Category Archives: Railways

Panto Postcard 5, 2022.

60.75 hours

Coventry Basin, Coventry Canal to Brownsover Services, North Oxford Canal

Following the red lit path

Monday morning a seriously early start to the day, the alarm went off at 5:20. We were both up and out of the door in 20 minutes. I’d opted to walk across Coventry rather than get a bus or taxi. At about a mile to the Station it’s not that far, but my knees and calf muscles were playing up so Mick accompanied me with the bike in case I needed to ride instead. Coventry was dark and misty, very atmospheric.

First tea of the day.

The train got me to Banbury forty minutes before the bus to Chippy, so I sat in the station cafe with a cuppa and ate a sausage sandwich I’d brought with me watching the sun rise through the fog. The bus onwards to Chippy was quite late arriving and by the time it had made it’s way through some road works it was half an hour late. It had taken me 3hrs 15 minutes to get to work!

Abi the Director was back with us, thankfully Covid had been mild for her and her family. Paul was also back with us, there was time to sort a few problems out before the actors came on stage. It was now time to finish off the technical rehearsal. When the Pippins joined us late afternoon we then did a tech/dress. This meant that if there were any problems we’d stop to sort them. We stopped a few times and then afterwards had quite a lengthy notes session, there were still things missing costume, props wise and a few problems with scene changes.

Mick had a morning snooze on the sofa before pushing off, winding and heading back up to Hawkesbury Junction where he turned back onto the North Oxford Canal and pulled up for the day.

Tuesday. An early start for Jo and myself trying to work through the long list of things that needed finishing, making use of time on stage before the actors arrived. Having a key to the theatre was useful as I could open up.

There was one scene that needed finishing off before production photos could be taken. The finishing off consisted of a lot of cross hatching which I knew would take several hours. I chose to finish the funnels today as they would help the scenery look more complete.

A portrait of Whittington

During the afternoon scenes were worked on by the actors and I got chance to finish off the piece that would sit on the proscenium, this was done by torch light. Have to say I was rather pleased with it.

Getting ready for photos

Then late afternoon we settled down for a dress rehearsal with Josh the photographer, Becky the composer joining us by zoom and we were also joined by several members of staff and ushers to give the actors a small audience. Today we got to see the walk down costumes for the first time, still work in progress and several props were now finished. But sadly things were still being worked on, a black curtain got stuck in one scene meaning many of the photos won’t depict the show as intended.

Such a fair weather boater

Mick’s day was totally opposite. It was raining, so he stayed put avoiding getting wet. Apparently Tilly ventured out for a little while.

Wednesday another early start. The side of the ship needed finishing off and as it spans right across the whole stage in three pieces I needed to do this early so as not to be in peoples way. Finishing touches happened to more props and costumes and I did my best to tick painty notes of my list.

The wings full of scenery and props, so much so some flying was needed

Today we were joined by Gemma the Production Manager who’d been off with covid. Having both her and Paul back in the building meant jobs were being crossed off the list. The auditorium needed clearing and Sophie the DSM was moved up into the box from where she’ll operate the shows. Christmas garlands were primed to be flown in and space was cleared in the wings so there’d be room for the actors.

Highgate Hill

The first preview hadn’t sold many tickets, so last week the decision had been made to cancel it, meaning we’d be able to have another dress rehearsal. A good thing as so many of the creatives had been ill. It was actually a dress without costume, enabling wardrobe to continue working on things.

A well earned beer

One problem was found as Paul watched from the wings. The final scene change was tight and to get two large arches into position in time it was felt that some alterations to them were required. Two truck bases would need to be made, but for now he would be an extra pair of hands back stage.

The first preview went well and we rewarded ourselves with a drink next door at Checkers, followed by some chicken and chips from the burger van.

If you look carefully you might just seen the spouting water

The sun was out again on the North Oxford Canal, so Mick carried on retracing his steps of last week. In Ansty a bridge had been spouting water, social media comments had been concerned that it may be closed by C&RT, thankfully Mick got through without any problems. He thinks it’s a water pipe in the bridge that has burst. Here’s hoping it doesn’t get closed before we are back through in a couple of weeks.

Full moorings

As he approached the swing bridge at Rose Boats the canal got busy. The bridge opened and closed and opened again and the narrows approaching it were congested. This meant that when he reached All Oaks Wood where he’d shared the moorings with one other boat last week, he got the last space.

Thursday. Only one show today in the evening, giving time to do acting notes on stage and time for props, costumes and set pieces to be finished off that bit more. Measurements were taken, timber purchased, alterations to the arches would happen after the show this evening.

One of the traditions of Chippy Panto is that Edith, a lady who adorns the proscenium arch is taken down each year and replaced by something to do with the show. This year I’d decided that it should be a portrait of Whittington the cat. Photos had been taken of Nadia in makeup, this was blown up, a simple version traced onto a shield and then painted in. In previous years I have only once witnessed Edith being replaced, handy to know that it is simply done with a D handle and a safety chain. Time and care were taken and Edith was taken to John Terry’s office for her rest.

Getting all Christmasy

Garlands were fluffed up, ribbons added. Piccadilly Circus was finished off including the extra lines on the backing flat. Jobs ticked off at pace.

Jo had been meant to finish on Wednesday, but she’d decided to stay one extra night to be able to finish off one quite elaborate prop. This took her quite sometime, but was well worth the extra hours and that prop got an extra Ooooooo! in the evening from the audience.

The final lines added to Piccadilly Circus

After the show Paul, Gemma and myself got busy with saws, drills, screws, wheels, canvas and paint. Two truck bases were made up and had a coat of paint applied before we left the theatre, the paint would be dry by the morning ready for the arty bits to be added.

Mick avoided the rain as best he could. Tilly kept the stove company as he moved onwards through the autumn colour.

Autumn colour

A pause to top up with diesel was needed at Armada Boats, then he found a space just before the water point at Brownsover. This meant that Oleanna wouldn’t need to move to top up the water tank and the mooring was a good place to pick up a hire car from.

Friday. Over night I’d had cramp in my right calf muscle which has been playing up for the last few weeks. As I stood up out of bed to try to alleviate the pain I heard a bit of a popping noise! Not good, my hobbling walk would be even worse today. After packing my bags for collection later in the day I hobbled slowly in to the theatre where the truck bases were already fixed to the arches. Time to get arty and paint them.

Spring Street with the theatre at the end

Two colour washes were applied and left to dry. They had just about got there by the time the actors arrived for their warm up on stage. New things should always be shown to actors before a show so that they don’t get thrown, the truck bases would be a step up and down that hadn’t existed before so everyone it affected got to have a go.

Then I could finish painting them. The last black line of Chippy Panto went onto a truck base at 11:46, it would be dry before the final scene of the afternoon show. Other little jobs were ticked of, more garlands and ravens added, then it was time to start collecting my possessions together.

Touch up paints were rationalised and put together. Some things are likely to need a freshen up as they are used, other paints are there just in case.

Some straw still to be added

As the afternoons show started I sat down to have some food, listening to the first school show on the show relay. Not so many laughs, but total excited noise at some scenes. The model box was put together to be added to the 50th anniversary exhibition in the gallery. After the interval I sat on the back row to watch the second half, each member of the audience wearing cat or rat masks that they’d made prior to their visit.

A coat of glaze to the truck bases was just about the last thing I could do before press night. My job was done. A couple of things sadly not achievable in what time remained, but an email to Paul next week will hopefully see them get done.

A technical glitch needed sorting

Mick arrived in a hire car, we loaded all my work gear and then headed to my digs to pick up my bags there. A chat with Suzanne and a final goodbye and thank you for letting me stay again. Some cheesy chips were consumed before joining the audience at the theatre for Press Night which seemed to go down very well.

We stayed for some food post show and a drink, but by now my energy levels had run out. It was time to say my goodbyes and thank yous. Time to wish everyone a good run and a Happy Christmas in Chippy. Time to climb in the car and drive back to Rugby, have a few head nudges with Tilly, a glass of wine for the driver and go to sleep.

Dressing rooms

Dick Whittington is open and what a show it is. This year has had many problems come it’s way, covid, family bereavements, people doing their best to plug gaps in the back stage team. We got there in the end with a lot of hard work from everyone and the assistance of zoom. Now I need to rest up and get back to day to day boat life, a far slower pace will be welcome.


1 lock, 17.92 miles, 1 right, 1 hire car, 1 panto open, 616 hrs work in total, 1 designer hanging up her dungarees, 1 boaters hat being dusted off, but first the sofa calls.

Stopping For The Trains. 24th August

Pudding Lane FOTRN mooring to Nene Valley Railway Bridge EA mooring

Last night I’d noticed I’d acquired a few insect bites. this morning I counted them 68. By the end of the day the count was up to 87! Mick has some too, he’s not counted his. Blimey what has been having a good munch on us? One thought is that we’d disturbed a lot of insects whilst out in the field looking for Tilly the other night. It’s a good job we’d stocked up on bite cream.


Todays plan was to cruise, work our way through several locks to reach Fotheringhay, then have a few days off. This end of the River Nene does good views, no flood banks to get in the way and not too many trees hogging the banks.

At Wold Newton Lock the guillotine gate was down, the lock full, the river above really quite full, the level over the top of the gates. We reset the lock in our favour and brought Oleanna in, keeping her away from the cascade of water coming over the gates.

The mill (with extension)

This lock has to be one of the prettiest locks on the river, with it’s mill (not so original extension), church, house and various buildings all close by and lawns. A couple sat having morning coffee overlooking the weir cut, very lucky people.

Such a pretty lock

Round a big bend, dark clouds focused the sunlight over a field of cows who’d just had a visit from the Farmer. We pootled on, the A1 sticking close by. The Nene Valley Railway Bridge came into sight, followed by the pontoon, it was empty. A thought came through both our heads, maybe we should pull in and carry on tomorrow. I could have a full days work here instead of by the castle.


We pulled in, making sure we overhung the far end of the pontoon, hopefully leaving enough space for another narrowboat. With it still being school holidays the railway was open today. A quick check of the time table suggested the first train of the day would soon be on it’s way towards Peterborough. The bell rang, followed a while later by the toot of a diesel engine, just enough time to get out onto the pontoon for a photo.

Today’s engine not as showy as when we moored here last time

I settled down to work and Mick headed off to look at trains. He’d deliberated on getting a rover ticket, he’d be able to do the round trip twice. If it had been a steam engine today then he’d most probably have done it, but with the drought only diesels are running at the moment, a Class 14 today. Instead he looked round the station, the engine shed, watched the train come back, head out, return and go back to Peterborough again.

Version ….4?

I reworked the troublesome scene and painted some funnels, added a few twinkly lights. There may be a better version yet to come, but if I run out of time this solution will be fine.

Tilly being captive here (the pontoon not the right sort) I gave her her spot on flee treatment a couple of days early, just in case the critters that have bitten us had come from her, we doubt it as she’s the only one not scratching!

1 lock, not 4, 3.02 miles, 1 full river, 1 change of plan, 3 services today, 4th version made, 1 reject funnel, 2 boaters promising to get up early tomorrow, 87 bites and counting.

PLEASE go HOME! 14th May

The Boathouse

Conversations on the Geraghty zoom this morning were obviously going to be taken over to a certain extent by the news of a new member of the family this week. Mick is now a Great Uncle for the forth time, congratulations to Ruth, James, P and Daphne.

With the sun out and the temperature rising where we are moored was guaranteed to be a popular place. A group of youngsters arrived planning on a swim, all fine until they start peering into our home. Mick went out the back to adjust things making sure they knew someone was onboard, they moved round the basin to jump in elsewhere.

It was time for Mick to do the oil change, the one he was going to do when Oleanna went into Blue Water Marina in Thorne last November. The timing of it is just about correct with the engine hours, he’d just wanted to leave her over the winter with fresh lubrication. Overalls went on and the bow doors were opened for Tilly to be able to come and go as she pleased, today would be a sausage day.

Tilly whilst it was quiet

A rib turned up, another backed down the slipway into the water. Sunny weekend water fun was to be had by many. Groups turned up to socialise, smoke and for some to swim. During one gap Tilly made it back to the boat with ease, staked her claim on the wooden posts and rolled around, MINE! All mine!

Looks idyllic doesn’t it

With Mick in the engine bay I considered giving Oleanna a wash, but there were too many people about, instead I headed off to buy a newspaper. I could just walk to the Co-op on Thorpe Road but that would be boring, instead I’d head to the one on Oundle Road on the other side of the river. This would mean a good walk along the side of the rowing course and across Orton Lock.

A long straight route towards the river, lots of rowers speeding their way along the course, giant floating pomegranates marking the ends.

Under the Nene Parkway there was a great painting of a hand. Once I was under the bridge and had turned round there were several more quality pieces of graffiti art, some more accomplished than others. Then there were artworks created by school kids that had been printed onto banners and I’d passed several sculptures, quite an arty area.

Orton Lock was full with the top gates left open. Over the last few days notices have been put up by the EA requesting the locks should be left empty with the guillotine gates up, but someone obviously couldn’t be bothered emptying the lock. I walked over the weir across the Nene Valley Railway line and on through Orton Meadows, joined the fast world again before ducking into the wonderfully airconditioned Co-op.

NB Mushy P below the lock

A more relaxed shaded route through woods was found for my return to the river. The lock was full and NB Mushy P was just arriving to go up, out for a pootle making the most of a lovely day.

A quick search on Google suggested there would be a lot of sculptures along a path that ran parallel to the one I’d already walked. Some concrete pieces were nothing special, maybe one was even missing from it’s stand!

Then there were others that stood out. Little Prince by Jane Ackroyd. The Cormorant by Elizabeth Cooke was my favourite with a fish spine in it’s beak.

Festival Boat by Sokari Douglas Camp can be seen from the river glistening in the sunshine. Odd Oaks by Nicholas Pope now decaying and lying on their sides.

When I got back to the boat more people had arrived. A group with a rib were making quite a collection of glasses from the pub. At least two groups were jumping in and we had their music playing. Oleanna’s bow had revisited classics such as Abba and at the stern there was more beat than melody.

Still quite calm

Tilly had found a gap to return to Oleanna but around about 5pm she decided that she’d like another perusal around the trees, well within cat curfew she was allowed out, us grateful as tonight I’d unwisely decided to cook a roast chicken, so we were thankful that all doors could be open whilst the oven did it’s thing.

NB Mushy P returned nudging dangling legs out of the way.


6pm came and went, still no Tilly. The groups of loud people, music and splashes almost certainly putting her off making a dash back home. I walked round the nearby wooded area calling for her, hoping that she’d come to me so that I could pick her up and assist her back to the boat. There was no sight or sound.

As one group left another arrived, older men with more music all intent on jumping in.

An hour later Mick tried to find Tilly, still no sign.

I did a round of the wood, chatted to the chap from NB Mushy P who had returned, but still all the people about put her off.

Before our roast was ready someone arrived on a motorbike, they also had to jump in. Then revving of the engine followed.

We really don’t mind sharing the space and water with other people. The noise was a little bit too much at times, but they were all enjoying themselves. However all the time I kept willing them all to PLEASE go HOME! Then Tilly would return of her own accord, well that’s what we hoped.

The roast chicken was eaten, Mick did the washing up. Outside a game of football was had using a plastic bottle as a ball. Just P*ss off! And let my cat come home! Eventually people started to head off. The rib set off, leaving half a pubs worth of empty glasses behind. The motorbike revved itself away. Gradually the final music faded along with the chat and banter. Peace once more. It was 8:30.

Outside one fisherman cast his line into the basin. Mick started walking round. I opened up the land side of the cratch cover a little, big enough for a skinny cat, then did a more concerted walk round the wood. Mad cat woman was out and in full voice. I called and called, then listened for a reply. Nothing!

The only thing left to do was trust in Tilly to come home. The litter tray was put out the back in case she’d got lost and we settled down in front of the TV. An episode of Killing Eve did it’s best to keep us occupied, but all the time I had my ear listening for Tilly’s bell and her thug like sprint across the wooden decking by the mooring.

A little thud was heard at 9:15 as four white paws jumped onto the stern of Oleanna. Thank goodness!! The doors were closed straight away. Tilly headed straight for her food bowl she was starving. Half an hours extra shore leave had turned into over four hours. Thank goodness she is such a good boat cat, she’ll sleep well tonight.

0 locks, 0 miles, 5 walked, 1 oil change, 12mm play on belts, 752 people swimming, 5 cruisers, 32 glasses left, 1 hot day, 1 sculpture trail, 1 stranded cat, 2 concerned boaters, 1 pooh bucket swapped over, 1 failed deterrent, 2 final episodes Killing Eve, 4 white paws and 1 white tipped tail back safe and sound.

B to A to B. 11th May

The Boathouse

Not quite up to yesterdays standards, but not bad.

In Scarborough the alarm was set early, last of the house jobs to be done, then pack up and leave in time for the train to York. There I chose to walk the straight route to the hospital, over Scarborough Rail Bridge, up St Mary’s, through the grounds of Bootham Hospital and into the main hospital site.

During my last eye test pre-pandemic the optician hadn’t been happy with something, she wanted me to have further tests done which could only happen at a hospital. I was referred, had my appointment changed several times during 2020 but finally got to be seen that December.

I was diagnosed with Drusen a build up of lipids and protein near the optic nerve. Some drusen occur naturally with age, others can be a sign of macular degeneration. Today was a follow up appointment, I had had to chase the hospital up regarding it, but I was here at last.

Big letters

Last time I had all sorts of tests done, eye drops, photos, it took ages. Today I had to read the usual eye test chart in area B. Then go to area A where I had a periphery sight test, a full five minutes of trying to spot the little dots. Back to area B where I was very quickly seen by Mr M Moosa. He shone the BIG light into each eye in turn. There had been no change to my Drusen so he was happy to discharge me and I should now mention it when visiting the opticians. Quite a relief.

What was York County Hospital where my Dad spent a month in a plaster cast in 1976

Now because I had booked a cheap ticket I had over four hours to kill in my home town. What to do? What to see? I became a tourist, but one with local knowledge and did a bit of shopping too as it’s someone’s birthday soon! Shh!!!

I walked round places I have known and loved. The pub the amateur dramatics used to frequent is all boarded up. A great family friends old flat is up for sale.

A visit to Barnetts, a must when in York (really it is!), they had some drawer handle screws that we needed for the freezer.

I followed a busker through the streets until he set up camp at the top of The Shambles to play his squeeze box, sing and jig a puppet around. I was relieved that Margaret Clitherow‘s house was still there and not been taken over by more Harry Potter tat shops.

Grape Lane, Coffee Yard. Up to the Minster’s south transept where I corrected a couple who thought that York Bar Walls only stretched from Goodramgate to Bootham Bar! I ended up having quite a chat with them suddenly feeling like a local again not a tourist.

The South Transept

After a sit down on the Minster steps I discovered that there is a Cat Trail around the city, two black cats sitting high up on buildings on Goodramgate.

A local architect Tom Adams had black cats put on his buildings, but there are many more that date back before his time. I knew of some, but certainly not all.

A meander around York wouldn’t be right without going through the Museum Gardens and down to the river. Here a chap adjusted his tyre fenders. Plenty of space today, only three narrowboats and one cruiser, sadly no ice cream boat!


Have to admit I was very glad of the sit down on the train back to Peterborough where it had been raining most of the day and Mick had even lit the stove. Mick had used the wind and rain as an excuse to not change the oil and filters on Oleanna as his back would have got wet!

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 trains, 9 miles walked, 1 house cleaner, 2 eyes discharged, 1 relieved designer, 4 hours being a tourist, 4 boats, 1 very warm boat to come home to.

Extras On The Plate. 10th May

The Boathouse

The main reason for not hanging about on the River Nene has been the need to return northwards. Peterborough is the ideal place to do this from as the East Coast Main line trains mostly stop here and at York. When the Rail Sale was on we managed to book tickets for a fraction of the prices normally charged, but only on off peak trains.

That kept me going on my journey north

My first train wasn’t until midday, so there was time for a lie in and a proper breakfast. Tilly was allowed some shore leave, but when she returned the doors were firmly closed, I really didn’t want her following me to the station. You’ll notice some extras on the breakfast plate, white and black pudding, the advantage of shopping at Morrisions, they do gluten free versions!

The station is a twenty minute walk from our mooring which looked a similar distance to the moorings on the embankment in town. Most of the walk can be done through park land rather than along a busy main road. My train stopped at every station north. No boats on the Trent at Newark that I could see, but the pontoon in Doncaster looked really quite full. A fifty minute wait for the train to Scarborough and I was soon walking to Sainsburys to stock up on cleaning items that had been used up and not replaced by lour last lodgers.

Alan and Betty waiting or their Ding Ding

Mick hadn’t had enough time to do much at the house last week on his failed visit to collect our postal votes, which still haven’t arrived (but thankfully the candidate we’d have voted for got elected). This visit was to change the beds, do the washing and clean the house as much as time would allow before I was due in York for a hospital appointment.

The washing machine and tumble drier were worked hard, the last load left to finish washing overnight. Ironing until almost 10pm and all the beds made up ready. Our last lodgers along with using things up and not replacing them had done little in the way of cleaning. This meant no undercoat on the windows this visit!

Tilly added her own thoughts to the list too!

Meanwhile back on Oleanna, Mick had a little list of jobs to work through whilst I was gone. Today he took the kitchen tap to bits to replace a cassette to stop the hot water tap dripping. This is the second time he’s had to do this in five years. Maybe the tap wasn’t such a good find even if its shape mirrors the angle of the tumble home!

Well the lodgers had left it!

The cold water side of the tap didn’t want to come off and now when you turn the tap on on that side it leaks at the base of the unit. More investigation required and YouTube watching.

The dishwasher and shower filters were cleaned out too all whilst Tilly explored the environs.

0 miles, 0 locks, 2 cooked breakfasts, 2 trains, 0 washing liquid, 0 washing up liquid, 0 cleaning cloths, 5 loads washing, 3 sets bed linen ironed, 1 Betty, 1 Alan, 1 ground floor clean, 1 flannel, 2 odd socks, 1 leak fixed, 1 created, 2 filters, 1 cheeky bowl of chilled medication, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Shhhh, There’s Space. 9th May

Wansford Station to The Boathouse, Peterborough

No trains now until next weekend, so no point in hanging around and anyway we needed to find a mooring where Tilly would be allowed shore leave. We don’t trust her on pontoons especially on rivers where one wrong pounce into the friendly cover could have her swept away.

Water Newton

Another lovely morning as we wound our way round towards Peterborough. What a pretty lock Water Newton is. Church just there, converted mill over there, mown lawns, swans and three chaps smoking weed and dangling their feet over the edge of the lock landing! Not quite the place you’d imagine them to hang out, but the view was worth seeing.

By now we’d been caught up by a chap on a cruiser. I walked ahead to drop the guillotine and set the lock. He was happy to join us if we went into the lock first, he then bow hauled his boat in alongside us having to manipulate his ropes around a twiggy tree. He then went on ahead to set the next lock.

Nosy cows

To think we have travelled along the A1 so many times and not realised that the river lay just so close. Zooming along you’d miss most of the little glimpses towards the river between trees and buildings, but on the water the noise follows you.

Moorings on both sides

At Alwalton Lock our locking partner was just opening the gates for us to enter, perfect timing. I took over from him at the controls where a strategic stick had been used to hold the ‘lower gate’ button in. The gates needed a touch of adjusting so that the white light came on on the panel, then I could lift the guillotine.

Alongside the lock there is an EA mooring and on the other side of the weir cut is a FOTRN mooring, quite pretty but a touch noisy with the A1 so close.

We managed to swap with an uphill boat below the lock, our partner zooming off ahead, if he found somewhere suitable he’d moor up, if not we might see him at the next lock.

Milton Ferry Bridge

Park land draws you in towards Peterborough. The fancy Milton Ferry Bridge and Ferry Meadows. We considered mooring in the Meadows, there’s a 24hrs mooring there, but this would be too far out for our needs in the next couple of days. After an hour of cruising we arrived at Orton Lock the last none tidal lock on the River Nene.

Last lock

Here big sluices line up alongside the lock. Our partner had waited for us and another boat was coming up in the lock, helping to set it for us. Down we came with Charlotte Rose our partner, he pulled in to make use of a nearby Co-op whilst we carried on in towards the city.

Peterborough has several moorings we could use, plenty on the embankment, but we had one in our sights, tucked away off the main river, but would there be space for us?

Rowing lake

The entrance in towards the rowing course isn’t advertised, it brings you alongside the course and then opens out into a large pond, a private basin further along past The Boathouse. As we turned in we could see there was a narrowboat already there, but would there be space for us too? Yes, plenty of room alongside the decking. This will do nicely!


The decking has seen better days and reminded me of walking on scenic flats, knowing where the structure lay behind a wise thing so as not to put your feet through! With trees alongside and friendly cover Tilly was gone for some time.


This evening I have had a photo sent to me on facebook taken yesterday at Wansford. A friend I used to work with uses the tea rooms at Wansford as a pit stop when he’s on the A1. Yesterday he’d stopped for a break and a cuppa, sat at the picnic benches above the moorings and got a photo of the train coming into the station a couple of hours earlier than the one we saw, we’d missed him by an hour and a half!

Jeremy’s photo

3 locks, 7.51 miles, 1 locking partner, 1 very friendly boat club, A1, 2 boats passed, 1 mooring with room, 4 hours shore leave, 1 shopping trip, 90 minutes, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

In Time For The 15:45. 8th May

Fotheringhay Castle to Wansford Station

Waking up in the shadow of a castle isn’t a thing we do frequently, Newark is the only other place we can think of. Windsor is too far away as is Beeston Castle. Fotheringhay made for a good view this morning, sheep now grazing where Tilly had explored last night.

Oor morning view

As we had breakfast a group of people sat on the top of the mound, their three dogs following the trails around it of Tilly’s scent.

The church dominates the sky line for miles

What a glorious day, one for sun cream, maybe I’ll be swapping our wardrobes from winter to summer soon. But then again it may just snow next week! Pulling away we decided that this might be a good place to meet up with the London Leckenbys on our return. If they could get one of the river side pitches and us a mooring alongside that would be ideal for a weekend. Behind us for quite some miles the tower of St Mary and All Saints remained in view, I’m looking forward to have a look round it in a couple of months time.

Calm before the stampede

At Warmington Lock we had great views all around, the sheep in the field next to us were very friendly, coming up to the fence to watch we were doing things right. As Mick brought Oleanna into the lock there was a sudden stampede from the far side of the field. Were the Mums and lambs being rounded up by the farmer?

It soon became very obvious that there was a dog in the field, but not a sheep dog. As two small dogs sprinted across the field I could see a chap running towards a gate from the next field, the dogs already way ahead! We watched, nothing we could do, only hope that the sheep could manage to get away before any harm was done.

Thankfully the sheep slowed down and the two dogs could be seen returning to their owner, one was picked up the other carried on to the other people before being put back on a lead. The path they followed came past the lock, through two gates. All three dogs were now on leads, but their owners didn’t seem to have the ability to close gates behind them! So much for the Countryside Code and keeping their dogs under control!

Mick walking back to get Oleanna

The route to Elton Lock is a little convoluted from the lock landing due to the route the weirs take. Once Oleanna was all tied up Mick came to help. Boats above polished their brasses in the shade of some trees whilst a Dad pumped up a paddleboard below ready to take his little lad for a ride.

Today the sky was filled with sky divers. Planes were taking off and dropping people way up high. As one group neared the ground another could be seen as tiny specks pulling their parachute cords. The views up there must have been amazing today.

Above Yarwell Lock we made use of the water point to top up. The pressure was good so after fifteen or so minutes we went to set the lock, just as we opened the top gates Oleanna’s water tank started to over flow, perfect timing.

A new looking executive estate sits around a basin. Inside I spied a dusty looking narrowboat. Most of the houses facing the river were making the most of their views with two story windows, views from the master bedrooms.

We managed to keep our distance despite the flow of the river

Soon we were following a couple in an inflatable canoe. They had no idea that there was 20 tonnes of boat gradually getting closer to them, Oleanna just about in tick over. They dabbled their paddles in the water occasionally, pointing things out. If the next lock hadn’t been round the corner we’d have given them a ‘Bip’ on the horn. We managed to stay at a safe distance but the wise words we’d been given before doing the Tideway cruise last year came to mind, ‘Keep looking behind you’.

At last they pull away

The lock landing was full, two cruiser having just come up. We were spotted and stared at. Eventually the penny dropped that we might be wanting to use the lock and not just tread water for an hour or so admiring the view with nowhere to moor up! The crew dithered. ‘YES’ we did want the lock. The control cabinet was closed, the guillotine left down, one lady went to lift a paddle to fill the lock but changed her mind. What they actually needed to do was get back on their boats and move out of the way. This all took time as there had to be a discussion as they climbed back on board, but in the end they finally moved off. Good job the lady hadn’t lifted a paddle as the bottom gate hadn’t been closed fully, easily solved and the gate being almost down did save a lot of finger ache.

A swans nest full of eggs

Now the river winds it’s way towards Wansford where the Great North Road crosses. First the original bridge, Old North Road Bridge, most of what is seen today was built in the 1600s but had improvement works done through the centuries, the main arch has a date stone of 1795. Just before the bridge are wonderful buildings, a coaching house from when this was the main north south route.

Old North Road Bridge

In 1929 the Great North Road moved to a new bypass with a bridge to the east. This bridge boasts that it spans into two counties and halfway across still sits the boundary post, even though the boundary changed in 1965, the two counties becoming one.

1929 bridge in the back ground, 1975 foreground

Increasing traffic necessitated a second bypass in 1975 running parallel to the first, this became the southbound carriageway the 1929 bridge the northbound.

Model railway where the scales have gone a little awry

The river now heads back southwards, we had our fingers crossed that there would be space on the EA mooring at Wansford Station. As we came under the railway bridge we managed to join a hire boat already moored up, mooring with our centre and stern lines was the way forward, adding another rope from one of the fender eyes to hold the bow closer to the pontoon, the flow of water wanting to push this out.

We timed that right!

We settled down for a late lunch and had a look at the time table for the Nene Valley Railway. Currently trains only run on Saturdays and Sundays, the last one due back into the station at 15:45, twenty minutes time. When we heard the bell ring we made sure we were outside ready to see the engine coming back across the bridge into the station. Very well timed, 34081, 92 Squadron pulled the carriages in to the station.

We had a wander about later, the station closed, but enough for us to see. A check on the website for our return, we won’t be joining the whiskey train £100 for two, anyhow I’m not in the slightest bit partial to whiskey. Even a fish and chip trip would cost us a touch too much, maybe we’ll just save up for an All Day Railcar Rover at £12 a head.

Glad he got the right door

4 locks, 9.19 miles, 2 dogs not in control, 1 field of worried sheep, 2 dithering ladies, 2 too relaxed canoeists, 3 bridges, 1 great road, 0 shore leave, 1 boat just in time, 1 Sunday roast chicken.

Soaking Curdsworth. 13th April

Hopwas Wood Bridge to Curdworth Visitor Moorings

Not really a drip drip drip this morning, nor a drop drop drop! Hardly a little April shower! More a torrent!

If only!

As we had breakfast NB Freespirit came past, this would the last time we’d leapfrog as we’d be going in different directions today. Once the rain had stopped the covers were rolled back, the forecast suggested the rain had passed, we hoped so as we’d be working through locks today.

Three miles with plenty of moored and moving boats to keep our progress slow before we arrived at Fazeley. Here a share boat had just finished on the water point and was pushing out, a chap clung onto his centre line whilst waiting for the tap, a boat popped it’s bow out from the Coventry Canal and we turned right keeping to the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal.

Tolsons Mill

Tolson’s Mill has new metal windows, being painted today, part of the refurbishment that will see the old mill converted into 50 apartments, other buildings will be town houses. Long gone is the wonderful yarn shop that used to reside here, although my bank account is thankful.

Obligatory photo

The obligatory photo of Drayton Turret Footbridge was taken. Maybe next time I should walk this stretch to try to get a different angle on the bridge.

Swans sitting in the fields, it’s what they do around here

Should we climb a couple of locks before stopping for lunch or have it early? We passed the first mooring spot and very soon regretted not pulling in. The dark cloud that had been looming had caught up with us. The second M on Waterway Routes had some space so we quickly pulled in, the pram hood lifted and coats left to drip dry.

As we had lunch torrential showers came and went. Would the sun stay out for us doing the Curdworth flight. We already knew the forecasts were lying and that we’d get a soaking!

Lock ahead!

The first time we did this flight in October 2014 on NB Lilliyanne (known as Lillian after my Mum). We’d left Birmingham that morning and had aimed to get out of the ‘bad lands’ to either Minsworth or Curdworth that day. As we started the Curdworth flight the heavens opened drenching us to the skin. So today we were prepared for the weather.

Not in use anymore, thank goodness

The locks were just about all set in our favour, just a lift of a paddle to make opening the bottom gate was needed. The bottom lock we remained dry. I walked up the flight with Mick pulling in to the side in the first pound to hand me my waterproof coat. This was just as well as showers started. By the time we reached Lock 9 I shut the gate behind Oleanna and retreated to the shelter of the bridge below, waiting for the rain to ease. My waterproofs were doing their job of resisting the precipitation which was all now collecting inside my left trainer!

Brolly cruising

The rain eased a little, then returned. Despite waterproofs we both got pretty much soaked again. Mick lifted the pram cover whilst in a lock, but with reduced vision it’s not the best thing to cruise with up especially when there are low bridges about, oh to be stood in the cockpit of David’s boat with the windscreen wipers going!

By the time we were about half way up the flight the weather started to brighten up a touch and we could see a boat heading down the locks above. The next lock was opened up for us. HS2 will cross the canal in this short pound. To the north west of the canal traffic cones and fencing mark the route. To the south east earth works have already started and on the far side of the M42 large cranes were being erected, the bridge that crosses the canal will also have to cross the motorway.

Swapping locks

Chance to chat to people at a lock. They were the first of several hirers we’d meet today most doing the Warwickshire ring. These people are awaiting their slot for a new build boat by Ortomarine, an all electric boat, this will coincide with their kids starting to fend for themselves. I wished them luck with the build and we both headed off.

Not far now, through the top lock which was moved when the M6 Toll was built. Not much evidence of where it used to be, but the shadow of a lock on Waterway Routes shows where it once was, most definitely in the way of the motorway!

Red arrow shows where the lock used to be

We now cruised to find a mooring suitable for both us and Tilly. Somewhere we’d be able to dry out. Thankfully we arrived in time to grab a space between Curdworth Tunnel and Curdworth Bridge a tree lined cutting suitable for Tilly to play in for an hour or so.

Curdworth Tunnel, short but full of spiders!

We were soon surrounded and then passed by several more boats, mostly hire boats on the ring arriving a touch too late to get a mooring here, but there was plenty more space further on. I suspect we’ll be passing a few more boats tomorrow finishing their descent from Birmingham aiming for the Dog and Doublet as a reward for doing so many downhill locks in a day.

11 locks, 9.16 miles, 1 right, 2 open swing bridges, HS2, 2 soaked boaters, 1 hour exploration, 2 out of 3 times soaked, 20 years.

Charging Down.11th October

Lock 9E to Aspley Basin, Huddersfield

Last nights mooring, not so rural

Mick wanted another go in the engine bay this morning to see if he could free what remained of the cable around the pulley on the alternator. I in the mean time sat down to hand write the post you read yesterday so as not to forget things. I’ve discovered that hand writing is actually a touch quicker than tapping the words out on a keyboard, I tend not to re-read everything several times. If only the words would now leap onto the computer for me, I’m going to try dictating them into Word when we have power restored and see how that goes.

Hand written

Mick beavered away at the back. First the remaining cable was prised out from the pulley, Hooray!!! Then he fitted the new belt to the alternator. On Saturday morning he’d been a touch cautious about this, RCR could have done it if the cable hadn’t been a problem. But having spent quite a bit of time up close with the beating heart of Oleanna over the last couple of days he felt that he was more than capable. By 11 am the engine was started, things checked over in the engine bay. Inverter was turned on along with the fridge, everything sprang back into life. We had POWER again!


With plenty of time to make it down to Lock 1E for 3pm it had been a morning well spent. Once the batteries had had a little boost the dish washer was turned on, now very full. The covers were rolled back and I set off to walk most of the rest of the way down into Huddersfield.

The character of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal now changes, far less leafy, more old mills, roads and the railway. Industry the reason for the canal existing in the first place. Businesses were proud of themselves when mills and factories were built, carving their names in stone, building their names into the brickwork, established dates forever.

At 8E there was at last a walkway over the top gates. I soon worked out that this was because there was no other way to get to the offside, despite there being a bridge just below the lock there was no means of getting to the gate that side. Time to walk round the lock the other way time and time again. The beams overhang the bridge below, the beams having been shaped round it. This does mean that the final push closed of the gates can be done from the road, saving one trip all the way round the lock, no walkway to jump from one gate to the other here on the Narrow.

A boat! I was so surprised I didn’t manage to get it in focus!

Between 6E and 5E the level was down, was this to be the start of our water worries? I walked on ahead, safer that way so as not to have to launch oneself off the boat if you can’t get into the side. Up ahead I could see a boat coming towards us, they must have come up 1E at 9am. They loitered for Mick to come through a bridge and there was time to chat. The level between 1 and 2 had been very low, they’d only just made it. I warned them about Lock 1W and how much of a b**rd it was.

NB Bridge Street was one of the boats we saw a lot of in Nantwich last year during lockdown 1. We also saw them somewhere near Fradley earlier this year. I said they’d recognise the boat when they passed. They did and asked Mick how Tilly was.

Just a touch low

The bywash certainly wasn’t flowing at lock 5E, the lock needed just a touch more water to level out, a C&RT key was required for the locks on the paddles, that of course was onboard.

Towering over Oleanna

Down under the very tall viaduct which helps connect Huddersfield to Sheffield, the trains too high up to get in a picture as they cross.

Gong along the old tunnel

Down 4E and then the long narrow channel past new University buildings. The position of Lock 3E has been moved twice. Factories had been built upstream of the lock and Lock 2E after the canal had been abandoned, they were built on the line of the canal and thus blocked it. The solution was to relocate the lock upstream of the factories and have a tunnel built under the factory. Eleven years later Sellers Engineering relocated to a new site, enabling Lock 3E to move a second time, nearer to the original Lock 3E. The section that had been the tunnel was now brought to the surface and is the narrow channel leading to the new lock. Link

Dropping down 3E you have to get back on your boat as there is no land access to Lock 2E. This is where we met NB Jubilee six years ago. They were just arriving at the empty Lock 2E and it was in their favour. We pulled in on the lock landing awaiting our turn. As the lock filled and NB Jubilee rose the rapid level drop above the lock caused Lillian to go on such an alarming list we dropped the paddles very quickly!

Today we had no problem as no-one was coming up the lock. We dropped down, Mick picking me up again and headed on down to Lock 1E through another tunnel and the old Lock 2E. I remembered Frank and myself having to go to the front of Lillian to help raise the stern on this pound, it also made it easier to get off the bow as the stern would not get into the side.

A touch low towards Lock 1E

Today the pound looked a touch low so I replicated what I’d done six years earlier, hopping off the bow to tie Oleanna up. Lunch was had at a jaunty angle whilst we waited for 3pm and the chaps from C&RT to come and open the lock for us.

As close to the side as we could manage

Discussions on various forums have been that the University alongside the canal here was able to use water from the canal to cool things, the warm water then being put into the river, thus explaining why the pound above Lock 1E is quite often so low. Mick spotted someone wearing blue outside so popped out to see if it was C&RT. It wasn’t, but was a chap who knew about the water at the University. No water is taken from the canal, there wouldn’t be enough for their needs in that pound as the level is always so low!

At just gone 3pm a van arrived with two C&RT employees. One chap told Mick how to move Oleanna into the centre of the canal, he knew everything, apart from how our boat reacted. Mick however did get Oleanna lined up with her bow close to the top gates so that the lock could be filled. Then he nudged backwards so we could open the gates and bring her into her last lock of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. Another tick off the list of waterways for Oleanna.

We’d started at Bridge 111 and Lock 1W, we were now coming off the Narrow at Lock 1E and Bridge 18! The bridge numbers continue onto the Huddersfield Broad Canal to where it meets the Calder and Hebble. Under Wakefield Road Bridge, slowly, we popped out at Aspley Basin.

A familiar place

First thing was to top up on water, dispose of rubbish at the C&RT services. Then we pushed over to the diesel point at the marina to wait for the chap who would be with us after 4pm. When he arrived we were given the option to stay on the diesel point and be able to plug in or move up to where there would be no hook up, but it would be free for 72 hours, there after it would be £8 a night. We wanted to be plugged in so as to make use of the washing machine and at £10 a night including power we could run the machine as much as wanted and gorge ourselves with light, charging everything within sight.

The lights of Huddersfield

To celebrate our arrival and power being restored, we headed over to the okay Aspley Table Table for some reasonably priced food. If I hadn’t just spent the last three days walking all the way down from Marsden, then we’d have headed into town to the Chilli Lounge for a curry, but my legs really didn’t want to do any more steps.

8 locks, 83ft 6″ descended, 2.54 miles, 1 last tuft of wire, 1 belt, 1 alternator working again, 1 boat with POWER! 1 jaunty lunch break, £10 incl, 3 loads washing, 2 loads dishwasher, 1 gammon, 1 chicken breast, 0.5 rack of pork ribs, 2 glasses of wine, 1 narrow canal completed and I got to work every lock this time, well apart from the guillotine bit! 0 shore leave!

Five Foot Three By Five Foot. 6th October

Roach Lock to Wool Road Winding Hole

The chaps on the other boat were out and about this morning as we pushed off. One chap was measuring their cabin, he wasn’t sure they’d fit through Standedge Tunnel. There are strict maximum dimensions that your boat must fit due to the dimensions of the tunnel, yes it does get tight in places. Maximum height above the water 6ft 2″, maximum draught 3ft 3″, width 6ft 10″, length 70ft.

Roach Lock moorings

Then there is the height of your cabin corners above the water compared with the width across the top. There is a handy chart here. When we were on the River Wey we measured Oleanna at a bridge where we knew the height. Oleanna measured 1.87m or there abouts to the top of her horns, so just under the maximum height for Standedge, we can always remove the horns if we need to.

Blue skies and hills!

The chap with the tape measure said they had discovered that their booking wasn’t until a week on Friday, not this Friday. They are heading back to their mooring and with the Rochdale and Leeds Liverpool both closed it was the Narrow or the Trent to get home and there is a matter of flying away on holiday in a couple of weeks time too.

We left them to it and turned to face the hills ahead.

What a sky

What a stunning day!


I could just leave it at that, because it really was glorious. The sun shone, bright blue skies, views across the valley, trees on the cusp of autumn. Yesterdays dampness just evaporated away. Wonderful.

Bridge 85 is called Division Bridge. This used to mark the boundary between Yorkshire and Lancashire, the name suggesting the counties rivalry with each other in times gone by. Oleanna crossed the old boundary, the next lock in Old Yorkshire was the first to not have locks on the paddle gear! This of course didn’t last long as they were reintroduced at the next lock.

And breath

Views through the trees across the valley, the peaty water and the sunshine. I soon had to make a change to my leg attire and layers came off from walking and paddle winding.

Royal George Mills sits by Lock 19W which shares it’s name. Built in 1786, by 1870 it specialised in the production of felt and the manufacture of flags. During the 20th C they specialised in two forms of felt, Technical felt used in machinery and Taper Hammer Felt used on the hammers on pianos, the mill was renowned for it throughout the world.

A couple of community raised beds sit alongside the lock, it looks like strawberries, tomatoes and mint were the main crops. Only green tomatoes today, all the strawberries long gone.

Spire and mast

The spire of Christchurch Friezland reminded Mick of a wedding he’d once attended there.

Frenches Wharf

Next Frenches Wharf Marina. Here six years ago we’d wondered if the grey box was a pump out machine, it turned out not to be. We also wanted a Saturday newspaper so paused to head to Tescos behind, there being no rings handy Mick was left holding Lillian whilst the shopping was done.

Hmm! No chimneys

Beside the marina there is a big new development, houses and flats all built/clad with stone that has been given a black tint presumably to meld in with other buildings in the area. I wonder whether this coating weathers in time and will be self cleaning returning to a natural stone look rather than the grimy mill look?

We now started to get gongoozlers, the area around Uppermill and Dobcross a magnet for tourists. Oleanna ducked under the new High Street Bridge and I walked up to open the lock, the off side gate windlass operated as there’s not enough space for a full length beam.

Only one boat on the visitor moorings here which was a bit of a surprise, but then the road is close by and there is a lot of tree coverage for solar to be any good. One day we will stop and have a bit more of an explore, the Saddleworth Museum going on the ‘next time’ list.

A couple sat with their two dogs and watched us come up Dungebooth Lock. As Oleanna started to appear from below the side of the lock one of the dogs was not happy! He barked and barked at this growing thing from the deep. When the chap decided to tap Oleanna’s gunnel I suggested he should watch out as Tilly might make an appearance!

Saddleworth Viaduct

Then Lime Kiln Lock, the sun being out gave me plenty of photo opportunities. Saddleworth Viaduct towers high above the canal. The arch that spans the cut adjusted to make everything work. The pillars are all square on until you get to the canal, here the down hill face is narrower and angles towards the lock, the curved arch above set on a skew.

15th August 2015

This is where I took my favourite photo of our last trip up here with Kath (Mick’s sister) and Sean walking up to the lock. Mick says he’s glad we don’t have a 70ft boat as it was hard enough to line Oleanna up to get in the lock.

Think this is my favourite photo from today

Here I met my first angled paddle gear, there is most probably a better name for them but angled will do for me. Normally paddles are lifted straight up. The deeper the water the more pressure on them. These paddles lift at an angle. This increases the water pressure on them, making them that bit harder to lift (my theory). Repositioning the windlass was needed to get more purchase, but with patience you can avoid getting a hernia.

Will the tunnel be able to stop this tag?

Gongoozlers stood and watched, asked questions, but no-one had that glint in their eye wanting to open the gate for me. Ah well! A chap warned us that a boat was coming down the locks above. Time to claim a mooring.

There was one boat moored by the car park opposite Wool Road Service Block, we pulled in behind doing our best not to annoy a fisherman. This would do us for the day, the last nine locks reserved for tomorrow. Sadly being almost part of a car park Tilly had to just sit and look at the sideways trees.

A downhill boat

As we had lunch the downhill boat came past, the only boat through the tunnel, east to west today and Shire Cruiser Hire boat, the first on coming boat we’ve seen since being on the narrow. After lunch we headed off for a walk, well we couldn’t waste the sunshine! We walked up Standedge Road then veered off onto Huddersfield Road taking the lower route through Diggle. Diggle Chippy looked inviting, but as there was no mention of gluten free fish we refrained.

Warth Mill was built in 1919 and in 1929 it started to produce tyre fabric for the growing automotive industry. In it’s heyday it was producing nearly 50 tons a week. Thankfully when production ceased the Mill was made available for a collection of small businesses which still use it today.

We walked up to the tunnel entrance where the railway thunders alongside. All calm on our side of the fence.

Mick peeked through the gate and said ‘Hello!’ Either nobody was at the other end to respond or we didn’t wait long enough for their greeting to come back to us.

Space in front for us

Returning to the boat we followed the canal and locks downhill. Plenty of room for us to moor up away from the tunnel entrance. Then Grandpa Greens Chilled Medication Emporium, we’ll be visiting there tomorrow!

Summit pound

We took note of any low pounds, the same as they were six years ago between 27W and 26W. Maybe overnight the levels would improve, maybe they’d get worse, we’ll see. A quick measure of our cabin corners from the water level just incase. 5ft 3″ then 5ft across the cabin top, well within the limits. Phew!

What a day

9 locks, 97ft 3″ climbed, 2.66 miles, 1 downhill boat, 1 shadow boat, 0 shore leave, 1 glorious day boating, now you don’t get views like that on the Ashby