Category Archives: IWA

Looking Up And Honking. 7th and 8th May

St Vincentes Street Bridge Moorings, BUMingham

Time to record the latest socks, with Mick out doing chores and picking up a hire car I could use the dinette table. Out came the white card and the next four pairs had their portraits taken. They were then packed up, labels at the ready to be printed. I had to wait for Mick to return as the printer had got a touch lost with the new router.

Recording socks for a future project

Mick packed a bag and made his way to move the hire car, the nearest parking spot during the day at the Arena at £5.50 for two hours, he didn’t want it to be any longer! Then he was on his way heading to Scarborough to sit and wait for the engineer to arrive tomorrow to upgrade the boiler. When he arrived it was 11 C and the sea fret was in, good job he’d taken a coat with him.


I went for a walk down to the Bull Ring Markets. I’d thought of buying us some fish for tomorrow, but I really didn’t want to have to buy three or four fish at once, everything seemed to be sold in trays for £15, or the fish were SO big they’d have lasted us a month! Instead I just had a good wander round.

The meat stalls you need a good stomach to look at, not just a lot of offal, but sheep and goat heads too. Fabrics and very sparkly outfits. A DIY stall which had lots of wheels, but they were the cheap variety that we’d not be able to remove the wheel, which is likely to be the only easy way to get our pull out cupboard working properly again without dismantelling the whole galley.

Lots of grapes

Outside the fruit and veg was being sold by the bowl full, £1 of ‘QUAL…I…TAY!’ I also didn’t need that quantity of anything, so just walked round and soaked up the atmosphere.

Nearly all soy sauce

Next into China Town to find a supermarket, plenty to choose from. I stood and studied the shelves for ages, hunting out gluten free sauces I might want to buy. A big bottle of low salt soy sauce, two of bags tapioca starch (commonly used in gf cooking) and some rice sticks/noodles. All just over £5 bargain.

On my way back to Oleanna I decided to walk through Piccadilly Arcade which links New Street to Stephenson Street. Over 100 years ago cinema goers would flock to the ‘The Picture House, New Street’ in order to escape their daily lives and become engrossed in a silent film. The cinema closed its doors in 1925 and was transformed into the Piccadilly Arcade. I have no idea what shops were in there as I immediatly looked up to the ceiling. Six big gilt frames surround large paintings, similar to those you’d expect to see in a church or fancy hall. Wow!

A Life In The Year of The Chinchillas, by Paul Maxfield. Each panel depicts a scene as if the ceiling has been taken away and you as the viewer are looking up to another world overhead and those who inhabit that world look down aware of your presence. Wonderful trompe l’oile, reminiscent of that you find in the top of a dome where chubby cupids look down on the congregation. Paul painted this in 1989, it’s doing well for its age. Seasons are depicted, birds, hot air balloons, parachutes, the false perspective is masterful. Two small panels give you the title and the other a man offers you a piece of paper, I am guessing this may be the artist wanting to give you the story behind the paintings, or is he inviting you to join the world above.

These are brilliant

I stayed as long as my neck would allow. I suspect I’ll go back when we visit again. This nearly made up for the Art Gallery being closed on Mondays and Tuesdays an exhibition I’d have loved Victorian Radicals. Hopefully we’ll be back before the exhibition is over.

The painting of David Bowie is now a Magpie by Annatomix

Back at Oleanna Tilly had the opportunity to go out, she didn’t make the most of it. It’s just far too busy to sit and wait for friends out there! I stir fried some left over chicken with some pak choi and settled down to some knitting. Well quite a lot needed to be pulled out, yesterday I’d knitted enough to work out the tension of my pattern and also two verions of spacing. Unfortunatly I preferred the spacing of the latter option, but fortunatly I’d calculated the number of stitches correctly, so I didn’t have to start all over again. Up in Scarborough Mick sat in the kitchen of the house, with two lodgers (one each side) it was a little bit odd knowing where to put himself for the evening, not wanting to invade anyones space.

I so love our bluebells

Wednesday. Mick would be waiting for the engineer in the house today, a shame he’d asked for an afternoon appointment At least it gave him time to cut the grass, remove a few trees from the lawn and enjoy our bluebells. We really must try harder to get a gardner to bring the garden under control when we’re not about.

Meanwhile here in BUMingham, I had my next visit to the dentist. Permenant fillings to replace the temporary ones I’d had in Leeds along with checking to see if a root canal was required! I left an hour and a half later with a very numb head, a big filling, no root canal required as that tooth was no more, my bank balance sighing with relief!

Hello Paul!

I had a slightly wobbly walk back to Oleanna over Liberty Place Footbridge, a quiet afternoon onboard with Tilly was required. In Scarborough the boiler was sorted and mid afternoon Mick headed back to BUMingham.

Thank you to Frances Phasey for the photo

The shoreside Whats app group for the campaign cruise to the Houses of Parliament was busy busy along with Rose ‘n’ Gin’s facebook page. The forecast looked suitable and the first boats on the cruise were given the go ahead at 03:08. Two locks full of boats headed out from Limehouse Lock heading down stream and out through the Thames Barrier. Apparently today marked the 40th Anniversary of the barrier being opened by Elizabeth II. The second part of the cruise was given the go ahead at 08:05, these boats would join the others heading up stream, leaving Limehouse at around 11:00 (three lockings). By the time the tide had turned and they were heading back in towards London the sun was out, oh what a lovely day to be out on the Thames.

Thank you Kev Maslin for your photo

More and more photos came through from London. One of my favourites by Kev Maslin, the twenty narrowboats stemming the tide infront of the Houses of Parliament. There are plenty more fab photos about, Scholar Gypsy has a blog post here

A trip boat had been hired for the VIPs, who included Sheila Hancock. I think everyone made quite a noise as you can see from Kev’s footage

Not the day either Mick or I had wanted, we’d have far preffered to be out on the Thames beeping our horn at the Houses of Parliament. I suspect Tilly is the only one who preffered her day.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 white car, 3 pairs posted, 500ml of soy sauce, -1 tooth, 1 sighing bank balance, 6 hourly pills, 20 plus boats bipping and honking, 1 very bored cat.


There In Spirit.

8th May Fund Britains Waterways Campaign Cruise

Before we left Scarbrough back in March our aim had been to head south to London so that we could join the Fund Britains Waterways Campaign Cruise to Westminster. Our route had to be carefully planned around stoppages and would have us cruising every day for around 4 hours. Unfortunatly we left Scarborough a week late and then the rivers in Yorkshire went into flood, holding us up for a second week. Medical appointments kept happening and trying to catch up on two weeks worth of cruising meant we simply wouldn’t make it and had to pull out.

Outside the Palace in November

A real shame as we’d booked a night at the Canal Museum. No other spaces were bookable in London two months in advance.

Boats were then to congregate at Limehouse on the evening of the 7th, a safety briefing at the Cruising Association and then today we’d have been up very early to catch the out going tide to head through the Thames Barrier. Boats would wait for the tide to turn and head back in to London, being joined by more boats penning out at Limehouse all heading to the Houses of Parliament as the campaign cruise. Going through the barrier would have been very exciting and scary, but being part of the cruise for ‘national and local government to act now and protect the public benefit and natural capital of our waterways’ was may more important.

We have watched the progress of NB Rum’a’Gin who have cruised down from Doncaster via the Leeds Liverpool Canal. If we’d not had to have so many days and trips back to Scarborough maybe we’d have tagged along with them, but it just wasn’t to be.

Thank you Hazel Owen for the use of your photo

We’ve also looked at getting a train to London to join those standing on Westminster Bridge supporting the cruise, but this week train strikes have counted that out too. A coach was looked into, but quite quickly discounted, I think it was going to take 8 hours to get there and back!

So we may not be present for the campaign cruise, but our hearts will be there chearing them on.

If you’d like to add your support please sign the petition here.

Or even better head to Westminster Bridge today for 12:15pm. The boats are due to start arriving around 12:30. More details can be found here.

All the best to those on the cruise from NB Oleanna.

Fund Britain’s Waterways Campaign Cruise. 14th November 2023

Wet Streets
Elizabeth Tower

Narrowboats Arriving
Outside the Palace
Boats turning. And my old office in the background
He never missed the bollard
Downstream of Tower Bridge
South Quay, West India Dock

207 Years To The Day. 1st May

Evans Bridge 42 to Westbridge Pipe Bridge

In need of the services at Gayton Junction we prepared, emptying the wee tank whilst the outlet was on the towpath side. Then we pootled our way to the junction.

What a difference from yesterday! I got sunburnt yesterday, today we could just about see our breath! Layers and long sleeves were certainly needed.

Gayton Junction, which way?

At the junction there was already a boat on the services, but fortunately they had just finished. We pulled in alongside and let two other boats pass before we could swap places and tie up. There was a hive of activity around the service block, the local IWA branch were busy weeding and giving the place a general tidy up. We filled and emptied as required then were ready to push off.

IWA all hard at work

We’ve pulled up at the services here before, but only once been along the Northampton Branch. That was just over eight years ago when we’d just bought NB Lillyanne, she’d been moored on the River Nene and her licence had just run out, so we spent a couple of long days getting her off the river and onto C&RT waters. Quite a rush, not enough time to take much in or write a blog.

Last year was all about seeing family and friends, this year we want to explore again. Today we’d be heading down the Northampton Arm towards the River Nene, Middle Levels, Great Ouse, River Cam etc where we plan on spending the summer. We have our Gold Licence, have joined Friends of the River Nene and The Great Ouse Boating Association. There are different licences to buy, keys and windlasses (that are also called keys), all very exciting!

Fancy swing bridge

But first we needed to stop for an early lunch, there’s nowhere really to stop in the flight of locks down into Northampton so we pulled up opposite Gayton Marina. This is where all the hire boats were aiming for this morning and also where we came to view the first second hand boat we looked at inn 2014, it had too much leatherette for our tastes and really bad storage for a liveaboard boat.

From eight years ago I’ve had this thing that Gayton Marina had to be on the main line of the Grand Union near the junction, every time we’ve passed since I’ve wondered where it had gone! Now I know it wasn’t just a mirage.

NB Caress of Steel came past just as we pulled in, another Finesse boat with space for a motorbike in the tug deck. Then we watched the swing bridge at the entrance swing, all automated, a barrier and flashing light. There was no-one to be seen operating it, do moorers have a fob that they can press to open it? Or is someone watching on CCTV?

Top Lock

Time to set off, with sixteen locks ahead of us before we could stop we needed to get on with it.

We remembered narrow locks, going under the M1. I remembered trying to ride a Brompton up the gravelly track between locks, our lock operation has changed since then going up hill. Today I’d be walking much of the flight three times to set ahead and then let Mick and Oleanna out of the lock above.

What would be different to the locks? There’s always something different on each canal. The beams were wide, easy to cross. Here the handrails on the bottom gates were on the downhill side of them. Would I still be able to push the gates apart to save a walk around the lock? Have they always been like this or is it to put people off stepping across from one gate to the other?

Beep beep!

At the second lock I stood and worked out if I could push the gates from the centre safely holding onto the railing. This actually would be a touch easier to start off with, but to guarantee getting the gate into the recess I would need to change the angle to which I pushed. After a few locks I decided that the angle I was pushing at was not being kind to my knees, so I chose to walk round instead. Thankfully Mick closed the other gate for me with the boat hook, saving a second trip round.

The thick of the flight runs through twelve locks seemingly in countryside, the last one however sitting underneath the M1 near junction 15A. All quite pretty, I suspect the views would have been better if the sun had been out.

A family walked up the flight, crossing over the gates of each lock. They were obviously keen to lend a hand with a gate or two.

Red roof

In the pound below lock 6 I could see a red arc. This turned out to be the roof of a cruiser, the chap on board appeared when we had a couple of locks still to go to reach him. Obviously a single hander, I headed down to lend a hand with gates as he bow hauled his boat into the lock. He said that he’d stopped in the pound overnight and some nair do wells had opened all the paddles and drained the pound, he’d woken up with his boat on the silt.

The bywash was flowing and had got him afloat again, the level still quite low. It took time for Oleanna and the cruiser to pass. We’d left the next two locks ready for him, I suspect he made use of the open gates and then settled back down for another night, waiting for the next down hill boat to leave gates for him.

It won’t go down!

The level below Lock 6 was low. Oleanna ground to a halt exiting. I lifted one of the top paddles to see if I could flush her out. This worked quite quickly, but then the paddle wouldn’t close fully. I managed to force it down a touch, but had to call for Mick to see if he could get it further. Thankfully this worked.

The canal was built by the Grand Junction Canal, with a height difference of 32m between the Grand Junction at Gayton down to Northampton. 17 narrow locks were built to connect the River Nene to the canal network. The first boats arrived at Far Cotton in Northampton on the 1st May 1815, 207 years ago today! However today we wouldn’t be greeted by crowds cheering, it would just be geese crapping everywhere!

Farms were cut in half by the canal, so seven lift bridges were put across so that sheep, cattle and machinery could cross. Today only one such bridge is still fully in tact, just below lock 5, two more sit beside the canal.

Under the M1 are murals painted by local school children. One side depicts the canal through the seasons, the other is a time line of Northampton which is very interesting, bright and jolly. For 100 years the canal was very busy transporting coal, grain and timber, by WW2 road competition took over and trade declined.

A heron flew away from the lock

In 1968 a group of local enthusiasts formed the IWA Northampton Branch, in 1971 the IWA National Rally was held when 650 boats gathered. The branch fought to keep the arm open, objecting to road plans that would affect the route. Today they look after the upkeep of the flight. Mosaics sit near the top gates of each lock and as seen at the top of the arm today work parties keep the thick of the flight trimmed and tidy.

The pounds very full lower down

Once under the M1 the last few locks are set further apart. New housing sits alongside and the amount of reeds increases, this is also something we remembered from eight years ago. Gradually the canal becomes more urban.

Reeds reeds and more reeds

Local boats sat making use of the few rings above Lock 17, but there was space for us infront. We used the last ring and the girders holding the pipe bridge up to moor and moved the geese along taking care not to stand in their pooh.

Last night we had unwrapped the pork joint, dried it off and left it in the fridge to dry out. Before starting the flight I had left it out to come up to room temperature. Once down Lock 15 I turned the oven on, gave the joint a dry off and added some more salt to the leathery rind. Down Lock 16 in it went. By the time we were moored up it had done it’s 30 minutes at gas 7 and could be turned down. The effort paid off as we enjoyed the best pork crackling I’ve ever made along with a quarter of the meat. A good celebration to mark the anniversary of the arm and the start of our exploring this year.


16 locks, 6.5 miles, 1 left, 1 full water tank, 1 grey day, 1 left of 7, 34 mosaics, 1 slow boat to Gayton, 1 Tilly not too impressed, 2 hrs 42 minutes, 1 joint of pork that will last us four meals, 18 train tickets booked (making use of the Sale before it ends), 2 tired boaters.