Category Archives: Great Ouse

Increasing The Ballast. 7th June

Pyrford Marina, River Wey Navigations

The bears left in charge again

Final jobs in the house. Making up beds, a nice shower required the cubical to be squeegeed down again, hovering, sandwich making, crumbs from the toaster etc. Mick was finished before I was and stood waiting to take the bin out. I then ran round the house to do an idiot check and make sure everything was ready for our next lodgers, the car was packed and we were on our way at midday. Just a shame we’d left a block of cheese and some milk in the fridge! Frank would you like some cheese?

Our blue pompom bush has gone bonkers

We stopped off for some more cat litter. Tilly uses a mixture of wood and odour control litter, we in our separating toilet use wood litter to cover our deposits. Recently we’ve found that we prefer using a wood cat litter from Pets at Home. This is paler than the supermarket version and when some water is added it fluffs up nicely without being sticky for sprinkling. So we paused to purchase a bag as we left Scarborough.

An A1 sock

Our route back was slow, Mick chose to head southwards on the A1, our route north had been on the M1, lots of road works! It being a Friday afternoon plenty of people were also on the move. Not so many road works, but we did have quite a few slow sections, one where a car had pulled onto the central reservation under a bridge and then decided to get back into the line of traffic, causing the slow moving traffic to do an emergency stop! Why they couldn’t have signalled and waited to be let in, who knows! This route follows the River Trent, Nene and Great Ouse.

Turning off the M25

Only one comfort stop was taken to eat our butties we’d made and seven hours after leaving Scarborough we were at the marina gates in Pyrford, I’d almost knitted a complete sock!

I think someone was pleased to have us home

First things first, give Tilly a cuddle. I gave the usual meow as I walked up to the boat and could hear excited relieved paws charge through Oleanna, then shouting took over. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN!!???!!! You said it would be two BIG sleeps, well it was 6! That means you owe me 4 more meals. I had to save those biscuits just in case you’d gone FOREVER!!!!

Plenty of frantic head nudges, so many that I lost my glasses. I don’t think she’d liked the neighbours NO! They have woofers! Food was required, a top up of biscuits and some whitefish tonight. Tom came in and gave me a good ear rub, he also had a LOT of bags with him. I apparently can go in my box a lot now, but not too much yet as they want my litter for extra ballast. The wine cellar was filled up and most of the cupboards. Then Mick headed back out, this time to Tescos for a click and collect of fresh things also picking up a few more bits that we thought might be good to have, including some more cheese. Four more bags of shopping to stow!

Here’s hoping we don’t eat our way through all this extra ballast too soon. Where we’re heading in the next couple of weeks we’ll be needing to be as low as possible in the water!

0 locks, 0 miles, 253 miles by car, 3 bags litter, 6 boxes wine, 1 bag cat biscuits, 2 boxes pink food, 1 chicken, 3 loaves bread, 4 pints not 2! 2 bottles vinegar, 1kg potatoes, 0.75 of a sock, 6 sleeps not 2! 2 beds made up ready, 1 block of cheddar, 1 ecstatic cat.

Slugs! 13th September

Adam’s favourite mooring to above Stoke Hammond Lock

Today I had some work to do, a meeting with the Production Manager for panto via zoom. We could stay put until after my meeting or we could cruise whilst I was on line. The later option was chosen as for most of the day we’d be on the flat going round Milton Keynes, we just needed to get through Cosgrove Lock before 10:00.


We pushed off around 8:15 and cruised our way towards the lock. The hedges at Thurpp Wharf Marina are too high now to have a good nosy so we had to wait to pass the entrance to be able to wave to NB Briar Rose.

A unique paint job

Approaching Soloman Bridge we passed a few moored boats, one that we’ve seen before NB Home which has quite a paint job.

Are the houses close to the bridge new? With sand bags shoring up the bank.

As we rounded the bend towards the lock we could see a Black Prince boat heading the same way. They over shot the lock and it looked like they would be winding if they didn’t carry on too far. I hopped off at the narrows and Mick pulled Oleanna back to give them room, another boat was just coming into the lock, good job we’d left half an hour earlier than we’d originally planned.

Boats everywhere!

Everyone seemed to be waiting for everyone else. So I suggested the Black Prince boat got on with winding as the lock finished filling and Mick held back. The lock needed a bottom paddle closing and then everyone could be on their way.

The Great Ouse before it gets it’s greatness

Crossing over the Ouse Aqueduct we glanced downstream, towards Bedford and our time on the Great Ouse this summer.

A giant slug?!

As we approached Galleon Wharf we could see a strange thing on the bank by the warehouses. Was this a giant slug? All glistening and muddy brown. Two orange boats were in the water and then Mick spotted several dark floating things taking over about two thirds of the canal, no buoys marking them bobbing just at the surface. Were they sucking silt out from the canal bed into the giant slugs? We don’t remember seeing a notice about this, but then C&RT waters have been off our radar for a while. We tried asking a boater if he knew what was going on, it was very hard to hear his reply as mounds of aggregate were being moved around. But something about the warehouses being knocked down and two houses being built. A later hunt round on-line suggests that planning permission had been refused for a scheme of 14 new houses.

Time for me to head below and set up for my meeting. With working drawings at the ready I signed into zoom and Gemma and I worked our way through the model pieces I’d sent and drawings. Most things were self explanatory, but the rostra for the gangplank took some explaining as to how it sat, a bit like trying to brush your hair in a mirror for the very first time! Tomorrow Gemma heads to the builders to hopefully come back with a price for the build.

The big pond full of water again

I was back up on deck after we’d passed Great Linford. Today, when we didn’t want it, there was mooring space. The works around the pond and new footpaths haven’t quite been finished yet, but from Mick’s photos its starting to look smart again.

Every now and then there seemed to be new artworks along the banks of the canal. Had we seen the horse before? A very colourful bench with a waterside theme. Oriental inspired paintings of waterfowl under a bridge.

A small mouth full

A Heron stood at the bow of a boat watching the water be pulled along by our approach. It just dabbed it’s head into the water and came out with a fish, which it dually swallowed and we had chance to watch the fish wriggle down it’s neck!

One day Bedford will be that way

There’s a new pub at Campbell Wharf Marina , still having bits of work done to it. The marina certainly looks full. Three moorings are taken up by widebeams, between them we could just see where the Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterway will be one day. Back in July when we reached the head of navigation on the Great Ouse we were only 11 miles away as the crow flies. Instead we’ve cruised 198.71 miles or there abouts! The link through would have saved us nearly two months.

New mooring signs

It took four hours to skirt round Milton Keynes, from the Ouse Aqueduct to Fenny Stratford Lock. Lots of moored boats, new mooring signs limiting stays to 2 days during the summer months. We found these a touch odd as unless marked mooring times during winter change to 14 days, so why bother adding from April to September on these signs? One thing is for sure, C&RT are wanting boats to move around in Milton Keynes. For once we’d have had no difficulty mooring at Campbell Park, but of course we didn’t want to stop today.

Approaching Fenny Stratford we looked out for a figure sat in an arm chair by the window of the first house and waved. There is nearly always someone sat there who will wave back with a big smile on their face.

Fenny Stratford Lock

The bridge needed swinging at the lock and some water emptying out of it’s not so deep chamber. We’d now started our ascent towards Cowroast. We swapped over with a hire boat making sure they knew about the swing bridge, then carried onwards.

Stoke Hammond Lock

A confirmation notice of our appointment came through, we definitely have to keep up the pace south bound now. Three more miles and we were at the lovely Stoke Hammond Lock, the first of the proper uphill locks. Here red roses still in bloom surround the sign, wonderful.

What a .lovely rose

We pootled on almost at our destination for the day, pulling in to a vacant space half a mile on. Here Tilly could head off to explore and we could enjoy a very late lunch. Why oh why does Milton Keynes take soooooo long to cruise through?!

3 locks, 16.76 miles, 1 swing bridge, 1 bottle neck, 1 hour zoom, 11 miles or 198, 12 emails, 1 confirmation, 2.75 hours shore leave, 1 bright red rose, 2 boaters ready for bed early, 20 years of remembering Peter.

Goodbye Great Ouse. 15th August

River Wissey GOBA mooring to Salters Lode, Middle Level


Still with water to get we were on our way quite early. We knew there was little chance of being able to wind before we reached Hilgay, we’d tried a couple of months ago and now with the levels lower and more reed growth there wasn’t even any point in trying. A dog stuck it’s nose out from the stern of the narrowboat nestled into the bank as it’s owner yawned as we passed.

It was a little bit tight turning by the water point rather than heading a bit further on to the official winding hole, but Mick managed in the end and we were soon moored up by the water point, filling up and having breakfast.

No Longer Hilgay Bridge

A new blue plaque on the bridge shows off it’s new name and a chap walked back and forth watering the flowers.

Black dots of birds

Back to the junction with the Great Ouse where we turned right, time to head to Denver for our crossing at midday. The birds are starting to gather overhead, readying themselves to head for warmer climes!

It’s falling in the water!

The two long stretches of EA moorings are still fenced off as you approach Denver. Today the notice regarding Littleport Station Road EA mooring dated January 2021 was rescinded and the mooring we’d been staying on recently is now officially open again. It sounds like piling work was carried out there and it looks like something similar will need to happen at Denver to get the banks stable again.

Last photo on the Great Ouse

Denver Sluice came into view, we pulled up alongside NB Poppy May to make sure we were all ready for our tidal crossing. The anchor has been attached and ready to be deployed for months now, the well deck just needed a bit of a tidy up, excess items put into the shower. Then we waited and chatted with Angus and Julie (I think) from Poppy May.

Waiting for the tide at Denver

A few years ago they had brought their boat onto the Great Ouse, now they were heading back towards C&RT waters, so this would be the first time for both of us heading downstream with the tide to Salters Lode.

The Lock Keeper arrived and started to empty the lock, he came for a chat. He would lock us both through at the same time, no need to worry about sand banks lurking under the surface. We were to lead the way with NB Poppy May following a short distance behind. One boat would be heading towards us. We would head straight into the lock and Poppy May should turn in towards the lock and wait by the guillotine gate for their turn. At 62ft long they were on the border of requiring the river to be on the same level as Well Creek.

Heading into the lock

The gate opened and as we went into the lock we turned and said our farewell to the Great Ouse. We arrived on the 20th May and now twelve and a half weeks later we were leaving.

Waiting for the gate to rise

A cautionary tale of ropes and loops and locks was told to Julie who then proceeded to pull her rope all the way through the big riser at the bow. The bottom guillotine gate was lifted just a bit and cloudy silty water started to swirl around the bows of the boats. We were going up several feet onto the out going tide.

Thumbs up, we were on our way to cross the half mile of tide, the ebb pulling us out towards Kings Lynn. I stayed at the bow knowing a rope may come in handy at Salters Lode. Up ahead we could already see the boat heading for Denver, we passed and carried on down stream.

There’s the lock!

There were a few houses on the west bank, one with quite a lot of washing out. Was this where the lock was? Or was it just that bit further on round the next bend near the next house? A chap sat on a chair watching us approach. I shouted back to Mick that this was the lock. ‘Are you sure?’ Fairly. As the chap stood up from his chair I could now see the LOCK sign, but I checked anyway. ‘Yep this is it’. Just in time for Mick to start to make the turn. With the tide going out we’d been told to head straight for the lock and not to turn to face the out going tide as we’d end up dragging along the tyre wall.

Breath in!

The approach to the lock is narrow with a wooden fence helping to guide you in. Mick turned, a blast of bow thruster to avoid the starboard side from hitting the bank and into the lock we shot. Full power to stern! We’d not touched the side. Phew!

Mick chatting to Paul the Lock Keeper

At the bow it had seemed a lot calmer than our first ever turn in at Selby, but I believe the atmosphere was a touch more at the stern.

Oleanna happy as always

Now we dropped down on to Well Creek. A quick discussion as to where to aim for today. The moorings on the Middle Level tend to be 36hours, not helpful for having a full day to work for me. The next couple of places we’d be stopping at will not be cat friendly either, so we decided to stay put and moored up on the landing a short distance away from the lock.

Moored at Salters Lode

Tilly got to have a good explore round. She wasn’t that impressed, less so with the pontoon surface. Every step had to be checked twice, then the gathering swallows swooped down on her, angry at her existence.

Template for my model with a stretching cat

Work came out and I concentrated on my painted ironwork for the portals. Part way through the afternoon however my right hand started to ache a lot. Yesterday when we’d pulled up on the Wissey I’d done something to my hand whilst moving a fender. It had been painful for a little while but eased off. Today it warranted some pain killers and an early stop to work, not something I’ll be able to do every day.

I’m going to end up like a waffle if I lie on here too long!

As we watched the TV this evening Tilly decided that she’d head out again for a twilight check of the surroundings. Thankfully today the one way door returned to being one way. We did our best not to laugh out loud as Tilly crashed into the glazing and slid down onto the floor. Not deterred she tried again, clinging on with her claws for a while before giving up and heading into the bathroom to check on the new doorway there. Of course this was also glazed!

2 locks, 5.24 miles, 0.5 miles tidal, 2 rivers, 1 creek, 1 right, 1 left, 1 full water tank, 1 load washing, 1 holey outside, 2 many birdies, 2 portals closed, 1 farewell to the Great Ouse, 1 left handed mouse.

The Day One Way Became Two Way! 14th August

Littleport Station Road EA mooring to River Wissey GOBA mooring

After a good nights sleep away from the noises of London and the retained heat big cities hold we were up and breakfasted early ready to get on the move. We pushed off, winded and headed northwards, sun cream was already a requirement before 9am.

Goodbye Littleport

The high banks block any view, roof tops occasionally peek above to say hello. The pink house with windows pointing both up and down stream, the sad house even sadder now we’re leaving the Great Ouse, just one more night before we’ll be gone.

The marching line of pylons, we’ll next see them on the Middle Level. Passing the Little Ouse, plenty of moorings available in full sunshine there today.


By the time we reached Ten Mile Bank we’d just about caught up with another narrowboat. No sign of Neil the seal, but a tell tale gap had been left between boats suggesting he may have been about when people moored up. We were wanting water, so was the narrowboat in front, they loitered waiting for a boat to pull out as we discussed our options and then carried on down stream, water could wait for tomorrow.

Space for seals only

Turning down the River Wissey we had our fingers crossed not only for a mooring but also one in shade. The first stretch of moorings was empty, here the bank is gradually falling towards the river, big cracks were noticeable when we arrived on our first day on the Great Ouse. However there was a willow tree overhanging the river, it would give us some shade, but should we take the risk? Willows in dry weather are known to loose limbs, cracking and splitting away from the main trunk. We decided to risk it and tied up with the bow in sunshine, the stern in shade.

An early lunch, then an afternoon at work for me, taking photos of the set pieces so that the builders can see them in more detail. A new version of the storyboard was put together and file after file were added to the panto dropbox.

Tilly headed out for the first time in what feels like weeks, too hot really so she kept returning to lie on the floor for a while. Adding more ventilation to the boat in recent days the port side bathroom porthole glass has been removed. Tilly found this most interesting, a new way inside!


Mick took up position under the willow tree, we all settled down for the afternoon. However around 4pm he decided that he would pull us along a touch, further into the sun! This was actually quite sensible as above his head he’d started to hear an amount of creaking from the tree!

Tilly and I had a stretch of our legs as the temperature started to subside, then it was time for the doors to close as it was Dingding time. Inside the boat was now the same temperature as outside, a cooling breeze through the boat would have been nice, but we coped with the side hatch, bathroom porthole, front door open with the bathroom door closed so that our second mate couldn’t head off to do some evening friend hunting.

No throne so amended photos needed

Mick had a shower and as soon as he opened the bathroom door, Tilly saw an opportunity the other side of the bathroom was open, she was straight out through the front door. B**gger! Our first mistake! Thankfully she was a touch too glib about it and was quite easy to pick up. She was passed back into the boat through the bathroom porthole, which turned out to be our second mistake.

Oleanna has a one way doorway for felines, the side hatch. This is quite clever as access is only in one direction and that is inwards. On a couple of occasions Tilly has tried to exit via this doorway only to do a cartoon splat on the internal glazed doors. Today we had added a second such doorway, the bathroom porthole.

A clunk came from the toilet seat, this happens when you sit on our compost toilet, opening up the containers for what ever you may produce. Neither myself or Mick were sat on it. As I peeked round the door I saw the back of Tilly disappearing through the porthole!

A new opening!

She was hot, tired and too glib again at her achievement so was fairly easy to catch. What a shame she’d discovered the porthole worked in both directions, the glass was put back in and we all settled down to watch TV.

Then our third mistake. If it wasn’t for us not wanting Tilly to be out all night (shh! she doesn’t know other cats do such things), during these hot days we would possibly sleep with more windows removed and have the front doors open to let cooling night time air in. We made such a remark out loud.

Well you said if I wasn’t about you’d have all the doors open, so I thought I’d give the side hatch another go to see if it was two way like the bathroom window. Blimey it was!!! Brilliant, I could find more friends and She and Tom could get cooler, they’re not allowed out after dark, well not very often!


This time she was out and there was no catching her. Time to open all the doors and let in the tropical sunset for an hour whilst we finished watching Van der Valk. Thankfully after an hour I called for her and she returned quickly. Here’s hoping that we can persuade her that the hatch had a little blip and has now returned to being one way only, inwards!

0 locks, 9.01 miles, 1 wind, 1 right, 1 shady tree, 1 storyboard, 1 rock, 1 hot cat, 3 mistakes, 3 back on board to sleep.

Out Of The Freezer. 13th August

Littleport Station Road EA mooring

Ziggy and Finn early morning

A rail workers strike day, thankfully getting back to Oleanna shouldn’t be affected by it too much, but the hot weather could still have an effect. On Thursday trains between Ely and Cambridge were cancelled due to the heat in the afternoon and yesterday speed limits had been imposed, so I was eager to get heading back to the boat early on if I could.

Andrew and Jac were up just in time to say goodbye to me as I headed off for the bus then two tubes to get to Kings Cross, I’d ended up giving myself plenty of time to get to the station so had 45minutes to wait for my train, which was jam packed all the way to Cambridge. This meant sitting with my model box on my knee for an hour as there hadn’t been a seat near the luggage racks to keep an eye on it.

Kings Cross

Apart from it being busy it was really rather pleasant because of the air-conditioning. Oh why aren’t boats all built with air con!

Just past Ely the train slowed right down 20mph limits, slow going past all the Ely moorings, I think I spotted NB Misty Blue with other boats breasted up to him. Then about ten minutes late the train pulled into Littleport, the doors opened to a wall of heat. Blimey I’d had over an hour of not feeling clammy that I’d forgotten this would hit when stepping off the train.

The golden crisp dry world we live in

Back onboard Tilly was being a long cat. The fan was moving air around, wet towels hung up and a couple of windows had been removed to encourage a breeze through the boat.

My bags were unpacked and I was at work within minutes. We were near to a post box and two things needed to be sent off. 1 a full set of drawings for panto, 2 Josh’s birthday card, most important. Mick was going to bring it to London but that of course hadn’t happened, so presents will have to wait till we see them next.

Boy glass, girl glass

With a hot and bored cat the afternoon dragged on as we didn’t want to move at the hottest point of the day. Mick headed off to the Co-op to stock up on a few bits whilst I worked following up on notes from the meeting.

Boats came and went from behind us, the river quite busy well into the evening. Mick rang Denver to see if we could find out what time we’d be able to lock through on Monday, he left a message. We think it’ll be around midday, but hopefully someone will call back.

It’s nice to be home, but I so wish someone would turn the oven off!

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 bus, 2 tubes, 1 train, 1 hot and bothered cat, 1 hot and dripping Mick, 31C inside, 1 cooler evening thankfully.

Filling Up On Halibut. 12th August

The Swan on the River mooring to Littleport Station Road mooring

A very hot humid night in London and I suspect onboard Oleanna too. Today the temperature would rise that bit more and would end up changing our plans.

I wonder what used to be on the ground floor

After breakfast I headed of with a bottle of water in hand, caught a bus then the tube into Piccadilly Circus. I was here to check things out. I wanted to see which way Eros faced, get some photos of my own and then take a look at the building that stands on the corner of Shaftsbury Avenue and Great Windmill Street as I want to use it in my panto set.

I got some good photos, but not quite at the right angle, I needed to look across at Eros, not up at him. Lilywhites was nearly at the right angle and there was a staircase up through the building. It was worth a look. Well it wasn’t really as they position things on the window sills to deter photographers don’t they! Hopefully I’ve enough images to work from.

Chilled chocolate bears

I decided to walk up Piccadilly, sticking to the shade, bobbing into Fortnum and Masons to appreciate their air conditioning for a little while and watch people stacking expensive teas into their shopping baskets.

I then dropped down into the underground at Green Park and took the tube to Stockwell, here my plans were stalled, the Northern line south bound was suspended. Time to join a massive queue for the 155 bus. I soon realised that this bus would take me along a part of London I used to know very well. Clapham North was were I lived in my final year at college and the route south from here had many places I used to visit when I lived in Brixton for three years. I’ve not really been back to Clapham Common since I left so it was lovely to see that somethings hadn’t changed in the last 26 years.

Morag and me

I hopped off the bus in Balham and kept myself in the shade walking to my friend Morag’s flat. Despite the hold up with transport I arrived perfectly as she’d just finished a Teams meeting for work. Morag is a very good school friend of mine, we’d last met when we were in Marple last year. There was lots to catch up on and a very lovely vegetarian lunch to enjoy before she had to be back at work for her next Teams meeting at her dining room table.

Heading back

Meanwhile back on Oleanna, Mick spotted a boat that had been moored behind us yesterday near the station, so he knew there should be a space there. He pushed off, winded and returned to the handier mooring for trains to London. The electric boat we’ve seen a few times on our way back from Bedford was there and Mick pulled in. The lady on board was having problems with her generator, so Mick mentioned he’d just left the pub mooring where there is hook up. She was off like a shot to plug in and wait for someone to come out and sort her troublesome generator.

Fresh air for Tilly

Our original plan had been for Mick to catch a train sometime in the afternoon and come down to join me at the London Leckenby’s for the night. But as there was no shade at the mooring the temperature was rising inside Oleanna. 31C. Not too bad when you can have the windows and hatch open to encourage a breeze to pass through. But with everything shut up to keep a cat indoors it would be really unpleasant. This along with longer delays on the trains due to the heat we decided that Mick should stay with Tilly and make sure she didn’t cook overnight. A real shame, but better for our second mate.

The British Museum

My next port of call was the British Museum. I joined a rather long queue of people going through the security checks and headed indoors, I think a lot of people were heading in doors out of the sunshine. I headed straight for the right room, one that was built to house what are known to many as The Elgin Marbles. One day they will be sent back to Greece, but today I was glad they were still here as I wanted a closer look and to take photos as I’d like to do a touch of a panto joke with them. Lots of photos later and a comfort break I was heading back out to Hackney to help with the final preparations for dinner.


During the afternoon in Littleport a boat had pulled up behind Oleanna. There was then a bold knock on the roof. Mick popped his head out to see if he could help only to find Graham from NB Misty Blue who we did the Tideway and cruised some of the Regents Canal with last summer. He’d spotted Oleanna and stopped to say hello before carrying on for the day, looking for shade. Now some people think we move fast, we know we don’t! But Graham has been all over the place since we last saw him. Then he was heading for the Kennet and Avon which he did and carried on up the River Severn to the Gloucester Sharpness, he was one of the last boats across the Rochdale before it closed and a couple of days ago he crossed The Wash. Hopefully I’ll get chance to say hello when he comes past us next.

Jane and Kevin

This evening we were joined by Jane and her new (to us) boyfriend Kevin, who are over visiting from Sydney. We all grew up together in York as our Mum’s were best friends. It was so lovely to see Jane, hear the news from Australia. Of course there was food, including a whole halibut a first for Andrew to cook. What a wonderful fish, I suspect they will be eating the left overs for days to come.

Conversation kept going until midnight when slightly boozy photos were taken. What a lovely evening.

Happy times

0 locks, 0.621371 miles back, 2 moorings swapped, 5 buses, 4 tubes, 31C inside at 2pm, 1 London trip abandoned, 1 breezy boat, 1 hot but safe cat, 1 statue, 2 rooms of marbles, 2 old friends, 1 new friend made, 34C, 1 day of shade finding.

Pip, Jane, Emma, Andrew 1968. Just like it was yesterday

Where The Streets Are Paved In Gold. 11th August

Littleport Station Road EA mooring to Swan On The River mooring

All packed up

Early morning start for me today, catching the 8:12am train to Kings Cross with my white card model and overnight bag. Due to the heat that was already building my train had speed restrictions on much of the line in towards Ely where there was a backlog of trains, but thankfully we got moving soon enough and I actually arrived in Golders Green for my meeting bang on time.

Abi , Gemma, Suzette, Maryna

Today had originally been a meeting for myself Abi, the Director and Gemma, the Production Manager to look at the white card model and for me to hand over drawings to be priced up. However we were also joined by Suzette, Producer from Chippy, Lily, the Choreographer and Maryna Costume Designer. We had four hours to work our way through the show with the aim of a common direction for the production.

Maryna comes from an Opera and Ballet background, she also has not grown up with all that is panto. So quite a lot of time was taken up looking at her wonderful drawings and then explaining about the audiences expectations for the characters. Thankfully there was just about enough time to also go through my model scene by scene, but sadly a few tricky props got forgotten about which really should have been discussed. There can always be phone calls to sort those out though.

Tube mosaic

Meanwhile back on Oleanna, Mick and Tilly pushed off and headed back upstream to the Swan on the River. Here he managed to get a mooring outside the pub and in the afternoon he met up with Mick and Andy who at one time used to work for Philips and then all three of them worked in the Telecoms Department at Lloyds Bank, most probably in one of those buildings Mick pointed out to us along the Thames on Monday. They had a couple of hours sat in the pub garden reminiscing about old times.

Hot cat Finn

After my meeting I then relived the experience of transporting a model on London transport! It’s amazing how protective you become over a model you’ve spent hours working on. I headed out to Hackney to my brothers.

All that meat for just two people!

It was very nice having a catch up on their latest holiday and seeing how much Josh has grown both height and maturity wise. In the evening we all went out for a Turkish meal at Scoffs, it’s worth a visit if you end up mooring on the River Lee near Hackney Marshes. We shared a platter intended for two between the four of us with a portion of Haloumi and chips extra, there was plenty of food at a reasonable price.

Colour coded softness

0 locks, 0.621371 miles, 1 wind, 1 train, 3 tubes, 1 bus, 1 model approved, 2 hours drinking with old mates, 1 vast platter of kebabs, 1 pleasant evening with family, 33C, 3 pillows to choose from, 0 shore leave!

Working Pootling. 9th 10th August

Jubilee Gardens, Ely to Padnell Fen GOBA mooring to Littleport Station Road, EA Mooring

The drawing board was out straight after breakfast, time for the final push before my white card model meeting on Thursday. Mick popped to Sainsburys to get a few things to keep us going, Then we winded in the entrance of Cathedral Marina waved to Stewart on WB Misty and headed for the service mooring, well to join the queue.

Can you tie up a better outside PLEASE!

A boat had just pushed off allowing the next one to pull in to fill and empty as required. We pulled alongside them to wait, I continued working below as Mick chatted away. It seemed to be taking forever for them to fill with water, the lady had filled a couple of buckets then turned the hose on again. It turned out that she’d only just turned the tap back on! Once they were full we pushed out to let them out then came back in to fill our water tank and empty yellow water. The washing machine had been busy so we needed quite a bit. By the time we’d finished another two boats were waiting.

Bye bye Ely

Time to say a final farewell to Ely.

Granny annexes

The chap who we watched building extensions to his boat appears to have built a couple of what might be granny annexes, each with a tent on a floating platform.

Moving indoor office

With Mick at the helm and me below we pootled our way downstream on the Great Ouse, the high banks masking any view, but there was a nice cool breeze coming in through the hatch. We’d decided to head for the River Lark and the nice mooring there where Tilly could have some shore leave. Thankfully there was space and we made ourselves at home quickly.

Drawings drawings drawings

All afternoon I continued amending drawings so that the set can be priced up. Only one scene left to draw up, the final one where I’d changed everything.

As we were somewhere nice with space to sit out we got the barbeque out. Mick filled a bucket of water which was placed close to the fire just in case. We enjoyed veg kebabs and some teriyaki salmon before the sun started to set and both of us started to feel very chilly, in fact we even got goose bumps!


What a wonderful sunset. Every time I looked out of the hatch it had gone one step redder.



Not more work!

Wednesday. We needed to move for ease of access to a station. Our advance party on NB Cleddau had checked to see if the moorings near Littleport station had reopened. Photos had been sent to us a few days ago, we just hoped that there would be space for us.

Mick smug after winding

Facing the wrong way we tried a couple of times to wind, but the river was just about 60ft wide, a little bit further upstream we managed and headed back to the Great Ouse where we slowed to let a cruiser pass and then turned right towards Littleport.

The missing scene was almost drawn up by the time we had passed The Swan on the River pub, there was space here, but we carried on to the mooring nearer the station.

Not one boat was moored, so we pulled in at the far end then pulled back hoping a tree might just give us a touch of shade this afternoon. Sadly what shade fell on Oleanna only lasted about an hour until she was back in full sun!

I didn’t take the sign down

By 6:30 all the technical drawings for panto were done. Tilly was hot and bored and annoying. A blue Ikea bag came out and the model was packed away into it ready for the morning. Here’s hoping it gets approved and I can quickly get it coloured up.

Zero shade anywhere!

0 locks, 7.22 miles, 2 rights, 2 winds, 1 slow tap, 1 full turn, 1 quick tap, 1 empty wee tank, 1 favourite mooring, 3.5 hours shore leave, 2 owls heard not seen, 1 stunner of a sunset, 1 pantomime drawn up, 28C inside, 1 model all packed up, 1 designer with her fingers crossed for tomorrow.

Hockney Green. 2nd August

Noble Field GOBA mooring

Back when we were moored in St Ives.

A day off work and a day trip in to Cambridge.

Guided on the old railway line

We caught the B bus, one of the Guided buses that connects Huntingdon, St Ives and Cambridge. The Guided Busway is the longest in the world and follows the course of the former Cambridge and Huntingdon Railway, the bus driver doesn’t need to steer whilst on the guided track. However they do need to take over when the bus runs on normal roads! Heather had told us of the wild flowers bordering the track, but these are all now sadly gone.

The Fitzwilliam Museum

Whilst on the bus I booked us tickets to the Fitzwilliam Museum. This meant we could enter by the main door have our tickets zapped and head off to explore the museum, well the upper floor mainly as this is where the Hockney exhibition was to be found.

Hockney’s Eye , The art and technology of depiction, is a very interesting exhibition. It explores the many ways of seeing and depicting in art and how pictures have been created through his eyes.

Hockney has been known for his use of modern technology, using photographs, iphones and ipads. The exhibition draws together the naturalistic techniques used by the old masters, explains them and collects together artworks made using those techniques and pairs them up with works by Hockney where he has manipulated the rules or gone in the opposite direction from them.

Get out of the way! It doesn’t work from that side!!!

The drawing of perspective was explained with the use of the vanishing point. A piece of Perspex stood with lines drawn on it and a cross marked the spot of where to stand, showing how an artist draws. This needed a little explanation to Mick and others as nowhere on the instructions did it mention that you needed not only to be stood on the cross on the floor but also at the right height! This was not helped by two ladies stood in the way of the picture frame you need to line up with at the other end of the gallery!


A wooden box sits in front of Extreme Unction by Poussin. Through a spy hole in the box you can observe the scene seen in the painting. 3D wax figures take up positions around a bed, a strong light coming in from the left. The model in a box is used to help get the lighting right for the painting. At college, one of our first projects was to make a scene in a shoe box and to see how different angles and colours of light affected the mood within. High up on a wall opposite hangs a painting by one of my favourite artists, Caravaggio a master chiaroscuro (the effect of contrasted light and shade in a painting).

Amazing architectural detail

Use of a Camera Obscura is shown exceptionally well in the paintings of Canaletto. His perspective landscapes of Venice so intricate in detail and perspective, the box with mirrors a tool to assist in their creation.

Images reflected down from the roof

Outside the museum is a much larger camera obscura in a hut. The image reflected onto a table of the passing scenes along the road outside. If you had a piece of paper and a pencil these could so easily be traced for the foundation of a picture.

A collection of small drawings by Ingres of travellers amuse and astound with their detail. Hockney after enlarging one of these found evidence that it was possibly traced, marks on the paper suggested the use of a Camera Lucida. Here the apparatus allows the artist to see both subject and paper at the same time. With this points of reference can be marked on the paper, distances between eyes, the relationship to the mouth enabling an accurate dot to dot as it were. Hockney has used the technique himself producing a fantastic portrait of Sir Ian McKellen.

A group of drawings/paintings made using a Camera Lucida and free hand drawing portray a group of gallery staff from the National Gallery who sit and watch the public. They are uniform in both style and clothes, yet unique in the accuracy of their portraiture.

Green a coloured used a lot by Hockney as a base

Hockney would send ipad paintings of bowls of flowers to his friends on a daily basis. Flowers that would last and not wilt in a vase. We saw his filmed footage of landscapes around the Yorkshire Wolds, these used to be painted onto large sections of canvas which were displayed together in a similar way. None of his composite photographs though that show not only a person from one sitting but also everything around them.

Stubbs above, Hockney below

I overheard a young lady looking at a painting of Hockney’s from his college days when abstraction was all the rage. He wanted to go against the formal training he’d received at college depicting a romantic notion from a Blake poem The Tyger, the painting above by Stubbs depicting a similar romantic emotion in a different style. The young lady said ‘that’s rubbish I could do that in ten minutes!’ ‘It’s just all so insulting!’ Art and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, whether that be the artists eye or a young lady in a museum, she did not appreciate the strokes of Hockney’s brush and had tainted the whole exhibition as ‘insulting’

What a glum Mary and Christ

At least it provoked emotion from her. I hope that she and her companion had just arrived and that her attitude would be confronted elsewhere in the exhibition. Another lady looked down glumly at the paintings, not impressed either. But then again she does have a very chubby middle aged man for a baby!

A lovely looking sandwich

We broke up our visit with lunch in the cafe, Mick having an egg sandwich with some tasty chutney whilst I had a slightly drab gluten free Mediterranean vegetable wrap without chutney which would have pepped it up a bit.

We maybe should have walked around the other galleries, taken a look at the objects on the lower floors, but the Hockney exhibition was what had brought us here and was well worth the trip out.

On our way back through town we were astounded that there was no queue at Jack’s Gelato, another reason for a day in Cambridge. A study of the menu and we both fancied trying the roasted banana, but sadly so had everyone else and they had just run out! Instead I had strawberries and elderflower with a second scoop of Mango sorbet, Mick Dark Chocolate with sea salt and a second scoop of Honeycomb, well we won’t be back in Cambridge or quite some time!

Double chilled medication

We called into Heffers for another birthday present, sadly the book in question was not on their shelves so we were directed to Waterstones. We were surprised at this until we found out that Waterstones bought Blackwells bookshops a few years ago. They were right to send us to the other shop, where we found one copy of a rather heavy book.

Books books books

Thank you Cambridge for an interesting tasty arty day out.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 guided buses, 1 art exhibition, 1 wrap, 1 sandwich, 2 scoops each, 1 heavy tomb, 1 very good day off, 1 blog post over a week late.

Sky, Family, Design, Dishoom, 40th. 8th August


The alarm was set and we were breakfasted, none boating clothes on and walking to the station by 8:20am. Mick had forgotten to bring with him a mask so did a quick dash into Tescos. Then we were on our way to London for the day.

The birthday girl

A tube ride and a short walk brought us to the Walkie Talkie building where we joined the queue to head up to the Sky Garden. After security checks we zipped up to the 35th floor to join Marion, John and most importantly Fran, Mick’s niece who turns 40 tomorrow.

The first section of the viewing gallery really needs a good window wash as dribbles disturb the view across the river. What a view it was! My photos don’t do it justice.

360 degrees of London, all of it.

We paused for a sit down and a young lad was asking his mum what a flower in the garden was, a large yellow lavish affair with bright red stamen. She didn’t know and was suggesting they took a photo and found out later. My app came in handy and we discovered it was a Ginger Lily, the little lad was very pleased.

Fran, Kath and John

Next was a recce of Borough Street Market where we met up with Kath another sibling of Mick’s. A sit down whilst we considered what to have for lunch meant we had to have a drink!

The Wheatsheaf came up trumps with one of Mick’s old favourites, Young’s Original. They also had a couple of gluten free beers to choose from.


Fran and I had our eyes on the paella with giant langoustine, although the chap in front managed to get the last one! Mick and Kath had huge salt beef sandwiches, whilst Marion and John had empanadas.

A saunter along the south bank followed as we’d need to work off lunch. Mick pointed out YET again which buildings he used to work in along the river, along with all the pubs that he used to frequent when he was a yuppy!

Crossing the river

Across the wibbley Millennium Bridge towards St Pauls to catch the tube out to High Street Kensington and The Design Museum.

Lots of things

A cuppa and a sit down before some headed off to look round the Football: Designing the beautiful game exhibition, Kath headed into Holland Park to people watch whilst Mick and I looked round the rest of the displays.

Bethany Williams is a fashion and textile designer. She reuses waste in her work and involves communities. Several items were made from tents that had been abandoned at festivals, others are overprinted with bright bold designs.

Scrubb fabric

She was one of the three designers who in 2020 founded the EDN (Emergency Designer Network). Using their knowledge of textile manufacturing they created a network that galvanised over 200 UK volunteers who made approximately 12,000 scrubs, 100,000 masks and 4,000 gowns for frontline staff. They created their own pattern for ease of manufacture, had factories cut out the fabric and assembled kits for them to be made up.


The top floor houses an exhibition called Designer Maker User. Here items are displayed to illustrate how important each element of their creation is, whether it be design for a wonderful looking item or a user suggesting an item should be a certain size, each stage is as important as each other. Chairs, Telephones, logos, all sorts of things.

Time for another sit down in another pub The Prince of Wales where we all congregated and refreshed ourselves before crossing the road to eat at Dishoom. Here we were joined by Richard (Fran’s brother), Christine and Paul, leaving only one of Fran’s Aunts missing Anne who is currently with grandchildren in Wales.

Marion, Paul, Richard, Fran, Christine, John

Dishoom is a chain of restaurants based on the old Irani Cafes of Bombay. They serve breakfast, chai, lunch and evening meals. Here the restaurant is based in the old Barkers Department store, 1930’s decor surrounded us. For every meal they serve they donate one to a child who would otherwise go hungry. So far they’ve donated 13 million meals.

The menu took a little bit to understand as the dishes don’t tend to be quite the size of your normal Indian restaurant, so you are encouraged to order a couple each. There was a good gluten free menu, from which Mick and I chose a good selection. At the other end of the table a Lamb Biryani with a pastry crust resembled a cow pie.

Kulfi is always pointy

Paneer Tikka, Chicken Ruby, Bowl of Greens, Steamed rice, a roti for Mick and Kala Chana Salad, all very very tasty. I may have to put the Dishoom cookery book on my Christmas list. Oh and some Indian Chilled Medication of the mango variety.

A very lovely day to celebrate Fran’s 40th birthday, thank you for inviting us.

A little bit of hope on the board

We made our way back to Kings Cross believing there to be a train every half hour back to Ely. But two disruptions had occurred earlier in the day with overhead power lines so the departure board looked a touch discouraging with cancellations and delayed trains. We toyed with going to Liverpool Street Station for a train which would get us to at least Cambridge, but then the board changed showing a slow train to Cambridge. A later train was still showing as heading through Ely an hour later. We boarded the stopping service and hoped the later train would still run so we could change trains at Cambridge. We were fortunate that our plan worked, arriving back in Ely just gone midnight. Tilly was very pleased to see us even though we’d left her with her magic food bowl.


0 locks, 0 miles, 3 trains, 3 tubes, 7 miles walked, 3 out of 4 aunts, 1 uncle, 1 nephew, 1 40 year old niece, 1 very lovely day with family, 1 Indian chilled medication.