Category Archives: Lee Navigation

2021 An Adventurous Year

Time for the annual round up. Put the kettle on or pour yourself a glass of something stonger, put your feet up, this is a long post.

Looking out into a cold world!

As midnight turned from 2020 to 2021 we saw the old year out and new one in at the house in Scarborough, a quiet affair with just the three of us.

January and February brought ups and downs with them. Oleanna rose and fell with the water level at Viking Marina due to the breach at New Bridge whilst the country locked down. Despite the restrictions on travelling we made use of having a hire car for a few days at the beginning of the year to keep an eye on Oleanna.

Jobs around the house continued, our bedroom was redecorated and reclaimed from troublesome tenants. Tilly and I ventured out into the nearby park for the occasional walk, dependant on the number of woofers and the weather of course.

We walked, we ate, we drank, did our best to stay well and I started on the design for Chipping Norton’s panto in my reclaimed work room.

The spare living room was used as a workshop doing some work for Animated Objects, scrimming giant sci-fi guns and then painting model buildings all for The Odyssey. Beetroot burgers were made and pancakes consumed.

Then March came along and some easing of restrictions. Colour came back in nature with the daffodils popping up and my panto model started to get coloured in. A design for some origami paper arrived ready to be folded up to be part of 1000 ships display that would happen a couple of months later along the Yorkshire coast.

With new freedoms we had a couple of trips to Goole to check on Oleanna. First one was to swing her round and finally put fire extinguishers on walls all ready for her Boat Safety Inspection which she passed with flying colours and a comment that we seemed to like CO and smoke detectors, well I’d rather have too many than not enough!

The cofferdam at the breach site was completed and an access ramp created. My posts about the breach put us in touch with several people in Goole and at the beginning of April The Goole Escape Facebook group was formed. Due to the breach and lack of water in Goole Docks no leisure boats were allowed to use Ocean Lock out onto the Tidal Ouse. A joint calm voice was needed to try to find a way out for those boats wanting to leave, including us.

Of course March was also when Mick and I got our first vaccinations. Who’d have thought having a jab would put a smile on peoples faces! Not that you could really see them behind all the masks. A bathroom got a make over and we discovered parts of Scarborough we’d never been to before.

April was a very busy month. With lodgers on the horizon house jobs needed finishing. The roof needed attention along with a wall in my work room, both jobs were for the professionals. Pictures went up on walls, finally. The bathroom needed finishing with Frank fitting us a new bath surround.

Mid month out attention moved back to Oleanna. Way back when, we’d booked her in at Goole Boathouse to be blacked. We had a night on board before moving her from one marina to the other to come out of the water. She was jet washed down and the chaps began applying layers of 2 pack to her hull. We visited most days with jobs to do ourselves. Mick busied himself inside whilst I ground back rusty bits on the gunnels, repainted them and the tunnel bands. Inside the oak floor had a good clean and then was treated to two coats of oil. The weather had been perfect for it and she went back in the water a week after she’d come out, enough time for the 2 pack to cure. She looked smart again, well the cabin sides still needed a good wash!

Whilst in Goole we met up with David, Karl, Wendy and Martin, four members of The Goole Escape group. David had managed to negotiate with ABP passage for leisure boats through Ocean Lock at Goole Docks, this was limited to specific times of the tide. So escape was now possible but everything would have to come together to make a sensible plan. We wouldn’t be ready for a few weeks and hoped that there wouldn’t be a mass exodus before we could join people.

As I carried on trying to finish my panto model Mick made good use of his time doing a VHF radio course, we’d need to be able to use the radio to meet the criteria for going through Goole Docks and out onto the Tidal Ouse. Tilly visited the vet and got a years worth of flea and wormer treatments, we were all set to move back on board.

The first of May was that day. We’d hoped that Tilly would remember the boat after seven months on shore, within about two seconds of being back it was obvious she knew where she was. News that Goole caisson gates were now open and cruising up towards the breach site was possible we headed off to give Oleanna a good run and so that Tilly could venture back onto dry land. It was very good to be back on the move again. On our second such trip Tilly remembered how to swim!

Whilst in Goole Mick took his Short Range VHF Radio exam and passed. I carried on painting my panto model. We both had our second vaccinations. Heather Bleasdale came to visit joining us for an outdoor lunch. We got to know the Goole Escape Committee and discussed plans. We watched work going on at the breach site. Mick had a birthday and Joan’s Home Kitchen provided us with a celebratory meal a couple of days before we hoped to escape.

On 21st May an escape committee meeting was had early on, the weather looked hopeful for the tide in the afternoon, we were booked in at Ocean Lock. Our escape was to be via Selby, the Lock keeper was called there and our plan confirmed. At lunchtime we moved up to fill the diesel tank and await the other escapees, Sea Maiden and Lullabelle. Given the go ahead by the docks to proceed we were soon passing through to Ocean Lock where there was plenty of space for the three of us. At around 14:30 the large lock gates opened to reveal our way out of Goole onto the Tidal Ouse.

All three boats arrived safe and sound

We headed upstream following Sea Maiden being pushed along with the tide. Would we make it to Selby before the tide turned. Each boat arrived individually and was locked up into Selby Basin. We’d made it, now all we had to do was escape Selby as the swing bridge out of the basin there was broken.

We waited. Tides, times, weather and the amount of fresh coming down stream all had to fit together. Bridget and Storm came to visit. We twiddled our thumbs. The Environment Agency came and closed the flood barrier. We twiddled our thumbs. Daily escape committee meetings were held. By the 27th everything was looking to fit together apart from one thing, Keadby Lock would not be manned at a suitable time for us to get off the river. Sea Maiden and Lullabelle decided to stay put in Selby. Heather Bleasdale was joining us for the trip but Oleanna would be out on the river on her own heading to Trent Falls.

What a day that was! David’s advice was spot on. Leaving Selby just before 10am Oleanna zoomed downstream with the out going tide. We followed our charts keeping to the channel. At the Apex light Mick swung Oleanna round to head upstream onto the Trent our progress slowing instantly.

We then crawled our way to find where we should wait for the tide to turn. Two hours of very little, drifting on our anchor. We’d picked the day well, it was wonderful out there.

When Oleanna started to move round a touch more we managed to pull the anchor up and found our way back into the main channel to head upstream with the incoming tide. One plan had been to moor up in Gainsborough, but we decided to carry on and arrived at Torksey just as the last light was fading at just gone 22:00, 64 miles in a day, I doubt we’ll ever beat that.

Over the next few days we made our way up the Trent, dug out our windlasses to work locks in Nottingham. Once we rose up Derwent Mouth Lock onto the Trent and Mersey we had completed our escape. The going would now be much slower along shallow canals and plenty more moored boats to slow down past.

Now we should make our booked mooring at Rembrandt Gardens, every day would be a boating day unless the weather was either too hot or far too wet to cruise. Along the Trent and Mersey, pausing to stock up in Alrewas. At Fradley we turned onto the Coventry Canal to head southwards. We gave a tow to NB Burghley Girl to the bottom of Atherstone.

At Hawkesbury Junction we did the 180 degree turn onto the North Oxford Canal, through Rugby and up Hillmorton. NB Kamili with Andy and Irene passed as we arrived in Braunston where we paused for another butchers, then up the flight and through the tunnel.

Straight on along the Grand Union. On route we stopped for a drink with Lizzie at Bugbrooke. Paused for a hot day under some trees near Milton Keynes. Had a diversion along the Wendover Arm for a night. Picked up extra crew, my old college friend Jen, for a day through Hemel Hempstead. Came across our first sightings of HS2 cutting it’s way across the landscape.

At Bulls Bridge we turned left onto the Paddington Arm. On our trip into London we came across our friends Pete and Clare on NB Billy, it turned out we’d be neighbours at Rembrandt Gardens for a few days. We arrived on time and the next day headed across London by bus to Hackney to see the London Leckenbys for the first time since Christmas 2019.

Plenty more family to catch up with. Kath came for lunch, we had a trip to Eastbourne to see Marion and John, a lovely lunch with Christine and Paul. So good to see everyone again and not just on a computer screen every Saturday.

Happy Birthday Big Brother

Andrew’s 60th Birthday was celebrated, nothing fancy just good to be able to be together for it, we’d achieved our second goal of the year.

We heard there was a space at St Pancras Cruising Club for a long boat like Oleanna, so we took advantage of a more secure mooring close to Kings Cross whilst we had a visit back to Scarborough. Checking on the house, lodgers changing over and seeing the latest Ayckbourn play with Bridget and Storm, it all made for a good weekend away. I then headed off to Huddersfield for a couple of days work with Dark Horse, fitting costumes for a photo shoot.

There was to be a Tideway cruise from St Pancras Cruising Club and with one space left we jumped at the opportunity. Ten boats made their way to Limehouse, we breasted up with NB Misty Blue, Graham turned out to be another Goole Escapee. Three lock-fulls of boats headed out onto the Tideway on the morning of 10th July, special permission had been sought to go under Hammersmith Bridge which was closed to all forms of traffic at the time.

Tilly thought we were mad taking her onto such rough water, I was a little perplexed too! Very glad that I was the official photographer, clinging on as we did more than bob up and down! Tower Bridge, The National Theatre, Christine, Adam, The Houses of Parliament, Battersea Power Station. So many sights, what an experience!

The further west we got the calmer the water got. We were glad when Hammersmith Bridge was passed as there had always been a chance that it might close to boat traffic at anytime due to safety reasons. We turned off at Brentford along with several other boats and continued up to Hanwell where we had a very sociable evening at The Fox with everyone. Thank you Simon for mentioning the cruise to us.

Sadly our washing machine hadn’t liked the lumpy water so for the next month we cruised meeting up with engineers on route hoping it could be mended. Back through London, pausing at St Pancras again. Then down to the Herford Union to cut across to the Lee and Stort. We had another mooring booked on the Lee awaiting our arrival, alongside NB Billy.

Then up the Lee and onto the River Stort. We’d only ventured so far up the Stort during our first winter on Lillian, this time we headed all the way to Bishop Stortford. Our return journey was held up slightly due to the river going into flood overnight so we had to wait for it to lower to get under the bridge at Roydon.

Back through London we made use of the new Eco-moorings near Islington Tunnel, a handy stop off with electricity. Here we met up with Nick an old friend from York and Adam called in for a catch up after working the breakfast shift at Radio 2.

Goodbye Christine!

At the end of July we pushed on and left London behind us, returning to Bulls Bridge.

We headed up to Uxbridge for cheap diesel and finally got our washing machine mended. We turned around and headed back to the Hanwell flight, stowed the garden back in the shower and headed out onto the Thames again where we turned right towards Oxford.

With a weeks license we couldn’t dawdle, although a broken lock gate at Boveney Lock did hold us up overnight so our license would be extended. A space was spotted below Cliveden so we treated ourselves to a night moored in the grounds of the big house. We paused for a socially distanced chat with Sue on No Problem XL, good to see her looking so well. Henley Regatta was almost ready as we passed through and our favourite mooring above Days Lock did not disappoint. All too soon we turned up Sheepwash Channel and ascended Isis Lock back onto the Oxford Canal.

Whilst in Oxford I managed an actual face to face meeting with Dash the Director for Chippy Panto. He seemed happy! Then we made our way up to Thrupp where we’d booked ourselves in at the cruising club for a few days whilst the London Leckenbys came to visit and we had a trip back to Scarborough and we got to see the show at Esk Valley for the first time since we’ve been living afloat.

I had a day trip to Chippy where I did a final model meeting over zoom from a dressing room, but also had chance to measure things up. Then we were off up the Oxford Canal, mooring in our favourite spots, it was a touch busier than it normally is in the winter.

A pause to visit Village Meats in Braunston and we spotted our old share boat NB Winding Down so we stopped to say hello. On up the flight sharing with a boat full of actors, then left up to Crick for the first time in ages.

A prearranged boaters meeting at Houdini’s Field worked brilliantly, NB Panda and NB Kamili convened and we all enjoyed each others company over a fantastic barbeque outside so everyone could feel safe and Tilly could roam about. Oleanna was treated to a very good wash and brush up before we were on our way again. We now needed to get her north before I started on Panto.

News came through that the breach on the Aire and Calder had been mended and nine months after the canal had sprung a leek it was mended and open again. Boats could now move through the area, mooring however is still restricted.

Following the Grand Union we headed down the Stockton Flight to Leamington Spa. Tilly and I had a few hot days on our own moored at Radford Smelly then we were on our way again. An obligatory burger at The Cape of Good Hope the night before we teamed up with NB Mad Hatter to ascend the Hatton flight. One day my old college friend Emma will not have an excuse to helping us up the flight, this time we met for a cuppa and a catch up the following day.

On up Knowle to Catherine de Barnes, then Camp Hill Locks, the Ashted flight and Tunnel (!) followed by Farmers Bridge into Birmingham. The city centre is still full of building and tram works but with the sun out it looked stunning. We also caught up with Paul Balmer from Waterway Routes before carrying on with our journey.

A night at Hawne Basin filled the diesel tank up. A night at Dudley Port Basin got the cupboards filled. A pause at Urban Moorings meant we could donate our deposits and the next day we descended from the Birmingham plateau down the Wolverhampton 21.

Along the Staffordshire and Worcester we managed to have a mid stream catch up with Barbara from NB Bessie Surtees. At Great Haywood I managed a catch up with Kay from NB Pea Green as she set up to trade for the day and Mick filled Oleanna’s water tank.

Heading north on the Trent and Mersey we pulled in for lunch and a surprise hello to Barry and Sandra from NB AreandAre whom we’d got to know last year in the first lockdown. In the afternoon we were joined by Bill and Lisa for a trip through Harecastle Tunnel. Now we swung off the Trent and Mersey and onto the Macclesfield with it’s wonderful bridges.

It would have been nice to take our time but we had a rendez vous to make. The end mooring at Marple was free and from here we headed into Manchester by train to join the London Leckenbys for a meal of big red fish. The following day my old school friend Morag joined us for a night on board with some serious catching up to be done.

Our next deadline loomed, Standedge Tunnel. We dropped down the Marple flight, crossed the aqueduct and turned right at Dukinfield Junction onto the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. We knew we were in for some hard work to climb our way over the Pennines, last time we’d enlisted crew to help as I was one handed. This time we’d be going solo. Apart from the very first lock it wasn’t too troublesome. The work is rewarded with stunning views.

Standedge Tunnel did not disappoint. Because of social distancing Mick got ride ride up front in the cratch leaving the helm to a C&RT volunteer. Bumps and scrapes made Oleanna wince along with us, but we all got through in one piece with no damage. Tilly wasn’t too happy about the trip, but at least I can now boast to the local cats in Scarboreugh that I’ve been through the longest deepest highest tunnel on the canal network whilst they just lazed around on their shed roofs!

On our way down the other side Oleanna had a belt that went taking out quite a few wires in the engine bay. RCR were sent for, the engineer suggested we’d need to remove a pulley on the alternator to be able to remove trapped wires, this could not happen where we were. We could move but the batteries would not charge. The only way to top up our electric was with the solar panels. Emergency power conservation went into operation, blogs were hand written, the freezer turned off and we gradually ate our way through our defrosting supplies. Every day Mick managed to pull more wire from the alternator and soon there was no need for an engineer again, just a new belt needed fitting.

We made our way down to Huddersfield and arrived the day before I had a production meeting at Dark Horse. After walking to my meeting I handed over the model and we stocked up on supplies before heading off east along the Huddersfield Broad Canal.

The Board locks are just that, but they are short. On Lillian we’d nearly got stuck here, but Oleanna was built a foot shorter so we knew we were fine, we still had to take great care in descending the locks diagonally. This continued on to the Calder and Hebble, taking our time and using our Hebble spike. The rebuilding work done at the Figure of Three locks, after flooding washed huge parts of the structure away, are only noticeable due to the new stonework.

Bigger locks were welcome, using the key of power once past Wakefield. The sun shone wonderfully for my last full days boating this year as we made our way to Castleford. Here we hired a car to get me down to Chipping Norton to start work on Panto whilst Mick and Tilly stayed on board with the plan to move Oleanna to a winter mooring in Thorne.

Whilst I painted the set working all the hours I could, Mick and Tilly gradually made their way eastwards. They passed through the breach site and headed to Goole to top up on diesel. On their way back towards the New Junction Canal the engine started to over heat, a problem that had happened a couple of years ago on the Thames.

The following day he winded and slowly made his way to Rawcliffe Bridge for easier access for RCR. Little could be done there and then, so Mick and Alastair (engineer) arranged to meet at Viking Marina in Goole. Oleanna managed the two and a half miles in three stages. After her cooling system had been flushed through the problem hadn’t gone away. The water pump was removed and was obviously the problem. A week later with a new pump Mick moved back out onto the cut and joined Lullabelle (a fellow Goole Escapee).

Taking a long weekend off panto, I headed up to join Mick and Tilly to help move them back to Scarborough. Wendy and Martin kept an eye on Oleanna for us whilst we settled Tilly back into the house, I knew where I was! Pah!!

Several days later with the weather on his side, Mick returned as early as he could, pushed off and single handed Oleanna back along the Aire and Calder to Sykehouse Junction where he turned onto the New Junction Canal. With swing and lift bridges to work he was glad of the assistance of a volunteer at Sykehouse Lock. Then the sharp turn at Bramwith onto the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigations. A few more bridges and two more locks before he arrived at Blue Water Marina, Oleanna’s winter mooring.

Tucked up for a rest

On our way back from Chippy a week or so later we called in to check on her. A boat in winter isn’t too friendly without the stove lit. We’ll have visits every now and then to check on her and do the odd job. The weeks are already flying by before we move back on board.

For a year that we’d decided would purely be about seeing our family and friends we ended up having quite an adventurous time. Trent Falls, the Tideway through London and Standedge Tunnel made it quite a year.

So our vital statistics for the year 2021 according to canal plan are

Total distance was 932 miles, ½ furlong and 627 locks . There were 42 moveable bridges of which 16 are usually left open; 169 small aqueducts or underbridges and 30 tunnels – a total of 19 miles 3 ¼ furlongs underground and 3 major aqueducts.

This was made up of 277 miles, 1 ¾ furlongs of narrow canals; 270 miles, 4 furlongs of broad canals; 89 miles, 4 ¼ furlongs of commercial waterways; 59 miles, 7 ¼ furlongs of small rivers; 121 miles, 5 furlongs of large rivers; 105 miles, 2 ¼ furlongs of tidal rivers; 8 miles of seaways; 263 narrow locks; 302 broad locks; 61 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.

Sadly with Oleanna’s log book where it should be, onboard, I’m not able to offer up the engine hours, litres of diesel, gas bottle or bags of coal. Maybe I’ll update this once we are back on board.

The Thames, 2021

This year we’ve done more miles than last, not bad considering we were on land for so much of it. We’ve done far more tidal miles than ever before and for the first time we’ve been on a Seaway! If someone can tell me what the difference is between Tidal waters and Seaways please do. Maybe it was around Trent Falls, or was it downstream of Tower Bridge?

As last year I hope the pandemic doesn’t throw a spanner in the works for us or anyone else. We need the theatrical world to still function with an income for me designing shows and lodgers paying to stay in our house.

I want to say ‘Keep well friends’, but I feel I need to add, ‘Get well soon friends’, as so many have tested positive recently. Thank you for following us and hope to see you soon x

Faces Everywhere. 29th July

Pond Lane Footbridge 16 to Eco Moorings east of Islington Tunnel

Some fabric samples had arrived at my brothers that needed collecting. My first thought was to walk across to pick them up, then Mick and I was could rendez vous at Bottom Lock on the Hertford Union. But Andrew was busy doing site visits so a later visit to the house was arranged.

Outside the Breakfast Club

We pushed off, the canal a lot quieter than it had been a couple of weeks ago. The pubs were empty and no canoes were out. A lady from a widebeam a few boats up took note of us leaving and phoned a friend who was on their way.

London does unusual boats well. Paint jobs that are not your standard traditional affairs. The uprights of The East Crossway Bridges have all been decorated, one with cds and other objects and one is almost totally covered in old spray cans. Then the new St Columba boat has an interesting roof line, a section of it raises similar to a roof on a VW camper van.

Bottom Lock

A right onto the Hertford Union, Ducketts Cut which was intended as a short cut from the Thames to the River Lee, cutting out the tidal Thames. It now saves a trip down to Limehouse basin and back up saving just under three hours cruising.

What we’d seen being started ten days ago

The graffiti we’d seen being painted almost a couple of weeks ago was still there, not yet painted over. The green Frankenstein holds a spray can.


This lock also has the offside bollards painted with wrestling faces, quite amusing.

On a couple of the pillars someone has painted faces, a different style to your usual graffiti art, but I quite liked them. There was another on the tight towpath bend below the middle lock.

Frankie Strand

Another piece that catches your eye is by Frankie Strand. There have been several of Frankie’s works along the Lee, a distinctive style. She is also an illustrator and has a website Here. She certainly likes here flamingos, snakes and cormorants.

A widebeam was just coming out of the middle lock, this turned out to be the boat that was heading to where we’d pulled out from. The large inflatable flamingo is now semi deflated, it’s head bowing down towards the water.

Victoria Park

With just the last few inches of the top lock to fill I left Mick to finish off the lock on his own and headed off across Victoria Park to collect my post. A cuppa with my brother was lovely for an hour, but then it was time to catch up with Mick who was now single handing. Hopefully the London Leckenbys will catch up with us in a couple of weeks, if not we may not see them for quite a while.

Taste trial for dogs

I guessed that Mick might have made it to Acton’s Lock so started to head that way across the vast park. I gave him a call and it turned out he was only just starting to work his way up Old Ford Lock just after the junction back on the Regents Canal. My route was altered accordingly, popping back out onto the towpath above the lock. No sight of Oleanna so I carried on walking westwards.

There he is!

A glimpse of a stern, was that Mick? Yep it was, he was just calling to tell me where he was. I soon caught up a bit before Acton’s Lock. He’d taken his time, loitering on lock landings so I wouldn’t have too far to catch up with him, also it meant he wouldn’t have to single hand too much. As he’d pulled away from Old Ford Lock NB Driftwood was just arriving so we paused at Acton’s Lock to wait for them.

Heading down to Limehouse

Two boats however were heading towards us, so we worked our way up to free up the lock for them. We then pulled over to the elsan to empty our yellow water. This meant Driftwood was quite close behind us now. They caught us up by Stort’s Lock and then shared our last two locks for the day.

Here they come

We only had through the next bridge to go, where as Rod and Nor were hoping to find space for Driftwood in Paddington Basin, I hope they succeeded. Hopefully our paths will cross again somewhere, sometime.

I walked up to the Eco-moorings. At first glance they looked full apart from a space that wasn’t long enough for us. Our booked mooring was 1A. The moorings are numbered lowest to highest East to West from Bridge 38, Froglane Bridge to the entrance of Islington Tunnel. The first four moorings are double moorings between April & September, all are 21.7m long, so we should have pulled in alongside the first boat. But a short distance on was a gap big enough for us, if it became a problem to anyone we’d move back. No-one else arrived so that was fine. Have to say unless you’ve fully read the emails and website you wouldn’t know which mooring was which as they are not labelled.


Phew we were moored up! Tilly was read the rules, she’d already started to do calculations to be able to climb the wall alongside the towpath. Yes but things took a different turn when I saw a furry friend. Calculations put on hold, I needed to introduce myself! No amount of cyclists , runners, even woofers distracted our second mate from her introductory mission.


‘Hello Leckers!’ A passing walker stopped to say hello. This was my oldest friend Nick, he’d just spent the day doing jury service in Southwark and had decided to walk home. He knew we’d be in the area as we’d planned to meet up tomorrow evening. Mick connected us to the electric hook up and we sat down for a cuppa and a good catch up. Jolly good to see Nick and we look forward to seeing him again tomorrow, hopefully accompanied by Kerry his partner and Harry his faithful hound.

The Eco-moorings are a quiet zone. C&RT have provided electric hook up points, so you are only allowed to run your engine if you are moving your boat and should you light your stove you can only burn smokeless fuel. At the moment these moorings are a trial, another two sites will become eco-moorings sometime in the future. Here’s hoping such places pop up around the network enabling boats to reduce their emissions in built up areas.

The last Hackney Shark

7 locks, 1 single handed, 2 shared, 5.21 miles, 2 rights, 3 canals, 2 shades of blue, 1 brother, 1 nephew, 1 shark left, 54.5 years a friend, 3 big friends, 1 wall to master, 1 tidy boat all hooked up. Shame the washing machine’s not working!

The Greasers. 28th July

Ordnance Road Bridge 38 to Pond Lane Footbridge 16

On our way

NB Driftwood came past as we were having our morning cuppa in bed, we wouldn’t be sharing locks with them today. We also wouldn’t be sharing with the boat that followed them as we had breakfast, keeping up with the green boat would have been quite a feet!

Going for a ride

We pushed off around 9am to retrace our route back to Hackney Marshes, hoping to find a space before turning onto the Hertford Union. A pigeon was determined to sit on top of the bottom lock gates as I closed them, filled the lock, opened and closed them again.

The high banks of the reservoirs followed us to the east and the power lines hung above us most of the way. The smell of malt filled the air, due to passing a brewery where a wagon was off loading.

At Ponders End Lock I had a quick check to see if the powered lock might just work, but as the button to be able to open the top gates was missing I guessed we’d still be using the manual one.

Below we paused to top up with water. Taking in a bit of the graffiti under the bridge I noticed an outlined figure which reminded me of a friends ceramic figures. Below one layer of paint there was a sprayed message, The Hackney Empire Strikes Back.

Alfies Lock

At Alfies lock we waited for a boat to come up, the crew only sort of knew what they were doing. As the levels equalised bags of rubbish were brought out for disposal. Two C&RT chaps were busying themselves round the lock, they’d obviously lent the chaps on the boat a windlass as this was handed back to them. Apparently they didn’t have a Key of Power either! They can’t move very often!

The chaps in blue were busy greasing all the paddle gear. One chap had a gun to squeeze the lubricant in around the collars on the gates, the other a knife like a putty knife. With this he was troweling on the grease to the teeth of the gear. I asked how often they did this. Between three to six months. Here we were at the last manual lock on the Lee and it was being greased, If we’d left it another day or two the locks above would all have been easier!

Festival stage going up

An outdoor stage was being erected by The Drumsheds, an outdoor festival will host gigs in the coming months. So if you want a quiet evening moored up on the Lee, this isn’t the place to moor at weekends.

Stonebridge Locks and Tottenham are awkward to drop crew off at, so we pulled onto the service mooring above and I walked between the locks. Chance to see things from the towpath for a change.

Below Tottenham Lock we were ready to have to clear the prop at regular intervals, but the weed boats must have been through as we only had to go into reverse a few times. Fairly recent graffiti has been added to bridges in the area, someone’s not too pleased with the way the pandemic has been governed!

Gradually the duckweed increased covering the navigation. Our eyes began hunting for a spot to pull in for the day. Dark clouds had been threatening us for a while with the occasional shower, but the rain was soon going to come down in earnest.

Cycle superhighway just behind the friendly cover

A bit sooner than we expected a chap was just coiling up his ropes about to push off. The space would just be the right size for us, so we pulled back and waited for him to vacate it, then pulled in. Our timing had been good in that respect it was also good in that just after we’d put the pram cover up the heavens opened. Tilly was slightly dismayed at this. They only move the outside when it’s dry, then tie it up when it’s really really wet!

5 locks, 8.94 miles, 1 speeding boat, -1 button, 1 full water tank, 1 green carpet, 4 hours of wet outsides, 2 lucky dry boaters, 8 leftover meatballs.

PS. Does anyone know why the Lee is sometimes spelt Lee and other times Lea? Both the navigation and river seem to have different spellings.

PPS. Thank you Clare from NB Billy. The ladybird I showed yesterday has a got a problem, sexually transmitted parasites! Eww!!

Anyone Got Any Change? 27th July

Broxbourne Bridge to Ordnance Road Bridge

After a hunt round on the internet Mick found the other circuit board, the one that now by process of elimination must be the problem with the washing machine. He had tried removing this one about ten days ago and decided that an engineer would do it better than he could. A phone call to the company was made and the circuit board has been ordered, we need to call them back later in the week to see where an engineer can come out to us as we’ll be making our way back through London to the west.

Just as we were about to push off a boat came into view, hopefully a lock partner. As the boat came past we noticed that it was NB Driftwood that we’d seen yesterday heading up the River Stort with the high cratch, they’d obviously not made it under the bridge.

NB Driftwood ahead

We pulled out shortly after them just as the local number checker arrived and tapped on the roof of the boat behind us. Would today be a day when everyone shuffled round to get the maximum time on a mooring? Is moving as your number gets checked a good thing? How many times would our number be taken? We seemed to be keeping up with the chap on the bike.

Moving day

Back past the busy Lee Valley Boat Centre, we’d already had a couple of day boats go past and now people were arriving to collect smaller craft for a few hours.

Under a bridge I noticed a sign listing the Greenway Code for Towpaths. 6 is especially good. ‘Give way to oncoming people beneath bridges’. Very sensible except the positioning of the sign was under a bridge and it would take someone time to read it all the while being in the way!

A postcard from C&RT

At Aquaduct Lock we caught up with NB Driftwood and the number checker, who’d just stopped to take a photo of a widebeam just before the lock landing. Notices posted on boats regarding their lack of movement used to be paper with the C&RT logo slotted into plastic for protection. Today it seems that picture postcards have taken over.

Quite a few inches higher than us

Rod on Driftwood chatted away. Yesterday he had to reverse quite a distance when they realised their cratch wouldn’t fit under Roydon Railway Bridge. He could have collapsed the structure, but then would also have had to remove a lot of things from his roof to get under, so they’d decided to abort the trip up the Stort.

‘OOOOO ooo OOOO!’ As Frank would say

We accompanied them through several more locks, enjoying their company. Rod and Nor have had their boat since October last year and have refitted quite a substantial amount of the interior, still more work to do but for now it is time to cruise and enjoy owning a boat.

Moving up, just enough

We passed boats we’d seen on the way up and kept passing the number checker. Boats were certainly on the move today. The narrowboat with a mass of fenders was being polled along to the next space and a wider than narrow boat complained when we started to shut gates on her. She’d apparently been waiting for ages, yet hadn’t shown interest and had just melded into the moored boats. We apologised and opened the gates back up for her.

Hot Compost bin

There was sighting of a hot composting bin on a widebeams stern deck, tucked behind some nasturtiums. Sadly these are too big to live on a narrowboat, but trials are being carried out by several of the Composting toilet group on facebook with smaller containers that will speed up the composting process.

New services

At Waltham Town Lock I decided to walk on ahead so that I could see what the new facilities block had on offer that we’d spotted the other day and get it’s location to pass on to Paul for the next update of Waterway Routes maps. NB Driftwood pulled in as they were after using the services.

Back within the M25

We waited for a widebeam to finish dropping down Rammey Marsh Lock, refilled it, then dropped down ourselves. Now it was time to find a mooring. Plenty more boats along this stretch than when we came up ten days ago, but luckily we found a couple of spaces free. Depth and underwater lumps and bumps were a touch awkward, but we got in in the end.

Such a funny face

After a late lunch Mick packed the hold all. We’d only got a few pairs of socks and pants left each, so it was time to visit the launderette. There was one close by on Ordnance Road, so not too far to drag our underwear. How much change did we have though? I don’t bother carrying money around anymore and the 46p I managed to find must have been on my bedside table for at least a year.

Those were clean Tilly!

Luckily the shop next door to the launderette could supply enough change, so we now have freshly laundered socks and pants.

Are we getting a new neighbour?

5 locks, 4 shared, 5.29 miles, 1 dribbley roof, 37 fenders, 1st 5 blackberries, 10 point code, 4 to 6 inches higher, 643 babies maybe, M25.

Are these babies or has this ladybird got a problem?

Two Bricks In The Amber. 26th July

Hunsdon Lock to Broxbourne Bridge

Above Hunsdon Lock

With all the rain yesterday we knew the river would have come up. The small weir that lads had been paddling in on our way upstream the other day was now a torrent of water, not sure you’d have been able to stand up in it today. I looked downstream from the lock the level was certainly higher, would the railway bridge below Roydon be passable?