Category Archives: Macclesfield Canal

Breakfast At Brighouse. 27th March

Kirklees Top Lock to Sainsburys, Brighouse

Thankfully it wasn’t raining when we woke, over our cuppa in bed we decided to make our final move off the river before breakfast, after all we’d only an hour left to reach our goal and to end up missing it for a day or so because of a bowl of cereal, well. As we rolled the covers up ready for cruising a cruiser appeared up the lock behind us. No point in rushing to share a lock as that would be too risky in these short locks, we quite often have to go diagonally to fit, tucking in behind one of the bottom gates.

Underpant Bridge and Trees!!!!

It’s a shame we couldn’t have moored a little further on as the woods had Tilly’s name stamped all over them, but we would have been closer to the M62, the noise level considerably more than where we’d been last night.

Open, but no idea of level

Anchor Pit Flood Gate was open waiting for us, we looked around to see if we could see the level board, tucked away in the corner of a gate recess, I only had time to spot it’s location but not the level it showed, hopefully it was amber. Since we’ve been keeping an eye on levels the EA website has shown the level at Brighouse to be 0, a constant 0. This is no help what-so-ever! Thankfully Gaugemap does show heights, minus heights. The level seemed to have gone up by a couple of inches since yesterday, so thank goodness the flood gate was still open.

An unuseable landing

The cruisier had pulled up on the lock landing, here it is actually quite long, except the end of it is fenced off as there’s not much left that would take anyone’s weight. There was nowhere I could hop off to help him up the lock. He waved us on. Mick and I both tried shouting that we were over long and that he should go first, he stopped chatted to someone, waved again. We weren’t about to jump the queue so waited patiently for him to return to his boat and get out of the way!

Up at the lock were two chaps who were gauging whether to come down onto the river. The gauge here was touching red. They were moving an ex Shire Cruise hire boat to Castleford for some work to be done with the aim of purchasing it. This meant it was still insured by the hire company and they were waiting to see if they were happy for them to proceed onto a river in the red! This meant there were plenty of hands to help.

A very jolly lock beam

We worked the cruiser up. He’d bought the boat in Goole and was moving it to Northampton. Because Vazon Sliding Bridge is out of action at the moment he was having to cross the Pennines to head south. First he’d thought of doing the Huddersfield Narrow, but they don’t allow cruisers through the tunnel. Now he was faced with all the Rochdale Locks. He’d then planned on going up the Ashton and up the Peak Forest onto the Macc, he had no idea that the Marple flight was closed. We later told him he’d need to book Tuel Lane Lock if he wanted to be through before the weekend, then the summit pound, then the Bridgewater. What he’d thought would be a relatively easy trip was turning out to be far longer, he’d already asked work for an extra ten days off. This all sounds familiar. When we first crossed from Manchester on the Rochdale on Lillian ten years ago, we teamed up with a single hander, who’s Nicholsons guide was so old that he ‘d taken a wrong turning leaving Manchester. His guide didn’t show the Rochdale being open, after twenty odd locks with us he asked when he’d reach the Bridgewater Canal!

Next it was our turn up the bottom lock and off the river, our last stretch of river for a while that could hold us up. I’d checked the blog from when we were here last, I knew that lifting the gate paddle anything but slowly would fill our well deck with water, so I took it cautiously, lifting the Hebble paddle second just to finish off.

Crossing the pound

The chaps on the hire boat had kindly emptied the top lock for us and helped close gates. Once up Mick reversed Oleanna onto the water point. Time for a celebratory shower as the tank filled up.

The hire boat headed for the lock, the company must have given them the go ahead. By the time they reach Castleford the chap at the helm will have got the hang of pointing the boat in the right direction, just as well as it’ll be his home!

We can all breath a sign of relief now

We moved onto the moorings, told Tilly this was Bumhouse and she’d not like it, even worse than Bumingham! She settled down as we settled down for breakfast, which was very nearly lunch.

A prescription was ready and waiting for Mick in Sewerby Bridge, so he caught the 9 minute train to pick it up. Sadly the Chemist was closed for lunch on his arrival so his return was delayed somewhat. A look in Screwfix for a new kitchen sink plug, nothing suitable without replacing the whole thing, we’ll cope for a while longer.

Could Boyes solve our problem?

Next was a restock at Sainsburys. the wine cellar needed topping up and we’d not stopped off in Mirfield for a duck. Sadly no ducks on the shelves here, but there was a Lidl not far away. Thankfully they had what we wanted and some bananas which seem to only be available in Lidl at the moment. A quick visit to Boyes to see if they could help with a plug, a rubber universal one was on sale for £1.10, so we’d not be wasting much money if it didn’t do the job.

Lots of fancy banks around town

By the time we’d stowed everything we decided we’d stay put for the night, an extra rope from the stern would stop us from swinging about on long ropes, it’s always been windy here. To celebrate being off the rivers we treated ourselves to fish and chips Blakeley’s do a gf batter and as we wanted haddock rather than cod even Mick’s fish was cooked to order, very nice it was too.

2 locks, 1.5 miles, 1 ex hire boat, 1 cruiser, 1 full water tank, 1 clean Pip, 1 bored cat, 4 boxes wine, 0 plug, 1 months drugs, 2 trains, 1 duck, 6 big bananas, 0 hot cross buns left, slow internet, fish and chips twice!

https://maps.app.goo.gl/VtjuW5p53v953R5k9

Growling In The Dark. 5th June

Little Leigh Aqueduct to Croxton Flash

Good carvings

There was a wait to enter Saltersford Tunnel, entry between 30 and 50 minutes past the hour if heading south easterly. We tucked in behind another boat admired the tree carving by the mooring and had quite a chat until Tilly was spotted in a window by their greyhound! What a noise!! Their poor dog had to be put inside where Tilly was out of sight and out of mind.

Two behind

A third boat joined the queue and at bang on 11:30 we all set off, as we’d be heading further we were waved ahead to lead position. Tunnel mode engaged we wound our way through the tunnel where no light can be seen at the far end for quite a while, an S bend brings it into view and then out again. Behind us the thump thump of the following boats started to echo along the arched roof.

Nobody was waiting at the other end and we sailed across the open section to reach Barnton Tunnel. This tunnel doesn’t have a timed entry as you can see through it, however to be able to see through it you have to have your bow almost in the portal with someone stood on the bow. I made my way through Oleanna to do just that, Tilly excitedly following me as it might just be shore leave time!

A ray of light caught a cowparsley head just by the portal mimicking a tunnel light of an oncoming boat. Then I got a glimmer of light from the far end of the tunnel, it was clear. Thumbs up to Mick at the stern, I retreated back into the bedroom. The sound of Tilly’s bell could be heard at close quarters, the last thing I wanted to happen was for her to jump ship. We find growling at her a good deterrent and tends to stop her in her tracks, maybe we are the bigger cat in such situations. No! You just sound so stupid!

Coming through!

As we were approaching the far end a bow came into view, a day boat with plenty on board and their tunnel light shining in front of them. A beep on the horn saw them engage reverse gear pulling back from the entrance. ‘There’s at least another two boats coming through behind us’.

The canal now does a 90 degree turn under a road bridge, a boat came towards us. I popped to the bow to check for anyone else, the way ahead was clear. Buoys still mark the landslip at Soot Hill that occurred in December 2021, single file boats only.

Landslip to the left

The occasional glimpse across the Weaver Valley to new housing, then the more familiar factories. We remembered our first time here on a hire boat, Bergen Fjord, was that for Mick’s 50th birthday? There were so many boats moored that it felt like we had to walk for miles to get to see the Anderton Boat Lift. Our original plan for this year would have had Oleanna descend the lift and cruise the River Weaver, a stretch of water she’s not been on before (we’ve only done a small section on our shareboat) and ticking off the last Wonder of the Waterways.

An earlier than thought rendez vous was made just by the lift waiting moorings. NB Halsall was there waiting her turn for the lift, ahead of schedule she’d be heading down onto the Weaver a day early. We pulled alongside and got to meet Rachel, it’s been three years since we had a diesel fill from Halsall. 68 litres at £1.09 today. We know we’d be able to fill up cheaper somewhere else but it’s good to support the coal boats all year round as they are a god send in the winter months.

Hmmm!!!

Next stop, the services block. Two boats were already pulled in. One turned out to be a hire boat the holiday makers just emptying themselves back into their camper van! What a good use of a water point in a busy place. We tucked in behind them, just clear of the entrance into the marinas. Soon there were four boats and more passing by. Eventually the hire boat was moved away.

Maybe the rust now holds this together

Lunch was enjoyed on the move as we passed Lions Salt Works, well worth a visit. Then it was time for me to go to work. The Town Square scene flats were cut out with basic details. What looks like it may work on paper doesn’t always work in 3D, especially when using false perspective. New lines were drawn, bits cut off, flats changed sides, more new lines drawn. When I was just about happy with shapes and sizes I found enough card to remake the flats, drawing full designs on them. Just the town clock to adjust now.

Meanwhile up on deck Mick brought Oleanna through the boat yard before the chemical works, three abreast chocka with boats. Then under the bridges carrying chemicals above boaters heads.

The quantity of traffic and moored boats suggested we’d be extreamly lucky to find a mooring for us at Bramble Cuttings. Three boats already sat there enjoying the picnic tables, Tilly would have to wait a while longer.

Not enough room for us at Bramble Cuttings

When were we last here? 2020, we must have wanted to go to Middlewich tip and then carried on finding space here, Mick got drenched. A day later we winded and headed back through Middlewich and up the Cheshire Locks to the Macclesfield Canal. It takes us a while now to remember such things.

Maybe by Croxton Flash we’d get a space? A boat was occupying the mooring we’d thought of. The chap on NB Stahl called out having been a reader of the blog, glad you found it useful.

Just round the bend was a space and someone had flattened the long grass beside the towpath, there’d be enough room for a barbecue. Tilly enjoyed herself, returning to use the onboard facilities and for her evening dingding, which did mean she was inside when we were outside.

Tonight’s kitchen

Salmon with ginger, lemon and soy sauce was accompanied by veg kebabs and some Jersey Royals.

0 locks, 11.2 miles, 2 tunnels, 2 mysterons, 1 full tank of diesel, 1 full tank of water, 1 annoying pick up and drop off hire boat, 3 flats re-re-done, 1 barbecue that may need retiring at the end of this summer, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

https://goo.gl/maps/aZETkkBg7nKQP4hJ9

Three In A Lock. 7th July

Houghton EA Mooring to Riverside Park Mooring

As we got near to rolling up the covers this morning we could hear boats moving. The one furthest away on the moorings winded and headed towards the lock, soon followed by the other two narrowboats who were travelling together. We carried on knowing that we’d have a wait at the locks.

So many boats!

The first two boats breasted up on the lock landing, the next hovered behind them and we sat hovering even further behind. Two cruisers came down the lock, then it was time to fill the lock.

Two in

Houghton Lock is another D shaped lock. The entrance only wide enough for one narrow boat to enter at a time, but after checking in our Imray guide we knew it could hold three narrowboats side by side. The two boats on the lock landing made their way in, the chap from the third boat pulled in and walked up to the lock with a windlass, we then got waved in to make use of the middle of the lock.

Us fitting in the middle

We chatted away as the lock gates were closed behind us and the guillotine gate raised at the other end. The two boats travelling together were from the Macclesfield Canal out for the summer, hoping they’d be able to get back onto the summit pound before winter.

Three abreast

We’ve been three abreast in a lock before at Keadby, Limehouse and possibly Cromwell. Today it felt a touch more cosy than before despite there being plenty of room for us all. The first boat came out the lock and pulled in to help his mate with the lock, which meant we had now leapfrogged all three boats.

Two lock landings

Above the lock we spotted a few places we’d have been able to pull in to visit the mill yesterday, none of them official moorings. But we were glad we’d got to see some of Hemingford Grey and been able to stretch our legs.

A few boat yards. Long gardens to far away houses, a lot of them having work done to them.

All Saints

A riverside church where a couple sat on the bench and waved.

Two games of Boules going on. Measurements being taken to see who’d won.

Who is closer?

Not much further on we pulled in alongside a park, the closest mooring to Sainsburys in Huntingdon. Just after midday, the TV was tuned in and the news left on for the expected speech from Downing Street.

The Mac boys soon arrived and managed to tuck themselves in behind us. The longer boat needing to be next to land as he had animals. His black and white cat soon coming for a nosy as the other boat breasted up. All three boats Tyler Wilson shells, one of a similar age to Oleanna, he’d had the same problem with his gas locker hinges as we’d had.

Lunch and a shopping trip for us to stock up on fresh food for the coming week, by the time we got back to Oleanna the Mac boys had done their shopping and headed off to moor out in the country.

Tilly stamping her approval on panto

Tilly was allowed out, the road hopefully being busy enough to keep her away from it and there was plenty of friendly cover to keep her busy nearer the river. I got on with reading Act 2 of panto. Another scene with a big ship, I loved my ship from last year, how am I going to make this years different?

Queen Rat got her comeuppance and Whittington the cat was made Mayor of London. Tilly wonders how Larry at No 10 feels today with all the press camped outside his front door.

Larry

A much noisier mooring than we’ve gotten used to of late. We had someone tentatively knock on the roof as I was cooking our evening meal, they weren’t expecting anyone to say ‘HELLO!’ from inside. A quiet apology was followed by the lady leaning down to the kitchen window ad wishing us a pleasant evening.

1 lock, 2.53 miles, 4 in a queue, 3 in a lock, 1st boat, 3 boats, 1 dog, 2 cats, 2 boxes wine, 1 bag of peppers, 6 eggs, Act 2, 1 big ship, 1 jungle, 1 tower of London, 1 resignation, 1 Larry for Prime Minister.

https://goo.gl/maps/oiKjQgZsrqKebMuR8

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

Summit Of Summits. 7th October

Wool Road Winding Hole to Diggle, the summit of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal

It looks good over there!

As we got ready to leave this morning the chap from the boat in front appeared with a billy can full of coal which he proceeded to give to me. He’d taken his stove out several months ago, so had no need of it.

Good Luck with Gypsy

He bought his boat in May as a project boat and was due to have a new stove fitted before now, but for one reason or another it hasn’t happened. I suggested he might want to hold onto the coal to help keep warm, but he still wanted to give it to us. I suspect it was in his way. He grew up around Tunnel End in Marsden, before the tunnel was reopened he and his mates used to play in it, he says there is graffiti from the original navies who cut the tunnel. We wished him good luck with the work on his boat, his next aim is to get to Marsden, then who knows!

Time to climb the last few locks. The last nine locks to the summit are all relatively close together, infact today we only moved a mile horizontally but 94ft 6″ vertically.

Lifting the paddles

The angled paddle gear wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, several of them having had hydraulic mechanisms added to them. Six years ago we had enlisted crew to assist due to me not being able to use my right hand at the time. Using a windlass wrong handed was a challenge as I tried to do my bit. Today my long reach windlass was only needed some of the time.

Will that be enough water?

Our main problem today would be the low pound between locks 26W and 27W. As I arrived to open the gates into 26W above looked really rather low, would there be sufficient water left after filling the lock to get Oleanna over the cill? The bottom gates leaked, she rose, we pushed the gate open, it was touch and go from my reckoning that there’d be enough water.

Gradually making her way forward

I walked up to 27W, the level above much healthier, in fact the bywash was running. I lifted the paddles on the bottom gates and then the top gates and let water run down through the lock. I made note of where I thought I could drop the level above to for us still to be able to get over the cill of this lock.

Will she get over the cill?

Below Mick had closed the gate again, hoping to stop the pound from draining as much as I was filling it. He then refilled the lock, opened the gate and gradually inched his way out of the lock and over the cill. A big thumbs up was given and I could now drop the paddles at the top end of my lock.

There was now the pound to cross which took quite sometime! As Oleanna approached the bottom cill of the lock Mick gave her quite a few revs before cutting them and thankfully gliding into the lock at a slow pace. Now to see if I’d let too much water down to be able to get over the top cill of this lock. There was just enough! Phew!

Nearly there!

Onwards and upwards we worked, the single bottom gates meaning less walking round, but heavier to move. The last pound between 31W and 32W was also a touch low, but thankfully passable, no need to draw on the 3 plus miles of the summit pound.

As the top gate opened of Lock 32W Oleanna had reached the highest point on the Canal Network, tomorrow she will bag her next wonder of the waterways, but getting this far is a wonder in itself.

We pulled up in front of NB Idleness a tug who will also be going through the tunnel tomorrow, Kim and I had been in touch through facebook over the last week. So there was plenty to chat about on our arrival. They are longer than us at around 60ft and had been asking how easy or hard it would be to go down the Huddersfield Broad Canal.

Good hunting friendly cover here

Tilly came out for an explore as we chatted, but after a lady walking by mentioned she’d just seen a couple of Mink I decided that maybe Tilly should return indoors. After seeing how quickly a mink grabbed and dragged a pigeon down a tree earlier this summer I thought it would be safer.

BUSY!

After lunch we walked down hill slightly to Grandpa Greens for some celebratory chilled medication. Signs all around the building suggest that they have had queues round the block, but today we only had to wait for one other person to be served. Sadly no gluten free cones so I had to make do with a tub instead.

What a choice!

Mick had Belgium chocolate and Salted Caramel whilst I had Raspberry Ripple and Nutella. Both very nice and a fitting celebration for reaching the summit of summits.

Yay! Summit medication!!!

The Huddersfield Canal is the highest canal on the network at 645ft above sea level. Next is the Rochdale at 600ft, followed by the Macclesfield and Peak Forest at 518ft, Titford Canal BCN at 511ft, Leeds Liverpool at 487ft the last two surprising us not to be the other way round.

Taking down her smile

The afternoon was spent preparing ourselves for tomorrow. The highest point on Oleanna we know to be the horns at the front, the chimney used to be similar until we had some cut off. Mick undid the supports that the horns sit on and tucked them under the bracket that normally holds them off the cratch cover. This will have gained us at least another 3 inches clearance, which we might be glad of if someone else drives Oleanna through the tunnel.

One day I’ll repaint that bracket

Another job today was sussing out whether we’ve been charging enough for our house. We’ve already had an enquiry for a few weeks next year. Now that we have been paying the bills for a full year we know what it costs to run the house.

A Summit Robin

I made up a chicken and roast carrot risotto with the last of our Sunday roast and popped it in the oven before I got together with my Scarborough chums for our weekly catch up. It was good to see those who could make it and today was the first time we’ve had two people on boats, me and Sue who is currently on holiday in Greece sailing.

9 locks, 94ft 6″ climbed, 1 mile, 32 locks up, 645ft, 1 summit pound, 1 billy can of coal, 1 dodgy pound, 1 foot of water, 2 boats waiting for the tunnel, 3 by the end of the day, 2 scoops each, 2 horns lowered, 2 hours shore leave, 2 mink! 5 chums, 1 pot of oven risotto, yummy!

The yarn shop I’ve just spotted on the map at Warth Mill has been added to the ‘next time’ list!

https://goo.gl/maps/Vyq12X4mj5NKCTN36

Wotsit! And A Missed Decision, 3rd October

Marple Junction to Murrys Winding Hole, Lower Peak Forest Canal

Chilly view from bed this morning

A chilly morning, mainly due to letting the stove go out so that Morag could sleep on the sofabed last night. The stove is a touch too close for duvets in the middle of the night! The central heating soon took the edge off.

School pals

After breakfast it was time to say goodbye to Morag, she was heading off to see her son who is studying at Manchester University and it’s his birthday tomorrow. It was so lovely to have her to stay and have a proper time for a catch up.

Goodbye Macclesfield Canal

The covers were rolled back, waterproof trousers put on, we were ready. Two volunteers were by the top of the Marple flight. One chap, Rob, had been there at 8:30 to unlock the locks, he’d had a long wait for his first boat, us, at just gone 11.

Hello Peak Forest Canal and Rob

The other chap, who’s name I didn’t catch, walked on down the flight, topping up locks where needed and opening the top gates. This meant my steps for the day wouldn’t include going backwards and forwards between locks.

One down, 15 more to go

We soon got into a rhythm. Rob closed the gate behind Oleanna, I walked to the offside and lifted a paddle, then Rob would lift the towpath side. Occasionally we swapped sides.

The locks are quite deep

Many of the bottom gates overhang the narrow bridge below, so the gates tend to be easier to push from down there, but only if you are tall enough! I thankfully am just within the useful height range.

There was plenty of water coming round the bywashes, most probably because most of the locks were already full, so any water we were adding went straight round.

Heading to Lock 13

Rain came and went, sunshine did the same but for shorter periods. The weather hadn’t discouraged walkers up the flight. By Lock 13 two lads were eating snacks on the steps, then they rushed through the boatman’s tunnel to the bottom of the lock as Oleanna came out. I took the more convoluted route down steps to the horse tunnel under the main road.

New wall

The lock that was rebuilt a few years ago is now weathering in, the new dry stone wall alongside the towpath now the only clue to the works that went on to rebuild the bulging lock sides.

Gongoozling

With Lock 9 being open ready and waiting for us we dropped lock 10, the level in the intermediate pound rising almost to the top of the lower lock. Rob spotted that the overflow there was blocked, not helping on a pound that can easily overfill. Here we were surrounded by numerous eager gongoozlers all over hanging the lock sides and keen to help push gates.

At Lock 8 Rob headed off down the flight, it was 11:50 and time to go and lock the gates on the bottom lock at midday. So we were left to work the next few locks on our own, no hardship.

Nearly there

A young lad ran up to see what was happening, obviously wanting to help but a touch too shy to ask. He was very quickly recruited and despite his height disadvantage he was able to open and close the gate from the lock top, with me reminding him to keep an eye on where he was putting his feet as the edge of the stonework got closer and closer.

Lock 7’s top gate was closed but had a paddle raised for us. The level looked equal, but obviously not quite! No matter how much I pushed and bumped and pushed it just wasn’t going to shift. Where were all those keen helpers now!! Nowhere to be seen. I tried to be patient, but it simply wasn’t going to help, the lock had reached a point where the same amount of water was leaking out through the bottom gates as was coming in at the top. Eventually a dog walker was recruited to help, that extra bit of force making all the difference.

That’s a pisser

Rob and the other volunteer reappeared at Lock 5. They’d had a ping on the whatsap group for the locks and another boat had just started down the flight ten minutes before it was due to be locked. Rob stayed with us as the other fella walked back towards the top.

Open sesame

Rob was a very chatty chap. You could tell he’d not been volunteering long as he’s not fully realised just how loud you have to shout across a lock as it empties or fills. He started in May, his enthusiasm for gaining knowledge about the locks is commendable. Originally from Whitley Bay he used to walk the beaches there, but recently he’d found himself in Manchester walking the canals, so he managed to volunteer and here he is. Apparently last year there were four volunteers on the flight on Sundays, but this year it started off with just one, him, the old volunteers having gone elsewhere.

Bye and Thank you Rob

At Lock 1 he suggested I climb onboard and he’d work the lock, the gates needing to be unlocked and locked again. We thanked him as Oleanna dropped in the lock, the noise from the pissers from the lock walls taking over.