Category Archives: Narrowboat Life

It Must Be Election Time. 29th June

Paddington Basin

First things first. Time to vote. Signed, crossed and sealed, Mick walked to the nearest post box outside a Post Office and popped our votes in the post box.


Yesterday one of our items of post was a campaign t-towel for Tilly. This was hung in our window to show her allegiance to Larry. There was then a lot of Freedom for Cats in Paddington! shouted about the boat before she gave up and headed back to bed.

Vote for Larry

Last night the return from Hackney proved a touch painful for my knee. Yes we had to walk a distance, but not that far. Todays plan had been to head to Hampstead Theatre for brunch and have a look around Central School of Speech and Drama. To conserve my knee, brunch was moved to Paddington and a look around the college put off for another time. My college friend Kathy arrived and we found a table outside in the shade at The Union where we enjoyed a very nice brunch at a reasonable price and very good company.

Kathy, Mick, Pip

Kathy is a lecturer in Theatre Design at Central and spent some of our time together trying to convince me to join the Society of British Theatre Designers council. This would mean I’d have to join the society in the first place! I’d considered joining when my agent said she was retiring, therefore the commission I used to pay to her could go towards membership of such organisations. I’ll have a another think about it.

After a couple of hours it was time for her to head off to talk at the college open day, we returned to Oleanna for a quiet afternoon. Pair 26 of my Sockathon was cast off, I’m halfway through! £975 raised so far. The other day I had a sock shot sent from Liza Goddard showing off her Red Rye socks I’d knitted for her. Thank you Lil for your sponsorship, may your socks keep your toes cosy in many theatrical digs when you are on tour.

An exciting first day

It was also the first day of the Tour De France. Ten years ago we’d reached Hebden Bridge in NB Lillyanne for the opening stage of the tour. Today not so many people walked past Oleanna in Paddington as happened ten years ago and there was no big screen to watch the cyclists for longer than a few seconds zooming past the boat.

Not a big pudding!

Early evening we caught the tube to Kings Cross and walked up Pentonville Road to Mildreds. Here a quiet table tucked away had been requested by Nick and Kerry so they could bring Harry their whippet with them. Our table wasn’t quite as tucked away as hoped but the staff said we’d be better off where we were, sure enough they were good to their word, the other two thirds of the restaurant became packed out, our third just the five of us. Very nice food, I had a pineapple peanut curry with rice noodles followed by a plant based crème brule. Nick’s chocolate peanut butter fudge was what we’d jokingly expected, two cubes.

What a pretty crescent tucked away

A pint somewhere was now sought. A walk round to a nice quiet back street pub, sadly they’d a DJ in for the evening, so the pub was rejected. It did mean we got to see the wonderful Grade 2 Keystone Crescent.

Kerry and Nick

In the end we opted for a pint at The John Betjeman Arms at St Pancras Station. They had gluten free beer, they had an area where we could sit in the station, but that was closing in ten minutes! We made the most of it before moving inside for more beer and conversation. The last time all five of us were round a pub table in London it was the night of the 2017 General Election.

Nick and Harry

Another lovely day catching up with people.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 college best mate, 1 oldest best mate, 1 cat campaign, 1 Harry, 1 problematical knee!

Bramble Birthday Bakewell. 28th June

Paddington Basin

Mick headed off this morning to get himself an Oyster card to which he’s added his senior railcard. When we were living full time on Oleanna our correspondence address was at my brothers, so he was able to have a Freedom Pass, but that has now expired, so whilst in London it’s worth being able to get some discount.

I busied myself with some baking. A batch of sweet pastry had been made yesterday, today it needed rolling out and blind baking. Then some bramble jam spread out with a bakewell topping added and baked until golden. My standard recipe but using dairy free butter, well Stork block margarine. The smell as the pastry cooked was different than from butter pastry, it whisked me back to my GCSE Home Economics and making pastry with margarine and lard.

Adding eggs to creamed marg and sugar

During the day the boats on the moorings changed a bit. One boat swapping with another and the boat on the hospital side left quite early to be replaced later in the day. Mick spotted a C&RT chap chatting to one of the other boats. We’d wondered if we might be able to move over to the hospital side as there’d be less footfall, but we decided against it. Apparently lots of people have suggested there should be electric hook ups on the pontoons here in Paddington, Mick also suggested that a water point would be a good addition. The chap said he’d put forward our suggestion and they were looking into electric hook ups.

BT Tower without all the aerials

The Bakewell Tart took some time to cool down, a box was found for it’s safe transportation across London to Hackney. We headed to catch one bus, but it was seriously delayed, so we ended up walking for ten minutes to catch the next bus, No 30 which would take us all the way to Hackney. Road works, delays, general Friday afternoon traffic meant the journey took us 2 hours.

Pip, Mick, Andrew, Gabrielle, Josh and Jac

Time to wish my brother a happy birthday. His present was a walking pole, he’s recently had problems with a knee and is soon to go on a walking holiday, so he’d requested a second pole. Drinks and nibbles with lots of conversation. We were joined for the evening by Gabrielle, the daughter of one of Jac’s best friends from Melbourne. Gabrielle now lives in London and has become an extra member of the London Leckenby family.

Finn enjoying our Ikea bag

Josh is now a free young man, having finished his A Levels a week ago. His music selection very very similar to mine at his age, in fact I don’t think I’ve heard so many Doors songs in years! Good taste.

Lots to drink, a big joint of crackling pork with salads and roasted new potatoes, followed by my Bakewell Tart with birthday candles. A very lovely evening.

We picked up items of post and then headed for a bus to catch the last Elizabeth line train back to Paddington. Maybe I should have borrowed Andrews walking pole to help with my knee problem!

Birthday Boy

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 bakewell, 1 bored cat, 2 buses, 1 lizzie line, 1 half pig, 2 many glasses of wine, 2 much food, 1 lovely evening.

Would You Like A Bigger Table? 27th June

Ballot Box Bridge to Pontoon 6, Paddington Basin

A lie in, wonderful! First boat went past at about 7am then it was quite a while before anyone else was on the move. The boat behind us spent some time in setting up their sun shade over their bow, this involved lots of banging of metal locker lids and a touch of swearing.

Just round the bend on the other side of the bridge we found all the moored boats, closer to transport links, that is unless you have an e-bike or scooter as then your location doesn’t matter as you can zip along the towpath at great speed!

Out on the hard

Bright blue skies to start with warranted sun cream, but after half an hour cloud covered the sky, a wind whipped up and we even considered putting jumpers on.

A really awkward Elsan

At Alperton we considered pulling in to deal with our yellow water, but the railings around the elsan point would make this a really hard job, so we just hoped we’d be fortunate to be able to do it later. The Keep Out sign did amuse us, has someone tried to get in the Elsan?

The narrowboat up on the bank surrounded by new office blocks now sells crepes, more building work continues further along. Today long stretches of the towpath were being dug up. The concrete topping lifted which covers cables. Temporary pontoon towpaths carried pedestrians and cyclists around the works.

Towpath works

The aroma of Buddleia filled the air, almost totally masking out the spices from the food factories along the canal bank. One lady on a work boat trimmed sections of it away so she could tie her boat up on the off side.

Buddleia tastic

The number of moored boats along Ladbroke Grove seem to have reduced, but then the towpath being worked on is making it difficult. The area that for some reason says No Mooring had been taken over by boats.

A timber store? Workshop?

We’ve been here at roughly the same time of year before. Today we were surprised at the reduced amount of weed in the canal, we only had to clear the prop once and that was due to urban jelly fish near Little Venice. Also the type of London boater seems to have altered, there are far more cruisers than we remembered. Where the Westway hovers above the towpath, where once there have been cafes, art spaces, there now seems to be something like a carpentry shop, one cruiser had a rooftop extension made of sterling board and was that chap gaining access to his wood store via a canoe? There do seem to be more and more boats reusing house windows in their extensions, I quite like some of the effects.

Heading for Paddington Basin

This year C&RT have increased their pre- bookable moorings in London. Some which were once free are now chargeable, others that you’ve paid for for a few years have increased in price. The London boaters have been up in arms as more places have been designated for pre-bookable moorings and often you see photos of areas empty of boats. The idea is to be able to open London up to cruising boats and make the capital more accessible to all licence payers. We’ve done the turn up and with fingers crossed and hope to find a mooring, remembering where there was a gap to breast up should there be nowhere else. The last few times we’ve been into London we’ve made use of the bookable moorings and are very glad they exist for peace of mind. Booking this week had been a touch hard and I think we were only left with one option at the cheaper price which we booked. There seems to be lots more availability of the £35 a night moorings, not hard to guess why. A shame that many of these are the old Eco-moorings with electric. Maybe C&RT have priced these too high, or is there not enough demand yet for so many spaces? Only time will tell.

Passing the restaurant boats

A boat was on the service mooring at Little Venice. We wanted to fill with water so chanced being moved on and pulled up at the water point just through the bridge, tucking in as close as we could to the cafe boat. The tap is very slow, but before we could be in the way to anyone, we’d topped up and made our way across the pool towards Paddington.

There’s our mooring, ready and waiting for us

We’ve heard tales of pre-booked moorings being occupied when boats arrive and mooring rangers having to be called. But none of that for us today as we sailed straight into our space on the pontoons. Having the hatch face the bank means we get a lot of ankles walking past and snippets of phone conversations ‘Well the aorta is 85 years old!’ a particular favourite from today. We joined two other boats on the moorings, another had gone for a cruise around and returned later on. Paddington Visitor Moorings, also pre-bookable, stretch from the pedestrian entrance into the station to the basin on the hospital side. By the station was chocka, only one boat made use of the hospital side today.

Tilly was shown the outside, filled with lunch break workers. A wheelie suitcase put her off getting off the boat, hopefully she’ll accept we’re in Longbum and spend her time watching through the windows or asleep.

Paul’s got his eye on the ham, egg and chips!

Late afternoon we headed to catch the No 27 bus to Camden to meet up with Christine and Paul. For the first time in many years we have managed to catch up with all of our siblings within a few months. This evening we met up at Jamon Jamon a Spanish Tapas restaurant in Camden.

Plenty to choose from even if it was a little bit confusing for me at times with the allergens menu. Once our order was taken the waitress asked if we’d like to move to the far end where there was a larger table. We ended up needing this for the number of dishes we’d ordered. The Gambas were very fine and the Spanish version of Ham Eggs and Chips looked like it had come from a glossy comic. Very nice food and very good company as always, thank you both.

When eventually our No 27 bus arrived and brought us back to Paddington we decided to see if we could walk back to the boat a slightly different route. A large white tower block that was being built last time we were here now appears to be complete. Outside the front door was a very large orange stone with a small yellow one on top. Human? Who was the artist? Nothing to inform us of anything. A hunt round on the internet later and the artist is Ugo Rondinone. It’s certainly big and bold! On the wall of the hospital there was a rather pleasing painting/photograph mural of diving swimmers which I think is by Catherine Yass. More can be found out here.

Sun set

0 locks, 7.7 miles, 1 snub, 1 bag on prop, 0 weed, 1 straight on, 1 full water tank, 27 twice, 1 disappointed cat, 1 little girl at 11pm peering in, 1 sister, 12 dishes, 1 big table, 1 olive doggy bag, 1 lovely evening, 5G less frustrating.

Early Again. 26th June

Hanwell Moorings to Ballot Box Bridge, Grand Union Canal Paddington Arm.


Another early alarm! Today we hoped we’d make better progress than yesterday, Nebolink was turned on at 5:15, we pushed off towards the locks slowly and quietly to avoid waking our neighbours. If you are part of the St Pancras Cruising Club Tideway cruise this weekend the moorings are already reserved at the bottom of the flight.

Starting up the locks

The bottom lock was just about empty as would be all but one chamber be up the flight. The lower intermediate pounds seemed to be level this morning, not much of any water running over the bywashes. As I filled the bottom lock the level dropped above, this is of course how they should work, enough water to get over the top cill, but would the pound be sufficiently deep to traverse across. With all but one lock empty this morning I wouldn’t be able to drop water as we went to help.

Heading up the flight

A dog walker crossed the gates, the occasional runner ran down the flight, then back up, but other than that we had the flight to ourselves.

The pretty Lock Cottage

The low sun made it hard to look back down the flight at times, but all was calm and sunny with the world, even my migraine seemed to have subsided to not really be noticed.


There is one pound that has nearly always been low when we’ve gone through Hanwell, the risk of setting off early and why we were cautious with levels. However this morning all pounds were full before I filled the locks. It must have been the easiest ascent or descent of the flight we’ve ever had.

Three Bridges

As always I walked along the towpath to reach Three Bridges before Oleanna did, a photo here is more than obligatory for us as the flight and the bridge is where Mick’s interest in the canals was kindled at an early age.

No spaces where we’d wanted to be last night

The pound was full of moored boats, only one we’d seen pass us yesterday. So maybe if we’d carried on we’d have found a space to moor for the day, but with zero shade. We’d made the right discission to call it an early day and not try to battle onwards.

As Oleanna rose up Norwood Bottom Lock we could see something was happening above at the top lock, was there a boat coming? It looked as if the lock was emptying. I spotted a blue t-shirt, someone was litter picking around the lock, 7:20, blimey that’s an early start for a volunteer!

Is that a man in blue?

The chap was an Explorer volunteer, part of C&RT education team. Today he was expecting a school group, so was giving the top lock a bit of a spruce up whilst he ran some water down into the intermediate pound which can get quite low. I said that this had been our best trip up the locks, no water issues on the whole and where there might have been he was already letting water down. I asked how far the school group would go down the flight, he might want to fish out the dead cat we’d come past, bloated and giving off quite a wiff.

Coots taking advantage as they do

A top up on water, disposal of rubbish before we made our way to Bulls Bridge. A weed boat, a sunken boat and one boat sat in some good shade on the visitor mooring outside Tescos. We just managed to squeeze in between them and the sunken boat. Time for breakfast and then a top up shop.

By the time we came out of Tescos the sun had started to crank up on the warming front. To catch up on ourselves we still had a few more miles to cover before we could stop. Two boats turned onto the Paddington Arm, we followed suit and started to head north eastwards in towards London.

Bulls Bridge

It was way too hot and bright for me today, I retired below to be with Tilly. Side hatch open and sheet over it hoping for a breeze inwards. The occasional high landmark would catch my vision, one such at Willowtree Marina. There having just had a top up of diesel was Nb Waka Huia.

I bobbed back on deck as we neared Black Horse water point, the moorings before it used to be chocka, today only a couple of boats. Round the bend however seemed to be more popular, maybe more solar there. The new buildings on the offside , we’d last seen being built, are now all inhabited.

Ooo Hello!

Several lengths of concrete edge keep moorers away, then the thin grassy edge returns as we approached Ballot Box Bridge. We pulled in a bit before we normally do, some trees overhanging for a touch of shade for an hour or so.

Tilly was given four hours and extra rules about not getting run over by the electric scooters and bikes. As she went off to try her best to find a gap in the fence and mesh we sat down to a late lunch. At one point we heard Tilly scurry across the towpath followed by the zoom of a bike. Mick went to open the back door, closing it quickly in Tilly’s face as she’d brought someone home for dinner!

She’s got the right idea

We were joined by another boat a while later. Tilly seen returning from one of the gaps was startled first that we had a neighbour, secondly by there being two cats on board! It turns out they actually have four cats, the two Tilly had seen she’d scared off with just the flick of her bushy tail. With speeding commuters mounting up in number on the towpath we decided to curtail shore leave today, better to be safe.

A quinoa, chicken and bean salad had been put together gradually today, all the hot bits done before the mercury had risen too high. Clothes washed and drying inside to help reduce the temperature. Knitting socks really quite slow. We tried to watch some of the main leaders debate on TV, but gave up and watched different people squabbling instead on Traitors USA.

8 locks, 8.8 miles, 1 right, 1 early start, 9 hours nebo, 1 full water tank, 1 volunteer, 2 pills, 1 cat, 1 bird, 1 paraquet feather, 1 block vegan butter, 2 types sugar, lots of moorings places, 4 cat boat, 1 ex blogging boat, 1 friend, 0.25 sock, 1 hot day, 1 weekends plan coming together.

Early Start, Early Finish. 25th June

Footbridge 207A to Hanwell Moorings

YAWN!!! The alarm clock went off at 5am. Today our aim was to get moving before breakfast and work our way up Clitheroe’s and Osterley Locks, then up the Hanwell flight, hoping there would be a space in the longer Three Bridges pound to moor for the rest of the day , all before it got a touch too hot. Cuppas were made, mine in an insulated mug to drink between locks.

5am with the first flight due overhead any moment

The covers were rolled up and we pushed off, just starting the engine before the land was let go so as to wake as few people as possible. We pootled up to the first lock Clitheroe’s, not far away. All empty, so we could go straight in. I started to fill the lock only for Mick to raise a hand. I lowered the paddle, there was a big branch jammed between the bottom gates, it needed removing.

Clitheroe’s Lock

Once cleared, I lifted the paddles and set things in motion again. A couple walking their dogs crossed over the lock chatting as they went. All good with the world on a beautiful sunny morning. Well it was until a few moments later. All of a sudden I got the feeling that a migraine was about to kick in, a blank spot in my vision a tell tale sign.

Once Oleanna was out of the lock and me on board I headed to the drugs cupboard to find suitable pills. This took some time as the box I was looking for was anonymous, it’s hard enough for me to read at this point of a migraine anyway, scanning the shelves with a blank spot in my vision! Pills found, Mick was asked to check they were what I thought before I took any.

Osterley Lock

At Osterley Lock I walked round to operate the paddles, up and over the footbridge rather than across the gates. Once we were up the discission was made to pull in and moor up for the day. The first length of bank near to the bottom of the Hanwell flight we saw we pulled into.

The outside was even trying to get inside out of the hot!

I knew something was up. They’d tied an outside up and then She said I had 12 hours! All before my morning Dingding biscuits!!! Was this a sausage day?

Tilly made use of the cool morning air. I had a snooze, then got up for breakfast. Tilly by the looks of it had done some self catering by the amount of cobwebs on her head. More snoozing whilst Mick went off to check his old flat was still there by The Fox.

Handy white sheets

The temperature rose and we gradually lost what shade we’d started off with. I dug out one of the white sheets we’d bought on the Great Ouse, today it was just hung inside the side hatch to keep the sun out. We all retired in doors for a very lazy warm day.

A fascinating hair do Tilly

Mick chatted to a boat that had been in Teddington Lock with us yesterday, they were setting off up the locks, did we want to join them? Then the other three boats came past at varying times of the day, all a touch warm I suspect. We just stayed in doors.

Late afternoon Tilly ventured out again but not for too long. I managed some knitting but not much else.

Last of the on board chilled medication

Tomorrow we’ll need to do our best on another hot day to catch ourselves up.

2 locks, 1.6 miles, 5am start, 5am first flight, 1 blind spot, 1 early early stop, 4 extra strong pills, 7am start across the way, 12 hours, only 3 taken, 2 hot for cats, 0.75 of a sock knitted, 2 warm to knit at times.

Intermittent Interminable Internet

I’ve just spent quite sometime putting the next blog post together. Got frustrated whilst adding photos and I even considered teaching Tilly how to play cards for something to do whilst things happened! The internet both here and last night are just SO Slow, we may as well be on dial up 20 years ago! Maybe if we moored the other way round things would improve, maybe they wouldn’t.

I could write a post without photos, but there’s little joy for me in that. So until I find a good patch of internet this will have to be a holding page.

Hopefully I’ll have the patience to post a post tomorrow.

Is There A Festival Going On? 24th June

Shepperton Village Moorings to Footbridge 207A, Grand Union Canal

Just the ticket

A lie in at last, with Saturdays newspaper, followed by a bacon butty. It’s felt like we’ve been getting up extra early forever! With covers rolled up we pushed off and winded a little before 11am, a rower appearing from nowhere, Mick had to call out to him so we didn’t collide.

Round the rest of Desborough Island and then joining back to the rest of the Thames we made our way down stream. As we pulled into Sunbury Lock I said to the lock keeper that we’d be needing a transit licence, a small rib was following us into the lock so we were to pull in on the lock landing below and return for our licence.

Hampton Lock and the first hollyhocks we’ve seen in flower

The EA no longer do transit licences so we had to buy a 24 hour licence. The lockie took pity on us and reduced Oleanna’s size so that she fitted into the next category below, still £50.50 for a day! A week had been £79. My inner Yorkshire voice shouted ‘OW MUCH!!!!’

Onwards down stream, the river wider and thankfully quieter than yesterday. Contrasting neighbours opposite each other at one point.

Knitting whilst passing the Palace

We shared Hampton Lock with a couple of cruisers and a small rib, everyone would be faster than us leaving so we waved them on. Today I was a little bit behind on last weeks pair of socks so my knitting was out on the stern keeping me busy. Only a few rounds to knit before the cuff, the casting off had to wait until we were moored up.

Willing for there to be a gap big enough for us

Approaching Teddington the moorings looked chocka block. Was everyone just staying one night? Not everyone could be waiting for the tide down to Brentford! Several gaps not big enough for us, then one that looked hopeful. A chap from another narrowboat waved from his hatch and then came out to catch a rope, the pull from the weir making it a little hard to pull into the made to measure mooring. He had just been to see the Lock Keeper we should make our way up to the lock at around 16:55. He had a similar story to us about when he’d called them a week or so ago to check what time he’d be needing to leave, he’d been told 11am. We reckoned the Lock Keeper had been looking at that days tides not those of the 24th of June.

Cranes and pontoon at the locks

A late lunch then we walked down to chat to the keeper ourselves. There were cranes and pontoons in front of the Launch lock, this is the lock we’ve been through the most at Teddington, it’s almost big enough to take nine Oleannas. We’d not be using that lock today as there is a £4.5 million refurbishment taking place, funded by Defra. So instead every boat is going through the Barge Lock. The full lock measures 198.12m long by 7.54m wide, big enough to take 33 Oleannas. However there is an extra set of gates a third of the way down the lock, these were in operation today, a small cruiser heading through.

A wise precaution before cruising the tide

We pottered away the time waiting for the tide. I wound some yarn for my 26th pair of socks. The boats about us were preparing themselves for the tide. I suggested Mick should check the weed hatch, he lifted the cover and found cloth and weed wrapped round the prop shaft, it hadn’t felt like there was anything there, but best to be clear before heading out onto the tide.

There seemed to be quite a few narrowboats going. One chap seemed quite nervous asking if anyone had done it before. Well we had several times but not in this direction, however we would know where to turn in. We were let out from our mooring to go ahead of the surrounding boats, third into the lock, another three following in behind.

We nudged up as far as we could behind a long hire boat, passed our ropes around the bollards. As I looked behind us I could see the last boat on our side had pulled in. The lady at the bow was just passing her rope around a bollard and the chap at the back was trying to do the same, except the boat was moving out. Oh blimey he suddenly vanished behind his boat, a leg into the air. I shouted ‘Man Over Board’ and pointed. Only for the Lock Keeper to take it as a joke, he then suggested it was someone jumping off the bridge behind the lock! Very thankfully the chap had been clinging on tight and managed to haul himself up out of the water, only his bottom half wet. Have to say I was very surprised that the Keeper had just joked about the whole thing and not even gone to check if anything was happening!

Richmond Hill ahead

Quite a high tide, we didn’t drop much, maybe just a foot before the bottom gates were opened. Six narrowboats came out of the lock, several cruisers below having to manoeuvre themselves out of the way. Fourth in line we followed on slowly. The boat ahead had said his engine wasn’t that powerful so he wouldn’t be going that fast, he was right. Oleanna was just about tick over, she really wanted to go faster and so did we. We waited for some rowing boats to be clear before making the move, another rowing boat quite close behind us. You should always keep an eye open behind you as boats can appear from nowhere.

That felt better, we’d need to be a distance away from each other by the time we reached Brentford anyway to make the turn.

£2 million minus £1

The view is always different going in the opposite direction. An house for sale on Eel Pie Island £1 short of £2 million! This afternoon the sun shone on the buildings high above the river on Richmond Hill as we rounded the bend towards Richmond.

Time to paddle

Here you could see how high the tide was , lapping it’s way up the streets, some people having to paddle to walk the bank of the river.

The line of narrow boats was causing a bit of a stir on the river. A chap with some rowing boats asked if there was a festival or something going on, he was used to seeing maybe a couple of narrowboats, but not six!

Richmond Weir

Around Richmond half tide lock and round to the east side of Isleworth Alt. I tried to see if I could see the moorings behind as a friend of a friend had been interested in buying a boat there recently. We also passed Isleworth Drawdock where you can hire a section of the river that dries out at low tide. There may be a problem with our bowthruster, possibly weed from the Basingstoke Canal in the tube. Mick had considered stopping here, but it can wait a while the fuse has been changed and another is on order.

Just as I was getting ready to take the compulsory photo of the lion on Sion House Mick requested a photo of a plane flying overhead coming in to land at Heathrow. Oh blimey, both things requiring a photo and limited time to take them. I only just got the old BEA livery in a photo, the lion still isn’t wagging it’s tail! There were several cranes outside Sion House with lights, something was being filmed.

Waterway Routes, it’s handy knowing exactly where you are

We checked our maps, we were soon to turn in at Brentford. The lead boat could be seen making the turn, the hire boat following soon after. Rowing boats were heading up stream, Mick made the turn earlier so as to avoid them, the tide now dropping and taking us with it, the gap between boats just enough.

Boats turning in towards Brentford

The C&RT Lock Keeper was waiting and waved the first two boats into the lock, we were to wait, the second chamber not in use. We trod water below the lock and were soon joined by the next two boats and then the final one made the turn in.

Only room for two boats at Thames Lock

Above Thames Lock is also tidal water, so the difference in height when we arrived wasn’t great, the paddles required lifting before the gates could be opened for us to go through. On up to the Gauging Lock where a C&RT volunteer was waiting for us. He asked how many more boats were coming, two more, he’d wait and pen them up.

A good mural we’ve not spotted before

We pulled in to the services, our yellow water tank on the right side to be emptied, it didn’t take too long before we were ready to push off again. Our next job was to find a mooring. Of course by now we were the last boat of the six. The first two had carried on up to below Hanwell, but there were still four boats looking for spaces. Room right by the railway bridge wasn’t appealing, we moved onwards and found a space just big enough for us round the bend. Here we had to play woofer shit hopscotch and deploy our big buoy fenders. It was way past cat curfew, so Tilly had to make do with fresh air coming through the hatch.

Tomorrow we’ll be up early early, the aim to get up the Hanwell flight before the temperature rises and hopefully find a mooring where Tilly can go out.

5 locks, 17.1 miles, 2 lefts, £50.50, 1 late lunch, 6 narrowboats, 4 first timers, 1 lovely passage, 1 space left, 0 shore leave, 1 very warm evening, 2 many bright lights, pair 26 cast on.

From Being The Only Boat To…. 23rd June

Batter and Bowler Bridge to Shepperton Village Moorings, River Thames

Another early start for us. The Woodham flight is open from 9:30, however Mike the lock keeper had said he’d be there from 9. It’s quite a distance to the locks so we set off hoping an hour would get us there in time.

Cobham Road Bridges profess to be low, but we know that they aren’t! More gardens to nosy at, not such big houses today. Lily pads, a big tree house with a full flight of steps and now we can say we’ve been to both Ripon of Greywell Tunnel.

Mike filling the top lock for us

As we approached the top lock of the flight Mike could be seen, the top paddle raised filling it for us, it had taken us a bit over an hour. Today we’d be on our own going down the locks, all other visiting boats having left the canal yesterday, not strictly true as there is one in the dry dock up at Deepcut. We’d not wanted to miss out a wander around Woking, maybe somewhere there was more to it than just the shopping centre, but we’d not found it yesterday.

Bucket and wafter

Mike was here to close up after us down the flight, ashing up the locks. His long pole and what I’d call a wafter on the end would come out at every lock. The wafter is more like a rubber rectangle that is used to waft up silt from the bottom of the canal to fill any gaps in the gates. Along with this is a bucket of tree bark. I asked if they used a specific bark for the job, he didn’t know what trees it came from, just that it was left to rot down for three years before being used and that there was never enough of it.

Today we were to close the bottom gates and leave a paddle up, ensuring the lock would stay empty. One gongoozler exclaimed at how much the bottom gates leaked, the newer gates never getting long enough with water behind them for the oak to expand. I suppose that doesn’t really matter as the only time the locks are filled is when a boat is coming through, yes it means they take longer to fill, but its the top gates that need to hold the water back.

Above photos before we arrived with no leaking. After we’d opened the top gates.

Arriving at a lock, a bottom paddle needed lowering. The lack of leakage through the top gates obvious. Then the top paddles raised filling the lock, gates open, boat in. Mike asked us to leave a 2 foot gap between the top gates and then lift a bottom paddle to close them, this seats them better on the cill. Once the level in the lock was getting towards the cill you could see the difference that ashing up makes. He then waggles his wafter around in the silt above the lock, this gets pulled in by the water leaking through the gates and closes up some of the gaps. More stubborn gaps require the tree bark, a handful at a time, sometimes a bucket full at a time. As it’s dropped in above the gate you can see the spouts of water go brown for a second or two, then they reduce in size. Once Mike had finished there were only a couple of small spouts of water coming through the top gates. Quite impressive.

There were plenty of people out for walks, lots watching, lots wanting to help with gates. Lots of comments that they’d been walking the canal for ten years and never seen a boat. Well to see boats on the locks you need to first be there on the right day and at the right time. So if you only walk the locks on your way to and from work, you’re very unlikely to see boats.

Approaching the last lock

Kath had always thought the canal was unloved, but after working through the locks with us she now knows they are very much loved and cared for.

At the bottom lock we thanked Mike for his work then headed along to Woodham Junction and the M25. We beeped our horn as we were about to turn onto the River Wey, no-one coming, we’ve got used to that.

New graffiti under the M25.

New Haw

New Haw lock needed turning, we were back in the land of leaving the gates open on locks as you leave but with all paddles down. The cranked lock beams took some closing, as Oleanna could get into the side at the lock landing Mick could lend a hand with the top gates and paddles.

Approaching Coxes Lock we could see a small cruiser waiting to go in and a small electric rib coming out. We joined the cruiser to go down, clinging onto our ropes tightly so as not to squash them. Weybridge Town Lock was set in our favour, down we went back onto the river turning left to head down stream.

Wonder how much bark it would take to stop that leak?
Below Coxes Lock

There was room above Thames Lock for us to pull in. 12:45 we’d have lunch and wait for the lock keeper to have hers too. Just gone 14:00 we pushed off and headed towards the lock landing, a beep was heard from below the lock, the lock keeper came from her office and walked down to chat to the arriving boat.

I could hear that she’d clocked our arrival, she closed the stop lock bottom gate, asked the crew on the waiting boat what their draught was, once the chap at the helm understood what she’d asked he said, ‘Oh 2 foot something!’ Hold onto your ropes when I empty the lock were the instructions, then Oleanna would come out of the lock and they would then go into it whilst we waited for them on the offside. The crew onboard had all the gear and no id…….!

Time to sort our transit licence out and return our long reach windlass. The lock keeper wasn’t happy, ‘I don’t like being Beeped at!’ I don’t blame her. More boats arrived below the lock, breasting up and sending crew to get their paperwork for a licence, they didn’t beep!

Down off the River Wey

Down we came, off the River Wey. We pulled out of the lock and kept to the far side, leaving enough room for the waiting boat to go in. The lock keeper waved them on, the crew ignored her, had they not heard? She tried again, still nothing. I relayed her message. The chap at the helm refused to move off the mooring until we were out of the way, except we needed to be where they were! He refused for a while longer but eventually relented as there was nowhere else for us to go. We pulled up onto the stop lock mooring and started to fill with water. The lock keeper would come and let us out once she’d penned the other boat up.

This took really quite sometime. The two ladies from the waiting narrowboats walked up and had a chat on their way with paperwork. It turned out we’d been at Watford with the lady from NB Spruce Goose last year, we remembered each other. The boat in the lock seemed to sit there forever, the stop lock was emptied for us and we could be on our way again onto our third navigation of the day. We wished the narrowboat crews fun on the Wey, maybe they’ll get to go up the Basingstoke when the temporary repair is done at lock 27.

They’d warned us that the Thames was busy. We were sort of prepared for this. Sailing boats, paddleboarders, cruisers everywhere at the junction, nowhere to moor. We’d carry on to round the back of Desborough Island and hoped for a space there.

The junction below Shepperton Lock had been busy but nothing compared to what we found round the back of the island. A sailing course with many boats weaving in and out of themselves, cruisers of all different sizes weaving in between too. ‘Remember the Basingstoke Canal!?!’ Mick said as the shock of a sunny Sunday afternoon on the Thames dawned on us, maybe we should have waited another day.

How many boats? Hardly a peaceful activity

Round the bend to the park moorings, there were two spaces. Mick called out to the small cruisier that was following us, we wanted to wind to face upstream and pull in. We aimed for the second space , they went for the first, thankfully no boats got in the way of our manoeuvres. Spikes in, Tilly you have 2 hours! At bloomin last!!! I did think that Tilly would look at all the boats and decide it was far FAR too busy to bother with this outside. However I was wrong. Our mooring was a 20 ft dash across the grass to some friendly cover and sideways trees which then had trees TREES!!! Wonderful trees that I could climb! Not just look at through the window!!!

Another boat squeezed into the gap behind us a woofing woofer onboard. I chatted to the chap and warned him that Tilly was out. He was great and did his best with his feisty Collie blocking it’s way off the boat and always on a lead when off. Only one visit for Dreamies from Tilly. She was reminded that she was meant to be home I know but I’m busy! Around 7pm, an hour after cat curfew she came home. She was reminded that shore leave was given under trust and that other pussy cats have ended up with far more shore leave than they’d planned!

Just the day for a roast chicken! At least we’ll be able to have the leftovers cold as the temperature is set to increase over the next few days.

A message from NB Olive late afternoon. No sign of Liquorice. Rangers will be putting out a trap tomorrow, phone numbers have been left at properties nearby and several people will be keeping an eye on the trap for them. We’ve all got our fingers and paws crossed for Liquorice.

10 locks, 7.9 miles, 3 waterways, 3 navigation authorities, 2 lefts, 1 straight straight on, 1 wind, 1 mooring quickly grabbed, from being 1 moving boat, 2 there being 4535345 moving boats, 2 boaters in shock, 1 blown bow thruster fuse, 1 roast chicken, 2 hours into 3, 1 happier cat, 1 mooring status changed, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval, 0 for the Basingstoke, not one!

Last Boat Left. 22nd June

Brookwood Country Park to Batter and Bowler Bridge

Kath joined us again this morning and once we were untied the two of us stood in the bow and we crept past NB Olive. A slight twitch of a curtain, we were maybe a touch early leaving, but the pound had been quite shallow on our way up. We suspect the depth today was up after the Authority had lowered the pound to check on the troubled lock a few days ago.

We had a nosy at peoples gardens. The buttresses that hold the railway embankment. The long blue house boat, was it built here? was it too long to fit in the locks? The old Bantam, paint peeling off.

Approaching the top of the locks I could see the two boats that we’d been following yesterday, NB Rum a Gin and NB Four Some. We compared notes of the flight yesterday, chatted about the campaign cruise on the Thames last month and watched big sausage butties be passed out from the galley, they smelt good!

NB Rum A Gin also from Yorkshire

There was no sign of NB Olive at 9am, Mike the Lock Keeper gave them a call, they’d be with us at 9:30. Mick popped to the shops for a newspaper whilst we waited for the first two boats to go down the top lock. Olive arrived. Mum had waited at the top of the locks yesterday until 5pm, she’d seen Liquorice a few times, but every time she tried to entice her she just walked further away. There was a phone call from the chap in the dry dock, he’d keep an eye out for her and be around to open a gate for them later on.

Waiting for a lock to fill

Our turn at the locks. With three on the ground this meant we could send someone ahead to fill the lock once the boats in front had left. They also sent someone on ahead. We all leapfrogged our way down the locks, catching the boats ahead up and lending them a hand.

As we came down I suddenly thought would a cat trap help to get Liquorice back. I sent a message to Tilly’s number one fan Joa who fosters kittens for Cats Protection. She found the contact details for the local branch and gave some handy tips which I passed on to the Olive crew, Josh had been thinking something similar, maybe a tranquiliser dart!

Kath huffing and puffing opening a stiff paddle

At the last lock of the Brookwood flight we waved NB Olive and their crew goodbye, wishing them luck. They would be continuing on down to the River Wey today, we’d be having a pause in Woking. We pootled on past the mooring by the Beefeater and headed for the footbridge in the centre of town.

Last lock today, Mike ashing up behind

Sadly not a cat suitable mooring, much to Tilly’s dismay, the car park just behind the friendly cover wasn’t good on a busy Saturday. Lunch with Kath and then it was time for us to say our goodbyes to her too.

In the afternoon we wandered over to Jubilee Square where there was a celebration of 30 years of dance in Woking taking place. We had a walk around whilst waiting for things to kick off. Around the centre are several painted bronze sculptures. A couple of big thick set chaps stand watching people pass by. From behind they reminded me of Jack Brady the actor who sadly passed away a few weeks ago.

Woking Station isn’t anything to look at from outside. But I spied something on the walls at the far end. A mural depicting shops and the station in Edwardian times. Soldiers waiting for trains, ladies in the fabric shop, a suffragette campaigning on the steps. On the gentleman’s outfitters section the faces looked far too modern, they were 21st Century people surely. When we found a board about the mural, sure enough the outfitters still exists in town, under a different name, but the faces on the mural were those of the staff in recent times.

We headed back to the square the performance we were waiting for was about to start. We sat down and waited, and waited. Then a loud hailer from behind us brought with it Free Palestine protestors who congregated in the square. We didn’t have a problem with their protest, but wanted them to hurry up. What would have happened if the dance display had already been underway? Would they have carried on with their protest whilst the Belly Dancers danced and coloured ribbons were wrapped around the Maypole? After a good three quarters of an hour they dissipated.

Maypole dancing

Local dance groups showed off their latest choreography. Then the maypole was positioned in the middle of the square. At first kids were keen to join in, but there were just so many ribbons people began to loose interest before they’d even started to do any dancing. But the lady was pretty good at keeping them going once they’d started. I suspect if you had dancers all of the same sort of height it would help.

High Tea (with a twist)

Then eventually after waiting for a good hour and a half Levantes Dance Theatre started their performance of High Tea (with a twist). A couple of years ago I was approached by an old work colleague to see if I’d be interested in working on Levantes next show. I seem to remember the dates not being so good with panto that year. Of course I’d looked them up so was very aware that the show would include more than just dance. The thick base that their table and parasol stood on also suggested this.

Their costumes were strongly influenced by Frida Kahlo. They danced around the audience. The high tea laid out on the circular table, one dancer leading the other who had their eyes closed. A volunteer from the audience poured out drinks from the tea pot. A proposal with a ring hidden in a French Fancy. A wedding. A child being born. The parasol was removed and replaced with a big hoop, now the two of them span round doing acrobatics round the hoop. A very entertaining half hour that had been worth waiting for.

Quite tired from yesterday we decided not to visit the Lightbox, a Grayson Perry exhibition on there. Instead we returned to Oleanna for a lazy few hours recuperating and listening to Tilly complain about the lack of shore leave, I reminded her that one cat was getting a lot more shore leave than she’d bargained for!

5 locks, 3 miles, 4 boats in convoy, 1 extra crew member, 1 Saturday paper, 3 sausage butties, not ours, 3 boats heading onwards, 1 lovely Joa, 1 early lunch, 4 birthday cards, 1 protest, 8 belly dancers, 2 many ribbons, 1 fancy, 2 dancers, 1 lazy afternoon, 0 news, 1 noisy road.

Liquorice. 21st June

Frimley Lodge Park to Brookwood Country Park

Cormorant taking off

Knowing that the going was likely to be slow heading for the top of the locks we set off at 8:30 an hour before we were due. Fairly soon I was sent up to the bow to distribute the weight better, around 50 minutes later we arrived.

No boats!

There were four boats heading down the locks today, us, NB Olive and two others, there was no sign of them they must have already been ahead. One BCA van arrived and drove on down to the next lock, soon followed by a second one. Our instructions were to wait above the top lock, not to even fill it, someone would be with us in a while. They headed off to the next lock too.

Into the top lock at 10:28

NB Olive arrived and there was time to have quite a lengthy chat on the towpath. Chris the lock keeper walked up to see us. Now if there was bad news he would be just the chap to send to tell us, however he had good news. The other two boats had got through the problem lock, the whole team were there to assist and were awaiting our arrival. The lock was filled, Mick brought Oleanna into the lock. Then from behind we heard ‘CAT’S OUT’ One of Olive’s cats had spotted an opportunity and jumped ship! I think it was Liquorice, a shy cat who rarely comes when called. What to do?

Oleanna crew present and correct

As cat owners we knew the worst thing we could do was offer to help get the cat back. Tilly runs a mile when people try to help. We backed off. Discussions were had with Chris. Could they stay and go down on maybe Monday? Could we wait a while to see if the cat would come back? Phone calls were made ahead to the person in charge. It had to be today, all the team were out to assist, they just needed to get them down through the troublesome lock and then they could come back to find the cat. I suggested that maybe Mum should stay with a cat carrier and anything they thought might help and wait for Liquorice, at least then she wouldn’t be totally abandoned.

Going down

We dropped Oleanna and Olive down and headed on to the next lock. Five members of the team were there waiting. The lock was full. The top gates were opened. No-one was allowed to be in the lock, so engines off and each boat was bow hauled by the crew into the lock. The top gates shut and one paddle lifted, both boats held away from the bottom gates.

Last Friday a boat had hit the near side gate, opening up the mortice and tenon joint into the heel post. The gate had also been pushed out of square, twisted. When they took down the first two boats the gate needed five of them to slam it shut, now a ratchet strap was in place holding it slightly squarer, however they could see that it had dropped. But thankfully both boats were now down and through the lock, we could continue as normal down the flight.

The lock heros

No news from the top of the locks, still no cat. I walked ahead, filled the next lock and opened the gates. It was decided that on leaving I’d open the gate in front of Olive, Mick would bring Oleanna across to use the same gate, saving me quite a bit of walking and pushing and pulling. Then because you leave these locks empty and with gates open I could walk on ahead to set the next lock. Sadly the distances between locks are that bit too far to set ahead and return to open gates, especially with a gammy knee.

Heading to Lock 26

I looked back over my shoulder to see Josh on NB Olive heading straight across the pound towards the offside bank, struggling with the tiller. The rudder had been knocked out of it’s cup as he came out of the lock. Mick went to assist, pulling Olive away from the far bank and assisting Josh to the bank where he hopped off and pulled back onto the lock landing. The boats could have been breasted up, but the width and depth of channel would likely make that impossible. Josh said we should carry on, not much we could help with, muscle and possibly a dry suit would be needed to get things back working.

On our own

We carried on alone. Lock after lock. Walking between locks and round them to lift paddles, I’d certainly be getting my steps in today even with hobbling. A pause in a lock for a comfort break and some flapjack was required.

A snake joined us in one lock

Going down the locks is far more work. The first half of the flight the boats ahead had closed the bottom gates and paddles, I just needed to fill each one and then down we could go. About half way down the occasional paddle was up on the bottom gates, more walking round required. Plenty of people walking dogs, one chap with ten, yes ten woofers. He didn’t seem too bothered about the fence keeping his dogs away from the shooting ranges.

The bollards get in the way of the gates, so you need to lift the beams

A couple stopped to chat to Mick. Did we know there was a boat following us? A few locks away, two Lock Keepers helping. I started to close the bottom gates and paddles as much as I could without too many extra steps.

Bottom of the Deepcut flight

The bottom of the flight was a nice site, time to have a breather before the Brookwood flight of three. As we popped out from under the bridge two friendly faces appeared on the towpath. Kath and Sean had come to help us down.

Happy chap waving to us, is this the house where Mick Gemson grew up?

With three of us I could walk on down to the next lock to set it leaving Sean and Kath to lift paddles and open and close gates. By the time Oleanna was going into the middle lock Sarah one of the rangers had arrived in her van to work the top lock for Olive.

Extra crew Kath and Sean

We were asked to lift a paddle to fill the locks as we left, then we waited in the last lock. The two boats that had started out together this morning were sharing the last lock of the day. Sadly still no good news from the top lock about Liquorice. Sarah and Chris closed up behind us. Thank you guys for all your help today. Chris give Josh a fist bump, between the two of them they’d got the rudder back in it’s cup, steering was now possible, even though it didn’t quite feel right.

Exiting the bottom lock with Olive at 16:40

Kath and Sean walked to the Brookwood Country Park there to assist with ropes on the mooring. Both boats pulled in and eventually we were moored up with land access from the bow only.

Mooring up at a distance

Time to walk up through the park to visit Kath and Sean’s house. They moved to Knaphill a couple of years ago and at last we were here to see their new (to them) house. A lovely house with a nice garden and plenty of room for them and all their things. We had a very lovely evening with yummy food and wine and conversation. A little bit pooped we left just as the sun was going down. Some more steps to add to the days tally ending up with 20,714, 8.5 miles! I wonder if I’ll be able to walk in the morning?

Ayckbourn first night glasses

17 locks, 5 miles, 4 locks shared, 1 lock bow hauled, 5 extra crew, 5 cats in the locks not 6, 1 awol cat, 2 extra crew, 3 slices of flapjack, 1 wiggly walk up the hill, 1 straight forward walk down the hill, 1 set of plans, 1 aching knee, 1 very bored Tilly safe inside Oleanna, 2 boaters and 1 cat hoping for good news in the morning.