Category Archives: John Carr

Empty Horizon. 9th March

Whitley Lock to Castleford Visitor Moorings

Untangling the ropes

The bow and stern ropes got their turn in the washing machine this morning, then we pushed over to the water point below the lock. These big key of power Yorkshire locks have traffic lights, nearly always on amber for self operation. If there is a lockie on duty then you get red and green lights too, but along this stretch this is a rare occurrence.

As we tied up to fill with water Mick pointed out that there was no amber light, in fact there was no light at all! Had a bulb gone, or was there something more serious wrong with the lock? It had been working yesterday as a boat had come down and one gone up. Once the tank was filling I walked up to see what was what.

NO lights!

Key in the panel, I turned it clockwise. No lights, the sluice that keeps the lock full when not in operation was up, normal, but usually on turning the key any open sluices close, then a light illuminates saying the lock is ready. Nothing happened. I pressed a few buttons. At the top there is a fault light, even this wasn’t illuminated but I looked for the ‘instructions below’. Only instructions on how to use the lock in normal situations and the emergency phone number, good job the fault light wasn’t lit! I went to remove my key, a good original BWB key, it was trapped and wouldn’t turn. I called Mick, he’d call C&RT and let them know.

Float and other keys were removed from the one that was now trapped. I walked to check if the light at the other end of the lock was lit. NO, nothing. I returned to Oleanna to discus what to do and await a person in blue. Except as I got nearer to the boat the traffic light came on, amber! There must be power. Back up to the panel, my key would release now. I tried the buttons, the lock would empty and then the gates would open. I called Mick, he then called C&RT to stand them down. It must have been a power cut, thinking about it later the hand dryer in the toilet hadn’t worked either, power cut.

Too big for Oleanna

Up the lock, Mick fishing out one of the biggest fat fenders we’ve come across. The god of the Yorkshire waterways was being a touch too generous. We could think of instances when such a large fender would come in handy, but just where do you keep something SO huge? The roof? We left it on the bank, I suspect the original owner will pick it up when it’s spotted.

Passing under the M62 I waved in case our friend JG was passing overhead. When ever we see him he asks about Whitley Lock, maybe one day we’ll coincide with him there. A mile further on we pulled in at Whitley Bridge, tucking in on the end of the moorings. Our planned cruise still had another three hours and it was just about lunchtime.

A mile down the road there is a shop, a visit was required for a Saturday newspaper and some alternative cat food. Since moving back onboard Tilly has decided that pink poultry food isn’t to her liking and after a week I was getting concerned that she had taken my comments about being an extra 100grams heavier this year to heart. Fortunately the shop also sold pink fishy flavours, our first attempt at getting her to eat before trying blue or any other coloured cat food.

Boats rusting away

The sky line here is very different from when we first cruised these waters no Eggborough Power Station that used to dominate the horizon. The old site of Kellingley Colliery sits abandoned, a few diggers but nothing much happening.

Old big boats take up the offside moorings at Bank Dole Junction. The lock here is closed due to a build up of silt down on the River Aire. We turned left heading to another landmark of my youth, Ferrybridge, all cooling towers now stolen from view.

The visitor moorings were filled with various cruisers that seem to have taken up root with their possessions’, across the way a narrowboat looked like it was settling for the day. I hopped off to operate the lock (a fall of a foot currently), while Mick chatted to the other boat who had just decided that there would be nicer places to moor further on. The two boats sharing the long flood lock.

We’d just left the lock when a lady appeared behind us, key of power in the panel and pressing buttons here there and everywhere. The gates reopened behind us, a boat must be coming down stream. We slowed our progress when we saw it coming at quite a lick under Ferry Bridge. I’m glad we’ve done the tidal Thames as the wake this boat left was nearly on a par with that from an Uber boat.

John Carr’s Ferry Bridge from under the A162 road bridge

With no cooling towers to marvel at the landscape of the River Aire is now bland, brown and bland. No curves to catch the light, maybe one day someone will come up with a new purpose for cooling towers and we’ll start building them again. The last three towers had originally been kept for a future gas-fired power station, but were demolished 17th March 2022.

A queue!

NB Nee Nah was quite a distance ahead, only visible every now and then on the meandering river. Cold was starting to set in, inside the cabin would be nice and toasty, Tilly oblivious to the efforts we go through to find her interesting outsides to tie up. Round the last bend of the river we could see Bulholme Lock, there sat NB Nee Nah and another narrowboat, their crew already emptying the lock. Would all three boats fit? We hung back in case, also not wanting to barge in ahead of the first boat. They waved us in.

The three boats tucked in with room to spare and rose up the lock. Would there be enough room for us all to moor? Mick offered to breast up with the original boat should the need arise. Two spaces were visible, we headed to near the coal shoot, NB Nee Nah opting for the first space near the lock. The last boat came past just after we’d moored. Plenty of git gaps! Hope they found somewhere.

Too late for Tilly shore leave. A batch of shortcrust pastry was made up and left to rest in the fridge for an hour. A leftover roast chicken, tarragon and feta pie (minus the leeks) was made accompanied by jacket potatoes. Very nice it was too.

3 locks, 10.8 miles, 1 wind, 1 left, 1 full tank of water, 4 clean ropes, 12 pouches 1+ fishy pink food, 1 bowl devoured, 1st sock of 10th pair finished, 1 big pie, 2 jackets, 1 big river section done, 15.5 fingers and 4 paws crossed for not too much rain in the coming days, 23:45 when the genny across the way stopped!

Don’t Let The Cat Out! 4th February

King’s Marina to Cromwell Lock

Tilly keeping an eye out for cats!

Since arriving back in Scarborough it’s taken Tilly a while to settle down. She knows where she is, but the house makes odd noises, different from those on Oleanna. Add into the mix our lodger Claire making noises in the morning and singing in the evening, it all makes for a nervous cat. Over the last couple of days Tilly has ventured outside into the static world the house is surrounded by. She obviously remembers the local cats and is constantly looking out for Alan, Betty and Shoes. I have tried to explain to her that none of them live here anymore! But still she looks. The annoying thing for us humans though is that we thought the runny cat pooh would have ceased since Shoes moved away, however it is still lurking in the grass!

I managed to borrow a sewing machine from my friends Dawn and Lee at Animated Objects, so all the costume alterations have been finished. A few small house jobs have been done and I’ve been baking.

I made some fresh curd cheese and a batch of Yorkshire Curd Tarts to use up the pastry left over from mince pies. The slightly orange pastry was rather nice with the curds. Then yesterday I made a loaf of cheese and spring onion gluten free soda bread using up half the buttermilk I’d been left with from the curd cheese. We had to try a bit with our dinner last night as it smelt so good. Very very tasty. A definite recipe I’ll be doing again, there is still enough buttermilk left (now in the freezer) for another loaf.

Snowdrops everywhere in Scarbados

Now that Maud’s Swing Bridge on the Stainforth and Keadby Canal is left open to boat traffic we needed to identify a window of opportunity to move Oleanna up to Goole. I have work commitments over the next few weeks and we wanted to give Tilly a chance to settle down in the house before we’d be leaving her for several days. We estimated the journey would take us a minimum of four days.

Mick checked the tide times, then the weather. Our first window looked good. A couple of days ago he called Cromwell to check on tide times for Sunday. Then a call to Keadby to check times there too. Both locks were booked.

Time to work out how to get back to Newark. The railway line out of Scarborough has been closed for much of this week due to engineering works, strikes and the poor service on Transpennine Express made us look at the buses to York, The Coastliner. These run every hour and currently a single fare being £2, it would be a bargain.

Going over Ouse Bridge in York

So this morning we were up early, breakfasted, a few items packed, soda bread and my work things in case we are held up on route. We caught the 9:10 which was pretty busy already and by the time it arrived in Malton it was chocka, I think we even passed hopeful passengers at a bus stop on our way into York. We hopped off at the station and had a half hour wait for the next train to Newark Northgate arriving a little after midday.

Pontoon B at King’s Marina

We headed straight to the marina as the office would soon be closing. When we’d arrived, we’d imagined Oleanna would be stuck for several weeks, maybe even months, in the end it was only nine nights. Two bags of coal were bought and popped on the roof.

I then headed to buy supplies whilst Mick topped up the water tank and made ready for our departure. I hunted round Waitrose for yellow labels. We’d brought a few days worth of food with us, but needed another couple of days supplies along with milk and cereal. Two heavy bags later, including two boxes of wine, I could drop the gate fob back at the office.

Click photo for recipe

Lunch was had, soda bread, still pretty good even when cold. Then it was time to put our life jackets on and push off, reverse out from the pontoon and say goodbye to King’s Marina. Paula the marina manager came out to wave us goodbye and wish us a good journey. Thank you for accommodating us in your friendly marina.

Goodbye Pretty neighbours

Left. We headed towards Nether Lock where I climbed up a ladder to head to work the lock. The paddles were half raised, it was refilling itself. I turned the key of power and encouraged it to fill quicker, which worked, except the panel still had to work it’s way through all the button presses! It took quite a while before eventually the button moved the gates. Getting my phone out to take a photo of Oleanna coming into the lock, I lost grip and it bounced across the concrete, each time getting closer to the lock edge! Thankfully it stopped a foot short of me having to replace it, a shame the screen is now cracked.

Nether Lock

Back in April last year the levels had taken forEVER to equalise when emptying the lock to come in, I did it twice in one day, so today I was prepared for a long wait again. The lock did not disappoint! I had to press the button several times when it did nothing at all for it to get itself ready to open the gates. But we got there in the end. A helpful couple walking their dogs offered to finish working the lock for me, so that I could get back on. I turned them down, no way would I be climbing down the 12ft or so of lock ladder when below at the lock landing it would only be three foot of ladder.

We passed North Muskham, Muskham Ferry where a group from King’s Marina were enjoying a few pints having come down in ribs. They all waved us on our way.

Fishermen lined the banks. One young lad had caught a fish worthy of a photo, his mate catching one a quarter the size was still eager to have the photographic proof. Then a group of men in waders stood round weighing up the days catch, there must have been a match on by Cromwell Lock.

Muskham Ferry

Mick winded Oleanna to face upstream and bought us into the pontoon. Time to head to the bow to tie up. We don’t often cruise without Tilly on board. When opening a door it is automatic to check to see if she is waiting on the step inside. Don’t let the cat out! She’s never allowed out until we are moored up, yet she is so excited to be somewhere new, she charges to the other door before you can get there. Gentle persuasion is required to keep her away from an opening door, sometimes a ‘Grrrrr!’ is required to keep her eagerness in check, it works quite well. Doors are rarely left open, they always get closed behind you. At times trying to keep Tilly in is a pain, but today there was certainly one big hole without her on board. Hope her magic food bowl has opened up and that she’s cosy on our bed.

1 lock, 4.9 miles, £2 coastliner, 1 train, 1 Lincoln Cathedral in view, 0.5 loaf of soda bread gone, 2 boxes wine, 3 yellow stickers, 2 boaters back afloat, 1 feline boater stuck on dry land, 2 pork chops and 2 jacket potatoes.

Newark Memories. 28th January

King’s Marina

Saturday breakfast

After breakfast it was Mick’s turn to catch trains and head for Yorkshire, leaving Tilly and myself onboard. Since we heard the news a week or so ago that Maud’s Bridge could be closed for a couple of months we’d made plans. Take a mooring here at King’s Marina, move back to the house for it’s winter maintenance when we’re less likely to have lodgers. The move having to happen around my work.

Town Hall designed by John Carr

I walked up towards the station with Mick then headed to Boyes to pick up a knitting needle gauge. My collection of needles is normally well ordered, but having so many circular needles which have very very small writing on them and some being left out of their packs I didn’t know which was which.

The Corn Exchange, when will it have a new life?

I then had a walk around town. We wintered here on Lillyanne seven years ago and grew quite fond of the place. An enforced marina stay for medical reasons had us moored in King’s for a few months, we spent Bonfore night, Christmas and New Year here. Both of us having operations.

Band stand and castle

Since then we have passed through Newark using the fast route from north to south on the River Trent. Being here in the summer hasn’t felt right, coats hats and scarves should be worn in Newark. Then on our last visit we were preoccupied helping our friend David get the help he needed to get well. So on todays walk I had the intention of returning Newark to a place in my memory of Maltings, Brewers, Nicholsons, John Carr, the market, auction houses, Emily Blagg, Polish War graves, the castle, the civil war, all the things we discovered and enjoyed about the town.

The facade of a Nicholsons building

I think I succeeded.

Returning to the boat I stopped off at Waitrose (closer to the marina by a few paces than Aldi) to see what might have been yellow stickered. I came away with a gluten free Calzone and some green veg which I stir fried with lemon juice and garlic. A very nice meal.

Calzone and green

With my knitting needle gauge I worked out which needles I would need to use my birthday present of Riverknits yarn. A showtime cowl, all the yarn with names associated with pantomimes. I settled down in front of the tv and then realised I still had more to do before I could start. Yarn always looks so lovely wound round in skeins, just a shame before you start to use it it needs winding into a ball! With a calm cat on my knee that I really didn’t want to disturb I managed to make a ball of the first yarn I would require. The rest will be wound in turn as needed.

Yarn porn

It’s nice having knitting on the go again. Maybe I should do another sockathon this year. Still plenty of sock yarn to use up, maybe I could get some donated too. I’ve been putting some thought into which charity I would raise money for, there are a couple that are possible. Some more thought needed and which month to do it in?

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 trains for Mick, 0 sprinkles for Tilly, 3 yellow stickers, 1 calzone, 6 yarns, 1 ball wound, 144 stitches cast on, 4 rounds.

Bridge Bingo. 14th October

Wheatley Bridge to Stanley Ferry Water Point, Aire and Calder, Wakefield Section

Today we needed to be moored up in time for me to join a zoom Production Meeting for panto, Tilly’s hope was that we’d be somewhere she could go out for the rest of the afternoon. We already knew that wouldn’t be possible. The travel time on our maps didn’t really give us a suitably cat friendly mooring for 2, 2:30pm, we’d see how we did.

4000 hours as the engine was started up

So no time to sit around in bed, we’d got more short locks to descend and some miles to cover. This must be the first time on passing through Mirfield that there have been no visiting boats moored up, we could have carried on just that bit further yesterday, but Tilly wouldn’t have had any bracken or friendly cover to seek out friends in as the link fencing is right on the towpath here.

The boat that is being worked on is still covered in a tarpaulin by the water point and it looked like the charity boats were gearing up for a day of visitors. Just by the lock, no I’ll rephrase that, on the lock landing was a cruiser! Big signs say that it is the lock landing but the owner must be blind. Any single hander would have had to reverse past the permanent moorings to be able to tie up to use Shepley Bridge Lock. I however went through Oleanna to the bow (I don’t walk the gunnels due to my bad grip) and hopped off the front, luckily the lock was just about full.

Ground paddles that devour spikes

No need to get the Calder Hebble spike out and risk dropping it into the hole below the ground paddle gear. The hard wood that the spikes are made from does not float! I’ve seen one disappear here before and on the same day met a second crew who’d lost theirs at a lower lock.

Down the bottom

The paddle gear seems to be getting stiffer with every lock we work, at least it means you can’t whip up a paddle in the short locks too quickly. Once down the lock Mick turned left and pulled into the lock landing we were now on the River Calder, deep, wide, so different from the bottom end of the Huddersfield Narrow. With water under Oleanna she smiled a broader smile than she’s smiled before, nothing to do with a slight reposition of her twin horns after the tunnel. She also sounds more confident too!

Just a small proportion of the masses

Swans and geese blocked our way into Greenwood Cut, but luckily they all moved out of the way leaving just one cygnet to our port side. It didn’t complain too much at it’s enforced separation.

Greenwood Lock gave us plenty of room to breath in, the stern doors needed closing to avoid the torrent of water coming from under the top gates. Then Thornhill Flood Lock took us back onto a cut, a long cut. This is where we started to play Bridge Bingo.

Bridge Bingo

Some bridges just have names, others numbers as well. However the numbers seem to be mixed up as if two waterways have been melded into one. 31, 8, 33, 34, 35, 22, 39, a few with names and then 26!

Back in the world of moving boats

A moving boat came towards us, NB Little One, an Aintree Beetle, below the high up Railway Bridge 35. Great the Double Locks should be with us.

Thornhill Double Locks

This is where Lillian had an incident the pound between the two locks which knocked her tiller out of it’s cut, meaning we had no steering. Since then we do our best to be very careful at these two locks. The top one was full, but the bottom empty, I went down to lift a paddle as Mick brought Oleanna in to the top.

With no means of crossing the bottom gates of these locks I started to walk back up to the top lock on the off side, but Mick had stepped off Oleanna on that side as the gate had opened. This meant running back down and around to get to the towpath side to close that gate, oh well my steps for the day had a boost!


These two locks are the last of the shortest locks, so we took care and nudged our way past the closed bottom gate. The intermediate pound was still at a good level, I’d opened the off side gate on the lower lock for Mick to be able to go straight in. However the two locks are on a bend and Oleanna really wanted to go through the other gate. Mick did his best to manoeuvre her round, but she clipped the port side bow on the walkway, smudging off some paint I’d touched up from a previous moment!

Dewsbury off to the right

One day we will go down the Dewsbury Arm just to have a look, ‘Next Time’.

Approaching Millbank Lock I could see movements, another boat just leaving below. I filled the lock only using the gate paddles, getting the spike into use wasn’t necessary. As I went to lift the first bottom paddle another boat was pulling up below. The first paddle was just about impossible to lift so I moved over to the other side where I hoped that one would be easier. Have to say I’d rather be stood over the bow of the boat in a short lock to keep an eye on it catching on stonework.

A none Magenta Elektra

A lady came up to help, I asked her to wait until we knew we were past the cill as we were over long. She understood and waited until Mick was happy with our position. We nudged past the closed gate and were set free onto the river again.

Mick lending a hand with the paddles

Next the Figure of Three Locks. Two locks very close together, the lower one was seriously damaged by flood water, the bywash being more or less totally washed away. I posted about it earlier this year as it was being rebuilt.

Today the locks are reopen, reconnecting the Rochdale and Huddersfield Canals to the eastern side of the network. Both Locks look pretty much as they would have before the flood damage. A new area of stonework on the towpath connects the two where the flood water pushed through from the river. Now sunflowers fill where the gap had been. Here’s a link to what it looked like after the flood and during the work to put it back together.

A deep narrow bywash

The lower of the two locks has a new bywash. The sides of it very high and built of sturdy stone, this had all but been washed away. The off side bank looks to have been replanted and today a farmer was out in his tractor. A very fine job done.

I wonder if the one new solitary stone below the lock will have something carved on it, it’s shouting out for it.

On past Horbury where we visited St Peter’s and St Leonard’s Church a couple of years ago. This is a John Carr Church and is where the architect is buried.

More moving boats and then moored boats below Broad Cut Top Lock, the locks were getting quite roomy now. Time was ticking on. We knew we wouldn’t make it to Stanley Ferry in time for my meeting so decided to pull in after the next river stretch through Thornes Flood Lock. Just as well we’d given ourselves a bit of leeway as Broad Cut Low lock took forever to fill and then with only one paddle working at the bottom end it took forever to empty!

Thornes Flood Lock

We pulled up into the lock cut with half an hour before my meeting and had a late lunch listening to Tilly demanding to be let out. Too close to the railway for comfort she could protest all she liked, but we’d be moving on for her after my meeting anyway.

It might look good to you Tilly, but not to me!

A couple of new faces at the meeting today. Late last week a site was found for me to do a weeks painting near Chippy and set pieces will arrive for me next Monday. I have a clean bare space to take over for a week, I just need a chair, a table and a ladder and I’ll be painting away for hours. Every department was checked on, lists drawn up and the first day of rehearsals discussed, along with the obvious Covid protocol. I’m hoping my panto face masks are waiting for me when I get to Chippy as I think I’ll be wearing them a lot.

The last shortie

With the meeting over we’d pushed off within five minutes to reach a Tilly friendly mooring. Thornes Lock was our last short lock of the Calder and Hebble.

Bow hauling into the lock

This required a hand spike to empty it as the other paddles were out of order. We squeezed in and dropped down. A chap walked up saying they couldn’t get through the lock without a Hebble Spike. I thought he was about to ask me to lock them through. But now the lock was empty they’d be able to fill it just using a windlass as I had. They took their time to move off the lock landing, the reason soon becoming obvious as they’d lost steering and were wanting to tie up above the lock to fix things.

On we pootled back on the river now, passing Double Two where I used to paint sets for the John Godber Theatre Company before I started living on a boat. Straight ahead the dangling sculptural man above the moorings near the Hepworth Museum still dangles. We turned right through Wakefield Flood Lock.

How tall ?!

No visitors to Wakefield on the moorings today, but we did spot a very very tall telephone pole.

Sooo much room!

At Fall Ing Lock we could now breath out, we were leaving the Calder and Hebble, all the short locks behind us now and big Yorkshire locks ahead. It takes quite a bit of filling, longer when it’s a touch breezy and Mick had decided to hover and wait.

Two paddles together

Eventually the lock was full and we could descend onto the Aire and Calder, each hydraulic paddle taking over thirty turns to lift. My arms were tired before I started!

Nearly there Tilly!

Not long now Tilly! We sped down the river and through Broadreach Flood Lock and on towards Stanley Ferry. We’d made it with an hour before cat curfew!

11 locks, 4 flood locks all open, 11.94 miles, 0 short locks left, 0 manual locks left, 1 windlass back in the locker, 4000 engine hours, 1 hour, 11 panto zoomers, 1 painter starting on Monday, 5 chum zoomers, 24th October Tankards Bridge on the Selby Canal open to all craft after 13 months.

Your, You’re, Ure. 15th August

Linton Lock to Oxclose Lock, Ripon Canal

John and Marion accompanying us away from Linton Lock

We timed our departure this morning with the Geraghty Zoom so that we had some amusement whilst cruising the nine mile reach of the river. Topics today included, A levels, Theatre and quarantine exemptions in New York. As we cruised along up river we gave the family a forward view of the willow trees. We missed where the River Ouse becomes the River Ure, a small stream coming in from the west marks the point, so small it wasn’t spotted.

The most exciting part of our cruise, going under Aldwark Bridge sadly was missed by them all, as our connection kept being lost, this also meant we missed out on some of the conversations. Sitting inside with the laptop is much better as you get to see everyone, rather than just the person who is talking. But it helped us while away an hour.


Today was most certainly jeans and jumper weather, the temperature having plummeted from the heights of a few days ago and the sun had put itself into quarantine.

Some golfers crossed high above the river going from one hole to another and herds of cows stopped what they were doing to have a look at us and only one Kingfisher made the effort to amuse us today.

Milby Lock came into view. We’ve only been up this way once before, six years ago, and I’d forgotten how imposing this lock looks from below. It also is not our favourite lock. A cruiser (first boat seen today) pulled away from below which made us think the lock would be empty, but it wasn’t.

Milby Lock

Canoeists sat by the lock having a brunch of noodles, whilst others lifted their boats out of the water to leapfrog the lock. I wound the paddles up and had a good look at the lock as it emptied.

Back in 2014 we’d roped up in the lock, I’d headed to wind the same side paddle, which in most canal locks means your boat gets held against that side. Not being able to see anything in the lock I’d given my windlass two turns and headed over to check on things. Before I got there there was an almighty crash, chinkling of glass as the bow had launched at speed across the lock. Nothing obvious to us from outside we very slowly continued to fill the lock. Once we were up and out of the lock I headed inside to be greeted by Houdini (our second mate at the time) rushing towards me. She was desperate to let me know it wasn’t her fault! It turns out somehow our crash had dislodged the hopper half of a porthole which had jumped off the boat and smashed, now sitting at the bottom of the lock!

Dints and over hangs

So not wanting to repeat this my observations were important. There are risers on the starboard side of the lock, these are protected by timber rails either side, the one nearest the top gates stops some two three foot from the water level a possible place where your boat can get caught as it rises. Also here and on the other side are bowl shaped holes, presumably from where boats have time and time again hit the walls as the lock has filled. But the most important thing I did note was where the water would come into the lock, because the river level is a touch low at the moment I could see that it would be perfectly positioned to catch the bow of a narrowboat and push it across the lock.

Gently does it

With this knowledge Mick brought Oleanna in moved her stern across behind the starboard side gate, he roped up onto one of the risers and I gently lifted the port side paddle. Two chaps arrived to come down the lock, locals who I asked for confirmation that I was doing the right thing. At first I wound the paddle with one of the chaps keeping an eye on Oleanna, but then we swapped. Water was swilling across Oleanna’s well deck through the drain holes, so we lowered the paddle a bit until things calmed down. She gradually rose with no bumping, a touch of paddle adjustment was needed but we did it without loosing any windows. Phew!

Along the tree lined cut to Boroughbridge we must have passed three more cruisers, everyone having set off at a similar time. We pulled in on the off side to top up with diesel, Canal Garage has a pump just in view and a hose that swings out on an arm. The mooring is high so fine for most cruisers, but positioning a narrowboat facing upstream for the hose to reach is a touch problematical. In the end I had to untie the bow rope and push out. The hose just reached and we topped up with the garages best red at 64p a litre.

It was easier for us to push over to the other side to tie up before Mick headed back across the bridge to pay, he then headed into the town for our Saturday newspaper, the Spa shop having a big queue outside so a newsagent got our money.

After lunch we moved off again another three and a half mile reach of willow trees to keep us amused. Under the A1, more cows watching our progress then the bow of a narrowboat came into view.

The cratch looked familiar, I zoomed in, yep NB Billy. Clare picked up her binoculars to check us out, we both waved. Last seen on the curley wurlys of the Leeds Liverpool just over three weeks ago, we’d been wondering if our paths would cross again or had our slow progress meant they would be miles away by now.

See you again somewhere

There was time for a quick chat as our bows crossed, they’d had a good time up in Ripon including a visit to Fountains Abbey. Glad they enjoyed it. I suspect this will be the last time our paths cross this year, not sure which way they are heading now. Which ever way it is enjoy it and see you somewhere again.

A large creation sat on the river bank. More like an aircraft hanger than a boat with tarpaulined roof, admittedly with a few bits of timber and windows visible. We wondered if this was a house boat, boat or shanty town. As we got to the upstream end we discovered it was No 9 with a very natty bicycle rack on it’s roof.

Westwick Lock

Below Westwick Lock a widebeam was manoeuvring. Had they come down the lock backwards? Had they been picking people up? We weren’t sure but they pulled off up towards the weir stream and hung back for us to approach. They actually had right of way as facing upstream we can hold our position easier.

We worked our way up the lock opening the top paddles as I had done at Milby and it worked a treat.


Around the first bend we could see apple trees full of natures bounty. This is the orchard of Newby Hall. We wondered if they would notice a few missing for a crumble but soon realised we could hear people, so wouldn’t pull into their mooring to help ourselves. The Hall and grounds are open, people climbing on board the mini railway and trip boats were running upstream.

Boat trips

During World War 2 the Hall was reserved for the Royal Family should they have needed to be evacuated from London. There are gardens, orchards and a very fine house, originally built in 1690 by Sir Christopher Wren the house was then enlarged and adapted by John Carr and subsequently Robert Adam. The interior is a very fine example of 18th Century design, well worth a visit.

Newby Hall

As the hall disappeared behind us our way forward was sign posted. Left into an almost invisible cut whilst the river headed off looking far more inviting to our right. We followed the sign and soon arrived at Oxclose Lock the start of the Ripon Canal.

Oxclose Lock

We worked up the lock, lifting the panels in the upper walkway to open the gate as they slot neatly round the paddle gear. Above two boats were moored on the visitor moorings. Was there space for us?

The Ripon Canal is renowned for being well looked after, the Lock Keeper keeping everything smart and clean. Yes the grass around the lock could do with a cut, but the flower beds and shrubs looked neat and tidy. There were some new posts that the boats were moored to. A sign on the offside suggested that was the lock landing, so were these posts right up to the lock for mooring? We decided that yes they were, we’d also be leaving enough space behind us should anyone else need it.

This will do

It took Tilly a while to find a gap in the chicken mesh hidden in the sideways trees, but then she was off away from pesky woofers, shouting and climbing the trees, she took a little bit of persuasion to come in for her dingding when the time came.

Keeping an eye on woofers

The cruisers that had been down on the river returned along with the widebeam. We soon realised it was better if the lock was full as it was very noisy when empty. Then early evening the two boats ahead of us winded and headed up towards Ripon leaving us on our own. Soon we were left listening to rain falling for the first time in weeks.

3 locks, 14.93 miles, 1 river but 2, 1 canal, 1 hour off and on of zoom, 1 horrid lock, 107 litres, 64p, 1 newspaper, 1 Billy, 2 waving boaters, 2 trip boats, 4 apples wouldn’t go amiss, 3 hours shore leave, 1 tiny cat sized hole, 27 trees, 1 kingfisher, 1 helicopter.

More Of A Deflation. 9th August

Oil Terminal Arm to Old Potteries Arm, Ferrybridge

Life jacket

When we left Granary Wharf the other day we were in such a rush to get going and get off the bottom before being stuck any longer, we hadn’t got round to doing our river cruising preparations, in fact we’d totally forgotten to attach the anchor and get the life jackets out. So this morning we made sure everything was river cruising ready as we’d be joining the river proper below Lemonroyd Lock. Only one thing was omitted and that was zipping Tilly’s escape pod together, with the painting box out it would be another thing to constantly be moving from here to there, it will be made ready for our trip up the Ouse though.

I walked down to the lock with the key of power ready to empty the huge vast lock whilst Mick winded Oleanna and followed behind. The lock was already in use, a narrowboat and a wide beam were ascending, a lady with a couple of dogs was doing the honours. She waited for the lock to empty of boats and then for Oleanna to come in to close the gates and get her key back, your key is trapped in the panel until everything is closed up.

With no-one following us, Oleanna sat all alone in the middle of the lock. Gongoozlers stood and watched as the water drained out, this takes sometime and the result is an even smaller boat sat waiting to exit the lock. Everything closed up I walked down to the steps below the lock and climbed back onboard.

Zoomy zoom zoom

Now on the river proper, life jackets on, anchor attached we zoomed along surrounded by willow trees on both banks, not much of a view, but that didn’t matter, it’s quick heading downstream.

A couple of cruisers were moored up at Allerton Bywater which looks like there are new shiny ladders at the high banked moorings. We passed a casualty of some flooding, a sad sight.

Castleford Junction came into view. Here we could turn right to Wakefield and the Calder and Hebble, which is currently closed due to flood damage. We could go straight on, but that would not be advisable as it leads to a weir with the big curvy footbridge across it. However we chose to turn left through the flood lock and onto Castleford Cut.

Both ends of the flood lock were open despite the footbridge still being out of action. A family had been sat waiting for a boat and the young lad was so very excited to see us. He waved enthusiastically and then they all climbed onto their bikes to follow us along the cut to Bulholme Lock.

New top

Here is where you normally see big boats, Humber Keels. There was one that looked like it had a new cabin recently fitted all very bright blue.

Then Radiance was moored up, obviously a live aboard with the amount of stuff on the roof. This included a car, why not if you have that much space! There was plenty of space where we could have moored, but we really wanted to cover some more water before we stopped for the day.

Going down

The little lad was so excited to watch Oleanna descend the lock. He really wanted to stand on the bottom gates as they opened, but his Dad was certain that he wouldn’t! Below I could see a chap in a canoe so I phoned Mick to warn him even though the fella looked like he was holding back as the water emptied from the lock.

Back out onto the river, a long reach now to get to Ferrybridge. More willow trees, very few views, quite boring really apart from being able to zoom along.

Steps no longer climbed

Anyone who has read this blog for an amount of time will know how I feel about Power Stations especially their cooling towers. Tall ceramic vases that have been dropped onto the surface of the planet creating their dumpy bases, gentle curves and strong stature. Ferrybridge is THE power station of my life being a landmark of my youth.

So not right

Our first cruise past I had been so over excited at being so close that I was like the kid back at the lock today, jumping about, shouting. I inadvertently caught the self inflate toggle on my life jacket on Lillian’s back doors and the whole thing inflated! But today was not going to be an inflating day, it was to be a deflating day.

They have worked hard

Last July one of the eight cooling towers had been demolished, then in October another four were blown up, leaving three for posterity. I knew this had happened and awaited to see what it looked like. Well there were no cheers or jumping about today, just a little tear in my eye. Tomorrow I’ll try to replicate the photo that appeared on our Christmas card last year so you can see how much has changed.


Under John Carr’s Ferry Bridge, which seems to have plenty of buddleia sprouting from it, and straight through the long flood lock onto the cut.

Here I really wanted to do a touch more to the port side, the cut is wide enough to wind in with ease but the visitor moorings are not the best place for a cat to while away the afternoon. We considered pulling in behind a cruiser on the port side, but instead continued on a little further to where the bank is lower and a big grassy bank takes you up to the towpath and trees before dipping down into the river.

Tilly set off straight away, dodging the dog walkers and headed for the trees.

This could be good here

After lunch I rinsed off the fertan on the bar and grabrail, let it dry off and then spent half an hour stirring up some filler/primer I’d had squirrelled away. I worked from the front to the back and by the time I’d finished the front patches were dry.

Primed and filled

Meanwhile Mick was emptying the port side stern locker. When I’d pulled out a bucket the other day I’d noticed some liquid on the floor. It turns out that a container of oil hadn’t had the cap screwed on completely so it had leaked all over the floor, soaked into some ropes too.

Keeping an eye on the youfs

The puddle was soaked up with nappies. The ropes were submerged in a bucket of soapy water hoping to get rid of the worst of the oil. They were then left out in the sun to dry off.

I’ve had a knitting commission from Jac my sister-in-law for a cotton top. So much of the remainder of this afternoon was spent choosing yarn via whatsap and email. This will be sent to her in London to bring up when we meet up in York in a couple of weeks. I’m quite looking forward to having something to keep my fingers busy in front of the TV again.

Even the bear misses the towers

2 locks, 2 flood locks, 9.58 miles, 3 not 8! 1 life jackets still primed, 1 tear shed, 0 excitement, 1 grassy mooring, 1st coat primer, 1 lost bear, 12 high pounces, 0 friends, 1 oily locker, 350 grams white cotton, 8 cruisers all in a line, 2 turkey schnitzels.

There Is No Such Thing As A Free Cup Of Tea. 2nd September

Beale Park


The ‘Next Time’ list got a little bit shorter today. After a leisurely cuppa in bed followed by a sausage sarnie ( those sausages were nice), we walked upstream to find the nearest church, St Bartholomews.

St Bartholomews

Built in flint with stone dressing in the late 13th Century it is Grade 1 listed and owned by the Churches Conservation Trust. It is a simple building with a brick bell tower that was added later. Surrounding the alter are tiled walls. The church is open daily but the next service isn’t until mid October. We weren’t really here to see the church but to visit the resting place of Jethro Tull.

Looking up the aisle
Jethro’s headstone

Jethro Tull was born in Lower Basildon in 1674. His life work was key to major developments in the agricultural revolution which took place in the early 18th Century. He invented the first mechanised seed drill which was horse drawn. Rows of seed could now be cultivated reducing waste and enabling an amount of weed reduction. His innovations didn’t make him a wealthy man and nobody knows exactly where he is buried in the church yard. A modern stone donated in the 1960’s marks that the church yard is his resting place.

From here we walked up the hill, over the railway and along the busy road to the gate houses of Basilson Park, a National Trust property sitting high above the valley now surrounded by trees. We showed our membership cards and got a note to use in the tea rooms for a free cuppa, these are given out if you arrive by public transport, bike or on foot. The walk up to the house is through a thick yew wood which a week ago would have been a wonderful place away from the searing heat. Today kids climbed through the branches pretending they were caught in a maze of lazers.

Basildon Park

On the drive we got our first view of the house. A Palladian Mansion, possibly one of the finest in the country. You are directed up one of two curved staircases to the guests entrance. Here a guide introduced us to the house with a quick bit of history. The estate was acquired in 1771 by Francis Sykes who had made his fortune with the East India Company. He commissioned the architect John Carr of York (the founder of my Fathers architectural practice) to build him a splendid mansion with neo-classical interiors.

Two grand staircases to enter by

The Sykes owned the house until 1838 when it passed onto the Morrison family. During WW1 it was used as a convalescence home for officers and in WW2 it was requisitioned first by the Americans for D-Day training and then by the British and used as a prisoner of war camp for the Germans and Italians. The house didn’t fair well during this time. During the 1930’s it’s owner had wanted to sell the house to America, hoping to make a fortune. Doors, fireplaces, mouldings were removed and taken to the States as examples of the craftsmanship to try to entice buyers but the depression put paid to that and the house remained firmly on the hill above Lower Basildon.

The library

In 1952 Lord and Lady Iliffe bought the house and set about restoring it to its former glory. Other John Carr properties were visited at one in Lincolnshire they were able to buy doors, frames, fireplaces etc from the house as it was about to be demolished. Here the detail with which John Carr gave to his buildings meant that fireplaces just slotted in at Basildon and doors didn’t even need new screw holes drilling for the hinges as everything fitted perfectly.

Reused curtains decorate the walls

Not many of the rooms are as they would have been back in the 18th Century. In the green drawing room the original ceiling is still there, untouched other than by some water damage from a leaking washing machine above and a fire detector. The walls however have been covered with green damask curtains which were found by Lady Iliffe in a ballroom. You can make out where the fabric used to hang in pleats due to the fading of the cloth.

The dining room, the frocks upstaging the room a touch

As you enter the dining room columns of faux marble cut off the servants end of the room, large paintings and details on the ceiling look down on a very long dining room table with a fantastic broderie anglaise table cloth. The paintings from the ceiling were one of the elements that ended up in America, the ones there today were painted only a few years ago. They are good but nowhere near as good as they would have been in the original house.

The Octagonal Room with red baize walls

Around the first floor is a collection of dresses from the 1950’s. Two in the entrance hall were made and worn by Lady Iliffe, the others are on loan from the Fashion and Textile Museum. the displays are not as intrusive as we’ve come across at other NT properties, but because of the dresses the curtains in each room are closed and spot lights highlight the clothes. This does mean the lighting is very dramatic, no chance to see outside to the views from each room and details in the rooms are hidden in dim corners. Quite a shame in the Octagonal Room.

Decorative panel on the wall made from shells
My favourites, Argonaut shells

Up the stairs to first the Shell Room. Lady Charlotte collected shells, vast quantities of shells. She wasn’t interested in them for scientific reasons, she just loved their shapes. Whilst on holidays she would leave her husband to socialise so that she could be down on the beach collecting shells. Her collection not only sits in display cabinets but also adorns them too.

The panelled door has been rehinged
part way through it’s panels

The Iliffe’s added modern conveniences to the house, heating and plumbing. One bathroom has a wonderfully deep bath which necessitated the door to the room to be altered.

Quite a bed

The Crimson Bedroom has 1950’s wallpaper, but central to the room is a very ornate red Georgian bed that Lady Iliffe bought for £100. This was one of their guest bedrooms with a huge vast wardrobe which may at one time have been used by Disraeli.

Quite odd in such a house

At the top of the family staircase we could smell cooking wafting up from below, so we followed our noses. First into the houses kitchen, decked out with worn 1950’s units. A drawer full of familiar kitchen utensils sat out on the long kitchen table opposite a fake Aga. The aromas hadn’t been coming from here. Down more steps and we reached the ground floor and the tea room.

The guest staircase

Time for our free cuppas and something to eat. Mick chose a sandwich and a roast veg frittata took my fancy. We handed over our hand written chit for tea and the young lady then asked us for £12! ‘Er don’t we get free tea?’ ‘Oh Yes, £8’.

An original study for the tapestry in Coventry Cathedral

Quite a few of the tables were occupied, but we found one and put the tray on the table along with our number for food. A waitress said ‘Is that number 13?’ Yes it was. She lifted the number from the tray onto the table to one side, I thought that was a touch too helpful. She then proceeded to pick up our tray. She was clearing it all away before we’d even sat down! ‘Excuse me we’d like to drink our tea and eat our food!’ Oh, right! She did apologise briefly when she came through with my frittatta, which was very tasty.

Free tea!

A look around the gardens, plenty of fushia out and wilting roses. The front lawn looks out across the valley. We tried to work out just where Oleanna might be behind all the trees. Then we made our way back down the hill and across the railway. A permisive track took our fancy so we climbed the style and followed mowed pathways through wooded areas. We guessed we were heading in the right direction, cut across a road and then into more fields.

From the front lawn

Oleanna should be just about there, but the path took us this way then back on our selves. Eventually we popped out on the river bank a few hundred feet away from our bow.

It had been a good day and well worth stopping to look round the house, ticking off another John Carr building, but they certainly didn’t want us to have that free cuppa!

More outside time!

0 locks, 0 miles by boat, 5 miles walked, 1 gravestone, 1 Jethro, 1 Carr house, 3 staircases, 18 frocks, 26 preparatory paintings for a tapestry, 2 Japanese lamps, 1 red bed, 5m table cloth, 732579 shells, 2 cups of tea, 1 ham sandwich, 1 frittatta clung onto for dear life, 2 repeats in wallpaper, 1 crumbling balustrade, 3 hours for Tilly, 1 woofers ball.