Category Archives: Middlewich Branch

2023 A Sociable Year

A long post, it’s the annual round up.

January, we sat waiting. Waiting for a new alternator to arrive, for the River Trent to come out of flood and then for the canal to defrost sufficiently for us move. This meant Pip doing work on the boat instead of in the house, this made for smelly days and a very cold workshop under the pram cover.

After almost three weeks we were on the move again having to navigate through thick fog, navigational aids helping us not to bump into the banks! Ahead of us in Yorkshire was a troublesome swing bridge, closed to boat traffic. Our plans had to change, we arranged to moor up in Newark and head back to Scarborough by van. Chin rubs nearly made the longer journey better, but I really don’t like the outside moving SO fast!

Four days later we were back on board, the bridge ahead was now open. Tides were checked, locks booked, cupboards stocked for a few days cruising. Winter cruising can be so so pretty, yet so so chilly. A display by the Red Arrows as we left Torksey kept us amused and a defrost was very welcome when we arrived at Keadby. After four days cruising we were moored up in Goole and walking to catch the train back to Scarborough.

#unit21 in Huddersfield kept Pip occupied for much of February. Then it was time to give the house some TLC in between lodgers. A back bedroom got a makeover just in time. Mick had trips to see Oleanna, a jobs list left with Alastair and the covers headed off for some much needed mending. Tilly was kept busy checking out the neighbours, they stay inside so I get free reign of their outside!

April arrived along with two lodgers, it was not possible to do more work on the house, Pip chose to knit socks instead. Dementia UK her chosen charity this year. Donations of yarn came from dyers and Pip’s needles started to click away, keeping up with requests. 15 pairs knitted and her target met.

May, visits were made to Oleanna preparing her for cruising, these were interspersed with visits from family, delivering socks, getting the house ready and starting work on the design for panto. On the 9th of May we loaded a van and returned to life afloat. Tilly the happiest cat once she was back onboard! A day later we set off heading west. Leeds for a few days for Pip to head to Matlock for work and then a wonderful visit to see 93 year old Betty in Harrogate.

Working our way up the Leeds Liverpool Canal, locks and the new stupid swing bridge much lighter work with two boats. Our favourite canal with wonders of the waterways, friends on route, Mick’s birthday and a trip to Bowness to see the latest Ayckbourn play. We managed a night on our favourite mooring on the network sadly it was too windy to enjoy the view with a barbecue.

Up over the top, we teamed up with NB That’s It, thankfully descending the Wigan flight in a window between vandalism and blown cills that have hampered the flight this year. Then along the Bridgewater Canal, panto designing whilst on the flat. Through Preston Brook Tunnel and onto the Trent and Mersey turning right onto the Middlewich Branch.

Back on lockdown ‘Home’ waters we cruised the Nantwich pound, 5 hours 13 minutes including a lunch and shopping stop, back in 2020 we’d spent 80 days here. We cruised southwards on the Shropie joined for a day by Carol and George from WB Still Rockin’. Laura and Alison from NB Large Marge joined us for the ascent up the Wolverhampton 21.

Through Bumingham and on to Lapworth and then Hatton where we had an extra pair of hands from Jane, who hopefully now has her own narrowboat. A well deserved burger at the Cape of Good Hope with Emma and David, then a lovely evening with Lizzie (NB Panda) at The Folly, it was turning out to be quite a sociable June.

Oleanna wiggled her way across the summit of the South Oxford, very familiar water to us. Despite the sunny weather and us cruising most days our batteries were not happy, turning themselves off overnight! Diagnosis was required, we pulled into Cropredy Marina to plug in and run tests. One of our three batteries was dead, bad enough but thankfully nothing more. Once a panto meeting had been attended we could move on, except there was an emergency closure at Banbury Lock. C&RT worked hard to get the canal open as quickly as they could, thankfully our hold up wasn’t too long.

We met up with the crews of NB Azzura (Liz and Mark) and NB Perseus (Julie and Simon) both Finesse boats, had a visit to London for Andrew’s birthday. Then had a rendez vous with Paul and Christine and enjoyed a good catch up onboard NB Waterway Routes.

Down to the River Thames where we turned upstream onto waters we’ve only cruised once before. Such a lovely stretch of river, sadly with fewer moorings now. We sped up to Lechlade where we took up residence for a week so that we could attend a get together at Pip’s cousins which coincided with the Royal International Air Tatoo in Fairford. It was great to be with family on a jolly occasion.

Work took over for Pip as we made our way back down stream to Oxford, Cinderella had to go to the ball and the model needed to be finished. Then we sauntered our way back northwards. One day had us meet up with Frankie NB Discovery, NB Dusty the local coal boat and Graeme on NB Misty Blue, it was good to catch up with Graeme and hear of his adventures since we’d seen him last year.

A trip for us both back to Scarborough to do a turn around of lodgers, see a show and pick up post. Mick would have to return the following weekend to swap bedlinen over again, this time by train from Rugby. Stand still budgets and inflation required Pip to do more work on panto so her days were kept busy reducing Cinderella’s carriage from £2000 to £400.

Stoppages around the network meant we had only one real route we could take to head back north. We winded and climbed our way up to the Leicester Section. Here we met up with Ken and Sue NB Cleddau at Houdini’s Field sitting out till way after dark. Then a small detour to Welford to meet up with NB Panda and Lizzie for an evening before we continued our way north.

Another detour to Market Harborough before Leicester where North Lock had a badly leaking cill which required a crew of C&RT chaps to force the bottom gates open, booked passage was required, this meant we got a few days to enjoy the city whilst we awaited our turn.

Sadly by now the lack of water on the Chesterfield Canal meant the top end of the canal was closed, no point in rushing up the River Trent for a return visit. In Nottingham Pip’s little toe had a kerfuffle with a cupboard necessitating a visit to the drop in centre for her little pinkie to be realigned. This meant Pip had to hand the windlass and key of power over to Mick for the last locks of the year.

Downstream on the River Trent, stopping at all our favourite moorings. Pip’s knitting needles came out again to knit more socks for Dementia UK. We had a trip into Lincoln along the Fossdyke Canal, we actually managed to finally visit the Cathedral this time!

Tides were not helpful for the rest of our trip north so a couple of days at West Stockwith was needed, but that did mean we’d be sharing the tidal waters back to Yorkshire with NB That’s It whom we’d met earlier in the year.

There was time for a catch up with David as we passed through Bramwith, a jaunt up to Doncaster and then finally along the New Junction and onto Goole where a space had been found for us in the marina. A train ride to Scarborough to pick up a van and see the latest show before packing up the boat again for the second time this year.

Planned works at the house then went very smoothly. Scaffolding arriving the day after we arrived, new windows later in the day with four carpenters and two days later the decorator who was to give the house a much needed new coat of paint outside.

Mid October Pip moved to Chipping Norton for a month to work on panto, Mick and Tilly left to welcome a new lodger for the Christmas show in Scarborough. Panto was as much work as normal with the addition of Pip getting covid after the first week of rehearsals. The show opened to toe tapping audiences and many many bananas, getting great reviews. Mick had a days trip to London to support boaters who had gathered outside the Houses of Parliament for a Fund Britain’s Waterways rally.

Back in Scarborough Christmas came early with a visit from the London Leckenbys at the beginning of December, they hadn’t been to Scarborough for ten years. A few more house jobs have been done but a list has been compiled for the new year along with those on Oleanna. We’ve had a lovely Christmas, catching up with Scarborough friends, Tilly has slept lots, we’re lucky to see her before 2pm most days! I’m just resting for when the outsides start changing again.

Don’t worry Tilly the count down has started.

This year our plans changed all because of an invite from Pip’s cousins. We travelled our favourite canal, cruised many familiar waters , visited ‘Home’, climbed trees and pounced, caught up with many boating friends and made many new ones along the way. One very sociable year.

So our vital statistics for 2023 according to Canalplan are

Total distance of 805miles, 2.25furlongs and 436 locks.

There were 121 moveable bridges, of which 33 are usually left open; 151 small aqueducts or underbridges and 16 tunnels – a total of 6 miles, 5 furlongs under ground and 7 major aqueducts.

This is made up of 244 miles, 1.25 furlongs of narrow canals; 251 miles, 5.5 furlongs of broad canals; 69 miles, 1.5 furlongs of commercial waterways; 95 miles, 4.75 furlongs of small rivers; 57 miles, 3.75 furlongs of large rivers; 87 miles, 1.5 furlongs of tidal rivers; 185 narrow locks; 223 broad locks; 28 large locks.

Although according to Nebo we did

815.09 miles and 431 locks! Hmm maybe my maths isn’t so good. But then we only started using Nebolink in August, tracking our every move rather than just on our phones.

470 engine hours, 789.8 litres diesel! Ouch, having to run the engine to top the batteries up on an evening didn’t help with this, 150amp hours down to 100, 3 gas bottles, 120kg coal, 19.5 litres oil, 2 oil filters, 2 fuel filters, 1 shower mixer, 1 domestic alternator, 1 set new engine mounts, 1 overnight guest, 3 packs Dreamies, 1.5 packs Bonkers, 39 friends, 6 brought in, 34 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval, 34 pairs of socks, £1132 for Dementia UK, 2 shows, 9 lodgers, 10 supermarket deliveries, 33 boxes wine, 1 toe, 6 months cruising, 3 boat mover sightings, 209 posts, 184 likes, 9,503 visitors, 31,309 views!

Thank you for following our journey during 2023. We have a plan for 2024, but there are several invites and a rendez vous with some New Zealanders. Will we stick to our plan? Have to alter course to fit everything in? Wait and see, we’re already counting down the weeks to being afloat again.

You Have Reached Your Destination.


Nine weeks ago on the 9th May we moved back onboard Oleanna, leaving Goole on the 10th. Today we’d reached our planned destination, Lechlade.

The above map taken from data provided by our Victron Inverter

Our vital statistics for our trip down are as follows

Nebo 366.54 miles 270 locks

Canalplan 364 miles 1.25 furlongs 270 locks

Our Victron Inverter 403.5 miles (?)

Nebo’s map of our journey

Interesting how both maps have gaps in them, both in different places.

So,now where?

We need to make our way back northwards, currently there is only one route open to us, the River Trent.

Apologies to those who get their updates by email. You won’t be able to see the map from victron as it was embedded in the post. The IT department may see if he can replace this today, but you have already received the post, so you won’t be reading this bit anyway!

Returning Home. 7th June

Morris Bridge 15 to Burrow’s Bridge 85, Shropshire Union Canal

Two boats had already gone past us by the time we were on the move this morning, well our first lock would be Minshull Lock more commonly known on Oleanna as the Queuing Lock. However both boats seemed to have pulled over, one for a comfort break for their dog the other to explore Yankee Candles. Would this mean we’d be first to the lock?

Some of the moorings on the Middlewich Branch are lovely, big views across rolling fields, the prime spots taken, but still plenty of room.

Aqueduct Marina

Aqueduct Marina, where we once spent a week iced in on NB Winding Down, we also picked her up there once in thick fog after she’d been blacked, we only made it out onto the canal that day.

What! No queue

No boats in the queue! Hooray!! Just one coming down to help. Soon we were joined below by two more boats, we were the front of the queue. It can be quite a wait as the lock is really quite deep.

NB Merlin moored at the barbecue mooring

Onwards we pootled, plenty of space at the barbecue mooring before Venetian, in fact just one hire boat NB Merlin, do Ian and Irene from NB Free Spirit still own her?

Cholmondeston Lock ahead

Now we were being transported back three years. This is where on the 22nd March 2020 we moored up for the night, slotting in between boats, laughing at a chap who was obviously coughing on purpose to avoid having anyone too close! The following morning we woke with a feeling that maybe we should retrace our steps and go back up Cholmondeston Lock as we had no idea what was ahead. That evening was when lockdown was announced.

Coming up onto the ‘Home’ pound

Today two volunteers helped at the lock which had been our last ascent before lockdown on 23rd March, and our first descent on 10th June when we had to start moving again. It’s been three years since we’ve been on the Nantwich pound, it felt quite odd to be back.

Lockdown Mooring 1

Where boats had been moored for weeks on end there was a queue for the lock. Venetian Marina was one of the places you could get parcels sent to, the very helpful lady there taking in Mick’s birthday present. Soon we passed what we called Lockdown Mooring 1, where we’d stayed for the first few days before we needed to fill with water. It hadn’t been an ideal place to be, a narrow towpath when everyone was doing their best to keep a minimum of 2 meters.

Barbridge Junction

More boats headed towards us at Barbridge Junction two came under the wide arched bridge, the way ahead was clear for us then. Here we turned left towards Nantwich and the south. Some familiar boats still on their moorings, others that had been abandoned for months now gone.

The fairies used to live at the bottom of this garden.

The pretty garden with flag flying high and a ramp for ducks. A wind sock? When and why? I waited patiently to see how the fairies were doing at the bottom of a garden, sadly their toadstool house now grown over with plenty of dead plants. Sad. The boat that had a repaint during lockdown still looks as fresh as it did three years ago.

No scrabble boaters hauling water down the hill

The white posts in the banks of Hurleston Reservoir, are there more than there were when we were in residence? ‘No mooring’ signs now sit at the bottom of the embankment, this had been where several boats had sought refuge away from the increased number of towpath users. No Scrabble boat, or the chap who was signwriting his boat, he’d also designed the yellow bicycle that we’d bought when in Hebden Bridge for the Tour de France back in 2014. Neighbours we just started to get to know towards the end of lockdown when our personal parameters were all clearly drawn.

Hurleston Junction sign post

A couple sat on the bench at the junction. The last people we’d seen sat there had been the owners of NB Somona, a Finesse boat that followed Oleanna out of their workshop. No sign of the testosterone filled pheasants on the bridge. Sadly no wheelie shoppers either, I so wonder who?what?why?

To our great surprise ‘Home’ only had a couple of boats moored on it. Normally this mooring is filled to the brim, yet back in 2020 this became where we moored for most of our time. Sharing it with passing boaters heading for water/shops/diesel. Our spot straight in front of the big gap in the hedge was free, we were tempted to stop for lunch. The field this year is just grass, no crop to watch grow. A good wide towpath where we could sit out, have barbecues and wonder just how far Tilly had managed to venture each day. We carried on.

Past the Flag Bubble mooring, their wide sitting out area overgrown now. No potatoes in the field opposite. Was this the cow that fell into the canal and gave us all an exciting day! The Lapwing mooring, the bus and Lamas, the horses who were always a bit frisky!

Coming into Nantwich we wondered if one boat had been moored in the same spot for three years on the one day mooring. We slotted in at the end of the embankment moorings where we’d been for the Beast from the East. Gosh this pound holds a lot of memories.

I love these almshouses

Lunch first then we both headed out. Mick to see if the chandlers had a float switch for the bilge pump, sadly not. They could order one, it would be here in two days, however we wouldn’t. I walked into town, far busier than when I’d last visited, no lines of queues for the essential shops either. Unfortunately WH Smiths didn’t have any mountboard. The lady suggested there might be an art shop up the street opposite, but the only interesting shop I found was a cheese shop, worth a visit next time.

I tried a picture framers shop, he could sell me some Conservation Mount but it would be £15! I could get a sheet twice the size I need with delivery for £10, he was trying to make an extra fiver. I decided to manage with what I have until I know where I’ll be able to buy some at half the price.

Nantwich Embankment needs some care to walk on. The bank is subsiding somewhat, the path drops by about six inches in parts, quite alarming. C&RT are keeping an eye on it, safe solutions as their signs suggest are hard to come by. A few more miles to do before we could pull up for the day. We checked the look of the stop gates at the next bridge hole, they looked like they’d help hold water back should anything happen at the embankment.

The last lockdown mooring was passed just below Hack Green locks. We only ventured out here once lockdown restrictions had started to be lifted, getting a feel for moving again before we had to start heading our way back towards Yorkshire and the house.

Hack Green

The lock was in our favour so we held up a hire boat with at least six chaps and their twenty or so empty bottles on the roof. Going up the second lock of Hack Green I had the assistance of a boat mover who’d stopped to have a bowl of ice cream, he was making the most of being on a boat with a working freezer, good man.

Hack Green top lock

Now we’d left the Nantwich pound. Today we’d spent 5 hours 13 minutes on our ‘Home’ pound, three years ago we spent 80 days. As Mick said, Michael Palin went round the world in 80 days! We pulled up a short distance further on, Tilly was given 1hour 30 minutes which ended up being extended.

Oleanna has been looking very grubby since we left Goole, so Mick suggested that maybe we could give her a wash. As he’d offered to help I put an hours worth of work on hold to take him up on it. Between the two of us the roof was given a very good wash, then the port side got a good going over. Drying her off in the shade meant I couldn’t quite see what the end result was going to be, hopefully a lot better than when we’d started, let’s face it she couldn’t be any worse!

Tilly enjoyed most of her extra towpath time, that was until the complaining Magpies contained one bird who simply wasn’t going to put up with her any longer. Tilly came running back to the boat all bushy tailed with a swooping Magpie close behind her. The second time this happened we decided it was her dingding time.

A strangely emotional day for us being back in Nantwich and reliving the days we spent here in lockdown. Perhaps it was good that we were only passing through, perhaps ‘next time’ we’ll stay longer and see if we get to spot the Wheelie Shoppers again.

4 locks, 12 miles, 1 left, 2 many memories, 5 hours 13 minutes, 80 days, 1 slipping embankment, 2 failed shopping missions, 0.5 day closing, 0 pies! 1 possible new digs, 0 wheelie shoppers.

Paddles Up! 6th June

Croxton Flash to Morris Bridge 15, Middlewich Branch

What A Lark

A discussion was being had about todays aimed for mooring as a boat came past. As the stern came level with the hatch I noticed ‘Lark’. Was that NB What A Lark? We’ve never met Lisa and David and today they were rounding the bend at the flash before I managed to get my head out of the hatch. Hello!

No need to stop at Middlewich tip this morning, the need was more for jumpers, blimey it was cold, we almost brought out our coats too.

There was activity at Big Lock a boat just starting to go up, I walked up to help with the gates. It was their first lock in 18 months and their dogs first ever lock. He was so excited to see his owner as she stood by the open gate he tried to get off but his lead prevented this, just assisted it to slip off the side of the boat.

Our turn next, I made sure no-one appeared behind us that we could share the broad lock with. A new sign (?) points its way towards a Roman Fort, Middlewich was where five Roman roads met and was important due to the local salt. The Big Lock pub was popular, bacon butties and coffees norishing the gongoozlers sat outside.

We pulled up just past the park, collected shopping bags together and headed off to Morrisons. Lidl is closer but wouldn’t have various things such as the type of yoghurt I prefer. It turned out that this Morrisons didn’t either but had the next best. Hopefully we stocked up on enough fresh produce to keep us going for a while. Cruising around four hours a day, working and essential boat chores is taking up most of hours at the moment.

Middlewich Bottom Lock

After lunch we pushed off and headed to the bottom of the Middlewich locks, three narrow chambers raise the canal 31ft 9″ around a tight bend. A single hander was just in front of us, he’d been waiting for a boat to come down or for the volunteers to show their faces. A boat was coming down, exiting the middle lock and waiting for the bottom lock to fill. The single hander chatted away to the lady as I walked up, the pound between the locks getting lower all the time, those bottom gates must leak quite a bit. Well they did mainly because one of the bottom paddles was up by six inches. It took quite a bit of force to get it closed, the lock now filled up.

By the time the single hander was heading into the lock volunteers were showing themselves and the antipodean crew from a hire boat behind us had walked up to gleam information before working their first lock (they’d had help at Big Lock). The bywash did it’s thing and refilled the pound between locks. When it was our turn another boat was coming down the middle lock, so there was a do-ci-do to do in the pound between, followed by a very shiny boat coming down from the top lock with fresh out of the box walkie talkies, quite a manoeuvre getting round the bend with an oncoming boat for a new person at the helm.


The walk along the towpath to the junction with the Wardle Canal is one I’ve done numerous times before, stooping low to get under the bridge. The single hander was just finishing going up, I closed up behind him and emptied the chamber, Mick holding Oleanna back until the initial wave had passed.

Maureen’s Lock Cottage hasn’t changed much since we last were here, just some children’s drawings in the window. This lock can be quite fierce so I took my time lifting the paddles, no volunteers to help here, have to say I like doing these locks on my own.

There was space along the moorings, but we wouldn’t be stopping just yet. On the off side a For Sale sign caught our eye. A wonderful garden with lots of lawn and borders even rhododendrons sat below a white bungalow, it even had a generous mooring.

A lovely garden

Looking at the details the bungalow would require quite a bit of modernisation, or replacing. The garden was so lovely and had obviously been someone’s labour of love. We both spent a while considering it, it would certainly make moving Tilly to the boat a far less stressful journey than the hour and a half by car. ‘Tilly it’s time to go cruising, time to get on your shelf’. We wondered whether having house and boat so close together where she would prefer to be if she had the choice. I think it might confuse her, the outside not moving most days. The only thing not in the houses favour was that it wasn’t in Scarborough by the sea. We’ll leave it for someone else to buy.

Worn steps up to Stanthorne Lock

Stanthorne Lock a boat was just coming down, negotiating getting past the single handers canoe. By the time I got up to the lock his boat was rising with the assistance of the lady from the downhill boat, they knew each other and there was much chatting going on. He was taking it slowly not want to damage his trailing canoe, so one paddle was raised half way. It was however taking a very long time.

A typical view long the Middlewich branch

A click noise of a pawl came from behind. We all turned, people about to shout to stop the lock from being emptied. However it was Mick who’d noticed boiling water below the lock, he’d come to close both bottom paddles! All sorted the boat rose without wasting anymore water.

One hire boat to help down, they were hoping to reach Harecastle Tunnel to go through tomorrow, all the Cheshire Locks to do. They planned on cruising til 7pm today, maybe they’d make it in time before the tunnel closed, but they were showing signs of too many locks in a day confusion.

Were the new shutters there last time?

We pootled along, past the mooring where we’ve been for two bonfire nights. The cottage with shutters. Hang on another For Sale sign at the stables! Chance to have a good nosy around rather than just peek in through the kitchen windows. £850,000 including an air source heat pump. It’s a nice property, but lacks a touch of character in the photos, the kitchen is by far the best room in my opinion.

The stables

Onwards a while longer passing NB Linnet, yesterday the chap was sat on his tug deck in shorts, today he most certainly had long trousers and a jumper on. Eventually we pulled in to a mooring we’ve not stayed at before, just before Yankee Candles. It was 5pm, a longer colder day than planned. Only an hours shore leave for Tilly today. Time for a Tuesday night roast chicken to warm us back up!

6 locks, 6.2 miles, 3 canals, 1 right, 3 paddles left up, 1 new old fort, 3 volunteers, 1 canoe, 0 work, 14 strawberries, 1 roast chicken.

Walking Uphill. Catch Up. 7th February

There she is

Lisa sent through a photo of Oleanna this morning. The level at the docks is just about normal and Oleanna was sitting there in the rain. Yesterday it must have been sunny at the marina as the solar panels were doing a good job of keeping the batteries topped up and the engine bay got up to 8 C. It’s handy being able to check on her from afar, keeps our minds at rest.

Paper stretched and ready

Here in Scarborough I’ve been busy with work. A new, to me, art shop is proving very handy. I’ve not had chance to go into The Art Room yet and I can’t see what art materials they normally stock, Delia responds to emails swiftly and is very helpful. This week I was after a pad of thick cartridge paper and a wooden board so that I can stretch the paper properly. If water colour paper isn’t stretched, when you start to paint the paper cockles and will never lie flat again. In the past I’ve half heartedly taped paper to a plastic board, but this never really worked that well. So I have invested in a board that will take A3 paper comfortably. This will first get used for my boat origami paper design. Then I hope to use it for paintings of the waterways, which I’ve been planning on doing for some time now. I have the equipment, the reference, all I need now is the time!

This week I’ve started work in earnest on Panto for Chipping Norton. Sketch technical drawings enable me to make pieces of model, then do adjustments. Yesterday I finished working my way through the show, there is still lots to alter and work out, but I have solutions for most things. I’m quite happy with my galleon set, but the smugglers inn isn’t right yet! Hopefully this coming week things will get sorted before my next work arrives on the doorstep!

Cotton top measuring up

I’ve finally finished knitting a top for my sister-in-law which is now measured out and blocking on some new foam mats I’ve treated myself to. These will be handy to take back to the boat as they breakdown into foot squares, but once clipped together they give me 3ft square to pin items onto. They will save me pinning things out onto the back of our mattress on the boat and hoping things will be dry before bedtime!

Cricket on the TV, who’d have thought

Mick, whilst not watching the cricket, has been working on the blog. Two years ago we moved to WordPress and our current deal is nearly up. There are things we’d like to try to improve, but unless we spend more money they are proving hard to sort. Paul (Waterway Routes) suggested sometime ago we tried, this is free but we’d need to pay to have the blog hosted, which is all working out at a similar price to if we stayed put. We could go back to Blogger and Open Live Writer, but photos had been problematic, Mick is still working his way through the blog inserting them and I like the way wordpress works.

Tomorrow Tilly it’s too dark to go for a walk now!

However we miss having a blog roll that moves with peoples posts and a forwards and back button. Mick has found the relevant code, we may need to enlist my nephew Josh into giving us some guidance with this. We’ll see what happens.

Mick is taking his time reading the book he selected from our Christmas stash. The chap has left Kate Saffin and Alarum, headed to the Exeter Canal and is now somewhere on the Bridgewater Canal.

I on the other hand have finished mine, which I’ve really enjoyed. When we first moved on board I read a lot, but in the last couple of years I’d got out of the habit. With so many books to choose from I was spoilt for choice. So when Sam from NB Red Wharf said that Canal Pushers was really good and Debby from NB Chuffed asked for a review I thought I’d best start there.

I like a good crime story and with it being set on the canals it started off on a good footing. Andy Griffee has taken the theory of a serial killer, pushing people into the waterways around Manchester and set a similar story on the Stratford, Worcester and Birmingham Canals.

Jack has just picked up a narrowboat to see if a life afloat will suit him after recently being divorced. Let down by a friend who was going to help him learn the ropes he is soon rescued by a lady walking the towpath, Nina. A friendship is formed between the two of them, Nina keeping herself a bit of a mystery.

Look at those whiskers

Knowing the stretch of canal where the book is set is quite warming to a sole that misses being on the cut right now. Jack’s experience of The Navigation Inn at Wooten Wawen made me smile as it was very similar to ours when we hired our last boat from there seven years ago. Stratford with the tourists and theatre, Wedges, Packwood House, all the time Jack learning how to handle the boat as the mystery of the death of a young homeless lad unfolds.

Not breakfast, but a beetroot and feta burger in homemade gf buns with lockdown chips

Several plots intertwine, gradually unravelling themselves at a narrowboat pace. There are several moments where the pace speeds up which has lead to a couple of nights where I’ve kept the light on whilst Mick has snored away. I don’t want to say too much as I don’t want to give the plot away, as it is well worth a read. My only criticism, I’ve always walked down hill to the shops in Alvechurch, not up hill.

Verdict, a good read especially for those with a canal interest, but this is not required and it certainly doesn’t turn into a manual for narrowboat handling. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series River Rats which takes place in Bath. I may read my way down towards the Kennet and Avon via Murder on the Oxford Canal by Faith Martin. I wonder if there are enough novels to cover the whole network?

Also not breakfast, but turnip curry, beetroot and carrot curry with homemade gf nan breads

This weekends walk will prove to be a rosy cheeked one as it is currently trying it’s best to snow, although I doubt it will settle. An east wind will be whipping up the sea and will chill us to the bone, thermals needed today.

Last week we braved the climb up onto Oliver’s Mount. Down into the valley to then climb back up the other side and then further all up hill. We chose to go cross country avoiding felled trees up to the top.

Up the top

Here on the summit a telecommunications mast stands. Back in the early 1990’s this was the only place in Scarborough to get mobile phone signal when the telephone exchange had a serious fire knocking out all landlines in the town. The other high point here is the war memorial that marks a view point.

We took our time looking for family names. None from the Geraghty side, but quite a few Capplemans. I shall have to dig out the family tree I was sent after my Dad passed away and see if any of them are mentioned.

The view right up the coast

Oliver’s Mount makes for a great view point. Looking down all the usual landmarks have found new positions around town (as they do!) and the South Bay looks more like a smugglers cove. Views right into the North Bay and up the coast, we took our time spotting friends houses.

The South Bay

The way back down we followed the roads which make up the Oliver’s Mount race track, stopping to say hello to the beach donkeys who are on their winter holiday, sadly they were just a touch too far away for a good photo.

Us last week

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 level back up, 1 glimpse, A3 sketch board, 20 sheets, 0 cow gum, 1 new proscenium, 1 white card sketch model complete, 409 pages, 1 cotton top, 67 pins, 2 t-towels, 6 capplemans, 5 miles up and down, 1 bored cat in need of a hobby, 1 windswept short walk, 0 cobwebs.

Us today!

Where Were We

2020. Sheepcote Street Bridge, Birmingham.

2019. Thorne Lock, Stainforth and Keadby Canal. LINK

2018. Chester, Shropshire Union Canal. LINK

2017. Lime Kiln Lock, Trent and Mersey Canal. LINK

2016. Newark Show Ground. LINK

2015. Hemel Hempstead, Grand Union Canal. LINK

2010. Bramble Cuttings, Trent and Mersey. LINK

2020 A Long And Winding Year.

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

Into BUMingham

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

What a stripy world!

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

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


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

Smethwick Locks

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

Emma and Ted

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

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

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

The Garden white card scale model

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

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

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

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

The garden at Urban Moorings

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

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

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

Burgers with the Margees

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

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

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

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

Adam and Adrian on NB Briar Rose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cholmondeston Lock

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

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

Nice Lock

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

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

Bosley Locks and The Cloud in the background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lovely to see Bridget and Storm

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

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

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

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

Living Room reclaimed

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

Not as low as she got after the breach

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

Blimey what a year!

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

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

This is made up of 365 miles, ¼ furlongs of narrow canals; 242 miles, 4 ¾ furlongs of broad canals; 81 miles, 3 ¾ furlongs of commercial waterways; 76 miles, 1 ¾ furlongs of small rivers; 0 miles of large rivers; 27 miles of tidal rivers; 202 narrow locks; 118 broad locks; 18 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.

Sadly with Oleanna’s log book where it should be, onboard, I’m not able to offer up the engine hours, litres of diesel, gas bottle or bags of coal. This year I can’t even work out how many boxes of wine we’ve gone through!

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

Christmas Day 2020, Scarborough Spa

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

Not a bad view

Hands, Face, Space. 31st July

Bradley Swing Bridge to Lanehouse Swing Bridge 189

Strange dreams for both of us last night, until I realised that the smoke/CO detector above our heads was beeping, announcing it required a new battery. Mick removed the detector from the ceiling and popped the battery out, deciding it could wait for morning.

Next thing we knew was boats going past at just gone 7am, two heading back to base at Silsden the other a private boat heading towards Skipton. Our mooring had some shade but it was busy with passing boats. Most of the day boats from Skipton came past us yesterday and winded a little bit ahead of us before returning. Maybe we’d be better off elsewhere to sit out the heat of the day.

Bradley Mill

After our cuppa in bed we rolled back the covers and pushed off, leaving Bradley Mill (an old spinning and weaving mill) behind us. Breakfast could wait until we were moored up again, hopefully in a larger area of shade away from the busy road.

Just around the bend was our first swing bridge of the day, Hamblethorpe. Easy to move and enough time to have a look at the memorial to seven Polish Airmen who died when their plane crashed near Skipton in 1943.

Plenty of shade here

A fine wooded stretch follows, perfect for shade on a hot day but very close to the busy road below, we continued.

This way or that

The next swing bridge is Milking Hall sat at the edge of the wood, a path leads up the hill away from the canal with a mossy sign pointing the way. I like this bridge, if it was snowy it could almost be in Narnia. One thing I did remember about it was how the landing has an overhang, this caught us out when passing through last time on Lillian, crunching off a chunk of paint on the top of a gunnel. Mick kept well away as I opened up the bridge, a hire boat with a 60th birthday party came round the bend so I let them through before walking on to the next bridge.

Such a picturesque village

Redman Swing Bridge links the towpath to footpaths in Kildwick, a village that clings to the hillside, the road to the valley dipping under the canal. Mick now had to go very slowly indeed as I needed to get up ahead to take a photo I’ve been wanting to take for four years.

This is the bridge

Four years ago as we passed through Kildwick I’d paused after letting Lillian (our old yellow boat) through Warehouse Swing Bridge to take a photo. At the time we were heading over the Pennines to spend that winter up on the Macclesfield, where we hoped Oleanna would get launched. The photo I took of the stern of Lillian passing through bridge 186 became the photo to keep of her, as if we were saying goodbye.

Out with the old

Since then I’ve been wanting to take the same photo but with Oleanna coming towards the camera, saying hello. It’s taken us four years to get back here, but today we finally managed it.

In with the new

I couldn’t quite remember where I’d stood last time, so stood on the bridge to take the photo. This was maybe just as well, being at a slightly different angle otherwise the moored boats would have blocked the view of Oleanna. It is close enough for my liking, different seasons and a very blue boat, but the post box is still in view. Our four year mission now complete.

Views but a touch too warm

We now hoped to find shade and stop for the day. The first possible mooring didn’t have much in the way of trees, then the depth wasn’t sufficient. On through Grange Swing Bridge where a new stretch of pilling is being put in.

Is this Tumbelweed No 5 who used to write a blog?

Then we could see shade up ahead and a view to the off side. This would do us for the day. The back doors were opened, along with the front, hoping for a breeze. Tilly was given eight hours and we settled down to have breakfast at 10:30.

A text prompted Mick to turn on BBC1. Here was Mr Johnson confirming what had been mentioned on the news last night regarding local lockdown measures across the North West and West Yorkshire. Better to stand in front of the cameras rather than announce the new measures by tweet!

Full of fish

Our route ahead remains open, but no meeting friends or family other than on park benches until we reach Leeds! The next stage of lockdown relaxation has been put on hold for at least another two weeks. So the doors of any theatres that were about to reopen for socially distanced performances remain firmly closed for the time being.

The new three word slogan for the pandemic way of life was mentioned at the press conference. So we decided we’d have a look at where Mr Johnson was suggesting we should head using what3words

To Wigan

To reach our new destination, we would have to head back west over the Leeds Liverpool Canal to Wigan.

Via Liverpool Docks

From here we’d have a choice, either all the way to Liverpool docks, out across the Mersey, round Liverpool Bay heading west, across the River Dee then follow the coast line westwards to LLandudno and the Irish Sea.

Via the Ribble

Or at Burscough turn onto the Rufford Branch, out onto the River Douglas, turning left onto the River Ribble continuing out to the Irish Sea to turn southwards to follow the coast to Llandudno.

Via Pomona Lock

Or into Manchester on the Bridgewater Canal, drop down Pomona Lock onto the River Irwell followed by the Manchester Ship Canal, joining the River Mersey at Eastham Locks.

Via the AndertonBoat Lift

Or the Bridgewater Canal to Preston Brook, down the Trent and Mersey to Anderton, down the boat lift onto the River Weaver, head westwards to Weston Marsh Lock where we’d drop down onto the Manchester Ship Canal.

Via Chester

Or the Bridgewater Canal to Preston Brook, down the Trent and Mersey to Middlewich, across the Middlewich Branch, turn northwards on the Shroppie to either Chester, dropping onto the River Dee (this route may not be possible due to the lock onto the Dee) or continuing to Ellesmere Port to join the Manchester Ship Canal.

Via Ellesmere Port

Or at Barbridge Junction on the Middlewich Branch turn south onto the Shropie, onto the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal to Stourport, River Severn to Gloucester, Gloucester and Sharpness to Sharpness, then onto the River Severn again continue on past Portishead hugging the south coast of Wales, then head northwards until reaching the Irish Sea, up the Menai Straight and eventually Llandudno. But this route would just be silly!

Via the Severn, such a long way round

Maybe we’ll not bother and carry on with our original plan, Norway. 😉


A very warm day followed, we were glad we’d found some quality shade. I headed out for a walk to stretch my legs. I headed along the canal passing two open swing bridges. Down a very rubbley footpath towards the River Aire.

Poor Mum having just landed

From here I had to play cow pat hopscotch, then cross a field of sheep, the now fully grown lambs still wanting to suckle from their Mum, two of them so forceful they actually lifted her off the ground. Then back up onto the towpath, shortly before a cooling breeze and rumbles of thunder came past.

Sunset after the storm

0 locks, 2.79 miles, 5 swing bridges, 4 years for a photo, 1 lorry, 1 tractor, Tumbleweed 5, 29.7 degrees, 1 hot day, 8 hours, 1 hot tired cat, 1 boat still heading eastwards, 0 roast tonight, 1 salad, 1 Mrs Tilly Stamp of Approval, 1 theatre designer in need of a job!

Drenched. 15th June

Hannah’s Walk to Bramble Cuttings, Trent and Mersey Canal

It took quite a bit of persuading to get Oleanna away from the bank this morning, that grass at the bow was holding her in. Pushing off at the back and reversing out into the cut to give more room to swing her bow round eventually worked and we could head towards Wardle Lock.

One chap reading Virus Times

A boat was just coming up the lock, I lent a hand and we chatted on opposite sides of the lock. This chap was travelling with three other boats from somewhere on the Bridgewater, heading towards Chester. He had an umbrella up over his roof and his dog was enjoying the shade it gave. His boat rose slowly as one paddle was wrapped in black plastic, but then this lock did always fill very quickly! Quite alarming on your first time if you didn’t heed the warnings on the gates.

Wardle Lock

We were soon in the lock and descending down onto the Wardle Canal, the shortest canal on the network all 154 ft of it. I didn’t bother heading to check if anything was coming, just shut up the lock and let Mick beep the horn instead.

Wardle Canal

Out of the Wardle Canal onto the Trent and Mersey. Left takes you to Northwich, Manchester, Liverpool, Lancaster even Leeds if you turn right at Wigan. Right takes you to Stoke, Stone, Birmingham, London. Straight on takes you to Carefree Cruising and Elton Moss Boat Builders.

Mick turned Oleanna to the left then reversed her back to the water point. Last time we were here this tap wasn’t in use, but today we thought we’d give it a try again. An adaptor was needed so that we could connect our hose then we waited for the tank to fill. Kings Lock Chandelers was open so Mick headed over to buy some oil for the next engine service. The sun was out and the aroma of chips wafted down from the chippy. Sadly Mick only returned with the oil, no bag of chips for lunch!

The salty white bridges of the T&M

Just before we pushed off again a little boat popped out from under the bridge and turned towards the Middlewich locks, we’d be following.

Work going on

The canopy over the Wharf was in the middle of getting a new coat of paint and several boats were moored on the off side. A new hire company has taken over the site, Floating Holidays. A look at their website and I realised that they are not a new company. For four years they have been based at Poynton on the Macclesfield Canal, but have taken the plunge by taking over the old Middlewich Narrowboats base. Really hope it works out for them after being stuck on the Macc due to lock closures over the years, we’ve also seen at least a couple of companies come and go from this site. If you fancy a boating holiday they are currently advertising a post covid discount.

New services

They certainly are doing a lot of work around the place and signs are going up advertising their facilities. Even the dry dock was getting some attention as we passed.

There was a boat coming up in the first lock, so I lent a hand with the gate and offered a helping hand to the chap from the boat in front of us. Apparently another boat was coming up the locks so we should be able to swap with them, maybe these were two of the boats from the Bridgewater.

Hire boats

As the little boat came out from the bottom of the top lock the chap checked I’d be alright with the gates on my own. I said yes, my body weight most certainly twice his! The boat coming up was still in the bottom lock so Mick and I reset the top lock and waited for it to start ascending the middle lock before we lifted a paddle, saving water and stopping the pound overflowing into the dry dock where a chap was working.

Oleanna made it into the pound on the bend first. I left the gates open and headed down to see if I could help. The chap said he’d be another five minutes, no problem. We stood and watched the water gradually fill the lock, his centre rope getting tighter and tighter as the boat rose. He finally went to loosen it, having to pull his boat onto quite an angle to give himself enough slack. Then in single handing mode he pushed the throttle forward. The boat started towards the top gate, the levels still a good 6 to 9 inches different. Now, at tick over the boat would rest against the top gate until levels equalised, then the boat would help push it open. But this was not tick over, it had quite a bit more umph than that! As I lent against the beam the boat came crashing into the gate, almost toppling me and certainly giving the gate an unwanted ramming!

Collision avoided thankfully

The chap then came to open the gate, not keeping his distance to which I just stepped away, saying ‘I’ll leave you to it.!’ The boat still had forward momentum and now the gate was clear it continued on it’s way out of the lock. He had to give the bow a push so as not to hit us where Mick had brought Oleanna into the side, giving him the widest turn possible around the bend. But by now access to the stern of his boat was blocked by the beam, ladder and paddle gear! He only just made it onto a gunnel to walk back to the helm before he would have rammed the dry dock! What a ….!!!

On our own

Now we could carry on down, in the safety of our own company, just so long as the top gate held.

Hire fleet at home

All the Andersen Hire boats were breasted up three deep, awaiting holiday makers to take them out. We hired Bergen Fjord 12 years ago to celebrate Mick’s 50th and do the Cheshire ring.

The sun was making the most of the day and we were now really quite warm so we pulled in under cover of some trees. They looked really good, lots of climbing possibilities. But all they said was ‘No Tilly, not today’.

Look at them!

A stop for lunch and to swap jeans for shorts brought us into mid afternoon. We pushed on to Big Lock where the pub is surrounded by fencing at the moment, lots of work going. It’s changed hands several times since we’ve been coming this way.

The thin bridge that crosses by the bottom of the lock has been taken away to be strengthened and refurbished by C&RT. It used to have a weight limit to it, then it was closed which meant all pedestrians had to cross over the top gates of the lock. Now that the bridge has gone a temporary scaffolding structure has been erected to replace it. Higher than the original with far more steps people would still rather cross the lock gates. I had assistance from a young lady from a cruiser who was obviously itching to work more locks than sit with her Mum and Dad.

Temporary bridge next to the old one

Onwards now to the recycling centre where we moored up and Mick managed to walk our rubbish in to be disposed of. Good job we’d checked the website and seen that it would close at 5pm, the gates were locked at 5:02! Plenty of cars arrived after this, all whom had to turn, in pre-covid days it was open until 8pm.

We sat and waited a couple of hours and just before 7pm we could hear the beep beep of a van reversing, our Sainsburys delivery, timed beautifully with a storm coming over head. The driver was new, he was a driving instructor until recent times. With shopping sorted for quarantine and disinfecting I stayed below with the spray bottle as Mick pushed us off. No need for the two of us to get wet!

Here come the shopping

Our aim had been to carry on to Croxton Flash, here Tilly would be allowed shore leave tomorrow to make up for today. The heavens opened, then opened some more. Blimey!! The rain was hitting the roof of Oleanna so hard it was bouncing back up under the mushroom vents and letting itself inside. I hurriedly closed windows and moved electrical stuff out of the way, then checked if Mick was okay.

Croxton Flash just about came into view, another boat had taken the mooring we’d been hoping for, nothing for it but to carry on and hope for a suitable place to show itself sooner rather than later. More and more rain, then some more for good measure!

Totally drenched

To my surprise we seemed to be pulling in on the off side, Bramble Cuttings. There was space between a couple of boats and we slotted in nicely. It took a while before we were secure and the covers were up. Mick stripped off his top layers, jeans totally soaked through, all left to drip dry under the pram cover.

Even better trees!

Bramble Cuttings!!! One of my favourites! Except She and Tom said it was too late. All those trees going to waste, Pah!

5 locks, 2.83 miles, 1 left, 1 full water tank, 1 camisole top, 1 fresh coat of paint, 1 pranging prat, 1 gate still water tight, 1 tempting offer, 1 young assistant, 1 long wait, 1 squashed pepper, 6 bags of shopping, 1 exceedingly wet mile, 1 space left, 1 drenched Mick, 1 cat with trees in her eyes.

Into Civilisation. 14th June

Bonfire Night Mooring to Hannah’s Walk, Middlewich

With a jar of sourdough discard in the fridge we enjoyed some pancakes for breakfast. I decided not to put any blueberries in them, especially the frozen ones as I wanted to see what they were like plain. I still haven’t found the best temperature to cook them at. They have a glug of maple syrup in them, so if the pan is a touch too hot this caramelises before the mixture has cooked sufficiently in the centre to flip them over. Too cool and they take forever to cook through and look anaemic. By the last batch of them I had the temperature correct, well that’s how it goes with pancakes!

Verdict? I prefer them with blueberries in them.

Stilts required

Pushing off just after midday we made our way to Stanthorne Lock. A Canadian Mother stood in the field across the way watching over her offspring as their heads just about bobbed up through the growing crop.

Big farm

Bridges line up and large Cheshire farms proudly show off their black and white credentials across the fields.

All lined up

We passed the line of moored boats where the posters in NB Grace’s windows suggest you should slow down, we did.

Best slow down

Soon we arrived at Stanthorne Lock which required filling before we could descend. Blimey it took forever to fill the chamber. Mick came along to help with windlass in hand after the paddles had been lifted.

Filling nicely

A family stopped to give their dog a drink and take photos, they wisely decided to stop by the centre of the lock, meaning everyone could keep their distance.

Going down

I wound a paddle up on the bottom gate, all of a sudden coming to an abrupt stop!? The paddle wasn’t showing above the metalwork, why wouldn’t it go any further?

As far as they’ll go

A closer look and the reason became obvious. A stop has been added limiting the height to which the paddles can be raised. This is to limit the amount of water coming out of the lock. This was the lock which had had all paddles lifted on it in March 2018. The amount of water overwhelmed the pound below and caused a breach which left a huge hole in the canal at The River Wheelock Aqueduct, leaving a boat teetering on the edge. Maybe the stops have been added in case someone ties to do the same thing again.


The crew from a boat came up to help with the lock, this is quite normal practice and sociable, but I wonder how much of this will happen in our new social distancing boating? The usual comments and questions, ‘Aren’t these paddles hard’, I’d just been remembering the first time we’d come through this lock on a hire boat and what a B***tard the paddles had been then and how easy they are now. ‘How far you heading today?’ The answer came back, ‘We came out from Nantwich on Friday so today we’re heading back’. I nearly followed on with ‘And then heading home?’

With the gates open and paddles wound down there was a touch of deciding where to stand to be able to keep our distance as I did the hurdles over the lock beams.

No rings for us

The short stretch of mooring below the lock at the breach site was full and it didn’t feel right hammering in spikes to where there had been such a huge hole, so we carried on round the first bend where Mick could see armco. We pulled in then had to hunt for the metalwork lying somewhere beneath all the grass, this took quite some doing.

There is armco in there somewhere!

Tilly was out, sussed we were in a built up area and headed straight through the nearest sideways trees. No point in hanging around on the towpath here!

This is the nearest we’ve moored to civilisation for a long time. Plenty of people on the towpaths walking, not going into single file to pass others. Conversations right outside. It turns out we’d missed seeing an extreamly large abnormal load going through Middlewich today. A giant tanker full of medical grade oxygen was taking three days to get across Cheshire from Ellesmere Port to Staffordshire and numerous roads were closed for it.

Have to say we both are a little bit on our toes being moored in Middlewich. We’ve never had any problems here through the years, but the town does have a bit of a reputation and with plenty of bored teenagers in the world right now! Tomorrow we’ll head back out into the countryside.

1 lock, 2.07 miles, 2 aqueducts, 12 pancakes, 1 town cat, 1 jungle mooring, 2nd coat, 1 hour catch up with London, 0.5 tin of tomatoes omitted! 1 last night on the Middlewich Branch.

Paw Shaking. 13th June

Bonfire Night Mooring

Prowling in the grass

A touch blowy this morning, but I coped well with it. They had their Zoom meeting with all the Geraghtys so I left them too it, bobbing in to say hello to the youngest members as I try to each Saturday morning. No Sheffield or Bangladesh today.

Topics today included Lupins and the new bubble guidance for those who live on their own. This is a great relief for Kath and Sean who will now be able to see each other properly, better than the socially distanced walks in the woods they’ve had for the last few months. It was good to see everyone and hear that Marion is now back out enjoying walking along Beachy Head.

Off goes the paperboy

Mick then set off on his puncture proof bike to ride down to Winsford for a newspaper, some milk and bread. The undulating towpath wasn’t so good so he walked to the third bridge where a footpath heads off to join the roads. He returned with everything he’d gone for from a small corner shop. At one set of traffic lights he found it quite liberating looking at glass on the road and knowing he’d not have to avoid it.

The Bonfire night mooring with grass half way up the boat

The blowyness came and went. A few boats did too. One boat had difficulty keeping to the centre of the outside, the outside wanted it to tie up. The man in control wasn’t! Even I know that if he didn’t want to tie this outside up then he would need a bit more umph, even whilst passing Oleanna! But he didn’t. Tom said ‘I don’t think he touched us’. I said, ‘He bloomin well did!’ I stood on the towpath and shook my paw at him! A quick check along the freshly painted gunnel!!! Some feline expletives now accompanied my raised paw. She did say that having been through a couple of locks that the scrapes might not all be from the boat this morning, I think she’s being very nice when she should be seething!

Oy! You! She’s only just painted that!!!!

The boat carried on being attracted to the bank as he scraped his way along towards Middlewich. Wonder if he’s any paint left on his gunnel?

A touch too late in the day to do big jobs on the boat, but one thing has been on the list for years. The front doors.

Patchy and worn

A few months after picking Oleanna up the front doors stopped looking quite so good. The finish looked a touch patchy, not helped by the lack of a cratch cover for a while. I think the new wood had been varnished, but maybe the second coat hadn’t been applied quite as well as it should have been. So with assistance from the elements the varnish wore in places.

One sanded, one cleaned down

I’ve been meaning to do this job for a couple of years and have had a pot of Woodskin for as long.

An inherited tin of Woodskin

After the door furniture was removed they had a sanding down. They had a good wash and hinges and keeps masked off.

Then a first coat of Woodskin. Maybe I should have sanded them a touch more before hand as I can still see where the original coats had worn off. But hopefully with another couple of coats these areas will fade in with the rest.

Looking better already

After one coat though I can definitely see the difference. Just before bed I put a thin layer of washing up liquid on the surfaces that would touch and loosely attached the door handle so that it could be closed again, keeping Tilly in.

The old and new fans

Mick in the mean time took the fan from our composting toilet out. A couple of years ago we replaced the original fan with a silent fan. This now has started to make a noise, I’m very aware of noises when trying to get to sleep, so it’s noise may not be a problem to many people. We’d bought two fans so had a spare to replace it with. Job done.


Tilly took some persuading to return this evening only getting slightly distracted by the swans showing off their babies. Once we were all fed the skies turned darker and darker, a long low rumble filled the air. Tonight we had natures firework display, forked lighting chasing across the heavy clouds. We put the TV on pause for a while so we could watch the display. The rain that accompanied it made me glad I’d not varnished any more exterior woodwork.

The wonderful light just before the storm broke

Tilly didn’t bat an eye lid, or shake a paw at the thunder or lightning. She was sound asleep.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 paper boy, 8 zoom participants, 2 doors sanded, 1 tin opened, 1st coat applied, 1 pooh dust covered fan, 1 clean new fan, 1 scraping boat, 1 inspection required, 1 tub of paint at the ready, 3/4 hour rumbles and flashes, 1 pooped cat.