Category Archives: Llangollen Canal

2020 A Long And Winding Year.

Get yourself a cuppa and put your feet up, this is a long post.

Into BUMingham

Having seen New Year in on the North Stratford Canal we commenced the new year by cruising in to Birmingham or as Tilly would have it know, BUMingham, she’s not too keen!

What a stripy world!

A meeting with Amy from Dark Horse Theatre Company about a project in the summer set out our years cruising as I’d need to be in Huddersfield then York for the show. Then it was time to pack and get myself ready for ten days in Vienna. This would be the longest I’ve been away from boat life since we set out in 2014. Half of my clothes were packed up along with a basic scene painting kit and I jetted off to what was a mixed experience. Despite the problems I had a wonderful time working with a great team in the theatre, I hope one day to return.

Whilst I marvelled at the wonderful scenes in Vienna and pulled my hair out at work, trying to keep a calm exterior, Mick and Tilly headed back out into the countryside towards Tardebigge on the Worcester and Birmingham. Here they met up with a friend Chris who was planning a boat build.


Mick and Tilly came back into Birmingham to pick me up and then we set about exploring the BCN. There is plenty to explore and we didn’t quite manage to go everywhere, but we did our best.

Smethwick Locks

We headed up Smethwick New Locks onto the Old Main line. Stopped at Dudley Port Basin, coconuts accompanied us down Brades Staircase, then through Netherton Tunnel where we’d planned on visiting Hawne Basin, but thick ice thwarted our first attempt. The following day we succeeded and had a bumpy ride along the Dudley No 2 to fill our diesel tank.

Emma and Ted

Factory Locks brought us back onto the Old Main Line, we visited Wolverhampton, turned onto the Wyrley and Essington Canal and wiggled our way through the rubbish to Pelsall Junction. Here we had a wonderful get together with my bestestest friend and her son Ted (my Godson) who were over from Sydney, an all but too short lunch with them before they headed onwards on their whistlestop tour of England.

The Cannock Extension and Anglesey Branch were ticked off followed by the Daw End Branch, The Rushall Canal, Tame Valley Canal and up the Ryders Green Locks back into the centre of BUMingham early February.

The Jewellery Quarter kept us busy with visits to Smith and Pepper a time warp jewellery manufacturers, The Back to Backs, The Coffin Works. We watched the film 1917.

The Garden white card scale model

I designed costumes and made the white card model for The Garden for Dark Horse whilst we sat out storm Ciara which was to wipe out the Figure of Three Locks on the Calder Hebble. The damage to the locks looked great and not fixable quickly, a rethink to our cruising route was needed for me to get to work in the summer.

We went to the Symphony Hall and listened to Schubert and Berg spurred on by Dimitrios from NB Galene. Storm Dennis kept us from cruising to our next evening of entertainment at Titford Pump House, a bus replacement did the job so that we could see Alarum Theatre Company’s Acts of Abandonment. Little did we know at the time that this was to be our last live theatre until December.

A night out in the countryside for Tilly and a last night in the city to fill our bellies with curry. Then we were off again, up Smethwick Locks under the M5 where the scaffolding was being taken down. We turned up the Oldbury Locks following a boat that turned out to be NB Sola Gratia. A spin round the Titford Pools was in order before we returned for another diesel top up at Hawne Basin.

The Walsall Canal now beckoned us, that was a bumpy ride over trolleys, trees and all sorts! A fantastic fabric shop, the New Art Gallery right by our mooring and The Leather Museum kept our interest for a couple of days before we climbed up the Walsall Locks back up to Wyrley and Essington Canal.

The garden at Urban Moorings

The ladies at Urban Moorings welcomed us for an overnight visit, time to work the washing machine hard as we plugged into the electric. Then we kept our fingers crossed for a mooring at The Black Country Museum, which thankfully worked.

Marion and John came to meet us for an afternoon at the museum and we all enjoyed fish and chips with plenty of salt and vinegar in between visiting shops and watching chain links being made. The following day we took a boat trip into the Dudley Tunnel, had a second visit to the museum along with a portion of chips before heading out to moor in Tipton and have a visit from Heather from NB Bleasdale, followed by a pie at Mad O’Roukes Pie Factory.

The 7th of March saw us descend the Wolverhampton 21, leaving the Birmingham plateau behind us. Blimey we managed to pack a lot into the first ten weeks of the year! Just as well really. Onto the Shroppie where I had my first successes with gluten free sour dough bread, Tilly got to remember life in the countryside and we were treated to Shroppie Sunsets again.

Burgers with the Margees

The recent storms had brought down numerous trees and caused landslips so our progress was a touch slow heading northwards. We had a lovely lunch with Alison and Laura the Margees at Norbury Junction, they were to be our last visitors on board Oleanna for quite sometime.

Passing NB Bessie Surtees on the Tyrley Locks we actually got chance to chat for the first time. A stop to stock up in Market Drayton, we saw our first homemade mask (a pair of y fronts repurposed) and the start of empty shelves in supermarkets with people gleeful to have a twelve pack of toilet roll under their coat.

The Audlem flight was busy with plenty going down and NB Mountbatten coming up, delivering coal as they went. Theatres closed that day and we started to put into practice new ways of working locks hoping to keep ourselves safe. As we socially distanced around the shops in Nantwich people were joking about the virus. We shopped, adapting what we bought to what was available and then got ready for our first Zoom with family on the 21st March.

We stocked up with NB Halsall at Calverley then made our way onto the Middlewich Branch and down Cholmondeston Lock. The following morning (23rd March) we listened to our gut instincts. If lockdown was to happen we’d rather not have to negotiate locks to get to shops or services, so we winded and headed back up Cholmondeston Lock onto the Nantwich pound. Our gut instinct was correct.

Adam and Adrian on NB Briar Rose

The next few days we saw plenty of boats moving, finding places they wanted to spend the coming weeks, heading for home or temporary ones like NB Briar Rose. Jac my sister in law eventually managed to get a flight back from Melbourne where she’d been to celebrate her Mum’s birthday, at last everyone was where they should be.

We tried different moorings out for size as the need to fill with water or get shopping arose. It was also good to keep Tilly moving, both to stop her from getting bored and to help the local wildlife survive.

Our decision to be on the Nantwich pound turned out to be a good one, we ended up mooring at the bottom of Hurleston on the visitor moorings most, this became ‘Home’ for us where we watched spring turn into summer.

Watching the field behind the hedge be ploughed, planted and start to grow. Listening to the Lapwings enjoying the bounty in the potato fields. Getting to know our neighbours at a distance. The wheelie shoppers. The huskies out for their morning walk. The egg farm at the top of the locks. Weekly veg boxes from Nantwich Veg Boxes which we collected for ourselves and NB AreandAre. Supermarket deliveries were sought each week, sometimes only managing click and collect. The sun shone and Tilly had freedom. The coal boats kept us stocked up with fuel and our waterless (composting) toilet took one need to move out of the equation.

By mid-April my design for The Garden had been reimagined into an illustrated audio play. I was to do the illustrations, then they would have audio and some animation added to be available online. Chippy panto started to gear up with the hope that all would be back to normal-ish by the end of November for the show to be mounted.

We winded, went for walks, watched plays on the internet, winded, ate cheese scones, winded again! Tilly ventured further afield, across her field. We had barbeques, brownies and watched the reservoir banks get mown by remote control.

By Mid-May we were allowed to travel, so we hired a car for a day trip to Scarborough to see how our house was after the tenants had lost it during lockdown. In need of some tlc we now made plans for the rest of the year. We would be returning to life on land for a while, but planned on cruising as much as we could before then.

On the 23rd of May the suspension of the 14 day rule was lifted, our ‘home’ mooring was now 48 hours only so it was time to start moving again. Some boats around Hurleston headed off straight away, others remained a full 14 days before pushing off. We spent the next two weeks pootling to the far ends of the pound, Hack Green and Calvereley, the gunnels got a repaint and we said farewell to NB AreandAre who were heading up onto the Llangollen.

Cholmondeston Lock

With a full boat of veg and fruit from Nantwich Veg boxes, a Sainsburys shop and a visit from NB Halsall we were ready and on the 10th June we pushed our ‘home’ mooring away for the last time this year, Calverely was visited for a top up of water a toilet refresh and then we were off, turning onto the Middlewich Branch and descending Cholmondeston Lock, our first lock in 80 days. New gardening gloves became my boaters PPE and worked well, better than sanitising every five minutes.

Across onto the Trent and Mersey where we headed for Bramble Cuttings for a couple of nights. We’d been hoping to be able to drop down onto the Weaver but the Anderton Boat lift was still closed. So instead we winded at Whatcroft flash and headed up the Cheshire Locks hoping to catch Bosley Locks being open for a day to make our way onto the summit pound of the Macclesfield.

Nice Lock

It was nice being back on familiar ground again, although it took a little while to be able to do the Trent and Mersey hurdles over the lockgate beams with ease after sitting still for so long.

Our chairs were brought out onto the towpath to watch the setting sun at Tilly Railings and a barbeque was enjoyed on the Dane Aqueduct as we waited in line for Bosley Locks to open.

Bosley Locks and The Cloud in the background

With a single hander in front and one behind everyone helped out where we could making our passage up the locks a very jolly if hot one that only took 2.5 hours. Over the next ten days or so we pootled our way along the Macclesfield Canal, such a lovely stretch of water and oh those bridges! Still our favourites.

Calling in at Bollington Wharf we had our gas locker lid mended and had a top up of diesel. Foxgloves filled the canal banks and woods, we stopped at favourite spots along the way turning under the snake bridge at Marple onto the Peak Forest Canal at the end of June, heading for Whaley Bridge and Bugsworth Basin.

Saturday 4th July the pubs could re-open, we however went for a walk and waited for our delivery from Sainsburys along with a diesel top up from NB Alton. A batch of cheese scones were made to help us down the Marple flight on the 7th, we were the second boat down and it felt like we were pioneering boats going where no one had gone for months.

A couple of nights at Droylesden Marina saw to the washing pile and to recharge our batteries before we descended into Manchester. Our last narrow lock of the year was to be Ancotes Bottom Lock 1 on the Ashton Flight where we paused for a night at Telford Basin before tackling the Rochdale 9 on our own the following day. Patience and sheer determination got us out of Lock 92 at the bottom and was rewarded with a cheese scone as we made our way out to the Bridgewater Canal and Worsely.

The 14th July saw us rising up the Wigan Flight. We’d made arrangements to share the locks with NB Billy but it was decided by the volunteer lock keepers that they might be over long to share with, so instead we teamed up with John and Lindsey on NB Merganser. With the help of the Wigan Flight crew setting ahead we made good time up the flight, we then slowed down leaving the others to head off ahead of us.

The next few days we found ourselves leapfrogging NB Billy, or should that be hopfrogging? But we finally caught them up at Blackburn to share the locks. Another spectacular sunset was enjoyed by all near Foster Swing Bridge.

We’d planned to take our time along this stretch, but with local lockdowns looking possible in the area we decided to push on. The Burnley Embankment was busy with walkers and not a place to stop so we continued on to the bottom of Barrowford Locks. The following day we were caught up again by NB Billy so we shared the final flight up to the summit with Clare and Pete.

Our sixth anniversary of being fulltime boaters happened to coincide with pulling up at our favourite mooring on the network, the curley wurlys above Bank Newton. The following day the clouds lifted and we got to see the view. A barbecue was just managed before it started to rain.

It wasn’t quite plain sailing down into Skipton as the skipper of NB Amelie ended up in the cut at the bottom of Bank Newton and then we had problems with lock gates and swing bridges. Mick and I had an overnight in Scarborough leaving Tilly in charge and with the magic food bowl primed. On our return to Skipton we were met by two octogenarians leaning out of the upstairs windows of their house waving. We joined Margaret and Robert for a lovely meal, good to see them even if we were a bit nervy being in their company inside.

Sunny weather accompanied us onwards and finally I managed to take the photo I’ve been after for four years, Oleanna coming towards me under Parson’s Bridge. Now we have the matching pair, Lillian going away from us, Oleanna towards.

At Bingley five rise we teamed up with NB Barley to descend with the help of Lock Keeper Clare, carrying on to Saltaire in the sunshine.

A pause in Rodley meant we could meet up with friends Graham and Tracy in their new garden room, very nice to have a good catch up with them. The following day we took the opportunity to have lunch with my cousins Julie and John, our first pub in months.

Meeting up with Jenny and Andy on NB Barley again we shared the locks down into Leeds with them early the next day. A lack of water meant it took an hour to do one pound as water was let down from above, but we made it in the end to Granary Wharf. Shame the lack of water followed us, in fact the basin did a good job of emptying itself overnight. It took quite a few hours before boats had enough water to be afloat again, we all made a hasty exit as soon as we could.

Back into the big locks of the Aire and Calder we motored on to Ferrybridge where now only three of the power station cooling towers remain, a very sad sight.

Down Bank Dole Lock, the slow filler and we headed to Selby. Our trip up the Tidal Ouse was an interesting one a there were SO many trees floating about, we had to try our best to loose them before passing through what few bridges there were. Kingfishers escorted us just about all the way to Naburn which was a real treat. Instead of pulling up in York we decided to head on up to Ripon, we’d spend time in York on our way back, or so we thought!

Above Boroughbridge a familiar boat came into view, NB Billy. This was the last time our bows would cross this year. At Oxclose Lock we had some time for Tilly to explore before heading up into Ripon Basin to meet up with Robert and Margaret again and for Tilly to show off her ability to spot otters.

I’d get it in the neck if I didn’t include a photo!

On our way downstream the river was rising, we stopped off for a meal at The Dawney Arms making the most of the Eat out to Help out deal. Wonderful food and chance to meet up with Kerry the Landlady and hoped that the river level would ease overnight. Fortunately it did and we made our way in to York. We had hoped to meet up with old friends whilst we were in the area, it turned out the only people I got to see where Jaye and Duncan for lunch. Social distancing, rising rivers sadly put paid to seeing other people.

Over the next ten days the river rose twice. On one fall we made it back into York to pick up a supermarket delivery but very quickly headed back to Naburn where we ended up breasting up in a line of four boats tied to the floating pontoon by the water point. Levels didn’t rise so much as to necessitate wellies or waders, but it did put paid to the London Leckenbys joining us for a few days at the nearby campsite. A big disappointment all round.

But on the 31st August levels had dropped sufficiently for us to head back to Selby accompanied by Richard and Heather on NB Isabella, new boat owners. Naburn was their very first lock, Selby was to be their second! It was such a beautiful morning, we led the way but then let them go first when we reached Selby, we were likely to be able to stem the tide better, but they managed the lock with ease.

Lovely to see Bridget and Storm

At West Haddelsey we had a visit from Bridget and Storm, so lovely to see them. We’d planned on being good and sitting out, they’d even brought their own chairs and the camper van for their own toilet. But as it started to rain we bent the rules taking shelter inside Oleanna. This was the day I gave a second phone to the god of the cut.

For a replacement we headed down to Goole, calling in at Viking Marina to check we would have a mooring later in the month. After filling up with cheap diesel we then headed off up toward Doncaster and Sprotbrough where we caught up with Mick’s niece Fran, before returning back onto the Aire and Calder to do maintenance jobs and enjoy our last days onboard.

On the 18th September we pulled into our berth at the marina, finished off the contents of the freezer and started to pack. Two trips in a hire car to Scarborough and we were moved, Tilly joining us the second time.

Back then we imagined we’d be down to Oleanna doing jobs on day trips and by now we’d have had a couple of weeks out on the cut, but this simply wasn’t to be.

Living Room reclaimed

Jobs in the house keep me busy, along with starting work on the postponed Chippy panto. Mick for a while applied for supermarket jobs, hoping to be a delivery driver. The only job he was offered was as a meet and greeter just before Novembers lockdown. We both decided that maybe we’d cope without the money.

Not as low as she got after the breach

Then before Christmas came the news of the Aire and Calder breach. Fortunately plenty of people are keeping an eye on all the boats including Oleanna.

Blimey what a year!

So our vital statistics for the year 2020 according to canal plan are

Total distance is 792 miles, 2 ½ furlong and 339 locks . There are 82 moveable bridges of which 5 are usually left open; 233 small aqueducts or underbridges and 41 tunnels – a total of 19 miles 6 ¾ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.

This is made up of 365 miles, ¼ furlongs of narrow canals; 242 miles, 4 ¾ furlongs of broad canals; 81 miles, 3 ¾ furlongs of commercial waterways; 76 miles, 1 ¾ furlongs of small rivers; 0 miles of large rivers; 27 miles of tidal rivers; 202 narrow locks; 118 broad locks; 18 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. This year I can’t even work out how many boxes of wine we’ve gone through!

However I can tell you that from one page of journeys on our trip computer, missing out all the journeys in between the start of the page and the end, the total distance travelled would have been 2.25 furlongs. Instead it actually amounted to 56 miles 7.5 furlongs with 19 winds (turning around). This was of course in Lockdown 1. Grand total number of winds this year, 67.

Christmas Day 2020, Scarborough Spa

Here’s hoping that the pandemic calms down, we all get vaccinated and the breach on the Aire and Calder gets sorted so that we can go boating again. After all we didn’t plan to move back on land permanently!

Not a bad view

Notifications, Breach 12 5th January

Just a quick post today otherwise I’ll never get the round up of last year written, a bedroom decorated and panto designed!

During the day we received two notices from C&RT. One from Damien regarding boating during lockdown. The 14 day rule has been suspended and only essential movement is allowed as it was during the lockdown in March. The biggest difference for boats in this lockdown is the weather.

Oleanna 3 years ago

On social media there are photographs of wonderful snowy white canal scenes, the occasional footage of boats breaking ice (preparing their hulls for blacking) and many a photo of cosy interiors with stoves glowing in the corner of the cabin keeping everyone toasty warm. I have to say I’m a touch envious.

However, this is very different to the first lockdown because of the temperatures. In March we made sure we were on a pound with everything we needed. But now I suspect we’d choose a mooring closer to a water point and road access for deliveries in case we got iced in. In winter you become more aware of what the weather may or may not do and plan accordingly, locked down or not! I suspect the moorings either side of Nantwich Junction Bridge are highly sought after, this is where we sat out the Beast from the East.

We hope everyone has found somewhere good to be for the coming weeks and that the heroes of the canals, the coal boats keep you stocked up with fuel of every variety.

Here they come

Looking through the Coronavirus and boating FAQ section on the C&RT website I came across a section on the Boat Safety Scheme. Every four years your boat needs inspecting to check it meets current guidelines for safety. You can’t get your boat insured or licensed without an upto date certificate. Oleanna is due her first one this April. During Lockdown 1, C&RT gave people extensions to get their inspections done, but this time it’s different.

‘The Government guidelines are clear that those needing to access homes to carry out work can do so. Those needing a certificate should do their best to use a local examiner to minimise non-essential travel, and let us know if they are shielding or isolating so we can arrange an examination as soon as possible once it is safe to do so.’

The other email from C&RT is one sent to people moored on the Aire and Calder regarding the breach.

‘The navigation is being kept at a reduced level from Ferrybridge to Pollington to limit the amount of water flowing into the section below Pollington where the breach is located.  Until a better solution for protecting the breach is developed and implemented it may be possible, by prior arrangement only, to lock craft upstream through Pollington, Whitley and Ferrybridge. This will have to be scheduled around water control operations and water level at the breach site. It is hoped to reinstate some user functionality from Whitley to Ferrybridge soon.’

Sharing Pollington Lock last year

So there may be a way off the pound where the breach is. But does this mean boats who are currently upstream of the breach can escape? Or that crafts can be locked upstream through Pollington Lock? Last night we read it as the former, this morning we’re not so sure.

However, Oleanna will be staying put. She has a mooring, we are in lockdown, the caisson stop gates are closed and we have nowhere else to moor her. So we continue to watch for news at the docks.

Extra Measurements, Breach 10. 3rd January 2021


Firstly thank you to Dave Scouts and Kevin Too for suggesting Bingmaps. The National Library of Scotland map images alongside the satellite image is very interesting. I’ve sneakily put an extract here that shows the railway line. We’ve come across this before but had forgotten about it. Have to say though these maps make it very easy to see where an old railway used to be, I quite like trying to work it out for myself from the satellite images, but can then confirm my suspicions using this and OS maps.

Side by side

The actual bank slip along this stretch is about 400ft east of where the railway bridge was. Paul (Waterway Routes) pointed this out from examining my photos, Marks photos and the flag on a map I’d put up the other day. Mick had also spotted this when we’d first seen the comment on Facebook. All interesting stuff to keep you busy on a winter Sunday afternoon.

Rays over the Wolds

Today we kept ourselves busy too. The hire car keys will be handed back tomorrow so one last trip to check on Oleanna before it gets a little bit harder to do so, or impossible when a new lockdown is imposed. So after breakfast we hopped in the car to cross the Wolds and wish Oleanna a Happy New Year.

Todays view

Stepping down onto the stern was a touch easier again. Measurements were taken 34 inches to the top of the pontoon from the water level, this started off at 48 inches, when I first thought of measuring it. Up some more, which is good news despite the breach leaking and some ships coming and going from the port again.

Today I remembered to take the freshly washed blinds for the front door back. Measurements were taken as I’ve not made new ones yet and one of the poppers which has needed replacing for a while definitely needs attention before we sleep on board again.

But I’ll need a die set and spare poppers to do this, hopefully someone in Scarborough might be able to lend me the die set. My next problem will be what size the poppers are, 10mm, 12mm, 11mm heavy duty. I measured everything except the flipping popper size!

Porthole bungs were put back in their covers and hung back on doors, ready to be deployed on those Spring mornings when the sun beats in through the bathroom windows long before anyone wants to be awake.


Mick turned Oleanna’s key and started her up. She was a little bit surprised at being woken up from her long sleep, but soon relished her engine whirring, warming up the engine bay.


Over our packed lunch we had the same discussion as before, whether to tighten the ropes or not. The marina is quite frozen at the moment, certainly between us and our nearest neighbours. Down the side of Oleanna there was a gap, she’s obviously been moving about quite a bit in the wind, carving herself a patch of water. We decided to tighten the ropes a touch, but not fully should the level drop a bit.

Mick chatted with Geoff. Apparently the level has been higher, but dropped again. The caisson gates are still closed and the pumps are still running, even though at one point Geoff thought the level out on the canal was higher than in the docks. We’re glad we’ve left some slack.

Local MP Andrew Percy has commented on the breach today on facebook.

‘I’ve been popping up to check the breach in the canal near East Cowick regularly and did so again this afternoon. I happened to bump into the Canal and Rivers Trust guy who was out doing one of the daily inspections. Whilst water has continued to come out of the breach, the temporary works have held steady and there are no concerns at the moment. He also confirmed that the CRT and their engineers and contractors are due back on site tomorrow all being well to start considering next steps. The future works will also involve works to the damaged banks further along the canal which have been caused by the fluctuating canal levels. Just thought people might like the update. When I hear more I’ll let folks know!’

Before we left I decided to take an educated estimate of where the level normally is, by using the rusted and green marks on the pilling around the marina as a gauge. This was measured to the top of the pontoon. 16.5 inches. So currently the level is 17.5 inches down on the norm. Oleanna’s gunnel at the stern must have been just above the pontoon when we first arrived as that sits 20 inches above the water.


According to the C&RT notice the navigation was to remain closed until January 4th as a precaution, tomorrow. Exol Pride I’m sure is just chomping at the bit to get her next load up to Rotherham.

We said our farewells to Oleanna, we hope to be able to visit every couple of weeks to check on her, but who knows if this will be possible.

Hope to see you soon.

As we drove back to Scarborough, along the extra scenic route via Wetwang, we remembered our first trip back when the fields were all golden having recently been harvested. Then they went brown with white flecks of chalk as the fields were ploughed over. Now shoots of green are pushing up to find sunlight. I wonder what Tilly’s field is doing at our lockdown ‘Home’ mooring at the bottom of Hurleston?

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 last day of having a car, 17.5 inches to go, 2 blinds, 1 not so blind, 10/ 11/12/15mm? 3 ropes slightly tightened, 1 icy marina, 2 ships, 2 weeks hopefully!

Where were we

2020, The Giraffe, Birmingham City Centre LINK

2019 Crick, Leicester Line Grand Union Canal LINK

2018 Maesbury Marsh, Llangollen Canal LINK

2017 Marple, Macclesfield Canal LINK

2016 Kings Marina, Newark, River Trent LINK

2015 Hunsdon Mill Lock, River Stort LINK

Christmas Ready, Just About. 24th December

Scarborough am

This years wreath, totally free

Since my last catch up we’ve been doing our best to get festive. Our Christmas lights went up earlier than normal, thankfully they have all survived our time away. We used to have two 6ft Christmas trees that we’d buy in Dalby Forest, but this year our £4 tree from Newark Market, back in 2015 sits on a table in a bay window. The lights that used to decorate the trees are now around the windows.

A week or so ago we had a half hour singing carols with neighbours at the top of the road with Scarborough’s Town Crier, he lives two doors up from us. Have to say I surprised myself at the number of carols I knew without a song sheet. The Town Crier may have been loud, but we were more tuneful shall we say!

Tilly about to give the penguins what for!

A burst water main at the top of the street gave the Crier something else to shout about as Yorkshire Water turned the water off for a few hours one evening. No need to knock on doors just get the Town Crier to do his thing up and down the street.

Frank our bubble carpenter has helped sample Christmas biscuits, more ginger was required and my jar was deemed to be past it. There was a distinct shortage of ground ginger in town (apparently something to do with the pandemic) so I thought I’d have a go at making my own. I red up about it and a large root that had arrived a week earlier was peeled (with the aid of a spoon handle), sliced up in the Kenwood chef and then spread out on an oven tray. This went in a very low oven for three plus hours to dry out, it then got ground in the spice mill.

Whilst the ginger was doing it’s thing there was a popping noise from the main oven that I’d just turned on to cook our evening meal. It stopped warming up, it had stopped working. Top oven where the ginger was being quite fragrant still worked thankfully. The following day we pulled the oven out to see if there was anything we could do. One thing led to another and after admitting defeat we managed to push the oven doors onto the floor. This created a rather sparkly effect as the top oven door shattered and both doors ended up being rather dinted!

With less than two weeks to Christmas we hunted round for a good double oven, finding one at John Lewis that would arrive the following week, not quite as good as our old one, but at the very top of what we were willing to pay. Mick then remembered he’d ticked the accidental damage box when taking out house insurance. A claim was made and we waited to see if they would pay up. On Monday morning they rang us and by the end of the day they had agreed to pay for a new oven, if we hadn’t been under Christmas pressure we’d have ended up with the next model up too! This was delivered a week ago and has been fitted and works wonderfully, thank goodness we dropped those doors!

A trip to see The Snow Queen at the SJT was always on the cards and thankfully Scarborough has been in tier 2 so the show could go on. This was my first live theatre since seeing Alarum in Birmingham back in February and what a treat it was. The show was rewritten as a one woman show and blimey she had to work her socks off! Set designed by Helen who would have been doing costumes for Chippy panto this year. The front of house staff were very good and all covid measures made you feel safer than walking down the street. A great show and chilled medication thrown in as well, a lovely evening. Taking the C&RT line and changing it a touch ‘Life is better with live theatre’.

The wonderful canopy at the SJT

Parcels have been delivered, parcels posted. Cards sent and received, having an address does mean we’ve had more than the last few years, in fact we’re running out of space for them!

I wonder who’s house that is?!

This year we could hand deliver cards to our friends around Scarborough, they were accompanied with a bag of homemade ginger biscuits, the new batch with extra homemade ginger! We had a lovely few hours walking from one side of Scarborough to the other delivering festive cheer and catching up with people on their doorsteps whom we’ve not seen for years.

I’ve knuckled down to do a bit of work. Chipping Norton panto next year, postponed from this year is forging ahead. A new version of the script and some time in my work room, assisted by Tilly of course. Sketches done and approved by the director David, a story board ready to be sent out, I’ll move on to making the model in the New Year.

Today is all about cooking, getting stuff done so as to be able to do less tomorrow. Bread sauce, stuffing, gravy, red cabbage and of course festive sausage rolls. For the last few years these have been enjoyed whilst cruising to our Christmas mooring, this year I half expect Franks nose to be twitching as they go in the oven and the door bell to ring as they come out!

That window sill will just need a final sand, ‘Oh did someone mention sausage rolls!’

Tomorrow we will be joined by Frank for dinner and birthday cake, hope we’ve enough food to go round! We’ve been warned, by his usual hosts, that he can always manage two puddings and then after a little nap he’ll quite easily fit in some cheese too! Maybe I should do Yorkshire Puddings, ‘The one who eats the most puddin’ gets the most beef’ as said by a farmer during harvest to their field hands.

This morning in Goole

This morning Lisa forwarded us a photo of Oleanna. The level has risen some more and the sun was breaking through the clouds. Here in Scarborough Mick has just ventured out to get some carrots as our veg box was lacking yesterday.

Scarborough pm

Well the prep is done and my prediction of Franks arrival was correct, well maybe he was just a few minutes early for the sausage rolls coming out of the oven!

Every ring in use

The house now smells of Christmas, the fire is lit and I’ve managed to keep Frank far enough away from my birthday cake for it to last until tomorrow.

Stockings are out, so we are ready.

Are you?

He comes down the chimney Tilly, not through the back door!

Where Were We

2019 Radford Smelly, Grand Union

2018 Somewhere between Napton Junction and Braunston, Oxford/Grand Union Canal

2017 Llangollen Basin

2016 Bugsworth Basin, Peak Forest Canal

2015 Kings Marina, Newark, River Trent

2014 Hackney Wick, River Lee

Curtains and Catch Up to 28/11

Firstly a big thank you to Jenn for letting me know that on the 16th November Bargain Hunt had a special bit all about Emily Blagg as this year is the 100th anniversary of The Palace Theatre. Very interesting to see Emily’s grave, not a big thing as the locals still had a problem with her demolishing the Chauntry to build the theatre. Also I’m glad the researchers didn’t manage to find a picture of her, as I spent ages trying to do the same. Here’s a link to the episode. If you are ever in Newark when the Antique Fair is on it is worth a visit, it costs to get in but is crammed full of interesting things. When we went there was a free bus from near Newark Northgate Station.

Tilly doing her best not to shred the lining before it’s on the curtains

Back in Scarborough I’ve been busy with the sewing machine. I started off small relining curtains for Oleanna, just to get myself and my machine warmed up, much bigger curtains were to follow for the house.

I’d ordered a big roll of thermal lining, enough for boat curtains as well as the bay window. The other day I’d unpicked the stitching on the dark blue curtains from the saloon and dinette areas. Doing this I’d discovered that Kim (who made the curtains in Sheffield) had used some wonderweb on the side hems. This seemed like a good idea, so before lockdown 2 was imposed I’d had a walk to Dunelm to stock up. After several washes the wonderweb had disintegrated and as I pulled the lining away I was left with a big mess to clean up.

I measured up the lining, not as much as Kim had used as I hope I can get away with having not quite so much bulk. The rectangle of lining was pinned in position, having to tug to the curtains to their full extent as no matter how much ironing they simply didn’t want to lie flat. Wonderweb held the sides in position, then I was able to pin round all sides, hopefully where they were before, then I sewed round each panel.

Well that was the plan, but on my third curtain my machine jammed! Oh B**er!! As it was late in the afternoon I called it a day. Good karma at a sewing machine usually works and maybe coming back to it another day would be a wise idea.

Filthy inside, what did I expect!

It was time to give my machine some TLC. The advantage of being in the house was that it didn’t take too long to find the oil that had come with my machine along with the original manual. This showed me how to take the bobbin and what lies behind to pieces and apply one drop of oil.

Then I removed the plate around the teeth, then the teeth themselves. Here was my main problem, fluff, lots of fluff! With all this cleared out and the one drop of oil applied I wondered if I should oil my machine anywhere else. Not according to the manual. I looked on line, no luck, then asked on Facebook after all I know quite a few wardrobe supervisors who should know. Thank you to those who made suggestions, including Dave and Chris who both suggested applying a touch of oil to anything that moves.

Gary White from All Seasons Boat Covers hunted round the internet for me and eventually found a file for my brand of machine suggesting a few more places to oil. Thank you, I promise to do this before I pack my machine away before Christmas.

I soon discovered that my machine and needles were not capable of going through all the layers in the corners, so I decided that I’d finish these off by hand. All six dark blue curtains were soon finished.

Before moving onto the bedroom curtains for Oleanna I decided to make the living room and dining room curtains for one side of the house. I’m very glad we’d not moved fully into the house as once I’d had a good tidy up, rationalisation of Franks and my tools I had a lot of floor space to play with, needed when you want to have floor to ceiling curtains round your bay window.

Are you sure you are helping?!

Rolls of fabric had arrived, first thing was to square off the end and then cut the correct lengths. Tilly decided she’d hold down the fabric for me and supervise the end of my steel ruler. I on the other hand pretended that I was cutting up dance floor for a show (a frequent job in my theatre life usually with at least one other pair of hands). Hands are much better at doing this job than paws, but I was glad of the company.

The fabric I’d chosen had a very small pattern, so not noticeable should I not quite line everything up properly on the wider curtains, although seeing some of the salvage edge peeking through wasn’t good, I revisited such areas.

Lining and curtain fabric were both hemmed, then sewn together. I’d checked that my lining was narrower so that the main fabric would fold back round the sides, but sadly once I’d turned everything the right way round I had a very narrow bit of fabric. So one side of each curtain was unpicked and a couple of inches trimmed off the lining, then everything resewn.


Curtain tape sewn onto the tops, job done. I just needed my assistant Mick to help with the hanging of them and enough hooks and runners. The bay window track had enough but the dining room track had a mixture of runners, most of which weren’t the right size! A hunt through my stash of such things, we didn’t have enough. One window elsewhere had the right ones so they were stolen.

Hooray they’re up!

Some curtain weights are required and the ends of the bay window track are leaning a touch, these may need trimming back as my curtains are partially on the floor. However these were my first ever properly made curtains, not bodged for use on stage, but proper fully lined curtains. I’m quite proud of them and have ordered more fabric for curtains in another room, but they will have to wait to be made next year.

It was back to boat curtains, bedroom curtains. A couple of years ago I’d bought some more of the original fabric in a sale, having more than enough lining now meant I could reline the original curtains and make a brand new pair too. Tilly has managed to make them look quite shabby.

This fabric however is quite slippy and slidy, not wanting to keep it’s shape and could be pulled in different directions to make it fit, but what would the end curtains look like?

The old linings were unpicked, new added and sewn in. Using wonderweb proved helpful with this fabric. Then a hole new set were cut out, sewn, ironed and all the corners hand sewn in place. In all twelve curtains finished and ready to go up at Oleannas’ windows again. I just hope they fit on the poles properly! I’ve put together a ‘just in case’ pack, should I have sewn them too tight and they need unpicking.

All finished with ‘just in case’ sewing kit

We’d been planning on a trip down to check on her as soon as lockdown was lifted. The tier in Scarborough surprisingly will be tier 2, the number of cases here shot up and at one point we were highest in the country, then they started to drop, Hull forging ahead of us. However Goole will be in tier 3, an area you can travel through, but not go and hang your curtains and give your boat the once over running the engine for an hour etc, not essential. I’m sure some are visiting their boats, some jobs are essential over winter.

They are plotting behind Mum’s nursing chair

With curtains hung in the house we could move ourselves into the living room properly, well as properly as you can when most of your furniture has gone by the wayside through the years with tenants. We moved the sofa in, side tables, plumbed the TV in and standard lamps. Then we fought with my Mum and Dad’s chairs down the tight stairs from upstairs upstairs. We’d put them up there, so they had to be able to come down! My Mum and Dad bought these chairs as wedding presents for each other. Not your average three piece suite, but I quite like it. When funds allow we’ll replace the two seater sofa with a three seater sofabed and move the smaller sofa back to the other side. But for now we have a comfy sitting room. Just pictures to hang, coal for the fire and we’re there.

It was now time to have a day off, I put my feet up and did a few hours of a thing called work!

Most theatres around the country have cancelled their pantos this year, but have been forging ahead with paired down Christmas shows in the hope that once lockdown 2 is lifted they will have a show to bring cheer to their audiences.

Chippy this year is offering A Christmas Carol, with David Bradley. The SJT here in Scarborough The Snow Queen a one woman show and an audio recording of Haunting Julia, a ghost story by Alan Ayckbourn (a great play I’ve had the pleasure of designing twice).

Thankfully these shows will be able to go on, but many other theatres who find themselves in tier 3 will not be able to open their doors. Some of these will be going on line, others mothballed for Easter next year.

A nice relaxing read

Will, the producer at Chipping Norton had been in touch, the second draft of the script for Panto was sent out and now they were ready to contract myself and others to start work, well ahead for next year. On our last visit to the boat I made sure I brought all my work things back with us, but had forgotten the plans of the theatre. I’ve now received copies and a model box. So it was time to read the script.

The last couple of days I’ve been starting to reclaim my work rooms at the top of the house. A damp problem on the chimney breast meant it needed stripping for a builder to check over.

Then I’ve started to try to make space at my model making tables and cleaned the windows. Plenty more room than I had on the boat, but I have yet to gain access to my drawing board which is still engulfed by boxes. I’ll get there.

It’s in there somewhere, no that’s Tilly

One handy tip though, don’t leave water in a hotwater bottle for six years. Not only will it have lost it’s heat but the rubber will perish!

A Beautiful day

Last week on our Sunday walk we braved a visit to the South Bay beach. A beautiful day, chilly but sunny and the beach wasn’t too busy. We marvelled at the blue sea and white light house and then decided to avoid the harbour where the footpaths are a bit too narrow for the amount of people about.

So we headed up Bland’s Cliff. This steep hill used to run up the side of the Futurist Theatre which was sadly demolished in the last couple of years after huge outcries. In it’s place is the Scarborough Eye, better views are free up near the Castle, and a crazy golf pitch!

However Blands Cliff has become very colourful. An art gallery had just opened when we left and now the surrounding walls are covered in murals and mosaics with local topics depicted. Really rather jolly.

0 locks, 0 miles, 0 visits to Oleanna, 1 cleaned sewing machine, 9 relined curtains, 3 new curtains, 2 pairs of proper house curtains, 1 living room moved into, 1 not so helpful assistant, 1 wall stripped, 0.25 work room reclaimed, 2 clean windows, 1 cat loving the views, tier 2, 1 boat in tier 3!

Where were we

2019 On the South Oxford Canal, Somerton Meadows to Kings Sutton. LINK

2018 On the South Oxford, Somerton Meadows. LINK

2017 On the Llangollen, Wixall Moss to the border. LINK

2016 On the Macclesfield Canal, Macclesfield Pontoon and a visit to Sheffield. LINK

2015 Kings Marina, River Trent. LINK

2014 On the Grand Union, Nether Heyford to Stoke Bruerne. LINK

Locks, Docks And Aqueducts. The Lee Harris Bursary.

Scarborough/Llangollen winter 2017

Earlier this week we were invited by my brother to join an on line presentation. The Lee Harris Bursary is awarded to a member of staff from 3DReid an architectural practice that my brother used to work for. The bursary commemorates the life of Lee Harris an architect who worked at the practice who tragically died from injuries he sustained in the 7/7 London Bombings in 2005. Inspired by Lees love of photography, travel and architecture the bursary provides an opportunity for members of staff to explore their architectural passions.

The presentation

This years winner was Thelma Mannion who proposed to travel the Llangollen Canal on a narrowboat, sketching the engineering of the canal, the aqueducts, bridges and tunnels. Originally she had hoped to do her presentation followed by an exhibition of her sketches, but Covid put a stop to that, so instead there was an online presentation which included her sketches.

Lynn and Brian, Lee’s parents were on line along with about thirty other participants. Jac (my sister-in-law, who also used to work for the practice) suggested we should make ourselves comfortable with a drink to watch, so we did.

The London Leckenbys

Using Microsoft Teams, our first time, we ended up not being able to see everyone at once, but we later rectified this. This was however the first time we have seen Andrew and Jac since last year when they joined us onboard Oleanna between Christmas and New Year. For some reason in lockdown 1 the London Leckenbys weren’t too keen on the idea of Zoom meetings, so we have stuck with the good old telephone. This and an aborted trip to York due to flooding means we’ve not seen them for nearly eleven months. It was lovely to see them again, even though it felt a touch like we were gate crashing an office do. But then when I lived in London I’d quite often turn up at the pub on a Friday night to join them all.

The presentation brought back memories of our trip back in 2017, and it turns out it is almost three years to the day since we turned off the Shropie and climbed up Huleston Locks to spend the winter on the Llangollen.

Whixall Moss Junction

Maintenance work was planned on the locks which soon closed after we’d gone through. Our trip back had to be timed to avoid other stoppages, but that’s what happens in winter and if you plan with them in mind you can keep moving.

Thelma travelled with her sister and their partners on a hire boat from Swanley Bridge Marina. A shame as I’d hoped she be starting at Hurleston and we might get a glimpse of our Lockdown Home mooring. They had the boat for a week and travelled last August to Llangollen where they walked to Horseshoe falls and marvelled at how energetic the River Dee is there.

Main points of interest to Thelma were the tunnels with their textures, the aqueducts and locks which are much smaller than you find on the Irish waterways which is where she spent most of her holidays when younger.

It was an interesting talk, even if she had them going down Grindley Brook Step Locks (Staircase) on their way up to Llangollen, and so nice to hear her enthusiasm for their trip. A very fitting way for Lee to be remembered by his colleagues. Thank you for including us.

The photos in this post are from our trip in 2017. Sifting through the hundreds I took during November, December and January it was hard to edit them down to just a few.


The deep snow that fell gave us one of our favourite boating days as the sun came out and we had the canal more or less to ourselves, stunningly beautiful.

Back in Scarborough work continues on the house. One living room and dining room have patched in wallpaper and fresh coats of emulsion and gloss. The room that we call the Shed has also had a freshen up, the scars of several tenants and takeaways now erased. The flower bed at the front has been cleared of gravel and plastic in the hope that our blue geraniums will return.

Next job is curtains, then we can move living rooms and have an open fire again, just so long as we can keep Tilly from climbing the chimney!

There is still plenty more to keep us busy and off the streets.

2018 Round Up. 2nd January

HOORAY!!! Proper signal again, sorry for the delay. Here at last is a round up of 2018 and our vital statistics, who they are vital to I don’t know!

THAT Aqueduct!

We started off the year up on the Llangollen having spent Christmas up in the basin, if it hadn’t been for me getting some work I think we’d have headed back there this year as we enjoyed it so much. On our return journey we dropped down onto the Montgomery Canal for a few days. Then we gradually worked our way along the canal stoppage hopping, the last bridge holding us up by a few days whilst work over ran, but we were first through and soon back down on the Shroppie  at the end of January.

Ellesmere Port

A pootle up to Chester and then Ellesmere Port where we spent several days looking round the museum, mooring on site made this very easy.

Shuffling with Brian on NB HarnserDry bottom

Oleanna had a day in the dry dock at Chester to check out why our bowthruster had stopped working and gave me chance to do a quick touch up of the blacking.

Jaq from NB Valerie

We then made our way back to Nantwich where we sat out the Beast from the East and at last got chance to meet and spend a bit of time with Jaq from NB Valerie.

The magical Shroppie

Then we climbed the Shroppie to Autherley Junction turned right onto the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal and made our way down to Stourport where the river rose on us over night and left us stranded for far too long. This did mean that Tilly had her annual jabs gaining shore leave for another year. A hire car gave us a few days away from the flashing lights of Stourport, a trip to Beverley and to catch up with the John Godber Company in Bromsgrove along with a recky trip to Droitwich.

Long routeShort routeIn the end we got bored of waiting for the river to drop and decided on going the long way round to Droitwich. Of course about two or three days into ‘the long way round’ the levels dropped and we could have done a quick journey down the River Severn.

TardebiggeLock 40

Oh well we enjoyed all the locks having good weather for the Tardebigge Flight.

Once in Worcester we turned onto the river and made our way down to the Gloucester Sharpness Canal where we pootled down to the end with all the swing bridges being worked for us, met up with Jaye and Duncan (I’d have got into big trouble if I didn’t mention them!), saw the hulks, all sorts of flamingos and got to watch tall ship Kaskelot pass us.

Duncan, Jaye, Mick and meTall Ship

Back up the Severn for Micks 60th birthday weekend where all our siblings joined us to celebrate. We watched cricket at New Road in Worcester, ate in Droitwich, caught steam trains in Kidderminster and ate some more in Bridgenorth, a very good weekend.

Family at the cricketBirthday Boy

About time there was a picture of meYummy

By now the summer had already started with wall to wall sunshine and our Sunday roasts became Sunday barbeques. We made our way back to Worcester and turned back down stream to Tewkesbury (I do like a good Tewkesbury!) and the river Avon. The last rain storm for a while slowed our progress upstream, but we stayed safe.

A lovely Avon mooringThe Avon was a picturesque cruise and we met up with friends from Australia and old work friends of mine in Stratford, taking advantage to see as much theatre as we could.

The Swan, Stratford

Whilst in Stratford I heard that I’d got the job designing Panto in Chipping Norton this year. This would now affect the remainder of the year slowing us down somewhat. We headed back into Birmingham up the Lapworth flight (meeting NB Chuffed) to rendez vous with NB Blackbird and crew.

One last kiss with NB BlackbirdPerry BarHere we planned to explore all the back waters of the BCN, but the sun was now on permanently and the thought of spending weeks surrounded by brick work and concrete reflecting heat at us was not attractive. So we chose a route out of the city that we’d not done before (via Ryders Green and Perry Barr) and headed for the shade of trees.

Sheltering on the Ashby

Work and heat were the feature of the next few months. On days we wanted to cruise we tried to be up early to make the most of the cool hours before the sun got too high in the sky to avoid. We hopped from mooring to mooring hunting out good places with maximum tree cover, not so good for the solar panels but it meant we didn’t cook inside.

Loads of cars in CoventryCoventry BasinWe gradually cruised the Coventry Canal,  the Ashby Canal for the first and second times, all the way into Coventry, down the North Oxford onto the Grand Union and on up to the Leicester Section. All our favourite moorings on the summit pound were visited and the London Leckenbys visited us at Foxton. All this slow cruising was interspersed with Panto meetings in London and Chippy, necessitating being near to stations, but this worked out well with a bit of planning.

The finished model for Aladin

Leamington Spa was a handy station back on the Grand Union for my final  model meeting in mid September, freeing us up until rehearsals started a month later.

Well worth a visitLeamington Spa StationWe made use of the Heritage weekend visiting places in both Warwick and Leamington. Oleanna got to visit the Saltisford Arm where we worked our way through the dirty washing drawer before heading back towards the Oxford Canal crossing bows with NB Tentatrice on the way.

Lift bridges on the Oxford keep Oleanna smilingStunning sunsetsThe South Oxford Canal then became our home for the next three months.

Lunch at the Turf Tavern

First we cruised all the way to Oxford taking our time to return to Banbury. I then spent four weeks working my socks off in Chippy enjoying being creative again on Panto, returning each weekend to wherever Oleanna was with my head full of song lyrics and dance moves.

Final dress rehearsal

Once Aladdin was open and hoards of kids were shouting ‘He’s behind you!’ I could return to my normal life at 3mph, the boat, Tilly’s friends and Mick’s breakfasts.

What a way to spend Christmas Eve

Due to winter stoppages leaving the south Oxford couldn’t happen until near Christmas so we slowly made our way northwards breaking off to have a pre-Christmas in London and then once Napton Lock 9 was open we headed into the middle of nowhere for Christmas. The year ended with us returning to Crick and sadly missing out on the festivities at The Red Lion with friends.

We’ve had a great year travelling, meeting up with old friends and new. We’re looking forward to where 2019 will take us and who we shall meet along the way.


So our final statistics for the year are.

Total distance is 944 miles, 1 ¼ furlongs and 614 locks. There were 170 moveable bridges of which 77 are usually left open (although three of those weren’t); 131 small aqueducts or underbridges; 39 tunnels and 2 major aqueducts.

This is made up of 669 miles, 1 ¼ furlongs of narrow canals; 118 miles of broad canals; 35 miles, 5 furlongs of commercial waterways; 42miles, 7¼ furlongs of small rivers; 78 miles, 3 ¾ furlongs of large rivers; 476 narrow locks; 129 broad locks 9 large locks.

1084.6 engine hours, 7 hire cars, 1,383.63 litres diesel, 10 gas bottles (we do have gas central heating), 54 bags of coal, 2 waterway museums, 3 big houses, 3 versions of tuperware, 60th birthday, 2nd solar panel fitted, 7 overnight guests, 6 packs of Dreamies, 26 friends, 1 snake, 9 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval moorings, 7 pairs socks,  6 pairs gloves, 11 supermarket deliveries, 56 boxes wine delivered!

Farewell To The Llangollen. 30th January

Stoneley Green Bridge, Llangollen to Beeston Stone Lock, Shropshire Union

Mesmorised by the colours

Tilly was first up, pretending to admire the sunrise, but I think the dawn chorus was more appealing to her sat in her curtain hammock.

Swanley Lock 1

No dashing away, but no dillydallying either this morning, we had a proper days cruise ahead of us. Plenty of layers on to keep warm. Swanley Lock 1 was just ahead and we soon made it down the two locks and wound our way back towards Hurleston.

Not far really

At Bridge 4 Mick was a spoil sport and wouldn’t let us moor. The signs to Snugburys made me plead with him. A third visit would mean a much more considered choice of chilled medication, but he wasn’t having anything of it! On the moorings NB Higgler sat waiting for it’s crew of Old English Sheep Dog and Corgies, bet they’d been allowed medication! This was really the first boat through the bridge yesterday, before it was officially opened. They had passed us at Wrenbury on Saturday and must have been waiting for the dam to be removed and waved on.

Walking over the lock

Traffic cones stood on ether side of the top lock at Hurleston. Two chaps then walked across the lock wheeling wheelbarrows! It looks like the lock cottage will be having an extension this year and two chaps were busy with the ground works, everything having to be carried across the lock. They lifted their walkway to let us into the lock and put it back again as soon as Mick was out of the way. So far they’d had to move it only three times, but they certainly weren’t looking forward to the start of the boating season, I suspect it could add a month to the build schedule.

Looking downWe worked our way down and soon we were being followed by another boat.

New laddersWhere boats tend to get stuckNew ladders were evident at the second lock, not having had chance to get discoloured yet. The last lock, the narrow one, we took slowly, only lifting one paddle to empty the water, keeping an eye on Oleanna descending, not wanting to get stuck. There were signs of the investigation works that were carried out in November to see if a total rebuild is needed.

Last narrow lock for a whileBye bye LlangollenSpring!

Then with the bottom gates open, that was our time on the Llangollen over. We’d headed up the locks on the 17th November and have enjoyed our last two months immensely, but we are looking forward to being in a big city soon.

First boat meeting at a bridge hole this year

Mick turned Oleanna left at the junction and waited for me to cross over the bridge and join him. We were now back on the Shropshire Union Main Line, it suddenly got busy! We’ve got so used to only seeing one boat moving a day that all of a sudden it felt like we were on the M25! The first bridge hole and there was a boat coming towards us. Blimey where had all the traffic come from? Well three boats.

Hello again

Being back on the Shroppie I made sure my camera was handy for all those kingfishers. Not long to wait as one flashed it’s blue back at us just before Barbridge and then obliged by sitting in a tree as we passed.

A brief pause for lunch before the junction and then we topped up the water tank and dealt with rubbish at Calveley.

Bunbury Stables

Arriving at Bunbury we were a bit disappointed that we’d not be able to do the shuffle, no other moving boats in sight. This is our first wide lock since we came down from Wigan last year (that’s if you don’t count Big Lock in Middlewich). So much water, so much space, huge and heavy! Quite a shock to the system really. Bunbury is a staircase of two wide chambers, so you can fit two boats in at once. Should a single boat want to be going in the opposite direction they can enter the other chamber, the water is then moved from top to bottom, the central gates opened, then the Bunbury Shuffle can take place. One of the two boats moves into the gap in the other chamber, the single boat then moves into the new gap, the third boat into the next new gap. Gates closed and boats carry on up and down at the same time.

Oleanna lonely in the large lockShe shuffled herself overAnother lock was worth doing today and as we approached Tilstone Lock we could see a boat that we thought was waiting, we could share! But no they were moored up. However at the lock there was activity, a boat was coming up. Such a busy world! I recognised it as a Carefree Cruising share boat and chatted to the lady. It was only their second week out and they were loving it, apart from the tent that they’d picked up around their prop yesterday which meant they didn’t have long to explore Chester.

We pootled along the wide canal, it felt like a river after being on the Llangollen for so long. Above Beeston Stone Lock we took advantage of the 48hr moorings and pulled in for the day, letting Tilly have the last hour of daylight to stare at the little twitches coming from the ivy clad hedge next to us and to practice her pouncing.

Tilestone Lock

We’ve been this way twice before back in our share boat days, so somethings we’d forgotten about. The lovely little pepper pot buildings at the locks, the wideness of the cut, however we had remembered the total lack of  phone, internet or TV signal by Stone Lock. Oh well that’s more we’ll have to catch up with on the internet, hope EE reset our allowance early again!

9 locks, 8 miles (rounded up), 1 left, 1 straight on, 1 tasty looking robin, 1 stunning sunrise, 10 minutes that’s all, 0 chilled medication, 1 big meanie Mick, 1 kingfisher, 5 moving boats so busy, 0 boats to shuffle with, 1 mooring close to road and rail, 0 signal of any sort! 0 map.

Three Minutes Ahead Of C&RT. 29th January

Grindley Brook to Stonely Green Bridge 10
The water gauge was showing half a tank this morning so just in case we ended up sitting around a while longer waiting for the bridge ahead to open we decided to visit ABC boat hire at Wrenbury Mill to top up. The forecast was for rain this morning, but it would stop between 11 and 12 midday, so when the rain had stopped for a while we pushed off and headed to the lift bridge. As I turned the key of power in the panel it started to drizzle, then rain, then drizzle, good job we’d put on our waterproofs. Four cars and a dog walker held up, Mick swung Oleanna into the gap between boats moored up at the Mill.
Boating season starts again mid March here
The hire base was busy, a delivery of new mattresses was being moved on board the boats. For the use of their tap we’d been quoted £3 but when it came to ringing it into the till it said £2, £2 well spent for peace of mind.
The last lift bridge
We reversed out managing not to leave any marks on the newly blacked hire boat we’d breasted up to, then we turned towards the last lift bridge of the Llangollen Canal. Once through we waved goodbye to Wrenbury. Our aim for today was a 48hr mooring just before the closed bridge, from here we’d hopefully be first through once it opened.
In places the water table was higher in the fields alongside the canal than it was in it. Plenty of rain had fallen overnight, today in parts you would need water wings to walk the towpath!
Half a mile walk to the bridge
All three locks lay empty before us, but all the paddles are easy on this canal, so it didn’t take much effort to fill them for us to go down. As we waited for the final one to fill I could see a gang of high vis heading in our direction. Nine or ten chaps were walking the towpath heading towards the closed bridge. Could it be that they had had a lunch break and were heading back to carry on with repairs? If so then they certainly were throwing men at the job. Or could it be that this was the clear up team? The works were complete and they were here, mob handed to remove the pumps and damns. We pootled along behind them and pulled in to tie up.
Huge pipes and a pumpScaffold poles from the damIt looked like the navigation was open, certainly no dam across the bridge hole. Just as we’d stopped Oleanna, and Mick had stepped off to tie up we were give a wave on by one of the chaps. It took a bit of effort to get Oleanna away from the side as the wind was pushing her in. We thanked the chaps as we passed, one saying that we were the first boat through. Another fella stood tapping something into his tablet as we passed, wonder if that was the Notice Update saying that the canal was now open, it popped into our inbox three minutes after we’d gone under the bridge.
Going under bridge 12Boats and men galoreThe scaffolding supports of a dam sat on the extremely muddy towpath, the tarpaulin sat on the back deck of a work boat. A huge yellow pump and giant pipes filled another boat. As the Llangollen Canal feeds a reservoir that serves Crewe and Nantwich the flow cannot be turned off on the canal, it is really a bit of a river. So when a damn blocks the navigation the constant flowing water has to be taken around it. Quite glad we didn’t have a couple of days moored near the big pump going 24 hours a day.
Clearing the siteOnce through the bridge Oleanna proceeded to go aground, right next to the workboats! A good blast of reverse and one chap pulling on our centre line got us free and we slowly inched our way past them. As soon as we had cleared them boats were moved, blocking the bridge again so that they could get all the pipework back on board. We’d timed our arrival perfectly, even though we expected to have a two day wait.
The weather has returned to chilly, wet and windy
Pushing on a short distance further, we pulled in just before Stoneley Locks and retired inside for a very late lunch. There is a ten hour cruise ahead of us to reach Chester, so we should be able to meet up with our friend Sue and have a drink with Bridget and Storm too. Perfect. Thank you C&RT.
3 locks, 3.73 miles, 2 lift bridges, 4 held up, £2 water charge, 1 quagmire, 10 yellow and orange clad chaps, 0 damn, 4 work boats, +15 lengths of giant pipe, 3 minutes before it opened, 2 days ahead, 4 seriously muddy paws, 1 chimney sweep tail.

Wading Away The Time. 27th 28th January

Wrenbury Frith to a bit closer to Wrenbury

Saturday morning we had breakfast and then moved Oleanna closer to Wrenbury, not far but past the worst bit of muddy towpath. Whilst Tilly went off to explore her new estate Mick walked into the village for our Saturday newspaper where it was sat waiting for him behind the counter.

Sweet potato soup

Whilst Tilly surveyed her new surroundings I kept the stove top busy, first a pot of Sweet Potato Soup, followed in the afternoon by a pot of Tarragon Chicken which simmered away for five hours. Both were yummy but I think next time I do the soup I’ll try making it with just paprika, not smoked as this was a little over powering. In between chopping and stirring, I made a start to a rug for in front of our stove. Using the fabrics I’d covered the tops of our stools with I came up with a pattern and began to crochet.

Anti raked sheep measuring the rug

Our bilge pump has been a bit active of late. The cause isn’t because the engine bay is full of water (it is as dry as it should be) but it seems that the pump likes the sound of itself, every 2min 30 sec! Quite annoying really. When it started doing this a week a go Mick tried various things finding that when he disconnected it, then reconnected it, it stopped being vocal but still worked. But today this didn’t work. So with Tilly safe inside having a snooze Mick climbed down into the engine bay to see if the pump had got gunged up. I could so help with things down in the box under the boat. I’d be able to reach all those awkward places that Tom can’t and bat things that had been dropped around until he could reach them again. But he doesn’t seem too keen on the idea.

Pink world

Whilst contorted around the engine he noticed that the fuel gauge had become disconnected, so dealt with that, no wonder the gauge didn’t have a reading. Then he took the bilge pump out of it’s holder and gave it a clean hoping that this would do the job. Sadly the effort had not been worth it as the pump was still being vocal. This may have to be added to the Finesse list when they come with our batteries.

Sunday morning we woke to the sound of a wood pecker giving itself brain damage nearby. This used to be the first sign of Spring that we’d hear from our house in Scarborough. A beautiful morning just right to go for a walk, but first we decided to have a cooked breakfast with Turkey sausages to keep it remotely healthy.

Tree beachMud

When Tilly eventually returned we quickly got ready to go out ourselves. The aim of our walk was to see what lay ahead where the stoppages are and have been. Not using our common sense, or heeding from Carols experience on the Thames we decided not to put our walking boots on and ventured off wearing trainers! They were old ones. Just after reaching the swing bridge we saw our error as a sea of MUD stretched out in front of us. Back tracking a little we detoured along the road and through the church yard back to the towpath.  Here the going was still sticky but passable. The next stone bridge was where a large tree had given up it’s fight against the forces of gravity in a storm blocking the navigation recently. The trunk had been cut and cleared. Much of it must have been put through a chipper, the chips/chunks left on the towpath creating a tree beach.

On we walked, out of the breeze it was really quite warm and hats ended up being removed. Mud occasionally took over and one stretch of sticky sea made us divert to the nearby road again, through a hedge.

Between locks 2 and 3

The first of the locks came into view, empty. Below the second lock was the boat and butty that had been sold a week or two ago. We wondered if they’d been aware of the next lock being closed when they’d set off from Grindley Brook, but they’d got as far as they could as Lock 3 had only reopened on Friday. A boat was making it’s way down in the chamber, so we went to help close gates, they soon pulled in below as half a mile further on is where the bridge was still closed. We considered walking further, but as our walk had been delayed (nobody said which hour and a half I could be outside for!) we wanted to get back in day light so turned back, knowing that there would be plenty of space for us to moor for a couple of days.

A return along the road made sense, calling in at the Spar shop for a few bits of veg. Next call was at the Cotton Arms to see when they served food until.


But as we stood at the bar the plates of Sunday roast twisted our arms, so we decided to stay and eat instead of coming back later. A quiet pub with quite a few eating or drinking. A good selection of beers too. Only thing was there was no sign of a menu. Mick asked if they were doing a roast today, a choice of four meats. Two beefs, luckily I’d spotted that most plates were swimming in gravy so asked for one with little gravy.

Beef. More veg on the waySponge and custard, nothing betterApart from the food being a little tepid it was very nice. The dessert menu called out to us, well we had walked and waded quite a distance. I had ginger pear and salted caramel sponge whilst Mick had sticky toffee. Both were very nice and warmer than the main course. It had been a good decision to stop. The sun was setting as we returned to Oleanna which didn’t impress Tilly as she wasn’t allowed out again

Sunset on a lovely day

0 locks, 0.39 miles, 1 bridge lufted, 1 newspaper, 4 bowls of smokey soup, 2 chicken thighs, 6 hours, 1.5 hours a joke! 5.8 mile wade, 1 telepathic pub, 2 roast beefs, 2 sponge puddings, 2 pints, 150 seconds, 2 rows short of a rug.