Category Archives: River Thames

2023 A Sociable Year

A long post, it’s the annual round up.

January, we sat waiting. Waiting for a new alternator to arrive, for the River Trent to come out of flood and then for the canal to defrost sufficiently for us move. This meant Pip doing work on the boat instead of in the house, this made for smelly days and a very cold workshop under the pram cover.

After almost three weeks we were on the move again having to navigate through thick fog, navigational aids helping us not to bump into the banks! Ahead of us in Yorkshire was a troublesome swing bridge, closed to boat traffic. Our plans had to change, we arranged to moor up in Newark and head back to Scarborough by van. Chin rubs nearly made the longer journey better, but I really don’t like the outside moving SO fast!

Four days later we were back on board, the bridge ahead was now open. Tides were checked, locks booked, cupboards stocked for a few days cruising. Winter cruising can be so so pretty, yet so so chilly. A display by the Red Arrows as we left Torksey kept us amused and a defrost was very welcome when we arrived at Keadby. After four days cruising we were moored up in Goole and walking to catch the train back to Scarborough.

#unit21 in Huddersfield kept Pip occupied for much of February. Then it was time to give the house some TLC in between lodgers. A back bedroom got a makeover just in time. Mick had trips to see Oleanna, a jobs list left with Alastair and the covers headed off for some much needed mending. Tilly was kept busy checking out the neighbours, they stay inside so I get free reign of their outside!

April arrived along with two lodgers, it was not possible to do more work on the house, Pip chose to knit socks instead. Dementia UK her chosen charity this year. Donations of yarn came from dyers and Pip’s needles started to click away, keeping up with requests. 15 pairs knitted and her target met.

May, visits were made to Oleanna preparing her for cruising, these were interspersed with visits from family, delivering socks, getting the house ready and starting work on the design for panto. On the 9th of May we loaded a van and returned to life afloat. Tilly the happiest cat once she was back onboard! A day later we set off heading west. Leeds for a few days for Pip to head to Matlock for work and then a wonderful visit to see 93 year old Betty in Harrogate.

Working our way up the Leeds Liverpool Canal, locks and the new stupid swing bridge much lighter work with two boats. Our favourite canal with wonders of the waterways, friends on route, Mick’s birthday and a trip to Bowness to see the latest Ayckbourn play. We managed a night on our favourite mooring on the network sadly it was too windy to enjoy the view with a barbecue.

Up over the top, we teamed up with NB That’s It, thankfully descending the Wigan flight in a window between vandalism and blown cills that have hampered the flight this year. Then along the Bridgewater Canal, panto designing whilst on the flat. Through Preston Brook Tunnel and onto the Trent and Mersey turning right onto the Middlewich Branch.

Back on lockdown ‘Home’ waters we cruised the Nantwich pound, 5 hours 13 minutes including a lunch and shopping stop, back in 2020 we’d spent 80 days here. We cruised southwards on the Shropie joined for a day by Carol and George from WB Still Rockin’. Laura and Alison from NB Large Marge joined us for the ascent up the Wolverhampton 21.

Through Bumingham and on to Lapworth and then Hatton where we had an extra pair of hands from Jane, who hopefully now has her own narrowboat. A well deserved burger at the Cape of Good Hope with Emma and David, then a lovely evening with Lizzie (NB Panda) at The Folly, it was turning out to be quite a sociable June.

Oleanna wiggled her way across the summit of the South Oxford, very familiar water to us. Despite the sunny weather and us cruising most days our batteries were not happy, turning themselves off overnight! Diagnosis was required, we pulled into Cropredy Marina to plug in and run tests. One of our three batteries was dead, bad enough but thankfully nothing more. Once a panto meeting had been attended we could move on, except there was an emergency closure at Banbury Lock. C&RT worked hard to get the canal open as quickly as they could, thankfully our hold up wasn’t too long.

We met up with the crews of NB Azzura (Liz and Mark) and NB Perseus (Julie and Simon) both Finesse boats, had a visit to London for Andrew’s birthday. Then had a rendez vous with Paul and Christine and enjoyed a good catch up onboard NB Waterway Routes.

Down to the River Thames where we turned upstream onto waters we’ve only cruised once before. Such a lovely stretch of river, sadly with fewer moorings now. We sped up to Lechlade where we took up residence for a week so that we could attend a get together at Pip’s cousins which coincided with the Royal International Air Tatoo in Fairford. It was great to be with family on a jolly occasion.

Work took over for Pip as we made our way back down stream to Oxford, Cinderella had to go to the ball and the model needed to be finished. Then we sauntered our way back northwards. One day had us meet up with Frankie NB Discovery, NB Dusty the local coal boat and Graeme on NB Misty Blue, it was good to catch up with Graeme and hear of his adventures since we’d seen him last year.

A trip for us both back to Scarborough to do a turn around of lodgers, see a show and pick up post. Mick would have to return the following weekend to swap bedlinen over again, this time by train from Rugby. Stand still budgets and inflation required Pip to do more work on panto so her days were kept busy reducing Cinderella’s carriage from £2000 to £400.

Stoppages around the network meant we had only one real route we could take to head back north. We winded and climbed our way up to the Leicester Section. Here we met up with Ken and Sue NB Cleddau at Houdini’s Field sitting out till way after dark. Then a small detour to Welford to meet up with NB Panda and Lizzie for an evening before we continued our way north.

Another detour to Market Harborough before Leicester where North Lock had a badly leaking cill which required a crew of C&RT chaps to force the bottom gates open, booked passage was required, this meant we got a few days to enjoy the city whilst we awaited our turn.

Sadly by now the lack of water on the Chesterfield Canal meant the top end of the canal was closed, no point in rushing up the River Trent for a return visit. In Nottingham Pip’s little toe had a kerfuffle with a cupboard necessitating a visit to the drop in centre for her little pinkie to be realigned. This meant Pip had to hand the windlass and key of power over to Mick for the last locks of the year.

Downstream on the River Trent, stopping at all our favourite moorings. Pip’s knitting needles came out again to knit more socks for Dementia UK. We had a trip into Lincoln along the Fossdyke Canal, we actually managed to finally visit the Cathedral this time!

Tides were not helpful for the rest of our trip north so a couple of days at West Stockwith was needed, but that did mean we’d be sharing the tidal waters back to Yorkshire with NB That’s It whom we’d met earlier in the year.

There was time for a catch up with David as we passed through Bramwith, a jaunt up to Doncaster and then finally along the New Junction and onto Goole where a space had been found for us in the marina. A train ride to Scarborough to pick up a van and see the latest show before packing up the boat again for the second time this year.

Planned works at the house then went very smoothly. Scaffolding arriving the day after we arrived, new windows later in the day with four carpenters and two days later the decorator who was to give the house a much needed new coat of paint outside.

Mid October Pip moved to Chipping Norton for a month to work on panto, Mick and Tilly left to welcome a new lodger for the Christmas show in Scarborough. Panto was as much work as normal with the addition of Pip getting covid after the first week of rehearsals. The show opened to toe tapping audiences and many many bananas, getting great reviews. Mick had a days trip to London to support boaters who had gathered outside the Houses of Parliament for a Fund Britain’s Waterways rally.

Back in Scarborough Christmas came early with a visit from the London Leckenbys at the beginning of December, they hadn’t been to Scarborough for ten years. A few more house jobs have been done but a list has been compiled for the new year along with those on Oleanna. We’ve had a lovely Christmas, catching up with Scarborough friends, Tilly has slept lots, we’re lucky to see her before 2pm most days! I’m just resting for when the outsides start changing again.

Don’t worry Tilly the count down has started.

This year our plans changed all because of an invite from Pip’s cousins. We travelled our favourite canal, cruised many familiar waters , visited ‘Home’, climbed trees and pounced, caught up with many boating friends and made many new ones along the way. One very sociable year.

So our vital statistics for 2023 according to Canalplan are

Total distance of 805miles, 2.25furlongs and 436 locks.

There were 121 moveable bridges, of which 33 are usually left open; 151 small aqueducts or underbridges and 16 tunnels – a total of 6 miles, 5 furlongs under ground and 7 major aqueducts.

This is made up of 244 miles, 1.25 furlongs of narrow canals; 251 miles, 5.5 furlongs of broad canals; 69 miles, 1.5 furlongs of commercial waterways; 95 miles, 4.75 furlongs of small rivers; 57 miles, 3.75 furlongs of large rivers; 87 miles, 1.5 furlongs of tidal rivers; 185 narrow locks; 223 broad locks; 28 large locks.

Although according to Nebo we did

815.09 miles and 431 locks! Hmm maybe my maths isn’t so good. But then we only started using Nebolink in August, tracking our every move rather than just on our phones.

470 engine hours, 789.8 litres diesel! Ouch, having to run the engine to top the batteries up on an evening didn’t help with this, 150amp hours down to 100, 3 gas bottles, 120kg coal, 19.5 litres oil, 2 oil filters, 2 fuel filters, 1 shower mixer, 1 domestic alternator, 1 set new engine mounts, 1 overnight guest, 3 packs Dreamies, 1.5 packs Bonkers, 39 friends, 6 brought in, 34 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval, 34 pairs of socks, £1132 for Dementia UK, 2 shows, 9 lodgers, 10 supermarket deliveries, 33 boxes wine, 1 toe, 6 months cruising, 3 boat mover sightings, 209 posts, 184 likes, 9,503 visitors, 31,309 views!

Thank you for following our journey during 2023. We have a plan for 2024, but there are several invites and a rendez vous with some New Zealanders. Will we stick to our plan? Have to alter course to fit everything in? Wait and see, we’re already counting down the weeks to being afloat again.

Fund Britain’s Waterways Campaign Cruise. 14th November 2023

Wet Streets
Elizabeth Tower

Narrowboats Arriving
Outside the Palace
Boats turning. And my old office in the background
He never missed the bollard
Downstream of Tower Bridge
South Quay, West India Dock

Panto Postcard 3, 2023

The door back to work
The stagger through
One line, that’s better
Time to give this chap some colour
Andrew in hospital a couple of days ago
The end!
Tom’s legs will have to do as SHE has deserted us!
A touch of plumbing happening

Finally a big Thank you for the donations to my sock knitting. Progress is much slower this week than last, but I am managing to do at least 30 minutes a day, just £60 short of my new target for the year.

Panto Postcard 2, 2023


My home for Saturday night was very comfortable. Rachel and Graham’s house I think dates back to the C17th. Flagstoned floors, steep spiraling staircase where crampons would be better than socks on the aged polished wooden treads and a natural posture of stooping an advantage to get through low doors. It was the bake house, the actual bakery out the back in another building. The front room was the shop, the worn flagstones suggesting it was popular. Shortly before Rachel and Graham bought the property it had been a restaurant, apparently very popular with Ronnie Barker. They have done extensive work on the building and what a wonderful place it is.

In an older part of Chippy

A very welcoming couple who insisted I had a cuppa and my breakfast with them, I could leave my bag whilst I headed off for the day and then pass the key onto Jo the Props lady who stays with them during panto.

The Dulux dog has taken over from Bagpuss

The S3 bus took me into Oxford for the day. I didn’t really want to walk too far due to my little toe still complaining, but I did want to enjoy a day doing something completely different to panto and make sure I had a good meal too.

One possibly for the Christmas list

First port of call Waterstones. I’ve been trying to find a copy of Dinner by Nagi Maehashi that had been the Jamie Oliver Cook Book Club book for October. Everything people have been making looks tasty, but I wanted to have a look and see how many of the recipes are gluten free adaptable before buying it. I didn’t find it, but got chance to look at other books that I can line up for my Christmas list.

A walk to the Ashmolean Museum. I know Mick and I visited here several years ago, but it required another look round. I headed for an exhibition on Kabuki prints.

Then headed upstairs to look at the paintings. Plenty of Mother and child scenes, followed by Baroque deaths.

Chiaroscuro shown off, some details away from the main subjects caught my eye, Isis and a statue of Satan. By the time I reached the Pre-Raphaelites and Pissarro paintings I realised I’d been here before, but a return visit was enjoyed. My favorite painting today was From Kolding Fjord, by Vilhelm Pter Kark Kyhn, 1876. So much open space and light.

My favourite

A walk round the covered market is always good, a couple of chilled medication retailers I considered trying out but decided something savoury first would be better. I headed over to Westgate, bought a new top but failed on buying yoghurt.

Now to find somewhere to eat. I’d spotted a Cosy Club on Cornmarket Street, the chain had been recommended for gluten free dishes. Time to try them out.

A glass of wine, very attentive staff who noted my intolerance and handed me a suitable menu. Thank goodness they had something I could eat other than chicken. Seabass with roasted new potatoes in a white wine sauce with leeks and peas. Very tasty. Followed by salted caramel and chocolate moose, even tastier! Sod all the calories, I deserved a lovely meal.

Oxford’s Cosy Club has only been open two weeks, maybe that’s why the staff were almost overly attentive. But it had a nice ambience and I’ll venture there again.

Sadly, or fortunately as I left so did the next bus heading for Chippy, I had an hour to kill. Only one thing for it, check on the levels of the Thames and the Oxford Canal. Plenty of room at the very end of the Oxford, one boat hanging off the end of the pontoon below Isis Lock, the water having some momentum. Two red lights flashed on the board at the lock, no-one would go down onto the Thames if they were sensible.

Back on the towpath

I walked along where Oleanna is quite often moored at this time of year, plenty of room opposite College Cruisers, then crossed over the footbridge to walk up through Jericho to wait for the next bus back, a nice boat fix in the dark.

Back in Chippy I picked up my bags and thanked Rachel and Graham for a lovely stay, then headed home, back across town to Suzannes. A blog to write, Mick to chat to on the phone and a glass of wine. A lovely day off.

Overnight I developed quite a sore throat. Most probably the cold that was heading around the panto company. Just incase, I did a covid test before having a shower. On drying my hair I took a look, two lines! The test I’d used had an expiry date of last week, I did another, this one in date and one that takes 30 minutes. However the second line only took five minutes to appear. Oh B********cks!

Seeing double twice

First thing inform Suzanne, I’d stay in my room as much as possible, ventilate my room and bathroom. Next inform Rachel and Graham who’d only the night before been saying how it was nice to have someone stay who was less likely to bring a lurgy into their house than an actor who stayed in the pub until all hours! Then the theatre.

The covid policy at Chippy this year is more about what not to do than what to do. You don’t have to do a test if you feel unwell. But if you do and you are positive then it’s 5 days at home, 5 days of not painting! Last year I’d had covid the week before starting painting, is this becoming a tradition?!

Mick asked if I wanted collecting and taking back to Scarborough. Yes it would be nice to be home, but he would then most likely get it and we’d have to keep our new lodger Annie from getting it too. So long as Suzanne and I thought we could work things so she didn’t catch it I’d rather stay put.

Breakfast in bed

So Monday became a day of breakfast in bed, chatting to Gemma, doing a sneaky shop to keep me going, mask on at all times in shops, narrowly avoiding an actor and Jo from the theatre. I’m more than likely to have caught it whilst at work, but I’m the only one who has tested.

In the evening I had a long chat with Tim who’s been making puppets for the show. He’d be doing some painting in my absence. Getting paint on things important, then hopefully when I return I can do the twiddly bits. He wasn’t too sure on the time scale he had. My opinion was not to rush things, take his time, check with me then hopefully I’d not be wanting to redo anything on my return.

Tuesday. My sore throat disappearing and a bag by the bed filling up with tissues, glad I’d been out to buy a box, but would one be enough!?

Scene painting via Whatsapp is a little bit odd, but at least I knew Tim would ask questions and I could see things first hand. I’d received a message from Imogen who’d been on placement with me the last two years, she’s now at college studying Theatre Design in Wales. She was back in Chippy this week, would I like another pair of hands? She didn’t know the situation, but soon did. At a zoomed production meeting it was agreed that she could come in on an evening and do some other jobs, marking out rostra ready for painting.

Knitting and watching

Wednesday, nose drying up now, but a second box of tissues was provided by Suzanne and left outside my door. Instructions for the days jobs were passed to Tim and Imogen via Whatsapp and Instagram. I got my knitting needles out as it was 1st November and I’m taking part in a knitting challenge to knit for 30 minutes a day during the month. Normally this wouldn’t be too hard, but with panto I thought it would be a challenge, thankfully I’d brought with me enough yarn for three pairs of socks. My hope is that by the end of 2023 I’ll have raised £1000 for Dementia Uk. The socks I’ll be knitting now are Christmas presents, so I’ll be donating myself, but if you’d like to make a donation please don’t hold back here’s the link!

Zenb Agile in with soup yum! Catching up on Bake off

Detectorists is keeping me amused as I knit away. This evening I added some quick cook pasta into half a pot of soup and made a rather nice dish. Shortly afterwards I felt my body lift, it had wanted some pasta, definite improvements happening.

Thursday. More knitting, A Christmas Special and onto the third series of Detectorists between messages regarding painting. Should things be sanded down between coats, thankfully not, I think if theatre paints required that I’d have given up scene painting years ago. A stool and new brushes arrived at the theatre and Suzanne and I managed to avoid being in the same air space for another day.

I spent sometime hunting round the internet for suitably sized clock hands. Clocks are important in Cinderella! Thankfully I found some of suitable lengths then passed them on to someone else to order and make work.

On the covid front I felt improved, although I seem to be getting tinnitus now and I’m not sure how long I will last before needing a sit down.

A flipping banana dog toy!

I felt the need for a canal fix today, so tuned into Heidi on The Pirate Boat. Well I thought I’d escaped the world of panto filled, with bananas, then Heidi headed to the back cabin to recount a ditty or two. Bonny, her rescue dog was playing, what with? Only a flipping banana! Did I spot Irene from NB Free Spirit in the background in the pub?

There she is in sunny Goole

Friday. Our car hires through Enterprise this year have meant that we have enough credit for a days hire, so Mick has hired a car for the day to head to see Oleanna and do an oil change. Sunny in Goole, still no new neighbour. The mattress to remeasure so that I can order us a new one, I’ve misplaced the last measurements he’d taken.

Somehow a scratch has appeared on the O of Oleanna. It’s near to a fender, but doesn’t look like that could have made such a scratch! If I was there I’d have given it a clean down and taken time to touch in the paint, hopefully saving us getting a rust patch over winter. But I’m not there and instructing Mick to do something about it …. well! He’s good with oil and cables. Here’s hoping I can get to it in the not too distant future.

That’s not good!

More knitting for me today and possibly a short walk to get some supplies in, I just need to avoid the roofers and Suzanne, oh and the rain!

Out on the canals this week the weather has been affecting some. Boats have been tied up hoping to avoid problems with Storm Ciaran. The River Trent has risen again, trapping many who’d been hoping to move to winter moorings or avoid winter stoppages, Newark Flood gates are closed again. On the Leicester Line some of the bank has been washed away during the high levels a couple of weeks ago, the pound is now drained and a notice has just come through with them hoping to be able to shore up the towpath to allow passage again, update due next week.

The webcam in York, the River Ouse is quite full!

But in Wigan boats are on the move again. After our friends on NB That’s It got just over halfway up the flight about seven weeks ago, only to be turned round due to a blown cill, the flight reopened this Tuesday. Paul the boat mover was one of the boats down the flight on Tuesday and plenty more have followed in the following days. The winter stoppages on the flight have been postponed for another week to help with boat movements, just hope the cill that looks like it’s in trouble at lock 70 hangs on for a while longer!

Here’s hoping everyone stays safe, afloat and gets to where they need to be soon. And here’s hoping I can get back up to speed on panto quickly!

Last Of The Matchsticks. 21st July

Kings Lock, River Thames to College Cruisers, Oxford Canal

It was busy this morning. A Sea Otter that had pulled in infront of us last night pulled out and winded. It seemed like they’d done this in front of a blue boat that had just come up the lock. A second glance at the blue boat, hang on that’s Graeme on NB Misty Blue! We stuck our heads out of the kitchen window and shouted across. Graeme was last seen on the Great Ouse last summer, we’d both escaped Goole after the breach in 2021 and the same year both boats had taken part in the first Tideway cruise under Hammersmith Bridge. Today there was only chance for a quick exchange of words, Graeme has never cruised the Upper Thames, he looked excited to be on new waters.

There be dragons

A few more boats came and went before we were ready to push off, we let a small cruiser go ahead, not knowing if we’d have been able to fit alongside them. I walked down to help with the bottom gates and the skipper said they would wait at the next lock for us.

Last matchstick lock

Our last matchstick lock on the Upper Thames. I like these with their matchstick markers on the paddles, even using the long pole to open and close the bottom gates. I’ve been wondering if the gates on the Thames last longer than those on broad locks on the canals. On the Thames they like you to open both gates, the long pole saves you from having to walk all the way round. Having both gates open avoids the edges getting worn from boats only using the one. Yes many boaters manage to avoid grating their way into a lock, but many don’t. We all see how much water gets lost through gates where a groove has been worn and then C&RT have another running repair to do.

We don’t!

Maybe we all should adopt opening both gates at broad locks. I know we have tended not to, but maybe we should start. Yes it will take longer to go through locks, Mick usually has a boat hook with him as he enters or leaves a lock so that he can catch a gate that opens itself. Every little thing may help reduce the maintenance costs.

We pootled along, passing other moorings we’d considered stopping at yesterday, we’d chosen well being away from busy roads.

Thank you for waiting

Sure enough at Godstow Lock the little cruiser was waiting for us, gates open and more than enough room for us to go along side. I made sure I kept hold of the bow rope, keeping Oleanna well away from the cruisers hull. A boat was heading towards the lock, this made our leaving a lot easier, meaning we could all get back on our boats and leave the gates for someone else to sort.


Port Meadow stretched out in front of us, the cattle wetting their feet at the waters edge. Cranes on the horizon and the tower of St Barnabas Church in Jericho, our chosen destination for today.

Looking across to Jericho

A boat came towards us, that would make a good picture I thought so got my camera out. The chap at the helm did the same in return. A big wave and smile followed, it was Paul the Narrowboat Mover on his latest job.

Hello Paul

Good to see him again. Only one more boat to tick off our summer list this year and that’s the blue boat normally found further north, NB Jubilee Bridge.

Well our time was up on the river. We could have stayed until midnight, but we chose not to. A left onto Sheepwash Channel, ducking under the railway lines and squeezing past the old swing bridge. Our next job to fill with water below Isis Lock.

A small cruiser was tied to the end of the pontoon, we managed to pull in in front of him, Oleanna’s bow overhanging by quite a way. Mick took the hose just as a chap stepped off the cruiser behind. Maybe he’d only just pulled in and was wanting water too, maybe he’d been there a while. Soon he was filling umpteen plastic bottles from the tap. Mick found another one closer to the lock, we draped our hose across and started to fill our tank.

Facing the canal

A boat reversed towards Isis Lock, we were nearly full. Our hose was sorted and the reversing boaters intention confirmed, he was heading for the river. I helped with the lock, then the boats swapped places, Oleanna heading into her first narrow lock for two weeks. A few turns of the windlass and we were back up on the Oxford Canal.

A space was found opposite College Cruisers, boats being made ready for this weekends hirers. An early lunch for us whilst Tilly reacquainted herself with the isthmus between canal and Castle Mill Stream.

Emails for panto required attention. With my final model meeting next week today would be filled with budget questions. Set build quotes were in, they ranged from £40,000 to £16,000. The highest from a company who obviously didn’t want the job. I so wonder how much my friend Graham in Leeds would have quoted. Not sure if he was approached or not this year, I know it wouldn’t have been £40,000 for sure!

The remainder of the day was spent finishing off painting notes on the model. Hooray! Finished!! Then time was taken doing a paint call, this means when I’m in Chippy I can check to see what colours they already have and what to order.

Our time on the Thames is over, we’ve enjoyed the upper reaches, a touch of a shame that I’ve had to work most of the time. But at least I’ve been able to enjoy the cruise there and back. We’ve a couple of places we need to be in the next couple of weeks, after which we have to decide where to go and by which route?

3 locks, 2 navigations, 3.5 miles, 2 lefts, 2 friends spotted, 1 full water tank, 39 x 2 litre bottles, £2,000 to shave off, 1 long list of paints, 48BG 54/244 base, 2nd night of spag bol, 1 development still not started!

A Somber Eynsham. 20th July

The Ferryman Inn to King’s Lock

What’s he doing? At 3:30am? Why’s he going out the back? I could hear the zips on the pram cover and the doors being opened. Apparently we’d developed a list and Mick had gone out to loosen the ropes and try to push the stern out. By the time it was daylight we were on a jaunty list again, further pushing out required, would we now be able to reach the bank to untie?


Supplies had got very low, in fact we’d run out of milk of all varieties, only one thing for it a cooked breakfast, well as much of one as Mick could manage with what was available.

Yesterday you had to walk down the gunnel a few feet to be able to get off the boat, this morning you had to get to the centre and then hope that knees were capable of hoiking you up onto the bank. He made it and ended up having an hours wait for our supermarket delivery. Heavy bags were split and then passed in through the side hatch, thankfully nothing landing in the drink.

Cupboards, wine cellar and freezer replenished. Our battery capacity is just about managing to keep up with our needs so we’ve decided to keep the freezer on, it definitely needed restocking.

Above Pinkhill Lock the picnic moorings were empty apart from one cruiser, they were leaving and followed us towards the lock. Here a volunteer and Lock Keeper opened the gates and we were asked to nudge as far forward as possible, the cruiser slotted in behind.

Conversation at the bow was about flying Spitfires, at the stern it was far more sollom. There was mention of a Lock Keeper who had passed away and a planned memorial service.

The toll bridge

On leaving we let the cruiser pass us, they were aiming further than us today. Past all the same boats on the meadows that had been there nearly two weeks ago we pulled up behind the cruiser as the lock was being filled. The chap on board said the Lock Keeper would penn us down separately. In they went the gates closed behind them.

The bottom paddles were raised slowly and the chap from the cruiser walked round to the little cabin by the lock adding a bunch of flowers to several others. The Lock Keeper who had died was the very nice man we’d met the day we arrived on the Thames nearly two weeks ago. Nik Vallely, had passed away on the 10th July, a big sign stood by the lock cottage saying Private House, Do Not Disturb. How very sad.

Eynsham Lock

The Lock Keeper on duty is here until things get sorted, his normal patch further downstream. He apologised for not penning us down with the cruiser but he’s not accustomed to the dimensions of Eynsham Lock yet. Another EA chap walked up for a chat. The funeral is being held at the lock on the 28th July at 12:30pm. There were discussions about cutting grass, I suspect the lock and surrounding area will be immaculate for the day.

A pause to drop off rubbish and then we were on our way downstream, no room at the moorings below the lock today. The river now wider and more boats nestled into the banks.

Kings Lock mooring

At Dukes Cut Junction we turned towards King’s Lock and pulled in on the lock moorings leaving space for a shorter boat between us and another boat. Mick walked up to see the Lock Keeper and to pay our £6 for the night. He chatted about the level dropping above Pinkhill Lock last night. Thames Water sometimes extract water from that reach, but usually the EA are informed before hand and react accordingly. There is also a warning system which alerts the Lock Keepers of changing levels, even in the middle of the night, but no alert had been given last night.

I’ll be queen of the island!

We settled in, Tilly headed off across the neat grass into the trees and friendly cover. A short while later a boat pulled up onto the pontoon close by, a family with children who were excited to be on an island. Noisy blighters! I’d been enjoying having the outside to myself.

Time to make notes on my model. I was going to work my way through all the scenes, but changed my mind knowing I wanted to alter the colours of some of the town square setting. This could take sometime. A check in the model box and an alteration of the clock towers colour too. I think my alterations were wise, here’s hoping I still think so tomorrow!

I put a bolognaise sauce on to cook and left Mick to cook some spaghetti as I added details to the Ugly Sisters boudoir. The rest of the scenes will have to wait for tomorrow. We enjoyed our spag bol with a glass of wine, it may only be Thursday but it is our last night on the Thames! That was our excuse, we stuck to it and had a second glass to keep the first one company.

2 locks, 6.4 miles, 1 delivery, 1 boaty list, 1 queen of the island, 3 pesky kids, 1 town square make over, 1 soggy chair, 1 wet back.

Now Don’t Go Spoiling Your Tea! 19th July

Rushey Meadows to The Ferryman Inn

Would we get away before NB Narrow Escape? Would they beat us to where we wanted to moor today? We tried to get away early, but not early enough, they had already vacated their mooring. Fingers crossed there’d be space ahead for us.

Three locks today each with a Lock Keeper in attendance. I asked one of them if they have an infrared sensor up and downstream on the river that gets tripped as a boat approaches, as they just pop out take a look and get their life jacket everytime.

That’s a big weight

I got chance to actually look at the counterweights of the paddle gear today, that’s why lifting and lowering the paddles on the Thames is so easy.

Northmoor Lock and weir

The Lock Keepers also look after the weirs, John had mentioned to us yesterday about the weir at Northmoor still being adjusted manually by lifting panels in and out by hand, not with the assistance of gearing.

A natty solar roof

Below one lock two boats waited to come up. The outside one a very familiar boat from the Trent and Mersey, NB Mellow. When we had NB Lillyanne I’d always take a photo as we passed of her yellow underneath Mellow, today we got to say hello to her owners.

Pill box and hide

Now the Thames looses it’s wiggleyness and straight lengths stretch out ahead. Pill boxes left right and centre line the north bank. The Thames was part of the second defensive line, the GHQ stop line incase of invasion in World War 2. Just how many pill boxes stretched the full 300 miles ?

Not quite in focus

This year we’ve rarely seen Kingfishers, quite often by July the magic of that flash of electric blue has worn off, but today we had one escort us to our mooring for the day. Sadly he was a touch too far ahead for a good photo.

The stretch of moorings by the Ferryman Inn had one boat on them, NB Narrow Escape! We pulled in behind them, but soon noticed a lot of buzzing on the bank, their stern must have been right by a nest. We pushed out again and tried the next length closer to the pub. The plants on the bank were attracting the bees, but no sign of a nest, we’d just close our windows and hope we’d not annoyed them too much.

This looks interesting!

The bank is high and a touch undercut, a problem for us, but not for Tilly. We’d looked around, neatly cut grass for as far as we could see, she’d not be interested. Out she came, shouted about things for a while and then scurried across to some sideways and upright trees. She was gone for hours. The fat resident friends needed to be kept an eye on. Despite returning to the river bank with one of them this didn’t seem to put her off her evening dingding!

A little bit of Grecian statue

More work, nearly there! As a reward we headed over to the pub for a meal. The Ferryman isn’t what you’d class as a cosy pub, it has little if any ambiance. But a pint and glass of wine along with food was all that was required.

I had a steak accompanied by an orderly 1970’s salad (only thing missing was some slices of hard boiled egg), whilst Mick had a pie. Well Tom from Waiouru would not have ordered it, at least it mentioned it’s puff pastry top on the menu. Have to say this top had puffed up beyond all expectations.

3 locks, 10.9 miles, 1 bees nest, 300 miles, 5 hours of busyness, 1 model nearly there, 1 pint, 1 glass, 1 flying pie, 1 steak, 500 miles this year.

Backwards With Purpose. 18th July

Kelmscott to Rushey Meadows

A touch further to go today, we pushed off and soon passed a boat we’d be leapfrogging, NB Narrow Escape. Is this the Narrow Escape that we met on our first time on the Oxford, did they suggest Somerton Meadows to us? It’s a while ago now, but it could be them.

Pretty boat

We pulled in at Grafton Lock to fill with water, a load of washing had been on the go since we’d set off, the tank now after a week needed replenishing. Here the tap is not situated well for a downstream facing narrowboat. The short hose ‘someone has left’ was about 2 foot too short to reach our tank even with us pulled as far back as possible and the hose threaded through the cabinet door. A sign suggests the Lock Keeper may be able to assist, but Mick decided to see what he could do first.

Too short!

Some tape and our hose at least meant we’d get some water, but it would be far slower and such a waste of water as it dribbled along our hose and filled up the cabinet. Mick walked up to ask the Lock Keeper if there was a better way. There was, facing upstream would help. Words are carefully used by the friendly Lock Keepers on the Thames. They don’t want to be seen to give you an inch.

It was soon obvious that we knew the uphill boat in the lock, John on NB Thermopylae, we’ve met him a couple of times on the St Pancras Cruising Club Tideway Cruises, last year he’d offered to crew for Mick when I was in Chippy on panto. Being a single hander he was keen to stop for a cuppa, the Lock Keeper was not keen on him pulling into the layby but he could breast up to us as we filled with water. NB Narrow Escape came along also wanting water, they were waved into the lock as there’d be an hour wait.


Thermopylae was tied to Oleanna and the kettle put on, time to set the world to rights with John. Just as we finished our cuppas the water tank started to overflow. We did a do-si-do so John could fill with water as we headed for the lock, all watched over by a rather beady eyed cat.

We hoped for a space above Rushey Lock on the meadows, another few miles ahead and one more lock. As we approached we spotted a possible space some distance upstream. The next one was taken, NB Vienna’s stern sticking way out. Then the good length of mooring was just about full, NB Narrow Escape having grabbed the last space. We tried pulling in at the near end, but bushes would have given our paintwork an exciting look at the stern.

Sad Oleanna

Only one thing for it, reverse. It was quite a way to the space we’d seen before, but Oleanna quite likes going backwards with purpose and thankfully the wind played fare. We pulled into a space by ourselves, long grass stretching out as far as you could see, we thought Tilly would love it. Well she didn’t maybe because from her level all she could see was tall grass, there were some sideways trees and a tree too, but she wasn’t too bothered with it all.

It’ll still take quite a bit of work

More work for the walkdown of Cinderella. A tiled rostra and steps, maybe a touch complicated, but if I can make up some big stamps for each colour it should be quicker to paint.

This is rubbish this!

Mick was on cooking duty again, kedgeree, yumm!

2 locks, 5.9 miles, 0.5 in reverse, 1 full water tank, 1 cuppa with John, 3rd brood, 1 spot reserved just for us, 1 unimpressed cat, 4 steps, 15 lanterns.

Gone Bananas! 16th 17th July

Cow Field, Lecklade to Kelmscott

Sunday, we could have returned to watch the airshow at Ian and Sally’s today, but work needed to take over again. During the Geraghty zoom the planes started to go over head, not as loud as I’d thought they would be so hopefully on Saturday Tilly wouldn’t have been bothered by them too much.

Red Arrows?

I concentrated on stone work and archways today. Mixing colours that I wouldn’t normally put together, they seemed to be right for what I was after, it is panto after all!

Orange and purple!

Mark and Liz from NB Azzura popped by to say hello. They’d arrived in Lechlade yesterday and had serious fun winding up by the Roundhouse in the wind. They had booked the electric boat mooring at St Johns to charge their batteries for their return journey. Good to see them again.

Monday. Time to start to make our way back down stream. Many people seem to travel back to Oxford in a couple of days, we’d be taking it slower and todays move was more about giving Tilly some shore leave than anything else.

A mile marker ?

We didn’t need to push off today due to the wind. What we needed to do was plan our departure well. Mick took out the extra spikes that he’d hammered through the loops on the first ones, crossed spikes had helped us cling to the bank for nearly a week. Then the bow spike was pulled out, I coiled my rope and climbed onboard whilst Mick headed to the stern to pull the spike out there. Whilst this was happening the wind blew the bow out from the bank, just as it started to loose it’s power the flow downstream took over. Oleanna did exactly as planned and winded herself, Mick hopping on just at the right moment to help keep her away from the off side.

Lounging around at St John’s Lock

Sunday had seen a few boats leave the moorings, this morning at least one narrowboat had left and four cruisers had headed to St John’s Lock. Our arrival wasn’t timed so well as the last two cruisers were sat on the lock landing waiting for the lock to fill. There was no room for us and the wind was really quite strong. Mick reversed us upstream so the wind was more to our stern so wouldn’t be pushed into the offside bushes. As soon as the cruisers moved off we moved up.

At last! Untie it!!

A volunteer and Lock Keeper helped us down the lock, now we pootled our way downstream. The slight increase of flow sped up our journey. That line of trees coming and going again.

On the biggest tightest bend we of course came across a boat heading upstream. Mick kept Oleanna under control as both boats passed carrying on towards different locks.

Cruisers ahead

At Buscot Lock we caught up with the cruisers. They checked if I’d be alright closing up after them, not a problem especially as Mick was already heading to lend a hand with the gates. Lock refilled and we were on our way down behind them. Using the long pole to open and close the bottom gates was fairly easy, the gates move a lot easier than most broad locks on the canals.

Above Buscot Lock

We wiggled some more watching those tree come and go again. Then as we approached Kelmscott we had our fingers crossed for a mooring. Not wanting to climb the steep bank and fight our way through the undergrowth, we carried on past the first moorings. The good space had a boat on it, so we carried on to the hard bank which was free.

See ya!

Mick had thought here would be better, but the height made it a little awkward to get on and off for us, but we managed and tied up ready for Tilly to have the rest of the day as shore leave. The gap and height of the bank was not a problem for her. Off she went to explore the friendly cover and sideways trees.

Bananas of many sizes

An afternoon of working again. It all went a bit bananas!

Not your average farm vehicles

Mick had a walk round Kelmscott, still as pretty as it was four years ago. A shame we’d arrived on a Monday, the house not open until Thursday and the pub not doing food. Next time, the house is certainly worth a return visit. Mick was incharge of our evening meal tonight, sausage slop. Instructions were given whilst I continued to paint more and more bananas.

2 locks, 3.4 miles, 1 perfect wind, 2 in front, 1 excited cat in the window, 1 long pole, 1 high bank, 5732 bananas, 6 sausages chopped into 24.

Romeo India Alpha Tango. 15th July

Cow Field, Lechlade

An early start today had us walking across the muddy cow field and broken bridge to reach the New Inn at 7:15. Here sat a car, lights on, the occupant waved frantically at us as she pulled out from the parking space. The door opened ‘Long time no see!’ The smile was recognisable from 38 years ago, we’d both changed a lot since 1985. Jenny is now a vet, in 1985 she was possibly six, I was eighteen and had just finished doing my A levels. Using an inheritance from my Grandad I’d bought myself a flight to Hong Kong where my cousins Ian and Tim lived at the time. Jenny is my first cousin once removed.

The farm

Back in February, or was it March, our itinerary for this year changed the day we got back from moving Oleanna to Goole. An invite had arrived inviting us to my cousins for this weekend. A social gathering not involving a funeral was very attractive, it also came along with the added attraction of it being the Royal International Air Tattoo, at the bottom of Ian and Sally’s garden.

A Leckenby Maine Coon

They had moved to the area ten years ago and had said if ever we were on the Gloucester Sharpness Canal to get in touch. We’d never managed to contact them. A look at a map actually suggested that Lechlade was a lot closer to them, thus our destination for the summer was set.

The drive to their house in Fairford took longer than expected. Road closures and one-way systems were in operation for the airshow. The traffic wasn’t too bad, mostly down to the early hour. On arrival we were first greeted by dogs, then the household gradually woke up around us.

Sally, Jenny, Sam, Mick, Pip and Ian

Ian my cousin last seen at my Dad’s funeral nearly eleven years ago, Sally his wife last seen at Andrew and Jac’s wedding and Sam last seen in Hong Kong at the age of nine. A bit of a shame Andrew, Jac and Josh hadn’t been able to make it too, but that did mean we got everyone to ourselves, well along with all the other guests.

Having the runway for Fairford Airfield running within half a mile of the garden has meant a gathering of Ian’s old RAF and Cathay Pacific pals through the years, this year was to be the first since the pandemic. Today they were expecting 28 people, tomorrow a slightly different crowd numbering about 20.

A top up breakfast was offered and cuppas, would the weather oblige and allow the airshow to take off? The strong wind meant certain planes had not arrived and others wouldn’t get airborne, this included the Battle of Britain planes. The flying schedule pinned to the fridge door was now half obsolete. However airshow commentary was available on FM radios which were positioned around the house and garden.

Tumbling round each other at the bottom of the garden

Gradually more people arrived, the wind kept constantly strong and the planes started to rumble along the runway which was just out of view behind trees. Up came a display team, possibly the Spanish Patrulla Aguilas. Safety rules are such that the planes cannot do their acrobatics over the crowd, but there was nothing to stop them from doing so over the house. Unfortunately I missed taking what would have been the photo of the day as several planes crossed directly above the house. Oh well, at least I got to see it.

Something fast and noisy

Jets were extreamly noisy the view mostly very good.

The kitchen crew

Late morning Sally came round for a sandwich order, Jenny and Sam ready in the kitchen to make up what everyone required, each wearing their own branded pinnies for the occasion. Ian busied himself with distributing drinks from a plastic bag, large buckets sat in the garage filled with cans of beer and soft drinks all on ice for the day.


The organisation of the event certainly showed that they’d done this a few times before. The only thing that was out of their control was the weather. The heavens opened with torrential rain, we all took cover in either a small marquee or inside the house, perfect for a lunch break.

The Red Arrows, down to a seven man team due to one of them waking up with a bad neck this morning (footage taken from Sunday’s show). Sadly this made their formations look lopsided.

Us boaters agreed that the display from the Saudi Falcons was better by far, the ex-RAF contingency politely made comments, not able to totally agree, airforce blue still running through their retired veins.


Refueling was a theme of the show and possibly the best photo I got all day was the one above. Chinooks, Tornados and many more planes gave displays. Conversations started and paused as the jets screeched overhead.

The planes were great and so was the company. Plenty of knowledgeable folk to give you technical information should you want it. Many of the chaps I’d met before at Ian and Sally’s wedding when I was their youngest bridesmaid. They had provided the arch of raised swords to walk through, all I had to do was wear a wine velvet cloak and my black patent shoes that Aunt Nancy had bought for me.


Then there was lots of catching up to do with Sally, Jenny and Sam. News from the USA about Jo their brother about to become a father. News from Ukraine about Tim my cousin. History of houses, both French and Scottish.

A lull after the planes had landed saw preparations for the evening meal. The weather had forced a change of eating location into the garage which was bedecked in red white and blue. Ian was incharge of the bbq, Mick kept an eye on it too especially when he spotted flames that needed to be taken under control. Saucisson and pickles was followed by pork, jacket potatoes and salad, then chocolate pots, meringues and cheeses. We certainly were full to the brim with lots of lovely food.

Scary Scarborian

A quick dash around the house being shown family memorabilia, certain plates very much of their time and the painting that used to hang in Grandads house that was known to my side of the family as Scary Man. On the back of the portrait is a long account about Mr and Mrs W Appleby (Mr being in the portrait), they lived at 43 Sandside Scarborough and he is a far flung relative of ours. He happened to live next door to a Cappleman another ancestor.

Jenny very kindly gave us a lift back to Lechlade, even having to turn back when we realised we’d left our coats at the house. There are now plans for a meet up one weekend when I’m in Chippy working on panto.

I was left with my magic food bowl, but was still very pleased to have them back

Was it worth changing our plans for the summer for just one day? Yes it most certainly was. The planes and hospitality were one thing, but also reconnecting with family was way more important. Thank you for the invite, we had a brilliant day.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 Tilly incharge, 7:15 rendez vous, 2 cousins, 2 cousins once removed, 3 woofers, 1 old Maine Coon, 28, 7 not 8, or even 9, 1 day of noisy planes, 13 hours of family, 2 many memories to share.