Category Archives: Nature

At Least They Didn’t Get in Our Hair! 9th June

St Vincents Street Bridge Moorings, BUMingham to Bridge 14 Stratford upon Avon Canal

The hire car was returned before breakfast, overnight parking had been free on the bridge. Yellow water pumped out, plants (which we’d left at the house when we moved on board) positioned in the bow and on the roof. We were ready for the off.

Karen and Bill with their fairly new Electric boat

As we came past the Lego/Arena moorings a lady waved and called out to us, it was Karen who’d been training crew on Tuptonia the guide boat last year. Back then she was eagerly awaiting her new boat NB Electric Dragon and here they were, heading back to their mooring after the Electrika Boat Show at Brinklow last weekend where they’d been showing their boat. We hovered for a while to have a catch up and to meet Bill. Hopefully see you somewhere out and about for a longer catch up sometime Karen.

Old Turn

Then it was second right, we held back for a trip boat to come through Worcester Bar, then we were heading through Gas Street to The Mailbox.

A wise old Bargee watching on

BUMingham had got busy whilst we weren’t looking, far more boats moored up. Should we stop for water, no there was a queue as ever, we carried on.

The going was slow, especially when a hire boat had no idea we were there and pulled out right infront of us. They went slowly past moored boats as you should but thankfully sped up when past. At Selly Oak they’d caught another boat up that was going at tickover no matter, so we all patiently tick on. Thankfully this was where we’d be stopping and just in the nick of time as we had a click and collect at the big Sainsburys. I bobbed into the store for some extra painkillers whilst Mick headed to the van in the car park with our brompton. The driver reckoned we’d be able to get a trolley back to the boat and apart from having to drag it a little through the cinder track to the towpath it worked. Much easier, just the trolley to return.

An early lunch, then we were on our way again along a very familiar route. Bournville was chocka with boats, don’t think we’ve ever seen it so busy. The graffiti tree is still there and so are the lumps and bumps under the water. At Kings Norton the way ahead onto the Stratford Canal was clear, I gave Mick a thumbs up, Oleanna managing to be in the background of a group photo.

We knew we were being followed a little way back, so mentioned this to aboat coming towards us. Sure enough as we looked back over our shoulders both boats arrived at the junction at the same time, both wanting to turn the direction the other was coming from. It’s quite a steep turn anyway, but with another boat in the way! It took until they were out of our view for them to sort.

Guillotine Lock

The nose of a boat could be seen through the guillotine gates of Lock 1, it then reversed back. We thought they’d gone back to let us through, but they were mooring up.

The sunshine had been lovely, but now the dappled light through the trees was refreshing and welcome. At Bradwood Tunnel we timed our passage, the sign suggesting it would take 16 minutes, well it only took 4.5 minutes. Most of that time was spent watching bats darting back and forth at the far end of the tunnel. I tried and tried to get a photo, only succeeding with several blurs, marked with arrows.

Some nice shade

The hire boat ahead of us had just pulled in to fill with water at the cream cottage, so we carried on again, our tank half full, it’ll be filled soon. Round another bend, a deer clung onto the offside bank munching away at greenery, all too quick to get my camera out.

Mick had a phone call from his doctors surgery. They discussed a tweek in his medication, a new prescripton sent to a pharmacist on our route. He’s not to start taking it until a week before he can have a blood test, which has to be in Scarborough as blood test results haven’t been linked up around the country yet. So this will have to be planned with a turn around at the house, moorings, Tilly being left in charge etc.

The power of one button!

Shirley Lift Bridge came into view. It always seems to move another mile further on every time we come this way! 12 cars held up here. Should we now stop after the railway bridge or carry on some more? This is where we tend to normally stop, but another hours cruise would be better. We carried on, stoppping just after Dickens Heath but before Lady Lane Wharf, think we spent a new year here. It was quite late in the day, only an official 45 minutes left of feline shore leave. I extended this and gave Tilly an hour. She came back just before 6 and was reminded she’d still got more time. This she took along with another 45 minutes. This is the first time this year I’ve had to walk the towpath being the mad cat lady, but she soon appeared through a hedge a distance away and came running back for her dingding.

Hooray!!! A proper outside!

1 guillotine on the flat lock, 1 straight, 1 right, 1 left, 11.9 miles, 6 boxes wine, 1 joint pork (which may need to be slow cooked!), 12 pills, 1 fat face, 1 lift bridge, 12 held up, 1 shallow canal, 1 Mrs Tilly Stamp of Approval.

All Bar Two. 4th May

Between Bridges 7 and 8 Shropie to Urban Moorings, Wyrley and Essington Canal, BCN

A short distance further on there was a winding hole, time to turn around. Through Bridge 8 is the first cutting of the Shroppie. All of the cuttings have large trees clinging on to the banks either side, landslips quite a common occurance. For a while the towpath along this stretch has been closed, not that you’d know it with the number of walkers bypassing the fences! A tree had come down and then a very large crack in the towpath were taped off. Nothing the size of the landslip on the north Oxford or further along the Shroppie, but still another section for C&RT to mend.

Busy at the junction!

We winded and then headed back to Autherley. The stop lock was busy, one boat coming onto the Shroppie and another winding on the Staffordshire and Worcester. When it was our turn for the lock we dropped off some rubbish at the bins then turned right back onto the Staffordshire and Worcester, then left to start our ascent of the Wolverhampton 21.

The first two locks were full. Did these locks leak on the top gates, or were we following someone up the flight? At the third lock I noticed that as I wound the bottom gate paddles up, accumilated rain water from last night that had been gathered in the cogs. I looked on ahead there was a boat. After zooming in on them I worked out that they were also climbing the locks, they were also the first boat through this morning. They’d had the advantage of most if not all the locks being empty. Oh well I’d be emptying them all for us.

I used to stand on the bottom gates and push one side open with a kick, but my knees this year have already told me this would be unwise. Not many of the bottom gates actually have a handrail anyway, so today there was a lot of walking round locks to be done.

Stepping off to close the offside gate

The sun was out, it started to warm up. On locks where Mick could step off below and bring a rope up with him, we adopted this to save me walking round the lock to close the bottom gates. Oleanna obliged by entering the locks on most occasions, but on two the depth over the bottom cill must have been very slight as she stopped part way into the lock.

Pretty when the sun’s out

At lock 17 we met a downhill boat, 16 would be empty for us. I spotted the remaining palm trees mentioned in NB Bonjour’s blog from a week ago. At lock 15 a lady stood and watched, she then had a go opening and closing the bottom lock gate. We made her day.

Lots of wild flowers

Maybe breakfast should have been suplimented this morning as by half way up I was starting to feel a touch peckish, the galley slave hadn’t thought ahead either so there was no handy flapjack to keep us going, just a sip of water was all that was on offer!

Look at that sunshine!

All the anti-vandle locks seemed to work, the boat still two locks ahead of us dutifully resetting them. Lock 3 was about a third full when I walked up. A boat could be seen entering Lock 2, only one paddle would unlock on the bottom gates so it took a while to finish emptying.

Passing Ferrous

A phone call to Mick to leave the top gates on the next lock was just in time to stop him. We swapped with NB Ferrous in the next pound, quite a distinctive boat that we’ve seen before. More details about her can be found here.

Wolverhampton Top Lock

Only two out of the 21 locks had been set in our favour today. The climb up to the Wolverhampton level had taken us just under 4 hours. Time was ticking away we had a rendez vous and a deposit to make, no time to stop for a late lunch, the only thing on offer an M&S gf millionaires shortbread which was halved for us to share.


Not far to go to Horseley Fields Junction where we turned onto the Wyrley and Essington Canal, very slowly through the stop lock. I checked our instructions from Jennie at Urban Moorings, we were to pull up alongside one of the moored boats on the main channel. We got the bow in and I passed a rope around the grab rail of the moored boat, Mick then put power on to bring the stern round, just at the moment of something spinning round and attaching itself to our prop! Reverse didn’t help, Mick had to resort to the propmate to clear it. Then the stern was brought round and we tied up alongside Urban Moorings.

A trolley was brought to aid the transport of buckets. Two buckets were trundled round to the huge compost bins made from sleepers, the lid of the current bin left open for our deposits to be deposited in the correct section where they will b eleft for around 14 months before being used on flower beds.

Urban Moorings an oasis of green

As always we had a very warm welcome from the moorers. Here they accept contents from separating toilets from passing boaters and I believe they now also have a club which local boaters can join. A guided tour of the moorings is always on the cards, improvements, more sheds, a community room, flower beds, fruit and veg, an abundance of greenery everywhere.

C&RT offered them some funding a little while ago to help provide C&RT services, a bin store, elsan etc. They have got so far in sorting the area, but not recieved the funding to finish it yet. They also hope to expand the moorings on the other side of Lycetts Basin which would free up a space to become a service mooring. Then they would be able to sell diesel, gas and coal more easily to passing boaters. The council has also given them premission to take over two more buildings by the site. One they hope will become a bigger community room, the other a cafe in the old toll house by the stop lock. Hopefully our donation will go towards something new for us to see the next time we pass.

Stop for a brew, they’ve plenty of kettles

Whilst I got the tour Mick chatted away about the big fire that had happened at the junction. Apparently the moorings weren’t known about, so they weren’t evacuated, but thankfully all the smoke was being blown away from them.

If we wanted we could stay the night, moored up as we were. This was appealing as we were a little bit pooped from the flight, we also really wanted our lunch! Back onboard we broke the news to Tilly that there’d be no shore leave today, too many woofers and a couple of resident cats on the moorings. They were welcomed, but I wouldn’t be!

A slow afternoon for us followed by a nice roast chicken dinner. Very well deserved.

22 locks, 7.2 miles, 1 right, 2 lefts, 2 empty, 19 full, 3 junctions, 1 warm sunny day, 2 buckets deposited, 1 donation made, 1 very warm welcome, 1 miffed off cat.

The Three P’s. 20th April

Pickering’s Bridge to Longacre Wood Trent and Mersey Canal

Another pretty frosty morning, no photo sorry as I actually wanted a bit more sleep before having to function properly.

Warm enough to knit outside today

A flat pootle today along the Bridgewater. We planned to stop at Thorn Marine to see if their chandlery might have a 200amp slowblow fuse for the bowthruster, we need to replace the spare that is no longer spare. I also wanted to stock up on Fertan and white spirit for when I start repainting the gunnels, grabrails, welldeck, locker lids, patches of rust. A boat was moored on their service mooring, but we found space under the bridge to tie on rings.

Red and fancy

As Mick went into the chandlery, I headed off with a shopping bag. Yesterday we’d forgotten to buy more potatoes, a roast chicken just isn’t right without roasties, especially when there is duck fat to use up! With a Sainsburys Local not far away I set off to walk into Stockton Heath.

Some wonderful terraced houses with ornate terracotta tiles and lots of red brick buildings that Manchester does so well. I also spotted an F type Jaguar, 2 Porche, a Lotus all within my short walk to Sainsburys. I think Stockton Heath may be for Footballers!

A wellie woofer

I was on the look out for the three Ps. Potatoes, a Saturday Paper and Porridge oats. Only standard white potatoes and expensive porridge available, I made note where newspapers were and went to see what Aldi round the corner had to offer. Somehow some pate managed to go into my basket along with other P’s, oh well!

I’d checked there were papers at Sainsburys, but not which flavours. I suspect our flavour had been where there was now a big empty space. I asked the assistant where there was a newsagents, ‘Morrisons across the bridge in the village’. That would be across the ship canal towards Warrington, not too much further to walk.

Not a good photo click it for details, there’s a train set in the attic.

Morrisons tend to have a good gluten free isle, so I picked up a few things there, some Pepper crackers, Pudding of the black variety, some sPread and a Paper. At least they all began with P, well sort of!

Back at Oleanna, Mick had disposed of the yellow water, not had any luck with a fuse, forgot what else he was meant to be buying other than a bag of coal. He had also found a recycling centre which had a skip for general rubbish. Bins are scarce on the Bridgewater so despite there being signs for no pedestrians, Mick made use of it.

The last cooling towers at Fidlers Ferry, soon to be blown up

Plenty of people were on their way to Walton House and Zoo. I’d not heard of it until recently, I think it was Are and Are who visited. The towpath was extreamly muddy not encouraging us to pull in. Families with pushchairs, children clinging onto Grandads hands tried their best to walk round the quogmire of mud. Another place to visit maybe later in the year. We paused for lunch then continued.

Click photo for details, right next door to the Post Office

Should we take a detour down the Runcorn Arm? We went there on NB Winding Down and headed off to the lauch of The John Godber Company in Wakefield years ago. It deserves another visit, even if it’s only just to show Oleanna and Tilly what they’ve been missing all these years. However it has been added to the next time list as we still don’t know if we need to put another day aside for Mick to return to Scarborough in the next couple of weeks.

Shhhhh!!!! Black milkshakes!

Shhhhh! Lots of building work around Daresbury. A new black stealth building has gone up, wonder what will go on in there? Shhhh! A touch further on there were lots of earthworks going on. It looks like there is going to be building work on both sides of the canal here, a huge housing development.

New housing estates

The time for Preston Brook Tunnel south bound passage is at half past the hour for ten minutes. Would we make it in time? A call in to Midland Chandlers would be handy, for those things Mick hadn’t managed to get at Thorn Marine, but would that mean we’d miss the next window of oportunity?

NB Spey

Too close to call, we pulled in. No fuse, expensive white spirit but Fertan on offer. We then had to stand and wait whilst the chaps had a little chat. Was there enough time? Outside NB Spey was moored up, Where there’s brass was an interesting read when Tom posted regularly. He’s now busy with a book and album.

A boat came towards us from the tunnel, we slowed down to pass. With a window of only ten minutes to enter the tunnel we still wondered if we’d make it. No need to worry, we entered the tunnel just as our clock said 15:30!

Preston Brook Tunnel

The tunnel was a little bit wetter than we remembered, with the tunnel light on and a torch poitning to the roof at the stern we could see the drips approaching. Someone seems to have ripped several of the arrow signs off the walls that inform you of which way out is nearest. I didn’t spot the halfway mark either. My job as navigator is to make sure we both know which way is out, so I felt a touch redundant.

Seventeen minutes later we popped out the other end, no waiting boats, just sunshine.

Lock 76 Trent and Mersey Canal

Dutton Stop Lock 76 was in our favour, up we rose the 2 inches, now properly onto the Trent and Mersey Canal. Where to moor for the night? Should we head to the rings at the breach site which are very popular moorings. But now the hedge has grown there is little view down across the valley which was the main attraction there. Or we stop where the wood was thick with trees and wild garlic. A length of armco showed itself, we pulled in, tied up and Tilly was given two hours. So NOT enough time! Just a tease amount of time!


Two ladies stopped for a chat, Tilly showed off her climbing prowess, then got spooked by bicycles and then ommited to see two woofers. There was however enough time to get on the roof and the chap was good at popping his dogs on leads. Then Tilly was off into the thick of the aroma. Mick picked some wild garlic, I made some garlic butter which went ontop of a lamb hotpot. The recipe I looked at which suggested this had a very misleading photo, the top of their hotpot had no way seen any wild garlic as it was golden brown and not green! It was a very tasty hotpot and there was some butter left over for our chicken tomorrow.

Lamb hotpot with wild garlic potatoes

1 lock, 9.4 miles, 1 tunnel with 3 mysterons, 2 chandlers, 3 P’s, 2 many posh cars, 20kg coal, 1litre fertan, 15grams wild garlic, 1 green hot pot, 1 astounded cat, 1 Mrs Tilly’s stamp of approval.

Continents. 29th September

Bramwith Junction to Doncaster Visitor Moorings

Tilly was allowed out first thing, she could decide when we would move on today. Off she went not to be seen for quite sometime! Clive came past with Peg and stopped for a chat, he’s got his car back from West Stockwith and the boat is plugged in, it should make life easier for a while.

Paws at rest

We’d run out of things to occupy us, time to move on, but still no Tilly. Time to be the mad cat woman on the towpath. I walked back towards the lock, my voice resonating across the canal. In the past Tilly has spent time in amongst the trees this way, today it looked like the friendly cover might be just a touch too dense for her. No noises came back. I walked up in the other direction. TILLY!! Minny meow!! Was that her bell? Was that a meow? Hard to tell with the wind. Maybe it was. Then up she popped tail held high skipping back to the boat. Time to move on.

Barnby Dun Lift Bridge

We pootled up to Barnby Dun, pausing to drop off rubbish and empty the yellow water. Then the key of power was put in the bridge panel. This road is so busy, do you wait for a gap in the traffic coming from three directions? Or just press the button no matter? The traffic died down, so I chose a moment without a car in view and set the sequence going, no white van to jump the lights today.

Once through and the bridge dropped you then have to wait for a gap in the traffic to be able to cross the road. I like counting the number of stopped vehicles, but just how many more had me waiting?

I recognise that whirligig

A dutch barge with a whirligig and washing drying in these parts is almost certainly Dolly Earl. Recently blacked and the gunnels repainted, no name visible. Mick made a note of the boat number, yep it was Dolly Earl! That’s a familiar boat ticked off our list for the year, I think we’re short of only one, the blue boat NB Jubilee Bridge.

Big Yorkshire locks

Wind swept us up to Long Sandall Lock, Mick opting to reverse and hover whilst the lock emptied. The huge vast lock filled, then I noticed the amount of Pennywort by the top gates. Could I open the gates without it getting in the lock? Yes.


Across the way was NB Northumbria, Paul used to look after the basin up in Sheffield. He bobbed his head out to say hello. We did our best to hover and chat with him as the wind buffeted us about. There was news of a new Finesse boat setting off from Sheffield in the morning, hopefully we’ll get to see her. I dropped Rachel the owner a line, they had their snagging weekend quite some time ago and have a bit of a major weekend cruise ahead of them, very exciting.

Paul suggested that the Doncaster moorings might be full, he’d counted boats on the move today, we hoped some would have stopped at Strawberry Island. He gave a suggestion of where to moor if Doncaster was full. Fingers crossed we’d not need it. There’s ground works going on with diggers perched high up on banks of earth, maybe this is where there used to be abandoned burnt out cars, I’ll have to take more note on our way back.


The Minster came into view, a zoom in on the camera, loads of space at the moorings! Brilliant! We winded to have the side hatch outwards and a better view from bed in the morning. During the afternoon another two boats joined us.

Weed boats

Rafts of Pennywort have taken hold here, two weed boats soon arrived. The one with chopping blades and a conveyor belt we’ve seen before, but the other was new to us. Long prongs on an arm at the front can hook a chunk of pennywort, this can be lifted into the air. The boat is propelled by two caterpillar tracks of rubber blades. This means that it not only moves in the water but it can ride up the bank too to deposit the weed well out of the water. Shame my video isn’t fully in focus but it gives you the idea.

Later in the day MIck made a comment about an island of Pennywort passing by. I peeked out, ‘that’s not an island, that’s a whole continent!’

Obviously the weed boats had missed this one

I walked up to Boyes in the town centre to see if they might have some bright pink long fringing for panto. Their haberdashery section was a disappointment, I’ll have to order online instead. They did however have engine oil, Mick will return with the bike for 10 litres.

Almost empty shelves

An afternoon of knitting for me in front of a film. Judy (2019) about Judy Garland’s career in the last year of her life when she performed on the London stage. Flash backs to her early career at the time of The Wizard of Oz. Another lonely sole, what a great performance by Renee Zellweger, no wonder she won quite a few awards. It was also Michael Gambon’s last film, so quite an apt choice.

Some of the miners portraits in A Rich Seam by Laurence Edwards

Another pair of socks went in the post today, another pair finished ready to have the ends woven in. That’s six pairs done, another two on the list.

1 lock, 5.7 miles, 1 lift bridge, 19 held up, 25 holding me up, 2 hours shore leave, 1 skipping cat, 1 sauce tasting woofer, 0 fringing, 1 walk not hobble, 1 parcel arrived.

Floating Fish. 21st September

Brayford Pool to Torksey Top Side Visitor Moorings

The water tank filled as we had breakfast, the last load of pants and socks had been dried in the washing machine, it was time to head off. However there was first the matter of getting my model pieces into the post, we’d not be near a Post Office for a few days. Mick headed off to the nearest post office only to find a huge long queue outside, everyone holding passports in their hands. Were they all foreign students requiring stamps of some sort in their passports? Mick didn’t loiter long as the queue wasn’t moving, instead he walked another mile to the next Post Office, my model was on it’s way.

Push Back

Back at Oleanna the hose was wound up, a trustee of Brayford Pool stopped to chat to Mick, our next door neighbours had just come back from having their Covid jabs. They were very chatty about all things Brayford Pool, turning in at Keadby and the announcement from C&RT about the license fees going up. Thankfully his opinion was a similar one to ours, we all knew it was coming, nobody likes a price hike, if it wasn’t for the funding cuts, etc. We’d also like to add we are all boaters and the divisive comments appearing on social media are prejudiced, sad and so disappointing. Bringing in a Continuous Cruiser licence was always going to bring out such opinions. I do my best not to be political on the blog, but the human race sometimes really disappoints me!

Once the covers were rolled up and the chatting had stopped we pushed back leaving our mooring in sunshine. Thank you Lincoln, we’ll be back, don’t know when, but we’ll be back. We wanted to stop at the services, but they were occupied, someone looked like they were heading for a shower, we’d not wait for them, our yellow water could sit in its container for a while longer.

Floating Fish!

As we got close to the Pyewipe Inn we started to spot fish, a few big ones at first, all very much dead, floating on the surface of the canal. Then more and more, hundreds of them. In the hot weather there have been instances of fish dying, lack of oxygen in the water. The water here looked cloudy, cloudier than normal. Was this run off from fields or some nearby industry causing this? We made a comment to some fishermen, they said they’d report it. They didn’t really need a rod and line in places, you could have just gone along with our landing next and scooped the fish out! Thankfully past the entrance to Burton Waters Marina the water cleared to it’s more normal brown colour and the dead fish gradually declined in number.

On through Saxilby, the chip shop mooring very full today. C&RT had been and chopped up the boughs from the willow tree that had cracked and the narrowboat that had been close to possible danger had been pulled back to the end of the mooring, away from the willows.

Only one moving boat today

On the banks towards Torksey there were a couple of diggers on the top of the bank. Were these cutting the grass? No, it was piling work going on on the other side of the flood bank. Hopefully it was far enough away from the moorings for us not to hear it.

Cottam on the horizon

Cottam Power Station came into view, our destination for today almost reached. One boat on the moorings, we pulled up a suitable cat gap away. I ventured onto the bow today for the first time since breaking my toe, very cautiously stepping round the cratch board to tie up, I’ve so hated just standing there with a rope in hand waiting for Mick to moor us up, it’s as if I can’t be trusted to do it properly! I’ll remain extra cautious for a while, uneven surfaces are awkward at the moment even whilst wearing anti-slip crocks.


Four hours Tilly! It took a while for her to sus that the world improved greatly at the top of the bank. An hour later, moek mho mi mgset, muffled cat conversation could be heard coming down the bank. ‘DOORS!‘ A while later she returned again. Oh blimey! Thankfully I was able to rescue this friend, Tilly was now grounded for the remainder of the day despite her protestations. She really needs to mend her ways!


All this was going on whilst I was trying to get some knitting done in front of Dunkirk (2017). What I’d class as a quiet action film. Not much dialogue, quiet underscored music of the evacuation from Dunkirk, very modern British. Stories from the sea, land and air. Think I’d have enjoyed it better had there not been so many interruptions and miscounted stitches which required pulling out!

Socks have started arriving with their owners. Another pair finished today, just a shame the lady who requested them hasn’t responded to my messages. If I don’t hear back there will be a size 7 pair of socks up for grabs in return for a donation.

And breath

0 locks, 10.4 miles, 1 wind, 1 full water tank, 1 parcel on its way, 1 box approved, 1526 fish, 1 toe improving, 4 hours curtailed to 3, 1 grounded cat, 1 spoilt afternoon, 5th pair finished, 300,000 men evacuated.

Lining Up The Bucket. 11th September

Cromwell to Torksey

Beautiful, even if it’s mostly from planes

Would today be the day when I could upgrade from flip flops to something more substantial on my feet? Some slip resistant crocs made the grade, a cautious put on but after that there is plenty of room around my little toe. In the next few days we’ll see what they are like with socks.

NB Preaux about to push off

Water filling, breakfast early, clear the cratch to make more room and exchange phone numbers with Steve and Deena on NB Preaux for just in case. An Anglo Welsh boat had pulled up last night, they’d been to walk their dog this morning and their boat name was on the list for passage through Cromwell this morning. Steve looked towards the lock the green light was on it was 7:35, Neil was ready for us. We still had a couple of jobs to do but would be along shortly.

Oleanna ready for the tide

As we pulled in and passed our ropes round the risers Neil asked if there was movement from anyone else, only the dog walker. He wanted to see the crew on the hire boat before hand, so they wouldn’t be joining us. The top gates closed behind the two boats, thumbs up that we were ready, the sluices were lifted and down into the dark of the lock we went.

Cromwell Weir

We’d agreed to go first as we’ve done this stretch maybe four times before. 7:50, off we went, up to our cruising speed, hopeful to reach Torksey in time for there to be sufficient water to get over the cill today. We’d be punching what meager tide there was before it would start to help us and give us a push.

Not sure we’ve seen the weir looking so high before, the tide not up to meet it. A sand bank had birds preening themselves in the morning sunshine, maybe we should have worn shorts and not long trousers!

NB Preaux following

We followed the red line on our charts, this normally feels a touch overkill, but this morning with the level low it felt important to keep in the channel, sandbanks lurk below. Behind NB Preaux followed, their speed not the same as ours.

Round a couple of bends, we caught another fisherman! Mick put Oleanna into reverse hoping that we’d not been caught too well, the fisherman pulled and wound his line, thankfully it came free.


I maybe should have brought out a pencil to jot notes on our new chart, but the red line was what we needed and we followed it as closely as we could. A glance behind every now and again, NB Preaux coming into view then out again at the next bend.

Contender for Photo of the Week

What a glorious morning, not too hot, not much breeze, blue skies. One look along the river gave us 2 Herons, an Egret, Egyptian Geese and a Kingfisher darting along the edge of the banks.


Cows walked to find tasty morsels silhouetted. Sheep scrambled over rocks preferring the nettles there, hopefully none of them would loose their footing and end up in the river!


A cruiser came past heading to Cromwell, he had a loud hailer and wished us good morning, his wind turbine whizzing round on the bow. He was soon followed by a narrowboat. As always you meet boats on a stretch where you are trying to line up with landmarks. The pylon behind with the white domed windmill ahead. Line the pooh bucket up with it.

Gulls sat on top of marker posts, some having seen better days, now rusting away, few bright white anymore.

At Marnham Boat Club two chaps were tentatively backing a speed boat into the river, would it float before water came over the stern? And just how much effort went into the positioning of that life boy? Under Fledborough Viaduct, navigational notes should be amended here to left or the centre pier, rather than under the graffitti, now almost impossible to see until you are right underneath.

Lining up with the wires

Approaching Dunham Dubbs (is it one B or two?) I got out the new chart showing the recently added markers. A new line to follow up to the bend, then to follow the line of the western overhead wires.

The two new boards needed lining up, but where was the white post ahead of us? Two tractors cut grass, maybe they needed to do a little bit of pruning of a tree, then the post came into view. We lined the posts behind and the pooh bucket on the roof with the post ahead, we knew were we in the channel.

Dunham Toll Bridge

One day we’ll stop at the 48 hour mooring before Dunham Toll Bridge, but not today, the tide was busy going out and we were eager to get to Torksey.

Cottam Power Station

Past Butlers sunken island and great views of Cottam Power Station, the coal fired station now decommissioned (2019). Demolition works have already started on sight this year, the cooling towers and chimney stack will be the last parts to be demolished in 2025. Then according to Wikipedia the sight will become a ‘garden community’ with 1500 houses.

Not far now, a couple of big sweeps of the river before we got to see Jack’s Ferry, time to radio the lock and check if we were in time. He’d just had a call from NB Preaux, they were a little way behind us. We were told there was 3ft and a bit over the cill at the moment, the lock gates would be open ready for us, lights on green. We were to approach with caution and slow our speed right down. If at any time he thought we should abandon then the lights would go to red.

Torksey Lock!

We turned into the cut, one cruiser on the pontoon, plenty of space should we need it. The lights were red, the gates just opening, light went to green. A call on the radio, depth over the cill 3ft, we should be fine as we’re 2ft 6″. Mick slowed us right down, the shallowest point being the cill between the small lock and longer lock chamber. We’d made it, 10:41. Ropes were passed up to the top and now there was a short wait for NB Preaux.

Here they come

The Lockie gave them a call, but he had the wrong number. They’d told us their draught was 2ft, so they should be fine, but the Lockie had not been able to confirm that with them. As they approached they slowed right down and were told to pass a line round a riser in the longer chamber under the road bridge. Once we were all settled the gates were closed and the lock started to fill. Thumbs up from Steve and Deena, what a wonderful cruise it had been.

A pause to dispose of rubbish for us and then we sauntered on to the 3 day moorings, NB Preaux carrying on to explore further. Once we’d tied up, the rules were recited to Tilly who was FAR too excited to listen. 6 what?!! Wow!! See ya!

Torksey Lock and Cottam Power Station behind us

An early lunch, well we’d had breakfast far too early. Then a quiet afternoon. Phone signal not the best unless you stand on the bank or resort to Whatsap. I had a catch up call with Gemma from Panto, still waiting to hear back about the cloths and printing, I’d sent an email first thing, but now with poor signal it was hard to follow it up.

Coming up the lock

Another Denzil Washington film this afternoon Inside Man (2006). A bank heist with a difference, Denzil a NYPD hostage negotiator and items locked away in safety deposit boxes. Only problem was that our internet signal was patchy too, so it took a long time to watch it. As the afternoon progressed rain set in, we closed up the covers and settled down.

2 locks, 16.9 miles, 1 right, 2 boats not 4, 1 fisherman nearly caught, 1 bright sunny day, 2 new markers, 2 upstream boats, 3 ft, 2ft 10, 2 boats onto the Fossdyke, 6 hours, 5th sock finished, 6th started, 1 happy cat, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Stop Talking Of Thunder Storms! 26th August

John Merricks’s Lake to Sileby Lock

Oh dear!

A cruiser came past as we had breakfast, out for a weekend jaunt. They’d just passed us when their engine just stopped. Had they been abducted by aliens? Had they reached their destination for the day? No they’d picked up a sleeping bag on their prop and were still trying to free it when we pushed off. Not much we could do to help.

Swans can be such scary things

Above the skies were moody, Mick made a comment about thunder storms. We’d once been along this stretch when the heavens opened, we then moored above Sileby Lock as the river level rose rapidly during the evening, then slowly fell the following day. I hoped he wasn’t jinxing our chosen mooring for the day.

Very moody

As we approached Junction Lock we could see that a Charity boat was just entering it. No-one looked behind them so they didn’t see us approaching. As they left the lock below we were already in position to refill the lock.

A lady with her young son stood and watched, twins in a pushchair were positioned so as to see us too, except Mum had forgotten that there was a blanket over the handle which blocked their view. They didn’t seem to mind.

Coming up to Cossington Lock the crew of the charity boat were closing the top gates, they’d almost certainly seen us, but carried on and walked to the bottom gate. The chap at the helm must have stopped them, got them to wind the paddles back down and return to the top gates to open them. Have to say they weren’t the sharpest pencils in the box. One ground paddle had been left up which only helped to refill the lock for us to be able to join them. I stepped back onboard leaving the crew to do their thing.

Through Cossington Road Bridge we could see a coal boat, the red of gas bottles giving it away. This would be our next port of call. We pulled in alongside NB Hampstead, positioning Oleanna’s stern close to the diesel pump. I popped a rope around a stern dolly whilst Mick attached our stern to their mid. My line was too long to tie off on us and too far back to get to safely along the gunnel with my dodgy grip. I elected to hold us steady as the charity boat passed, then winded a little further ahead to return.

Topping up in the rain

We called out, no-one came. Mick rang the number on the side of Hampstead, Tracy appeared from another boat and came to serve us. Originally they’d hoped to be able to sell HVO, but the price they’d have had to charge would have been £2 to £2.20 a litre, so they have opted to stick with Red Diesel. Earlier this year Hampstead was repainted in their livery and is based here at Cossington Lock. They do travel north to Nottingham and south to Leicester. Here is a link to their Facebook page. At £1.09 a litre it wasn’t a bad price and we like to use coal boats as they support many a boater through the winter months.

Just a shame it really started to rain as the tank filled. Mick put the brollie up and I unrolled part of the cratch cover so I could stay dry in the well deck. The transaction was complete just as there was a little lull in the rain. As an after thought Mick asked how much their coal was, £14.50 for 20kg, we should have got a couple of bags, oh well, it is August still isn’t it?!


The banks of the river seemed to be encroaching. Piles of dying plants covered the banks, soon followed by yards and yards of Pennywort. Blimey it’s taking over the world here!

Very moody

We pulled in above Sileby Lock, the mooring by the small weir. Tilly was given five hours. She wasn’t too keen. The friendly cover too covering and wet! We had lunch.

It’s rubbish this outside!

A Saturday paper was a possibility and we’ve never ventured into Sileby before so once Tilly had stopped popping in and out, just incase things had improved, we closed the doors leaving her incharge and went for a nosy.


Two cricket matches were taking place at the club. ‘Come on Conway!’ the bowler a young blond chap who was getting a lot of praise from his team members. On our walk back the score was 68 for 1, not bad at all.

We’d never thought of Sileby as being more than a village, yet it boasts itself to be a town. The corner shop which advertised newspapers and magazines was lying, so we carried on down to Tesco Express. Here they provided us with our newspaper of choice and a few easy peel oranges and some cream cheese, I seemed to have ordered a lot of carrots so I’ll bake a cake to help stop them going to waste.

What a fine looking building, click on photo for more details

Just down the hill was a rather ornate looking building, 3 Cossington Road. Nice fresh paint and four door bells. What had this been before being carved up into flats? It used to be called Ebenezer House and was owned by Edward Martin, it was used as a Bank, solicitors and a dentists.

The 1891 census shows framework knitters, brewers and shoe making to be occupations for the locals. Clay pits were dug and bricks made that were used to build St Pancras Station. In 1901 James Newbold, a Baker and his wife Annie lived at 3 Cossington Road with their children Thomas, Fred and Annie, along with Fred Parker who was also a baker. These are the snippets of information I’ve found.

After laying empty for a few years the house was bought in 2019 and divided up into 3 one bedroom flats and a bedsit with communal outdoor areas. Rather nice, you’d just hope that the brook in front doesn’t flood.

We could have explored the other side of the railway which carved the town in half in the 1840’s but we decided to walk back across the fields and settle down for the rest of the day.

During the day we heard a rumble of thunder, but thankfully we didn’t relive the river rising, we’ll not have to keep an eye on our ropes overnight.

2 locks, 3.3 miles, 76 litres diesel, 0 coal, 1 unimpressed cat, 68 for 1, 1 village actually a town, 1 newspaper, 5 oranges, 150 grams cream cheese, 1 headache returning.

Must Keep In Order! 25th August

Friars Mill to John Merrick’s Lake, Wanlip

Was that a boat? The noise and engine fumes suggested someone was on the move, but at 6:10am? I peeked out of the front door curtains, yep, someone heading to take up pole position for the lock queue. Half an hour later another two boats went past. Now there’s keen and there’s waiting for six seven hours! Each to their own.

We went back to sleep, maybe they did too!

If anything my head was a touch worse this morning, more pills required. Tilly’s incessant shouting at the back door drove me outside where Mick was listening to a one sided game of solar panel Top Trumps. More boats had come past, it was now 11am, I’d rather be moving ourselves round to the lock cut than being sat pinned to the pontoon. I sat in the bow for a while, then another boat came past, was that seven boats ahead of us now? Thankfully our neighbour soon united and pushed off, we followed suit, we’d be boats eight and nine.


Round the bend new housing has gone up, the route to the lock felt longer than before and sadly tags now cover the Frog Island mural as you arrive into the cut. Here we had to stop. Ahead a line of single boats led up to the lock, where we were boats were breasted up, if we reversed we’d be a touch too close to the weir. Word was passed to us that the boats ahead were going to breast up, in order of arrival, no pulling alongside a boat ahead and jumping the queue! It looked like most boats had dogs on board so had taken wall positions for ease of getting them to land during their six hour wait, now woofers were passed from boat to boat and up the high wall to go for a pee. I’d have managed it no problem, but I had to make do with my pooh box!

Lots of boats

The boats at the rear of the queue couldn’t be bothered to move up, we’d all be getting through the lock today, so last nights neighbour jumped into seventh position and we managed to now be sixth. There was still quite a wait to be had and within an hour there were another two boats pulling in behind everyone else. Eleven to go down today, how many to come up?

An early lunch, a little wander around Frog Island. More chaps in blue arrived, the first one had been here at 10am. The pickup reversed round on the off side, the fence was undone and pulled out of the way. The bottom paddles were lifted, the lock emptied then the chain winch pulled the bottom gate open that bit more until the water was level.

A chap with a clip board came to give us our instructions. We’d be going into the lock in order that we were moored in, only one person on the boat whilst it was in the lock and to stay as close to the bottom gates as we could.

Two boats came up, the second one hadn’t booked, they’d just turned up and been allowed through, not so many upstream boats today, in fact only three. The first two down stream boats pulled into the lock.

A new chap in blue arrived, we’d seen him at Stenson Lock a few years ago. He stood above the mitre on the top gates, took a photo chatted to Frank the volunteer. Then he checked one of the gate paddles.

Moving up

Boats above the lock now jostled to keep in their order of arrival! I suppose if you’ve sat there waiting for six hours you don’t want to loose your position. We’d be in the third locking. Once the third and final boat had come up the lock, we were told that it would be much quicker getting us all down now. We couldn’t be bothered to move up and cling onto a rope. Once the boats ahead were heading for the lock we untied, I stayed on the bank and Mick hovered waiting for our turn.

Encouraging the gates to close firmly

Once in the lock the chap from Stenson checked the positioning of the top gates before the bottom paddles were lifted. Presumably they sealed better being closed in a certain way.

Paddles lifted, water drained, water bubbling behind Oleanna and NB Somewhere Else, the chain on the winch was pulled, pulled again and again, the remainder of the water draining from the lock, the gates opened.

On our way again

THANK YOU! We were through.

Time to climb back on board and head to the next lock. Our locking partners were old hands, having lived aboard for nine years, then moved back to land, but this year they bought their current boat and hope to down size their house to spend time between the two.

Locking down

We worked our way through the locks, at Belgrave Lock there were the obligatory kids in canoes on the weir stream and plenty more by the centre. Wiggles round on the river, lots of Himalayan Balsam on the banks.

As we came round the last bend before Birstall Lock we’d caught up with the two boats ahead. There seemed to be a problem, one boat being pulled back into the lock landing. The other boat went into the lock whilst the weed hatch was lifted on the other. Large chunks of cushion filling were being brought out from below, this could take a while.

We’ve caught them up

The lady holding the rope apologized for holding us up. I offered the use of our propmate. Just give me a minute said the chap as he pulled more and more out from his weed hatch. Now if this had been us, we’d have waved the next boat straight into the lock, not knowing if clearing the prop would take a minute or twenty, more boats were going to be arriving after all. After quite a while Mick suggested that maybe we go ahead and free up some lock approach for the next boats to arrive. Reluctantly we were waved onwards, after all we’d now jumped the queue to forth position and when we left the lock we’d jumped into third!

Quick Go Go!

Not much room for boats below the lock, we planned to carry on for a more cat conducive mooring. Down Thrapston Lock and on to find a mooring alongside the lakes. We pulled in where there was long grass, nappy pins not easy to use in such a place so Mick got out the spikes. I stood holding the bow rope, my head not keen on leaning over. I flicked an ant off my hand. I looked down, an army of ants marching up my right leg and up the rope in my left hand. I was stood on a nest.

Mick finished mooring Oleanna up. I jotted down our position as I do every day and then gave Tilly the rules and allotted shore leave. I’d just opened the back door when Mick shouted we were moving, too many ants! Luckily Tilly had paused to enjoy the view from the stern across the cut and I managed to grab her before she’d headed off into the trees. She wasn’t impressed at being bundled back inside the boat.

We moved up a few hundred yards and tried again, shorter grass and more importantly no ants. Tilly was given ninety minutes, off she went.

Soon we were passed by the next two boats, a short time later the next two, a while later another one. The last two must have stopped earlier. We all got through no matter what order.

5 locks, 5.3 miles, 6 pills, 1 shouting cat, 6 plus hours wait, 7 men in blue, 9th to 6th to 4th to 3rd, 2nd moored, 2nd mooring, 467825 ants, 1 happier cat, 1 quiet evening.

Timeshare Mooring. 18th August

Union Wharf to between Bridges 8 and 9 Market Harborough Arm

Mick had checked his weather app and rain would be with us at midday. The rain begged to differ and arrived at around 9:30am. Oh well, there was that phone call to make to the printers. Scott was helpful whilst not being as helpful as I’d hoped. Basically the print I received was the best they could do. A higher resolution scan of my model would do better, but it seems that most printers no longer do scanning, the majority of clients handing over their work in digital format. Enlarging to 25 times is a specialist job. He’s hoping he can help, he went away with questions to ask, I went away with places to find who’d be able to scan to a much higher resolution.

A hunt round google gave me many places that scan documents and images 1200/2400 dpi. I think I’d need to scan my model to about 9600 dpi! I passed the information on to John to keep him in the loop, the jury is still out. The best solution to this would be for me to paint the portals, guaranteed to get the best result. Next would be the company we’ll be using to print the cloths, they would be £1500 more, now we know why. I’ll see if I can find somewhere on our route to scan the model, get another sample. Thank goodness we don’t need it next week!

One good thing about the emails this morning was that I found out that the set builders had been given the green light, something that it would have been nice to know!

With the rain getting less wet we set off with the brompton and headed down into town to do a big shop. A pause to look in at the hardware shop. Wilkos, several people buying Christmas trees, we don’t need any lights after our purchase for the flotilla last year. The market looked inviting, but nothing grabbed me. So into Sainsburys for a stock up to last us to Leicester.

Union Wharf from the water

After lunch we pushed off, winding in Union Wharf Basin hire boats about to set off. We immediately pulled back in to empty our yellow water tank, the hire boat overtaking us. However just round the bend they were being shown how to pull in, so we overtook them and carried on out of town, our aim to find Tilly a suitable mooring for a few hours before dingding time.

The back gardens are large and pretty. One yesterday was having the grass cut by a robot, we wonder does it have to cut the grass every other day so as to keep on top of it. Maybe we should get one for the house, then the garden would look after itself, well the grass would. Wonder what a robot would make of cat poo in the middle of a lawn though?

A heavy guard

The towpath workers had packed up for the weekend. The bucket from a digger left so diesel theft would be hard.

A cormorant dived and fished, two mouthfuls of silver wriggling fish swallowed as we passed. A Kingfisher started to escort us along a wooded stretch, only to be bombed by a bird of prey. Diversionary tactics employed and it darted back past us to give the now following hireres a flash of electric blue.


They were now hot on our heals, we pulled over to let them pass. They’d hoped we’d work the swing bridge ahead. Instead we decided to pull in for the day, a gap between us and a sign warning of a boat cat roaming. The cat’s owner soon walked by, his cat was likely to venture as far as us, but tends not to go out until dark. Between the two cats we’d found a timeshare mooring, Tilly would be in (we hoped) long before dark.

Time to tidy things away. The unruly pile of stuff on the dinette was all put back where it belonged, under the seat of the dinette, in the office cupboard, the cat proof cupboard got a tidy and things slotted in there too. Drawing pens, watercolours and sketch book still accessible. The corner of the dinette reclaimed. What a lovely feeling.

0 locks, 2.9 miles, 1 wind, 1200 not enough, 2 boxes wine, 0 christmas trees, 4 bags on a bike, 1 wet morning, 1 robotic lawn mower, 1 speedy boat, 2 cats timeshare, 2 pizzas, 1 green light for the build, 1 booking made for North Lock.

Orchids! They’re Two A Penny! 3rd June

Dunham School Bridge to George Gleaves Bridge.

With the drawing board still out I continued doing sketch drawings for panto as Mick stood at the helm moving us along the Bridgewater Canal. Archways that need to do so many things took up much of my morning.

It’s exhausting being a boat cat!

Our arrival at Lymm was well timed, tucking into a mooring near to Sooty’s house. I headed off to be papergirl today and to stretch my legs. Sooty’s house is still quite a picture, just not as well tended. The hanging baskets used to be brimming with colour when Matthew Corbett owned the house.

Lymm was busy, by the Cross was a fishmonger, another stall was the food bank filled with supplies. By the time I’d picked up a newspaper and a few bits everything had been taken at the food bank and the fishmonger was packing up, no point in stopping to see if I fancied anything for a barbecue this evening.

Drawings drawings drawings

Early lunch and then we were on our way again. Back to my drawings, rostra, more archways, the coach, canopies. Then the Town Square. My sketches had suggested I had more room on stage than I actually have, Chipping Norton Theatre is very compact. Sadly one request from John may not be possible, but I’ve not ruled it out yet.

All pink

The occasional look up from the drawing board to see where we were. Rhododendrons in full bloom, how wonderful. I know they are in invasive species but I grew up with a bank of them in our garden, with happy memories of hiding between them and piling leaf mould around their bases. The deep red and dark purple ones my favourites.

Mick kept slowing Oleanna, were we coming in to moor? Out of the hatch I could see the tower of Daresbury Laboratory. A hire boat were pulling over to moor up, ropes at the ready to hop off on the off side. One chap asked if they could moor there, Mick replied that he thought they wouldn’t like it. Through the very next bridge you most certainly can’t moor on the off side, numerous large signs inform you of this. Their pulling over however gave us the advantage of going on ahead to hopefully find a good spot for a barbecue.

So many boats moored up, some of the better places already taken. Then a stretch where the road stayed away, the railway was across the far side of a field and maybe just maybe the towpath was wide enough for us to cook outside today.

My sketch drawings finished enough for me to start making a white card model the drawing board was stowed away. Time to marinade some steaks.

At Christmas, Kath, Mick’s sister had given me a selection of barbecue spices which you can make into marinades or just rub on fish, meat or veggies. Time to give one of them a try. With some sizzle steaks (wish I’d spent more on the meat) in some of the Montreal spices and some veg kebabs we sat outside enjoying the evening sunshine.

Our mooring was filled with buttercups and so many Marsh Orchids, they’re really common round here!

The steaks themselves were a little tough, better quality meat required next time, but the spices were very nice. Plenty of that mix left, and there’s another three flavours to try too.

Some more knitting of socks. My current pair are for a friend who’s feet do not match each other and need to be that bit longer than I normally knit. I’ve been happily knitting away over the last few evenings, but realised that I’ve too many stitches on my needles to turn a heel over an inch, so the main foot is most probably an inch too long. This means pulling out quite a lot of rows, a recalculation is required before I do though.

A sunset for two

0 locks, 13.3 miles, 1 stop for a paper, 3 in the queue for water, 0.5 tank will do us, 6 sheets of drawings, 1 drawing board put away, 4 hours shore leave, 0 secret handshakes, 0 secret milkshakes, 2 chairs on the towpath, 4 steaks, 4 kebabs, 68 sts rather than the usual 48 or 52, 1 lovely evening.