Category Archives: Historic Boats

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.

Filling The Roof. 18th December

Napton to nearly Gibraltar Bridge 20, Grand Union

Even though my sour dough starter seems to have faultered again I had a big jar of discard ready to be used, so this morning I had a go at some sour dough pancakes. These can either be started the night before or a little while before you want to cook them. Leaving them over night develops the flavour, but as my discard is a touch dubious I just mixed the mixture this morning.

It would only go to waste otherwise!

With a plate on top of the stove I cooked a half portion of the the recipe and kept them warm under a t towel until I’d finished the batter up. Verdict, very nice. Just wonder what they’d be like with proper discarded starter.

Tilly had been allowed out this morning, she was being kept busy. I was just about to go out and do my mad cat woman shouting when she appeared, Mick opened the hatch and we were three again. Time to move on.

Last narrow lock for a while

Down the last narrow lock we pulled in and disposed of all the rubbish we’d been accumulating. With no recycling bins until the new year everything ended up in the big skip at the service block. People say where there are no recycling bins the rubbish still gets sorted rather than going to landfill, I hope so.

We then pushed across to the water point and topped the tank up, the washing machine had been run this morning, so it took a little bit of time to fill. With the boat moored on the port side we emptied the yellow water into our container for disposal, the towpath won’t be on the right side for a while so best to make use of it now.

Napton Windmill

Last year we did these chores on Christmas Eve along with quite a few other boats, but today we had everything to ourselves. The sun was out and we pushed on to Napton Junction. The original plan had us continuing straight on here, but today we turned right for the first time, into Wigrams Turn Marina.

Wigrams Turn

There were plenty of people about, maybe live aboards or just folks preparing for a Christmas cruise. The service mooring was empty so we filled it. We’d guessed that it being run by the same company as at Cropredy the diesel price would be the same, but sadly no, 97p a litre, 11p more! Good job we only wanted a top up and four more bags of coal went on the roof. We are now stocked up for Christmas and hopefully into the New Year, the roof is a touch full and hard to see over!

Straight on to Christmas

We winded and then back at the junction we went straight on, onto the Grand Union. First thought was to stop above Calcutt Locks, but then we decided to go down them, the top one almost full.

Calcutt Top Lock

Back onto wide locks with their candlestick/bomb shaped paddle gears. Winding winding winding. Then that hard to describe fluttering noise, as the water lowers around the large openings of the paddle gear on the chamber sides, almost like Hannibal Lecter’s noise when he meets Clarice,

Just a
few apples

Down the three locks, then we sought out a length of Armco where Tilly could go out. On the off side a group of old boats are clustered, many with memorable names, Adamant the last one not in steam today. We pulled in and gave Tilly half an hour, she returned in good time, then was a touch miffed at the doors staying closed.

A good name

As the evening progressed the wind built up along with torrential rain, this of course coincided with the gas bottle running out. We knew it would as it always does just after you’ve been somewhere you could get a new one. We’re hoping for a lull in the rain tomorrow to get down the Stockton flight without getting too wet.

Payment to my brother for our postal service for the year. Lots of smoked fish from the Port of Lancaster Smokehouse.

4 locks, 1 narrow, 3 wide, 3.98 miles, 1 right, 1 wind, 1 straight on, 4 bags coal, 26.78 litres, 20 minutes, 1 sock finished, 1 toe.

Moving! 18th October

Newbury to Greenham Lock

Hunting round for a printers to do copies of my plans I noticed a group of possibles behind the marina opposite. I chose one to aim for and set off with my tracing paper roll under my arm. After I’d crossed the canal the roll had to be tucked inside my fleece as it had started to rain. They were wrapped in a plastic bag, but all the same I didn’t want to end up with a wrinkly set.

Newbury Salmon ladder

In what seemed to be someones garage I opened the door and enquired if they did A2 copies. No came the answer from a chap hidden behind numerous toner cartridges, but there was a place in Aldermaston. That was no good to me, they’d be closed on Sunday when we might just pass through. They could however do me a couple of copies that covered the whole drawing, that would do me.

Modern printers are like old TV sets they take forever to warm up and get going. A test copy was done, which took forever to appear at the far end of the garage. This was fine and he set about doing my copies for me. once this machine got going it didn’t hang around! They charged a minimum of £7.50, was that okay? Just over 30p a sheet that was great, an A2 would have been around £2 a go!

Ambient! My lasagne the other day was ambient too

Now with a bigger roll I looked like I was hiding a shot gun under my fleece. I met Mick at Sainsburys where we stocked up on perishables. Back at the boat we had lunch and then pushed off.

Dante modelling a new woofer life jacket

Okay so we didn’t go far, just around the corner to wait for the marina service mooring to become free. Then we pushed over doing ‘an Andy’ to get the stern in against the strong wind. Newbury has no C&RT water points, but here you can top up your tank for £2, if you spend enough on other things it’s free. We managed 50 litres diesel and a bag of coal, so we got the H2O for free. I put a load of washing on to make the most of it.

When the new rulings come in for Diesel the chap said they wouldn’t sell to passing boats anymore. How many other places will go the same way?

Impatient locals

This all took time and it was nearly four by the time our tank gave it’s boom to tell us it was full. So we pushed back over, mooring just before Greenham Lock. All was good, with empty and full tanks as required and a clean pooh bucket, happy boaters.

Whilst Tilly explored this stretch of narrow land between canal and river I drew up a template for the pattern in the Boozer for Panto. This recurs on several bits of set, so being able to draw it out quickly will be a great help. With this then cut out I could start putting things away.

Work corner

For months now the corner of our dinette has had a model sitting in it along with boxes of paints and my model making box. It is normally tied away better than in this photo. I’d hoped that the Production Manager for Vienna might manage to pick the model up this weekend, but we are too far off his route, so it will be sent by courier instead, we’ll have to put up with it for a while longer. Everything else though could be packed away again and stowed under the seating until next year.

Mine!
It’s all mine!

Tilly woke up just as I was putting the cushions back and made sure that she claimed them by rolling all over the place and running along the dinette sideways, those poor cushions!

Our forth and final meal from the left over pork this evening. Left over stew, just about anything that I could find went into this in my cast iron pot which was left to bubble for a couple of hours. With a large jacket potato each it was very tasty. The joint may have been large, but it did us five main meals so that’s just over £1 a go. Not bad.

A photo for Frank

Earlier than advertised the Michaelmas Fair firework display started. We tried looking out of the hatch but we were too far away with too many trees in the way to see anything. Oh well, we just listened instead.

0 locks, 0.24 miles, 52.4 litres, 1 bag Glow, 1 full tank water, 1 empty wee tank, 1 clean pooh bucket, 24 copies, 1 chicken, A1 template, 1 corner reclaimed, 1 set loaded ready for Monday, 3 yellow boards, the rest still red, 2 free days hooray!

Eastward Bound. 23rd September

Brunels Quay to Ferris Railway Bridge 211

Oleanna with the SS Great Britain

This morning I noticed a natty little thing on the ferry that crosses from our mooring to the SS Great Britain. On the bow of the boat is a metal hoop which pivots, controlled by a cable from the helm. As the ferry is brought in and lined up to the jetty the metal hoop is lowered over a post. The driver then walks to the bow flips down the ramp which covers the watery gap, passengers get off or on, she then flips the ramp back up returns to the helm and lifts the hoop off the post and away they go. This means that the ferry can be a one person operation as nobody is needed to tie ropes. Here’s a link to a video I took of it this morning (warning it’s 35MB!).

A close up of the bridge

Two more loads of washing were put through the machine, hoping to use up some more electric before we left. This helped pass the time whilst I composed a long email to the theatre in Vienna with photos of the model for A Regular Little Houdini. With the final rinses happening we headed to the nearby Tesco for a few supplies and then we were ready for the off.

About to cast off

Once the ropes were carefully untied from the wobbliest wobblesome pontoon, the wind helping to push Oleanna away from it, we winded and set off for a little tour of the harbour before we left.

Still westward bound

Down towards the Underfall Yard where we turned, mow eastward bound.

Rigging on the SS Great Britain

We headed back past the SS Great Britain, we then cruised down past the electric cranes and turned into Bordeaux Quay and The Waterfront winding at the far end before then passing under Prince Street Bridge, leaving the harbour.

A concrete boat having a house built on top

We would have liked to stay for longer but sadly time is limited before I start work and the cost of mooring here is a little off putting. A week would cost us around £160, cheaper than a hotel and we’d get all our washing done, but still a touch costly.

Straight through Netham Lock

As we cruised our way out of town storm clouds gathered behind us. Waterproofs were gathered from inside. Straight through Netham Lock and we were back onto the river. Gradually more trees surrounded us, gradually the sky became darker. The forecast originally had been for rain at 4, then 2, but it got started at midday. We hoped for a mooring as soon as we got back onto C&RT waters.

Starting to rain

Hanham Lock was in our favour so we rose the 15 inches or so. There was a space on the pontoon at The Chequers Pub, but we’d have had to shrink a touch to fit. Onwards in the rain, waterproof trousers were now required. Mick valiantly stood at the helm whilst I made tea and lunch to have on the go, but his sandwich stayed inside for fear it would get too soggy.

Keynsham Lock and some kind sole had left the top paddles open, so this very slow lock took even longer in the rain than it needed to. Mick hung back away from the lock whilst I emptied it, the flow from the lock would have necessitated mooring up fully on the lock landing. Then we rose slowly, very slowly. The last 2 foot taking a life time !

?

It still rained. Not even an inch spare on the pontoon here. Onwards to Ferris Railway Bridge where thank goodness there was space for two next to the one that had taken up residency. We settled down and started to dry off.

There was just enough phone signal for me to have a chat through the props list for Panto with Jo the prop maker. Good job I don’t really use my phone much as it took us a good hour and a half to work our way through the show. Jo will start work on collecting materials in the next week then she’ll start by making the prop car and mod scooters.

This morning I received photos from Australia of the knitting project I was busy with earlier in the year.

Billie at 1 week old

This is Billie at a week old with the blanket I knitted for her. Billie is the great niece of my bestest friend Emma. Nellie, Billies Mum, was very pleased with it, so was Chief their woofer.

Dad and Chief look on

3 locks, 1 straight through, 11.41 miles, 2 more loads washing, £3 left on the post, 1 tour of the harbour, 2 misleading forecasts, 2 soggy boaters, 3rd mooring lucky, 1.5 hours talking smash, pub stools and mod scooters, 0 shore leave for Tilly again! 1 sour dough woken, 1wk old Billie all wrapped up.

Stretched out on my blanket

Like Giggling Teenagers. 22nd September

Bristol Floating Harbour

Torrential rain woke me at 3am hammering on the roof trying to get in. I checked all the windows were closed and climbed back into bed. By 3:30 the outside world had calmed down so sleeping could continue.

Saturday paper on a Sunday

No alarm clock, we had a lie in and enjoyed a cuppa and the Saturday newspaper in bed. It’s been a while.

A quick tidy and brush up, another load of washing and we were ready.

Two giggling 52 year old teenagers walked down the side of the boat. I knew exactly who they were.

Rachael, Charlotte and Pip

Charlotte and Rachael two of my old school friends from York. Charlotte is a teacher and lives in Bristol and Rachael runs a plant nursery near Malvern. These two ladies were Goths back in the 80’s. They wore black head to toe and had spiky hair, where as I wore all red and occasionally crimped my hair.

They had a good look round Oleanna and met Tilly, although she’d rather have gone out! Then we headed to Wetherspoons for some lunch and a drink. There was lots to catch up on, poor Mick coped very well.

Old friends

I last saw Charlotte at my 40.5 birthday party. We used to keep in touch until we moved onto the boat, then Charlotte moved house several times around Bristol and we lost touch. I luckily found her on Whatsap a couple of weeks ago. Rachael on the other hand I hadn’t seen since we left school. She went off to train as a Stage Manager, performed in a circus act and lived on a coach in Sheffield for a while. She then worked at Askam Bryan, an agricultural college near York, and now designs gardens for people.

Several life times have passed, we caught up on gossip of friends all across the globe. It was a very lovely afternoon with them. We hope to all meet up again when we reach Birmingham at the beginning of next year.

THE Green boat that’s made the headlines recently

There was still enough daylight to go for a walk and help wear off the lunchtime drinking. So Mick and I decided to walk round the harbour to see what else there was to see.

Some of the harbour

By the 1760’s Bristol had become such a popular port for cargo ships it was struggling to accommodate all the ships. In 1765 the idea of a floating none tidal harbour was put forward by engineer John Smeaton. But no progress was made until 1790 and by 1802 William Jessop was engaged to come up a scheme. He put together various ideas from earlier proposals.

Colourful

The River Avon was dammed at Rownham and at the bottom of Totterdown Hill, near Temple Meads, impounding all the water of the Avon and Frome between these points. A weir at Netham controlled the level of the Harbour water, channelling water along a Feeder Canal and allowing excess to spill back into the tidal river Avon. A half tide basin was constructed with locks to the river and the harbour.

Curved lock gates

We walked down to the River Avon past Junction Lock, Cumberland Basin (the half tide basin) to Entrance Lock which takes vessels down onto the tidal river.

Blimey it’s high up

Standing between the lock and the weir we could look down the valley towards the River Severn, Clifton Suspension Bridge sitting high above everything. Lines of coloured houses brightened up the greying skies.

Spot the ball

A pool under the Plimsole Swing Bridge was playing host to teams playing Canoe Polo, highly energetic and wet.

Mick controlling the harbour level

At Underfall Yard there is a museum where models demonstrate how the level of the floating harbour is kept constant and how they scour out the silt that collects. Notice boards around the harbour warn you of days and times that this process takes place.

4 fingers and a thumb
Pretty boat

Plenty of boats are moored up, some with all the services and other with little other than a ladder to gain access to your boat. Past the Harbour Masters building and along the south side of the harbour.

The sun managed to come out

A clock tower on a 1920’s building glowed in the late sunshine against the bright blue sky. Down the side of the building at the end of an alleyway an alarm box had been put to artistic purpose.

A Banksy

Banksy in 2014 painted his version of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earing. This is called the Girl with a Pierced Ear. The spatters and dribbles make this piece, we did wonder if the central heating flue had been added after the girl was painted or before.

Broken down sign
No sign of Wallace

Signs of the Bristol Old Vic Scenic Workshop and Aardman Animation. Theatre and Wallace and Gromit close neighbours.

Peeking over the fence

We’d considered visiting the SS Great Britain, now it was too late in the day and the £17 entrance fee put us off. Instead we looked at the stern through the fence for free, not quite the same as going round, but considerably cheaper!

There is a bit of road in there somewhere

From here railway lines criss and cross what was the docks.

Electric cranes all lined up

Four electric cranes still stand at the waters edge, the only remainers of the 40 that had existed in the 1950s. What a different place this would have been 70 years ago. No museums cafes and bars then.

Mirror ball

We crossed back over to the north bank on Prince Street Bridge then over Peros Bridge and towards Millenium Square. Here cascading water sculptures reminded us of Sheffield station.

The biggest mirror ball gave me opportunities to take our photos before we looked at the electric generating tree. Below this you can charge your phone whilst enjoying the aroma of the rosemary bushes as a statue of Cary Grant watches you. Millenium Parade brought us back to the boat for some play time with Tilly.

Energy tree
Rosemary phone charger

The cruiser that had been moored near us had left, so we decided to give the other boat left on the moorings a bit more space. We pushed over to the next pontoon, which was one of the wobbliest I’ve ever tried walking on, more like a fairground ride than somewhere safe to tie up to. The wind blew Oleanna away as I clung onto the centre line, Mick waiting for me to pass it back to tie us up. I stayed put trying to keep my balance until we were tied up, reducing the number of sides I could fall off to one.

Cary Grant apparently

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 old friends, 2 much to catch up on, 3 burgers, 1 quinoa salad, 1 portion of halloumi fries, 1 Punk IPA, 1 Swift 1, 1 wine, 1 coffee, 5 mile walk, 4 cranes, £17!! 1 tide out, 1 more day without friends, 1 boat almost blown away, 40ft of wobbliest wobblyness.

It’s Only Taken Us Four Years. 3rd September

Beale Park to Fobney Lock, Kennet and Avon Canal

Our Thames licence ran out today so we had to take one of three options. Seriously get a move on and catch the tide at Teddington (18 hours cruising so not possible), wind and head back up stream to Oxford to hop onto the canal there (10 hours, so possible) or carry on down stream and hang a right at Reading (3 hours, the preferred option).

Blue blue blue

We pushed off at 9am the sky and river bright blue behind us.

Seven
Six

Ahead I managed to get pictures of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’.

Five
Four

Each one unique, the one currently for sale the plainest.

Three
Two

Have to say I’d quite like one with towers and balconies, but the road and railway would still put me off. The fifth one along (Three) is really quite shy, the trees in front of it giving it good solid cover from the river.

One

At Whitchurch Lock we descended on our own a narrowboat arriving just a touch too late to join us. I bobbed below to get some alterations done to my model as we cruised towards Mapledurham Lock.

Daybreak

A hotel wide beam was coming up in the lock and we joined the queue to go down, the lock being on self service meant it filled slowly. In front of us was a rather beautiful Humber Keel, Daybreak. We’d passed them at Wallingford on Sunday, moored up with their mast upright and plenty of bunting about the place. Today her mast was horizontal with a long red ribbon dangling to the water.

Pristine
Made in Thorne

Mapledurham being just over 200 ft long meant we’d fit in the lock behind them. They may be wide, 15ft 6″ but only 61ft 6″ long. So once she was in the lock we followed, being joined by the narrowboat that had been following us. There were three crew on board Daybreak so one chap operated the lock as the chap at the helm adjusted the stern rope and kicked the tiller arm and throttle.

Following slowly into Caversham

It was with relief once the lock was empty to see a boat arrive wanting to come up, nobody would have to stay behind to close up.

They have to fit

Caversham Lock is that bit shorter. Would we fit with Daybreak? The lovely lady volunteer came to ask how long we were, ‘Sorry’ the lock’s only 110ft long, ten foot too short for the both of us. There were only a couple of feet spare width wise, the crew holding very fat fenders to keep the pristine paintwork away from the lock gates.

Fenders at he ready

They gently nudged their way in, tiller a touch that way, then corrected, then the other way.

The same procedure was repeated as they exited the lock, fenders moved along to where they were needed most as they inched their way out. Once the boat was clear there were high fives from the crew, no touching up required!

Our last button operated Thames lock for a while

Some fresh supplies were needed, but the last big enough space at Tescos was just being taken by a narrowboat, they kindly offered for us to breast up to them. A quick shop and some lunch before we both wanted to be on our way. Their shop and lunch were a touch quicker than ours, but as they headed off the moorings were empty, so we just pulled along to let them out. By the time we’d finished our break the moorings were filling up again.

New waters

Not far until we turned right. New water again. Under the numerous bridges and along to Blake’s Lock, our last EA lock for a while. A match stick lock which works in the opposite direction to those I’d worked further up the Thames. It was full with the top paddles open! No poles to help open and close the other gate, so we opted to only open one, there was plenty of room.

A match stick lock

We could have pulled in on the Jail Loop but wanted to get a touch further if we could today.

Back onto C&RT water

Ahead signs welcomed us to The Kennet and Avon Canal, back on C&RT water, along with telling us of a boat traffic light ahead. We’ve seen pictures and heard of this and at last we were here.

Just like a road crossing

Mick brought us in towards the button, just like those on a pedestrian crossing. I wondered if it would light up the WAIT, but we got a green straight away. A newish shopping and restaurant complex surrounded us, one tightish bend but the rest of the controlled length of canal seemed far wider than a lot of places we’ve been. Were the lights put in when the new complex was built? Was the cut narrowed? Well it’s actually a length of river, so the levels and flow can vary, so one way traffic stops the possibility of coming across a boat that can’t stop coming down with the flow.

Very flowery

Plenty of people to say hello to, the schools in the area can’t have gone back today.

Waiting for the lock to empty
Four paddles

We soon arrived at County Lock, all of 1ft of it. All four top paddles were open, were we following a serial paddle leaver?

Narrow houses

Now we were back onto the River Kennet, heading upstream. The houses totally different to those on the Thames. Here we’d need about four back gardens to have enough length to moor Oleanna, their width about 15ft wide, the houses the same.

Silenced by a lion

One rowdy woofer came and woofed at us. Stupid thing! Maybe it thinks it’s managed to see us off, works every time, so just keeps on woofing at boats. A bit further along there was another woofer who’d been fitted with a lion silencing device. It worked very well.

One big deep lock, we’ve got deeper to come!

Fobney Lock 105, a touch different from County Lock with it’s 8ft 7″ drop and much longer. Luckily we’d just passed a couple of hire boats so the lock was more or less in our favour. We roped up using the centre line and Mick loitered towards the back of the lock. On each new canal you wonder what will be different. Here we only had gate paddles, would the water go down the side of the lock, or diagonally to hold the boat into the side. Luckily it was the latter. We rose up and then looked for a mooring.

Paddle gear, the break lifts the opposite way to other canals

Past the line of boats there was still armco, we pulled in. Now where did I put that nappy pin?

Four years ago we’d intended to come this way, not having managed it on our first year afloat. But things kept making us head northwards, new boat builders to chose, then boat builders to meet, the end of a finger to be lost, if only we’d headed south instead of up the Trent!

It’s a canal Tilly, do you remember them?

6 locks, 12.46 miles, 1 right, 1 big bummed boat, 2ft 5″ to spare, 0 wine bought, 1 licence expiring, 1 button to press, 1 lion silencer, 2 windlasses, 2 nappy pins, 0 river bank to pounce from.