Category Archives: Mental Health

The View’s Better Up Here. 28th September

Staniland Marina to Bramwith Junction

As Mick popped the kettle on for our morning cuppa Paul was getting ready to push off. A quick goodbye and see you somewhere next year was exchanged. Off he headed, he and his travelling companions hoping to time their arrival on the New Junction Canal with all it’s bridges to avoid rush hour. Hopefully last nights storm won’t have brought any trees down on Paul’s route, it was quite passive here in Thorne.

Here he comes

An email from Clive came through he was about to leave the moorings by the service block. Mick walked up to the lock to see if there was a volunteer on duty, there was, so we could concentrate on getting ourselves ready to push off. A number checker walked past, we chatted with him. His next job today was to locate the sunken boats along the Stainforth and Keadby Canal. One was just by us, all possessions removed, the boat left to sink. It will cost C&RT around £3000 to remove it, we’d spotted at least another three on our way from Keadby!

Bye bye Thorne

As the swing bridge at the lock was pushed out of the way we pushed off, we had a convoy.

Next pair ready to post

Somewhere in amongst all the boats at Staniland are a pair of my Sockathon socks, well they were actually being worn to work today. We waved to Della wherever she moors. Onwards under the railway to the M18. Where had the near breach happened a few weeks ago? We decided that we’d most probably already missed it so where the undergrowth had been cut must have grown back. The new houses looked more settled in Stainforth now, still more being built. The lovely old boats still catch our eye as we pass them.

NB Christopher B following

Soon we were at Bramwith Swing Bridge. I hopped off and pressed the buttons, two boats through, only one car and a bike held up. Onwards to the lock. Earlier a boat had passed us, it was waiting at the lock. For the owner this would be their first ever manual lock, this would be our last manual lock this year. I checked that they were okay with sharing with a narrowboat and this was fine. Did they want to stay up top and watch what happened whilst holding onto a rope, or get back on their boat to bring it up.

First ever manual lock

A wave came from down by the moorings, David our friend from the Goole Escape Committee. Big hugs, he looked so well, a different man from last year, even from earlier this year. Mick, David and myself worked the cruiser and Clive up the lock. The latest on Les was that she will be having an operation and likely to be in a wheelchair for a while. Clive headed off, winded at the junction and then pulled into a gap on the moorings. Our arrival had been timed well as he could talk to the mooring ranger who had stopped by to see David.

Last windlass lock for a while

Next it was our turn up the lock. We seemed to be out of practice as no matter which paddle I lifted first Oleanna had different ideas than to stay on one side of the lock! Oh well. We pulled in to top up on water and have a better chat with Clive.

We nearly pulled in at the end of the permanent moorings, but we’d not have a view, so onwards to the junction to where we nearly always moor. David had warned us that the towpath hadn’t been mown for sometime, so we might have difficulty pulling in. Carefully stepping off we made it, chains round the horizontal bar. The sheers then came out to trim the friendly cover by the stern, bow, hatch and windows. Tall bracken obscured the view to the east, so this got a little trim too, although it was really quite dense Mick gave up after a while.

I can see fur miles!!!

The view’s better from up here! Tilly spent quite a bit of time on the roof, a good vantage point for seeking out friends.

An updated props list was needed, requiring a quick read of the rehearsal draft of the script. David joined us for a cuppa and a catch up. He’d just had news that he’d got a volunteer job, very exciting and perfect for him. It was so good to see him, he has come so far since early last year. Still a way to go, but every day he feels he’s making progress.

Props list amending

The stove took the edge off an autumn evening and provided the means to cook a couple of jacket potatoes to accompany a pie each. The sous chef was in charge this evening, he declined to cover his pie in foil when I could smell something was cooking well. It apparently still tasted good, my pie had a nice golden crust in contrast.

A dark crust

1 lock, 4.7 miles, 1 bridge, 1 held up, 3 Kingfishers, 1st lock for one, 420th for us this year, 2 boats not in the right place, 1 hedge trimmed, 4 hours, 2 friends, 1 stove lit, 1 catch up, 2 jackets, 1 new props list, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

2022 Back To Exploring

Time for the annual round, a long post so sit back, put your feet up and enjoy.

The New Year kicked off with winter maintenance in the house. Having two hallways proved time consuming refreshing the woodwork and patching up the worst of the wallpaper. But this was broken up with weekly walks to see the sea. I resumed work on the development showing of #unit21 for Dark Horse and a Christmas present of a cheese making kit proved very tasty in creating my first ever Yorkshire Curd Cheese Cake from scratch. I plan on having a second go at this soon!

In February work progressed in Huddersfield towards opening night, the floor painted, final costume fittings and then the set and lighting added. All while Mick serviced our life jackets and Tilly grew more and more bored of life in the house.

Once the show was opened we had a trip down to London to catch up with the London Leckenbys for a belated Christmas, on our way back we visited Oleanna. When ever we could we visited Blue Water Marina to do jobs and have a pack up lunch. The stove was reblacked, walls washed down and cupboards sorted through.

Then at the end of February, Mick and I left Tilly in charge of the house, we packed enough clothes and food for a couple of days boating and headed to Thorne to move Oleanna through Thorne Lock before a winter stoppage began. Blimey it was chilly out there, but wonderful to be back afloat and moving Oleanna to Goole. Now we were all set to move back onboard and have a few weeks of pootling about in Yorkshire.

Back at the house we made it ready for the first of this years lodgers. Our boat Christmas tree was retired into the back garden where we hoped it would thrive, this of course was before we knew a drought was on it’s way! Tilly said goodbye to the dragon that lives up the chimney, left Seville and Valencia to look after the house before having to endure the car trip back to boat life.

After a few days sorting ourselves, including having one of Joan’s gluten free Chinese takeaways, we unplugged Oleanna and backed out from our mooring at Goole Marina (Boat House). We spent the next three weeks bobbing about between Pollington Lock, Doncaster and Goole. Maintenance jobs were ticked off the list.

Alistair did engine and weedhatch jobs, Frank joined us a couple of times to do carpentry jobs, our galley drawers no longer have a life of their own, the covers had a good scrub and a spray of Wet and Forget to help them keep clean.

In March I’d set myself a charity challenge, to knit as many pairs of socks in the month as I could. Nine pairs knitted for people in return for sponsorship, I also got a very generous donation of yarn from Lisa on NB Summer Wind.

Our plans had had to change as Thorne Lock still hadn’t closed, but was about to! Plans to visit York and West Yorkshire were abandoned, we’d bought ourselves a Gold Licence for the year so wanted to make the most of it. So on March 24th with all the jobs done we turned our backs on Goole and set off into the sunset to see where 2022 would take us, all three of us grinning from ear to ear.

We made our way to Keadby ready for our booked passage on the tidal River Trent, the fast route south. A phone call from a boating friend in need of support meant we’d be doing our best to make use of the spring tide to reach Cromwell in one go despite the weather forecast. We spent a couple of days doing what we could to help in Newark before we needed to be on the move again.

On upstream to The Trent and Mersey keeping up our cruising hours and Tilly hoping we’d stop with enough time for her to explore each day before cat curfew.

Up to Fradley then onto the Coventry Canal, we played leapfrog with NB Free Spirit for a couple of days.

Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, up the Curdworth Flight then a turn left onto a section of the Grand Union we’d not been on before at Star City. Up Garrison Locks, Typhoo Basin and then the Ashted Locks where we now have the measure of that Tunnel! A mooring space at the top of Farmers Bridge had our name on it. This was handy for a road trip to swap lodgers and for visits to the dentist. It also meant we were in shot when a group came to jump the top lock!

Fast forward to 6:15

Our route out of Bumingham saw us through Edgbaston Tunnel, down Lapworth followed by Hatton. A pause was needed for Tilly’s annual visit to a new vet, the one here the closest to the canal we’ve visited so far, also handy for The Cape of Good Hope!

At Napton we joined the Oxford Canal and headed for Braunston, pausing to stock up on goodies from the butcher. On the Grand Union we made our way up over the hill and started our descent down The Long Buckby flight back towards tidal waters.

On the 1st of May we turned left at Gayton Junction onto the Northampton Arm dropping down the flight to the River Nene. We’d only been this way once before and that was when we’d just bought Lillian (NB Lillyanne) back in 2014. We bought ourselves a second Abloy key, showed our Gold Licence to the chap at Northampton Marina and started our journey down stream, time to explore.

A decision was made to head down to Peterborough taking note of places we’d want to visit on our return journey. We worked our way through the guillotine locks, many button operated and others with the wheel of cardiovascular overload.

Tilly loved many of the moorings apart from those in Peterborough where crowds surrounded the boat and meant returning from shore leave was impossible for several hours.

In two weeks we reached the end of the river at the Dog in a Doublet Lock. Here the river becomes tidal, we’d save that trip for another time and turned back upstream to head for the Middle Level.

Here we wanted to explore all the drainage channels, but decided we’d do that on our return too. So we took the direct route and crossed the low lying waters in three days arriving at Salters Lode on Mick’s birthday. The levels out on the tidal stretch of the Great Ouse needing to be just right to get through the lock, turn and head upstream to Denver Sluice.

A lovely GOBA mooring was found on the River Wissey and eventually the sun came out for a birthday barbeque, we’d made it to the Great Ouse.

The remainder of May was spent exploring the River Wissey, Ely and The Little Ouse. Brandon Lock sits at the most easterly point on the connected navigable network for boats Oleanna’s size. Sadly a build up of silt stopped us from getting her bow into the lock, but we did get her as far east as was possible, ticking off the fourth point of the compass.

There was a trip to Hull Truck to meet old friends at a gala evening followed by a meet up with Micks family back in the Fens. At the end of the month we got to know Neil the seal at Ten Mile Bank moorings as he basked in the sun and took sunset dips in the river.

The Jubilee was seen in at Denver, we lit our guiding lights as a Lancaster Bomber flew overhead heading to see the Queen. The Relief Channel gave us a good mooring to be able to have a trip away to celebrate Dawn and Lee’s 50th Birthdays in Scarborough, we went as Wallace and Gromit and won an Oscar!

Another visit to Ely to see the Cathedral, Farmers market and meet up with Heather from NB Bleasdale, the first of many this summer. The River Lark was explored, the end of navigation reached with a handy mooring outside a pub.

We headed for the Cam, our paths crossing for the first time with Ken and Sue from NB Cleddau. Then onwards in to Cambridge where we visited colleges, ate chilled medication and had a day trip to Duxford so that Mick could sit in the pilots seat of a Trident 2, a seat his Dad had sat in on many a flight.

Oleanna squeezed along each of the three Lodes, Wicken, Burwell and Reach. Wicken Lode a magical place and a day visit to Anglesey Abbey with it’s wonderful gardens.

Then we headed onto the Old West a river with a very different feel than the Ely Ouse. A pause was needed when we reached Earith for us to have a tour of Heathers new to her boat GT. Once off the tidal water we were on a different Great Ouse again. Here St Ives, St Neots and Hemingford gave us sunsets, D shaped locks, huge meadows and wonderful towns and villages to explore.

As the temperatures started to rise I needed to do some work. Cruising happened in the mornings, my Panto script and sketches were done in the shade of what trees we could find. White sheets were bought and we hoped for a mooring with shade for the really hot days that were to come. Tilly took to lying on the floor and we took to wearing wet t-shirts to help us to keep cool. Thankfully the hot blast only lasted a couple of days then the temperature dropped and we could continue to head upstream.

July 21st we reached the navigable limit of the River Great Ouse, having to reverse some distance to be able to turn round and return to Bedford for the River Festival.

Here we met up with Ken and Sue, Jennie and Chris from NB Tentatrice and Heather again. Plenty of things to see, do and hear. The boat parades, raft races, vintage cars, all sorts kept us busy for the two days.

Now at the end of July we alternated the days between cruising and my work. More beautiful days cruising and more wonderful sunsets, one day off to visit Cambridge for some more chilled medication and to see the Hockney exhibition.

August saw more hot days. Trips to London to celebrate birthdays, panto meetings, catch up with best friends and travellers over from Australia.

On the 15th August we crossed back from Denver Sluice to the Middle Level having really enjoyed our three months on the Great Ouse. Now water levels were a worry along with having enough time to reach Oxford for me to go to work in October. We made the decision to come back and explore the Middle Level another year, maybe we’ll cross The Wash to get there!

By the end of August our progress up stream on the River Nene slowed to a halt. First one lock broke then another two ahead of us. We’d recently been accepted to join the Reflections Flotilla on the Thames to mark the Queens Jubilee in a few weeks time, now that time was ticking away.

When we did get moving again we had to make up our cruising hours. With the news of the passing of the Queen we didn’t know if the flotilla would still be going ahead, we carried on at pace waiting for news. Back up the River Nene, turning onto the Grand Union, working our way southwards. The news came through that the flotilla would go ahead, but now in remembrance of the Queen.

With a couple of days to spare we squeezed into the Eco-Moorings by Islington Tunnel. Two days of catching up with family and more friends over from Australia before we joined boats heading along the Regents Canal towards Limehouse Basin. An afternoon of activity saw numerous narrowboats festooned with white lights.

On the 24th of September the Thames barrier was closed and we all headed out of Limehouse Lock up stream to Chelsea where we clung onto buoys until the early evening when the flotilla started to muster.

Getting on for 150 boats all displaying white lights got into formation and headed down stream. Crowds stood on the illuminated bridges and Tower Bridge opened up in a royal salute as we passed underneath. What a truly amazing day.

Now we had to head towards Banbury, back round the Regents Canal as a leak in the engine bay needed testing on the calm waters of the canal rather than the tideway. By the time we reached Brentford we were confident with Oleanna’s engine again. On the Thames Tilly got a birthday present of a night on a Cliveden Island. Sadly we got an unexpected present on our arrival in Oxford, a second red line on a covid test! Panto painting couldn’t be put off so we made our way gradually up the Oxford Canal keeping our distance from people at locks and taking maximum doses of paracetamol.

A week of painting in Banbury before I moved to Chipping Norton to stack up the hours over the next four weeks getting the 50th anniversary panto ready. Rendez Vousing with Oleanna at weekends in Banbury and Coventry kept me sane. Mick had to single hand across the summit of the Oxford Canal to avoid the first of the winter stoppages.

All three of us were back onboard by mid November, covid free and vaccinated. We took things slowly now, time to rest up, meet friends, gather family and pootle towards Christmas. Our 20th Anniversary was celebrated with a Chinese takeaway at Alvecote Marina, a planned stop which ended up being extended due to plummeting temperatures. The canal froze, there’d be no moving the outside for Tilly!

Temperatures lifted dramatically and the ice just about vanished in a couple of days, we could now be on our way to Christmas. Alrewas was a good place to spend the festive days, a very good butchers and a village with lots of character and humour.

Bookings in the New Year had been made for passage on the tidal River Trent for us to reach Yorkshire, but this would not be. The Trent had risen before Christmas, Cranfleet Flood Gates were shut ahead of us, so no New Year at Hazelford Lock. Instead our alternator played up and we sought out a mooring to hook up to and see in 2023.

This year we’d been wanting to explore again. This year we cruised miles of new water, made new friends, got too hot, got iced in, got stuck, got to be in the first illuminated flotilla on the Thames for 300 years. What a great year it has been.

So our vital statistics for 2022 according to Canalplan are

Total distance is 1249 miles, 6½ furlong and 555 locks . There were 88 moveable bridges of which 29 are usually left open; 156 small aqueducts or underbridges and 18 tunnels,  a total of 7 miles 2 ¼ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.

This was made up of 227 miles, 1 1/2 furlongs of narrow canals; 363 miles, 2 furlongs of broad canals; 85 miles, 5 furlongs of commercial waterways; 269 miles, 1 furlong of small rivers; 234 miles, 7 1/4 furlongs of large rivers; 69 miles, 6 furlongs of tidal rivers; 176 narrow locks; 232 broad locks; 54 large locks; 2 locks on major waterways.

731.7 engine hours

1156.1 litres diesel, 5 (although we’ve got 1 empty now) gas bottles (used for central heating as well as cooking), 28.5 litres oil, 3 oil filters, 1 fuel filter, 2 air filters, 1 water pump, 2 new belts, 690kg coal, 1 overnight guest twice, 6 packs Dreamies (not enough!), 56 friends, a record breaking 41 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval (4 in one day!), 15 pairs socks, 2 shows designed, 9 lodgers, 2 lots gluten free puff pastry, 9 supermarket deliveries, 30 boxes of wine delivered, 2 lost unicorns.

Thank you all for joining us on our journey. Wonder where we’ll get to in 2023?

Stamping Mud. 10th January


1.52m down 11cm, but not a good forecast

Another early morning, well for Mick returning the van and sending off the costume returns. Frustrating that despite the returns going back to the same company, they had to go in three different packages, one to Poland via UPS the other two by Evri. Because of the two different couriers it meant Mick having to visit two different Premier stores in the torrential rain before returning the van.

On his arrival back to the boat he put on his chefs hat and cooked us a breakfast. As he cooked, a stream of water appeared from the window above the cooker. There was so much water coming down the glass outside, the water had filled up the frame and was finding it’s way inside. This year I haven’t got round to taking the windows out and giving the frames a good clean out. The drain holes on this window were almost certainly blocked. So as Mick fried and poached our breakfast I donned my coat and provided myself with some pointy thin sticks.

Co-op bacon not as good as Alrewas bacon

The drain holes were totally blocked. Prodding from above and then below saw rivers of muddyness drain down the cabin side. I managed to do enough of a job to keep the water draining away and not entering the boat. A better more comprehensive clean out is required before too long, but that will require a warmish dry day as each window will need to come out of it’s frame.

Having now got soggy legs and Mick having had the early start we both deserved breakfast, it was very yummy.

Tilly really wanted to be out, but the rain was putting her off. But in the end her need was far greater than staying dry and she sprang off somewhere on the towpath. She soon returned much relieved and came for some Dreamies. The next few hours as I worked my way through the last few items to order for #unit21 she came and went as often as any cat could. The day gradually drying up, but the towpath remaining very wet and extreamly muddy. My list of jobs bore the brunt of Tilly’s muddy stamps.

Good job most jobs were done !

Time to sit down and do figures. Time to finish off last years accounts, add up my design fees and money from lodgers. Downloading bank statements takes some time, then reconciling them. Things are a little more complicated this year as my self employed year doesn’t run the same as the tax year for our lodgers. Maybe I should move my accounting year and maybe I am too diligent with the figures. It all takes time and concentration (well only a couple of afternoons worth), which isn’t helped with Tilly coming and going, demanding Dreamies every five minutes! Mick was understanding and watched some old episodes of All Creatures Great and Small with the subtitles on, after all he needs the figures from the lodgers for his return too.

Still some more to do tomorrow, then the tax return filling in, only to be told I don’t owe any tax just some National Insurance contributions, which I already know.

Numbers and notes

Dinner this evening was jacket potatoes with the remainder of the chicken from our Friday night roast and some homemade coleslaw. One day we will finish the red cabbage bought for Christmas!

0 locks, 0 miles,1 van returned, 3 parcels, 3 refunds, 20 rolls of tape, 1kg green confetti, 2nd payment, 4 hours of numbers, 4 muddy stamping paws! 1 overdue catch up.

Getting Festive. 25th August

Wansford Station EA mooring

A wet itchy morning. Yesterday we knew that today would be wet. Yesterday we’d decided to set off early today to catch up to where we should be. Yesterday we realised we needed to fill with water. Yesterday we didn’t set an alarm clock. This morning we slept in, our brains forgetting the early start. Our brains registering the rain falling on the roof. Our brains doing nothing about anything.

As we had our morning cuppa with breakfast we decided that maybe we should stay put instead of getting soaked for four hours boating. Topping up on water could wait, Tilly was likely to be the only one to complain.

Surrounded by capsizing canoes

I worked all day. The trains rumbled across the bridge six times, the same class 14 engine pulling the carriages as yesterday. They also did a bit of shunting around of guards vans and another engine headed off on it’s own.

The narrowboat that pulled in behind us yesterday pulled away once the rain had stopped at around 2pm. Later on in the day it was replaced by a cruiser with three chaps on board who’d been to Peterborough for the beer festival. They hadn’t stayed as their boat is very shallow and was in danger of being over the top of submerged edging, which if the level dropped wouldn’t be good!

Getting festive today

Mick spent much of the day plugged in to his head phones listening to the days cricket. The kitchen got a good clean and sort out whilst I painted Christmas at the Tower of London.

This evening I’ve had a good catch up chat with David, he’s in a better place both mentally and physically than he’s been of late. More doors have opened for him so he can now access more support.


0 locks, 0 miles, 1 very wet morning, 0 shore leave for Tilly or me, 1 empty box of white card model bits, 1 full box of painted model bits, 2 much brown though! 1 tidy clean kitchen, 1 empty yellow water tank, 1 alarm clock set for the morning.

Wet T’s. 18th July

Braford Old Mill

The cool of the morning was lovely, but sadly going to be short lived as the temperature started to rise. Our neighbour of last night moved off as they’d said at 6:30 and not that long after Mick was on the gunnel lowering the white sheets again.

But why?!

Tilly was allowed shore leave first thing, but when she revisited for some ‘Thank you for coming home’ Dreamies the doors were closed behind her, soon followed by the windows and all the curtains, trying to keep the coolness we’d started with trapped inside.

With the sheets on the sunny side it certainly reduced the amount of heat the cabin sides emitted inside. Maybe when Oleanna is due a repaint we’ll use the same colours, but with cream being the predominate colour rather than dark blue. Lets face it this heat wave isn’t going to be a one in a hundred year event, it may not be the last heat wave we get this year! We may also invest in foil blankets and magnets for such days to help reflect the heat away more than the sheets, thank you Adam and Chris for your comments.

Whilst the sun shone down on Oleanna we stayed inside, windows, doors and curtains all closed. The new fan was pointed towards dampened towels that we hung from a string across the boat. The evaporation from the towels helping to cool the air.

I put together my panto story board with notes and emailed it off to Abi. I don’t expect a reply for a few days as she has two young children to look after in this heat as well as herself.

Mick preferred to sit outside in the warm shade

Once shade started to appear on the bank Mick headed out to sit in it. I preferred to stay inside with Tilly. A cold flannel to cool down every now and again for both myself and Tilly. We’d tried a chilled hot water bottle wrapped in a towel for her to lie on, cool matt no good, escape pod in front of the fan, That one was just plain scary! But at least she would allow me, even though begrudgingly to wipe her down with a cool wet flannel. Cats don’t like being wet, she tried her best not to purr as she got used to it.

I even started to read a book

The internet stopped working or a while the server needing rebooting, phones became hot, in the end I turned mine off so that it would have chance to cool down.

I never thought that one day I’d even think of wearing a wet t-shirt, but today it was most certainly the best way of keeping cool. Mick soon followed and felt the benefit quite quickly.

White bits up to reflect the heat away

As the shade took over the bank and had chance to cool the ground I also moved outside. Fan turned off inside the boat and Tilly allowed back outside. A water bowl was put down for her but she seemed to prefer her self catering approach to keeping hydrated. You lead a horse to water, it’s even harder to get a cat to drink!

One of Mick’s sandals had a malfunction, the heel strap breaking. One job that wouldn’t involve too much energy. Some strong cotton and big needle and my leather thimble sewed it back together in no time.

We don’t know what temperature we got up to here on our island, the internet suggested around 38 39C. We just know it was bloomin hot!


This morning I’d message our friend David to check up on him in Yorkshire. He’d been offered shelter in a house by some people in the local village if his boat got too hot, which it will have done despite being white.

Tonights bbq

This evening we stayed sat out until 10pm, the sheets lifted on Oleanna and windows open or removed to try to replace the air inside and help her cool down. Tilly was allowed an extended shore leave as she’d had wet food for lunch today. After our barbeque she was elusive, most probably being busy. We ended up leaving her to it, she found her own way back just after the news had started.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 island to ourselves, 1 boat overstaying, 2 many lobsters on boats or paddle boards, 1 dark boat, 0 bra day, 2 wet t-shirts, 1 wet cat, 1 story board, 1 book started, 1 mended sandal, 2 rain showers, 2 steaks cooked much better than the one I had in Littleport, 4 veg kebabs, 1 bowl of roasted potato salad, 25 glasses of water each, 1st day survived, 2 glasses of wine each, yes I know it was a Monday but I just couldn’t face any more water!

We Forgot The Eggs! 6th June

Wiggenhall St Mary Magdelan to 2nd GOBA Mooring River Wissey

Last night we’d put the finishing touches to a supermarket order for a click and collect in Kings Lynn, this needed to be picked up early to get it back to the boat before the hire car would need returning. Mick headed off in the rain, picked up the order, passed it into the boat through the side hatch all the time getting wet. Then he headed back to drop the car off.

The chap who dropped him back to the boat from Enterprise said that their prices had been high due to the lack of cars for the last couple of years. With lack of demand during the pandemic many cars were sold off, now there is a shortage of new cars so they’ve been trying to restock their hire fleet from the second hand market, which has also been problematical.

Time for breakfast and to wait for the rain to stop. Then we topped up the water tank and relit the stove to help drive out that damp feeling you get on such days. Time to move on. Freddie and the lady came to say goodbye, it had been nice meeting her, maybe our paths will cross again somewhere, if they do Tilly will remain firmly shut inside.

Goodbye Freddie

We winded and headed back the way we’d come. If we’d stayed longer we’d maybe have had a trip into Kings Lynn by train to have a look round, but maybe we’ll do that from elsewhere instead.

As we passed under the bridge we both realised we’d forgotten something. Eggs! Last night we’d not added them to our order as just across the road from our mooring had been a small holding who sold eggs, so we’d planned on getting some from there instead. Only we’d forgotten, too late now. We have two left, which means a breakfast or some baking, not both!

There’s someone up there

The trip back along the Relief Channel was grey to say the least, I for one was glad I’d put on my padded waterproof trousers just to keep the chill out.

Why the fencing?

The next mooring was now empty, bunting still up along the railings. We’ve been wondering why bits of fencing have been added around the ramps to the moorings. At Wiggenhall these were at the top, here they were at the bottom.

Downham Market still full

At Downham Market the pontoon was still full. We could have breasted up with someone but we really needed to find a suitable mooring for Tilly as she’s been cooped up inside for days now.

Left to the lock

Just as I was about to be dropped off to work the lock I had a phone call from David. He sounded a touch better than he’s done of late and had just had his weekly counselling session via the NBTA, the service is really helping him. Sadly a dodgy lock on the control box for the lock meant I needed both hands, so our catch up was cut short today.

Coming up

Slowly Oleanna rose in the lock, then I had to admit defeat in locking the panel back up. Mick was sent to have a go, tightening up what screws were left on the lock helped whilst I disposed of rubbish by the Impounding Sluice.

A left and we were back on the Great Ouse, heading upstream again. After a short distance we turned onto the River Wissey and headed for the mooring we’d been at for Mick’s birthday. Here would be good for Tilly especially as we were on our own. As we pulled up Tilly watched our every move and had already started perusing the friendly cover.

Dreaming of what might be in the friendly cover

A joint of pork had been sat drying out in the fridge all day for a Monday Roast. As the afternoon progressed we had the occasional glimpse of blue sky and Tilly had a good time outside in the friendly cover and for some reason up on the pram hood!

Toes in the grass again

1 lock, 8.72 miles, 1 wind, 3 lefts, 2 boxes wine, 1 shoulder pork, 0 eggs! 3 hours shore leave, 1 pram hood with extra perforations!

All About Grebes. 23rd May

Ten Mile Bank GOBA Mooring to Lavender Green, Ely

The pumps work

Across the way all of a sudden there was a big gushing sloshing noise. What the….? It was as if the hull of a submarine had been breached and water was rushing in through corridors and we should be preparing to close the air tight doors. We were actually across the way from a pumping station, water being pumped up from the lower fields. The sound of it when it starts up and the gushing explosive nature of it quite alarming until you know what it is.

Mick spotted a Grebe with a fish in it’s mouth, almost as thick as the Grebe’s neck. This catch was going to take quite a lot of swallowing! Gradually the fins were coaxed past its beak and then with several large gulps the fish was squeezed into it’s throat. Several gulps of water were needed to help it down the hatch, the Grebe’s neck now twice as thick as it was before. That would keep him going for a while today!

When Tilly came in we closed the doors and made ready to push off, coats were required with the chilly breeze. The river wiggles a bit as it approaches Brandon Creek, we’d not be turning down there today, maybe in a couple of days. The banks were high, only the occasional roof tops visible and pylons. These pylons were the end of the long long straight stretch of power lines we’d seen the other day. Once over the river north of Littleport they change direction at last.

The moles got to the grass seed first

The first mooring in Littleport was fenced off, some remedial works have happened here and grass seed is waiting to take hold. Then a choice of two more moorings along with one outside the Swan on the River. We made note, but continued onwards. We were looking for a reasonably safe mooring, close to a station to leave Oleanna for a night. These would do, but was there somewhere better in Ely.


A long long straight follows, the railway running close alongside. The tops of Ely Cathedral towers showing in the distance.

We were passed by flocks of Greylag Geese, Canada Geese with their babies, a River Patrol boat. We timed ourselves at the speed check, 52 seconds, not speeding.

Catching a ride

Then there was a Grebe with their chicks. Hang on, one was hitching a ride! We’ve seen swans do this before, but not Grebes. My photos had to be hasty before the rider got off and swam of for themselves.

The Cathedral that bit closer

Ely moorings are extensive, last Friday we’d heard that they were full, Paul the boat mover had had to breast up to go shopping and then move out of town to moor up for the night. Today there was lots of room. Mick had called the marinas ahead to see if anyone might have space for us. One said they could accommodate us for £15 a night. We pootled through our eyes set on a GOBA mooring through the other side for the night, we’d then return in the morning to our booked mooring. But as we passed the marina we concluded that we’d more than likely be moored on the towpath, not within the marina, so no more secure than just being moored on the towpath for free. With spaces behind us we winded and returned to moor up on Lavender Green, Tilly might like it, or she might not.

First impressions were bad! Yes there were trees, but woofers and runners kept coming past. Then I discovered that willow trees are really rather satisfying to climb, especially ones that have grown out of the comb over phase.

Hello Christine and Paul!

Our mooring was perfectly positioned to wave at passing trains. We made sure we were outside for one particular train heading for Littleport. As we waved Christine (Mick’s sister) and Paul waved back at us. Family arriving.


You can get really rather high in these trees without spindly branches under your paws. Only downside was the gulls and crows shouting at me. I know they were impressed with my climbing skills but they needn’t have been so noisy about it.

One tree required several leaps to get higher, over hanging branches not possible to scale normally. Lots of calculations were required but I succeeded in getting to the top, it was brilliant. No idea why She didn’t think I’d like it here!

How High?!

After a while I thought I could hear Tilly meowing, so came out to see what the fuss was about. She can be quite vocal whilst out but in such public places she’s that bit quieter. High up above there she was, calculations were on going trying to plot a route down the tree which involved getting even higher! Numpty! She got herself up there and I wasn’t about to go climbing or call the fire brigade!

Backwards, remember backwards! But she’d got herself into a tizzy and forgot. Front paw claws twisting in the bark, grip lost and she came tumbling down the tree to the ground.

A quick pat down was all I was allowed to do as she scurried back to the boat. Hopefully all was well.

We went for a little wander around, dropping some cards in a post box and picking up something for us to eat tonight. Ely sits on a hill, yes we do just about remember those. Some very pretty streets, the Cathedral, Oliver Cromwell’s house and lots and lots of yarn bombing by the local WI for the Jubilee.

A yarn bombed eel from Ely

An information board explained how the river sits high above the drained land. The land had been peat and when drained it obviously dried out. It dried out so much that the land shrank away leaving the rivers proud. There’s more to the history of this, but that’s for another time.

A Chinese Water Deer maybe?

Back at the boat I had a catch up chat with David. Today he started having counselling sessions through the NBTA who have just been awarded funds through the National Lottery to help boat dwellers with mental health needs.

There will be more photos of this building in weeks to come.

0 locks, 10.46 miles, 1 wind, 1 large fish, 357 babies, 1 hitching a ride, 1 cathedral, 5782 jubilee pompoms, 1 yarn bombed eel, 1 deer, 3 trees conquered, 18ft dropped, 1 slightly bruised cat, 20 sessions.

Eight Years And One Month to the Day. 5th May

Water Ski Lake, Ditchford to Woodford FOTRN

We woke on a list, one of those that’s a touch unsettling, thank goodness we have a cross bed so neither of us had fallen out of bed. It wasn’t that bad really, with me at the bow to help spread the weight, Mick reversed Oleanna off the silt with ease.

Water water everywhere

What a lovely day, the sun was out and blue sky cruising lay ahead for us. For much of our journey today we’ve been surrounded by lakes, the water ski lake stretches on for what feels like miles to a retail park. Both horizons seem to have developments going on. The north side new houses and currently the south has fencing around it suggesting more houses.

Ditchford Lock

Today we’d encounter two more types of lock. The first Ditchford Lock which instead of a guillotine gate has a radial gate. Apparently there used to be several more of these along the river, but this is the only one that remains.

The bottom gate is curved and drops in at the bottom of the lock, all operated by fingers on buttons again. We should be keeping an eye out for other locks that have previously had radial gates as they have large downstream recesses that used to house the mechanism.

Caution! Hanging Girder!!

Then the longest reach of river we’ve had so far towards Higham Ferrers Lock, 2 miles! A boat was just coming into the lock from below so I tried to help close the gate behind it. Another boat appeared below too, but the chap said he’d shared with them and they’d said as he was in a rush to head onwards without them, he was a boat mover. Blimey that gate was heavy and took two people to get it moving. It turns out there had been a notice regarding it.

Lovely day

Up the boat came, but only so far. We went to check the bottom gate, the paddles had been left up! No indicator that we could find to show this. The last boat through had possibly been a hire boat (it had passed us this morning), possibly with someone wearing C&RT clothing, all speculation. With the paddles closed the boat came up and we could descend, by now the next boat was waiting below.

Lillian in Higham Ferrers Lock in 2014

Yesterday Mick had had confirmation texts and messages that his phone had been registered for strong stream alerts on the Anglian Waterways. Levels can change suddenly down here as the EA manage water levels. If there is flooding the locks can be reversed, making them into sluices sending water downstream fast. The locks are filled, top gates chained open and then the guillotine gate is raised, being on pins downstream of a lock is not a good place to be! Follow the link below to register for warnings.

Irthlingborough looks an interesting place.

Heading towards the next lock we also signed up to the Friends Of The River Nene Facebook group here there are discussions and information about the river, more than you get from the FOTRN website.

Old Station Road Bridge

A bridge had also stuck in our memory, Old Station Road Bridge, sits downstream of the New Station Road Bridge a concrete possibly 1920’s 30’s high bridge. The old bridge comprises of double and triple chamfered arches. Through the centuries it has been widened, Mid C14th and has date stones from 1668, 1829, 1754 and 1922.

Doing our best to line up

Here you take a specific arch and a boat heading upstream had come a cropper coming through, getting stuck at an angle heading them straight off into the reeds. We cut our speed and then slowed as much as we could to tread water, good job the flow wasn’t stronger. They sorted themselves out and came past, we now had to try to line up with the skew arch and from a position we’d not have chosen to be in. Mick deftly turned Oleanna and avoided adding any more groves to the well worn bridge.


A pit stop at the EA moorings was had for lunch and to empty our yellow water tank. Then we were off again to Irthlingborough Lock where we had a couple of gongoozlers watching our every move. It’s funny without a car my geography of England is now centred around canals and rivers, proximity to cities and towns only a twenty minute drive away feels like it’s on the other side of the country. The gongoozlers mentioned Stoke Bruerne, a 30 minute drive yet on a boat it would take over 16 hours. For us that would be a 4 day cruise!

Hawthorne Blossom coming out

The river at times now gets quite narrow with trees here there and everywhere, you have to keep your eyes peeled for on coming boats. We passed two more FOTRN moorings, at least one is likely to be stopped at on the way back.

That looks tidier than I remembered it

Upper Ringstead Lock was the place we had our very first night onboard Lillyanne. We tied to the end bollard of the lock landing and hammered a spike in for the bow rope. Today the lock landing looked tidier than eight years ago, but what hadn’t changed was the guillotine mechanism! This one is the first manually operated gate heading downstream.


This is one thing I’d not forgotten about the River Nene, the big wheel!

Once unlocked you spin the big wheel round and round and round and……. you’ve got the idea. The wheel may be big making it easier to move the guillotine, but the shear number of times you have to spin it is unrelenting! Thank goodness Upper Ringstead Lock is only shallow. I put one idea into action here, get Mick to drop the guillotine then I would raise it, splitting the arm ache between the two of us.

Lower Ringstead Lock

Soon we were at Lower Ringstead Lock, alongside Willy Watt Marina. This was the very first lock we ever did in Lillyanne and our first Nene lock. We didn’t remember it at all. Was it manual back then? Or fingers on buttons? I think we were so giddy at finally owning our own boat that nothing much was stored in the memory bank.

Looking back

Round a big bend and under the old railway bridge, we were soon passing Woodford Riverside Marina, a little arm off to the west. Well it’s actually two little arms with an island between them. This is where Lillyanne had spent most of her life before we bought her and where we collected her from 8 years and a month ago today. We’d had one trip that day by car to off load our belongings and pick up the keys, Merve the previous owner was a touch twitchy not having received the proceeds of the sale via the broker, he was also twitchy as her licence had expired. We then drove to Crick Marina to leave the car and our friend Lizzie gave us a lift back.

Woodford Riverside Marina

Merve seemed happier this time, hopefully the £1 the brokers send through to check it’s your account before sending the rest of the money (the following week in our experience!) had arrived. It was late in the afternoon, we untied and pushed off down the narrow channel between moored boats to the entrance onto the river. We had a crowd watching us. It was the first time Mick had been at her helm and the turn out under the bridge was very tight, yet he managed it without touching a thing.

St Mary the Virgin, Woodford

Not far 0.25km further on we pulled in at Woodford FOTRN mooring for the day. The bank was uneven for much of its length, a section having collapsed at some point, but we made the best of it and left plenty of room for someone else should they arrive, which they did later in the afternoon.

Not a bad mooring

The chairs came out and we both enjoyed the view as Tilly explored the area. Good friendly cover and the occasional small tree to climb. She however didn’t spot the Yoyo flies that kept her occupied and us amused when we were on the River Avon a few years ago.

Tilly on guard

I had a good catch up chat with David, he’s moved away from Newark now, he has good and bad days, but is doing okay.

I must not go on others peoples boats!

5 locks, 8.15 miles, 8 moving boats, 2 gongoozlers, 1 empty yellow water tank, 1 stop for lunch, 8 years 1month, 1 yellow boats previous home, 2 shop bought pizzas personalised, 1 neighbour, 1.25 star review! 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Half Way Down The …… 24th April

Rowington Hill Bridge to Middle Lock Lane Lock 36

What a sunny morning, still a little bit windy but having some blue sky over head made all the difference. We didn’t rush to get away, but that meant we were passed by a couple of boats heading for Hatton before we’d even thought about pushing off.

Rowington Embankment

Just before 11 we finally got going, time to admire the views we’d hidden from yesterday. A wide beam sat near Shrewley Tunnel, a narrowboat approached from the far end, they held back and pulled in giving us the tunnel to ourselves. Unfortunately this meant the chap got stuck in the mud for a while.

Another couple of miles and we’d reached the top of Hatton. We’d been keeping an eye open behind us in case there was any sign of a boat behind to share with, but the canal was empty. Yes we could sit and wait, but we might be there all day! The top lock was in our favour so we decided to head down on our own.

The lock below was also full, so I walked down to open the top gates leaving Mick to close gates and lift a paddle. In the third lock there was a boat rising, their crew actually walked past me to see what was happening at the top, he then lifted the paddle for Mick. Great I thought one less lot of gates to open, there’d be plenty of them to do today!

Busy at the top of the locks

Then as we started to descend the second lock the gates on the lock below had been closed, the lock emptied and another two boats were heading into it. Was it to be this busy all the way down the flight?

Forth Lock down

We swapped places with the single boat and waited for the next lock to fill. Reports from down the flight was that there was a volunteer down there somewhere with a couple of trainees, helping hands but one’s that would be travelling in a pack.

It took a little while for the last boat to realise they needed to vacate the lock for us to be able to use it, lock fatigue that close to the top! Sadly Lock 43 was to be the last one set for us, we must be following someone down, although they couldn’t be seen ahead.

Great view down to Warwick

From here the world got quieter on the water, plenty of walkers about. This proved quite handy. Now that the locks were all nicely lined up and all needed filling, I walked down to lift a paddle so that it could be filling as the one above emptied. We stuck to only lifting one paddle at each lock, many people say opening both paddles only saves a couple of minutes, I was more interested in the energy conservation!

Heading down

A young lad walking past the now full lock below stopped and opened the gate for us, brilliant! If we could have someone do that at each lock that would save some muscle aches. A couple got chatting to Mick at the next lock, he managed to enlist them into opening the next two locks for us, meaning I could walk straight past to get the next one filling.

These paddles take a lot of winding, normally they are not too stiff, but today each and everyone took some turning, the long reach on my windlass was needed for extra umph!

Looking down

With a couple of locks before half way we could see that a boat was coming up, here was the volunteer and trainees. A trainee walked up to help me, we chatted, it was her first day of training, I strongly suspect she’s not done much if any boating. Hope she enjoys working on the flight.

We’d not had lunch and with Middle Lock Bridge just there we decided to pull in, tucking ourselves as far up to the bywash as we could, making use of a ring and leaving the lock landing free behind us.

Volunteers ahead!

A quick look at the map, we’d need to do at least another five locks for another possible mooring. Here was much further away from the road with very good looking friendly cover and trees. We decided to stay put, halfway down the flight, giving Tilly 4 hours of shore leave.

That was it we only saw her once in those four hours and that was after I’d called her to check she was okay. She hopped out from the friendly cover surprising a woofer and owner on the towpath, cartoon arched back and bog brush tail were instantly engaged! I did wonder whether she’d allow them to pass or insist that they went back down the flight!

Can we have this outside all week please

We pottered away the afternoon, the sun shining down on the solar panels meaning we could top up on hot water electrically after I’d had a shower. A Sunday roast chicken was prepared and there was time for a catch up chat with David before it needed carving.

10 locks, 3.69 miles, 5 uphill boats, 0 following us, 1 ahead for sure, 3 gates opened, 1 volunteer, 2 trainees, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval, 1 canine surprise, 1 large roast chicken, 1 boater warned of diesel prices, 1st t-shirt kind of day.

Fitting Into Boxes. 20th April

Cast Iron Roving Bridge

Some dog filming going on in the city today

Mick was away seriously early this morning, he arrived in Scarborough just after 10am and arrived at the house shortly before our lodgers left for work. He had an hour or so to wait before a plumber arrived to try to solve the boiler problem. The boiler was taken to bits, everything checked, lots of head scratching a valve in the airing cupboard was changed (possibly the third such valve this year!). Thankfully all was back working, but why the valve stops working is a mystery. Hopefully this will now have solved the problem, the boiler has a few good years left in it, but if the valves keep failing we may have no choice but to replace it. Fingers crossed.

Grand Central reflections

Back in Birmingham Tilly and I pottered on as normal. Tilly had some shore leave and when she came back I decided to head off for a walk. My main purpose was to find some more comfortable FFP2 Masks. We still wear masks in busy areas such as shops and trains and as very few people now wear them they may as well be more for our protection. The one’s we have now are actually for woodwork so the elastic goes over the back of your head, so they are not quite as user friendly as they could be.

Gas Street

I headed to Boots to see what they had, 5 for £10. That would do. I then had a look around a few shops before I got a touch twitchy about being amongst sooo many people. I decided to walk back to the boat via Gas Street Basin, entering from the north east side where two arms used to head off, I’ve not been this way before. You get quite a good view across the boats.

Worcester Bar

The bridge at Worcester Bar didn’t used to exist, it was just a wooden plank which could be swung across for access using a chain.

Back on board Tilly requested more shore leave, but as I opened up the back I could see another cat coming from the boat behind us. Maybe this was one of the cats that was running along our roof last night! Not wanting to have a towpath turf war Tilly was allowed in the pram cover but, luckily she hadn’t seen our neighbour!

An interesting darn. I do need a magnifying glass

My hygienist appointment went well, although I still can’t imagine why anybody would want to do the job. At least now it is no longer necessary for them to wear the full Darth Vader outfit to clean your teeth! I was asked if I’d like to book my six monthly appointments, this is when boaters don’t always fit into a box. Depending on stoppages I’m likely to come by train after panto has opened in Chipping Norton. So booking an appointment today would be risky. I know when it should be and that will do for now.

He’s tall

No sign of the other cat when I got back, so Tilly was allowed an hours shore leave before ding ding. I took the opportunity to hear how a meeting had gone for David today.

Boaters, Continuous Cruisers don’t fit into normal boxes. Banks find it hard, Doctors quite often need to be reminded that they can register people without an address, having to declare yourself homeless to be able to vote, etc are all things that need to be dealt with by boaters. The people who provide support that David is now entitled to would like him to fit into one of their boxes, for this it would be easier for them if he lived in a house, this however would not be so good for David’s mental health. Soon he will need to start moving his boat again, which will cause problems with the continuity of his care. To receive counselling over the next few months he would need to remain in an area, that area could be challenging to CC in.

Ooo flowers on my strawberry plants

Then there have been other boaters, those who have also put him in a box, the one of the overstayer/continuous moorer, just what you need when you are not well and the visibility of your illness is not obvious! David is going to seek advice from the Welfare Officer at C&RT and from the NBTA, there has to be a way round this. He has come so far and needs support to carry on going in the right direction. Surely the corners of a few boxes can be push to make them fit him and his situation?

On a lighter note, here is Brain Cant fitting into a box.

0 locks, 0 miles, 4 return tickets, 5 hours for the boiler, 7 hours on trains, 5 masks, 2 shore leaves, 1 t-shirt darned, 40 minutes cleaning, 0%,1 more pat on the back, 1 box needing to have the corners stretched.