Category Archives: River Lark

2022 Back To Exploring

Time for the annual round, a long post so sit back, put your feet up and enjoy.

The New Year kicked off with winter maintenance in the house. Having two hallways proved time consuming refreshing the woodwork and patching up the worst of the wallpaper. But this was broken up with weekly walks to see the sea. I resumed work on the development showing of #unit21 for Dark Horse and a Christmas present of a cheese making kit proved very tasty in creating my first ever Yorkshire Curd Cheese Cake from scratch. I plan on having a second go at this soon!

In February work progressed in Huddersfield towards opening night, the floor painted, final costume fittings and then the set and lighting added. All while Mick serviced our life jackets and Tilly grew more and more bored of life in the house.

Once the show was opened we had a trip down to London to catch up with the London Leckenbys for a belated Christmas, on our way back we visited Oleanna. When ever we could we visited Blue Water Marina to do jobs and have a pack up lunch. The stove was reblacked, walls washed down and cupboards sorted through.

Then at the end of February, Mick and I left Tilly in charge of the house, we packed enough clothes and food for a couple of days boating and headed to Thorne to move Oleanna through Thorne Lock before a winter stoppage began. Blimey it was chilly out there, but wonderful to be back afloat and moving Oleanna to Goole. Now we were all set to move back onboard and have a few weeks of pootling about in Yorkshire.

Back at the house we made it ready for the first of this years lodgers. Our boat Christmas tree was retired into the back garden where we hoped it would thrive, this of course was before we knew a drought was on it’s way! Tilly said goodbye to the dragon that lives up the chimney, left Seville and Valencia to look after the house before having to endure the car trip back to boat life.

After a few days sorting ourselves, including having one of Joan’s gluten free Chinese takeaways, we unplugged Oleanna and backed out from our mooring at Goole Marina (Boat House). We spent the next three weeks bobbing about between Pollington Lock, Doncaster and Goole. Maintenance jobs were ticked off the list.

Alistair did engine and weedhatch jobs, Frank joined us a couple of times to do carpentry jobs, our galley drawers no longer have a life of their own, the covers had a good scrub and a spray of Wet and Forget to help them keep clean.

In March I’d set myself a charity challenge, to knit as many pairs of socks in the month as I could. Nine pairs knitted for people in return for sponsorship, I also got a very generous donation of yarn from Lisa on NB Summer Wind.

Our plans had had to change as Thorne Lock still hadn’t closed, but was about to! Plans to visit York and West Yorkshire were abandoned, we’d bought ourselves a Gold Licence for the year so wanted to make the most of it. So on March 24th with all the jobs done we turned our backs on Goole and set off into the sunset to see where 2022 would take us, all three of us grinning from ear to ear.

We made our way to Keadby ready for our booked passage on the tidal River Trent, the fast route south. A phone call from a boating friend in need of support meant we’d be doing our best to make use of the spring tide to reach Cromwell in one go despite the weather forecast. We spent a couple of days doing what we could to help in Newark before we needed to be on the move again.

On upstream to The Trent and Mersey keeping up our cruising hours and Tilly hoping we’d stop with enough time for her to explore each day before cat curfew.

Up to Fradley then onto the Coventry Canal, we played leapfrog with NB Free Spirit for a couple of days.

Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, up the Curdworth Flight then a turn left onto a section of the Grand Union we’d not been on before at Star City. Up Garrison Locks, Typhoo Basin and then the Ashted Locks where we now have the measure of that Tunnel! A mooring space at the top of Farmers Bridge had our name on it. This was handy for a road trip to swap lodgers and for visits to the dentist. It also meant we were in shot when a group came to jump the top lock!

Fast forward to 6:15

Our route out of Bumingham saw us through Edgbaston Tunnel, down Lapworth followed by Hatton. A pause was needed for Tilly’s annual visit to a new vet, the one here the closest to the canal we’ve visited so far, also handy for The Cape of Good Hope!

At Napton we joined the Oxford Canal and headed for Braunston, pausing to stock up on goodies from the butcher. On the Grand Union we made our way up over the hill and started our descent down The Long Buckby flight back towards tidal waters.

On the 1st of May we turned left at Gayton Junction onto the Northampton Arm dropping down the flight to the River Nene. We’d only been this way once before and that was when we’d just bought Lillian (NB Lillyanne) back in 2014. We bought ourselves a second Abloy key, showed our Gold Licence to the chap at Northampton Marina and started our journey down stream, time to explore.

A decision was made to head down to Peterborough taking note of places we’d want to visit on our return journey. We worked our way through the guillotine locks, many button operated and others with the wheel of cardiovascular overload.

Tilly loved many of the moorings apart from those in Peterborough where crowds surrounded the boat and meant returning from shore leave was impossible for several hours.

In two weeks we reached the end of the river at the Dog in a Doublet Lock. Here the river becomes tidal, we’d save that trip for another time and turned back upstream to head for the Middle Level.

Here we wanted to explore all the drainage channels, but decided we’d do that on our return too. So we took the direct route and crossed the low lying waters in three days arriving at Salters Lode on Mick’s birthday. The levels out on the tidal stretch of the Great Ouse needing to be just right to get through the lock, turn and head upstream to Denver Sluice.

A lovely GOBA mooring was found on the River Wissey and eventually the sun came out for a birthday barbeque, we’d made it to the Great Ouse.

The remainder of May was spent exploring the River Wissey, Ely and The Little Ouse. Brandon Lock sits at the most easterly point on the connected navigable network for boats Oleanna’s size. Sadly a build up of silt stopped us from getting her bow into the lock, but we did get her as far east as was possible, ticking off the fourth point of the compass.

There was a trip to Hull Truck to meet old friends at a gala evening followed by a meet up with Micks family back in the Fens. At the end of the month we got to know Neil the seal at Ten Mile Bank moorings as he basked in the sun and took sunset dips in the river.

The Jubilee was seen in at Denver, we lit our guiding lights as a Lancaster Bomber flew overhead heading to see the Queen. The Relief Channel gave us a good mooring to be able to have a trip away to celebrate Dawn and Lee’s 50th Birthdays in Scarborough, we went as Wallace and Gromit and won an Oscar!

Another visit to Ely to see the Cathedral, Farmers market and meet up with Heather from NB Bleasdale, the first of many this summer. The River Lark was explored, the end of navigation reached with a handy mooring outside a pub.

We headed for the Cam, our paths crossing for the first time with Ken and Sue from NB Cleddau. Then onwards in to Cambridge where we visited colleges, ate chilled medication and had a day trip to Duxford so that Mick could sit in the pilots seat of a Trident 2, a seat his Dad had sat in on many a flight.

Oleanna squeezed along each of the three Lodes, Wicken, Burwell and Reach. Wicken Lode a magical place and a day visit to Anglesey Abbey with it’s wonderful gardens.

Then we headed onto the Old West a river with a very different feel than the Ely Ouse. A pause was needed when we reached Earith for us to have a tour of Heathers new to her boat GT. Once off the tidal water we were on a different Great Ouse again. Here St Ives, St Neots and Hemingford gave us sunsets, D shaped locks, huge meadows and wonderful towns and villages to explore.

As the temperatures started to rise I needed to do some work. Cruising happened in the mornings, my Panto script and sketches were done in the shade of what trees we could find. White sheets were bought and we hoped for a mooring with shade for the really hot days that were to come. Tilly took to lying on the floor and we took to wearing wet t-shirts to help us to keep cool. Thankfully the hot blast only lasted a couple of days then the temperature dropped and we could continue to head upstream.

July 21st we reached the navigable limit of the River Great Ouse, having to reverse some distance to be able to turn round and return to Bedford for the River Festival.

Here we met up with Ken and Sue, Jennie and Chris from NB Tentatrice and Heather again. Plenty of things to see, do and hear. The boat parades, raft races, vintage cars, all sorts kept us busy for the two days.

Now at the end of July we alternated the days between cruising and my work. More beautiful days cruising and more wonderful sunsets, one day off to visit Cambridge for some more chilled medication and to see the Hockney exhibition.

August saw more hot days. Trips to London to celebrate birthdays, panto meetings, catch up with best friends and travellers over from Australia.

On the 15th August we crossed back from Denver Sluice to the Middle Level having really enjoyed our three months on the Great Ouse. Now water levels were a worry along with having enough time to reach Oxford for me to go to work in October. We made the decision to come back and explore the Middle Level another year, maybe we’ll cross The Wash to get there!

By the end of August our progress up stream on the River Nene slowed to a halt. First one lock broke then another two ahead of us. We’d recently been accepted to join the Reflections Flotilla on the Thames to mark the Queens Jubilee in a few weeks time, now that time was ticking away.

When we did get moving again we had to make up our cruising hours. With the news of the passing of the Queen we didn’t know if the flotilla would still be going ahead, we carried on at pace waiting for news. Back up the River Nene, turning onto the Grand Union, working our way southwards. The news came through that the flotilla would go ahead, but now in remembrance of the Queen.

With a couple of days to spare we squeezed into the Eco-Moorings by Islington Tunnel. Two days of catching up with family and more friends over from Australia before we joined boats heading along the Regents Canal towards Limehouse Basin. An afternoon of activity saw numerous narrowboats festooned with white lights.

On the 24th of September the Thames barrier was closed and we all headed out of Limehouse Lock up stream to Chelsea where we clung onto buoys until the early evening when the flotilla started to muster.

Getting on for 150 boats all displaying white lights got into formation and headed down stream. Crowds stood on the illuminated bridges and Tower Bridge opened up in a royal salute as we passed underneath. What a truly amazing day.

Now we had to head towards Banbury, back round the Regents Canal as a leak in the engine bay needed testing on the calm waters of the canal rather than the tideway. By the time we reached Brentford we were confident with Oleanna’s engine again. On the Thames Tilly got a birthday present of a night on a Cliveden Island. Sadly we got an unexpected present on our arrival in Oxford, a second red line on a covid test! Panto painting couldn’t be put off so we made our way gradually up the Oxford Canal keeping our distance from people at locks and taking maximum doses of paracetamol.

A week of painting in Banbury before I moved to Chipping Norton to stack up the hours over the next four weeks getting the 50th anniversary panto ready. Rendez Vousing with Oleanna at weekends in Banbury and Coventry kept me sane. Mick had to single hand across the summit of the Oxford Canal to avoid the first of the winter stoppages.

All three of us were back onboard by mid November, covid free and vaccinated. We took things slowly now, time to rest up, meet friends, gather family and pootle towards Christmas. Our 20th Anniversary was celebrated with a Chinese takeaway at Alvecote Marina, a planned stop which ended up being extended due to plummeting temperatures. The canal froze, there’d be no moving the outside for Tilly!

Temperatures lifted dramatically and the ice just about vanished in a couple of days, we could now be on our way to Christmas. Alrewas was a good place to spend the festive days, a very good butchers and a village with lots of character and humour.

Bookings in the New Year had been made for passage on the tidal River Trent for us to reach Yorkshire, but this would not be. The Trent had risen before Christmas, Cranfleet Flood Gates were shut ahead of us, so no New Year at Hazelford Lock. Instead our alternator played up and we sought out a mooring to hook up to and see in 2023.

This year we’d been wanting to explore again. This year we cruised miles of new water, made new friends, got too hot, got iced in, got stuck, got to be in the first illuminated flotilla on the Thames for 300 years. What a great year it has been.

So our vital statistics for 2022 according to Canalplan are

Total distance is 1249 miles, 6½ furlong and 555 locks . There were 88 moveable bridges of which 29 are usually left open; 156 small aqueducts or underbridges and 18 tunnels,  a total of 7 miles 2 ¼ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.

This was made up of 227 miles, 1 1/2 furlongs of narrow canals; 363 miles, 2 furlongs of broad canals; 85 miles, 5 furlongs of commercial waterways; 269 miles, 1 furlong of small rivers; 234 miles, 7 1/4 furlongs of large rivers; 69 miles, 6 furlongs of tidal rivers; 176 narrow locks; 232 broad locks; 54 large locks; 2 locks on major waterways.

731.7 engine hours

1156.1 litres diesel, 5 (although we’ve got 1 empty now) gas bottles (used for central heating as well as cooking), 28.5 litres oil, 3 oil filters, 1 fuel filter, 2 air filters, 1 water pump, 2 new belts, 690kg coal, 1 overnight guest twice, 6 packs Dreamies (not enough!), 56 friends, a record breaking 41 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval (4 in one day!), 15 pairs socks, 2 shows designed, 9 lodgers, 2 lots gluten free puff pastry, 9 supermarket deliveries, 30 boxes of wine delivered, 2 lost unicorns.

Thank you all for joining us on our journey. Wonder where we’ll get to in 2023?

Working Pootling. 9th 10th August

Jubilee Gardens, Ely to Padnell Fen GOBA mooring to Littleport Station Road, EA Mooring

The drawing board was out straight after breakfast, time for the final push before my white card model meeting on Thursday. Mick popped to Sainsburys to get a few things to keep us going, Then we winded in the entrance of Cathedral Marina waved to Stewart on WB Misty and headed for the service mooring, well to join the queue.

Can you tie up a better outside PLEASE!

A boat had just pushed off allowing the next one to pull in to fill and empty as required. We pulled alongside them to wait, I continued working below as Mick chatted away. It seemed to be taking forever for them to fill with water, the lady had filled a couple of buckets then turned the hose on again. It turned out that she’d only just turned the tap back on! Once they were full we pushed out to let them out then came back in to fill our water tank and empty yellow water. The washing machine had been busy so we needed quite a bit. By the time we’d finished another two boats were waiting.

Bye bye Ely

Time to say a final farewell to Ely.

Granny annexes

The chap who we watched building extensions to his boat appears to have built a couple of what might be granny annexes, each with a tent on a floating platform.

Moving indoor office

With Mick at the helm and me below we pootled our way downstream on the Great Ouse, the high banks masking any view, but there was a nice cool breeze coming in through the hatch. We’d decided to head for the River Lark and the nice mooring there where Tilly could have some shore leave. Thankfully there was space and we made ourselves at home quickly.

Drawings drawings drawings

All afternoon I continued amending drawings so that the set can be priced up. Only one scene left to draw up, the final one where I’d changed everything.

As we were somewhere nice with space to sit out we got the barbeque out. Mick filled a bucket of water which was placed close to the fire just in case. We enjoyed veg kebabs and some teriyaki salmon before the sun started to set and both of us started to feel very chilly, in fact we even got goose bumps!


What a wonderful sunset. Every time I looked out of the hatch it had gone one step redder.



Not more work!

Wednesday. We needed to move for ease of access to a station. Our advance party on NB Cleddau had checked to see if the moorings near Littleport station had reopened. Photos had been sent to us a few days ago, we just hoped that there would be space for us.

Mick smug after winding

Facing the wrong way we tried a couple of times to wind, but the river was just about 60ft wide, a little bit further upstream we managed and headed back to the Great Ouse where we slowed to let a cruiser pass and then turned right towards Littleport.

The missing scene was almost drawn up by the time we had passed The Swan on the River pub, there was space here, but we carried on to the mooring nearer the station.

Not one boat was moored, so we pulled in at the far end then pulled back hoping a tree might just give us a touch of shade this afternoon. Sadly what shade fell on Oleanna only lasted about an hour until she was back in full sun!

I didn’t take the sign down

By 6:30 all the technical drawings for panto were done. Tilly was hot and bored and annoying. A blue Ikea bag came out and the model was packed away into it ready for the morning. Here’s hoping it gets approved and I can quickly get it coloured up.

Zero shade anywhere!

0 locks, 7.22 miles, 2 rights, 2 winds, 1 slow tap, 1 full turn, 1 quick tap, 1 empty wee tank, 1 favourite mooring, 3.5 hours shore leave, 2 owls heard not seen, 1 stunner of a sunset, 1 pantomime drawn up, 28C inside, 1 model all packed up, 1 designer with her fingers crossed for tomorrow.

Made To Walk The Plank. 16th June

Padnal Fen GOBA Mooring to Cawdle Fen GOBA Mooring

Jobs before breakfast, the yellow water tank needed emptying and a coat of paint on the roof. Mick did the honours with the toilet whilst I put masking tape around the areas to be painted.

A stunning day

All over the roof this morning were small dead insects, as though they had all landed on the roof and died instantly. I suspect that is what’s happened to the white insects that we seem to keep getting on the river side of Oleanna. Each morning when we go out the river side of the boat is covered in these white little creatures. Are they newly hatched nymphs? Have they crawled up the boat mistaking it for reeds where they would mature then fly away? Maybe maturing into the dead things on our roof! I suspect that during the day at the moment these little white creatures cook nicely on the dark blue of the cabin sides.

A better photo today, but a missed bit hard to reach

I cleaned off the areas to be painted and then started with my brush. Thankfully it was still early enough in the day for the cream roof to still be cool, meaning the paint flowed off my brush with relative ease. The downside was that the centre ropes could not be reattached today. Painting the centre line loop I took selfies again to check I’d not missed bits. From what I could see in the bright sunshine it looked pretty good, on later inspection for the blog I’ve noticed that on the inside of the loop I’d missed a section, it wasn’t a shadow!

By the time we’d had breakfast and made ready to push off the surrounding boats had all headed off themselves. With stocks on board now depleted somewhat we needed to do a big shop, just as well we were headed for Ely.

How many fenders!

Back to the Great Ouse we turned southwards. WB Karma sat on the EA moorings, we biped our horn and stopped mid channel to chat briefly with them, they are certainly making slow progress along the river. We may see them again on our way back.

Today fishing could start again on the river. At first we only saw one chap with his full kit set up in a fishing peg. But then the number increased as we got closer to Ely, this also coincided with boats heading towards us and rowers, all really rather congested.

House extension coming on a treat

Once under the railway bridge we paused to let a boat wind and then we tucked ourselves in, stern right under a willow and very close to fishermen. In Ely neither boats or those fishing have more right to use the river bank than the other. So if there is someone fishing in the middle of a gap of boats you have to leave them to it.

Busy Ely

A trip to Sainsburys with the bike to act as a sherpa stocked us up well for the next week or so. Then it was decision time.

Should we find a mooring in Ely, have lunch do a bit more sight seeing and then stay put tomorrow in the heat. As last Friday night had been really quite noisy, the weather today was likely to encourage more people to the river bank for a drink making it even noisier. I had wanted to visit the art gallery and have a general wander around Ely again, but we decided to move on.


Just south of Ely is a GOBA mooring, Heather had suggested Tilly might like it there. So that is where we headed waving Goodbye to Ely and its busyness, although we could walk back into town should we want to. The mooring was quite overgrown, hard to work out where solid ground started and where wet feet ended! It took us a while to find a suitable spot, deployed the plank and then opened all the doors. The day was heating up, so curtains were drawn against the sunshine. Normally on hot days we’d find a good shady mooring, but trees and moorings along the river don’t tend to coincide, I’d hunted round Google earth for ages so I know!

The only tree available

After a late lunch, I pulled the masking tape off the roof, the paint can now cure before the solar connection box gets screwed back on. I then retired to hide inside Oleanna as Tilly made the most of a new area to pounce. She didn’t agree with me when I brought a friend back into the boat to show it how shady it was inside. I was picked up and made to walk the plank carrying my friend all the way!

First rule. No friends home, dead or alive, or putting them on the roof for later! hmnmeowhm!

A cruiser pulled up right in between us and the other boat at the other end of the mooring, they obviously knew each other. Their two dogs, or was it three came sniffing round, obviously their noses had found Tilly. She was quite happy either indoors or out under a nearby tree, in a nice shady spot!

Our mooring

Late afternoon we heard a dash through the friendly cover followed by a scraping sound, then a splash. Almost certainly Tilly going in! In the past she has always run inside to safety, but today she legged it back to the tree. The dogs came to have a look, the lady saying one of them had also fallen in. It was most definitely a woofer related splash, calculations done rapidly had been miscalculated and I lost my footing! It was a very big jump back to the stern.

Try as we might she wasn’t moving from under the tree, at least we knew where she was and she’d come back on board when ready and a touch drier. When she did eventually return she’d still some lick drying to do, her tail a third it’s normal size. Whether it was a woofer induced splosh we’ll never know, at least it had happened where the bank was very easy to get out.

Chicken and Bean Salad

This evening we’ve enjoyed a hot chicken and bean salad. This only ever gets made in the summer, I try to time it for when green beans are in season, a bit early today, but still tasty. Click on the photo for the recipe.

0 locks, 4.88 miles, 1 left, 1 willow for shade, 1 fully laden bike, 2 boxes wine, 3 red peppers, 3 courgettes, 30 cetirizine hydrochloride tablets, 1 after bite pen the horse flies are about! 1 soggy moggy, 0 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval due to pesky woofers, 1 mafting day.

Deja Goose. 15th June

Jude’s Ferry to Padnal Fen GOBA Mooring

I decided to do a touch of filling on a couple of the places I’m in the process of touching up. Yes I could apply several layers of primer, undercoat to build the layers up to meet with the existing top coat. But I want there to be at least one top coat before the forecast rain on Saturday, I’d also like not to be trying to get a coat of paint on on Friday as the temperature is due to be in the 30’s.

Isn’t nature amazing!

Back in Goole I’d bought some car body two pack filler. I mixed up a small amount with the catalyst, hoping I’d have enough for the job and that it wouldn’t go off too quickly before I’d had chance to use it all up. I had gauged the quantity perfectly, but another two minutes would have helped before it started to set! I managed anyway.

Making hay

Time to set off, retracing our route, round the bends passing soooo many damselflies. The farmers were out making hay, cutting and turning the long grass in the fields.

Flowing on by

Below us we could see clearly, long reeds flowing in the gentle current, fish from 2mm to nearly a foot in length. Then blanket weed which slowed our progress as it had done yesterday.

Isleham Lock

The lock was set ready for us, the guillotine gate raised as I’d left it, we’d almost certainly been the last boat through.

I closed the guillotine then lifted the slackers on the bottom gates until we dropped the 1ft 11″. Slackers closed, gates open and we were on our way again.

High above us two large planes circled from Mildenhall, a Hercules, the other we don’t know. Later in the day three fighter planes could be seen in formation some distance away.

What a gaggle!

Damselflies flitted about in their masses just above the surface of the water. A gaggle of geese, White and Greylags, squabbled and swam in line to our port side.

Closer to us were the Black Headed Gulls and today we had Terns too. The Gulls dipped in flight for insects, the Terns followed our wake hovering ready for any sign of a fish to then dive in and grab.

More round that bend

Round the next slight bend. A gaggle of geese, White and Greylags, squabbled and swam in line to our port side. Hang on! Haven’t I said that before? Had we just seen the same bunch doing exactly the same thing? Or was that yesterday? No it wasn’t deja vu, just another gaggle. This lot crossed over in front of us and continued to squabble.

Now the long straights, moored boats, the old mill. A heron moved along to loose us, only to find we caught it up a few minutes later, time and time again. Why they don’t head in the opposite direction only they know!

A swing?

Arriving at Prickwillow we noticed a makeshift rope swing had been attached to the bridge, almost dangling in the water. This turned out to have been the hose that someone had left on the pontoon, now removed from its reel. We stopped to fill up with water, hopefully saving us the job tomorrow when back in Ely. It was good to be inside out of the sun, the closed curtains had kept inside Oleanna at a reasonable temperature.

Then onwards again, hoping for a space on the GOBA mooring where we’d been two days ago. Two cruisers were there, but plenty of space for us too. As soon as we were tied up the doors were opened.

This outside is too warm!

At first it was a touch too hot for Tilly, she returned and took up a long cat position on the bathroom floor. I suspect on really hot days she wishes we still had ceramic tiles like those on Lillian, Karndean looks nice but doesn’t stay as cool!

Mick had been thinking about the solar. The panels had been wired in parallel, but he was going to see what happens with them wired in series. This is for ease of wiring with thick wires (always a telephone engineer!) and they may just be more efficient. However if a shadow is cast over one of our two panels this affects the output from both panels. They will stay in this configuration until I’ve finished painting to see what effect it has.


The masking tape came out, marking squares around where I’d primed the roof for touch up. Then the areas were sanded for a key, the dust cleaned off.

The undercoat took quite a lot of stirring to get it mixed and then I applied a coat. The roof was maybe a touch too warm for this as I didn’t have much time to move the paint around to get a good finish. I tried using a selfie to see if I’d managed to paint all the centre line ring, but being able to see my phone screen proved just as hard as seeing round corners! Hopefully it wasn’t too late in the day and would avoid getting covered in flies.

A fully paid up member

As the afternoon continued the temperature dropped which meant our second mate was out and pouncing in the friendly cover. She’d been allowed an extra hour and she made full use of it.

1 lock, 9.33 miles, 5467288 damselflies, 203 geese, twice, 2 big planes, 3 pointy planes, 2 terns, 1 full water tank, 4 hours shore leave, 2 spent on the bathroom floor, 1 top coat to do, 2 panels in series.

Pumping It Up. 13th June

Padnal Fen GOBA mooring to Prickwillow EA Mooring

Prickwillow mooring

Around a bend and a kink of the River Lark lies Prickwillow. A water point and two EA moorings, both empty when we arrived. We pulled in at the end furthest away from the road and got both hoses out to fill up on water. We were soon joined by a narrowboat that had breasted up to us in Ely on Saturday at the services, they were heading to the same place as us, Prickwillow Drainage Engine Museum.

A happy museum

Housed in the old pump house the museum covers the history of the Fens, the drainage of them and as suggested by it’s name has a collection of engines that used to pump the water up from the land into the rivers.

The drain behind the museum

A very enthusiastic chap greeted us at the door and took our entrance fee. He then spent time explaining about the exhibits, how to access more information on items, which way to walk round the museum and then sat us down to watch a ten minute film about the Fens and their drainage.

Vermuyden’s scheme alongside 1949

We heard about the Fens, stilt walking, how peat when drained can shrink the height of a man in the life time of a man, which explains how the rivers ended up being so much higher than the surrounding land. The 1947 floods. Vermuyden and his plans, sluices, redirecting rivers, the Relief Channel, the Cut Off Channel and then about the engines that worked the pumps.

Sadly the steam engines that used to do the work were all replaced by diesel engines before anyone had the idea to form a collection and then a museum. Several engines stand in the engine sheds, their green paint complimented by reds and blues. From two cylinder to four cylinder engines, the smell of ingrained oil hangs in the air.

Oooo, sounds!

For those who love the sound of old engines there are buttons you can press to hear them in action. On certain days of the year they have them all up and running, but sadly for us today wasn’t one of them. I suspect the place would have been a lot busier.

Collections of items fill any spare space left by the engines. Each item logged with a number that you can look up on their website. From obvious spades of all different shapes and sizes to eel catching tools. Pressure cookers to ice skates (there was even a pair that would fit your feet Frank). Mole traps, bread paddles, potato folks, psygrometer which measures relative humidity in the air but resembles a football rattle.

Then lots of photographs regarding the floods in 1947. It was these that brought about the current drainage channels all quite closely based on the plans that Vermuyden had had back in the 1650’s. People clung to the flood banks the surrounding areas covered in water. The army were brought in to help raise the flood banks, one chap in the photos the spitting image of a friend Michael who I used to work with in Scarborough.

Windmills with scoopwheels

A very informative afternoon. A well laid out museum run by enthusiastic volunteers with so much information to hand should you want it. Well worth a visit, but beware they are only open Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays.

We then had a walk around the village. We’d spotted the church as we’d pulled in. The grounds were very over grown, lights were on inside and a car parked beside it. Should we look in through the open door, was it now a private house? I sneaked a photo of what looked like a figure, it turned out to be what looked like a set of armour, home made leaning against the wall. After hunting round on the internet I found an article regarding St Peter’s Church. It was bought by a couple two years ago to be turned into an arts centre/studio space with two apartments in the north and south transepts. I suspect there is still a LOT of work to be done.

Plenty of shelves with not much on them

Further along the road is a house set back which is totally engulfed in ivy apart from it’s wheelie bin. The old school house, a Baptist church which is currently under offer to be converted into a house. On the parish notice board there were invites to a wine and book club, a plant and seed swap in the village phone box. We peeked in to see what might be on offer in the phone box only to find two dried out twigs!

A long overdue catch up with the London Leckenbys was had during the afternoon, Josh is in the thick of his GCSE’s, Andrew is busy with work and Jac was full of her recent trip back to Melbourne to see her family.

0 locks, 1.5 miles, 1 load washing, 1 full water tank, 1 mardy cat, 1 museum, 8 big engines, 36786 exhibits, 1 Michael, 1 transgender Einstein, 2 repurposed churches, 2 twigs, 2 more weeks of exams.

Welded On! 12th June

Padnal Fen GOBA Mooring

A day of staying put, but not sitting still. Tilly was allowed shore leave first thing, it wouldn’t however be a sausage day, more of a salami day, handed out in slices.

Washing day

The washing machine was put to work, the solar doing it’s thing first thing. The whirligig was erected and soon filled, the washing drawer just about empty. Whilst Mick did this I collected together what I needed to give the covers a spray.

Here’s hoping it works again

Wet and Forget and the new pump spray bottle. At last the covers were going to get a spray. Its quite a while since we gave them a scrub at Pollington Lock and a couple of days sat under the trees in Ely hadn’t helped! Once the mixture was ready it was time for Tilly to come inside. Wet Wet and Forget isn’t good on paws as it can be licked off!


Hopefully it wasn’t too sunny today for it to have maximum effect

The covers came off and I started to spray them with the new bottle. The last time I actually did this was in lockdown with a standard plant spray, it took forever! Today once I’d got the spray more or less how I wanted it, a fine spray not possible, it took no time at all. Brilliant.

Now what to do?

After a lot of scrubbing, before the scraper came out!

The birds in Ely gave me quite a task to scrub their deposits from the roof and cabin side. The back counter had to wait for the pram cover to be back on as it was hard working away with the brush with the frame and whirligig in the way. Once I could get to the newly decorated deck it took a lot of work. White bird sh*t is easy, it just washes off. It’s the green residue from eating grass and plants that is the problem. It had welded itself onto the lid of the weedhatch. Scrubbing with the yard brush got so far. Leaving it soaking a little bit further. Then the paint scraper came out and a mixture of soaking and scraping away time and time again meant that at least we’d be able to open the weedhatch again!

Checking all’s well

Mick put on his overalls and climbed into the engine bay. He wanted to check over the cooling system after our problems last year. As the engine ran with the header filler cap off (so air could escape if needs be), he sat with his phone in hand watching the gauge as the temperature of the engine gradually rose. All was good thankfully. He also filled the stern greaser, a messy job.

Once the covers were dry they went back on Oleanna so that the grass below could dry off whilst we had lunch. The grass would then be dry enough for feline paws once again., Tilly was allowed a few more slices of shore leave.

Next came the roof. There has been a small bubble of rust gradually showing itself for a while towards the stern along with a couple of patches on the hatch sliders. Earlier in the year we’d had a leak where the solar connection box sits on the roof, a year or so ago I’d done my best to sort a patch of rust here, but it needed looking at properly.

Solar disconnected

Mick undid the screws and I carefully went round the box to break the seal of silicon we’d put on when we added the second panel. Gradually the box lifted and the cable could be disconnected. The rust was scraped away along with any loose paint.

All rusty bits had a good sanding back and then I applied some Fertan, rust convertor. During the remainder of the afternoon I gave the brown fertan the occasional spray with water to keep it active. Early evening the solar connection box was cleaned of old blacktack and silicone then reconnected and a plastic bag taped down over the top, hopefully to stop any possible rain from coming in, but this would also mean the next time I want to do anything all I have to do is lift the tape and bag. I just mustn’t leave it too long so that the tape welds itself to the roof!

One happy cat

Tilly and I had a little walk along the bank, the wind very fierce up there. Gradually as the afternoon turned into evening the wind started to subside, just as well as we’d planned a barbeque.

Everything ready

I made up veg and haloumi kebabs and a spring green and carrot coleslaw with a bit of wholegrain mustard added. The asparagus was threaded onto skewers, burger buns cut in half ready for toasting.


We huddled in the corner, knowing that the smoke would be blown away from our washing drying in the cratch. The pork and apple burgers I bought yesterday were very nice as was the asparagus even though the wind had just about cooled it down as soon as it left the barbeque!

Lowering sun

As we sat finishing off our meal a rather plump bird flew along following the reeds on the other bank. Definitely an Owl, we think it was a Barn Owl. We watched it fly along, turn and head back. Sadly I only had my phone on me, but if you look carefully you can see it. It returned and came over our heads. Another privileged moment on the fens, our first sighting of an owl in eight years.


0 locks, 0 miles, 0 winding but plenty of wind, 1 coolant system okay, 3 loads washing, 5 rust patches, 32 welded on sh*ts, 1 busy happy cat, 1 set of covers that we can hopefully forget about for a few months (maybe I’ll give them another spray before winter), 4 kebabs, 15 spears asparagus, 2 burgers, 1 low flying Barn Owl, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Captions just bold today.

Keen For Cake. 11th June

Jubilee Gardens to Padnal Fen GOBA Mooring, River Lark

There was only time for a cuppa in bed before I was heading off into town his morning armed with shopping bags. Somehow we’d managed to time our return to Ely with the twice monthly Farmers Market, I like Farmers markets. Mick stayed behind and left me to it.

Those strawberries smelt sooo good

The market square was mostly full of antique stalls and street food wagons, the market stretching round onto Dolphin Lane. There was still quite a good mix of produce stalls, so before I put my hand in my pocket I had a good look round.

So far this year we’ve only had one lot of asparagus and that was supermarket bought, so seeing what hopefully would be fresh spears I hunted round for the best price. Only a couple of meat stalls. I didn’t want a nice juicy steak at £21 but some sausages if they were gluten free. The lady had pork and apple burgers, sorted that would do us for a bbq this weekend.

I so wish bread agreed with me

More fruit and veg stalls, a nice plump cauliflower, some carrots (just because they looked nice, no idea what I’ll use them for).

There were two bakers stalls. One with every sort of bread you could ever want apart from gluten free, but that’s understandable with sooo much gluten flying about. I got Mick a small pork pie.


The other bakers was George’s Bakery. Here the stall was enclosed with plastic, only small gaps either end for you to be served. Then a line of benches led away under gazebos where some fencing took over to help keep the queue under control. There was a queue, quite a long queue. Sadly it was another stall that I wouldn’t be making a purchase from, just as well a I didn’t really want to stand or sit in a queue for an hour!

Waiting area

Fish, wine, beer, cheeses, all sorts of tasty looking things to buy. I was restrained and walked away with a good stash. On the way back to the boat I called in at a Chinese Supermarket for some more rice noodles and took note of what flours they do in case I need to stock up at some point.

I was back just in time for the Geraghty zoom which covered subjects such as Drax Powerstation, how big one fried goose egg would be in a frying pan.

Todays purchases

A top up shopping list was drawn up taking into account the random items I’d just purchased and I headed off to Sainsburys whilst Mick rolled the covers up, pushed off, winded and headed for the water point. I got back to the boat just in time to assist with the second rinse through of the yellow water tank.

Breasting up to empty toilets

Now we pushed Ely away and headed north once more. Rowers were out today in force. We pootled our way back along the straight straight, there was space on the EA mooring should we find none elsewhere.

Rowers out in force

Blimey it was windy out there, thankfully a tail wind. It might have made it a touch awkward turning onto the River Lark, but Mick and Oleanna made the turn without a problem. Not far to go before the two sets of moorings. The EA mooring on the north bank was filled with one narrowboat, the other GOBA had a cruiser settled at one end, plenty of space for us. We moved to the far end where Tilly could roam free and not disturb the Alsatian on the cruiser.

Sunny, warm and very windy! We were joined by a widebeam filled with friends and family out for a pootle, they stopped for lunch and then headed up to the junction to wind. We pottered away the afternoon whilst Tilly made the most of lots of friendly cover.

Now who’s lurking in here?

Over the last few weeks we’ve been thinking ahead towards October and November when I’ll be away working on Panto. Last year we moved Oleanna north so the move back to the house would be easier/shorter for Tilly. This year we plan on being on board much longer, in fact most probably into the new year. Having Oleanna near to Chippy will be so much better for me to be able to get back at weekends as I’ve done in the past. But once the show is open we intend to get as far north as possible to return to the house to do winter maintenance there. This involves a lot of planning and winter stoppage dodging!

The evening sunshine

A while ago the first draft of stoppages was published, these are put out for boaters to look at and make comments. Mick spent quite a while looking at routes north, the River Trent, Trent and Mersey and the Shropshire Union. Most years works on the T&M and Shropie are split, one canal before Christmas the other after, leaving a route north to south open. However in the first draft both canals will be closed before Christmas, the T&M for the usual works and the Shropie for work on a culvert, then the usual stoppages will follow in the new year. Mick sent in a comment regarding Coldstone Culvert, a couple of days ago he received a response from the Construction/Stoppage Coordinator for the West Midland Region. It’s only a courtesy email, but at least we know his comment has been logged. The next draft will be out for comment in a few weeks time, we’ve got our fingers crossed.

Sun setting

0 locks, 4.37 miles, 1 wind, 1 right, 1 cauliflower, 1 punnet of strawberries, 1 pie, 8 spears, 4 burgers, 0 boxes wine, 6 bananas, 1 full water tank, 1 empty yellow water tank, 1 pesky culvert.

Captions in black today

The Boats We’ve Yet To Meet. 9th June

Ten Mile Bank GOBA mooring to Jubilee Gardens, Ely

Eleanor sneaking past as we drank tea

The curtains on the porthole in the bedroom were pushed aside this morning so that we could spy for any passing boats as we had our cuppa in bed. NB Eleanor pushed off from behind us and I think a cruiser also came past. As we had breakfast, rolled up the covers we kept an eye open for a boat we’ve yet to meet, but there was still no sign. We needed to get moving to secure a mooring in Ely. Our paths, with the yet to meet boat, will cross at some point.

Blue skies and wind

Today was still windy, is it always so down here on the flat lands? Another blue and green day.

Hello again

We passed WB Karma, biped our horn, but no one was about, Klaud or Kato had been left in charge of the wheelhouse, a head bobbing up to see who was disturbing his snooze.

We passed the sad house, the last pylon in a line, the closed moorings at Littleport where the ducks, moles and weeds are enjoying themselves with no boaters around to disturb them.

Then the long straight sections towards Ely, the occasional slight bend and the turn off to the River Lark. Onwards. We were gradually catching up with a boat ahead who were overtaken by rowers. Then it was time to seek out a mooring.

Back to back rowing, going nowhere

Where we’d been before was chocka, but further along nearer the bars there were a few spaces. We pulled in at the bottom of Jubilee Gardens, hopefully here would be far enough away from any cars for Tilly to possibly have some shore leave.

Maybe there? Avoiding the trip boat mooring of course

The overhang on the mooring meant deploying the fat fender and a wheel to save the cabin side. The boat behind us was nicely wedged under the edge! The doors were opened and we waited to see what Tilly made of it.

Or there?

She stood, had a look this way and that, then scurried through a gap in the passing legs to find some sideways trees to lurk around. We wondered if she’d ever make it back for us to be able to go out this evening, but thankfully she succeeded requesting to have her evening ding ding early!

Our evening ding ding, not bad for a gluten free fish

Around 6pm there was a tap on the roof, Heather Bleasdale. She’d been up to see her, new to her boat that is having work done to it further upstream. Chats over a cuppa on board were followed by fish and chips at RBK. The fish was very large and the chips exceedingly hot. We whiled away a few hours catching up on news and comparing notes of our travels. Hopefully her new boat will be back on the water soon and we might meet up somewhere.

The first photo eight years ago.

0 locks, 10.64 miles, 1 straight, 0 boat rendez vous, 1 slow jam pot boat, 2 hours dashing between legs, 1 overhung mooring, 3 splats already! 1 wave to Stewart, 2 of each, 1 burger, 1 big catch up, 8 years ago we left Crick as The Wasp with Blackbird and our boating blog commenced.

What A Relief! 3rd June

Denver EA Mooring to Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen EA Mooring

Mushrooms ala Mick

It felt like a Sunday today, so with not much in the fridge except mushrooms Mick cooked them up and we had them on a couple of slices of toast for breakfast. Then it was time to move on, we couldn’t dally as we needed to find a suitable mooring.

Denver Sluice

Around Denver there are all sorts of structures, sluices here there and everywhere. We headed over to the east towards the Relief Channel Lock. Here two sets of pointing gates drop you down onto the Relief Channel, the lock is fully automated, despite the instructions suggesting you need a windlass.

Time for the Abloy Key of Power, our key ring is getting a touch full. A boat had just gone down the lock, so the bottom gates needed closing then the lock filling for us to enter. This lock is a slow filler, thank goodness you don’t have to keep your finger on the button! It is also a slow emptier the slackers/paddles only moving by about foot, so you have to be patient as your boat slowly drops the 2meters. It was nice to be changing height again, but I have to say I miss working locks.

Going down!

Vermuyden back in the 1640’s, proposed works to help relieve the Ely Ouse of extra water, but it wasn’t until 1964 that the Relief Channel and Cut Off Channel were constructed. The Cut Off Channel diverts waters away from the Rivers Wissey, Little Ouse and Lark in times of flood by partially closing the rivers. The extra water runs towards Denver where the Impounding Sluice joins it to the Relief Channel, taking the waters 11 miles further downstream before it joins the Tidal Great Ouse near Kings Lynn.

Turning below the lock, Cut Off Channel behind

In 2001 the lock connecting the channel to the River Great Ouse, above Denver, was constructed and three sets of visitor moorings added.

The Channel is wide, deep and fairly straight. Today it was windy out there. Swans took off in front of us hoping to loose us, only to find we’d catch them up again, necessitating another take off, time and time again, until they either diverted their route to behind us or over towards the tidal river.

Downham Market moorings chocka

The first mooring at Downham Market is long, able to hold quite a few boats. Today it was very full, good job we’d not been wanting to stop there today. Our guide book suggests that there is more to the town than just Haygates flour mill, which sits alongside the channel. The town used to be renowned for it’s butter market, moving large quantities up to Cambridge on the river.

Not many bridges around here

The next mooring follows at Stowbridge close to a pub. Today two narrowboats filled the pontoon busy with boat chores, everyone waved as we waved back. Another half hour north we passed under a footbridge where a canoeist lolled with his back to us, we moved over so as not to disturb him.

Would there be space for us?

Then the next and final pontoon at Wiggenhall St Marys Magdalen came into view. There was the cruiser I’d seen at the lock and what looked like a narrowboat, would there be space for us? As we got closer we could see there were two narrowboats breasted up. To our relief a lady came dashing down the ramp and untied the inner narrowboat and starting to pull it back towards the cruiser making space for us. The wind didn’t help us moor as the bow kept being pushed towards the bank which in turn pushed the stern out, but we got there in the end, Oleanna’s bow over hanging the pontoon.


The lady from the breasted up pair was very chatty, offered us a lift to the pub tonight and introduced us to Freddie her Irish Terrier. He wanted to come and say hello, but immediately got distracted by a scent, Tilly! Blimey Tilly smelt soo good, he was all over Oleanna as Tilly watched on from the Houdini shelf. She had been hoping that the friendly cover could be explored, but being on a pontoon the health and safety committee had already made their decision. Now with Freddie sniffing the air at the open window where Tilly sat, only an inch or two away, their decision was reinforced!

It took Freddie quite a while to actually be able to see Tilly through the glass. At that moment their noses were less than an inch apart with a sheet of glass thankfully between them, Tilly now three times her normal size! Freddie was immediately put back on a lead and taken inside his boat.

Finishing touches, including some clamping

Summer clothes were retrieved from under the bed a smart shirt brought out to be washed. Winter clothing was not fully stowed away, but that will need to happen before I start on my panto model as my clothes cupboard is where I store it away from feline jaws. Then it was time to finish off my project. Fittings, securing, wires twisted, glue applied, foam added for comfort and a final fitting. All was finished and ready.

Relief Channel on the left, Tidal River Great Ouse right

Time for a walk over Magdalen Bridge which crosses the Tidal River Great Ouse, the tide was out. Down stream of here lies Kings Lynn and then The Wash, which if crossed with the aid of a pilot would take us to Boston and then further north on the River Witham. That trip will be for another time.

A fine looking church

The village was covered in bunting as to be expected. The church sitting proudly in the centre. A fish and chip shop round the next corner smelt good, but I returned up Prophets Lane which led to the river bank and back across the bridge to Oleanna where there would have been just enough room for another boat to breast up alongside us.

Quite a full pontoon

A couple of weeks ago I asked if the Middle Level was as low as we could get on the network. A few days later Paul from Waterway Routes replied with this answer.

The Middle Levels between Ashline and Marmont Priory Locks is maintained at 35cm below Ordnance Datum (approximately seal level), although the level will vary a little after rain etc. The Relief Channel summer level is approximately 98cm below Ordnance Datum (sea level), although this level isn’t maintained particularly accurately so you could be more than a metre below sea level at times.

So we are now the lowest we can be, below sea level!

Swimming below sea level

1 lock, 6.9 miles, 1 right, 1 left, 3 moorings, 2 boats pulled back, 1 Freddie, 3 times bigger, 1 last mooring space, 2 relieved boaters, 2 fixings, 2 fittings, 1 project complete, 1 fridge just about empty.