Category Archives: Knitting

Coconut Record. 24th January

Wolverhampton Tunnel to Pelsall Junction

Back to the junction

The alarm was set this morning. Once it had gone off we were up to have our cuppa with breakfast instead of in bed. You would think mooring right next to a ring road would be noisy, but last night and the last time we moored here we got a reasonable nights sleep.

The last bit of reasonably arty grafitti

Last night Mick had been reading his Pearsons Guide on The Black Country Rings, it had suggested that the first mooring we’d have come across on the Wyrley and Essington Canal would have been a secure one, we’d see what we thought as we passed this morning.

A nice place to moor

We pootled back up to Horseley Field Junction where we turned left onto new water. A short distance on we passed the Urban Moorings, some facebook friends of ours have just spent a few months moored here. A nice little community, they have just started selling coal and gas at reasonable prices.


Where once an old railway bridge spanned the canal there is now an arc of mirror. This catches you as you pass underneath. On a sunny day I suspect our reflection would have been brighter. A shame the other side faces upwards and has turned green.

Wednesfield Junction

At what once was Wednesfield Junction a short arm sits next to a pub, mooring rings on both sides. One side against the pub, the other a car park, Tilly would not have been allowed out on either side. Who knows how noisy the pub would have been last night, but we might have treated ourselves to the pictures which is right next door.

A handy barrier

We carried on a touch before squeezing ourselves onto some bollards. A quick top up shop of veg and milk was required and this was the closest we could get to Sainsburys. Mick stayed with Oleanna and I headed to do the shopping returning with a little bit more than intended!

Knight’s Bridge

No stopping for long today, we wanted to cover some miles, so we pushed off again. After three miles we had reached Knight’s Bridge. Here a solitary boat sits on it’s home mooring, one we’ve shared the Wolverhampton mooring with before. We could hear the pack of Pekingese from inside the house.

Could this be where Gran lived

This bridge is also where Vernons (the production Manager in Vienna) Gran used to live, one of the houses by the bridge. Two were visible, another hid behind fencing.

Short Heathe Branch, once filled with sunken boats

Then we passed the disused Short Heath Branch, this is where Vernon and his mates used to play on sunken boats in his youth. None were visible today, maybe they have been cleared away, we didn’t want to find out so continued on our course.

The secure spot already taken

At Lane Head Bridge moorings a boat was on the secure section, there would have been space for us should we have wanted to stop, but we had a better place in mind.

Builders vehicles

The going was slow, Mick not wanting to churn the bottom of the canal up too much and collect things on the prop. There was plenty down there that we could see, some large items, trolleys and barriers, others more pliable. Yesterday a boat had reported on picking up several items on their prop including a horse duvet, curtains and the like. Luckily we managed to avoid having to visit the weedhatch for such things.

The human race really is disgusting

We’d been expecting light industry by the side of the canal, but houses backed up to it on both sides for much of our journey north. Nothing much of interest other than plenty of rubbish! I suppose once you’ve tipped your rubbish over the garden fence it vanishes into thin air! Plastic kids umbrellas will degrade rapidly once out of sight and mind. We humans are disgusting!!


Along the side of the M6 for a while which gradually rose to cross the canal. At Sneyd Junction a set of locks used to rise up to Essington and Norton Cannock Collieries, the bottom lock now filled in with a culvert for drainage.

Once the bottom of Sneyd Locks

The water tank was topped up at Sneyd services and the weed hatch checked, nothing much but a couple of bits of plastic. I made lunch whilst the tank filled and then we were off again with cuppas in insulated cups.

Now we came across the light industrial units. G4S with what looked like armoured vans, is gold bullion moved in these with their escape hatches on the roof?

Scummy scum scum

Along with the industry came scummy water. Was this dead duckweed, some other weed or what happens to coconuts once the water breaks them down. Today the coconut count was nearly at two per mile, by far a record.

Watching us from on high

The scum went on for an age, both of us hopping it would diminish before our mooring for the day, if not then Tilly’s shore leave was likely to be suspended as she would think it a solid surface to walk on.

The old Brass works site

At Birchills Junction we passed the end of the Walsall Canal, we’ll venture down there at some point. The Wyrley and Essington Canal is known as the Curlywurly (or is it the Curlywyrley?) as it follows the 473ft contour doubling back on itself several times. One big bend now has a cleared site to one side where once the Elkington Brass Works used to stand. The area is earmarked for 263 houses.

The canal would head off between the trees here

Once through little Bloxwich the scum started to dissipate and the surroundings became far more rural. At what was Fishley Junction you can see the line where once the Lord Hayes Branch used to head off. This could be the start of the proposed new route of the Hatherton Canal which would gradually drop towards Hatherton Junction on the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal. Would this bring more boats this way? A new ring always attracts boaters.

Hmm, this outside might just do

Not much further and we ducked under Pelsall Works Bridge. Now very rural but once busy with iron works, the common known locally as ‘The Cracker’ after one of the huge foundry machines. Pulling in proved a touch tricky, me stood at the bow checking for depth which didn’t seem to be enough. Then close to the junction I couldn’t see the bottom anymore, we tried and succeeded. Spikes in, tied up, time to let Tilly out.

Not quite enough friendly cover to keep me covered

Great! But which way to go? This outside has trees, but they are distant. Normally this would not be a problem, but here there are woofers walking their humans, lots of them. She came out and we had a bit of a walk around until Magpies complained about me. Anyhow it was just turning dark so we decided to go back and warm up in front of the stove, tomorrow I’ll venture further to find friends.

Pelsall Junction

0 locks, 12.84 miles, 2 lefts, 4 straights, 1 cuppa with breakfast, 1 cuppa on the go, 1 lunch on the go, 1 full water tank, 1 joint pork, 2 bags flour, 2 pints milk, 1 scummy canal, 21 coconuts, 35 minutes shore leave, 1 pair socks finished.

Poot. 17th 18th January

Cast Iron Roving Bridge to Cast Iron Roving Bridge

Just as we were about to tuck into a late breakfast a familiar face bobbed down to say hello at our side hatch. Paul from Waterway Routes was heading off for the day to do some data checking for his maps. We arranged to meet up later in the day.

Morning Tilly

Tilly came and went whilst I made use of the washing machine. Mick headed into town to pick up some new glasses, he was a touch concerned that I might not like them as I’d not been with him when he chose new frames. The heavens opened and I was glad I was having a lazy day.

Pixel all wrapped up for our safety

For lunch we set free one of the cheeses I’d brought back with me. Pixel had been loosely vacuum packed as it was so squidgy. It took a while to cut off an end, I then realised that the whole cheese was wrapped in muslin and it should have been unwrapped completely. But the liquid state that it was inside would have required a bowl! So hoping that the muslin would contain it we continued cutting it away, bit by bit.


Verdict. Ohhh yummy, gooey, slightly ‘prickelnd’ on the tongue. In fact after a couple of slices of my GF Austrian bread spread with it my tongue was just starting to go a little bit numb! We’ll try and eek this one out as it was most definitely a treat cheese.

Mick’s glasses are okay, bigger than his previous ones, Dame Edna meets Ben Sherman, apparently this is more modern and cool!

Paul popped in for a cuppa late afternoon when he’d returned after cycling part of the Trent and Mersey. Tomorrow he would be cycling from Lincoln to Boston to check data, good job he has an electric assisted Brompton, just hope the wind stays in his favour for the day.

Do we have to get up now?!

Saturday morning, a bright start to the day, but we loitered in bed for a while, well I have been working hard! Mick headed off for our Saturday newspaper and after a leisurely breakfast we decided to go on a little pootle.


With the next week looking like overnight temperatures will be low, we need to stock up on essentials. Earlier in the week Mick had pulled in at Alvechurch to enquire how much their gas was. At £29.90 Mick bought two bottles! Coal was the next thing, so we pulled along to the service point outside the Distillery.

Coal please

Another boat was topping up and emptying when we arrived so we pulled in and waited our turn. We’re hoping to reach Horne Basin, where the diesel is cheap, in a couple of days so we only stocked up on coal. Only three bags as it was £13 for 25kg a touch more than we’re used to.

The water tank was filled, the tap here has good pressure, one to remember! As we pulled away more boats were arriving, quite a busy spell.

Heading out of town

We decided to have a little jaunt a touch further along the canal to turn round. We passed the boat that runs it’s engine late at night sat not much further on. One end of the Soho Loop is closed at the moment so we chose the Icknield Loop instead.

Turning into the Icknield Loop

Blimey it was chilly out there, the sun low in the sky making it hard to see. The island here is becoming a new neighbourhood according to the developments website. Car free with modern terraced houses, green spaces (currently concrete and mud) and a widebeam sales office.

The new neighbourhood

Coming back onto the Main Line we turned right and headed back into town, turning down the Oozells Street Loop so that we could turn back on ourselves to have the hatch towpath side where we’d been moored before. The left turn out of the loop was a touch tight, but Mick managed it without hitting anywhere.

Boxes on boxes

After a cheesy lunch we walked into town. A bag of unwanted items was donated to Cancer Research, this has now freed up space for this years Christmas presents. Boots was visited for an adjustment to Mick’s new glasses as they were tending to slip down his nose. A food shop for a couple of days and some model making materials for my next project, I have a model box to make soon.

One puzzled Tilly

Back on Oleanna I browned some shin beef added veg and popped the cast iron pot onto the stove to bubble away the remainder of the afternoon. Whilst in Vienna I longed to cook for myself easily avoiding gluten in my diet. I’d dreamt of cooking on the stove top. Later on jacket potatoes went inside the fire box and yoghurt dumplings were sat on top of the stew. It’s good to be home again.

Stew and dumplings

0 locks, 2.14 miles, 2 straights, 2 lefts, 2 rights, 1 liquid cheese, 3 bags coal, 12 loads washing, 1 full water tank, 2 visits from Paul, 1 stew, 12 dumplings, 1 flummoxed cat, 1 set of needles knitting again.

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

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!

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Oozells To Look At. 4th January

Oozells Street Loop

The chap across the way had been running his engine until 11pm both nights we’d been moored opposite the giraffe. The first night we considered going over to see if everyone was alright on board, but it’s quite a long way round. So on the second evening we were relieved to hear the engine going, but not for the length of time it ran for! So this morning we decided to move.

NB Sola Gatia had been round on the Oozells Loop along with another boat, both had moved off. So we decided to move round the corner and see if it would be any quieter, less foot fall for certain.

Oozells Street Loop

There was plenty of room for us, so we chose to tie up in the middle, leaving room for boats infront and behind, but we’d be away from both bridges.

In the afternoon we headed into town. Should we walk down into the Jewellery Quarter to look at museums? Go to the Art Gallery? Or go to the top of the Library?

There’s Lillian down there, lovely and yellow

Back in October 2014 Mick had discovered the wonderful gardens and views from the library whilst I was working. He even managed to get a photo of NB Lillyanne (Lillian) moored at Cambrian Wharf. When I had free time we tried again, but high winds meant we could only stay indoors as the gardens were closed.

Going up
and up

Today we went to the top, to the viewing gallery and the Shakespeare Library. Then we walked down the 90 steps to the garden. From here we could see for miles. If we hadn’t moved Oleanna this morning we’d have got a photo of her too from up here, but now she was tucked away behind the Sealife Centre.

No Lillian today
The boat with the noisy engine on the right

Below was busy and the new trams came and went from the station.

New trams

It was a touch late in the afternoon by now to pay to go into a museum, so we opted for the Art Gallery and headed straight for the Pre-Raphelites and Burne Jones. Mick said we’d been before, but neither of us could remember when. It turns out that after we’d been to see Dippy the dinosaur we had a little look round, that was only 18 months ago!

She is meant to be asleep

The same paintings caught my eye. One study for Burne Jones painting Briar Rose is my favourite, I prefer it to the final painting.

A study in perpsective

But this time we also got to see a bit more of the display. Superduperspective by Patrick Hughes could not be ignored. It’s first view should be straight on, an image of paintings from the gallery in two corridors. But then as you move round you realise the whole thing is 3D and painted in such away to trick your eye. When fooled the furthest parts of the painting are actually the closest to you. Very clever use of shading, but a touch nauseating too.

But the wrong way round

0 locks, the same 0.14 miles mentioned yesterday, 150 yards from engines running, 1 library, 1 art gallery, 100 Euros, 1 adaptor, 1 bored asleep cat, 1 sock finished.

Very pretty

Back To Work. 3rd January

The Giraffe, Birmingham

Tilly has resigned herself to being in Birmingham. This morning she didn’t even stir from her sleep to play pen before we got up. Then she took to her day bed without even a look at the back door, There’s just no point!

There are now four award winning Damascena Coffee Houses in Birmingham

At lunchtime I put my designers head on and walked into town for a meeting with a new director. Amy had suggested meeting up at Damascena, she’d arrived before me and secured a table in the back room. Just as well as the place got very full. Serving Middle Eastern food, hummus, falafels, flat breads etc, it all looked very tasty.

The picture doesn’t do it justice, it was yummy

We quickly ordered, Amy a falafal wrap with haloumi, myself crispy falafels with gluten free flatbreads and avocado hummus. All very tasty, I just wished I’d eaten my flat breads a bit quicker as they soon became brittle, but that tends to be the nature of such things.

A wonderful room

Amy is the Artistic Lead at Dark Horse Theatre Company in Huddersfield. A few years ago they started to run AcT a course for people with learning disabilities to train to become professional actors. This summer the first of their students will graduate by putting on a performance at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield and I have been asked to be their designer.

Bowie down by the Bullring

Work has already started on the piece with much of the physical movement already having been blocked. Set in a garden, based on a poem we will need to work our way through the seasons. We talked practicalities and then moved on to more arty stuff. Captioning of the script on the set and wheelchair access along with giving the audience the best sight lines will take a bit of working out.


We chatted away for a couple of hours, worked out a time scale for the design deadlines. Working with Dark Horse means everything needs to be ready far earlier so that the actors can rehearse with the set and props for as long as possible. A very good first meeting with lots to think about.

I didn’t fancy Mask or Neck

A walk down to the Bullring Markets to see what took my fancy for our evening meal. Plenty on offer, maybe the fish with red dots? But nothing really took my fancy, so in the end I opted for a stir fry from M&S.

Moon’s up

Back at Oleanna Tilly had ventured out and Mick had had the opportunity to chat to a man setting bait in rat boxes. These have always worried us as Tilly so likes to stick her arm down holes. But the man assured Mick that they were safe as she wouldn’t be able to reach the poison and was too big to get inside to where it lurks.

Kingfisher with Turmeric toe

The first pair of new year socks are coming along nicely. I’ve started off with the Kingfisher yarn and a matching colour for the toes and heel. It’s knitting up quite stripy as you can see. By the end of the evening I’d turned the heel and was working up the leg. I hope I can find the right place in the yarn to start knitting the second sock so that the orange meets with the heel like it has done with the first one.

0 locks, 0 miles, 6 crispy falafel, 1 brand new director, 8 actors, 1 wheel chair, 4 seasons, 9 foot head height, 0 fish, 40 minutes shore leave, 1 old friend found again, 1 underwhelming video, 0.75 of a sock, 8pm you should stop your engine matey across the way!!!

Abandoned Ship. 31st December

Above Lock 6 to Earlswood Motor Yacht Club.

A semi cooked breakfast

The fridge is getting depleted, but there were three sausages that should have been eaten by yesterday, so we risked it and accompanied them with an egg, toast, beans and a few hash browns for our last breakfast of the year.

Was this Adam and Adrian’s old share boat?

Boats were moving in both directions earlier than ourselves, so we hoped that the last locks of this year would be in our favour. The first one wasn’t, the last two boats must have passed each other below the lock. Oh well, we’d had most of Hatton and Lapworth in our favour.

Emptying ready for Oleanna

Mick brought Oleanna into Lock 5, I closed the gates and lifted both paddles to fill the chamber. The short pound above seemed a little low already, we were making it lower still. As normal I walked up to the next lock to set it, emptying water down. Now it is just the two of us Mick is left to close the gates behind him and drop the paddles.

Winding the paddles back down
About to bring her out of the lock

He dropped the paddle one side, crossed the gate, opened it, dropped the paddle that side. Brought Oleanna out of the lock, stopped in the throat of the lock, stepped off to close the gate behind. The stepping off usually is done with the centre line in hand, so I was surprised when he stepped off without it.

There’s a bit too much water between man and boat!

The one time he does this and Oleanna decides she’d like to carry on on her own! Mick spotted this just a touch too late the gap far too wide to jump never mind step! I’d already started to walk down, nothing much we could do, the gap was too wide from the other side of the lock. We just had to wait and wait to see where she was headed, very slowly.

That’s right head to the bank

Her chosen course luckily for us was to aim for the towpath. Some careful footing was needed to get down a slippy bank before Oleanna’s gunnel could be reached. Fortunately she continued her course towards us and Mick could climb back on. Phew! Tilly not only needs to learn how to make tea, but also to steer Oleanna.

All back to normal

Once up Lock 4, Mick told me that he loved me. ‘Because I didn’t shout at you and call you a stupid b*gger!’ ‘Yes’. Well that wouldn’t have got us anywhere and just been a lot of hot air.

Lapworth Top Lock was also full despite emptying itself. This lock will always be remembered as being covered in snow, Narnia Lock. When we moved our old share boat NB Winding Down south we did this stretch with about four inches of snow on the ground, the top lock had looked magical. Today it would be our last for 2019.

Narnia Lock our last for the year

We pootled along to the first lift bridge. This used to be exceptionally hard work. It certainly was when it had four inches of snow on it! The hydraulics were changed a few years ago which means at least you can turn your windlass to get it moving. You just have to do it 60 plus times to be able to get your boat through!

A chap by his boat thought there might be someone who’d sell us some gas, but the closed sign was up at Swallow Cruisers.

We won’t be stocking up with gas here

On a bit further to the next lift bridge. Here the grey boat we’d obviously been following was pulled in on the bridge landing. No sign of the chap. Mick tried pulling in infront but we were too long. This had the effect of blinds being twitched and two people came out, a lady ran to open the bridge for us and presumably themselves. At least it saved me 24 turns of my windlass.

Lufted lift bridge

Now to find somewhere to see the new year in, preferably with a view and suitable for Tilly. The cutting we were in opened out after a few miles. Should we pull in here, or go round the corner where we’ve moored before? Debates went on, but with a view one side, a field and trees we pulled in. This would do us.

We still didn’t stop, but then it doesn’t appeal anymore.

It already felt like it was about 3:45pm, the day had been exceptionally grey, but Tilly was given an hour and a half to explore. This she made use off and vanished into the thickly treed embankment, requiring encouragement to return before it got too dark!

The fish pie mix we’d bought in Oxford was made into a crumble for our dinner, accompanied by a bottle of wine. The second episode of Vienna Blood was watched as I finished off knitting the pockets on my new treat cardigan. The button band and pockets just need sewing together now and it will be finished.


As we watched the fireworks in London we urged the helicopter to head southwards as the smoke masked the view to the north of the Thames. Plenty of fireworks went off around us, at some distance, clearer than those on the TV. Thank goodness Tilly is fine with all the bangs, she slept through midnight chasing mice in her sleep.

4 locks, 4.74 miles, 2 lift bridges, 3 sausages, 2 eggs, 1 abandoned boat, 1 bow just close enough, 1 silly sausage, 0 visits to Wedges still, 0 Ferraris, 7635 Christmas trees, 1.5 hours, 1 cardie knitted, 1 Happy New Year to all.

All We Want For Christmas. 23rd, 24th December

Radford Smelly to The Big Cat, Leamington Spa

Moving into town was the way forward. So the alarm was set and we had our first cuppa with breakfast and cruised the mile and a quarter into Leamington Spa. There were more boats moored up in town than there had been a couple of weeks ago, people had come in to do their shopping. Mick headed off to get the hire car whilst I had a good sweep through Oleanna.

Our mooring turned out to be far better than it would have been back near the lock, here we can get the car to within 100ft of the boat.

The tip!

First port of call, Princes Drive Recycling Centre. Blimey it was busy! Engine oil, old electrical items and our old printer went in the skips. Tilly’s spiny chasey toy (the red flying saucer in the middle) that she’s grown out of sat in the middle of the skip making me feel guilty. Unfortunately they wouldn’t take used antifreeze without an appointment, which happens on Thursdays, apart from this coming week!

Peanut butter!

Next Morrisons for peanut butter and some Coffee logs that we’d like to try. This did mean us sitting in traffic to get into the store, then more traffic to get to the petrol station and even more traffic to get out to just sit in traffic again to return to the boat to drop off the antifreeze. The whole trip, there and back, would have been much quicker by boat!


Time to head across country. 14 miles as the crow flies was a good 40 minutes by road. Soon we could see the Banger Spire calling us up the hill into Braunston village. There were two parcels waiting at the post office, luckily the chap let me show him a copy of a bill on my phone as proof of ID as I’d left my cards on the boat.

Village meats

Then we joined the queue at the butchers. The chap in front was picking up his Turkey, a lady on crutches had a large order and another lady had the wind knocked out of her when she was told the price of her fillet of beef joint! She asked if they could make it a touch smaller, but the butcher explained he could but it would still cost the same price! Hope they know how to cook 3kg of beef fillet.

A pie did manage to get added to our shopping

Our order was as expected, sadly no gluten free bangers.

Lots of plumbing bits

Midland Chandlers only had imperial allen keys and open metal buckets for ash, but we did get a grease gun and spare water hose parts before heading back towards Leamington Spa.

Busy in there today too!

Screwfix provided us with Allen keys, then we joined traffic going into Sainsburys. Once parked we started on our main food shop. Five bags of goodies, everything we wanted and an opportunity to use our nectar points, a good cheap shop.


The only thing left was an ash bin.

Homebase, No, but they did have some Gorilla Tape that is Crystal clear to mend a hole in the pram cover.

Lidl, No.

A Hardware shop in town, No.

They were closed!

A Fireplace and stove shop on Rugby road, No.

Leamington Lights

Time had run out so we returned to Oleanna fully laden but missing an ash bin, we’ll have to order one to be sent somewhere, but we don’t quite know where at the moment. Maybe a last minute note to Father Christmas might work?

24th December

Not an inspiring view at 7:30

Tilly and I had already decided last night that we wouldn’t be staying in town for Christmas. The view wasn’t much this morning when I opened the curtains, it was still dark. After a cuppa in bed, Mick headed off in the car to see if Morrisons would sell him a bottle of gas. Even though they’d just had a delivery this morning they didn’t have the right sized bottle for us, never mind we’ll get some up towards Birmingham.

Yarn heaven again

A quick breakfast and then it was time to return the car to Enterprise. I hitched a lift and then walked up to Wool Warehouse. The yarns that I first used for socks in my Etsy shop is now discontinued, so I was wanting to check out an alternative.

They just had to be bought!

There were far more colours to choose from and Oops! I came home with seven balls. I had to have the red and blue. And I wouldn’t be a boater if I hadn’t got the colourway called Kingfisher. So that’s January sorted.

More graffiti, just by the footbridge

We pootled up the way to the next winding hole, I hopped off at Morrisons for a couple of bits and by the time I returned to the canal Mick was just pulling up to wait for me. Back to Clemens Street Bridge where we topped up the water tank as I gave the floor a good wash. Then we were on our way again, retracing our steps to Radford Semele. We were surprised nobody else had turned up there, maybe they all know about the TV signal.

Christmas Eve wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without sausage rolls

The remainder of the day has mostly been about cooking. First lunchtime sausage rolls.

Pinenuts for the stuffing and cider gravy reducing

Then stuffing, gravy and bread sauce.

Cracking before it sinks

Followed by a Queen of Sheba cake. This will get iced tomorrow.

Braised cabbage

Then the braised cabbage got to sit on the stove top for an hour or so. The smell of it is so yummy! All of this lot will end up in the outdoor fridge overnight.

Then came the maple and mustard ham with dauphinoise potatoes. Yum!

One happy cat showing off her white bits

Tilly had a few good hours on the towpath, only having to escape from a grey hound once. We all agree this is a better place to spend Christmas, maybe not quite as nice as on the Oxford Canal, but I suspect there will be fewer boats moving tomorrow.

How does Santa Tom get through the air vent? He won’t get an ash bin through there!

The stockings are out and we are wrapped up and ready for tomorrow.

0 locks, 4.47 miles, 1 wind, 32 coffee logs, 1 duck, 1 gammon, £112 for a fillet, 2 parcels, 2mm allen key, 1 last pounce, 3 peanut butters, 5 bags shopping, 0 ash pan, 0 gas, 700 grams yarn, 8 sausage rolls, 1 new recipe for bread sauce, 1 vat of gravy, 1 pot of stuffing, 1 pan of cabbage, 1 ham, 8 sliced potatoes, 1 cake, 8 oz of chocolate, 3 stocking, 2 boaters and a cat all excited.