Category Archives: River Wissey

2022 Back To Exploring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast forward to 6:15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So our vital statistics for 2022 according to Canalplan are

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

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

731.7 engine hours

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

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

The Day One Way Became Two Way! 14th August

Littleport Station Road EA mooring to River Wissey GOBA mooring

After a good nights sleep away from the noises of London and the retained heat big cities hold we were up and breakfasted early ready to get on the move. We pushed off, winded and headed northwards, sun cream was already a requirement before 9am.

Goodbye Littleport

The high banks block any view, roof tops occasionally peek above to say hello. The pink house with windows pointing both up and down stream, the sad house even sadder now we’re leaving the Great Ouse, just one more night before we’ll be gone.

The marching line of pylons, we’ll next see them on the Middle Level. Passing the Little Ouse, plenty of moorings available in full sunshine there today.


By the time we reached Ten Mile Bank we’d just about caught up with another narrowboat. No sign of Neil the seal, but a tell tale gap had been left between boats suggesting he may have been about when people moored up. We were wanting water, so was the narrowboat in front, they loitered waiting for a boat to pull out as we discussed our options and then carried on down stream, water could wait for tomorrow.

Space for seals only

Turning down the River Wissey we had our fingers crossed not only for a mooring but also one in shade. The first stretch of moorings was empty, here the bank is gradually falling towards the river, big cracks were noticeable when we arrived on our first day on the Great Ouse. However there was a willow tree overhanging the river, it would give us some shade, but should we take the risk? Willows in dry weather are known to loose limbs, cracking and splitting away from the main trunk. We decided to risk it and tied up with the bow in sunshine, the stern in shade.

An early lunch, then an afternoon at work for me, taking photos of the set pieces so that the builders can see them in more detail. A new version of the storyboard was put together and file after file were added to the panto dropbox.

Tilly headed out for the first time in what feels like weeks, too hot really so she kept returning to lie on the floor for a while. Adding more ventilation to the boat in recent days the port side bathroom porthole glass has been removed. Tilly found this most interesting, a new way inside!


Mick took up position under the willow tree, we all settled down for the afternoon. However around 4pm he decided that he would pull us along a touch, further into the sun! This was actually quite sensible as above his head he’d started to hear an amount of creaking from the tree!

Tilly and I had a stretch of our legs as the temperature started to subside, then it was time for the doors to close as it was Dingding time. Inside the boat was now the same temperature as outside, a cooling breeze through the boat would have been nice, but we coped with the side hatch, bathroom porthole, front door open with the bathroom door closed so that our second mate couldn’t head off to do some evening friend hunting.

No throne so amended photos needed

Mick had a shower and as soon as he opened the bathroom door, Tilly saw an opportunity the other side of the bathroom was open, she was straight out through the front door. B**gger! Our first mistake! Thankfully she was a touch too glib about it and was quite easy to pick up. She was passed back into the boat through the bathroom porthole, which turned out to be our second mistake.

Oleanna has a one way doorway for felines, the side hatch. This is quite clever as access is only in one direction and that is inwards. On a couple of occasions Tilly has tried to exit via this doorway only to do a cartoon splat on the internal glazed doors. Today we had added a second such doorway, the bathroom porthole.

A clunk came from the toilet seat, this happens when you sit on our compost toilet, opening up the containers for what ever you may produce. Neither myself or Mick were sat on it. As I peeked round the door I saw the back of Tilly disappearing through the porthole!

A new opening!

She was hot, tired and too glib again at her achievement so was fairly easy to catch. What a shame she’d discovered the porthole worked in both directions, the glass was put back in and we all settled down to watch TV.

Then our third mistake. If it wasn’t for us not wanting Tilly to be out all night (shh! she doesn’t know other cats do such things), during these hot days we would possibly sleep with more windows removed and have the front doors open to let cooling night time air in. We made such a remark out loud.

Well you said if I wasn’t about you’d have all the doors open, so I thought I’d give the side hatch another go to see if it was two way like the bathroom window. Blimey it was!!! Brilliant, I could find more friends and She and Tom could get cooler, they’re not allowed out after dark, well not very often!


This time she was out and there was no catching her. Time to open all the doors and let in the tropical sunset for an hour whilst we finished watching Van der Valk. Thankfully after an hour I called for her and she returned quickly. Here’s hoping that we can persuade her that the hatch had a little blip and has now returned to being one way only, inwards!

0 locks, 9.01 miles, 1 wind, 1 right, 1 shady tree, 1 storyboard, 1 rock, 1 hot cat, 3 mistakes, 3 back on board to sleep.

Flipper Wave. 8th June

2nd GOBA Mooring River Wissey to Ten Mile Bank GOBA Mooring, River Great Ouse

A drop from yesterday

Last night when Mick went to close the hatch he discovered that the level had dropped. We’d noticed that the flow had been greater than we’d remembered it but we hadn’t thought that the level would have gone down by about 3inches. Possibly down to the EA draining water off in case the levels rose with the forecast rain last night. It had rained but we were still quite low this morning, the flow now much slower.

Willow fluff collected in the bow

There wasn’t too much protesting from Tilly not to be allowed out this morning, I think she was still worn out from yesterday. Late morning we pushed off and headed upstream towards Hilgay Bridge wondering if we’d need to go all the way before we could wind.

Catching a ride with elevenses in it’s beak

Mick gave it a go a little after the big bend, we might have made it but it looked to be a close thing, so he changed his mind and we carried on towards the bridges. Here we managed to wind just by the 48hr mooring and made our way back under the two bridges.

Now Hilgay Jubilee Bridge

Over Jubilee weekend Hilgay Bridge was renamed, now Hilgay Jubilee Bridge. There had been a big party and the village had been bedecked with bunting, the avenue up to the church swaged with hundreds of meters.

We made our way back towards the Great Ouse, coming across a cruiser who stopped and let us go past. We wondered what would have happened should we have met yesterdays speeding cruiser at one of the bends or where the trees overhang obscuring the view ahead. This is one of the reasons why there is a 4mph speed limit on the river.

How do they hover in this wind?!

Back at the junction we turned left, heading upstream. The wind got up and buffeted us about a touch, but the air was warm and being able to do a faster speed meant we could hold our course.

Drama overhead

Big dramatic skies. Bright blue against the bright green of the banks.

There he is!

Approaching the other Hilgay Bridge we could see a couple of hire boats and the familiar shape on the moorings of Neil. He lifted his head up to check us out, a flipper may have waved in our direction too. He then just rolled over to get another area of his mass warm in the sunshine.

Not much further and we arrived at the GOBA mooring, pulling in in front of NB Eleanor Rugby an Aintree Beetle. We seemed to have managed to skirt round the rain clouds. Mick went to have a chat with the chap behind who was touching up his paintwork to check if he had a dog about the place before I let Tilly out. The coast was clear so she was given five hours.

Blowy on the top

What in this wind! If I had to be out there someone had to be out in it with me! She came for a walk. First this way and then that, although I didn’t at first hear that She’d changed direction. Bloomin windy!

Tonight the internet has improved so we’ll be able to watch the episodes of Gentleman Jack that hadn’t been recorded due to either bad signal or memory loss!

0 locks, 6.97 miles, 1 wind, 1 left, 2 rivers, 1 blowy yet surprisingly dry day, 1 flipper wave, 1 remote mooring, 1 Gentleman Jack, 1 lodger okay with the increase, thank goodness.

Wissey Tilly. 7th June

2nd GOBA Mooring, River Wissey

As Tilly has been cooped up inside for a few days a life time! today would be a sausage day. We’d not be moving anywhere or requiring her to come in so that we could go out, so a full round of Cumberland Sausage!

What a beautiful day

The weather was wonderful, just perfect for cruising. The sun shone all day long. Blue skies which during the afternoon filled with willow fluff drifting on the gentle breeze and resting gently on the waters surface. It also fills the boat, collecting in corners and on surfaces, requiring the hoover to remove the fluffy fairies.

Tilly came and went, dropping in for Dreamies every now and them. But watching and waiting patiently followed by pouncing took up most of her day.

The long bank

Once the blog was written I went for a little walk along the bank, first this way. I could have dropped down into the woods and walked a circuit back to Hilgay and back along the bank, but without knowing where Tilly was I may have been followed. So instead I headed that way, spotting a pair of black ears quite a distance away from Oleanna in the friendly cover.


The two of us walked along the top of the bank for a while longer before I decided that we’d gone far enough and it was time for Tilly to be reminded where the boat was. She soon cottoned on and came hopping and skipping along overtaking me with her tail held high.

Tail held high

It’s so lovely to find moorings like this that have just about nobody walking past all day.

A few boats came past, including a small sporty number that had to jam on the breaks when it saw us moored, we’d already started to move about on our ropes long before we realised the noise wasn’t a motorbike overtaking on the none existent motorway!

A patch of shade

As Tilly occupied herself outside we got on with admin type jobs. I put together the figures for the house, needed for our tax returns but also so that we could see if the house had managed to pay for itself last year. Apart from plumbing and roofing costs it did. Then it was time to sus out what we’ll need to charge from now on, our utility price cap ends in the next few weeks. Estimated on last years bills at the new rates the house will cost an extra £68 on average a week to run! Our lodgers, mainly actors get subsistence payments for living away from home, these have not gone up this year. We now need to come up with new prices, we can’t afford for the house to be empty, but we also can’t afford to subsidise people living there. It all feels a bit like Russian Roulette!

Mick spent time trying to get home insurance quotes, having short term lodgers makes it somewhat difficult to get a policy that covers everything. The hunt on that front continues. He did however succeed on another front today. This afternoon he received an email from the EA regarding our Anglian Pass, which allows us to cruise the Middle Level and the River Cam, they had processed our application and were now ready to take payment. His first attempt at paying didn’t work as the person who answered the phone had a dodgy microphone and sounded like a Dalek with laryngitis. Second attempt worked, so we can now cruise to our hearts content.


In between our computer hours we had numerous visitors.

First the Damselflies flew in to say hello. Bright emerald green followed by an electric blue. These were relatively easy to assist back outside.

X rated

Then came the Dragonflies, two attached making babies. The far larger delicate insects proved harder to assist, but once they’d parted it became easier. Such beautiful creatures so close up. Another privileged moment with nature. There has to have been something about Oleanna today, the open hatch being very attractive as we had at least another five rescue missions with our winged friends. This more than made up for the admin filled day.


Later in the evening we’d just settled down to watch some tv when we could hear that motorbike returning, louder than before! Oleanna started to move, it only took enough time for us to stand up for the speedboat to be alongside us, almost on the plane, they only knocked back their revs as we started to shake our fists at them. Foot high waves ricocheting back and forth across the narrow river. No time to take photos, no time to get the boat name, but plenty of time to carry on bobbing about in their wake!

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 large Cumberland sausage swirl, 2 many friends, 1 willow tree snow storm, 3 dragonflies, 18 rated dragonflies, 5 damselflies, 2 diddy ones, 4 quotes, £5000+! 1 exol spreadsheet filled with numbers, 3 new rates agreed on, 4mph not 9! 9.5 hrs shore leave, 1 happy exhausted cat, 1 Anglian Pass, 1 more Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

We Forgot The Eggs! 6th June

Wiggenhall St Mary Magdelan to 2nd GOBA Mooring River Wissey

Last night we’d put the finishing touches to a supermarket order for a click and collect in Kings Lynn, this needed to be picked up early to get it back to the boat before the hire car would need returning. Mick headed off in the rain, picked up the order, passed it into the boat through the side hatch all the time getting wet. Then he headed back to drop the car off.

The chap who dropped him back to the boat from Enterprise said that their prices had been high due to the lack of cars for the last couple of years. With lack of demand during the pandemic many cars were sold off, now there is a shortage of new cars so they’ve been trying to restock their hire fleet from the second hand market, which has also been problematical.

Time for breakfast and to wait for the rain to stop. Then we topped up the water tank and relit the stove to help drive out that damp feeling you get on such days. Time to move on. Freddie and the lady came to say goodbye, it had been nice meeting her, maybe our paths will cross again somewhere, if they do Tilly will remain firmly shut inside.

Goodbye Freddie

We winded and headed back the way we’d come. If we’d stayed longer we’d maybe have had a trip into Kings Lynn by train to have a look round, but maybe we’ll do that from elsewhere instead.

As we passed under the bridge we both realised we’d forgotten something. Eggs! Last night we’d not added them to our order as just across the road from our mooring had been a small holding who sold eggs, so we’d planned on getting some from there instead. Only we’d forgotten, too late now. We have two left, which means a breakfast or some baking, not both!

There’s someone up there

The trip back along the Relief Channel was grey to say the least, I for one was glad I’d put on my padded waterproof trousers just to keep the chill out.

Why the fencing?

The next mooring was now empty, bunting still up along the railings. We’ve been wondering why bits of fencing have been added around the ramps to the moorings. At Wiggenhall these were at the top, here they were at the bottom.

Downham Market still full

At Downham Market the pontoon was still full. We could have breasted up with someone but we really needed to find a suitable mooring for Tilly as she’s been cooped up inside for days now.

Left to the lock

Just as I was about to be dropped off to work the lock I had a phone call from David. He sounded a touch better than he’s done of late and had just had his weekly counselling session via the NBTA, the service is really helping him. Sadly a dodgy lock on the control box for the lock meant I needed both hands, so our catch up was cut short today.

Coming up

Slowly Oleanna rose in the lock, then I had to admit defeat in locking the panel back up. Mick was sent to have a go, tightening up what screws were left on the lock helped whilst I disposed of rubbish by the Impounding Sluice.

A left and we were back on the Great Ouse, heading upstream again. After a short distance we turned onto the River Wissey and headed for the mooring we’d been at for Mick’s birthday. Here would be good for Tilly especially as we were on our own. As we pulled up Tilly watched our every move and had already started perusing the friendly cover.

Dreaming of what might be in the friendly cover

A joint of pork had been sat drying out in the fridge all day for a Monday Roast. As the afternoon progressed we had the occasional glimpse of blue sky and Tilly had a good time outside in the friendly cover and for some reason up on the pram hood!

Toes in the grass again

1 lock, 8.72 miles, 1 wind, 3 lefts, 2 boxes wine, 1 shoulder pork, 0 eggs! 3 hours shore leave, 1 pram hood with extra perforations!

What A Relief! 3rd June

Denver EA Mooring to Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen EA Mooring

Mushrooms ala Mick

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

Denver Sluice

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

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

Going down!

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

Turning below the lock, Cut Off Channel behind

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

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

Downham Market moorings chocka

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

Not many bridges around here

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

Would there be space for us?

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


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

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

Finishing touches, including some clamping

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

Relief Channel on the left, Tidal River Great Ouse right

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

A fine looking church

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

Quite a full pontoon

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

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

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

Swimming below sea level

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

It’s All Topsy Turvy Around Here. 22nd May

GOBA mooring River Wissey to Ten Mile Bank GOBA Mooring, River Great Ouse

Last night we went to sleep with a Sedge Warbler singing it’s heart out. This morning it was still seriously going for it. He’ll keep going until he finds a mate apparently!

No need to get going early today, in fact no real need to get going. Instead we had a good read of our Saturday newspaper with a cuppa in bed and then enjoyed a Mick breakfast. The hash brown had to be made without egg to bind it together today, but it held itself very well.


Tilly had a good ninety minutes shore leave, although one of the other boats on the mooring had a dog which every now and again necessitated a rapid return to the safety of the boat.

Just gone midday we pushed off and headed to where the Wissey joins the Great Ouse, here we turned left/upstream/southwards. The Wissey narrow and over hung with trees whilst the Great Ouse was wide and shimmering in the occasional bit of sun we had.

On the west bank a lady was out for a walk, young child in a pushchair who kept waving and on a lead a white pony who walked along at heel obediently.

Funny chimneys round here

The flood banks are quite high so we didn’t get any views, just the occasional tree and house popping up from behind the grass banks.

We pulled in at Hilgay Bridge to top up on water and put a load of washing on. There were two boats on the mooring in front of us. One a Black Prince hire boat, the chap noticed what we were doing and came to look at the tap. The people from the cruiser came for a chat, they were out to give their boat a good clean, but kept being distracted from their jobs.

River higher than the surrounding fields

Up on the bank the lay of the land just isn’t right. The surrounding fields lower than the river with the big banks between. Yes I get that the land was drained for agriculture, the water put into the river. But how did the river end up being where it is, it has to have existed before the land was drained. Were the banks raised so that it could accommodate more water? I think I need to revisit my Geography A level!

It’s all topsy turvy around here. Going down onto the Middle Level then up onto Tidal waters then down again whilst going upstream! All wrong!

Oleanna’s occasional blue eyes today

Simon Judge responded to our question from the other day regarding the lowest you could be on the waterways. Here is his reply

The relief channel could be even lower. It’s worth noting that the Old River Nene used to flow in the direction you are travelling, ie downhill towards Upwell.  The lock at Marmont shows how much the bottom section was lowered in 1850 or so when the main drain was built.

I do think Mullicourt must be the lowest aqueduct on the system …

PS the stretch to the south west of Lode End lock is lower than the main section when the lock is in use, but is not at a lower level below sea level if you see what I mean!

Can I have some trees please!

We continued a while southwards to the next GOBA mooring at Ten Mile Bank. Not much of a view from the river, just high grassy banks. But climb to the top of the bank and you can see for miles.

Outside a Whitethroat sang it’s heart out, getting a touch louder and quicker when Tilly arrived! She was given the afternoon to pounce in the long grass as our washing dried on the whirligig and I got out my project again. More circles cut, even smaller than last time and wire featured quiet a bit too!

0 locks, 4.27 miles, 1 left, 1 sparkling river, 1 full water tank, 7 sets of circles, 76 pounces, 1 topsy turvy world!

No Room At The End. 21st May

Second GOBA mooring to Second GOBA mooring via the end of navigation

Tilly was allowed shore leave this morning whist we had breakfast and joined the Geraghty Zoom. Brown muffin cases one of the topics covered today. As soon as we’d signed out the trip computer was started and we were pulling out our mooring spikes, time to see what else the River Wissey had to offer.

Narrow rover cruising

Not far upstream someone has made themselves quite a little mooring, no photo I’m afraid as it was hard to take one with their boat in the way. Steps cut into the flood bank, branch handrails, places to sit in amongst the trees, a kind of Robinson Crusoe affair.

48hr mooring at Hilgay

I’d been told of an old fashioned butchers in Hilgay, it seemed to be the only shop we’d come across today. We pulled in at the 48hr public mooring and walked up through the village to reach AJ Dent, obviously a butcher with a sense of humour.

Inside the butchers counter was empty, all their meaty goods hidden out of view. I either know exactly what I want from a butchers, so this doesn’t matter, or I want to window shop, see what there is that might take my fancy. Sadly today I wanted to window shop, so came away with a newspaper and a small pork pie for Mick, well it is still his birthday weekend!

A chap and his dog sat at the bus stop whistling away the time as we walked on through the village. A lychgate led to a long lime tree covered lane, the other end another lychgate and most probably the village church. We had to go and see.

All Saints

All Saints church is a medieval church built from carstone, the tower from white brick which replaced an earlier tower which collapsed. It was restored in 1862 by GE Street. It could almost have been built from gingerbread and royal icing. One face of the clock has seen better days, the others not telling the correct time anyway.

Did this Yew tree grown around the gravestone, or has it just ended up resting there?

Today we could only look round the exterior and graveyard as out of the two doors, only one had a handle and that was padlocked shut.

A very well kept village, even the more modern houses seemed to have immaculate gardens.

Pristine hedges and an old Standard

Back at the mooring we’d been joined by a cruiser who’d stopped for lunch, we followed suit. The chap we’d seen at the bus stop had returned from his trip and was starting up the small engine on his little dinghy, he headed off downstream as we headed upstream.

Plenty of white with blue covers

Plenty of cruisers moored along here, helping to keep our speed down. All different shapes and sizes were represented here.

Catching lunch on the wing

Then out into the countryside again. Here damselflies flitted here and there, their turquoise, green and black flashing as they flew past. Terns swooped for insects. We wondered if the same terns were following us, but looking back it was obvious that the whole river was being dive bombed by them!

The views opened out a touch, followed by the not so picturesque sugar Factory. Pipes cross the river and end up at large piles of white. Are these the equivalent of the salt mounds around Middlewich? Giant sugar mounds?

Wide. Keep to the right side of the islands

Now the river widens out into a large pool. Knowing which way to head is handy. A mooring here would be great, a kind of Fenland Tixall, someone could even build a fake gatehouse to complete the look!

No Himalayan Balsam just a lot of this blue/purple plant. Anyone know what it is please? Possibly Comfrey according to Debby

A cruiser was pulled up on a bend, the chaps having just cut themselves a hollow in the friendly cover. Later on they’d dug themselves a fire pit and collected a lot of wood.

We looked forward to the view we might get at the Wissey Aqueduct, but large concrete walls gave us disappointment. Here the Cut Off Channel takes water from the Wissey, Little Ouse and Lark. In the summer months the water heads to Essex for drinking water, but in times of flood the excess water flows in the other direction to Denver Sluice, it’s main purpose when it was built in the 1950/60s.

One space already taken

Nearing Stoke Ferry and Whittington moored boats line the banks. One last chance for us to moor before the head of navigation would be reached. At Grange Farm Touring Park the one GOBA mooring space was already taken. Mick tired calling the park to see if they might have space for us elsewhere, but the answer came back no, we could of course breast up, but we didn’t fancy that.

That would be nice

On towards the end of navigation, we passed a rather lovely barn shouting out for a conversion.

What a lovely spot

Where Lode Dyke meets the River Wissey is as far as we could go. Someone has built themselves a nice little hut, with a landing and ladder for swimming here. A Kingfisher darted across our path and watched as we winded.


Our choices now were to either find a bit of bank we thought we’d be able to moor on without getting nettled too much, carry on back to Hilgay or even further back to where we’d started this morning. No bank showed itself, so we continued.

Harry or Harriet?

Just after the sugar factory on the north bank sits an expanse of greenhouses. Recently a cannabis farm had been discovered in the next street from our house in Scarborough. We joked that maybe tomatoes were grown in these greenhouses disguising the cannabis plants. Reading up in Mick’s new book later we discovered that we were almost correct in our jest!

In 2007 Wissington became the site of the first bioethanol power plant, spare heat was used to power on site greenhouses which produced 70 million tomatoes a year. In 2017 the greenhouses switched to producing cannabis plants for medical production. At harvest time that year a sweet smell spread over East Anglia emanating from the greenhouses!

The Pumphouse

The Pumphouse stands out from its surroundings, now converted into holiday accommodation. It sleeps 14 in 5 bedrooms and commands views across the Wissey Valley Nature Reserve.

Back in Hilgay there was space on the mooring, but we decided we’d rather wake up away from the road and would chance finding space back where we’d started the day.

Doves live under Hilgay Bridge

Passing the boat on it’s homegrown mooring, the chap chatted as we passed, the same man who’d been at the bus stop and behind his narrowboat was his small dinghy, his dog lying watching the river slowly flow past.

At the GOBA mooring there were already a couple of boats moored, but thankfully there was plenty of space for us. We pulled up right on the end, hopefully we’d get away with Tilly thinking it was a whole new outside in the morning, it was now far too late for any shore leave.

0 locks, 18.65 miles, 1 wind, 1 butchers, 1 Saturday paper, 1 pork pie, 2 lychgates, 0 space, 2 kingfishers, 5332 terns, 90 minutes shore leave, 1 spun round outside left or tomorrow, 1 river ticked off.

Crossing The Tide. 20th May

Glady Dacks to 2nd GOBA mooring, River Wissey

Another early start for us, we’d the tide to catch!

Only time for one birthday present before we pushed off, a sponge squeegee thing to help clean the solar panels, a Barnetts in York purchase on Tilly’s behalf.

Funny clouds

What a grey morning! The clouds above us looked like someone had rolled out a load of wadding or that we had been covered by a large grey focaccia. Waterproofs were at the ready should they be needed, they were later on.

Salters Lode

We arrived at Salters Lode around 9:30, a chap in high vis asked if we’d be going through the lock today. Yes. He would be our lock keeper, we should be ready to go at 11:30, he’d just been down to let two long boats through the lock. Salters Lode Lock is 62ft long and heads out onto the Tidal River Great Ouse. If your boat is longer than 62ft then it is still possible to pass through the lock when the level of the river matches that of the creek, both gates on the lock open at the same time. He checked our length, we’d be fine, then he went to chat with NB Tank Girl they’d also be going through today.

Lock gates open

We walked up to look at the lock and river. Mick had spent sometime last night watching Youtube videos of boats coming and going through Slaters Lode and Denver Sluice (the lock to get onto the non-tidal River Great Ouse. But there’s nothing like seeing the lay of the land/river and the speed at which the water passes by first hand.

The tide was on it’s way in. Outside the lock we could see the railings that help guide you into the mouth of the lock and hopefully avoid ending up on the sand banks. We then walked along the flood bank towards Denver Sluice, over Old Bedford Lock. Just half a mile of tidal water lays between the two locks. Denver Sluice looked bigger and more substantial with it’s big guillotine gates. Time for a cuppa back on board before the tide would be right for us.

At 11:30 both boats were ready. The lady from NB Tank Girl headed off to see if she could find the lock keeper, I followed in case we’d be told anything important. The chap took some finding as he was actually on the river side checking the depth of water, I couldn’t quite see, but I think he was in waders with a stick just on the side we’d seen a couple of hours earlier just sitting out of the water. ‘Another half hour’ he said. There are all sorts of factors to take into consideration at Salters Lode, tide, fresh water, an exact time can’t be given, but a good measure is required.

By now it was raining. Would our planned barbeque still be on or would we be lighting the stove and having jacket potatoes for Mick’s birthday meal?

About half an hour later the Lockie came to say the level was good, he was ready for us. NB Tank Girl went first, one boat at a time through the lock. They detached their chimney and laid it on the roof, air draught kept to the minimum. The bow rope was passed round a chain to help keep their boat into the side, then a sluice was opened letting jets of water into the lock. It doesn’t seem right that we’d be going up onto tidal water.

As the boat rose the Lockie kept reminding the lady to duck as she was positioned directly under part of the structure that was getting closer and closer. Then the guillotine gate was raised, would their boiler flue fit under the bridge? Out on the river the tide was now going out, they could wait for the level to be suitable to get out, but they managed to sneak out.

Swapping boats

The Lockie made a phone call to Denver Sluice, there was a boat coming the other way, down stream. Both boats exited their respective locks at the same time and would pass somewhere on the half mile between, a bit like exchanging spies at Check Point Charlie. We watched NB Tank Girl exit, put the revs on and push her tiller over to head upstream and into the out going tide.

From up ahead we could see NB Annie heading downstream, the two boats would end up passing on the wrong side, but that didn’t really matter. The Lockie stood high by the lock, his high vis coat worn for a reason. He held his arm out pointing to downstream, NB Annie held her course. Then when his arm was dropped, the chap at the helm began his turn. As you would at Selby he swung around to face the out going tide and then inched his way back towards the lock. Did he have enough power to avoid hitting the downstream wall? Did he have too much power on and be going to miss the fencing and end up on the sand bank?

Annie coming down to the creeks level

In the end he glided in towards the lock, touching nothing. As he came into the lock his voice sounded familiar, hang on was it Paul the narrowboat mover. Sure was. He remembered us too, our paths having crossed at Bosley two years ago and up on the Leicester Section last year. Good to see him again. He bought a one day licence for the Middle Level, he’d be across and out the other side by 10:30am tomorrow.

As soon as Paul was clear of the lock it was our turn. Rope passed round the chain, sluice opened. By the time the guillotine raised the level of the out going tide was already about 18 inches lower than it had been for Tank Girl. We thanked the Lockie then Mick nudged the bow out of the lock towards the tide.

Revs, tiller and we were facing the tide in the rain, great birthday weather! The half mile didn’t take long and we were soon entering Denver Sluice which was sat waiting for us. A stern rope was passed round a riser, the guillotine dropped behind us. We’d be going down off the tidal water and onto the River Great Ouse.

The River Great Ouse, wide and deep

Another Lockie to thank as we came out and onto the wide expanse of river. As we made our way upstream we discussed what to have for lunch. A bowl of soup maybe, or a bacon butty. The bacon won!

Much narrower River Wissey

A mile and a quarter upstream we spotted the turn onto the River Wissey and took it. Under the railway bridge we pulled in at a GOBA mooring. The Great Ouse Boating Association are similar to Friends of the River Nene and have moorings for members to use, membership £23 a year.

This will do

The mooring was showing signs of subsidence, little of it level. With another mooring just a short distance further on we pushed off and tried there instead. We pulled in and made ourselves at home. Lots of birds for company and a herd of sheep on the other side who seemed to head off in a hurry for a hair cut.

Blowing out the candles

Lunch, bacon butties was followed by Birthday Cake, Blueberry Lemon and Almond cake. Candles and everything.

Is it present time?

Then presents. Mick got the latest edition of the Imray guide to The River Great Ouse and it’s tributaries, featuring several photos of Heather and her boat NB Bleasdale, we’ve also spotted Simon on NB Scholar Gypsy in there too. He also got a new blue tooth keyboard and mouse for his tablet computer, the current one’s had been working intermittently for a while.

As Tilly explored her surroundings we hid inside hoping the weather would improve. Sunshine came and went, but the rain didn’t return. So late afternoon Mick found what he thought would be the more sheltered part of our mooring and set up the bbq as I threaded veg and haloumi onto skewers and wrapped salmon and bananas up in foil ready to cook.

Cheers! Happy Birthday Mick

Maybe a little bit chilly, but we still enjoyed our private mooring with food and wine. Tilly was given an extension to cat curfew. She spent most of it staring into the friendly cover with the occasional break to climb a tree.

Setting sun

2 locks, 4.93 miles, 1 leftish, 1 right, 1 left, 0.5 miles of tidal water, 1 creek, 2 rivers, 1 wet day, 1 mover, 1 cake, 12 candles, 2 cards, 3 presents, 2nd mooring, 7 hours shore leave, 8 asparagus tips, 4 veg haloumi kebabs, 2 salmon steaks, 1 sunset, 1 Mick 1 year older.