Category Archives: North Stratford Canal

2023 A Sociable Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t worry Tilly the count down has started.

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

So our vital statistics for 2023 according to Canalplan are

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

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

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

Although according to Nebo we did

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

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

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

What Is Rule No 1?! 18th June

Lapworth Lock 6 to Rowington Embankment, Grand Union

An earlyish start with the hope that we’d avoid the thunderstorms later in the day.

Lock 6

We entered Lock 6 at 9am, the top few locks were handily full waiting for us.

It’s even been written out in pencil first!

Past the cottage on the corner. Last year I heard rumours that the owners weren’t too keen on boaters using the lock. A new sign, too us, kind of confirms this along with the fact that they can’t spell!

Looking back towards the cottage

Down the flight I thought I could make out someone working locks. A zoom in on the camera, yep there was a boat heading up. When we were two locks away we started to leave gates open for them. The lock between us was just about empty so I helped it a touch and opened and closed a bottom gate for them, then went up to finish emptying the lock above which Mick had already started.

There’s at least one coming up

Behind them was another boat. The lady struggling with a ratchet windlass as I’d already opened the side she usually does, so it took some thinking about.

Zooming

By now it was Geraghty zoom time. Mick set his phone up to join. Everyone was present this week. I believe there was some talk about carrots and cabbage, but I was far too busy lifting paddles and opening and closing gates to hear anything this week.

End of the first section

The cafe was closed as we came past, maybe that’s why we’d not come across any volunteers this morning. Last year the chap who helped us part of the way was singing the praises of the cafe and as soon as we reached the slightly longer pound he disappeared in for a cuppa and slice of cake.

I walked on ahead to the next locks. Good job we didn’t come this far yesterday as the road runs right alongside the canal for a stretch, no good for Tilly. The next batch of locks were empty, but we managed easily with me walking ahead to the next lock to lift paddles to fill it. Mick then lifting a paddle on the lock Oleanna was occupying before stepping back on board. I then returned to let him out.

At the next lock I could see a dog leaving a doggie deposit. I walked down as it’s owners walked up, they’d obviously not seen the little fella doing his business, so I mentioned that one of their dogs had done a crap near the lock beam. The response wasn’t what I expected, ‘No NO NO!’ they carried on walking. I wasn’t having that as I could now very obviously see the deposit so I called them back refraining from saying ‘If you pick it up it’ll still be warm!’ At least it was picked up. I thanked them and got zero response. Oh well!

Enjoy your travels

A boat was on it’s way up the lock after the water point. The chap came up to check I’d leave the gates for him. We had a good chat as he pulled his boat out from the lock, where he was planning on cruising before heading back to his mooring in September.

Boats this way and that at the link

At the basin we would be veering left towards the Grand Union, good job as a boat was in the next lock straight ahead. It seemed to be taking them forever to fill the lock, I wondered if they had a bottom paddle open. But as I walked down it was obvious the crew were under instruction.

Turning left towards the Grand Union

Below the last lock for today we paused to dispose of rubbish and then carried on to Kingswood Junction where we turned towards Warwick. A couple of miles pootleing brought us to the embankment with views down to Rowington. Today it seemed a popular place to moor. We found a gap and moored up, time for lunch.

Only a jot of work today, emailing the costume designer for panto so that she knows what I’m planning and can see the colours I’m planning on using.

Tilly got on with doing what she does. Unfortunately she seems to have totally forgotten Rule number 1! NO friends home dead or alive! In the last few weeks she has returned with two friends, both of whom were fairly immobile. Today she did the same again, I managed to catch her so she was sent out of the boat back onto the towpath with a flea in her ear.

As the afternoon progressed the sky got darker and darker. Then thunder could be heard rolling around. This was quickly followed by stair rod rain. We jumped into action, closing windows and heading to close the covers. As Mick opened the front door he was greeted by Tilly who had another mouth full! She managed to get past him and deposited her very much alive friend on the bedroom floor!

RULE 1 TILLY!!!!

We now had a choice to let Tilly catch it again, she’s quite good at such things, or for us to catch it. The later is preferred as the friend should survive. With various bits of tuperware we managed to corner Tilly’s friend up against a bag. Mick picked the hole lot up to assist the friend out onto the towpath. Next problem was the towpath side covers were closed apart from a small chink for a cat and mouse to get through! We worked as a team and soon the small friend was scurrying away. Tilly was grounded for a while. I didn’t mind, it was really really raining!

Soggy hirers

Walking back through the boat the rain was still coming down. We had new neighbours, an Anglo Welsh hire boat desperately hammering spikes into the hard hard towpath. Umbrellas were being held by crew, and one poor chap was just getting very very wet. Nothing we could do to help other than watch from the dry inside.

14 locks, 2.9 miles, 1 left, 1 right, 1 Eeyore, 1 big sh*t, 2 hours 10 minutes, 2 friends! No 1 rule! 3 tubs, 3 downpours, 2 umbrellas, 1 dripping hire boat, 1 dripping mushroom vent, 1 Mrs Tilly’s stamp of approval.

https://goo.gl/maps/RdQX3F9G9rQCZ4eKA

Lush Green Narnia. 17th June

Dickens Heath Narrows to above Lock 6 Lapworth Flight

With a couple more hours on the flat today I got on with sorting out the coach for Cinderella whilst Mick popped on his waterproofs. Yes we had rain, but thankfully not too soaking.

A new improved version of the coach was drawn out to scale on a piece of thick paper and offered up into the model with all the relevant dressing for the scene. A reduction in width by 4inches would improve it’s look, but just how deep to make it? Will Cinderella’s dress be a big pouffy one that requires plenty of room so that she can sit down? In a usual setting for Cinderella this is likely to be the case, but in Chippy’s version set in Colombia, who knows? Well the costume designer may know. I chose a depth and then worked out how to make it in model form.

Top her up please

Mick pulled in at Lady Lane Wharf for a top up of diesel. £1.04 a litre considerably cheaper than in the centre of BUMingham. Mick also picked up a big bag of charcoal for £2.50, bargain, he should have got two!

Under she comes

Keeping an eye on where we were I managed to time my model making perfectly to have things that needed to dry with arriving at the lift bridges. The first one was so easily wound up, the last few turns of my windlass almost did themselves. This did however mean that something wasn’t quite in balance, so it was far harder to wind it back down.

A friendly soul had moored on the bridge landing, not too far to walk to the next bridge thankfully. Plenty of boats out on the hard for blacking at Swallow Cruises. The next bridge needs twice as many turns of a windlass, the amount of weight you are pulling up, or pushing down with the hydraulics is quite immense.

We’d been undecided as to where to moor today. Our schedule had us in the middle of the Lapworth flight, this could be tidged a bit either way. But neither place would be ideal. Should we crack on and complete the flight, or stop after the first four?

A very green Narnia

At Lock 2, Narnia Lock, we had a boat just leaving, a Calcutt Hire boat. If ever I get around to painting a mural in the top room of our house it will be based around Narnia Lock and the first time we came through it on NB Winding Down. I’ll just have to be creative in how I deal with the fireplace positioned centrally on the wall.

The next lock had a Canal Club boat just coming up, so all gates could be left.

Swapping

We conferred. We’d do two more locks then moor up in the long pound before the thick of the flight. It was lunch time anyway.

One more to go today

I walked down to check if anyone was about to arrive below the two locks, one boat that had passed us this morning was just closing the bottom gates. I set the top lock then walked down to lift a paddle on the second one so that it could fill as we emptied the top one. I’d just started to empty the bottom lock as a boat showed itself heading towards us, no need to close the gates again.

Someone’s going to have to climb the ladder

Cowparsley and Hogweed are growing alongside each other in the next pound, thankfully not Giant Hogweed which you must keep away from as the sap causes blisters.

Tilly got to head off into the friendly cover, an extra instruction today, Please find your old collar! She was allowed an extension until 7pm, when her bum was wiggling ready for a pounce just by the back doors. Her preparation didn’t pay off, so it was easy to lure her inside for dingding.

Steps up to the coach

The coach was finished and some lanterns added to my model. It’s just about ready for another look through the show, then hopefully I’ll be able to do sketch working drawings ready for quotes.

4 locks, 7 miles, 2 lift bridges, 0 held up, 5 hire boats, 4 hours stretched into 5, 1 coach, 7 lanterns, 5kg charcoal, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

https://goo.gl/maps/1ap5ianWHtS1hGVQ7

G’day. 16th June

Sheepcote Street Bridge to Dicken’s Heath Narrows, Stratford Upon Avon Canal

Heading out of town

Both awake early this morning, we decided to push over to the services and use the water tap before anyone arrived wanting to spend some money. We made use of the time and also had breakfast. Shortly before 9am we were ready to push off and leave BUMingham. I stood at the bow to check the way ahead was clear as we turned at Old Turn Junction towards Gas Street Basin.

Have a G’day

Yellow seemed to be the colour of the day! As we came towards Broad Street Tunnel we had three antipodean gongoozlers taking our photo. Mick called out to them. ‘I won’t wish you good look! But I hope you have a Good Day’. What a shame to be leaving BUMingham on the first day of the Ashes Test Match. If only we’d looked for tickets when I first booked my dentist appointment!

Happy as ever

Through Worcester Bar and onto the Worcester Birmingham Canal.

Are there bins round the corner?!

At Holliday Wharf I wondered if C&RT had got confused with their signage. A bucket with a lid means an Elsan point, a bucket with the lid hovering above means rubbish bins. The new blue sign suggests there are bins to the right, the door on the right has an old sign for an Elsan. I don’t recall there having been bins here before, there are some at the services near Cambrian Wharf. Hmmm? Too late to go and have a look.

A few small thing to do here, not much

I bobbed back below to get on with work. Time to put model pieces back in the model, take notes of things to alter, add, finish off. Not quite a side of A4, but small handwriting! Some big jobs like putting bits of model on sliders so that they don’t constantly fall over or require blue tack to hold them in position. Then easier jobs such as adding details to the floor and backdrop.

Mick warned of Edgbaston Tunnel, I made sure the lights were on. Then about half an hour later we were pulling in to moor in Selly Oak. Time to pick up our click and collect order from Sainsburys and also find a birthday card for my God Mother Betty.

We pushed off again, Mick at the helm and me trying to squeeze everything into the fridge. I almost succeeded, once we’d eaten tonight everything that required cooling was found a space in the fridge.

Kings Norton Junction

Past Bournville we were soon arriving at King’s Norton Junction. I bobbed out the front to check for oncoming boats. All clear. The toll house at the junction has had it’s wrappings removed this year after a fire caused damage a few years ago. Two chaps were busy replacing the pillars by the front door, they took a short break to watch us turn the corner before they got back on with making clouds of dust.

The guillotine stop lock

Through the guillotine stop lock. Who gave Tilly a spray can!!!

We pootled on to Soliull. The house we’ve watched through the years being transformed still has a scaff tower next to it, I wonder what’s happening now?

Remember don’t try to open this bridge with your boat!

Time to open Shirley Draw Bridge. I waited to let any arriving vehicles cross before starting the process. Of course a chap in a van couldn’t be bothered to wait, so crossed the bridge even thought the warning lights were flashing! No harm done, just annoying.

‘oses

Three horses grazed the bank of the canal, their riders having a refreshing drink at the pub. We did think the diddy pony might just follow us along the towpath, but it was only after a rather tasty patch of grass.

It was sunny and time to stop for the day. We pulled in just after the rail bridge and narrows, some possible shade from trees. Just a shame the sun was on the wrong side of them!

I think I’ll go this way, first

Tilly headed off, making full use of her four hours shore leave. Mick listened to cricket and England declare late afternoon. I got on with model making jobs, only a short list of things left to do before I have another look at the model.

The boat heated up nicely during the afternoon, what a shame I’d decided to use up lots of things from the fridge in a tray bake, so the oven heated us all up some more. We really must get another mesh made for the stern doors, just need to finish designing panto first.

0 locks, 10.6 miles, 2 tunnels,1 right, 1 left, 1 full water tank, 1 wine cellar replenished, 1 far happier cat, 393 for 8 declared, 1 coach still to improve, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

https://goo.gl/maps/zwL89cvK9Eg5TDbRA

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.