Category Archives: Pantomime

Gas. 17th May

Rode Heath to Yew Tree Lock 44

Tyseley on her way

First boat to go by this morning had a bow full of crew all wrapped up against the chilly damp morning. This was Tyseley the Mikron Boat heading south after having work done at Northwich Dry Dock, she was heading to Welford where this years cast will start their touring by boat. We doubt we’ll get to Welford or Crick in time this year but may get to see them further south.

What lies behind the red curtain?

My yarn order hadn’t been dispatched until Wednesday so we decided to wait until after 1pm to check if it had arrived. I spent the morning putting things in my Puss in Boots model box and making notes. This always brings up ideas, at least my list is only one side of A4.

After lunch the weather had improved, the sun back out. We walked up to the village store in the vain hope that my parcel would be there. The main man did his best to help, but if it wasn’t there it wasn’t there! Maybe tomorrow or Monday, we can at least give him a call.

We need to be making a move so one of us will come back when/if it actually arrives. I have a feeling there is a shelf in the warehouse where the special orders go, and so far nobody has seen to them. Just a shame no other company has this specific yarn.

Mow Cop still in view for much of the day

Pushing off at 2:15pm we wanted to reach Red Bull today, we knew we’d not manage to get to Harecastle Tunnel in time before they shut. This would mean an early morning tomorrow to get through the tunnel and arrive at Etruria before midday. Why? Well you should never pass this way without replacing your gas bottles. In fact we’re doing our very best to arrive with two empty ones. The heating goes on to take the chill off, baking, extra slices of toast, jacket potatoes tonight all just to try to get the second bottle empty, it very nearly is.

Old gate posts alongside the lock

We worked our way up the six locks close together, Mow Cop getting closer all the time. At Lawton Top Lock there are two sets of stone gate posts. The bridge over the bottom of the lock is flat and wider than the others. The three Lawton locks replaced a staircase of three, the gates must have lead to the area around the old locks. I haven’t managed to find an old map showing them, but around 1897 a Smithy is marked between where the locks are now and where they used to be.

Halls Lock 49 recently repainted

Up Halls Lock, today considerably warmer than the first time we moored there on a hire boat twelve years ago, it snowed overnight and continued as we headed through Congleton. Today the hay in the fields was being turned.

No snow today
The church
Mum with her last two babies

Church Locks were a little congested. A single hander going up, a hire boat waiting to come down, us and a duck with her ducklings. She had decided that a good place to sit everybody was on top of the bywash, this resulted in several of them being swept over when the top lock emptied, her brood split in two.

Mellow Blue. Not the same

NB Mellow is still on it’s mooring and the cows had brought themselves in to be milked. A nice mooring, just a bit pongy!

With each lock uphill the water got more and more orange, we’re getting closer to Harecastle. With one lock to go before Red Bull services I walked up to check on mooring space as we didn’t really want to go any further. Three boats were moored up, gaps at the ends, gaps between them. Nobody sharing rings. I paced out the gaps, Mick did the same later. Oleanna is 26 paces, the git gaps added up to two Oleannas. Yes a boat may have left, not sharing rings was the main culprit. We moored up below the lock and settled in for the evening.


The pound was low when we arrived, alleviated when boats came past, letting water down. But gradually we listed more and more. Mick emptied the two locks above, then went to check below. At lock 45 one of the chambers is out of action at the moment. A top paddle is missing and what was causing our problem was a bottom paddle just open a little bit. This most probably would have gradually drained the pound overnight. Mick closed it up, the level gradually rose back to where it should be.

8 locks, 2.09 miles, 147 photos, 87 of a model, A4 of notes, 0 parcel AGAIN!!!! 2 boats coming downhill, 1 going up, 73 cows, 1 smelly mooring, 4 git gaps, 1 cracked paddle, 2 locks of water, 1 boat afloat, 1 endless gas bottle, 0 things to knit!

Cow Mop. 15th May

Lock 61 to Rode Heath

Oleanna pushing her way through the water to the next lock

Yesterday we’d moored under trees so the solar panels didn’t do quite so well. However we’d been grateful for their protection from the driving range! Mick decided to experiment with the dishwasher this morning. The heating cycle uses a lot more juice than the washing machine, so he knew he’d be getting the engine going before it had finished. These experiments are not that scientific, there are other things drawing power, but it’s interesting. The first heating cycle drew 17% of our battery capacity.

Just after breakfast I had confirmation of my next panto meeting, so quickly purchased an Advance ticket. Cross Country now charge for you to pick up your tickets at a machine! So I opted for an e ticket which was free.

The bulging wall at Lock 60

Several boats had already come past this morning, the last two going down hill, so we hoped that at least the first lock would be in our favour. We’d actually timed our departure with a lot of boats coming down hill, so we didn’t have to turn too many locks.

Netting to diswade you
All locked up

Lock 60 is a pair, the towpath side chamber has had a width warning on it for some time. Today however it was locked up. Padlocks preventing you from operating paddles and no leakage through the gates. Looking down I could see where the lock was now bulging, a damp area of bricks highlighting it.

First sighting over the M6

The first two locks brought us closer to the M6. Mow Cop visible for the first time on the horizon.

Is any of this actual cloud?

The blue sky today was filled with vapour trails from planes. We wondered if there were any clouds up there or was it all being produced by planes?

Boats came towards us, at Lock 57 we had to wait for one coming down before ascending. Two short boats waited their turn to share the single lock down. On we pootled catching up with a boat we were following at the last lock of the day, Thurlwood Lock 53. Here I helped them up, another boat down before we came up into the pound we planned to moor on.

Lock 55 I believe

We pulled in just before the winding hole and Tilly was let out to explore. Rode Heath must have at least one dog per human! There is a constant stream of them being walked in the field just below the moorings. Tilly found a suitable gap in the woofers and headed for the large trees below, these kept her busy for quite sometime.

All fly bars in position

Time to get back to work, my model won’t finish itself. With a new list of jobs to be done, I set about sorting out the flying in the model box. This isn’t anything fancy, just thin bits of wood with model scenery attached so that they can be lifted in and out of the box. I added marked rests on either side of the box, so that positions would be accurate. This took all afternoon. I’ll need a few none cruising days before my meeting in Chippy to get everything finished and there are still plenty of locks to come.

8 locks, 2.75 miles, 2 in a lock, 1st sight, 2 initials swapped over, 6 hours, 2 red boats moored in the winding hole, 6 flying bars, 1 parcel left till morning, 2 fingers crossed that it’s there.

Making A Start Up The Hill. 14th May

Rockery Railway Bridge 158 to Lock 60

Another lovely morning

The sun had been shining for ages before we got up this morning and the batteries were already up to 80% charge, so Mick decided to put a load of washing on without the engine running to see how everything coped. By the time we moved off the batteries had dropped by 12%, so all was fine. It’s nice not to have to have the engine running.

We waved goodbye to Tilly’s friend Ben and moved on up to Wheelock where we’d originally planned to be last night. Our change of plan had given us a better mooring, quieter with more sun and a wider towpath.

We’ve seen this boat about before, I wonder how we recognise it

Approaching the services we could see two boats already there, so we slowed right down and came in slowly, hovering by a moored boat. One boat was just about finished so we didn’t have to loiter long before filling our tank and doing a few chores that involve water. As soon as one boat had finished and moved off another arrived to take it’s place.

First of the paired locks

Now at the bottom of the paired locks we started our ascent. I’d talked to the yarn people this morning and my order was hopefully going to go in the post today, third time lucky, so there was no rush to get to Rode Heath, drying the washing would be more important.

I love this cottage, especially on a sunny day

A Diamond Resort boat was just in front of us, the crew of four kindly lifted a paddle for us on the second paired lock which meant it had emptied by the time we reached it. We decided to do another four locks before stopping for lunch and possibly the day. We soon passed our helpers who’d stopped for lunch and caught up with another boat. We were both having to empty locks, at Lock 62 we had to wait as only one of the paired locks is usable, the other having been converted into a bywash.

Looking back

Lock 61, Cardboard Lock, had a new sign on it (admittedly an old sign as it was originally a BW one). The towpath side lock has shrunk and is now only suitable for boats under 6ft 10inches wide. There are a few like that along this stretch. Older boats with a touch of middle age spread or boats with their fenders down might get stuck. But Oleanna still has her trim waist line so we were alright.

A new old sign

A slightly longer pound than elsewhere and still a distance away from the M6 we pulled in for the day, hung the washing out and had lunch. If we’d been aware of low flying golf balls plopping into the water we’d possibly have moved on up a few more locks, but so far none have hit us!

Spotted on one of the locks today, wonder how long that piece of wood will last

The afternoon Tilly did her thing outside avoiding making friends with a Ginger Tom from a boat that had stopped for lunch. I re-read panto as a third draft had arrived in my Inbox yesterday. A couple of new thoughts, but nothing major to change thank goodness. A Banana and Buckwheat Loaf went into the oven which was just cool enough to enjoy a slice for pudding. Very nice it was too recipe here. I might try the marzipan and raspberry one some time.

6 locks, 2.3 miles, 1 full water tank, 1 clean pooh box, 8 hours for a flap, 1 parcel hopefully on its way today, 4 near misses, 1 springy loaf, 3rd draft, 1 song sheet added.

Queuing! 28th April

Lock 46 to Littleborough

Still to be conquered

With the route into Manchester planned in several chunks, today we had the shortest one to do. Move down three locks and about half a mile, the next few days we’ll be covering more ground. After breakfast we started to make ready for our move and as we did so we joked about waiting for the next boat to come along. The last boat we’d seen pointing in the same direction as us was in Todmorden and before that it had been Hebden Bridge. We’d not seen a moving boat in a couple of days, so we didn’t really expect one to come along, but it did!

Being on the little arm meant we could chat with the chap working the lock whilst his wife hovered in the boat. We’d just decided to empty the yellow water tank before moving down to fill with water in the next pound, so we didn’t rush to join them in the lock.

They are also heading into Manchester and would be stopping in Littleborough for the day, they’d come from the summit this morning and only had a few low pounds, certainly nothing as empty as we’d found. We mentioned that we have a volunteer booked to help us on the way to Piccadilly, if they wanted to join us they’d be welcome.

As we chatted I opened the front door briefly, mistake! After being reluctant to spend any time outside yesterday, today’s sun pulled Tilly out of the door. The geese in the field needed stalking and that tree also needed more thought. No point in trying to get her back and anyway we’d not got far to go so there was no rush.

I just wanted to say hello to the geese

After a while she returned, yellow water emptied and we made our way down the lock. NB Mr Blue Sky was on the water point. No space to pull in by them, so we loitered on the lock landing, we’d not be in anybodies way as a second boat would be very unlikely. But we’d not expected on being in a queue for water today.

A rather nice mooring, might have to come back

We took our turn at the tap and chatted to a chap from the moored boat alongside the services. His boat was the first craned in when the canal reopened, he’d been lucky enough to get planning permission and has a drain and electric hook up right next to a water point. He pointed us in the direction of some skips where he said we could put rubbish, I doubt these are official bins as it is a C&RT maintenance yard, but we made use of them as there are no more bins until Manchester.

Plastic houses with one stone wall

New houses face the canal. Their front walls all built in dressed stone, the natural colours and patterns showing, then all other faces have been built in a cheaper more plastic stone, looking like it’s been clad in sheets. £225k will get you a three bedroomed semi here. Wonder what the thin detached one cost?

Two more locks with plenty of on lookers, one chap eager to help with the gates. Ten we’d reached our destination. A fisherman let us nudge in behind NB Mr Blue Sky. Graeme and Clare came for a chat, a New Zealand couple over for two months. We talked about our plans to go into Manchester. They were interested in sharing the locks but wanted to be at Castlefield Basin to meet a friend a day earlier than we’d planned. We said we’d join them for the last nine big heavy buggers.

Model box just needing steps adding
but they will be matching the show floor, so I’ll make them later

A shopping trip to the Co-op to stock up for the next few days and then back to work for me. An email to the director with dimensions of how things could work and a finished model box. I just need to clear out my cupboard to store it in now, but for the time being it’ll sit in the corner of the dinette.

Late afternoon, as our roast chicken cooked, Graeme and Clare knocked on the roof. They’d been looking at the maps and were going to suggest to their friend to join them at Piccadilly instead of Castlefield. Those extra nine locks after a long day might just be too much and the following day we’d have an extra pair of hands.

So tomorrow we join forces and start to work our way into Manchester. An earlier start than normal for us, but at least we’ll have company and split the work.

3 locks, 0.52 miles, 1 empty wee tank, 1 escapee, 1 queue, 1 full water tank, 0 rubbish, 1 boat going our way, 1 boat going the other way, 1 lady goose watching our every move, 1:25 theatre ready for a set, 1 roast chicken.

Fitting A Circle Into A Square Hole? 27th April

Lock 46

A lull in the rain encouraged Mick to head out for a newspaper this morning. He first headed to the Co-op, but apparently they didn’t have juice that I’d like so he just had to head to Sainsburys, handily passing a bakers that sold pork pies. Sainsburys although small had my juice along with Mick’s favourites cheese twists! So I got healthy juice whilst he got an assortment of baked goods.

Rain came and went all day, we were glad not to be out in it. I tried but the wind was a touch too much and kept interrupting my calculations to climb the big branchless tree. On each attempt I would exit via the cratch, decide against it and arrive at the hatch just as She did. Perfectly timed on her part.

Service time

My drawing board was lifted out from it’s slot and I delved under the dinette for my tech drawing equipment and model making box. Time to make a start on Puss in Boots. To make way for me taking over the main cabin Mick headed into the engine bay to give Oleanna a 750hr service. New filters, oil etc.

Sketch elevation and plan

I spent the morning seeing if I could fit a very big circle onto the Chipping Norton stage. Leaving enough room for actors and dancers and it still reading as a circle through the square of the proscenium took a bit of time. A basic groundplan to show how much space there would be for each scene and highlighting things I’d need to solve as I design the show. I can now let John the director know that this version could work.

Mick carried on tinkering after lunch, Tilly carried on checking the outside and returning, helping to keep my steps up for the day! I stowed the drawing board and started to make a model box of the stage. Last year I was loaned a model box, but as they are producing a show in the autumn two will be needed, so I’m making my own.

Model detritus

I double checked the dimensions of my clothes cupboard to make sure I built the model to fit. Every time I finish working on the model it will be put away in the cupboard to stop Tilly from chewing parts of it, or even moving in, it is a box after all!

As the afternoon progressed Tilly learnt that jumping in onto the floor was a much better idea than straight onto the table! Last summers lack of rain helped in me keeping model bits paw print free, I wonder if I’ll succeed this year! I got all the main walls cut, stage and auditorium floor ready to be fixed together tomorrow. Whilst Mick tried to start Oleanna. This went on for a while.

Ratchet in hand

After several attempts where she started but then gradually slowed down till she stopped, Mick could be heard muttering ‘I don’t understand!’ Tilly and I kept quiet for a while, then asked if we could help, knowing that that was unlikely. Another half hour passed and then more attempts to start her up failed. ‘Should I start conserving electricity?’ ‘No not yet’.

A while longer and each time Oleanna was started up she lasted that bit longer before slowing to a stop. Then at last as Mick pumped the thing that bleeds the air from the diesel line she started and kept going. Phew! He’d already done this before starting her up, removed the filter he’d replaced and put the old one back on in case the filter was at fault. So tomorrow he’ll be putting the new filter back on and pumping the bleeding air thing again.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1.2 miles walked back and forth to open and close doors! 1 newspaper, 1 pork pie, 2 cheese twists (they only come in twos apparently), 1 carton juice, 4 soggy paws, 0 on my model yet, 0 on my drawings yet, 1 flat packed model box, 1 elevation, 1 groundplan, 2300 radius, 2 or 3 portals? 10.5 litres oil, 2 filters, 1 swapped out, 7 attempts, 8th successful, 1 very wet day.