islington for something to eat. We chose Crepeaffaire, who make crepes and buckwheat galettes. They were nice, but could have done with being a touch warmer and a bit more filling. The lady serving us whipped out her pay machine which was all of a bit sudden. Because Mick was the first to get a card out, the others protested and we ended up visiting Sainsburys so they could help top up our wine cellar.

A lovely day with great friends, another reason for dashing down to London.

Just before we got straightened out

The boat behind us this evening pulled away leaving a gap on the straight that Oleanna would fit into. So we pulled back and breasted up against NB Keeping up with the Jones’, a boat that many may know, but now has a new owner. Our new mooring meant that the very short boat on the inside would now be able to pull out when they wanted to this evening.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 buses, 8 sheets card, 1 pair specs, 2 antipodean visitors, 1 sister, 5 crepes, 2 boxes of wine, lots of laughs, 1 budget through, 1 painting space confirmed.

Because the blog is published a couple of days behind I thought it only fair to share a photo from the flotilla, to wet your appetite. There may be a delay in further photos as I’ve a lot to sort through from the day.

Wow what a day!

Faces At the Window. 21st September

Ballot Box Bridge to Colebrook Eco Moorings, Regents Canal

We’d planned to be on our way by 7:30 but that didn’t quite happen, it was nearer 8 by the time we’d pushed off. The journey in towards London always takes time, add into the mix weed and other boats, it can always take longer.

A new development sits up high, hang on was that a boat up there? NB Pavo, we’d seen the boat about. Our deduction from down on the canal is that this boat has found itself a pool of water to sit on off Canal and River Trust water a bit like the boat on the South Oxford Canal. Maybe it is going to be an office for someone, or maybe it’s just a big water feature for the complex.

More boats all individual, more paintings on walls.

Very slow boats

Soon we could see a breasted up pair ahead of us some distance away, each bend brought them closer and closer, each bend gave them shallow water that they needed to pole off, it was the Polish coal boat. We caught them up and slowly followed them, tick over then neutral then tick over again. There was nowhere suitable for them to pullover to let us pass until their bow got stuck again. They freed themselves leaving a gap just wide enough for us to go through between them and a moored boat, we were waved on.

Kensal Town brings with it office windows to look into. From above Ainsley and Nicholas peered back down on us, nosy blighters! Duck weed covered the whole canal by now. The bubbles at Westbourne Terrace Bridge doing their best to hold the mass of green back and away from Little Venice. The water point was free, we pulled in to make use of the tap and bins and make a brew.

Left at Little Venice, Rembrandt Gardens moorings were full, we hoped our booked space further along would be available.

At least it won’t go yellow!

The steep bank outside one of the posh houses on the Regents Canal has been clad in astroturf, their gardeners no longer having to mow that part of the garden, they might just have to weed it instead in years to come.

Warthogs biffed at large balls containing edible treats. A lazy Colobus Monkey lounged in what used to be the Snowden Aviary it is now a walk through monkey valley exhibit with high up perches for the monkeys.

There’s Heather!

Stood waiting for us at Hampstead Road Locks was a familiar figure, Heather, she’d walked up from St Pancras to help us with the locks. No volunteers on today and thankfully I remembered which gate had a problem last year, so I used the other one.

Heather set off to set the middle of the three locks. A trip boat set the bottom lock for us, all easy going. Around us the new buildings we’ve seen going up over the last few years all look complete, walkways criss crossing everywhere.

A short pootle and we arrived at St Pancras Lock, two volunteers on duty, one of whom we’d done the Tideway with last year. Sadly there was no room for us to moor at the cruising club this time, but there was plenty to chat about as the lock was set in our favour.

Hello!

We waved goodbye to Heather and David and carried on our way, we’d be seeing them both at the flotilla. The Queen had done her washing and watched us go by as we approached Islington Tunnel.

This looked hopeful

The tunnel was clear, I zoomed in with my camera. One boat in view on the Eco Moorings where we’d booked for two nights. There was a possibility that the boat was breasted up and there’d not be room alongside the towpath. We carried on through the tunnel.

Maybe not so hopeful!

By the time we’d reached the other end the boat I’d seen was breasted up, in fact it was the third boat out from the towpath. All along the Eco-moorings the boats were breasted up apart from one small gap. Was someone overstaying? Had the C&RT website calculated the wrong length of mooring available?

Mooring spaghetti

We pulled through the next bridge and I walked down to check on any spaces below the lock. Every space was full with boats breasted up. Pooh! Only yesterday Mick had tried to look to see if there were any spaces available at the other eco-moorings, but as we’d already got a booking it wouldn’t show us. We’d past a space on the other side of the tunnel, admittedly by a building site, but we’d have been bank side there enabling Oleanna to finish being washed.

Jaunty

Only one thing for it, to reverse back into the space that was available, do the best we could mooring at a jaunty angle and try to sus out when those we were blocking in would be wanting to move off. The angle did have one benefit, we’d be able to open our hatch! Soon after mooring the Puppet Barge came past, thankfully there was enough room for them.

That’s a big one!

We settled in and explained to Tilly that there would be no shore leave for the foreseeable future. The hook up cable came out and after quite a bit of grring from Mick we had power, £10 credited to our account. We’d be able to do washing and use the electric kettle. Cheryl from a few boats up (NB Firecrest) came to say hello as she reads the blog.

Onion Bhaji

This evening we caught a bus and headed over to Kentish Town to meet up with Christine and Paul for an Indian meal at the Bengal Lancer. A very nice meal with great company and the delivery of our nav lights. These came in a really rather big box, four times the size of the lights! We just need a battery for the white one now and somewhere to strap it to. Thank you Christine for the use of your address.

4 locks, 11.73 miles, 1 full water tank, 1 left, 1 tunnel, 1 Heather, 1 David, 1 Ainsley, 1 Nicholas, 1 Queen, 40ft mooring, 58ft 6 boat, 1 jaunty mooring, 1 mission nearly accomplished, 3 nav lights, 0.5 clean boat, 1 harrumphy cat!

Monkeys and Parakeets. 20th September

Bridge 182 to Ballot Box Bridge, Paddington Branch

Yesterday evening we’d had quite a few people stop to chat as we set up the lights on Oleanna. One lady had been concerned that Denham Deep Lock (the next one) may be closed as the bottom gates were open a little bit and in front of the top gates there was a mass of weed, surely we’d not be able to get through! Neither of us were concerned at what she said and when we got to the lock this morning it was nothing compared to the amount of pennywort we’d come across at Wide Water Lock and the bottom gates were just open because that was they way they rested when the lock was empty.

Filling Denham Deep

Denham Deep is very deep, but thankfully with fairly new gates it doesn’t leek so it filled in no time compared to the shallower locks we’d recently come through.

Piggyback

Below the lock the floating dry dock was giving a piggyback to another boat.

Onwards to Uxbridge. Here two boats were breasted up on the lock landing and the last people to have gone through the lock had left both bottom gates open with the paddles up! We are now in the land of not giving a monkeys and the number of parakeets way out numbers blackbirds, robins and kingfishers. Thankfully we weren’t a widebeam, as some of the broader boats would have had difficulty getting into the lock and there was space on the off side for me to hop off to set the lock.

Only 29 litres today

We’d arrived shortly after Denham Yacht Station had opened for the day. A top up of diesel was required and Mick had dug out our 5litre can which also got filled. Going out onto the Tideway you want a full tank and we knew we’d not be at St Pancras Cruising Club at the right time to top up there.

Volunteers waiting for a boat

At Cowley Lock three volunteers stood awaiting our arrival, we were to be their first boat of the day.

Quite a house boat

Below someone is building themselves quite a large house boat. New stainless steel tanks sit in the water and a wooden structure is going up above.

Now we were on the level with Paddington. We pootled along passing large building sites, two fellas working their way through a pallet of turf.

Under Murderers Bridge where eight years ago we said a final goodnight to Houdini my old cat.

A plant peeked up out of the hold of a boat, was it what we thought it was? Yes, most probably. Soon we were at Bulls Bridge where the Boat of Fame is currently moored in it’s Mind The Gap coat of paint, very whimsical.

Left onto the Paddington Arm. All sorts of boats. Jolly dogs and grumpy cats. Heftily insulated boats. You see everything down here, some we now recognise each time we’re here.

Sunflower

A sunflower has reached up for light at the edge of the towpath surrounded by new builds. A cormorant took advantage of a high up post.

surrounded by new builds

I ducked below to have a catch up with Jo the props lady for panto leaving Mick to cruise us onwards to near Ballot Box Bridge at the foot of Horsenden Hill. Almost two hours later I finished chatting to Jo and could finally have my lunch. Then it was out with the buckets and cloths, time to give Oleanna a bit of a wash before the flotilla. The starboard side seems to have caught the sun more than the port side, so hopefully a wash might make her look better. Who knows if the starboard side will get washed it depends on time and on how busy our mooring in London will be, at least that side looks a touch smarter.

Eeevil!

Mick busied himself attaching the cratch lights. These haven’t been on Oleanna for two years, they are our normal arrangement for Christmas. These will stay on now for Saturday, a little less to do.

3 locks, 12.92 miles, 1 left, 1 tear, 1 tube boat, 3 volunteers, 2 hours talking props, boat 71, 1/10th of lights fitted, 1 clean bow for the first time in years.

https://goo.gl/maps/51HrmhHDspQyGydy6

2021 An Adventurous Year

Time for the annual round up. Put the kettle on or pour yourself a glass of something stonger, put your feet up, this is a long post.

Looking out into a cold world!

As midnight turned from 2020 to 2021 we saw the old year out and new one in at the house in Scarborough, a quiet affair with just the three of us.

January and February brought ups and downs with them. Oleanna rose and fell with the water level at Viking Marina due to the breach at New Bridge whilst the country locked down. Despite the restrictions on travelling we made use of having a hire car for a few days at the beginning of the year to keep an eye on Oleanna.

Jobs around the house continued, our bedroom was redecorated and reclaimed from troublesome tenants. Tilly and I ventured out into the nearby park for the occasional walk, dependant on the number of woofers and the weather of course.

We walked, we ate, we drank, did our best to stay well and I started on the design for Chipping Norton’s panto in my reclaimed work room.

The spare living room was used as a workshop doing some work for Animated Objects, scrimming giant sci-fi guns and then painting model buildings all for The Odyssey. Beetroot burgers were made and pancakes consumed.

Then March came along and some easing of restrictions. Colour came back in nature with the daffodils popping up and my panto model started to get coloured in. A design for some origami paper arrived ready to be folded up to be part of 1000 ships display that would happen a couple of months later along the Yorkshire coast.

With new freedoms we had a couple of trips to Goole to check on Oleanna. First one was to swing her round and finally put fire extinguishers on walls all ready for her Boat Safety Inspection which she passed with flying colours and a comment that we seemed to like CO and smoke detectors, well I’d rather have too many than not enough!

The cofferdam at the breach site was completed and an access ramp created. My posts about the breach put us in touch with several people in Goole and at the beginning of April The Goole Escape Facebook group was formed. Due to the breach and lack of water in Goole Docks no leisure boats were allowed to use Ocean Lock out onto the Tidal Ouse. A joint calm voice was needed to try to find a way out for those boats wanting to leave, including us.

Of course March was also when Mick and I got our first vaccinations. Who’d have thought having a jab would put a smile on peoples faces! Not that you could really see them behind all the masks. A bathroom got a make over and we discovered parts of Scarborough we’d never been to before.

April was a very busy month. With lodgers on the horizon house jobs needed finishing. The roof needed attention along with a wall in my work room, both jobs were for the professionals. Pictures went up on walls, finally. The bathroom needed finishing with Frank fitting us a new bath surround.

Mid month out attention moved back to Oleanna. Way back when, we’d booked her in at Goole Boathouse to be blacked. We had a night on board before moving her from one marina to the other to come out of the water. She was jet washed down and the chaps began applying layers of 2 pack to her hull. We visited most days with jobs to do ourselves. Mick busied himself inside whilst I ground back rusty bits on the gunnels, repainted them and the tunnel bands. Inside the oak floor had a good clean and then was treated to two coats of oil. The weather had been perfect for it and she went back in the water a week after she’d come out, enough time for the 2 pack to cure. She looked smart again, well the cabin sides still needed a good wash!

Whilst in Goole we met up with David, Karl, Wendy and Martin, four members of The Goole Escape group. David had managed to negotiate with ABP passage for leisure boats through Ocean Lock at Goole Docks, this was limited to specific times of the tide. So escape was now possible but everything would have to come together to make a sensible plan. We wouldn’t be ready for a few weeks and hoped that there wouldn’t be a mass exodus before we could join people.

As I carried on trying to finish my panto model Mick made good use of his time doing a VHF radio course, we’d need to be able to use the radio to meet the criteria for going through Goole Docks and out onto the Tidal Ouse. Tilly visited the vet and got a years worth of flea and wormer treatments, we were all set to move back on board.

The first of May was that day. We’d hoped that Tilly would remember the boat after seven months on shore, within about two seconds of being back it was obvious she knew where she was. News that Goole caisson gates were now open and cruising up towards the breach site was possible we headed off to give Oleanna a good run and so that Tilly could venture back onto dry land. It was very good to be back on the move again. On our second such trip Tilly remembered how to swim!

Whilst in Goole Mick took his Short Range VHF Radio exam and passed. I carried on painting my panto model. We both had our second vaccinations. Heather Bleasdale came to visit joining us for an outdoor lunch. We got to know the Goole Escape Committee and discussed plans. We watched work going on at the breach site. Mick had a birthday and Joan’s Home Kitchen provided us with a celebratory meal a couple of days before we hoped to escape.

On 21st May an escape committee meeting was had early on, the weather looked hopeful for the tide in the afternoon, we were booked in at Ocean Lock. Our escape was to be via Selby, the Lock keeper was called there and our plan confirmed. At lunchtime we moved up to fill the diesel tank and await the other escapees, Sea Maiden and Lullabelle. Given the go ahead by the docks to proceed we were soon passing through to Ocean Lock where there was plenty of space for the three of us. At around 14:30 the large lock gates opened to reveal our way out of Goole onto the Tidal Ouse.

All three boats arrived safe and sound

We headed upstream following Sea Maiden being pushed along with the tide. Would we make it to Selby before the tide turned. Each boat arrived individually and was locked up into Selby Basin. We’d made it, now all we had to do was escape Selby as the swing bridge out of the basin there was broken.

We waited. Tides, times, weather and the amount of fresh coming down stream all had to fit together. Bridget and Storm came to visit. We twiddled our thumbs. The Environment Agency came and closed the flood barrier. We twiddled our thumbs. Daily escape committee meetings were held. By the 27th everything was looking to fit together apart from one thing, Keadby Lock would not be manned at a suitable time for us to get off the river. Sea Maiden and Lullabelle decided to stay put in Selby. Heather Bleasdale was joining us for the trip but Oleanna would be out on the river on her own heading to Trent Falls.

What a day that was! David’s advice was spot on. Leaving Selby just before 10am Oleanna zoomed downstream with the out going tide. We followed our charts keeping to the channel. At the Apex light Mick swung Oleanna round to head upstream onto the Trent our progress slowing instantly.

We then crawled our way to find where we should wait for the tide to turn. Two hours of very little, drifting on our anchor. We’d picked the day well, it was wonderful out there.

When Oleanna started to move round a touch more we managed to pull the anchor up and found our way back into the main channel to head upstream with the incoming tide. One plan had been to moor up in Gainsborough, but we decided to carry on and arrived at Torksey just as the last light was fading at just gone 22:00, 64 miles in a day, I doubt we’ll ever beat that.

Over the next few days we made our way up the Trent, dug out our windlasses to work locks in Nottingham. Once we rose up Derwent Mouth Lock onto the Trent and Mersey we had completed our escape. The going would now be much slower along shallow canals and plenty more moored boats to slow down past.

Now we should make our booked mooring at Rembrandt Gardens, every day would be a boating day unless the weather was either too hot or far too wet to cruise. Along the Trent and Mersey, pausing to stock up in Alrewas. At Fradley we turned onto the Coventry Canal to head southwards. We gave a tow to NB Burghley Girl to the bottom of Atherstone.

At Hawkesbury Junction we did the 180 degree turn onto the North Oxford Canal, through Rugby and up Hillmorton. NB Kamili with Andy and Irene passed as we arrived in Braunston where we paused for another butchers, then up the flight and through the tunnel.

Straight on along the Grand Union. On route we stopped for a drink with Lizzie at Bugbrooke. Paused for a hot day under some trees near Milton Keynes. Had a diversion along the Wendover Arm for a night. Picked up extra crew, my old college friend Jen, for a day through Hemel Hempstead. Came across our first sightings of HS2 cutting it’s way across the landscape.

At Bulls Bridge we turned left onto the Paddington Arm. On our trip into London we came across our friends Pete and Clare on NB Billy, it turned out we’d be neighbours at Rembrandt Gardens for a few days. We arrived on time and the next day headed across London by bus to Hackney to see the London Leckenbys for the first time since Christmas 2019.

Plenty more family to catch up with. Kath came for lunch, we had a trip to Eastbourne to see Marion and John, a lovely lunch with Christine and Paul. So good to see everyone again and not just on a computer screen every Saturday.

Happy Birthday Big Brother

Andrew’s 60th Birthday was celebrated, nothing fancy just good to be able to be together for it, we’d achieved our second goal of the year.

We heard there was a space at St Pancras Cruising Club for a long boat like Oleanna, so we took advantage of a more secure mooring close to Kings Cross whilst we had a visit back to Scarborough. Checking on the house, lodgers changing over and seeing the latest Ayckbourn play with Bridget and Storm, it all made for a good weekend away. I then headed off to Huddersfield for a couple of days work with Dark Horse, fitting costumes for a photo shoot.

There was to be a Tideway cruise from St Pancras Cruising Club and with one space left we jumped at the opportunity. Ten boats made their way to Limehouse, we breasted up with NB Misty Blue, Graham turned out to be another Goole Escapee. Three lock-fulls of boats headed out onto the Tideway on the morning of 10th July, special permission had been sought to go under Hammersmith Bridge which was closed to all forms of traffic at the time.

Tilly thought we were mad taking her onto such rough water, I was a little perplexed too! Very glad that I was the official photographer, clinging on as we did more than bob up and down! Tower Bridge, The National Theatre, Christine, Adam, The Houses of Parliament, Battersea Power Station. So many sights, what an experience!

The further west we got the calmer the water got. We were glad when Hammersmith Bridge was passed as there had always been a chance that it might close to boat traffic at anytime due to safety reasons. We turned off at Brentford along with several other boats and continued up to Hanwell where we had a very sociable evening at The Fox with everyone. Thank you Simon for mentioning the cruise to us.

Sadly our washing machine hadn’t liked the lumpy water so for the next month we cruised meeting up with engineers on route hoping it could be mended. Back through London, pausing at St Pancras again. Then down to the Herford Union to cut across to the Lee and Stort. We had another mooring booked on the Lee awaiting our arrival, alongside NB Billy.

Then up the Lee and onto the River Stort. We’d only ventured so far up the Stort during our first winter on Lillian, this time we headed all the way to Bishop Stortford. Our return journey was held up slightly due to the river going into flood overnight so we had to wait for it to lower to get under the bridge at Roydon.

Back through London we made use of the new Eco-moorings near Islington Tunnel, a handy stop off with electricity. Here we met up with Nick an old friend from York and Adam called in for a catch up after working the breakfast shift at Radio 2.

Goodbye Christine!

At the end of July we pushed on and left London behind us, returning to Bulls Bridge.

We headed up to Uxbridge for cheap diesel and finally got our washing machine mended. We turned around and headed back to the Hanwell flight, stowed the garden back in the shower and headed out onto the Thames again where we turned right towards Oxford.

With a weeks license we couldn’t dawdle, although a broken lock gate at Boveney Lock did hold us up overnight so our license would be extended. A space was spotted below Cliveden so we treated ourselves to a night moored in the grounds of the big house. We paused for a socially distanced chat with Sue on No Problem XL, good to see her looking so well. Henley Regatta was almost ready as we passed through and our favourite mooring above Days Lock did not disappoint. All too soon we turned up Sheepwash Channel and ascended Isis Lock back onto the Oxford Canal.

Whilst in Oxford I managed an actual face to face meeting with Dash the Director for Chippy Panto. He seemed happy! Then we made our way up to Thrupp where we’d booked ourselves in at the cruising club for a few days whilst the London Leckenbys came to visit and we had a trip back to Scarborough and we got to see the show at Esk Valley for the first time since we’ve been living afloat.

I had a day trip to Chippy where I did a final model meeting over zoom from a dressing room, but also had chance to measure things up. Then we were off up the Oxford Canal, mooring in our favourite spots, it was a touch busier than it normally is in the winter.

A pause to visit Village Meats in Braunston and we spotted our old share boat NB Winding Down so we stopped to say hello. On up the flight sharing with a boat full of actors, then left up to Crick for the first time in ages.

A prearranged boaters meeting at Houdini’s Field worked brilliantly, NB Panda and NB Kamili convened and we all enjoyed each others company over a fantastic barbeque outside so everyone could feel safe and Tilly could roam about. Oleanna was treated to a very good wash and brush up before we were on our way again. We now needed to get her north before I started on Panto.

News came through that the breach on the Aire and Calder had been mended and nine months after the canal had sprung a leek it was mended and open again. Boats could now move through the area, mooring however is still restricted.

Following the Grand Union we headed down the Stockton Flight to Leamington Spa. Tilly and I had a few hot days on our own moored at Radford Smelly then we were on our way again. An obligatory burger at The Cape of Good Hope the night before we teamed up with NB Mad Hatter to ascend the Hatton flight. One day my old college friend Emma will not have an excuse to helping us up the flight, this time we met for a cuppa and a catch up the following day.

On up Knowle to Catherine de Barnes, then Camp Hill Locks, the Ashted flight and Tunnel (!) followed by Farmers Bridge into Birmingham. The city centre is still full of building and tram works but with the sun out it looked stunning. We also caught up with Paul Balmer from Waterway Routes before carrying on with our journey.

A night at Hawne Basin filled the diesel tank up. A night at Dudley Port Basin got the cupboards filled. A pause at Urban Moorings meant we could donate our deposits and the next day we descended from the Birmingham plateau down the Wolverhampton 21.

Along the Staffordshire and Worcester we managed to have a mid stream catch up with Barbara from NB Bessie Surtees. At Great Haywood I managed a catch up with Kay from NB Pea Green as she set up to trade for the day and Mick filled Oleanna’s water tank.

Heading north on the Trent and Mersey we pulled in for lunch and a surprise hello to Barry and Sandra from NB AreandAre whom we’d got to know last year in the first lockdown. In the afternoon we were joined by Bill and Lisa for a trip through Harecastle Tunnel. Now we swung off the Trent and Mersey and onto the Macclesfield with it’s wonderful bridges.

It would have been nice to take our time but we had a rendez vous to make. The end mooring at Marple was free and from here we headed into Manchester by train to join the London Leckenbys for a meal of big red fish. The following day my old school friend Morag joined us for a night on board with some serious catching up to be done.

Our next deadline loomed, Standedge Tunnel. We dropped down the Marple flight, crossed the aqueduct and turned right at Dukinfield Junction onto the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. We knew we were in for some hard work to climb our way over the Pennines, last time we’d enlisted crew to help as I was one handed. This time we’d be going solo. Apart from the very first lock it wasn’t too troublesome. The work is rewarded with stunning views.

Standedge Tunnel did not disappoint. Because of social distancing Mick got ride ride up front in the cratch leaving the helm to a C&RT volunteer. Bumps and scrapes made Oleanna wince along with us, but we all got through in one piece with no damage. Tilly wasn’t too happy about the trip, but at least I can now boast to the local cats in Scarboreugh that I’ve been through the longest deepest highest tunnel on the canal network whilst they just lazed around on their shed roofs!

On our way down the other side Oleanna had a belt that went taking out quite a few wires in the engine bay. RCR were sent for, the engineer suggested we’d need to remove a pulley on the alternator to be able to remove trapped wires, this could not happen where we were. We could move but the batteries would not charge. The only way to top up our electric was with the solar panels. Emergency power conservation went into operation, blogs were hand written, the freezer turned off and we gradually ate our way through our defrosting supplies. Every day Mick managed to pull more wire from the alternator and soon there was no need for an engineer again, just a new belt needed fitting.