Category Archives: River Nene

Increasing The Ballast. 7th June

Pyrford Marina, River Wey Navigations

The bears left in charge again

Final jobs in the house. Making up beds, a nice shower required the cubical to be squeegeed down again, hovering, sandwich making, crumbs from the toaster etc. Mick was finished before I was and stood waiting to take the bin out. I then ran round the house to do an idiot check and make sure everything was ready for our next lodgers, the car was packed and we were on our way at midday. Just a shame we’d left a block of cheese and some milk in the fridge! Frank would you like some cheese?

Our blue pompom bush has gone bonkers

We stopped off for some more cat litter. Tilly uses a mixture of wood and odour control litter, we in our separating toilet use wood litter to cover our deposits. Recently we’ve found that we prefer using a wood cat litter from Pets at Home. This is paler than the supermarket version and when some water is added it fluffs up nicely without being sticky for sprinkling. So we paused to purchase a bag as we left Scarborough.

An A1 sock

Our route back was slow, Mick chose to head southwards on the A1, our route north had been on the M1, lots of road works! It being a Friday afternoon plenty of people were also on the move. Not so many road works, but we did have quite a few slow sections, one where a car had pulled onto the central reservation under a bridge and then decided to get back into the line of traffic, causing the slow moving traffic to do an emergency stop! Why they couldn’t have signalled and waited to be let in, who knows! This route follows the River Trent, Nene and Great Ouse.

Turning off the M25

Only one comfort stop was taken to eat our butties we’d made and seven hours after leaving Scarborough we were at the marina gates in Pyrford, I’d almost knitted a complete sock!

I think someone was pleased to have us home

First things first, give Tilly a cuddle. I gave the usual meow as I walked up to the boat and could hear excited relieved paws charge through Oleanna, then shouting took over. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN!!???!!! You said it would be two BIG sleeps, well it was 6! That means you owe me 4 more meals. I had to save those biscuits just in case you’d gone FOREVER!!!!

Plenty of frantic head nudges, so many that I lost my glasses. I don’t think she’d liked the neighbours NO! They have woofers! Food was required, a top up of biscuits and some whitefish tonight. Tom came in and gave me a good ear rub, he also had a LOT of bags with him. I apparently can go in my box a lot now, but not too much yet as they want my litter for extra ballast. The wine cellar was filled up and most of the cupboards. Then Mick headed back out, this time to Tescos for a click and collect of fresh things also picking up a few more bits that we thought might be good to have, including some more cheese. Four more bags of shopping to stow!

Here’s hoping we don’t eat our way through all this extra ballast too soon. Where we’re heading in the next couple of weeks we’ll be needing to be as low as possible in the water!

0 locks, 0 miles, 253 miles by car, 3 bags litter, 6 boxes wine, 1 bag cat biscuits, 2 boxes pink food, 1 chicken, 3 loaves bread, 4 pints not 2! 2 bottles vinegar, 1kg potatoes, 0.75 of a sock, 6 sleeps not 2! 2 beds made up ready, 1 block of cheddar, 1 ecstatic cat.

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?

Is That Hair Real? 10th September

Manor Farm to Lock 17 Grand Union, Northampton Arm

Another early start, well we’d had a boat come past us last night and we didn’t want to loose out on the lock, maybe more than one being in our favour. We pushed off just before 8am, our neighbour showing no signs of rising.

Approaching Doddington Lock

Doddington Lock was in our favour, at the end of the lock landing on the top side a weasel frolicked in the grass, it’s white tummy giving away it’s location. For the last few days every now and again we’ve heard clouds of geese coming over head and wished them all to continue onwards with their journey.

Heavy picnic benches

New benches have arrived on four of the FOTRN moorings. These heavy duty benches came about from a legacy that was given to the IWA with the proviso that it went towards improving the River Nene and a great addition they are.

Earls Barton Lock sat empty for us, followed by White Mills. Does anyone know what the two large springs were for in the lock chamber, close to the guillotine gate? Was this the other lock that used to have a radial gate?

Finesse built

The Crick widebeam winner from 2019 sat on it’s mooring, a Kingfisher using it as a perch. Rumour has it that it will be having a refit and going on the market in the not too distant future. So if you fancy a 70ft boat with hydraulic wheelhouse this could be for you.

Whiston Lock

Whiston Lock, the last of those that have had problems in the last few weeks. This is where the duck weed started and what would be the weekend traffic coming towards us. First a small cruiser, recently bought and being moved down to Titchmarsh Cruising Club, the chaps on board were hoping they’d make it today!

At Cogenhoe Lock there was a narrowboat sat in the lock, two people stood around chatting. Was something wrong? One of the fellas had been to ask at the caravan park and was telling the chap with the boat that the lock was broken, ALL the locks were broken! Well that we knew was untrue. Apparently the mooring a short distance upstream was full of boats waiting for the locks to reopen! There was no power to the panel, that bit was true.

Putting the doom-laden news to one side, I started to look at the immediate problem. The chap with the boat was new to the River Nene, was everything closed as it needs to be for the power to be on. Simple answer was, NO! One of the paddles was just an inch or so raised. Once this was down the panel worked a treat. I offered for the old chap to be on his boat and I’d lift the gate, but he’d rather do it himself and keep an eye on his ropes. His boat, his lock, his way.

Harry in amongst the berries

As the lock emptied the chap who’d been full of miss information introduced himself, Alex. Was it one o’clock yet? ‘No just gone ten’, I said. ‘I’ve got to last till midday! It’ not easy you know.’ ‘Is that hair real?’ What an odd question, what an odd man. Eventually he headed off having supposedly seen his wife.

Attention came back to the matter in hand, the lock was now empty, just a simple matter of raising the gate to let the boat out and Oleanna to come in. But hang on the gate wouldn’t do anything. The lights were on?! What was going on! Oh blimey were we going to need to call the EA out? I tried, the chap with the boat tried pressing the button, still nothing. Today had been going really well up to now.

Then all of a sudden the chap with the boat twisted the emergency stop button. He presses it to stop the gate from lifting, which it does anyway! Now the gate could be raised and everyone could be on their way again.

As we passed the weir cut we looked down it. Yes there were boats, but they were all the normal moorers there. The chap with the hair comment hadn’t said one word of truth, I suspect he wasn’t even called Alex!

Passing Billings Aquadrome there were numerous supped up cars, this weekend was a gathering of such cars, many painted bright vibrant colours with their engines out on display above their bonnets.

Nearly went the wrong way!

At nearly every lock now towards Northampton we’d meet a downstream boat just as I was about to close the top gates. One boat was heading back to March from a summer on the canal network. Another recently bought and heading to its new mooring at Ditchford, we met at the first electric guillotine gate. They’d got this far last weekend then realised they didn’t have a key to operate the lock.


We followed and were chased by rowers across the wide water before turning off the river and passing through Weston Barrage. Back to manual locks now, windlass operated at both ends. Mick made the mistake of not tying the bow up whilst waiting for the lock to empty at one of them which necessitated dropping the paddle as Oleanna’s bow stretched across the cut and listed alarmingly. However this turned out to be the first major test for our drawers that Frank had added magnets to earlier this year. One and a bit draws, not what would have been a five drawer moment last year!

The narrow section of river with all the duck weed felt like we were going through swamps. Soon back out onto the river properly, we followed the directions left on a bridge and reached the last of the River Nene locks.

Northampton Lock

A weedhatch check was needed which was done on the lock landing. As I stood with the lock empty awaiting Oleanna a chap came along muttering to himself.

Alcohol induced confidence

He then proceeded to climb up on the top gates where there is no walk way as there is a perfectly good bridge at the other end. Once stood on the gates he balanced himself to where the two vee gates meet in the middle and then proceeded to throw slices of white bread for the geese, thank goodness the gates are quite chunky as his balance was being assisted by drink! Thankfully he continued to cross the gates without any incident and then was encouraging a goose to take a slice of bread from his baseball cap, all too close to his face for me to watch.

Last lock on the Nene

Last lock done, we pootled through Northampton. Many people book themselves into the marina here, or hope to get a mooring on the embankment. We turned to meet the bottom lock of the Northampton Arm, a narrow C&RT lock, armco, small gates. Could we remember how to work these after all we came down this lock almost 19 weeks ago!

We were soon up the lock and the last space by the pipe bridge was free, phew! Lunch then a visit to Asda for some milk, bread and a new computer mouse. Then a walk a bit further to pick up a couple of parcels. 80 meters of fairy lights and a magnetic pole.

One half of the lights

Tilly was now given shore leave for a couple of hours. Not that she was that impressed with the outside, too many woofers, zero friendly cover just a bank that needed peering over and calculations to see if she’d be able to climb up some pipes. Thankfully she didn’t try!

Look out!

12 locks, 9.53 miles, 1 not broken lock, 1 head of real hair! 80m, 45cm, 1 fabric shop not open, 0 art shops, 2 hours shore leave, 2 many woofers, 1 cartoon cat, 0 decision.

No Weather Today. 9th September

Clive’s Retreat FOTRN mooring to Manor Farm FOTRN mooring

Dribbly Oleanna

Alarm was set for an hour later than yesterday. We need to keep our cruising hours up and starting early in the day hopefully means that Tilly will be able to have a few hours shore leave after we’ve moored up each day. We pushed off a little later than planned another day of getting damp feet. Last night the extended news had meant we retired to bed not having seen the weather for today. Maybe there wouldn’t be any weather, maybe it had been cancelled.

The final wheelie gate

Not far ahead was the last of the wheel operated guillotine gates, Mick came to lift the gate then I was left to drop it back in behind Oleanna.

Next was Irthlingborough Lock, a small cruiser was just leaving above. This lock was the first to have a fault recently thankfully today the gates worked. As we rose in the deep lock a boat pulled into the lock landing behind us, shame they hadn’t been five minutes earlier as we’d have been able to share. The bottom gate was leaking so the second top paddle required opening just to get us up the last inch or so and be able to open the gates.

Differing arches

Old Station and New Station Road Bridges were ducked under, the approach to the old bridge a little awkward to get the right line.

Higham Ferrers Lock needed setting the cruiser still ahead of us. We emptied it, opened both gates and awaited for our new locking partners NB Red October to join us.

Ditchford Lock with it’s radial gate

We were sharing with two of the founding members of the FOTRN, the phone number for help on the signs would ring on this boat. We shared tales of trips, how the guillotine locks used to be operated by winding a handle, but then someone broke their nose and the handles were replaced with the wheels. I heard stories of extra weight being added to the guillotine gates to make them move faster, all a complete NO no now!

Each lock we came to the cruiser was just pulling out of. Each lock needing to be reset. At Ditchford Lock we paused once Oleanna and Red October had risen, the radial gate shut behind us, so that Mick could retrieve what was round the prop, thankfully only a load of weed but removing it eased our journey onwards.

Onwards past the jet ski lake where Fran was just opening up her stern doors on NB Atropos, we’d shared the really hot days with her on the Great Ouse. At the Chester House mooring a new bridge over the river has been installed a second one just visible through the fencing which must lead up to the buildings.

Now in towards Wellingborough embankment. I started to count the swans, 48 in the first batch. Have to say I gave up as we rounded the next bend to see the next group. Ladies were feeding them, one lady backing away throwing bread out across the park, she must have had at least 50 following her!

Maybe she’s trying to take them home with her

Upper Wellingborough was the last we shared with Red October as when we arrived at Wollaston Lock the cruiser was waiting with both gates open. Maybe we would be able to fit all three boats in the lock together, but we were a little apprehensive to be tightly packed in with a plastic boat. Our locking partners were on a bit more of a mission than we were, aiming to reach their home mooring up near Northampton today, so we waved them into the lock to share with the cruiser. This of course meant the heavens now opened as the two boats pulled out of the lock, leaving us to reset it and get wet. Todays weather hadn’t been cancelled after all!

Up they go

Our planned mooring was only a little bit further on Manor Farm FOTRN mooring. We pulled in at the nearest end and let Tilly out. Four hours of shore leave with some tufty grass to run around in and find friends. At first she wasn’t too impressed as the door opened to torrential rain, but she soon got over it and headed off.

Chilli for six!

A big vat of chilli was put on the stove late afternoon to gently bubble away. A handy three meals in one pan which will come in handy on long days of cruising. We have decided to keep up our rate of cruising, our next appointment may go ahead or be cancelled, but there is also a rendez vous arranged with family, so it’s important to keep going.

7 locks, 10.62 miles, 3 locks on our own, 4 shared, 6 hours cruising, 4 hours shore leave, 543627 swans, 15:37 model delivered, 1 silent boat, 3 meals 1 pan, 1 plan still in operation.

It No Work! 8th September

Oundle Cruising Club to Clive’s Retreat FOTRN mooring

With Waterway Routes suggesting it would take us around 4hrs to reach Islip Lock and Evri suggesting it would be best to drop off my parcel before midday the alarm was set or 6am, a time we only normally do when temperatures outside are due to get high and we can’t just sit still for the day. We were breakfasted and untied by 07:09, winded in the entrance to the marina, waving to NB Cleddau and heading towards Upper Barwell Lock the first of our day.

Birds chirped, Kingfishers darted back and forth, but our sleepy eyes and heads were not capable of counting them let alone see them. Damp under foot, we’d be getting soggy feet this morning. The world gradually waking up around us.

Upper Barwell, Lilford and Wadenhoe locks were all set in our favour. One cruiser moored on the pub moorings and one narrowboat at Peartree Farm. Titchmarsh Lock had been the only lock I’d not operated on our way downstream three months ago, it’s padlock a mensa challenge to relock with only two hands, I got there in the end.

I busied myself with answering panto emails as we went along, what type of backpack, just how big should the mixing bowls be and how would I like the boiled egg ice cream to look?

Collision course!

The river narrows, trees overhang the navigation as you get closer to Islip Lock. Heading upstream the current against us was that bit stronger. Then round a bend we saw our first moving boat, they were going at quite a lick. We saw them before they did us and we slammed on the brakes. Both boats hitting reverse and avoiding a collision. Phew.

At 10:22 we arrived at the Islip Mill Lakeside Moorings, no boats awaiting a broken lock, in fact no boats what-so-ever. We pulled in and I headed off straight away to drop the parcel of panto model bits off at the One Stop shop, then walked over to the Co-op for some eggs.


Today we were allowed elevenses and whilst I tucked into my toast and peanut butter boats and their movements were texted back to Sue on Cleddau, they were on their way a few hours behind us, hopefully someone would have reset the locks for them.

It was in their favour

I started to walk up to Islip Lock, the first of the locks that has been broken recently. But I soon realised that there was actually no way of reaching the lock without being on a boat, luckily Mick hadn’t set off yet. I was dropped off on the lock landing and walked up to close the top gates. I also had to close both gate paddles as a previous boater had left them up, this had been the cause of this reach draining the day after the lock broke. I went to the panel, no lights. I jigged the gates about, no lights, I wound up and down the paddles, no lights. By now there was a boat heading towards the lock from above. I opened the top gates and waved them in, not that they’d be going anywhere!

Islip Lock last mended on the 6-9-22

As I thought, I knew of this boat. NB Barbarella a Finesse boat with Noni and Peter on board, we follow each other on Instagram so knew we’d pass each other today. They thanked me for holding the lock for them, then I explained, had they jinxed Islip after all they’d been the boat at Whiston when it broke last week. Peter tried everything. Still no lights.

No lights

Noni called the EA emergency number, Mick called the river inspector. After a while we got a call back saying that there was a power outage in the area as work was being carried out on power lines. Ahh it was the chaps opposite the mooring we’d just had elevenses at! The power might be off for half an hour but should certainly be back on by 16:00!

Finesse crews

We were invited onto Barbarella’s ‘super social stern’ for a cuppa and talked all things boats and Finesse. Oleanna was built in Finesse’s early days before they’d got into building electric and hybrid boats, maybe if we’d been two or three years later and had enough money we’d have gone down that route. Maybe if I got a show that goes into the west end the royalties could pay for a retro fit. Noni and Peter certainly seem to be enjoying themselves.

We headed to Oleanna for some lunch. Every now and again one of us would go and check to see if the lights were working on the panel. Behind us Sue and Ken had arrived at the mooring their destination for today. Every now and again we’d get reports on how the chaps up the poles were doing. At around 15:15 a message came through that they thought the chaps were packing up, we all stood round the panel chatting waiting for the lights to come back on.

Twenty minutes later Noni spotted that there was life on the panel. A quick, it’s been really nice to meet you and see you somewhere sometime and she was back on board and I was lifting the gate to drain the water.

Peter and Mick

The two Finesse boats were soon passing each other, waves all round. Oleanna’s turn in the lock, as I closed the bottom gate shouts and waves came from the footbridge below a final final farewell from Sue.


All afternoon the water level in the pound above had been over the top of the gates by a good four inches. But as Oleanna rose the level had dropped, maybe having the power back on had lifted some sluices somewhere, sending excess water downstream.

Good sky

Our aim for today was to reach Woodford, through Denford and Woodford locks. We were however following a day boat so every lock was full and both paddles had been left up on the top gates.

St Mary the Virgin

When we arrived at Woodford FOTRN mooring there were already a couple of boats moored there. It looked like there might be space for us but the depth really wasn’t in our favour so after jumping off I had to jump back on again. Thankfully we knew of a new FOTRN mooring up the next lock.

No room for Oleanna

We waved to the moorings where NB Lillyanne came from and then rounded the bend to Lower Ringstead Lock, the hire boat was still in the lock. I walked up to reset it for us.

The water level was coming over the top gates, only a few inches to go. After a minute or two there was still a few inches to go. They started to try to push the gates open, then there was a suggestion to try to help with the boat pushing the gates! It soon became obvious that something wasn’t right.

Not even a thank you!

‘Is the bottom gate closed fully?’ I asked. ‘Yes!’. By this time I was walking back to the panel to open it up and Mick had arrived from below saying there was water flowing from the lock below. No power to the panel, the paddles needed closing for me to be able to use the panel and close the guillotine properly. Just an inch made all the difference. How had they managed to end up in this situation? Even with someone pushing the button on the panel as soon as the paddle on the top gate was lifted the circuit was broken stopping the gate an inch before it was fully closed. I wonder how long they’d been there for with water just running straight through the lock, they’d certainly run out of beers by the number of empty bottles on the roof.

Thankfully there was plenty of water!

We worked our way up and then kept our fingers crossed for a space on the new Clives’s Retreat mooring close to the entrance to Blackthorn Marina. Thankfully it was empty, but much to Tilly’s dismay it was far too late for any shore leave.

Settling in at Clive’s

I put together a Roast chicken leek and feta pie with pastry that had been in the freezer. A glass of wine accompanied our meal and we wondered whether the appointment we were heading for will still go ahead.

8 locks, 13.39 miles, 2 Finesse’s, 3 cuppas, 1 group, 4 hours without power, 1 parcel on it’s way, 1 troublesome day boat, 1 inch, 1 new mooring, 2 flags, 1 long day boating, 70 years, 1 king.

In Triplicate. 7th September

Oundle Cruising Club

My brain was whirring with all the little jobs I needed to do before putting panto things in the post, so much so there was next to no point in lying in bed just thinking about them, I might as well be up doing them. I reckoned half a day would see all the jobs done and a parcel wrapped up, a walk into Oundle Post Office, then all I’d be left with would be emails and the occasional zoom meeting before I start painting the set in five weeks time.

Checking the green is the right shade

I worked away, altering colours of a few things, cutting away some sky on others. A list of amendments to drawings. Sue came to wave us off, but we wouldn’t be leaving until the afternoon or maybe put it off until tomorrow. A Sainsburys delivery arrived and was stowed away.

After lunch Mick decided that he’d change Oleanna’s oil and a filter, an early service but one that would need doing whilst we were on our mission. Tilly busied herself outside, not sure if she’s ever made it up onto the club roof, I’d seen her doing the calculations the other day!

Barrow repainted in rusty colours

Drawings amended. Copies amended in triplicate! The right sized shoe box found and some bubble wrap. By now it was getting on for 16:30, I’d just make the Post Office. Then Mick mentioned that Royal Mail would be on strike the next two days!

They apparently would do their best to deliver Tracked 24 parcels. I looked this up on line. Only downside is that they have to collect your parcel, you can’t just drop it off at a Post Office! Well that wouldn’t happen!

Evie was looked up, next day would be the way to go. Nearest parcel shop, Thrapston! Nowhere in Oundle to drop the parcel off at. Thrapston being four hours away and they recommend dropping your parcel off before midday. Should we make a start on the four hours today? It was nearly 17:00, yellow water, water tank to deal with, Tilly busy outside. Decision made, we’d leave extra early tomorrow morning.

Goodbye until we meet again

In between receiving emails from Jo the panto props maker regarding horse manure we walked across the marina to say our goodbyes to Sue and Ken. If we hadn’t been leaving so early tomorrow we’d have been able to share the first few locks with them. We had a cuppa, chat and then said our final farewell. Hopefully there will be no more delays with broken locks for either of us and once up the Northampton flight we’ll be heading in opposite directions.

Evening fishing

Early night for us tonight.

0 locks, 0 post for 2 days, 6 final amendments, 2 shovels of manure, 9 litres oil, 1 filter, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 1 food delivery, 1 boat, 2 boaters, 1 cat all ready for the off.

HOORAY!!!! 6th September

Oundle Boat Club

An early start to meet my lift into Peterborough. Ken from NB Cleddau had very kindly offered to give me a lift to the station this morning saving me sitting defending my model box on the bus as well as trains and the tube today. We arrived in plenty of time, I bought my ticket and then had to wait until 8:30 before the barriers would let me through. I was catching the slower Thameslink train to St Pancras, if I’d waited another ten minutes I could have got to London earlier but it would have cost another £90! I was happy enough sat watching Brampton and St Neots go by, only one boat moored on the GOBA mooring where Tilly got stuck behind the double fence weeks ago.

Panto Model on tour

A quick transfer onto the tube and I was soon walking up to Abi’s house in Golders Green. Today the meeting would just be Abi and myself working through the show scene by scene, scene change by scene change. A few notes were taken for small amendments, but generally all was good. When it came to the troublesome scene I had taken three options with me just in case. I set up the latest which thankfully got the thumbs up! Just some minor adjustments to make it even better. Hooray!

We were joined by Gemma the production manager for the last hour to chat through anything that might be problematical, then tucked into a bowl of soup whilst chatting props. A very productive three hours.

The water tower at St Pancras Cruising Club at the end of the road

Meanwhile my phone kept making noises. News was coming through from Oundle. This morning NB Barbarella who have been moored on the lock landing at Whiston Lock were woken by engineers working on the broken lock. At around 10am I got a message from Mick saying that the lock was open again. Hooray!!

I passed the good news onto Cleddau. But so far no news of Islip Lock.

At 12:30 my phone pinged again. The engineers who’d mended Whiston had just completed works at Islip Lock which was now also open. Hooray!!! Our way ahead is now clear, I just need to get things in the post and then we can push off.

The model managed to have a seat to itself on the way back too

Ken met me at the station again and brought me back to Oleanna who had moved. During the afternoon NB Shadow had decided that they would head off and obviously needed their hook up lead they’d lent us back. There was still credit where they had been moored so Mick moved us up to plug in there instead, our old space soon taken over by NB Charlotte May.

Mick had spent the day washing what ever he could find. The chimney was swept, the boat hoovered through, water tank filled, a busy day. Tilly spent much of the afternoon being adamant that NB Charlotte May was actually Oleanna, she had been inside when Mick had moved the outside but sometimes scent is more persuasive to her than looks. Good job she didn’t go for a walk through of their boat as they have two woofers in residence.

Showing the model on zoom

At 7:30 this evening Mick retreated to sit outside under the clubhouse canopy whilst I took over the dinette table. It was time to do my Final model presentation to Producers, the Writer, Production Manager and Technical Manager. To get a reasonable view of the model it was set up on a couple of shoe boxes and moved to about 14 inches away from the laptop, I had to perch on a radiator as I showed everyone through the model. Another good meeting, half a days work to do tomorrow and then we can be off! HOORAY!!!!

0 locks, 55ft reversed, 2 trains, 2 tubes, 1 shower, 5 thumbs up, 2 mended locks, 1 full tank of water, 1 chimney swept, 1 confused cat, 4 faces almost in my model box, 1 very BIG thank you to Ken for the lifts today.

Packed And Ready. 5th September

Oundle Cruising Club

2am, thunder and lightening woke us all. The windows needed closing as the rain hammered down on Oleanna. As we tried to get back to sleep I wondered if our next problem would be too much water!

Drawing board back in it’s slot with stools

Monday mornings is when people are about again at the cruising club. Mick went to chat with Fred and get another £3 worth of electric, our hope is that we won’t still be here next Saturday.

Tilly finding shade under the bench

What a lovely mooring this is. Now that all the masses of woofers have gone elsewhere Tilly comes and goes to the shed as she likes, the friendly cover towards the marina entrance from the river has also kept her busy today. It’s quiet, no passing foot fall. The benches are nice to sit out at for lunch, very pleasant.

Jar of bay leaves coming in handy again

I got on with the final things before my meeting tomorrow. Colemans’s in town could scan my plans so after finding out who would be running the country and having lunch I walked in. It was a surprisingly well stocked stationers, due to the close proximity to Oundle School which seems to surround that part of town.

St Peter’s Church

I had a little wander about before heading back to the boat.

Blue skies across the water

By the end of the day, my model was packed up ready for tomorrow. Drawings scanned and copied. A new storyboard and photos of model pieces in the dropbox folder. Time to enjoy a Monday night roast. Well that was the plan until I got the chicken out of the fridge and it smelt decidedly odd! Mick was sent into town to Tescos for a fresher bird.

0 locks, 0 miles, 73 lightening flashes, £3 more, 24 copies, 12 scans, 1 dropbox filled, 1 model packed and ready to go, 1 chicken in the bin, 1 chicken in our tummies.

An Early Christmas? 4th September

Oundle Cruising Club

The club didn’t stay open that late last night, the only customers were those stranded by the lock closures, so one family from NB Shadow, us and the volunteers who were running it. At some point during the day the volunteers left on their boat with all their woofers, they must moor elsewhere. This meant Tilly had the place almost to herself, taking up watching duty under the shed behind the clubhouse.

The final push for me with finishing touches to the panto model today. The new improved Panto Piccadilly Circus was painted and broken down to make it look a little bit old and worn. Then an hour taking photos of every scene to do a storyboard. A few little jobs to do tomorrow, then fingers crossed that it all gets the thumbs up from the Director and I can have a few weeks that aren’t dominated by panto before I start painting it all full size.

How many lengths of the boat have we got?

We had lunch sat out on the nearest bench and then Mick spent sometime with Christmas lights. Checking to see if they worked and how many we have. Ken and Sue have kindly lent us their lights that they used on NB Cleddau for the Bedford River Festival. A couple of lengths, one of which is 100 meters long, but sadly Mick couldn’t get them to work. It looks like we’ll have to buy some more.

Checking they work

Why check the fairy lights in September? Why so many? Well you’ll have to wait a little bit longer before I tell you.

This evening we treated ourselves to an Indian Takeaway. It had been planned for last night, but we’d sat out boozing with Ken and Sue until it was too late for Mick to collect one by bike, lack of lights. We got our food from Curry Passion which is close to Waitrose and a ten minute bike ride away. The Lamb Rogan Josh came out on top, followed by the Aloo Paneer, the rear brought up by Chicken Tikka Masala which was mediocre. By no means the worst Indian we’ve had, but not in the top ranking. On the plus side we do have enough rice left over for stir fried rice in the next couple of days.

The show’s about to begin

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 model finished, 1 box to tart up, 1 storyboard to collate, 800 bulbs, 400ish not working, 1 very interesting shed, 1 woofer left, 1 bike delivery, 1 button to press.

Chop Chopping. 3rd September

Peartree Farm FOTRN mooring to Oundle Cruising Club

Just gone 9:30 it was push back time, the covers were rolled up and mooring spikes soon to be released from the hard ground. The chap who’d been cutting grass yesterday came for a chat. He and his wife arrive on a Friday evening about once a month and over the weekend he strims and trims the grass to keep the mooring looking nice. We chatted all things FOTRN, how rubbish some boaters literally were and how much we certainly appreciated all that the volunteers do with the moorings.

Goodbye Peartree see you in a few days

Then we were off backing our way the short distance to the junction with the river, we winded and headed off downstream. Soon followed by NB Sakuma (?) who reversed to the junction and winded to follow us, we’d be sharing the locks back to Oundle today.

3″ of caterpillar

Mick soon spotted that we’d got a stow away! A large caterpillar was crawling along our pram hood. I popped it into a tub so that we could release it on dry land at the water point at Wadenhoe. I think it was a Buff Tip Caterpillar at about 70mm long, this will turn into a moth that has fantastic camouflage looking like a twig of a birch tree.


This stretch of river was certainly popular this morning. We counted nine ladies swimming in batches of three, another about to set off from by the Kings Head, throw in a couple of canoes for good measure, it was busy. Fortunately the water point wasn’t so busy, in fact the pub moorings this morning were empty apart from one cruiser. We pulled in and topped up on water and released our stow away into a hedge.

Our locking partners soon arrived and once we were full we swapped with them, we headed for the lock landing to wait. Here the hedgerow was filled with sloes and blackberries. Two tuperwares came out and we started picking. Not being fans of gin the sloes were left for someone else. I know I could make something else with them, but they’d only go to waste as I haven’t the time. A Kingfisher kept an eye on how many we were picking, we did leave plenty for the birds.

An engine could be heard from below. The lock was in our favour, but we were waiting for the other boat. I went to see if I could assist the boat and explain the delay in coming through the lock. Below was Chop Wales on NB Freya, we’d moored alongside each other at Ferry Meadows a couple of weeks ago. He was quite happy to wait as he was going to do a bit of pruning to the willows at the end of the lock landing below.

Chop chopping

Chop by name, Chop by nature he got out his big choppers and from the stern of his boat he lopped away at the tree which was making the lock landing hard to reach. As we came out of the lock we chatted with him. He’ll be waiting in the queue for Islip Lock to reopen too, so we’ll see him again. He informed us that he’d been at Oundle Cruising club last night, we already knew this as we had spies keeping an eye out for vacant spots there. If no-one grabbed the space Chop had just left we’d have a mooring for a few days.

Down through Lilford Lock and then Upper Barnwell Lock, each boat taking it in turns to set the lock and work it. We glanced in to Lilford Marina, the pooh sucky machine backed to a pontoon. Today Saturday is the only day when you can get a pump out on this stretch of the river, no sign of NB Otter, maybe they’d already had their tank emptied.

Below Upper Barnwell Lock we wished our locking partners farewell, they were carrying on further downstream today. We nudged under the low bridge and there was NB Otter, NB Shadow and an Oleanna sized gap that Chop Wales had left this morning. We had a mooring!

A very warm welcome greeted us, credit put onto a hook up for our use. We had to daisy chain a couple of leads together to reach, and only just, picnic benches moved to cover any possible trip hazards.

Why have you tied up Wooferdom!?!

With there being some friendly cover about Tilly was allowed some shore leave, but warned that there were a lot of woofers about. This kept her on her toes about the place, at least 7 woofers about.

Mick bobbed into town for a Saturday newspaper and bumped into Ken and Sue, an invite was issued for them to join us for an evening drink at ‘our club’.

Old and new versions

I did some work, amending the adverts in Piccadilly Circus and trimming things down to be neat. Then at 6pm we headed to the club house for drinks. A couple of hours of convivial conversation, the temperature dropped, it was getting dark and we all needed some food to help soak up the wine and beer. We headed back to our respective boats, sadly it was too dark for Mick to head into town for a takeaway so we made do with a pasta salad. Another very pleasant evening with the Cleddau crew.

3 locks, 4.47 miles, 1 full water tank, 67 blackberries, 1 big chopper, 10 swimmers, 4 longhaired Dachshunds, 3 Jack Russells, 6 glasses wine, 2 Bombardiers.