Category Archives: Pantomime

Fueled by Ginger Buns. 13th September

Sir Hugh Stockwell Lock to Lower Foxhangers Lock

The secret gate

The locks were being unlocked as we had breakfast. We’d no intention of being the first down the flight, but got ourselves ready should another narrowboat arrive that we could share with. According to Frankie volunteers would be about today, so we waited for signs of them. I soon realised I’d made a mistake whilst getting dressed this morning and changed from a C&RT blue to Environment Agency Blue t shirt.

Beautiful morning for it

A chap from the cruiser walked down to set the top lock for them, they were wide so no sharing with them. Where are our friends on days like this, Bridget and Storm, Clare and Graeme, Alison and Laura, Aileen and Mike! It looked like we’d be making the big descent on our own. Oh well.

Pete lending a hand

Mick walked down as there were signs of Volunteers, three on duty this morning. There were two wide beams who’d already been offered assistance, but they’d do what they could for us too. If one of them set the lock ahead after the cruiser had gone through that would be just fine. The cruiser headed down and by the time we’d rolled back the covers they were a couple of locks ahead of us.

NB Wishbone heading upwards

Oleanna was sat in the sun, but the top few locks were very much in the shade as I filled the top chamber for us. The off side gates on the top lock are very close to the fence, the bottom one so tight I couldn’t squeeze past, so I did an undignified scramble along the floor only to be shown up by a volunteer using a secret gate in the fence!

Nearly out of the shade

The volunteers had split up, Lez went down with the cruiser. Mike/Mick went down to help with a narrowboat coming up the flight and Pete came to help us down. The lock below would fill as we entered the lock above and we made steady progress down the flight.

What a view

There are 29 locks in all at Caen Hill, yesterday we did the first 6, today we’d complete them. The next 16 locks are designated as a scheduled monument. If you’ve ever seen photos of a flight of locks it’s likely to have been Caen Hill one of the seven wonders of the waterways.

Taken from C&RT website

The pounds in between each lock aren’t very long but stretch out to the side. None of them have bywashes, so if the pound fills enough water flows over the top of the upper gates and fills the lock. Once that is full the water backs up and the top couple of pounds can flood the surrounding area, the C&RT workshop being one of them.

Out in the sun

The flight was John Rennie’s solution to climb the steep hill and it was the last section of the 87 mile canal to be opened in 1810. The last commercial cargo was transported up the flight in 1948 and the flight was the last stretch to be restored in 1990. The lock gates are all metal and the paddle gear varies from being low geared to clunking stiffness.

Tilly watching as we dropped down the flight

After three locks we waited for the narrowboat coming up so that we could swap chambers. This was NB Wishbone that we’d last seen in Abingdon a few weeks ago. There was time to chat to Alistair and his wife as their lock finished filling. Hope the rest of your cruise back up the Oxford is a good one.


Pete and I carried on downhill, a hired wide beam gradually coming uphill to meet us with plenty of crew. The pound between us was a touch low so we held back and let them ascend.

Mick with Mike/Mick

The rest of the flight was ours, straight down gradually catching up with Les and the cruiser who had inexperienced crew on board. Mick/Mike came and joined us locking down hill making a very efficient team.

Les joining the team

With a couple of locks left in the flight we offered ginger buns around but there were no takers, oh well more for us.

Here’s one with the chaps. Thank you!

The chaps suggested I walk ahead to the next lock after the flight so that I could get THE photo of Oleanna at the bottom. Apparently nobody takes the photo with the volunteers in, so I took two one with and one without. Thank you all, you made the flight easy.

THE photo

The cruiser had pulled over for a well earned break, managing to plonk themselves slap bang in the middle of the available space, they did offer to nudge up should we want to stop too!

Refueling for the next seven on our own

With encouragement from the Lockies we decided to continue on down the next 7 locks to Foxhangers. The general consensus was that the cruiser would hold us up and there was still plenty of energy left in our tanks. A ginger bun and a swig or two of water at the next lock would keep us going.

Further down the flight

The next seven locks are further apart so I resisted setting the one ahead, most were in our favour anyway, just needing a touch of topping up. We passed one widebeam coming uphill on their fortnightly move.

Yet another lock
Yet more gates to push

The 48hr mooring at the bottom of the locks had enough space for us so we pulled in opposite the Foxhangers Hire fleet, all their engines running, charging the batteries for the days hirers. Tilly was allowed out and the oven lit ready to bake well deserved sausage rolls.

A picture just for Steve

They were tasty but my pastry is far better than shop bought.

Waiting for the last lock to fill
Down the final lock

We’d entered Lock 44 at 9:39am and exited Lock 22 at 1pm.

What! The chicken and cheese treats have run out!

The afternoon was spent with the cricket on. Several boats came down the locks and a few headed up. I prepared a paint order for Puss in Boots and Tilly explored the old railway bridge just by our mooring. Just about all the hire boats headed out, one stayed put for the night and two returned back to base a night early. I think we will sleep well tonight.

Lower Foxhangers Lock 22

23 locks, 1.52 miles, 4 miles walked, 2nd down, 3 volunteers, 3 boats passed, 4 hrs 21 minutes, 188ft 10”, 2 ginger buns, 12 sausage rolls, 8 hire boats out, 1 paint order, 1 test match looking up, 1 pooped cat.

Gongoozeltastic. 4th September

Fobney Lock to Theale Swing Bridge

To celebrate being back on a canal Mick set to work this morning to make the most of the supplies we’d purchased at Meatmaster in Oxford. Breakfast!


Each time the huge Fobney Lock was being filled Oleanna would gradually list, recovering after a short while. A couple of boats came past us before we were ready to push off, we could tell another was on it’s way, maybe we’d have a boat to share locks with. But as we pushed off we could see that we were being followed by a widebeam, no chance of sharing with them.

Quite an audience

Approaching Southcote Lock we could hear the chatter of kids behind the sideways trees on the off side, glimpses of high viz too. A school class crossed over the footbridge and all lined up as we were coming in to tie up and set the lock. ‘What colour is the boat?’ ‘Blue’ ‘Red’ ‘Well yes, but what sort of blue?’ We were inspiration for a poem the class was writing. Then another class appeared over the bridge, followed by another. In the end we had 90 gongoozlers watching us go through the lock. A record for us, apart from maybe at Camden Lock where it’s hard to count.

Thank you

The crew from the wide beam came up to help and we were soon on our way leaving them to close up behind us. Slow progress past moored boats, after a month on the Thames this seemed to be very slow.

At Garston Lock there was a boat about to come down. I headed up to lend a hand. One of the top gates was swinging open, the chap was running to the bottom gate to try to catch it by opening one of the paddles, but it had gone too far, so needed some assistance. The paddle was whipped up, he’d not seen that Mick was below who was now battling with the force of the water pushing Oleanna all over the shop.

Turf sided lock

Once they were clear we were on our own. Our first turf sided lock. An early form of pound lock, there used to be twenty of them between Newbury and Reading, only two remain. The lower part of the chamber has timber sides, then above the water sloping turf banks. They were cheap to build but fell out of favour as the width of them made it hard to get on and off boats. Today a metal frame helps hold your boat in the centre. A ladder leads to a walkway above the turf sides, both ends of the lock are brick where the gates are hinged.

Rope around the post

With no bollards along the sides of the lock to pass the centre line over we looked round. There is a bollard roughly where our bow line was and a very large post at the bottom gates. We decided to adopt the River Wey method and tied the stern rope around this post, which would stop Oleanna from moving forward as the chamber filled. With ground paddles rather than gate paddles the level rose in a gentle fashion. Once up and out we closed the gates and as requested, I lifted the bottom gate paddles to empty the chamber.

A two pill box lock, Garston Lock

Next Sheffield Lock only rising a foot, but an interesting shape with it’s crinkly sides. A chap and dog appeared from nowhere with a windlass in his hand, his dog determined to fall in. ‘I’ll finish up here, go and sort the swing bridge out’ he ordered. I should have thought about it and declined to run ahead, we’re not in a rush. But I walked on ahead key of power in my pocket, would the swing bridge be manual, automated, half and half?

Crinkle cut lock

Two boats were just coming through and I could see that it was automated. The lady closed it up and the traffic started to flow. From behind I could hear the chap with the dog barking something. What was the emergency? It turns out he was shouting for his boats to slow down, no cause for shouting, I thought someone had fallen in or a boat was sinking!

I waited for a gap in the traffic, turned my key and pressed the button. The traffic is controlled by traffic lights on both sides, the bridge only being wide enough for one way traffic. I was slightly alarmed when a van and motorbike came round the corner and crossed the bridge as the flashing lights and siren had started. I took my finger off the button, knowing the process I’d started would stop. I hoped time was built in to get the last vehicles across before the barriers dropped, but you never know. I let them clear and then pressed the button again. The barriers came down and the bridge swung.

Twenty seven vehicles, not a bad number on our first of many swing bridges on the K&A. Mick pulled Oleanna in at the end of the vacant moorings, furthest way from the road for Tilly. She was out straight away exploring, but coming back regularly. With no river bank to pounce from it feels a lot safer. Cat curfew has been brought earlier as the evenings are getting darker, nothing to do with her going AWOL the other night at all!

Sneaky peek at my model

The afternoon I attended to a couple of things for Panto and then did a few hours on my Houdini model. The false proscenium now has a suggestion of decoration and the smaller elements are made too. Only some large chunks of timber to put in and sort the cyc out and it will be ready to photograph and see what the Director and Actor/Writer make of it.

Under instruction with Andy in 2013

This evening we watched Grand Designs, following Andy and Jeanette who run bearBoating build their house on the cliffs of Galloway. Back in October 2013 we did a helmsman course with Andy on NB Molly Moo, picking up any tips we didn’t know about and sleeping in our first cross bed. If ever we’re having hassle pulling in or away from the bank due to wind we do what we call an Andy. We’ve met up with them a few times at Crick boat show since and have always had a good catch up. When our first boat build went wrong and there was a slim possibility that there was a shell somewhere with my name on it, Andy offered to finish it for us. So tonight we had to watch.

4 locks, 1 turf sided, 3.68 miles, 1 swing bridge, 27 held up, 90 gongoozlers, 1 poem, 2 hatch doors, 1 suitcase, 1 chair, 43% smaller, 6:30pm curfew, 1 cliff top house for 3, 28 likes, 23 from Ade.

Big Friends. 15th August

Wallingford Jungle to Day’s Lock

Deep in
the jungle

Pushing off was going to be interesting today. Tied to a tree and almost surrounded by other trees, we’d need to push out backwards past the big barge behind us. I stepped off the bow to hold it in whilst the stern was un-pinned. No dawdling allowed as the wind was doing it’s best to help us with our manoeuvre before we were ready.

One minute
the next, before the engine was put in gear

As soon as we stepped on board Oleanna was blown away from her jungley nest in exactly the right direction to avoid big branches, handy except the French family were just about to pass us slowly and we were heading for their path. Luckily for all by the time Mick finished sorting his stern rope and pin out we’d slowed our sideways direction and collision was avoided. We now followed them up to Benson Lock.

Did the architect know they’d designed such a jolly boat house with a helter skelter

There was a wait here as one of the big Le Boat hire cruisers was in their first lock and under instruction.

Dappled sunlight on Daisy

The sun was back out but the wind had accompanied it today, so we needed a bit of umph to keep going in our chosen direction. The hire boat allowed us to go first and soon disappeared out of sight behind.

Day’s Lock ahead

Our aim was to moor sooner rather than later today, hopefully somewhere good for Tilly so that I could have a day working. At Day’s Lock we asked the Lockie about moorings and he suggested to try by the pill box or a bit further along on the off side.

Moored up for the day

The pill box mooring is nice and straight but sadly a touch too shallow for us, so we had to back off it and carried on to try further along. We passed a cruiser moored up and then an Oleanna gap between trees showed itself. It took a couple of goes to get lined up for it and then the wind just blew us into the space and held us there. If we wanted to leave it would be quite a struggle, so just as well that wasn’t the plan.

Not bad here

She came out for a play, what a big field this outside had. A touch too blowy up my bum but while She was here it was good. Sticks and feathers and stumpy trees to climb. Great. I could also smell what might be some interesting friends, so I was willing to wait around to see if they fancied playing.

We were moored up in time for a mid morning cuppa. The cricket was put on the radio and I got on with some work. First I needed to finish notes on the props list for Chippy panto and paint in my scooter designs.

Initial sketch
for Houdini

Then it was time to start putting ideas onto paper for A Regular Little Houdini. Slightly different versions of my idea were worked on until the right combination came together. The theatres odd set up with what used to be their proscenium is a touch problematical but hopefully I’ve managed to work my way round it.

Just visible

One of the three

I made sure I took a photo of our mooring today. As of Sunday morning the view won’t be the same. Just behind the trees on the other side of the river stands the 3 remaining cooling towers of Didcot Power Station. Early this Sunday morning they are to be felled. Thank you to Kevin Too and Steve for informing us of this. Sadly we won’t be able to witness them being demolished, we might still hear them though sometime between 6 and 8am.

Edited 18th August. They certainly were a wake up call Kevin Too! On the dot of 7am, KABOOM!!!

New friends

Tilly kept coming in to shelter from the wind. Some new big friends did appear later in the afternoon, but none of them seemed interested in playing.

Maybe too much for little Tilly

Tilly did start to try stalking one of the calves but decided that it most probably would be a bit too much of a mouthful if she succeeded.


As the sun set to our port side

Coming up

the moon rose to our starboard.

till it started to disapear again

Isn’t nature amazing.

Property Game

Five bedrooms, the railway behind it, a road infront but your own private mooring. How much?

2 locks, 4.96 miles, 14 ft out before we knew it, 2nd attempt at mooring, 0 footfall, 28 hoofalls, 1 looney cat, 3 towers, 1 photo never to be replicated, 2 scooters, 5 sketches, 180 degrees of sky, 1 magical mooring.

Yesterdays Answer

£1,175,000 on Rod Eyot in Henley. You get a lot of pine for over a million pounds with this one.

Not far off Jennie at £1,250,000.

Cloaking Device Engaged. 13th August

Sonning Lock to Beale Park

We’ll go down there in a few weeks

Awake long before the alarm was due to go off, we were up and on the move before 9am. A mile and a half ahead was Reading, the junction with the Kennet and Avon Canal and the Tescos mooring. We wanted to stop for some shopping so prepared to pull in.

The moorings outside Tesco were free to stop at three years ago, but since then we’ve heard all sorts. Limited mooring times, having to pay even for four hours and any part there of, the enforcement company no longer operating, who knows. We decided to checked our map. That’s funny, my phone said Tescos was a pay mooring, but the new tablet said it was free? Somehow we must have two versions of Waterway Routes on the go.

At first we decided to pull in just before the K&A junction, but there was a suitable sized gap up ahead outside Tescos, so we moved up to check it out.

The Ark

Opposite the junction is this wooden boat that is gradually being reclaimed by nature. Some would think it an eyesore, but I found it fascinating. Next to it under cover was what looked like an artists studio with a couple of paintings on easels.

A bit of rope was needed to be able to tie up the bow to a missing ring. There were no obvious signs by the mooring about charges, so we chanced it. We didn’t want to be long so headed off, pausing at the archway from the towpath to read a sign high up with SO much writing on it. This suggested that we should pay £4 for 4 hours mooring, but was this the company no longer looking after the moorings? We didn’t want to be long anyway so decided to chance the £100 fine!

No first class stamps anywhere in Tescos, poor Josh will have to wait for his birthday cards. We swept through the store at breakneck speed picking up enough supplies to see us to the weekend. As we got back to Oleanna another boat was seeing if they would fit into one of the git gaps behind us. No chance. ‘Give us five minutes and you can have this spot’. They circled a couple of times whilst they waited for us to push off.

The staircases look like they should be full of coloured liquid with bubbles rising and falling

Onwards to Caversham Lock, all the time having the feeling we were being followed. The lady volunteer at the lock asked how long we were and asked us to use the end bollard in the lock, the one nearest the top gates, a cruiser was following in behind us. We pulled up all the way and did our ropes. The gates had recesses in them which may or may not trap our bow fender. As locks fill Oleanna tends to be first swept backwards and then forwards, I put an extra turn around the bollard just in case.

A Humber Keel a long way from home

The lock started to fill. The lady checked I was alright, I was just so long as my fender was okay. With the extra turn on the bollard I couldn’t pull the rope in, but it also couldn’t slip to a longer length. Slowly we rose. Mick managed to pull us back from the top gates a touch and I was able to tighten the rope to keep us at a safer distance from the gate. The lady then opened up the paddles more. I thanked her for taking her time and checking we were okay. Quite often the Lockies press the button at one end of the lock to set things in motion, walk to the other end, press the button there to lift the sluices more and then walk off to do something completely different until the chamber is almost full.

Good name

Normally as we cruise we have an old tablet running, our trip computer which maps where we are. The battery on this is past it’s best so it will only run for a short while without being plugged in. This morning I had unknowingly set the timer on our cloaking device. We pootled along, making note that the diesel in Reading was currently cheaper below the lock than above. We overtook a rib with a great name and were overtaken by a trip boat and cruiser. All the time that feeling of being followed with us.

Our cloaking device had engaged when we were at Tescos, so that was where we were, except it wasn’t. From some three quarters of an hour behind us we got a message asking where we were. Now we actually knew where they were, three quarters of an hour behind, following us! The trip computer had the power turned back on, was rebooted, but didn’t have enough power to sort itself out, this had to wait for another lock.

Mapledurham Lock

After Mapledurham Lock I could see a field of Alpacas. Quite a few, then another field and another and another. We were alongside the biggest Alpaca farm in the country. Wish I could have clipped a bit off each colour as we went past.

We’re getting closer to Oxford

We’d hoped to be able to moor here just before Pangbourne. The two boats in front of us found spaces, a wide beam that had been at Tescos had a space. Then sat right in the middle of a space made for two narrowboats was a boat that had come past us whilst we were shopping. Tied to a bollard at one end and a spike the other with two bollards at either end! Of course when they pulled in there may have been a cruiser moored at one end, but it certainly didn’t feel that way!

A nice stretch of river
The perfect spot for him and us

So we carried on, up Whitchurch Lock and started to look for a mooring, we were hungry by now. One space appeared, but Mick couldn’t get off the back. We continued, spaces showing themselves, except each one had a fisherman slap bang in the middle! After four such gaps we spotted an empty one, but would it be long enough for us? At around 59ft it was perfect.

Here they come

Lunchtime and our tracking devise could be turned off, however we kept an eye on the boat following us getting closer and closer all the time. Just about three quarters of an hour after we’d moored up we could see a narrowboat heading upstream, side fenders being put down ready to breast up.

This must be a pesky outside to need two boats
They don’t have very big windows

She called me back from what I was doing. This outside must be quite troublesome as another boat was needed to tie it up. I watched from the roof as this other boat caught us. It was all quite puzzling.

Paul and Christine on NB Waterway Routes are on the Thames checking map data at the moment. They have just finished filming on the Lee and Stort for a new DVD and had left Limehouse on Sunday and have gradually been gaining on us.

Christine and Paul on NB Waterway Routes

A stop for a cuppa and a catch up had been arranged and it was good that we’d reached a mooring so Tilly wouldn’t be sat inside longing to be out. Those trees at the Tesco outside had looked very good! She did show her face at the hatch to say hello to Paul, He looks after my Mrs Tilly stamps of approval. She Paul seemed nice too, I’ve not met her before. I was polite and took time out of being busy to say hello, then carried on with the important task of pouncing.

With Paul being on board we got an update to our cruising maps. Waterway Routes are updated every month with any changes that have happened on the network, we’d fallen a bit behind with our version, last updated in October! So it was high time we got up to date again.

A lovely catch

Still with more map checking to do today before they could moor up they pushed off to make the most of the dry weather.

This afternoon Mick has updated all our phones and laptops to ensure we are all up to date with the maps and on the same version. I’ve been looking at Panto props lists and adding extra ideas that have come from John the Director one based on a Peter Gabriel video. Tilly, well she’s just been far too busy finding friends and murdering them.

Property Game

2 bedroom boat house with mooring. How much?

3 locks, 1 not planned, 10.12 miles, 1 straight on, 0 boxes wine, 0 1st class stamps, 13th birthday about to go by, £4 or not, 1 cloaking device engaged, 1 Humber Keel, I sunset, 1 boat hot on our stern, 2 many fishermen, 1 updated map, 3 foam ducks, 1 extending cord, 1 vat of smash, 7 deadly sins, 2 tasty friends, 2 sleeves.

Yesterdays Answer

Only £650,000 but…. it is only an apartment with two bedrooms though. So only a quarter of what you can see, hence the price.

So Joa the whole property might work out to being £2,600,000, so a touch nearer your price range! 😉

Hopping Friends. 11th August

Marlow to Upper Thames Rowing Club

Just a small third house!

Boats were on the move this morning, we pushed off and joined in with them. Ear wigging the trip boat yesterday when it came past with three passengers, I learnt that the three big houses before All Saint’s Church in Bisham were all owned by the same man. The first he bought for £8 million, the second for £12 million, which he gave to his brother. Sadly he was out of ear shot by the time he said how much the third house was. Wonder who the chap gave it too?

Arriving at the lock

Temple Lock was on Self Service and a cruiser had arrived ahead of us and a small narrowboat. We all squeezed in the small lock and rose up.

Pretty boats

Half a mile on was Hurley Lock, Lockies were on duty here and after admiring the slipper launches at Freebody Peter and Co (most of which were under wraps) the three of us slotted into the lock again. The volunteer noted that between us there were two visitors and an EA licence holder.

Medication and NB Huffler

Everyone was wanting water so we pulled in and waited our turn to use the giant hose. We took longer than the others to fill as we’d taken the opportunity of putting a load of washing in the machine as we’d left Marlow. Other boats came up the lock including a large blue wide beam and a narrowboat.

Chatting away

We gradually caught these chaps up as they cruised side by side having a good chat to one another. The river was wide enough as we passed the lovely moorings at Medmenham.

The tone of Oleanna’s engine changed, now what was that. A burst of reverse didn’t do anything to stop it, was there something around the prop? Well this was a different noise, we could pull in at the next possible place or carry on to the lock. Then Mick had an idea as to what it might be, the weedhatch cover might have worked a touch loose. This was worth checking.

Dragons on roofs

Now before everybody goes checking their weedhatches please note our weedhatch is totally separate to our engine bay as we have a Tyler Wilson shell. A loose weedhatch on most boats can result in water making it’s way into the engine bay as the prop turns, this can lead to boats sinking. Ours being separate means that we can never flood the engine bay. Mick took Oleanna out of gear and lifted the lid on the stern deck. Nothing obviously loose. A tap with the lump hammer to tighten things up, he put her into gear, the noise was gone.

An older panel on Hambleden Lock

Up ahead was Hambleden Lock and a very long queue waiting to go up. The boats we’d shared with earlier filled the lock landing, so we trod water until they moved up. The wind caught the narrowboat ahead of us pushing him right over into the bushes on the off side, he eventually regained control and pulled in to the lock landing. Here we could now see that the lock was on Self Service. With two single handers in front I wandered up to push the buttons.

The lock emptied and I could see a couple of boats heading down stream so left the gates open for them to come into the lock. Now I’m not sure whether the Self Service sign was on the lock gate at the top, but nobody offered to assist with the buttons. This may of course have had something to do with what I was wearing!

An EA Volunteer

EA Lockies either wear white shirts or dark polo shirts, the volunteers wear a pale blue polo shirt with a red life jacket. Now this morning I had inadvertently put on the costume of a volunteer lockie!

Going down

Boats came into the lock slotting in nicely, then a narrowboat indicated where I’d like him to be, well I didn’t really care, that’s when the penny dropped. I did my best to stand away from the buttons and to not act like a Lockie. One lady asked if I was on duty, ‘NO, just waiting to come up myself. I’m quite happy to push buttons for everyone but I take no responsibility for anything!’ She laughed, the others on their boats still could only see my pale blue t-shirt.

I pressed the buttons and down they all went.

In filed the boats from below, whilst they’d waited they had all sorted out what order they’d come in to make the most of the space, Hambledon Lock is far bigger than the other two we’d been through this morning. The narrowboat and widebeam pulled in at the front side by side, Oleanna next with a cruiser alongside, then a smaller cruiser. There was most probably enough space for another bigger cruiser but I wasn’t going to make that call, so I left it to the captain. He dithered so I closed the gates.

Us on the way up

Hambledon is the last of the sideways filling locks, so the bow rope was passed round a bollard several times before I was going to push buttons again. Ah , but wait there was a Lock Keeper in a white shirt, I could step down. I held my rope. He tinkered with something at the back of the button cabinet, checked that the two single handers knew the lock filled sideways and then headed into his cabin.

We held our ropes, we all watched as he came out, watered his hanging baskets and disappeared again. ‘I think we’re still on Self Service then!’ Time to step back up and push those buttons. The sideways filling seemed to be a lot gentler on self service and my four times round the bollard held well when I wasn’t in attendance. The Lock Keeper chipped in with ‘It won’t open until it’s ready to’. Nice that he acknowledged me.

Mental note, leave the pale blue t-shirt in the wardrobe whilst on the Thames.

Temple Island

Around the bend and past Temple Island which marks the start of the Henley Royal Regatta. This happens every year in early July and the whole of Henley and it’s surrounding area get taken over by it for months.

Tent city going up

Today large bells tents stood all in lines stretching almost as far as you could see. Today these were being erected for the Rewind Festival which takes place next weekend with music and all sorts. This looked like seriously posh camping, you can of course slum it by bringing your own tent!

Over taking the central lane

Now on the straight we had a trip boat, the widebeam and narrowboat still wanting to chat to each other, us a cruiser and a small cruiser all heading in the same direction and a day boat heading towards us. Everyone adopted their chosen cruising speed. The widebeam and narrowboat ahead were of course the slowest and sat bang in the middle of the river, not pulling over to let people overtake. The trip boat just went for it on their port side, we were trying to get out of the way of the smaller cruiser, it was mayhem! In the end all the upstream boats managed to over take, be overtaken whilst the on coming day boat really didn’t know which way to turn. In the end they were guided to a gap left for them.

As soon as the moorings on the offside showed themselves we pulled over and brought Oleanna to a stop right by a gantry that it turns out was still left from the regatta. We’d just finished tying up when a four by four arrived for his mooring fee.

A chat with the director for Vienna was accompanied by a torrential down pour, but then the afternoon brightened up so we went for a walk to see what Henley had to offer.


A pretty place with a wide main street. Independent shops along with a few chain stores, not that much was open so late on a Sunday afternoon. There was the same bunting that had been up in Marlow, the church has a tower rather than a spire and there isn’t much on street parking.

George Harrison lived here at one time, but did you know that in 1722 the mayor of Henley was also called George Harrison. In 1930 Norman Wisdom applied for a job in a pub in the town but he was told he was too small and sent packing. Other interesting things about Henley look here.

A bog standard panto poster

We looked at the local theatre and then went down to the river by the bridge. Launches tried to pull in to visit the pubs. A small section available for such things, mooring up to plant tubs and railings. We watched and then went to look at the pretty boats.


How come there are so many pretty wooden boats on the Thames and so few on other rivers that we’ve noticed? Money has to be the reason. The finish on the boats is just beautiful and their rope fenders wrapped around their bows so pretty, just a shame there is so much dog pooh on the pavements!


My favourite boat was Tiddley Pom Pom, mainly because my Mums Dad was known to everyone as PomPom, the man with Pontefract Cakes and Nuttall’s Mintos in his pockets. For a few minutes we did consider changing Oleanna’s name, but that wouldn’t be right.

Playing in the big field

The sun was back out when we got back to the boat, so we sat out to keep Tilly company for a while. Not enough trees for my liking, but I could scoot around on my side amongst the interesting smelling grass. There were two trees that I checked out, but they were boring, in fact it was all quite boring until…… BUNNIES!!!!

Shhhh, got to keep that bloomin bell quiet

Loads and loads of BUNNIES!!!

Hoppy friends

Property Game

Tudor style with 6 bedrooms.

3 locks, 7.18 miles, 2 little locks, 3 dragons, 1 chilled medication boat, 1 big lock, 1 wrong choice of clothes, 5 down, 5 up, 1 Lockie occupied elsewhere, £10 in ten minutes, 2 much pooh, 2 pints milk, 1 pink chewbacca,  hour playing with Tilly, 2 bottles of botanics, 31 hopping friends! O brought home, 1 theatre in definite need of Puss in Boots next year.

Yesterdays Answer

£400,000, very pretty too, so it should be

£3,250,000 a glittertastic house with cinema but no fitted kitchen.

Well Ade, only 10k out on the little house, but miles away on the bigger one.

Leafing Through History. 25th July

Still under our trees

Our shady spot

It was warm when we woke and it was only going to get worse. Decision made we’d stay put for another day under our shady trees. We wouldn’t be moving for anyone.

Yesterday we’d not quite bought enough supplies to last us another day, so Mick hopped on a bike and returned to the shop with it’s aircon. I was quite jealous of this but then I didn’t have to endure the journey there in the sunshine.

Make it cooler please!

Our mooring doesn’t totally miss out on the sun, for about an hour the sun bakes hard down on the cabin sides and roof before some shade creeps back over us. In that hour we all melted just a touch.

Tilly had an hour or so out first thing, but then retired to the shade for a morning snooze. Life in the shade still necessitated having the doors open for and aft so we kept our fingers crossed that Tilly’s friends would be adamant not to return home with her. We were fortunate.


I collated together information on the theatre in Vienna and then added up my expenses for Puss in Boots so far, printing off receipts I’d need from emails. I even considered doing our tax returns today, but quickly changed my mind.

Just a bit noisy

A day for not doing very much. Mick watched the cycling, then listened to the cricket. Day boats headed out, most returning with their crews dangling their feet in the river. One such boat appeared from under the railway bridge behind us, we could hear them coming! As soon as the bridges had been cleared there were numerous people stood on the cabin roof, the person at the tiller zigzagging their way along.

Let him past

A following day boat made a dash for it to overtake them. ‘RIGHT’ ‘No LEFT!!!’ more zigzagging as a collision was narrowly avoided. Would Oleanna end up being what stopped them? It was hard not to watch. Both of us realised that they appeared to be towing an inflatable boat, one not really big enough for the chaps in the river. The yellow inflatable and the two chaps were close to the stern, therefore very close to the turning prop!

Near collision

We shouted and shouted to them. A couple walked past and said ‘We lived on one for two years, you can always tell the holiday makers!’ We weren’t bothered about that or getting biffed. We were far more concerned that we could be calling for an ambulance any minute if nobody turned the engine off!

Is that a chap right up against the stern!

It took what felt like ages for anyone to hear us. Eventually one chap in the water managed to get someone to stop the prop turning, we’re not sure if it was just in neutral or off OFF. They drifted into the offside bank. Far too many voices needing to be heard most likely fuelled by alcohol and the sun. One chap got back on board quite easily, the other finding it hard to hoik himself out all the time being very aware of the prop, thankfully not moving. I think he was the only one on board who had an inkling of what could have happened. Our phones stayed in our pockets and they managed to avoid us as they headed off into the distance our quiet, calm mafting mooring returning to just us.

Back to the quite hot afternoon for grumpy ears

I decided to look through a folder I’d brought from the house. This was full of things my Mum had kept in a ‘Happy memories folder’. 1948 exam results for her year at Leeds School of Architecture. A letter from her sister thanking her and Dad for the bridesmaid present and how wonderful their wedding had been. Menu’s (she was a cook in later life) from dinner dances, they always seemed to have Turtle soups for starters. 21st Birthday cards. A few letters from my Dad, he lived in York and she in Bradford.

Tilly up high

There were programmes for Operas and plays in London collated in a ribbon. A note book listing things to do whilst in London. Then a letter from my Dad which predates her visit asking her if she’d like to see Carmen and visit the Tate when she is next in London. These all connected.

I so love his pencil sketches

Then a small pocket sketchbook, another item passed from father to son. Granddads drawings, very boring architectural details, very Banister Fletcher. But every now and then there were sketches my Dad had done. One of Shibden Hall 1945, where Gentleman Jack was based.

16th September 1945

The sketches coinciding with his second diary I’d scanned whilst in London.

My first illustrated connection to his diaries

16th September 1945, the day he and his mates took the train to Southampton where they boarded the ship that took them to India. This is the first connection in words and pictures, my Dad illustrating his own story.

The ship they sailed in to India (photo courtesy of the internet)

0 locks, 0 miles, 34 C in the pram cover (with the sides off today), 29.4 C inside, 20.1 C minimum inside, 1 very hot day, 1 shady spot saving us, 9 receipts, 12 pages of tech spec, 4 swimming woofers, 1 accident averted, 1 hot cat up in the canopy, 1 folder, 1948-51, 1 wonderful find of Fatso’s.

Tilly Bourne River. 24th July

Shore leave whilst they have their morning Ding Ding is good. I normally like it when that happens because if I come back inside the next time I go outside it has usually been changed. However today it just changed into a hotter version of the earlier outside. I stayed inside for much of the day.

My road

Mick rang the Basingstoke Canal this morning. Sadly the navigation will be closing on Friday as their water levels are so low. So our trip there will have to be added to the ‘Next Time’ list. So once we reach Godalming we’ll gradually make our way back to the Thames a bit earlier than originally planned.

Summers day

Taking advantage of the second mate being on board we applied suncream and headed out with wide brimmed hats. A walk along the towpath back to St Catherines Lock. Here two of the electric launches from Daphne Dap Dune Wharf were coming up in the three foot deep lock, it was taking forever!

Something’s wrong here

Standing on the bridge we watched as a day boat came towards the lock to wait it’s turn to go down. In the photo above there is something wrong, we spotted it and tried for a while to get the crews attention. A day boat got the blame for leaving the bottom paddles up, yes they should have closed them, but you’d have thought the crew would have spotted them, especially on a length of river predominantly used by day boats with novice crew.

It must get muddy round here

We crossed over and carried on our walk through the meadows back down the off side of the river. The launches were being moored up at a landing a short distance along where the path heads across the fields and a dried up bog up to The Street. I guessed that the passengers were all heading to the same place as us, Shalford Mill.

Shalford Mill

The tour guides at the Mill were busy preparing for the trip boats. There was a choice. 1, we could wait for an hour and join in with one of the two tours around the mill, waiting would involve watching around 24 people tucking into a picnic lunch whilst we stood around with our bottle of water. Or 2, we could have a shorter tour than normal on our own ahead of the masses. We opted for the second option.

What used to be the mill pond

Tilling Bourne River runs down the valley fed by springs along it’s length. The river had around 24 mills along it’s fifteen miles, all working hard. A centre of industry between the 17th and 20th centuries. Gun powder, paper making for bank notes, iron and wire working, tanning and flour milling made the place less then idyllic. Today watercress and trout are farmed along with a gin distillery.

Weather boarded and tiled

Shalford Mill was re-built as two water powered mills in the 1750’s fed by the river and a large mill pond which would be left to fill over night for use the following day. The mill continued milling through the Corn Laws, Swing Riots and plenty more. By the 1850’s Shalford Mill could still only deal with one ton of wheat a day where as steam driven mills were pushing through 300 tons. The mill continued, changing hands and being leased until 1907.

The wheel

Around 1911 the water wheel became dislodged and ended up resting against one of the mill walls, no longer able to turn. Here it rested and still rests today.

Metal on wood cogs

In 1927 the mill was put up for sale, it eventually caught the eyes of Bill Stickers and Sister Agatha in 1931. The owner offered it to the ladies so long as they could maintain it. By the following year the ladies had raised funds for an endowment and the Mill was gifted to the National Trust. The east mill was converted into a home whilst the rest was open to visitors. The tenancy of the east mill is still in the same family, with the original tenants daughter, now 93, still living there with her daughter.

Period plastic chairs adding to the atmosphere

We were shown through the mill, where the sacks of grain were hoisted to the top floor, emptied down to be ground, full sacks of milled flour hoisted back up for storage. How the granite stones were cut for milling, how the flour and bran were separated.

Hot at the top

Steep staircases take you to the top of the building where the air was heating up nicely amongst the rafters. We were very glad we weren’t up there with another twelve people!

The string used to go here!

Our guide John did his best to shoo others away so that we’d get the best tour time would allow before he was due to show the boat trip round. He certainly knew his stuff, only stopping when the string that controlled the amount of grain entering the stones broke in his hand. Nothing hard to mend, just a length of sisal string that would be replaced as soon as we left.

The gang’s den

Finally we were shown the room that Bill Stickers and her gang kept for visits. Ferguson’s Gang was made up of five core members, all women with pseudonyms. They formed in 1927, their aim was to raise awareness of the need to protect rural areas and they supported the National Trust. The Gang raised huge sums to protect and preserve important buildings and land that could otherwise have been destroyed. They were eccentric ladies who made ‘swag’ donations to the trust, one time causing a bomb scare at an AGM when a metal pineapple was presented with a £100 note inside. The public loved them. The gang’s den a snap shot of 1930’s life.

Door stop
On a sandwich run from the garage

Despite being on a quick tour John gave us his undivided attention and knowledge for 45 minutes before having to mend the string. The mill is only open two days a week and for £17 you can enjoy a boat trip there and back with a picnic. We saved our money and headed to Snooty’s Groceries for supplies where we enjoyed the air conditioning.

Low. Will we glad we chopped the chimney down?

Our walk back to Oleanna brought us over the very low bridge. A few squirts of WD40 have been applied to the screws holding Oleanna’s horns, should we need to remove them to get under.

Noisy cooling down

The afternoon was spent watching people enjoying the river in the heat. Numerous people jumping in to swim.

The pill box

I had a visit to the pill box a short distance behind us. Sat on an old railway embankment it has views over the river. I couldn’t see any invading force so the country is still safe.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 boats neither going up nor down, 1 mill just in time, 5 or 6 famous and secret ladies, 1 wheel, three floors, 2 mugs, 4 ciabatta rolls, 9 slices salami, 1 tub coleslaw, 1 low bridge, 1 lotus, 1 Tilly Bourne, 8 swimmers, 1 pill box, 2 scooters, 33ish C, 27.5 C inside, 17 C minimum, 3 crew managing to stay coolish.

Panto prop scooters