Category Archives: National Trust

2022 Back To Exploring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast forward to 6:15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So our vital statistics for 2022 according to Canalplan are

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

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

731.7 engine hours

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

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

Seven And Mature. 1st October

Windsor Road Bridge to Cliveden Moorings

Today I turned 7 in human years, that’s 44 in feline years. She said that now I’m 7 that I am mature. She kept saying this most of the day. I don’t think I smell like cheese!

Where’s my presents?!

She said that I would be getting a present later on if all went to plan. I tried looking for it, but she said it wasn’t inside.

Last night was meant to be all wild and windy. Tom said that if I went into the outside I might have gotten blown away, but it didn’t sound that bad. It never sounds that bad to me, well not until it starts blowing at my bum, then I’m not happy!

Anyway I think someone needs to write a new version of the song.

Pussy cat Pussy cat where have you been? I’ve been to London to visit the Qu…… OH! Apparently Queen She doesn’t sit on a chair anymore.

She used to stand on this bridge and watch the big planes go by , especially Concord

Yesterday the outside had been wet but it had picked it’s ideas up this morning as they untied it and let it move away, the sun had come to visit. Only right as it’s my birthday! Did you know that it’s my birthday?

I watched the castle drift by. They caught a water point that was all smelly from a noisy little boat. But apparently it didn’t have the right fitting so they pushed it way and found another. This one was silly stupid as it sprayed water everywhere! Just as much went on the bank as into Oleanna’s tummy. After the summer we’ve had too! She said that it’s impractical for us to have a 7m hose, They’d have to tie the outside up in a very particular way for such a hose to reach.

Tom kept stopping the outside, I had to check he was doing it right. In fact he was just moving the outside down.

He had to have the help of another boat to do this on several occasions. Just look at all those flowers!

Then She and Tom got all excited, my birthday present (did I mention it was my birthday?) was just about in view, we all just had to keep our paws crossed.

Paws crossed

It took them a while to tie the outside up. Then She came in and wrote down the numbers, played the magic music and noted three words. Then she gave me the rules. 4 hours with no woofers.


My birthday present was an Island!

A WHOLE Island!

I know I couldn’t believe it, A National Trust Island at that! There was one other boat, but they left. We had it all to ourselves, well until another narrowboat tied it up at the other end. I don’t know why they had to do that as it wasn’t being awkward or troublesome. It was just being a nice and peaceful island.

She said she had something secret to do. But after a while we went for a walk, from nearly one end of MY BIRTHDAY ISLAND right to the very end at the other end.


Sideways Trees!! And friendly cover!

The end with water on both sides

She had more to do inside so left me to it, which was fine because She’s not as good at climbing trees as I am!

I don’t think I look mature, I certainly don’t smell mature!

Tom lit the stove so I could be all cosy and warm. Then after we’d all had our dingding I got a birthday cake!

I’m not fussed about the cake, they can have all that, but the cream cheese topping looks mighty fine!


3 locks, 2 self service, 8.2 miles, 6003.36 miles in total on Oleanna, 7 years old, not 7+ yet, 44 feline years, 1 island present, 4 hours of climbing and pouncing, 1 carrot BIRTHDAY cake, 1 cat who never ever eats human food licking her lips, 1 stove, 1 sunny BIRTHDAY, 1 boating goal achieved, 1 Cliveden Island moored on.

Milling About. 6th July

Houghton EA Mooring to Hemingford GOBA Mooring to Houghton EA Mooring.

Last night we decided we’d head back towards Hemingford Grey to moor for the day and our visit to Houghton Mill. We knew where the mooring was and that it existed, where as if we’d have gone up the lock we might have been in a situation where no mooring opportunity showed itself.


After our cuppa in bed we rolled up the covers headed a short way up stream where the river was a touch wider. Mick then made use of the current and wind to help turn the bow round to face down stream. We pootled our way to the meadow and pulled in where there was maybe a touch too much goose poo, but it would do us.

Tilly checking out our mooring

With breakfast out of the way we set off to walk the mile and a half to the mill. On reaching about a quarter of the way Mick said he’d not got the National Trust cards, would they allow us in just with our booking confirmation email? Possibly, but he turned back to the boat. I said I’d walk onwards, we’d left just about the right amount of time to walk, would we make it in time?

I slowed my pace, took in the wild flowers on the verges. All the thatched roofs had straw finials, some quite amusing. Had Mick got back to the boat by now? Should I quicken my pace again, would we reach the Mill in time for the tour?

Across the field that had been cut yesterday

Mick appeared on the Brompton, I should have carried on walking at a normal pace and not slowed so he could catch me up. I had to quicken my pace now, the mill only open for tours on Wednesdays and the weekend, if we missed our slot then that would be it!

Thankfully we managed to arrive in time to stash the bike somewhere and have a quick comfort break, still with a couple of minutes to spare! Phew!!!

Houghton Mill

In 974AD the Manor of Houghton and the Mill were given to Ramsey Abbey, all the local farmers used the mill and a cut was taken off as payment, a mulcher, for the Abbey. The mill was kept very busy and the Abbey became very affluent. New sluice gates were added to the river to increase water headed to the mill, but this caused flooding in the village. After ten years of campaigning the villagers got their way and the river was returned to it’s old course.

After the dissolution of the monasteries, Ramsey Abbey was flattened, the mill was still seen to be very profitable and was taken over by the crown. Ownership passed to the Earls of Manchester who leased out the mill as a commercial concern.

In the 18th Century there was a rapid development in mill technology. The original mill had had one water wheel this was increased to three at it’s peak. Inside ten pairs of stones milled the flour operated by eighteen people. In 1850 the mill was run by the Brown and Goodman families and was producing a ton of premium white flour every hour. This flour supposedly improved if left for five to six weeks, just the right amount of time for it to have headed down stream to Kings Lynn, round the coast to the Thames estuary and in to London where it would reach the best price!

But in the later part of the 19th Century technology took milling away from mill stones and Houghton just couldn’t compete with steam driven mills. The repeal of the Corn Laws brought in cheaper foreign grain which was milled at the ports to help feed the growing work force of the Industrial Revolution. Houghton Mill moved to milling animal feed and the work force reduced down to two.

A corner showing how the YHA had looked

On the retirement of the last miller in 1928 the mill closed and the water wheels were removed. In 1929 the local council bought the mill, it was soon earmarked for redevelopment. In 1934 Houghton Mill Restoration Committee leased the mill and sublet it to the newly formed Youth Hostel Association, providing accommodation for fifty people. In 1938 the committee managed to buy the mill and then handed it over to the National Trust for £1, the same as the original mill had cost to build.

In 1983 the mill was opened to the public, repairs were made and milling could resume with use of the original stones powered by an electric motor. Millennium funding was then sought to reinstate the water wheel.

Quite a sizable mill

Sadly due to the mill having to close during the pandemic the water wheel was left idle for too long. The wood that sat in the water swelled soaking up the water and the wood at the top dried out. Once they got it started again the balance was seriously off! They were recommended to turn the water wheel as often as possible which had been helping, but sadly right now the wheel is in need of some tlc. The tour was very informative and well worth doing, thank you Sue from NB Cleddau for reminding me to check the days it was open.

A look around the village brought so many more chocolate box cottages and finials. Ducks, boxing hares, I couldn’t stop taking photos!


Then a round route brought us down Green Lane where both sides of the road were filled with fantastic Hollyhocks. Wow! We got chatting to a lady who is responsible for a third of them, they are wanting to rename the road Hollyhock Lane. She offered us some seeds, but the seed heads weren’t ready yet, maybe if we stop on our way back we might collect a few and leave them places to cheer up people next year.

Back at Oleanna we quickly pushed off again. The meadow as nice as it was really wasn’t suitable or Tilly with the number of woofers around. We winded and headed back upstream pulling in where we’d left five hours earlier, our end space still empty. In fact we had the island to ourselves for a couple of hours before three more narrowboats turned up, Tilly ended up having to share her kingdom with another black and white cat.

First read

Act 1 of panto was read, props and setting notes highlighted with my neon pens left from #unit21. I did have to stop just as Queen Rat was proclaiming that the panto was over and the audience should all go home, she’d crowned herself Queen of England and wasn’t budging. We watched the news and caught up on events in London. I think real life events may run a similar course to those of Queen Rats in Act 2, but without so many belly laughs. Tomorrow will tell!

Boris’s final sunset?

0 locks, 1.42 miles, 2 winds, 2 cards forgotten, 3 minutes spare, 10 stones, 3 waterwheels, 1 wonky wheel after the pandemic, I blog problem possibly solved, 1 Queen about to loose her thrown, 1 silent Whittington singing for the future, 1 country waiting.

Houses for Sale.

Houghton Thatched Cottage £550,000

Common Lane Hemington Abbots my favourite £1,500,000

Barnfield, Hemington Abbots £775,000, too boring to take a photo!

Not The One In Wales. 28th June

Burwell EA Mooring

Our neighbours were off before we’d even got our cuppas in bed this morning, heading off to make the most of being on a boat for a week. We weren’t tardy either this morning and found ourselves waiting for the No 11 bus towards Cambridge at 10am.

Sitting on the top deck gave us great views, it’s almost hilly round here! There are interesting buildings in many of the villages and plenty of thatched roofs to admire whilst passing at their height. If we had more time it would be interesting to have a look around St Cyriac and St Julitta churches, both share the same church yard. The Maltings in Burwell with it’s quirky roof line. Burwell Museum and Windmill, only open Thursdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays. Or walk round Lode where numerous thatched cottages require there to be boxes of chocolates on every street corner. Sadly they all passed too quickly for photos, well except the later where the bus has to do a three point turn to continue on its route!

Anglesey Abbey

We alighted and walked round the corner to the entrance of Anglesey Abbey. Not an abbey and not in Wales, but a rather fine house cared for by the National Trust. With huge gardens and access into the house we were to have a busy day. The offer of a garden highlights tour soon to start was not to be missed and we’re glad we went along as we’d have had no idea what we were looking at.

Wild flower meadow

Jean was a very knowledgeable guide who first took us to see the wild flower meadow. The meadow is left alone for much of the year, the paths cut frequently but the main area only getting one cut a year once all the flowers have set their seeds. She pointed out Common Birds-Foot-Trefoil, known as Eggs and bacon due to its colouring, Knotweed in amongst the grasses.

Pyramid orchids and a rare Lizard Orchid that has appeared in the gardens this year.

Mothy webs

We paused at a shrub covered in cobwebs, competing with Miss Haversham’s table covered. This was caused not by spiders but by a moth that weaves it’s silk, the caterpillars eat the shrub beneath before turning into small white moths. Today a few of the adults flitted about, a resting one on someone’s finger. This looked very much like the little things that have been appearing on Oleanna’s cabin sides over the last few weeks. Inside the cratch we’ve had incredible webs, that we’ve been putting down to new very keen spiders, but maybe we’ve got moths in there!

We walked through avenues of trees all given celebratory names, Coronation, Jubilee. Then areas of wood with perfectly positioned statues.

Into the rose garden, just finishing it’s first flush of blooms. Here we heard how the roses were cared for, planting in cardboard boxes is a new method to try to ease the influence of the soil in the beds, far cheaper than replacing all the soil every time new roses are planted. We took in the aromas from the blooms, very reminiscent of childhood making rose petal scent.

Around the exterior of the house we were shown the trained pear tree and then on to the herbaceous border garden where delphiniums towered high at the back of the flower beds. This was the garden currently in it’s prime. I could name loads of the plants but I can’t remember them all so photos will have to do.

The Fairbourne brothers who owned the house from the 1930’s loved gardens and the whole layout would have one garden coming into bloom as another passed it’s best. The next garden over had recently been planted out with Dahlias which would take over as the display garden in a couple of months time.

What amazing flowers

A very worthwhile tour to have done, one that will change through the seasons.

The Oak Room for after dinner drinks influenced by Coe Hall in Long Island

Anglesey Abbey started out as a hospital in 1135 and by the early 13th Century it had been converted into an Augustinian priory. Of course when Henry VIII came along (1536) the priory was dissolved. The ruins of the priory formed the core of the present house, which was built in the early 17th century. The house changed hands many times through the centuries, with not much changing.

Queen Elizabeth II bed

In 1848 the Reverend John Hailstone bought the house and made various changes to it’s fabric, removing Jacobean dormer windows and creating the stable block. It was probably him who changed the name from Anglesey Priory to Abbey, the latter sounding far grander.

Urban Huttlestone Rogers Broughton (Lord Fairhaven) and his brother Henry bought the house in 1926. They had inherited £1million each when their father died, their family were very very wealthy Americans from oil refining. Urban was granted his Fathers Barony and became the 1st Baron of Fairhaven. The brothers agreed that the first to get married would sell their share to the other, so when Henry married in 1932 he sold his share to Urban. The house and estate complimented their horse stud at Barton and being close to Newmarket. Now they could enjoy the races in the summer along with shooting in the winter.

Between 1926 and 1930 the brothers altered the house, adding a new porch, spiral staircase and engine room. They also converted the stables into garages. In 1937 Lord Fairhaven extended the service wing and built the Library and in 1939 he added the Tapestry Hall. Money being no problem meant that anything that took Fairhavens fancy could be bought. This makes for an eclectic collection of objects and works of art.

Numerous paintings line the walls, collections giving rooms a theme. One corridor is filled with paintings by an artist Etty known for his historic nudes.

Numerous tapestries hang in corridors and down staircases. Some are old, others obviously commissioned with images of the house. There were one or two that seemed a little bit familiar as though elements had been included from the Marlborough Tapestries at Blenheim.

The Opening of Waterloo Bridge

But all eyes are encouraged towards the Library. A large high ceilinged room, books line the walls, desks each end and sofas by the fire. Opposite hangs the main feature. A couple of months ago the largest known painting Constable painted returned from being cleaned. The Opening of Waterloo Bridge 1817, now reveals crowds waving from buildings and one figure is thought to be the Price Regent as it is the only figure wearing a wig. The volunteer in the room was obviously very proud as he talked about it.

The Library was made from reclaimed ash from Waterloo Bridge

If you peek through the leaded windows behind the desk you can make out graffiti, etched by Fairhavens guests. Several of the royal family’s names appear here, sadly my photos didn’t come out, Elizabeth R is there.

Down below stairs the kitchens are open for viewing. An old range is accompanied by several electric cookers. Behind the bars in the safe sit shelves of crockery and a bust of Winston Churchill.

When Fairhaven entertained, three guests his preferred number, dinner would be served at 8.03 in the dinning room, giving the guests three minutes to walk from where they’d had pre-dinner drinks. Then every evening just before 9pm a radio was brought through to the dinning table on a sliver tray so that the news could be listened to.

A house that went on and on, room after room filled with such an eclectic collection of alsorts and then a garden that stretches on for what feels like mile after mile and then some more. What a place, what a very rich chap!


After the house we retired to the cafe for a jacket potato each and a pot of tea. Another walk round the grounds, taking in the Mill this time, sadly it’s closed at the moment. Then it was time to walk back to catch the bus back and give Tilly a head nudge or two.


0 locks, 0 miles, 2 buses, 1 huge house, 1 even larger garden, 2 avenues, 56545378 moths, 1 lizard orchid, 8ft Constable, 1 cat up high, 1 parrot, 1 replica ceiling, 2 jackets, 1 mill, 1 very good day out, now it’s time to go boating again.

Fens and Flutterbys. 26th June

Wicken Fen GOBA Mooring to Reach Lode GOBA Mooring

Wicken Fen

Time to dust off the National Trust cards, today would be their first outing since before the pandemic when we visited the Back to Backs in Birmingham.

Wicken Fen visitor centre

Wicken Fen is 254.5 hectares and is a SSSI protected by international designations as a Ramsar wetland site of international importance. It is one of the oldest nature reserves in the country and the first to have been looked after by the National Trust after it was donated by Charles Rothschild in 1901.

Natural fen

Here you can see an area of natural fen land, no pumping out of water to dry the land for agriculture here, in fact at times water is pumped in to help maintain the land. Where we are moored at Monk’s Lode, water is pumped under Wicken Lode and into the fen by a modern windmill (on the left).

The last surviving wooden wind pump (on the right) in the Fens sits proudly over looking the swaying grasses and sedge. It was built around 1912 and was moved from Adventurers’ Fen and restored in 1956. The windmill sails still have sheets wrapped round them ready to to be stretched out to catch the wind, the round shape at the back is where the wheel is to lift water from the drain into the fen to help maintain a high water table.

There are several walks around the area, we chose to walk the Boardwalk and then the woodland walk. Easels are located at places pointing out plantlife, dragonflies, damselflies, birds and in the woodland butterflies. Most of the time living examples wizz past.

In a hide we settled down, quieter than a mouse to watch to see what might happen. The bird feeders attracted a lot of Goldfinches, I think at one point we had about six of them vying for the seed. Such colourful birds the air filled with only their song. Sadly the noise of some people coming into the hide sent them all flying away until the new observers settled down, but only a brave couple of birds returned.

Brimstone hiding

Parts of the fen have changed due to drying out. More plants have taken hold and in some areas trees have taken root. The woodland area a haven for butterflies. There were numerous easels about them. We spotted a Brimstone that flew by and then politely hung from under a leaf, showing off it’s perfect camouflage, if we’d not seen it fly in we’d have never have known it was there.

A Ringlet?

Flittering White wings occasionally haphazardly flew past us, the odd Peacock and Red Admiral all butterflies of child hood. Then there were masses of small brown butterflies, few wanting to take a rest long enough for the camera to focus upon them. A Speckled Wood, but plenty more without obvious markings. All we could see at the time was a yellowy cream outline to their wings. Later on studying the photos black dots could be seen meaning that they were Ringlets.

We walked out across the fen spotting Meadow Sweet that will soon be filling the air with its fragrance, a smell I will always associate with the Chesterfield Canal. We’d been told to look out for orchids, were these some?

That’s a nice narrowboat over there!

Back round to where we’d started after a pleasant walk. You could spend several quiet days walking the fen, seeing and hearing all sorts of nature.

Across the way sat an old cottage with a colourful garden. In the open door way an invite for you to take a peek inside. Nobody had mentioned the cottage and barns, but we did as invited and took a peek. A cockerel came over to show himself off. An outside privy, just as you’d expect except that the newspaper to wipe one’s behind is now photocopied!

Boats used for catching eels with wicker traps, nets for plovers (lapwings). So much crammed into a few barns that we’d nearly walked past.

This could be Reach Lode or Wicken both narrow and amazonian

A late lunch and then we were ready to push off, more Lodes to explore. The cruisier behind had left earlier thank goodness as the wind was going to make it hard for us to wind, the bow constantly being pushed over and the stern heading straight for the bank. Eventually we got round and aimed in the right direction, soon meeting the trip boat coming back to drop off it’s visitors.


The going was slow again, I headed to the bow to spread the weight more evenly which helped a touch. A family filled a canoe and so many dragonflies flitted about like fairies. Or do fairies flit about like dragonflies?

Back at the junction

We got almost to the junction before we were caught up by the last trip boat of the day. Mick had considered pulling in here to moor but there was still no space on the EA moorings, so we turned eastward had a discussion as to which Lode we’d venture down first, Reach came out top.

A Tern followed our every move

Now deeper, or so it seemed for a while, the going was a touch quicker. The Lodes are higher than the surrounding land and without flood banks you actually get a view.

Bloomin blanket!

At the fork we turned to the south east towards Reach, reeds started to surround us, swaying in the stiff breeze. Then masses of blanket weed, the sort that tangles props up really well. Mick knocked us out of gear to glide through such sections. Was this only to get worse the further we progressed? We were now just that bit to far along the lode to reverse out again, so onwards we went, thankfully the blanket weed gradually diminished.

A bridge!

At Reach the lode splits in two, well it looks like it used to. Signs warn that this is the end of the navigation and permission should be sought to moor from the Parish Council. Just beyond there were the GOBA signs. Was there space for one or more boats, would there be anywhere in full sunlight? There was space for two or three, but it all looked rather shallow. We tried pulling in where there was less tree coverage, here would have been good last week for the 32C day. The depth prohibited access to land, we backed up and tried again. All the time the stern getting stuck on the bottom. We eventually made it back to the start of the moorings, the bow almost came into the side, just enough to get off, then Mick powered Oleanna round. The ropes were wrapped round trees, we were moored, our plank only just long enough to reach land. This however wasn’t a problem for Tilly!

Plank required!

We hope that tomorrow we’ll be able to get ourselves free again, as it may be some time before anyone else ventures down here!

0 locks, 4.08 miles, 1 wind, 1 left, 2 rights, 1 big fen, 2 windmills, 6531 butterflies, 431 damselflies, 311 dragonflies, 1 canoe, 1 cat tip toing along the plank, 6ft plank only just long enough, 1 very shallow mooring, 0 sight seeing from here, 1 supermarket delivery moved back.

Slowing Right Down. 25th June

Waterbeach GOBA Mooring to Wicken Lode GOBA Mooring

The Geraghty zoom this morning included discussions on rust treatments, interviewing conductors and a quick whiz around Kath’s new home. So good to see her smiling face this morning.

Just before we were about to push off a rowing VIII came past bedecked in Ukrainian flags, obviously a fund raiser row. Bottisham Lock is just around a bend so we couldn’t quite see what was happening, were they turning to return to Cambridge? Were they going through the lock? Were they just taking a breather on the lock landing? Zooming in with my camera I could see oars being moved around over head, then the guillotine gate began to close, they’d be going down in the lock, the lock landing free for us to pull into.

Sure enough it was a fund raiser to help support families displaced by the war, the group were rowing to Ely and back today. It took quite a while for them to pull their boat out of the lock by which time we’d been joined above by a sailing dinghy.

Sharing the lock

By the time I’d reset the lock the crew on the dinghy had dropped their mast, there was plenty of space, so no danger of us getting a touch too cosy with them. With the strong winds they thought they’d catch us up and maybe even over take us on the way to their lunch date at the Five Miles from Anywhere Inn at Upware. Going back later however would be a different ball game, plenty of tacking required! They didn’t manage to catch us, but their sail was seen.

We pootled our way along past the asymmetrical cows again.

Upware Lock approach

Reaching Upware we turned right into the wind at the junction heading for the navigable Lodes. Here a shortish lock sits, 61ft 4″. This is used to help regulate the water levels in the Lodes, the lock resets itself automatically with bottom gate open top closed, the height difference only being about 4″.

A boat was waiting to come down, the lock in our favour. The chap meant well as he chatted away about flashing lights as I was trying to read and digest the instructions on the panel, regarding the flashing lights. The lock worked for us and once we were clear it looked like it would work for them also despite the flashing lights meaning not to use the lock.

Getting narrower all the time

Narrow and slow, passing moored boats. An EA length of moorings at the junction with Wicken Lode were full, we’d not be able to return to moor there if all spaces were taken at the end. We swung under the wooden bridge the navigation now even narrower and shallower and very very slow going!

We’ll get to use our membership cards soon

It is 1.5 miles to the end of the navigable section, our guide book suggests it should take half an hour, Waterway Routes suggests an hours cruise, we just about managed an hour twenty five, it was very VERY S L O W going. All the more time to admire the views, the dragonflies and waterlilies that lined the narrow water.

Just wider than Oleanna

At first the route wiggles back and forth, how would we manage if something was coming the other way? Our progress slowed to slower than walking pace, engine off to check the weed hatch. There was weed, luminous bright green tagliatelle weed in 8 inch lengths.

Once the wiggles were out of the way we could just about make out the straight course of the Lode ahead. Walkers sped past us, binoculars at the ready. We discussed changing a supermarket delivery we’d booked for a few days time, nudging it by a day or two as we might still be battling our way back!


A Marsh Harrier, a tall bird hide, a black and white windmill all came and went.

Then up ahead we spotted a few heads, a National Trust trip boat out from Wicken Fen. They pulled to one side and waved us on. Would they catch us up on their return journey? Of course they did, but the wind was too strong for us to be able to keep Oleanna’s bow in for them to pass, so they followed us to where Wicken Lode meets Monk’s Lode.

Cheery chap at the helm

Here a cruiser was on the GOBA mooring, a look of panic in their eyes. They were about to set off, wanting to get moving before they’d be in the way of the trip boat on it’s next trip. All was fine, we pulled up just past them, the trip boat headed to it’s landing and the cruiser managed to wind and head off.

Once moored up the doors were opened and Tilly headed off avoiding the many walkers and woofers, plenty of friendly cover to keep her busy.

Not a bad mooring

Being a sheltered place we decided that we’d get the barbeque out, burgers and buns were defrosted, kebabs made up and some cabbageslaw made. We were joined early evening by a cruiser who also had the same idea. What a wonderful mooring, still quite busy with walkers into the evening. Soon after we’d eaten dark clouds came overhead, so we retired indoors to avoid the possibility of rain.


2 locks, 5.3 miles, 1 right, 1 left, 1 shared lock, 8 rowing, 1.5 miles very very slow, 1 missing D, 1 happy cat, 4 kebabs, 2 burgers, 1 bowl of slaw, 1 lovely mooring, 55.5 today.

2021 An Adventurous Year

Time for the annual round up. Put the kettle on or pour yourself a glass of something stonger, put your feet up, this is a long post.

Looking out into a cold world!

As midnight turned from 2020 to 2021 we saw the old year out and new one in at the house in Scarborough, a quiet affair with just the three of us.

January and February brought ups and downs with them. Oleanna rose and fell with the water level at Viking Marina due to the breach at New Bridge whilst the country locked down. Despite the restrictions on travelling we made use of having a hire car for a few days at the beginning of the year to keep an eye on Oleanna.

Jobs around the house continued, our bedroom was redecorated and reclaimed from troublesome tenants. Tilly and I ventured out into the nearby park for the occasional walk, dependant on the number of woofers and the weather of course.

We walked, we ate, we drank, did our best to stay well and I started on the design for Chipping Norton’s panto in my reclaimed work room.