Category Archives: River Thames

Still Rockin’

Our friends Carol and George are starting out on a new adventure and moving back onto land, so their wonderful widebeam Still Rockin’ is up for sale.

On the Thames last summer

So if you or someone you know is looking for a widebeam, currently on the Thames, then look no further as this must be one of the most cared for boats on the network.

Take a look at the advert on Apolloduck, full of photos and details of Still Rockin’s high spec.

Mick had the pleasure of being invited on board last year whilst I was away working. Hopefully they won’t loose the pull of the canals and will visit us when we pass nearby.

We wish them all the best for their next adventure.

2019 Round Up.

Checking our vital statistics for a years worth of cruising takes a while. We have a trip computer which records almost all our journeys, sometimes it counts locks twice, sometimes it doesn’t quite catch where we reached before we wind. Before we used this method of recording our journeys I would use canal plan to work out our distances. This method can also miss out parts of our journey but it does give me more statistics. You know how I like numbers! How many bridges, how many narrow locks and what distances we travelled on different types of waterways. So inputting a years worth of cruising takes some time.

Anyhow, here is our round up of the year.

The New Year was seen in at Crick. From here we decided to head to Sheffield to have the last snagging jobs done on Oleanna, we were fortunate that the route north was open with no winter stoppages in our way until we reached Yorkshire. Once in the top chamber at Foxton it was going to be downhill all the way to Keadby.

Going down at Foxton

Sadly our blog started to loose it’s photos, which is a great shame. It was a problem shared by many bloggers who were all doing their best to get things working again. Have to say we ended up jumping ship from blogger to wordpress, but posts still lacked their photos when moved. We hope gradually to rectify this by replacing the missing photos, I miss them when looking back. But this will be a long job.

Waiting at Cromwell

During January we cruised down stream on the River Trent, the weather was getting colder the further north we got. Our route was clear but at Keadby the lock off the river was being dredged, so our journey was held up a touch. Then with February came cold nights and the canal at Keadby froze over. So we waited at Cromwell for things to improve.

First go at Gluten free puff pastry for cruising sausage rolls

Daylight hours and tides meant we split our tidal journey at Torksey. The early morning start from Torksey was very cold, so I was very glad I’d knitted us both balaclavas, we remained cosy cheeked for our journey.

Cosy heads

Our journey up towards Sheffield meant we coincided with the bicentenary of the opening of the canal and a very unseasonably warm weekend. The chaps at Finesse replaced a leaking window, gave us a new one (our choice), sorted out our gas locker lid amongst other bits and bobs. It had been a good decision going to Sheffield, it saved them time coming out to us and it saved us money on the extras we’d asked for.

New galley window going in
200 years old

Next we headed for Goole, the lure of cheap diesel and a night away to see our friends Bridget and Storm on the otherside of the Humber was a bonus. We then hunkered down to sit out storms and rising river levels. Our original plan had been to go to York, but flooding put paid to that, so instead we went by train.

Bridget and Storm with their lovely house

Towards the end of March we decided to give a trip up the Ouse another go, the rivers were at better levels and we still haven’t taken Oleanna there. But first Bank Dole lock wouldn’t fill due to silt, then when we reached Selby the Lock onto the Ouse had a fault which would take too much time to mend for us to wait. This was a relief for Tilly as this was where she’d discovered the difference between grass and duck weed and ended up learning to swim a couple of years ago.

Mark came to meet us from York

At the beginning of April we headed to Leeds. From here we had a day trip to Derby Crown Court for the sentencing of our original boat builder (Stillwater) who had finally pleaded guilty for fraud. I also spent a more pleasurable day in London, having a meeting for Puss in Boots.

Derby Crown Court

With panto in mind we planned our cruising for the remainder of the year. The remainder of April we made our way up the Calder and Hebble and onto the Rochdale Canal.

Being a foot shorter it wasn’t as tight as it had been on Lillian

Our friend Frank joined us to do the stretch from Sowerby Bridge to Hebden Bridge, which included the deepest lock n the network, Tuel Lane. He’d not done this stretch back in 2014 when he and I walked from Manchester locking Lillian over the Pennines to get to the Tour de France.

Tuel Lane the deepest on the network
Frank

Once over the top we picked up a boat to share the locks down into Manchester. Clare and Graeme were over from New Zealand for a few months and proved to be very good company.

Mr Blue Sky and Oleanna

On the 1st of May, with the help of a Canal and River Trust volunteer our passage down into Manchester went well. The following day both boats headed down the Rochdale nine with an extra pair of hands from an old college friend of mine, Doug.

Nearly there!

During May we cruised down the Bridgewater and onto the Trent and Mersey Canal gradually heading southwards. A short detour up the Middlewich Branch to look at where the breach had been before we carried on southwards.

Climbing the Cheshire Locks

A pause in the Cheshire Locks meant we got to meet up with Tom and Jan who were over for a visit. For Micks birthday we moored at Barlaston and had a nosy at the wonderful hall on the hill, our plan still stands if any of our family are interested! https://oleanna.co.uk/2019/05/23/the-plan-20th-may/

Tom and Jan

We saw the end of May out mooring at Tixall Wide before rejoining the Trent and Mersey and heading onto Fradley Junction where we joined the Coventry Canal. With Atherstone Locks out of the way I spent time below working whilst we cruised familiar waters on the flat, it might have rained too!

Tixall Wide

A day trip to London from Rugby for us both, me to a seminar for Separate Doors 3 and Mick to catch up with his friend Siobhan who was over from Australia. Continuing down the North Oxford Canal to Braunston where we joined the Grand Union Canal to head to London.

Busy Braunston Locks

A visit to the Royal Ordnance Depot at Weedon meant I bought some lovely yarn to make a cardie for myself (it’s nearly finished!) and caught up with our friend Heather Bleasdale, who just so happened to be moored there as well.

Yummy yarn

Our route then up and down the Grand Union meant we managed to get to see both Mikron shows this year as well as teaming up with the cast and NB Tyseley to climb the locks up to the summit.

Sharing the locks with Tyseley

Tilly was left in charge for a couple of days whilst we headed to Scarborough to check on our house as we had a change of tenants. This meant we got to stay with Jaye and Duncan and catch up on the news from home.

I’d be in trouble if this photo wasn’t on the blog again!

We now pressed on down to London where we booked a mooring in Paddington Basin for a week in early July. This gave us the opportunity to catch with with friends and family before we headed back out west and down the Hanwell flight. I made the front cover of Canal Boat for July.

Mid July we locked out onto the Thames cruising the Tidal section to Teddington. From here we transited to the River Wey, brand new waters for us.

Up onto the Wey

With my final design for panto delivered to Chipping Norton from Guildford we could enjoy our cruising a bit more, despite the soaring temperatures which had us hiding under trees for a couple of days.

Finished!

On the 26th July we ticked off our third point on the compass, reaching Godalming the furthest south you can get on the connected network. On our way back to the Thames we met up with Adam from NB Briar Rose, both he and Tilly got wet that day.

Furthest South

The original plan had been to cruise the Basingstoke Canal whilst we were there, but sadly the levels were too low and the canal closed before we got there, so we spent a while longer on the Wey.

Hampton Court Palace

Onto the Thames where we managed to get a space outside Hampton Court for a couple of days and I discovered the joys of standing in line for some fresh veg. Gradually we made our way up the Thames. Waking early and getting going worked for us as mostly we managed to get moored where we wanted around lunchtime. Three years ago we did from Teddington to Oxford in a week but with a months licence we took our time.

Waterway Routes
No Problem XL

The further upstream we got the quieter the river got, less hustle and bustle. We met up with Paul and Christine (NB Waterway Routes), missed Carol and George (WB Still Rockin), finally got to have a proper conversation with Sue and Vic (WB No Problem XL) as we headed upstream.

Kelmscott Manor

As the rivers bends got tighter, the banks were harder to get up. A mooring by Kelmscott Manor required a rope from the post to help us get on and off the boat, but it was worth it to visit the house.

At the end of the navigable Thames

On the 26th August we winded at the furthest point we could reach on the Thames on Oleanna and started to head back eastwards. Tilly gave one of our moorings a double stamp of approval and stayed out well after dark!

Isis lock, Oxford

An incident with engine coolant nearly stopped us from reaching Oxford to see War Horse. But a nice man from RCR got us going again so we had a narrow lock fix and headed to the show catching up with Matt and Bill for a drink afterwards.

Lovely chaps

Then at the beginning of September we turned off the Thames onto the Kennet and Avon. For the last five years we’ve been meaning to head this way, but for one reason or another it hadn’t happened.

Gangplank land, the K&A

With tales of lack of mooring we kept to rising early hoping we’d get moorings. This mostly worked and wild moorings were very rarely needed, we did still have to use the gang plank every now and again. We only encountered one pound on our westward journey where even the longest plank wouldn’t have helped which meant we had to carry on up a flight with the clock ticking before locks were locked around us.

Over the summit

At Devizes we met an Instagram friend Frankie who’d been working on the flight over the summer. Despite following another boat down the flight we made good time with the help of the volunteers.

The photo of the year, Devizes

Onwards to Bath and Bristol. Here we moored with HMS GB in the background and met up with two of my old school friends for lunch. A big shame we couldn’t stay longer as there was more we wanted to do and see whilst there, we’ll just have to save up for next time as the mooring fees are quite pricey!

In good company
Old school friends

The section between Bath and Bradford upon Avon was our favourite, with the aqueducts and views along with the second deepest lock on the network.

Cornwall

Mick and Tilly got to enjoy it for a week longer than me whilst I headed off to Cornwall to eat gluten free pasties and start painting my panto set for a week.

Pasty

Once I was back we had two weeks to reach Oxford, but the weather had different ideas. What felt like the monsoon season started. There was rain on most days, luckily not the day we did Devizes. We managed to team up with two couples from Bristol on a hire boat, by the time they reached the top of the flight they could work uphill locks with their eyes closed, we left them to master downhill on their return journey.

Tilly enjoying the big trees

Our second low pound struck as we tried to leave Cobblers Lock, Oleanna was sat firmly on the ground and unable to leave the lock until a good flushing of water set her free. The rain actually did me a favour as whilst we sat in Newbury hoping for the Thames to drop I managed to get my model for A Regular Little Houdini finished.

A Regular Little Houdini

At the end of October I headed off to panto land leaving Mick and Tilly a short distance outside Reading, hoping they would be able to get up the Thames in the following week. Our friend Paul came and helped Mick out onto the Thames reaching Goring on their first day. Here Mick and Tilly got to met Carol and George (WB Still Rockin’) who’d been clinging onto the moorings there before heading downstream.

Photo courtesy of Carol WB Still Rockin

Paul returned later in the week and despite the engine overheating and having to deploy the anchor they succeeded in getting to Abingdon where Oleanna had her second visit from RCR. Mick battled on against quite a downstream flow and reached Sandford Lock before tying up. Here the levels rose and fell, the engineer came for a second visit and found lots of crud in our cooling system.

A calm paws on the Thames at Sandford

With the engine in better fettle, Mick nudged his way up towards Oxford and finally made a dash up Osney Lock and onto the canal despite that section still being on red boards. It turns out he’d chosen his moment well as the river has stayed on red boards since then.

Pantotastic

Once I left all the singing dancing and glitter behind and returned to narrowboat life we had to sit out high levels on the Oxford canal and on the River Cherwell. We loitered in Oxford, but as soon as it looked like things were improving we were on our way.

Lakes not meadows

We paused in Banbury for Christmas haircuts and shopping before pulling in for a few days at Cropredy Marina, from where we headed to London for a Sibling get together at my brothers.

Family

Onwards to the top of the Oxford Canal the day the locks reopened and down the other side continuing onwards to Radford Smelly for Christmas.

Christmas

In Warwick we met up with my family and then picked up crew Mike and Chris to help us up the Hatton and Lapworth flights.

Our final visitors of 2019

The last few locks were done on New Years Eve bring us up to the Birmingham level for the new year.

Narnia Lock our last for the year

Quite a busy year. So our vital statistics for 2019

According to Canalplan

Total distance is 1199 miles, ½ furlong and 886 locks . There are 119 moveable bridges of which 22 are usually left open; 139 small aqueducts or underbridges and 20 tunnels – a total of 8 miles 2 ¼ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.

This is made up of 207 miles, 4 furlongs of narrow canals; 399 miles, 5¾ furlongs of broad canals; 102 miles, 5 ¼ furlongs of commercial waterways; 226 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of small rivers; 212 miles, 5 furlongs of large rivers; 49 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of tidal rivers; 150 narrow locks; 626 broad locks; 109 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.

838.2 engine hours

That is 255 miles and 272 locks more than last year! But 246.4 hours less engine running, just goes to show it’s worth having solar panels.

1336.93 litres diesel, 9 (although we’ve got 2 empty now) gas bottles (used for central heating as well as cooking), 6 overnight guests, 6 packs Dreamies, 1 cover cat, 32 friends, 17 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval, 1 double stamp, 5 pairs socks, 3 pairs gloves, 1 baby blanket, 2 shows designed, 1 cover illustration, 5 lots gluten free puff pastry, 9 supermarket deliveries, 39 boxes of wine delivered, 12 bottles of wine delivered.

Thank you for sharing our year with us.

Gelid Stumpy. 14th December

Claydon Top Lock to Fenny Compton

Wetness

No-one mentioned rain! Where did that come from? We didn’t rush to get out of bed, unlike the chap on the boat in front of us who pulled out bang on 8am heading for the locks. At 8 it was dry, but by 8:15 it was wet. He is a single hander and had waited until to go down the locks today when he hoped the wind would have died down, it had a touch but made up for it later in the day.

Overnight I’d had an Etsy order come through for a pair of very miss-matched socks. The request had already been paid for. I checked what yarn I had in stock, one colour out of three would need ordering and it was discontinued! I realistically worked out when I’d be able to have them knitted by, no chance before Christmas, in fact it wouldn’t be until after the New Year as we have visitors. I got in touch with the lady explaining. Her cut off date was the 30th December, no chance, so a full refund was sent back to her. I made sure I added a note onto my shop saying I’d be taking no more orders before Christmas now. A shame really as the shop has been so quiet this year.

The weather seemed to dry up and we started to make ready. Then it rained. Then sun. Then rain! We were dressed suitably so decided to carry on. The aim today was to reach Fenny Compton, not far, so that a newspaper could be bought and gloves and cards put in the post.

Extra weight to help lower the bridge

We pootled along in the now sunshine, but boy it was cold! Under the last of the Oxford Canal lift bridges. A large container of water hung from it presumably to help equalise the weight to make easier to close.

Muddy banks

Signs of dredging, mud along the off side all smoothed out.

This years wreath ivy

At the disused railway bridge we paused for me to hop off with the sheers. Here ivy cascades from the hedgerow and brickwork, ideal for wreath making. I snipped away at long strands, and returned with a bundle.

Fenny Compton Tunnel

Next the roofless tunnel, trains whizzing by just out of view, water running into the canal from every direction. This morning I’d checked the Thames levels, yellow boards had recently started to fill the page (the last reach to the canal from Osney Lock still stubbornly red) but today it was a blanket red again! The tunnel crosses the watershed for the Thames and Avon. Now when we empty a lock it won’t be contributing to the flooding on the Thames.

We pulled in along the main stretch of moorings between the marina and The Wharf Inn. This was troublesome as the wind really wanted to help us to moor on the off side, just as a shareboat was approaching. The cold exacerbated by the wind froze my fingers, my right hand and stumpy squealing with pain, but I clung on and eventually we beat the wind and tied up, ready to defrost in front of the stove.

Too close to the road, they said. Too blowy for my bottom, they said. Your not allowed in the engine, they said. You can’t come shopping, they said. You can’t help post things, they said. None of which I truly understood. All I understood was that they were being the biggest spoil sports ever, so I complained for much of the rest of the day by the back doors!

Wellie fence

Gloves all packaged up I walked into Fenny Compton village to find a post box. The first one a diddy size but with collections early in the morning. The second much bigger, here I fed our Christmas cards and knitted goods through it’s mouth before returning to the Co-op to stock up on bread and milk.

A church sandwich

The High Street is quite pretty. Wellington Boots hung on a fence possibly holding strawberry plants. The Methodist Church sandwiched between two cottages.

The Merrie Lion hiding behind Christmas

The Merrie Lion pub hid behind a huge Christmas tree still looking inviting. A shame their menu isn’t more gluten free friendly, I’d have been tempted to go there for our Christmas work do.

The road to the village under the railway

The road to the village passes under the railway line. Depth gauges show how deep flood water can get here, quite scary. Today the road was just a running stream and most, not all, cars slowed as they passed me.

I decided to walk up to The Wharf to see what I thought. Quite a few cars in the car park and there were certainly people eating and drinking inside. The menu seemed similar to last year, but rumours are that new owners are not so keen on boaters, the laundry here now closed. There were only the usual things I could eat on the menu, which is getting boring now.

Oil, oil and more oil

Back at Oleanna Mick was in the engine bay giving Oleanna some fresh oil and checking everything over. She has now reached 2840 engine hours, the service was 22 hours late!

Time to feed my sour dough starter. Hmm! Why after it looked so good yesterday does it seem to have faltered again? I just repeated what I’d done yesterday! I fed it and popped it back on the shelf an elastic band marking it’s height so I can see if it rises from here. By the end of six to eight days it should be doubling itself between feeds. Here’s hoping.

Before feeding, bubbly on the top but not much more
After feeding, elastic band visible

0 locks, 3.02 miles, 1 lidless tunnel, 1 last lift bridge, 1 watershed, 1 stumpy about to fall off, 1 p’d off cat, 25 cards, 1 pair gloves, £26.50 refunded, 1 bucket of ivy, 2 pints milk, 1 loaf bread, 9 litres oil, 2840 hours, 1 oil filter, 3rd sour dough day.

3.99 Miles And 2 Locks! 24th November

Jericho to Kidlington Green Lock 43

We’ve moved!!!!!!

Leaving College Cruisers behind

It’s all very well being excited, but my day didn’t start well. I was a bit peckish in the middle of the night, so went to my bowls. Three weeks ago Tom had forgotten to give me my morning ding ding and I had two very empty bowls when She came home. Last night he’d even stolen my bowls, there was nothing what-so-ever to even lick!

So I had to be creative. I found a couple of things that smelt nice so gave them a lick, but they fell on the floor making a clanking noise waking them up! Tom stole these as well, saying it was for my own good as I must have caught what She had had. I hadn’t caught anything, well not that I’d noticed! If I had it certainly wasn’t tasty with a tail, because I’d have remembered.

I do not waste my time. They do!!

This morning I waited eagerly, my tummy rumbling, for the ding ding. But Tom forgot and he wasn’t even going to Liverpool! She didn’t do anything about it either!! So I had to spend much of the remainder of the day trying to sleep with the growling monster in my tummy making increasingly louder noises. When I couldn’t sleep I did get to watch the outside moving from inside. They had a few attempts at tying it up, but rejected these after a while. I thought the trees looked good, but no, who am I!

After breakfast I dug out my walking boots, the towpaths up ahead would be muddy so I traded trainers for boots for the first time in ages. We pushed off just after 11am our aim to reach a suitable mooring for Tilly to explore for the remainder of the day, see we’re not as horrid as she makes out.

Fishing at Aristotle bridge

We waved goodbye to Oxford. We won’t miss the trains through the night, although we’ll still have the railway for a while. We won’t miss the boat behind us running his generator till midnight! We won’t miss all the wheelie suitcases rumbling past. I won’t miss the narrow outside and lack of friends.

One for Bridget

At Aristotle Bridge one boat sat on the moorings where it’s been for ages, surrounded by fishermen. If we’d wanted to pull in we’d have caused quite a stir, but we’d only just pulled away so slowed to pass them all and say hello. From here on the towpath is closed as it is being improved.

Topping up whilst the washing machine works hard on my painty clothes

A gap in the works gave us the opportunity to pull in at the services just after Elizabeth Jennings Way. Another boat was filling so whilst waiting to use the tap, our washing machine already going, we disposed of the packing from the printer, ash, general waste and emptied the yellow water.

Our first lift bridge, usually left open

Once the fresh water tank was full we pulled away and were soon under our first Oxford Canal lift bridge, Bridge 238 which is left open.

Approaching Wolvercote Lock

Wolvercote Lock was easier to access than normal. The last boat on the moorings here must be off on a jolly at the moment. I wound the paddle and emptied the lock a touch for the levels to equalise then pushed open the bottom gate. This end of the Oxford Canal the locks only have single bottom gates. On deeper locks this can make for hard work, but at only 4ft 3″ the gate moved easily.

C&RT work boats tied to rotting felled trees!

Less can be said about the lift bridges! The bridges out from Oxford have a reputation. Last year I got their measure, but a year is a long time and things have been tinkered with and worn since.

Perry’s Lift Bridge 234 would not unlock. Was this the one that you needed to put your weight on and give your key a quarter turn to the exact spot? No, nothing seemed to work for me. I called Mick to have a go. A cyclist came by and was asked if this bridge had a knack. Everything was tried by all three of us, still locked. The cyclist headed off to find his mate. If you’ve ever been this way you will more than likely have met the chap who appeared, he’s often around helping or making comments about how shallow the canal is along the Agenda 21 moorings.

It just wouldn’t unlock

With the expert local knowledge he lifted and jiggled the lock. Apparently the post that the lock locks into can move, so some sideways lifting and jiggling got it aligned again at which point it unlocked. Hooray! Everyone was thanked as I sat on the beam to hold it open and Mick brought Oleanna through.

I should have had more pie to lift this bridge

The next bridge, Wolvercote Lift Bridge, I knew would be problematical, it nearly always is. No lock on this one just a lot of hoiking to do. I crossed over and grabbed one of the beams above my head and tried with all my weight to get it to move, nothing. I tried the other beam and got it to acknowledge that I was doing something. After being ill the other day I didn’t feel like being a monkey and working my way along the beam to the end and with no handy passersby I had to call for assistance from Mick.

Open and sat on as Oleanna passes underneath

Here the bridge landing is high and overhanging so it’s not as simple as just pulling up with a rope. Our extra fat fender had to be deployed to help preserve the cabin paintwork. Mick then could join me and give the towpath side of the bridge a lift until I could get my weight on top of the beam to open it. I remember last year there being a strong wind which kept lifting me off the ground.

Wolvercote Junction. Left to the Thames, straight on to the north and Christmas

Wolvercote Junction next where if you turn west you end up on the Thames by King’s Lock. I’d half expected the canal to be high here and Dukes Cut Lock to be partly under water with the Thames being in flood. But all looked fairly normal. We carried on with our course northwards and into Dukes Lock.

Oooo Aaarrgh!

Soon followed Drinkwater Lift Bridge. This bridge is closing in the new year to have work done on the bridge approach walls and the bridge will have a manual hydraulic lifting system added to it. This bridge is used more than the other two we’d come through today, as quite a lot of boaters bypass them on the Thames. Here reading the instructions on the lock have always worked, especially the quarter turn of the key. Once unlocked it’s a quick dash across as the bridge is keen to open. Then on closing it needs some persuasion and to be quick at getting onto it to add your weight to be able to lock it again. With all this in mind it is easy and I managed it without too much bother. Just a shame it’s not Wolvercote bridge getting some attention this stoppage season!

Last one of the day and easiest

Now we had about a mile to go before Kidlington Green Lock came into view. The piling edge below the lock was empty, we found our nappy pins and moored up doing our best not to slip on the muddy towpath. It now being 3pm there was only an hour left before cat curfew. Tilly had been offered some food, a small amount before heading out the back doors, but this was totally over looked.

Hooray!!!!!

At last!!! A whole new outside, yet strangely familiar. There was plenty to sniff and check out. I made full use of my hour exploring, showing myself twice on the cat walk before heading off in a different direction. This is so much more like it! Then when I came inside there was a great big box to sit in, this made up for not being allowed to stay out later.

What’s in here?
A cat, what did you expect?

The joint of beef we’d bought yesterday went in the oven and came out smelling wonderful, it tasted good too!

2 locks, 3.99 miles, 3 lift bridges, 2 pesky, 1 easy, 2 cyclists held up, 3 willow trees ducked under, 1 work boat tied to rotting wood, 1 hour of shore leave, 1 empty wee tank, 50% rubbish disposed of, 1 full water tank, 1 amended Houdini drawing, 1 pair socks, 1 days cruising, 2 smiley boaters, 1 happy cat again.

Going Down And Stocking Up. 23rd November

Jericho

Stocks of the yummy things I like to have in to cook with have become somewhat depleted over the last couple of months, it’s been a while since we did a big shop. So with our planned escape from Oxford imminent we’ve booked a delivery for Thrupp.

I give up!

With the winter months still ahead of us the freezer was switched back on this morning so that it could be stocked up too. The problem with the sticking drawer hasn’t been resolved yet, but we have ideas. I’ve missed being able to dip into it over the summer months, now we can have peas and a stash of gluten free bread along with mince and chicken amongst other things.

Nine, just

One last look at the Thames was needed before we make for the hills. Below Isis Lock the ninth brick was just showing and the weir from the canal to the river was a lot more sedate than it had been last weekend. We walked round through the station to Osney Bridge avoiding muddy towpaths.

Here the level has also dropped, but the flow is still crazy. Link. The blue boat still sits on a list, clinging on for dear life to the weir protection with the waters rushing by. We walked down by the side of the boats and chatted with a chap from one of them. He’s been stuck here for five weeks now, he’s learnt his lesson of coming onto the river in winter. His aim had been to get to Newbury, but when the river permits he’ll be turning round and heading back onto the Oxford Canal.

The cat boat by the weir
Le Boat on the lock landing

The Lock Keeper has opened up the toilets so those moored can access water and showers, his neighbour has four large water carriers so he borrows those to top his tank up. He did end up hiring a car the other week to be able to reach the elsan point on the canal to empty his cassettes. He told tales of a hotel boat hoping to make it through the bridge but having to pull into a gap behind him, a Le Boat (big hire cruiser) had had serious difficulty at least three weeks ago and had ended up moored on the lock landing. Mick also knows of the boat that had moored behind us at Sandford Lock with all the cats. When he’d come up Osney Lock he got pinned against the weir, he managed to eventually get moved up a little just past it. Today his back doors were open, cats free to come and go. Have to say Tilly would not be allowed out in such a place, if she fell in that would be that! Link to weir.

Still high below the lock

The bottom gates of the lock were wide open and below the lock landing was a few inches under water. When Mick came up three weeks ago he’d not had to paddle when he reached the lock, today wellies would definitely be needed. I don’t think the reach above Osney has been out of the red for five to six weeks.

Fish

We carried on walking down to join Osney Mead. Well we couldn’t leave Oxford without a visit to the Fish Market. It was just about lunch time and there were queues of people wanting to eat in the restaurant upstairs, all paying before ascending. What to buy? We looked at what was available on the central display today, not as packed as we’ve seen it before, maybe because it was a Saturday.

Our fish

We came away with a large Mackerel for tonight, some smoked mackerel and a very good handful of fish pie mix to go in the freezer.

Our meat

Next port of call Meat Master across the way. Here we hunted out a nice joint of beef for tomorrow, some gf sausages, mince and some diced pork, most of which were later divided up into meal sized portions and popped in the freezer.

Waitrose came next, my leg now starting to complain. We stocked up on fresh fruit and veg to last us a few days, enough to get a free newspaper before heading back to Oleanna.

Customers at Waitrose

On reaching the boat we both wanted a rest, after some lunch we decided to stay put today. It would be dark by the time we reached anywhere Tilly could go out and I certainly felt like I’d done enough for the day, still recovering from the other night.

As the evening grew dark it started to rain, fingers crossed that tomorrow it stays dry as forecast and the rivers stay on their downward trend.

Mackerel, tastier than it looks

PS the Mackerel was very tasty.

0 locks, 0 miles, 9001 paces, 5000 walked, 4001 hobbled, 5 weeks on East Street, 5 cats still hopefully, 1 mackerel, 378 grams fish pie mix, 1 pack smoked mackerel, 1 silverside joint, 12 gf sausages, 547 grams mince, 475 grams diced pork, 1 free newspaper, 6 boxes on order, 20 litres cat litter, 1 wet evening knitting.

Dusty! 22nd November

Jericho

This is now the longest we’ve ever been somewhere other than when we chose to moor up in Newark four years ago and that was mostly for medical reasons. Tilly is so bored! Even when I put her collar and cat tags back on this morning she only had half an hour outside before coming back in yawning at the lack of excitement.

First boat to go past this morning, backwards

In the last five weeks I’ve only been to Isis Lock and back, hardly a cruise. The prospect of getting moving again is quite an exciting one. Last night we had our first sign that things along the canal were improving. A couple of hours after dark we could hear the sound of a boat engine. As the stern came alongside we could hear ‘Hi Oleanna, we’ll see you in the morning’. NB Dusty had arrived. They headed to the lock, winded and came back past us to College Cruisers for the night.

Here she comes!

This morning it was obvious that Dusty was being restocked. We could hear the clanging of gas bottles, then a coal delivery followed by diesel. Mid morning they reversed their way back towards us. Katy, Jock and Billy their dog on the roof. We were remembered from last year and I was asked how panto had gone. There was plenty of time to have a chat and catch up.

NB Dusty arriving from the north

Mick undid an empty gas bottle, Jock replaced it for us lowering a new heavy bottle into the gap in the gas locker to save Mick’s back. Bags of coal were loaded onto the roof. The boat in front of us had a delivery of something too before they reversed back to fill our diesel tank. Glad we’d waited until today as the price had dropped by 1p a litre with the new delivery, and it was far far cheaper than from College Cruisers.

Heading to the next customer behind us
TV monitor dimensions

Feeling better today I got on with a bit of work. Dimensions of a TV monitor had come through so plans needed amending for A Regular Little Houdini along with letting the production manager know which fabric I would like for some curtains. I’d received samples whilst I was in Chippy, so now I needed to dig out the card I’d used in the model to compare colours. In the afternoon there was a phone call from Vienna to choose paint colours! Not an easy thing over the phone translating them into paints available in Austria, but we got enough sorted for the base coats to be laid in before I arrive in January. The set is starting to be built.

Mick headed off with a bike to collect a new printer from Argos, our old one having got cartridge confusion and now can’t print in black. The hunt for a suitably sized printer had taken a little while as the cupboard our office lives in is only a certain size. The box it came in though was ridiculous. Yes the printer is white, but is all the packaging really needed? Every surface was covered with a protective layer of plastic, instruction books had their own cardboard protection and plastic bag.

Thoughts turning to transporter bridges again

We now need to dispose of our old printer and all this packaging, most of which will be able to go in a bin up the way, but the cardboard will wait until we reach Lower Heyford to go in the recycling bins there. At least once the polystyrene has gone Tilly will make use of the box for a while.

The box is twice the size of the printer

NB Dusty had come down the River Cherwell section on Wednesday to Shipton Weir Lock, it was still in the red, but they had managed it without too much problem. We’d be going against the flow so it should be easier heading upstream. When they came through Thrupp there was some space to moor. So this evening we have been making plans for our escape, including a supermarket delivery. Fingers crossed that space is still there.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 better digestive system, 1 light head, 546 x 956, 3 moving boats, $100, 1 cat with cat tags, 28 minutes shore leave, 125kg coal, 36 litres diesel, 1 gas bottle, 83p, 1 giant box, 1 small printer, JS016, 4 yellow reaches, possibly 8th brick, 2 boaters and 1 cat making plans.

Medication, Not Of The Chilled Variety. 20th 21st November

Jericho

The post panto song worm in my head is starting to wain thank goodness. Don’t get me wrong, the songs are good, it’s just there is only so much you can take of ‘DND, Do not dispair. CYC, Cause you care. SOS, Save our Square’ most days and nights.

On Wednesday morning one job was long overdue, although Tilly didn’t see it that way. It was her three monthly flee spot on treatment. I take her collar off for this, so I try to do it when we know she won’t be allowed to go out. Today however she had a quick look outside and then decided to sleep the remainder of the day as we still hadn’t moved the outside! After a second of fluffing up her fur she realised what was about to happen. Her legs shrank and she silently scurried from one end of the boat to the other. When my hand reached to the top of the cupboard where the flea stuff is kept her legs disappeared all together!

B**st**ds!!!

One vet once told me that the spot on stuff doesn’t hurt them in any way. How many vets have had this evil stuff applied to the back of their neck and between their shoulder blades?! Houdini hated it also.

We used to try to work as a team pinning Tilly down to administer the stuff which comes in a little tube. But the last few times I’ve tried to do it myself, it feels less threatening and on occasions has been a lot easier as Tilly doesn’t scrunch her shoulders up, as much. But on this occasion she managed to squirm her way free before all the spot on stuff had been applied. We are so used to her bell that she can sneak about without it, catching her again I had to keep my eyes peeled.

Next was to stock up on some gluten free flour whilst we were near to a Chinese Supermarket. Being away for panto has meant my sour dough starter has died a death, I’m not sure it was all that strong anyway so I’m going to start from scratch. This time using a different method with Buckwheat and Sweet rice flours rather than just Brown rice flour.

Seven, just

Mick came with me to the supermarket then carried home my purchases whilst I hobbled into town to try to start my Christmas shopping. The seventh brick below the lock was showing today, so the Thames is on a downward trend.

My Dad’s favourite

I managed to get a few stocking fillers but nothing majorly exciting, refueled with a gf sandwich from Tesco I persevered for a while longer spotting one thing my Dad would have loved, Meltis Fruits. I even tried to spend a voucher I got last Christmas but there is still nothing at The White Company I fancy that would fit in with our life style, space and current muddy towpaths.

Decorations outside The Ivy

Mick had waited in in case NB Dusty the local coal boat arrived. They are based at Lower Heyford north of Oxford and had planned to do a run to Oxford this week, but there was no sign of them. We’d been hoping to see them to stock up but also as an indication that Shipton Weir Lock would be passable, the C&RT Strong Stream page isn’t working at the moment.

My post Panto cold seems to have been kept at bay, but sadly something else got me. An upset stomach which kept me awake for much of Wednesday night and into Thursday morning. This necessitated Mick and I swapping sides of the bed. Despite trying to keep my fluid levels up I then got cramp in three places on my bad leg. Each one requiring my leg or foot to be bent in opposite directions, impossible to solve or so it felt.

Nurse Tilly, making sure I didn’t move

So, much of Thursday was spent catching up on sleep for me, watched over by the still silent Tilly. Mick headed to the chemist for some Electrolyte Powder to help with my re-hydration. Luckily my legs since have not cramped up again, but my bad calf has been left feeling bruised and very painful to walk on.

By mid afternoon I was starting to feel a touch hungry, so a poached egg on toast was prepared by the master breakfast cook. This went down a treat and was followed by a snoozy afternoon in front of another Morse episode and a bit of french cuisine with Rick Stein. We’ve no idea what caused the upset, maybe the Tesco sandwich as this was the only thing Mick didn’t eat.

0 locks, 0 miles, 0 collar and cat tags, 3 monthly torture, 1 bag potato starch, 1 bag tapioca starch, 1 bag millet, 1 bag sweet glutenous rice, 6 boxes New Berry fruits, 0 white things, 0 cold, 11 visits, 1 sleepless night, 3 cramps at once, 200ml electrolytes, 1 very slow quiet day.