Category Archives: Ripon Canal

2020 A Long And Winding Year.

Get yourself a cuppa and put your feet up, this is a long post.

Into BUMingham

Having seen New Year in on the North Stratford Canal we commenced the new year by cruising in to Birmingham or as Tilly would have it know, BUMingham, she’s not too keen!

What a stripy world!

A meeting with Amy from Dark Horse Theatre Company about a project in the summer set out our years cruising as I’d need to be in Huddersfield then York for the show. Then it was time to pack and get myself ready for ten days in Vienna. This would be the longest I’ve been away from boat life since we set out in 2014. Half of my clothes were packed up along with a basic scene painting kit and I jetted off to what was a mixed experience. Despite the problems I had a wonderful time working with a great team in the theatre, I hope one day to return.

Whilst I marvelled at the wonderful scenes in Vienna and pulled my hair out at work, trying to keep a calm exterior, Mick and Tilly headed back out into the countryside towards Tardebigge on the Worcester and Birmingham. Here they met up with a friend Chris who was planning a boat build.


Mick and Tilly came back into Birmingham to pick me up and then we set about exploring the BCN. There is plenty to explore and we didn’t quite manage to go everywhere, but we did our best.

Smethwick Locks

We headed up Smethwick New Locks onto the Old Main line. Stopped at Dudley Port Basin, coconuts accompanied us down Brades Staircase, then through Netherton Tunnel where we’d planned on visiting Hawne Basin, but thick ice thwarted our first attempt. The following day we succeeded and had a bumpy ride along the Dudley No 2 to fill our diesel tank.

Emma and Ted

Factory Locks brought us back onto the Old Main Line, we visited Wolverhampton, turned onto the Wyrley and Essington Canal and wiggled our way through the rubbish to Pelsall Junction. Here we had a wonderful get together with my bestestest friend and her son Ted (my Godson) who were over from Sydney, an all but too short lunch with them before they headed onwards on their whistlestop tour of England.

The Cannock Extension and Anglesey Branch were ticked off followed by the Daw End Branch, The Rushall Canal, Tame Valley Canal and up the Ryders Green Locks back into the centre of BUMingham early February.

The Jewellery Quarter kept us busy with visits to Smith and Pepper a time warp jewellery manufacturers, The Back to Backs, The Coffin Works. We watched the film 1917.

The Garden white card scale model

I designed costumes and made the white card model for The Garden for Dark Horse whilst we sat out storm Ciara which was to wipe out the Figure of Three Locks on the Calder Hebble. The damage to the locks looked great and not fixable quickly, a rethink to our cruising route was needed for me to get to work in the summer.

We went to the Symphony Hall and listened to Schubert and Berg spurred on by Dimitrios from NB Galene. Storm Dennis kept us from cruising to our next evening of entertainment at Titford Pump House, a bus replacement did the job so that we could see Alarum Theatre Company’s Acts of Abandonment. Little did we know at the time that this was to be our last live theatre until December.

A night out in the countryside for Tilly and a last night in the city to fill our bellies with curry. Then we were off again, up Smethwick Locks under the M5 where the scaffolding was being taken down. We turned up the Oldbury Locks following a boat that turned out to be NB Sola Gratia. A spin round the Titford Pools was in order before we returned for another diesel top up at Hawne Basin.

The Walsall Canal now beckoned us, that was a bumpy ride over trolleys, trees and all sorts! A fantastic fabric shop, the New Art Gallery right by our mooring and The Leather Museum kept our interest for a couple of days before we climbed up the Walsall Locks back up to Wyrley and Essington Canal.

The garden at Urban Moorings

The ladies at Urban Moorings welcomed us for an overnight visit, time to work the washing machine hard as we plugged into the electric. Then we kept our fingers crossed for a mooring at The Black Country Museum, which thankfully worked.

Marion and John came to meet us for an afternoon at the museum and we all enjoyed fish and chips with plenty of salt and vinegar in between visiting shops and watching chain links being made. The following day we took a boat trip into the Dudley Tunnel, had a second visit to the museum along with a portion of chips before heading out to moor in Tipton and have a visit from Heather from NB Bleasdale, followed by a pie at Mad O’Roukes Pie Factory.

The 7th of March saw us descend the Wolverhampton 21, leaving the Birmingham plateau behind us. Blimey we managed to pack a lot into the first ten weeks of the year! Just as well really. Onto the Shroppie where I had my first successes with gluten free sour dough bread, Tilly got to remember life in the countryside and we were treated to Shroppie Sunsets again.

Burgers with the Margees

The recent storms had brought down numerous trees and caused landslips so our progress was a touch slow heading northwards. We had a lovely lunch with Alison and Laura the Margees at Norbury Junction, they were to be our last visitors on board Oleanna for quite sometime.

Passing NB Bessie Surtees on the Tyrley Locks we actually got chance to chat for the first time. A stop to stock up in Market Drayton, we saw our first homemade mask (a pair of y fronts repurposed) and the start of empty shelves in supermarkets with people gleeful to have a twelve pack of toilet roll under their coat.

The Audlem flight was busy with plenty going down and NB Mountbatten coming up, delivering coal as they went. Theatres closed that day and we started to put into practice new ways of working locks hoping to keep ourselves safe. As we socially distanced around the shops in Nantwich people were joking about the virus. We shopped, adapting what we bought to what was available and then got ready for our first Zoom with family on the 21st March.

We stocked up with NB Halsall at Calverley then made our way onto the Middlewich Branch and down Cholmondeston Lock. The following morning (23rd March) we listened to our gut instincts. If lockdown was to happen we’d rather not have to negotiate locks to get to shops or services, so we winded and headed back up Cholmondeston Lock onto the Nantwich pound. Our gut instinct was correct.

Adam and Adrian on NB Briar Rose

The next few days we saw plenty of boats moving, finding places they wanted to spend the coming weeks, heading for home or temporary ones like NB Briar Rose. Jac my sister in law eventually managed to get a flight back from Melbourne where she’d been to celebrate her Mum’s birthday, at last everyone was where they should be.

We tried different moorings out for size as the need to fill with water or get shopping arose. It was also good to keep Tilly moving, both to stop her from getting bored and to help the local wildlife survive.

Our decision to be on the Nantwich pound turned out to be a good one, we ended up mooring at the bottom of Hurleston on the visitor moorings most, this became ‘Home’ for us where we watched spring turn into summer.

Watching the field behind the hedge be ploughed, planted and start to grow. Listening to the Lapwings enjoying the bounty in the potato fields. Getting to know our neighbours at a distance. The wheelie shoppers. The huskies out for their morning walk. The egg farm at the top of the locks. Weekly veg boxes from Nantwich Veg Boxes which we collected for ourselves and NB AreandAre. Supermarket deliveries were sought each week, sometimes only managing click and collect. The sun shone and Tilly had freedom. The coal boats kept us stocked up with fuel and our waterless (composting) toilet took one need to move out of the equation.

By mid-April my design for The Garden had been reimagined into an illustrated audio play. I was to do the illustrations, then they would have audio and some animation added to be available online. Chippy panto started to gear up with the hope that all would be back to normal-ish by the end of November for the show to be mounted.

We winded, went for walks, watched plays on the internet, winded, ate cheese scones, winded again! Tilly ventured further afield, across her field. We had barbeques, brownies and watched the reservoir banks get mown by remote control.

By Mid-May we were allowed to travel, so we hired a car for a day trip to Scarborough to see how our house was after the tenants had lost it during lockdown. In need of some tlc we now made plans for the rest of the year. We would be returning to life on land for a while, but planned on cruising as much as we could before then.

On the 23rd of May the suspension of the 14 day rule was lifted, our ‘home’ mooring was now 48 hours only so it was time to start moving again. Some boats around Hurleston headed off straight away, others remained a full 14 days before pushing off. We spent the next two weeks pootling to the far ends of the pound, Hack Green and Calvereley, the gunnels got a repaint and we said farewell to NB AreandAre who were heading up onto the Llangollen.

Cholmondeston Lock

With a full boat of veg and fruit from Nantwich Veg boxes, a Sainsburys shop and a visit from NB Halsall we were ready and on the 10th June we pushed our ‘home’ mooring away for the last time this year, Calverely was visited for a top up of water a toilet refresh and then we were off, turning onto the Middlewich Branch and descending Cholmondeston Lock, our first lock in 80 days. New gardening gloves became my boaters PPE and worked well, better than sanitising every five minutes.

Across onto the Trent and Mersey where we headed for Bramble Cuttings for a couple of nights. We’d been hoping to be able to drop down onto the Weaver but the Anderton Boat lift was still closed. So instead we winded at Whatcroft flash and headed up the Cheshire Locks hoping to catch Bosley Locks being open for a day to make our way onto the summit pound of the Macclesfield.

Nice Lock

It was nice being back on familiar ground again, although it took a little while to be able to do the Trent and Mersey hurdles over the lockgate beams with ease after sitting still for so long.

Our chairs were brought out onto the towpath to watch the setting sun at Tilly Railings and a barbeque was enjoyed on the Dane Aqueduct as we waited in line for Bosley Locks to open.

Bosley Locks and The Cloud in the background

With a single hander in front and one behind everyone helped out where we could making our passage up the locks a very jolly if hot one that only took 2.5 hours. Over the next ten days or so we pootled our way along the Macclesfield Canal, such a lovely stretch of water and oh those bridges! Still our favourites.

Calling in at Bollington Wharf we had our gas locker lid mended and had a top up of diesel. Foxgloves filled the canal banks and woods, we stopped at favourite spots along the way turning under the snake bridge at Marple onto the Peak Forest Canal at the end of June, heading for Whaley Bridge and Bugsworth Basin.

Saturday 4th July the pubs could re-open, we however went for a walk and waited for our delivery from Sainsburys along with a diesel top up from NB Alton. A batch of cheese scones were made to help us down the Marple flight on the 7th, we were the second boat down and it felt like we were pioneering boats going where no one had gone for months.

A couple of nights at Droylesden Marina saw to the washing pile and to recharge our batteries before we descended into Manchester. Our last narrow lock of the year was to be Ancotes Bottom Lock 1 on the Ashton Flight where we paused for a night at Telford Basin before tackling the Rochdale 9 on our own the following day. Patience and sheer determination got us out of Lock 92 at the bottom and was rewarded with a cheese scone as we made our way out to the Bridgewater Canal and Worsely.

The 14th July saw us rising up the Wigan Flight. We’d made arrangements to share the locks with NB Billy but it was decided by the volunteer lock keepers that they might be over long to share with, so instead we teamed up with John and Lindsey on NB Merganser. With the help of the Wigan Flight crew setting ahead we made good time up the flight, we then slowed down leaving the others to head off ahead of us.

The next few days we found ourselves leapfrogging NB Billy, or should that be hopfrogging? But we finally caught them up at Blackburn to share the locks. Another spectacular sunset was enjoyed by all near Foster Swing Bridge.

We’d planned to take our time along this stretch, but with local lockdowns looking possible in the area we decided to push on. The Burnley Embankment was busy with walkers and not a place to stop so we continued on to the bottom of Barrowford Locks. The following day we were caught up again by NB Billy so we shared the final flight up to the summit with Clare and Pete.

Our sixth anniversary of being fulltime boaters happened to coincide with pulling up at our favourite mooring on the network, the curley wurlys above Bank Newton. The following day the clouds lifted and we got to see the view. A barbecue was just managed before it started to rain.

It wasn’t quite plain sailing down into Skipton as the skipper of NB Amelie ended up in the cut at the bottom of Bank Newton and then we had problems with lock gates and swing bridges. Mick and I had an overnight in Scarborough leaving Tilly in charge and with the magic food bowl primed. On our return to Skipton we were met by two octogenarians leaning out of the upstairs windows of their house waving. We joined Margaret and Robert for a lovely meal, good to see them even if we were a bit nervy being in their company inside.

Sunny weather accompanied us onwards and finally I managed to take the photo I’ve been after for four years, Oleanna coming towards me under Parson’s Bridge. Now we have the matching pair, Lillian going away from us, Oleanna towards.

At Bingley five rise we teamed up with NB Barley to descend with the help of Lock Keeper Clare, carrying on to Saltaire in the sunshine.

A pause in Rodley meant we could meet up with friends Graham and Tracy in their new garden room, very nice to have a good catch up with them. The following day we took the opportunity to have lunch with my cousins Julie and John, our first pub in months.

Meeting up with Jenny and Andy on NB Barley again we shared the locks down into Leeds with them early the next day. A lack of water meant it took an hour to do one pound as water was let down from above, but we made it in the end to Granary Wharf. Shame the lack of water followed us, in fact the basin did a good job of emptying itself overnight. It took quite a few hours before boats had enough water to be afloat again, we all made a hasty exit as soon as we could.

Back into the big locks of the Aire and Calder we motored on to Ferrybridge where now only three of the power station cooling towers remain, a very sad sight.

Down Bank Dole Lock, the slow filler and we headed to Selby. Our trip up the Tidal Ouse was an interesting one a there were SO many trees floating about, we had to try our best to loose them before passing through what few bridges there were. Kingfishers escorted us just about all the way to Naburn which was a real treat. Instead of pulling up in York we decided to head on up to Ripon, we’d spend time in York on our way back, or so we thought!

Above Boroughbridge a familiar boat came into view, NB Billy. This was the last time our bows would cross this year. At Oxclose Lock we had some time for Tilly to explore before heading up into Ripon Basin to meet up with Robert and Margaret again and for Tilly to show off her ability to spot otters.

I’d get it in the neck if I didn’t include a photo!

On our way downstream the river was rising, we stopped off for a meal at The Dawney Arms making the most of the Eat out to Help out deal. Wonderful food and chance to meet up with Kerry the Landlady and hoped that the river level would ease overnight. Fortunately it did and we made our way in to York. We had hoped to meet up with old friends whilst we were in the area, it turned out the only people I got to see where Jaye and Duncan for lunch. Social distancing, rising rivers sadly put paid to seeing other people.

Over the next ten days the river rose twice. On one fall we made it back into York to pick up a supermarket delivery but very quickly headed back to Naburn where we ended up breasting up in a line of four boats tied to the floating pontoon by the water point. Levels didn’t rise so much as to necessitate wellies or waders, but it did put paid to the London Leckenbys joining us for a few days at the nearby campsite. A big disappointment all round.

But on the 31st August levels had dropped sufficiently for us to head back to Selby accompanied by Richard and Heather on NB Isabella, new boat owners. Naburn was their very first lock, Selby was to be their second! It was such a beautiful morning, we led the way but then let them go first when we reached Selby, we were likely to be able to stem the tide better, but they managed the lock with ease.

Lovely to see Bridget and Storm

At West Haddelsey we had a visit from Bridget and Storm, so lovely to see them. We’d planned on being good and sitting out, they’d even brought their own chairs and the camper van for their own toilet. But as it started to rain we bent the rules taking shelter inside Oleanna. This was the day I gave a second phone to the god of the cut.

For a replacement we headed down to Goole, calling in at Viking Marina to check we would have a mooring later in the month. After filling up with cheap diesel we then headed off up toward Doncaster and Sprotbrough where we caught up with Mick’s niece Fran, before returning back onto the Aire and Calder to do maintenance jobs and enjoy our last days onboard.

On the 18th September we pulled into our berth at the marina, finished off the contents of the freezer and started to pack. Two trips in a hire car to Scarborough and we were moved, Tilly joining us the second time.

Back then we imagined we’d be down to Oleanna doing jobs on day trips and by now we’d have had a couple of weeks out on the cut, but this simply wasn’t to be.

Living Room reclaimed

Jobs in the house keep me busy, along with starting work on the postponed Chippy panto. Mick for a while applied for supermarket jobs, hoping to be a delivery driver. The only job he was offered was as a meet and greeter just before Novembers lockdown. We both decided that maybe we’d cope without the money.

Not as low as she got after the breach

Then before Christmas came the news of the Aire and Calder breach. Fortunately plenty of people are keeping an eye on all the boats including Oleanna.

Blimey what a year!

So our vital statistics for the year 2020 according to canal plan are

Total distance is 792 miles, 2 ½ furlong and 339 locks . There are 82 moveable bridges of which 5 are usually left open; 233 small aqueducts or underbridges and 41 tunnels – a total of 19 miles 6 ¾ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.

This is made up of 365 miles, ¼ furlongs of narrow canals; 242 miles, 4 ¾ furlongs of broad canals; 81 miles, 3 ¾ furlongs of commercial waterways; 76 miles, 1 ¾ furlongs of small rivers; 0 miles of large rivers; 27 miles of tidal rivers; 202 narrow locks; 118 broad locks; 18 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.

Sadly with Oleanna’s log book where it should be, onboard, I’m not able to offer up the engine hours, litres of diesel, gas bottle or bags of coal. This year I can’t even work out how many boxes of wine we’ve gone through!

However I can tell you that from one page of journeys on our trip computer, missing out all the journeys in between the start of the page and the end, the total distance travelled would have been 2.25 furlongs. Instead it actually amounted to 56 miles 7.5 furlongs with 19 winds (turning around). This was of course in Lockdown 1. Grand total number of winds this year, 67.

Christmas Day 2020, Scarborough Spa

Here’s hoping that the pandemic calms down, we all get vaccinated and the breach on the Aire and Calder gets sorted so that we can go boating again. After all we didn’t plan to move back on land permanently!

Not a bad view

The Other Side Of The Sideways Trees. 18th August

Ripon Basin to Oxclose Lock

The next few days we’ll be on the river again and staying in places not so cat friendly so today we decided to move back to Oxclose Lock and give Tilly a few hours of freedom, but first we waited for the rain to subside. Six years ago it also rained as we left Ripon.

Wet day

By 11:30 it looked like it was drying up, time to roll the covers up and make our move, with chores to do it would be a stop start journey. First up to the very end of the Ripon Canal, the trip boat not going anywhere today, here we winded and headed back to the otherside of a cruiser that had joined us yesterday.

Jaunty angle for water

The yellow water tank was emptied the container left on the bow to be emptied at the services which was our next port of call. Here we cut the corner again, NB Otter having moved on meant we had more room to play with today. Facing downstream we used the other tap and were surprised that this tap had much better pressure than the other one. The tank would be full by the time we’d done our other chores.

The service block built to match the lock cottage

Tilly got a clean pooh box, Mick dealt with rubbish and the yellow water, the tank was full and we could move on, now in the rain!

Going down diagonally but forwards

Six years ago on Lillian we’d squeezed into the two locks on the way up. Mick hadn’t been confident at missing the cill on our way back down, so after topping up with water we’d winded and then reversed through the locks, giving us that bit of comfort knowing that the bow could overhang the cill if needs be. This is one of the reasons we had Oleanna built a foot shorter, we knew she’d fit even if we still had to go behind a bottom gate on a slight diagonal.

Much more space today

Pulling out of Bell Furrows Lock I managed to take a photo of the top gate. On facebook groups there are often people complaining of leaking gates, people expecting them to be watertight.


Well this gate is by far the worst we’ve seen in a long time and being a touch long for the lock Mick hid behind closed doors as the lock emptied, keeping his legs dry.

Very Leaky

Lillian’s back deck had no gaps in the surround, so leaks like this would only have one way to go and that was through the engine board drains or down into the engine bay itself, another reason for going down backwards.

Peaking through

I then elected to walk down to Oxclose Lock, this was so I could see what lay behind the sideways trees.


First there was a lake, here a few cormorants sat whilst others dived, the occasional swan added a touch of variety.

Then the lake in the middle of the race course. Here a fisherman had erected a green tent and was hoping for a bite.

The last lake was a totally different matter. This is Ripon City Wetlands Reserve. It was filled with thousands of geese, mostly greylags from what I could see. The lakes have been formed from sand and gravel quarries and this last lake is by far the most popular of them all.


Clouds of gaggeling geese flew over trying to find gaps in which to land. The noise was colossal! Glimpses through the sideways trees made me wonder if any more birds could fit!

Not much room left

On the other side of me Mick pootled along, looking a little bit superimposed in my photo here as the bank is so high.

Superimposed or real?

Reaching Oxclose Mick pulled in at the end furthest away from the lock whilst I walked round over the lock gates. Two volunteers were hard at work with a pump and jet wash giving the lock landings a good clean.

The Jet Wash Boys

Tilly was given five hours and came and went all afternoon. Returning for some Dreamies every hour and then off again to find friends.

Ooo, Himalayan Balsam!

At cat curfew time I heard a very loud hiss from the sideways trees and peered into them to see what was happening. Tilly had the biggest mohican back and bushy tail ever and seemed to be having a stand off with something. With back up from me she headed straight for Oleanna, had a good chomp at her evening ding ding and then fell asleep.

Still reflections

2 locks, 2.04 miles, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 0 rubbish, 1 farewell to Ripon and it’s otter, 1 damp day, 3 lakes, 1 fisherman, 4578432 geese, 2 volunteers, 1 exhausted cat, 2 soaked trainers, 2 boaters watching the levels.

Lepers. 17th August

Ripon Basin

Rain overnight, at 2am it was beating down on the roof so hard that we were both woken up. But luckily it dried up during the morning.

The trip boat from the end of the basin started to do runs past us, a little bit quickly or maybe our ropes just needed tightening. We could hear him saying something about 5.30 yesterday and if we’re lucky we’ll see it today. He must have been mentioning the otter, but going at his speed I think the otter would be staying well away!

Ripon Basin

We still require a plumber to replace a boiler in the house, as the quote we got through seems a touch too pricey and one lead on someone to clear the gutters for us hasn’t come off. So sometime was spent this morning on housey things. Then it was time to have a wonder around.

We walked up to the end of the basin and then past a fish and chip shop who boasted that they do gluten free every day. A touch of a shame we were eating out tonight, maybe another time though.

Ripon Cathedral

The Cathedral sits up a hill, currently there is an exhibition in the nave where 10,000 origami angles have been suspended from a large net. These were all made during lockdown by volunteers in the community, each angle represents a dedication made during the pandemic to keyworkers and loved ones. We thought we’d have a look on our way back out of the city, but our ambling route took us another way.

How did that happen, a Pie Shop!

Our route somehow managed to pass a pie shop, Mick simply had to taste their produce, so a pound pork pie was purchased to be eaten over the next few days. I ventured into Holland and Barrett to stock up on brown rice flour to make crackers with, then a couple of puzzle books were required from WH Smiths. A wander around the Yorkshire Trading Company, but we couldn’t remember what we’d said they would have that we wanted, so it can’t have been that important!

The market square today had something missing, the Cabman’s Shelter a grade 2, once movable hut where the drivers of horse drawn cabs would wait for their next fare. A hunt around on the internet suggests the council maybe have managed to get permission from Historic England for it to be taken for much needed restoration work. Here’s hoping so, sadly I didn’t take a photo of it 6 years ago, so here is one from the Historic England website.

The Workhouse now a museum

We then meandered down Allhallowgate. Here the impressive building of the Workhouse sits, not open on Mondays so we could only look at the exterior.

The Jolly Fryer further down the hill has a yellow bike above it’s door, it’s rider seems to have been waiting quite sometime for his fish and chips. Yellow bicycles are a common sight around parts of Yorkshire since the Tour de Yorkshire was started, I think we spotted a couple more today, one perched on the ridge of a roof.

A sign pointed us away from the city centre and towards the Leper Church, St Mary Magdelenes. The original building dates from the 12th century, the Norman doorway on the south side dates from this period. Many modifications have been made to the building through the centuries. A low narrow window on the north wall is where the lepers could receive the sacrament. There is a 15th Century oak screen and a mosaic set in the floor before the alter, but sadly due to extra cleaning that would be required during the pandemic the church was firmly shut to visitors.

Now those are chimneys

Lepers and blind priests were looked after here and in 1544 the hospital became alms-houses and survived the religious upheavals that followed. New alms-houses were built across the road with their own chapel in 1820, these buildings have wonderful chimneys.

We retraced our steps and walked round the back of the cathedral, passing High Saint Agnesgate and finding our way to a foot bridge across the River Skell with a lovely view back to the cathedral.

River Skell

Tilly had been on lookout for the otter, but there had been no sightings. A trial batch of crackers, cheese mustard and garlic were made as the trip boat came back and forth, we were now part of the commentary and recieved numerous waves.

Highly recommended

Late afternoon we walked back into the city to Prima to meet up with Robert and Margie whom we’d met in Skipton a few weeks ago. Ripon being only an hours drive for them we’d made plans to meet up again. Prima is their favourite restaurant in Ripon and with an earlybird menu it was going to be reasonably priced, even more so with the Chancellor chipping in a third of the final bill (alcohol not included in the Eat out to help out scheme).

Affogato con Ameretto faces

A lovely evening with them both, two meetings in a month. We all enjoyed our food, garlic mushrooms and a goats cheese and spinach pizza each for Mick and myself, one with gluten the other without. We were too full for pudding, but the Halls had paced themselves better and both opted for Affogato con Ameretto, I know one master carpenter who’d have been chomping at the bit for one of these.


0 locks, 0 miles, 2 bags flour, 1lb pie, 2 puzzle books, 1 leper church, 1 cathedral, 2 octogenarians, 2 pizzas, 2 melting chilled medications, 4 glasses of wine, 0 otter sightings, 1 tray of crackers, 1 highlight on the tour, 1 green flagged canal.

Watch For The Bubbles. 16th August

Oxclose Lock to Ripon Canal Basin

Oxclose Lock gardens

Rain. We’ve not had much of that of late, our mooring last night meant we heard the best of it being under trees. I do remember a boat here before that moored on the offside so as to avoid the added noise. Six years ago we waited to see the effect of a passing storm, not wanting to be caught out in York if the river rose. The added water passed through a day after the storm so we weren’t held up too long.

Today we decided that as we’d only got a couple of hours cruise up the canal to do before tomorrow afternoon then Tilly could decide when we left. Typical letting me out when it was raining! I made the most of it, taking my time.

NB Oleanna

Julie the Lock Keeper walked down to check the bywash and give things a once over. Mick popped out for a chat and to see if she knew if there would be space up at the basin. There might be a couple of boats but there should be space for us. Mooring is limited up here, about ten visiting boats can be accommodated on the canal, but then it is only just over 2 miles long.

One going down

It had stopped raining so I gave Tilly a call, just as Julie was heading back up the towpath. We had a chat about all things cat and she hoped Tilly would return soon. Just as she walked away I could hear Tilly’s bell deep in the friendly cover behind the sideways trees.

I’m busy!

Tilly wasn’t coming in, she’d found a friend. After a while I could hear her bell again and encouraged her to come home, picking her up and plonking her through the side hatch to make sure we wouldn’t be stuck any longer.

Tree lined canal

Setting off we had over a mile to cover before arriving at our first lock. The towpath was busy. People stopping to look at birds, there are several large lakes just to the east of the canal and they seemed to be filled with noisy geese today. There also seemed to be some activity at the racecourse, but from our low level on the canal we couldn’t see what was happening, even standing on the stern lockers didn’t get me high enough to see over the hedge.

Bell Furrows Lock

The two locks up to the basin had been a tight squeeze on Lillian but today we knew we had an extra foot to play with, we still needed to enter the locks and tuck Oleanna behind a gate to close the other side. Bell Furrows Lock top gates were leaking like a right b**ger and as Mick brought Oleanna in he exclaimed, ‘Oh Eck!’ Glad I had removed the quarantined flour from the well deck.

A bit more space than last time

The top paddles on the locks have C&RT padlocks on them, I’d forgotten to take a key with me, but one was soon passed up. Oleanna stayed on a diagonal until she’d risen well past the cill, plenty of gongoozlers about to watch her slow ascent. One chap at Rhodesfield Lock wanted to help me with the lock beam, but that would have been too close for comfort, it wasn’t that heavy anyway.

I made sure I closed up the paddles fully and that all gates were closed, not many boats about, but those that sat on moorings would appreciate not finding themselves on the bottom in the morning.

Pretty £350,000

The lock cottage is currently up for sale. In need of a lick of paint on the exterior it is a nice looking Grade 2 house, just a shame about the road so close behind it.

More trees

We pulled in at the services, another boat NB Otter sitting on the 48hr mooring here making it a touch awkward to pull in for a water point. When the canal was restored I suspect they didn’t expect boats of our length to visit so none of the three sides available to moor up to are quite long enough for us. Mick brought us in at a jaunty angle, I was ready at the bow to hop off with a rope.

A dribble!

Once we’d cut the corner we needed to pull back to make sure the canal in front of us was clear, should a widebeam have been heading down the canal we’d have blocked its way. All settled we connected the hose. Now if you think the water point at Hillmorton Locks is slow, here is a serious contender to being even slower! Once a minute of flow had come through the pipe the dribble started to fill up our water tank. Bins were sorted, then we waited and waited. Good job the tank was 1/2 full to start with. We waited, then gave up at 3/4 full, we could always top up again on our return.

Happy Boat

Not far to the visitor moorings where we had the stretch to ourselves, we pulled up at the far end.

This looked good, plenty of sideways trees. But she said what lay behind those sideways trees was death! I didn’t like the sound of that so went to sleep instead.

Yep this will do

It must have been quite peaceful here during lockdown with the lack of traffic, but as the evening progressed it quietened down. A chap sat on one of the benches and chatted away loudly on his phone. Tilly sat bolt up right, was she earwigging the chap? She jumped onto the Houdini shelf and looked out of the window, we’d seen no ducks, just what was keeping her attention?

What’s that?

I opened up the hatch to see a brown slithering body arch and dive back into the water infront of me, 10 to 12 foot away. An otter!

We watched as the bubbles moved around, the otter resurfacing for it’s next lung full of air, then letting it gradually go as it swam around under the water.


Wow! So close. Understandably our evening meal could wait as we watched for bubbles and for it to resurface.

It gradually moved it’s way down the canal towards the locks, the chap on the bench started talking again, he’d been waiting for it too.

2 locks, 2.08 miles, 4 hours shore leave, 1 Lock Keeper, 1 extreamly slow tap, 0 rubbish, 1 otter boat, 2 boaters watching the levels, 1 cat watching her new friend, 1 friend a touch too big to play with!

Your, You’re, Ure. 15th August

Linton Lock to Oxclose Lock, Ripon Canal

John and Marion accompanying us away from Linton Lock

We timed our departure this morning with the Geraghty Zoom so that we had some amusement whilst cruising the nine mile reach of the river. Topics today included, A levels, Theatre and quarantine exemptions in New York. As we cruised along up river we gave the family a forward view of the willow trees. We missed where the River Ouse becomes the River Ure, a small stream coming in from the west marks the point, so small it wasn’t spotted.

The most exciting part of our cruise, going under Aldwark Bridge sadly was missed by them all, as our connection kept being lost, this also meant we missed out on some of the conversations. Sitting inside with the laptop is much better as you get to see everyone, rather than just the person who is talking. But it helped us while away an hour.


Today was most certainly jeans and jumper weather, the temperature having plummeted from the heights of a few days ago and the sun had put itself into quarantine.

Some golfers crossed high above the river going from one hole to another and herds of cows stopped what they were doing to have a look at us and only one Kingfisher made the effort to amuse us today.

Milby Lock came into view. We’ve only been up this way once before, six years ago, and I’d forgotten how imposing this lock looks from below. It also is not our favourite lock. A cruiser (first boat seen today) pulled away from below which made us think the lock would be empty, but it wasn’t.

Milby Lock

Canoeists sat by the lock having a brunch of noodles, whilst others lifted their boats out of the water to leapfrog the lock. I wound the paddles up and had a good look at the lock as it emptied.

Back in 2014 we’d roped up in the lock, I’d headed to wind the same side paddle, which in most canal locks means your boat gets held against that side. Not being able to see anything in the lock I’d given my windlass two turns and headed over to check on things. Before I got there there was an almighty crash, chinkling of glass as the bow had launched at speed across the lock. Nothing obvious to us from outside we very slowly continued to fill the lock. Once we were up and out of the lock I headed inside to be greeted by Houdini (our second mate at the time) rushing towards me. She was desperate to let me know it wasn’t her fault! It turns out somehow our crash had dislodged the hopper half of a porthole which had jumped off the boat and smashed, now sitting at the bottom of the lock!

Dints and over hangs

So not wanting to repeat this my observations were important. There are risers on the starboard side of the lock, these are protected by timber rails either side, the one nearest the top gates stops some two three foot from the water level a possible place where your boat can get caught as it rises. Also here and on the other side are bowl shaped holes, presumably from where boats have time and time again hit the walls as the lock has filled. But the most important thing I did note was where the water would come into the lock, because the river level is a touch low at the moment I could see that it would be perfectly positioned to catch the bow of a narrowboat and push it across the lock.

Gently does it

With this knowledge Mick brought Oleanna in moved her stern across behind the starboard side gate, he roped up onto one of the risers and I gently lifted the port side paddle. Two chaps arrived to come down the lock, locals who I asked for confirmation that I was doing the right thing. At first I wound the paddle with one of the chaps keeping an eye on Oleanna, but then we swapped. Water was swilling across Oleanna’s well deck through the drain holes, so we lowered the paddle a bit until things calmed down. She gradually rose with no bumping, a touch of paddle adjustment was needed but we did it without loosing any windows. Phew!

Along the tree lined cut to Boroughbridge we must have passed three more cruisers, everyone having set off at a similar time. We pulled in on the off side to top up with diesel, Canal Garage has a pump just in view and a hose that swings out on an arm. The mooring is high so fine for most cruisers, but positioning a narrowboat facing upstream for the hose to reach is a touch problematical. In the end I had to untie the bow rope and push out. The hose just reached and we topped up with the garages best red at 64p a litre.

It was easier for us to push over to the other side to tie up before Mick headed back across the bridge to pay, he then headed into the town for our Saturday newspaper, the Spa shop having a big queue outside so a newsagent got our money.

After lunch we moved off again another three and a half mile reach of willow trees to keep us amused. Under the A1, more cows watching our progress then the bow of a narrowboat came into view.

The cratch looked familiar, I zoomed in, yep NB Billy. Clare picked up her binoculars to check us out, we both waved. Last seen on the curley wurlys of the Leeds Liverpool just over three weeks ago, we’d been wondering if our paths would cross again or had our slow progress meant they would be miles away by now.

See you again somewhere

There was time for a quick chat as our bows crossed, they’d had a good time up in Ripon including a visit to Fountains Abbey. Glad they enjoyed it. I suspect this will be the last time our paths cross this year, not sure which way they are heading now. Which ever way it is enjoy it and see you somewhere again.

A large creation sat on the river bank. More like an aircraft hanger than a boat with tarpaulined roof, admittedly with a few bits of timber and windows visible. We wondered if this was a house boat, boat or shanty town. As we got to the upstream end we discovered it was No 9 with a very natty bicycle rack on it’s roof.

Westwick Lock

Below Westwick Lock a widebeam was manoeuvring. Had they come down the lock backwards? Had they been picking people up? We weren’t sure but they pulled off up towards the weir stream and hung back for us to approach. They actually had right of way as facing upstream we can hold our position easier.

We worked our way up the lock opening the top paddles as I had done at Milby and it worked a treat.


Around the first bend we could see apple trees full of natures bounty. This is the orchard of Newby Hall. We wondered if they would notice a few missing for a crumble but soon realised we could hear people, so wouldn’t pull into their mooring to help ourselves. The Hall and grounds are open, people climbing on board the mini railway and trip boats were running upstream.

Boat trips

During World War 2 the Hall was reserved for the Royal Family should they have needed to be evacuated from London. There are gardens, orchards and a very fine house, originally built in 1690 by Sir Christopher Wren the house was then enlarged and adapted by John Carr and subsequently Robert Adam. The interior is a very fine example of 18th Century design, well worth a visit.

Newby Hall

As the hall disappeared behind us our way forward was sign posted. Left into an almost invisible cut whilst the river headed off looking far more inviting to our right. We followed the sign and soon arrived at Oxclose Lock the start of the Ripon Canal.

Oxclose Lock

We worked up the lock, lifting the panels in the upper walkway to open the gate as they slot neatly round the paddle gear. Above two boats were moored on the visitor moorings. Was there space for us?

The Ripon Canal is renowned for being well looked after, the Lock Keeper keeping everything smart and clean. Yes the grass around the lock could do with a cut, but the flower beds and shrubs looked neat and tidy. There were some new posts that the boats were moored to. A sign on the offside suggested that was the lock landing, so were these posts right up to the lock for mooring? We decided that yes they were, we’d also be leaving enough space behind us should anyone else need it.

This will do

It took Tilly a while to find a gap in the chicken mesh hidden in the sideways trees, but then she was off away from pesky woofers, shouting and climbing the trees, she took a little bit of persuasion to come in for her dingding when the time came.

Keeping an eye on woofers

The cruisers that had been down on the river returned along with the widebeam. We soon realised it was better if the lock was full as it was very noisy when empty. Then early evening the two boats ahead of us winded and headed up towards Ripon leaving us on our own. Soon we were left listening to rain falling for the first time in weeks.

3 locks, 14.93 miles, 1 river but 2, 1 canal, 1 hour off and on of zoom, 1 horrid lock, 107 litres, 64p, 1 newspaper, 1 Billy, 2 waving boaters, 2 trip boats, 4 apples wouldn’t go amiss, 3 hours shore leave, 1 tiny cat sized hole, 27 trees, 1 kingfisher, 1 helicopter.