Category Archives: Selby Canal

Sausage Day. 11th March

Sykehouse Junction

A Sausage Day! Was I going to like it? Well yes! But I still don’t know what it means as it involved no sausages what-so-ever! Not sure She even knows what it means. But I’d be quite happy to have more sausage days.

Checking on the solar

As soon as Tom was up and dressed the back doors were opened, She recited the rules to me and I was off into the friendly cover. I think She said something about 8 hours, but I wasn’t listening at that point! Who would when it’s a Sausage Day!?

I came back quite a few times as requested. My ‘Thank you for coming home‘ Dreamies however have been reduced in number! Apparently we are on an economy drive, therefore my Dreamies allowance has been cut by 33%. She and Tom have cut their wine allowance by 57%. I wonder where this economy is that we’ll drive too, hopefully we won’t be going by car!

The underside of the weedhatch

The weedhatch cover was removed and laid out on the towpath and given a good scrub all over to remove silt and then left in the morning sunshine to dry off whilst we had breakfast. As just about all of it had been blacked previously I held back with the Danboline, I’ll use this for the handles which sit above the water line and use blacking below.

Once it was dried I scraped away any loose paint and grease, gave it a sand and a good brush down before applying a coat of blacking. This was then left in the now fading sunshine to dry off for as long as possible. Too sticky to do the handles these will have to wait for another day.

Shall I put that screw somewhere handy for you Tom?

Mick spent a bit of time looking at the freezer drawer, trying to remove the back as access was needed to replace the handle that became detached earlier in the day. Either the back is glued in or has a screw or two from the bottom which currently is impossible to access as the drawer no longer comes out fully.

Weaving ends in

The afternoon was spent weaving ends into my first three pairs of socks, daylight a must for such a job. For the next few pairs I’m changing yarns, from DK to 4 ply. This means more stitches to knit and more rows, so each sock will take a touch longer. New patterns were worked out and in the evening the next sock was cast on.

A wheel of socks

Thank you so much to everyone who has sponsored me. The target on my Facebook page today was reached and another donation from two of Tilly’s friends has brought my Justgiving page to 75% of my targeted amount. I may have to buy some suitable yarn for baby socks when we get back to Goole as I don’t think I have enough suitable yarn to knit premature baby socks.

View from the stern

Today official news has come through regarding the stoppage at Thorne Lock on the Stainforth and Keadby Canal. This was originally meant to be in place by now, opening back up around Easter. We have planned the beginning of our cruising year around this, then when re-open we would head up stream on the Trent, a fast route down the country.

Did someone mention sausage!?

But today in sausage terms we’ve been dealt a Cumberland Sausage! The lock will now close on April 4th and be closed for six weeks, reopening 23rd May. This would have us leaving the area at a similar time as last year when we’d been held up by the breach and covid, therefore not making the most of our Gold licence.

We could of course leave the area before the stoppage starts, but that would mean cancelling various commitments we’ve now made. What to do? We have several options.

A back door open kind of day, until it rained!

Leave via the Pennines, Leeds Liverpool, Rochdale or Huddersfield Canals. None of these would get us south for a while. The there is the other option, Trent Falls. We did this last year and if everything fell into place, weather, tide, locks, we’d choose this option. Mick even suggested seeing if we could do Naburn to Torksey in one day!

The jury however is still out.

For anyone interested in travelling the Trent there is a newish Facebook group Trentlink – Safe Navigation of the Tidal Trent. The aim is to encourage people to use the Tidal Trent in a safe way, offering advice and maybe even buddying up with more experienced boats for the trip.

Other news, Selby Swing Bridge which has only just been reinstated has broken down. From 14th March passage will be possible with 48 hours notice, C&RT will manually operate the bridge for you until the running gear has been refurbished.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 sausage day, 8 hours towpath freedom, £50 donations, 1 coat of blacking, 2 patterns, 7th sock, 1 happy cat, 1 less handle, 16 not 15mm Forstner bit, 1 Cumberland Sausage, 2 boaters needing to come up with an alternative plan.

2021 An Adventurous Year

Time for the annual round up. Put the kettle on or pour yourself a glass of something stonger, put your feet up, this is a long post.

Looking out into a cold world!

As midnight turned from 2020 to 2021 we saw the old year out and new one in at the house in Scarborough, a quiet affair with just the three of us.

January and February brought ups and downs with them. Oleanna rose and fell with the water level at Viking Marina due to the breach at New Bridge whilst the country locked down. Despite the restrictions on travelling we made use of having a hire car for a few days at the beginning of the year to keep an eye on Oleanna.

Jobs around the house continued, our bedroom was redecorated and reclaimed from troublesome tenants. Tilly and I ventured out into the nearby park for the occasional walk, dependant on the number of woofers and the weather of course.

We walked, we ate, we drank, did our best to stay well and I started on the design for Chipping Norton’s panto in my reclaimed work room.

The spare living room was used as a workshop doing some work for Animated Objects, scrimming giant sci-fi guns and then painting model buildings all for The Odyssey. Beetroot burgers were made and pancakes consumed.

Then March came along and some easing of restrictions. Colour came back in nature with the daffodils popping up and my panto model started to get coloured in. A design for some origami paper arrived ready to be folded up to be part of 1000 ships display that would happen a couple of months later along the Yorkshire coast.

With new freedoms we had a couple of trips to Goole to check on Oleanna. First one was to swing her round and finally put fire extinguishers on walls all ready for her Boat Safety Inspection which she passed with flying colours and a comment that we seemed to like CO and smoke detectors, well I’d rather have too many than not enough!

The cofferdam at the breach site was completed and an access ramp created. My posts about the breach put us in touch with several people in Goole and at the beginning of April The Goole Escape Facebook group was formed. Due to the breach and lack of water in Goole Docks no leisure boats were allowed to use Ocean Lock out onto the Tidal Ouse. A joint calm voice was needed to try to find a way out for those boats wanting to leave, including us.

Of course March was also when Mick and I got our first vaccinations. Who’d have thought having a jab would put a smile on peoples faces! Not that you could really see them behind all the masks. A bathroom got a make over and we discovered parts of Scarborough we’d never been to before.

April was a very busy month. With lodgers on the horizon house jobs needed finishing. The roof needed attention along with a wall in my work room, both jobs were for the professionals. Pictures went up on walls, finally. The bathroom needed finishing with Frank fitting us a new bath surround.

Mid month out attention moved back to Oleanna. Way back when, we’d booked her in at Goole Boathouse to be blacked. We had a night on board before moving her from one marina to the other to come out of the water. She was jet washed down and the chaps began applying layers of 2 pack to her hull. We visited most days with jobs to do ourselves. Mick busied himself inside whilst I ground back rusty bits on the gunnels, repainted them and the tunnel bands. Inside the oak floor had a good clean and then was treated to two coats of oil. The weather had been perfect for it and she went back in the water a week after she’d come out, enough time for the 2 pack to cure. She looked smart again, well the cabin sides still needed a good wash!

Whilst in Goole we met up with David, Karl, Wendy and Martin, four members of The Goole Escape group. David had managed to negotiate with ABP passage for leisure boats through Ocean Lock at Goole Docks, this was limited to specific times of the tide. So escape was now possible but everything would have to come together to make a sensible plan. We wouldn’t be ready for a few weeks and hoped that there wouldn’t be a mass exodus before we could join people.

As I carried on trying to finish my panto model Mick made good use of his time doing a VHF radio course, we’d need to be able to use the radio to meet the criteria for going through Goole Docks and out onto the Tidal Ouse. Tilly visited the vet and got a years worth of flea and wormer treatments, we were all set to move back on board.

The first of May was that day. We’d hoped that Tilly would remember the boat after seven months on shore, within about two seconds of being back it was obvious she knew where she was. News that Goole caisson gates were now open and cruising up towards the breach site was possible we headed off to give Oleanna a good run and so that Tilly could venture back onto dry land. It was very good to be back on the move again. On our second such trip Tilly remembered how to swim!

Whilst in Goole Mick took his Short Range VHF Radio exam and passed. I carried on painting my panto model. We both had our second vaccinations. Heather Bleasdale came to visit joining us for an outdoor lunch. We got to know the Goole Escape Committee and discussed plans. We watched work going on at the breach site. Mick had a birthday and Joan’s Home Kitchen provided us with a celebratory meal a couple of days before we hoped to escape.

On 21st May an escape committee meeting was had early on, the weather looked hopeful for the tide in the afternoon, we were booked in at Ocean Lock. Our escape was to be via Selby, the Lock keeper was called there and our plan confirmed. At lunchtime we moved up to fill the diesel tank and await the other escapees, Sea Maiden and Lullabelle. Given the go ahead by the docks to proceed we were soon passing through to Ocean Lock where there was plenty of space for the three of us. At around 14:30 the large lock gates opened to reveal our way out of Goole onto the Tidal Ouse.

All three boats arrived safe and sound

We headed upstream following Sea Maiden being pushed along with the tide. Would we make it to Selby before the tide turned. Each boat arrived individually and was locked up into Selby Basin. We’d made it, now all we had to do was escape Selby as the swing bridge out of the basin there was broken.

We waited. Tides, times, weather and the amount of fresh coming down stream all had to fit together. Bridget and Storm came to visit. We twiddled our thumbs. The Environment Agency came and closed the flood barrier. We twiddled our thumbs. Daily escape committee meetings were held. By the 27th everything was looking to fit together apart from one thing, Keadby Lock would not be manned at a suitable time for us to get off the river. Sea Maiden and Lullabelle decided to stay put in Selby. Heather Bleasdale was joining us for the trip but Oleanna would be out on the river on her own heading to Trent Falls.

What a day that was! David’s advice was spot on. Leaving Selby just before 10am Oleanna zoomed downstream with the out going tide. We followed our charts keeping to the channel. At the Apex light Mick swung Oleanna round to head upstream onto the Trent our progress slowing instantly.

We then crawled our way to find where we should wait for the tide to turn. Two hours of very little, drifting on our anchor. We’d picked the day well, it was wonderful out there.

When Oleanna started to move round a touch more we managed to pull the anchor up and found our way back into the main channel to head upstream with the incoming tide. One plan had been to moor up in Gainsborough, but we decided to carry on and arrived at Torksey just as the last light was fading at just gone 22:00, 64 miles in a day, I doubt we’ll ever beat that.

Over the next few days we made our way up the Trent, dug out our windlasses to work locks in Nottingham. Once we rose up Derwent Mouth Lock onto the Trent and Mersey we had completed our escape. The going would now be much slower along shallow canals and plenty more moored boats to slow down past.

Now we should make our booked mooring at Rembrandt Gardens, every day would be a boating day unless the weather was either too hot or far too wet to cruise. Along the Trent and Mersey, pausing to stock up in Alrewas. At Fradley we turned onto the Coventry Canal to head southwards. We gave a tow to NB Burghley Girl to the bottom of Atherstone.

At Hawkesbury Junction we did the 180 degree turn onto the North Oxford Canal, through Rugby and up Hillmorton. NB Kamili with Andy and Irene passed as we arrived in Braunston where we paused for another butchers, then up the flight and through the tunnel.

Straight on along the Grand Union. On route we stopped for a drink with Lizzie at Bugbrooke. Paused for a hot day under some trees near Milton Keynes. Had a diversion along the Wendover Arm for a night. Picked up extra crew, my old college friend Jen, for a day through Hemel Hempstead. Came across our first sightings of HS2 cutting it’s way across the landscape.

At Bulls Bridge we turned left onto the Paddington Arm. On our trip into London we came across our friends Pete and Clare on NB Billy, it turned out we’d be neighbours at Rembrandt Gardens for a few days. We arrived on time and the next day headed across London by bus to Hackney to see the London Leckenbys for the first time since Christmas 2019.

Plenty more family to catch up with. Kath came for lunch, we had a trip to Eastbourne to see Marion and John, a lovely lunch with Christine and Paul. So good to see everyone again and not just on a computer screen every Saturday.

Happy Birthday Big Brother

Andrew’s 60th Birthday was celebrated, nothing fancy just good to be able to be together for it, we’d achieved our second goal of the year.

We heard there was a space at St Pancras Cruising Club for a long boat like Oleanna, so we took advantage of a more secure mooring close to Kings Cross whilst we had a visit back to Scarborough. Checking on the house, lodgers changing over and seeing the latest Ayckbourn play with Bridget and Storm, it all made for a good weekend away. I then headed off to Huddersfield for a couple of days work with Dark Horse, fitting costumes for a photo shoot.

There was to be a Tideway cruise from St Pancras Cruising Club and with one space left we jumped at the opportunity. Ten boats made their way to Limehouse, we breasted up with NB Misty Blue, Graham turned out to be another Goole Escapee. Three lock-fulls of boats headed out onto the Tideway on the morning of 10th July, special permission had been sought to go under Hammersmith Bridge which was closed to all forms of traffic at the time.

Tilly thought we were mad taking her onto such rough water, I was a little perplexed too! Very glad that I was the official photographer, clinging on as we did more than bob up and down! Tower Bridge, The National Theatre, Christine, Adam, The Houses of Parliament, Battersea Power Station. So many sights, what an experience!

The further west we got the calmer the water got. We were glad when Hammersmith Bridge was passed as there had always been a chance that it might close to boat traffic at anytime due to safety reasons. We turned off at Brentford along with several other boats and continued up to Hanwell where we had a very sociable evening at The Fox with everyone. Thank you Simon for mentioning the cruise to us.

Sadly our washing machine hadn’t liked the lumpy water so for the next month we cruised meeting up with engineers on route hoping it could be mended. Back through London, pausing at St Pancras again. Then down to the Herford Union to cut across to the Lee and Stort. We had another mooring booked on the Lee awaiting our arrival, alongside NB Billy.

Then up the Lee and onto the River Stort. We’d only ventured so far up the Stort during our first winter on Lillian, this time we headed all the way to Bishop Stortford. Our return journey was held up slightly due to the river going into flood overnight so we had to wait for it to lower to get under the bridge at Roydon.

Back through London we made use of the new Eco-moorings near Islington Tunnel, a handy stop off with electricity. Here we met up with Nick an old friend from York and Adam called in for a catch up after working the breakfast shift at Radio 2.

Goodbye Christine!

At the end of July we pushed on and left London behind us, returning to Bulls Bridge.

We headed up to Uxbridge for cheap diesel and finally got our washing machine mended. We turned around and headed back to the Hanwell flight, stowed the garden back in the shower and headed out onto the Thames again where we turned right towards Oxford.

With a weeks license we couldn’t dawdle, although a broken lock gate at Boveney Lock did hold us up overnight so our license would be extended. A space was spotted below Cliveden so we treated ourselves to a night moored in the grounds of the big house. We paused for a socially distanced chat with Sue on No Problem XL, good to see her looking so well. Henley Regatta was almost ready as we passed through and our favourite mooring above Days Lock did not disappoint. All too soon we turned up Sheepwash Channel and ascended Isis Lock back onto the Oxford Canal.

Whilst in Oxford I managed an actual face to face meeting with Dash the Director for Chippy Panto. He seemed happy! Then we made our way up to Thrupp where we’d booked ourselves in at the cruising club for a few days whilst the London Leckenbys came to visit and we had a trip back to Scarborough and we got to see the show at Esk Valley for the first time since we’ve been living afloat.

I had a day trip to Chippy where I did a final model meeting over zoom from a dressing room, but also had chance to measure things up. Then we were off up the Oxford Canal, mooring in our favourite spots, it was a touch busier than it normally is in the winter.

A pause to visit Village Meats in Braunston and we spotted our old share boat NB Winding Down so we stopped to say hello. On up the flight sharing with a boat full of actors, then left up to Crick for the first time in ages.

A prearranged boaters meeting at Houdini’s Field worked brilliantly, NB Panda and NB Kamili convened and we all enjoyed each others company over a fantastic barbeque outside so everyone could feel safe and Tilly could roam about. Oleanna was treated to a very good wash and brush up before we were on our way again. We now needed to get her north before I started on Panto.

News came through that the breach on the Aire and Calder had been mended and nine months after the canal had sprung a leek it was mended and open again. Boats could now move through the area, mooring however is still restricted.

Following the Grand Union we headed down the Stockton Flight to Leamington Spa. Tilly and I had a few hot days on our own moored at Radford Smelly then we were on our way again. An obligatory burger at The Cape of Good Hope the night before we teamed up with NB Mad Hatter to ascend the Hatton flight. One day my old college friend Emma will not have an excuse to helping us up the flight, this time we met for a cuppa and a catch up the following day.

On up Knowle to Catherine de Barnes, then Camp Hill Locks, the Ashted flight and Tunnel (!) followed by Farmers Bridge into Birmingham. The city centre is still full of building and tram works but with the sun out it looked stunning. We also caught up with Paul Balmer from Waterway Routes before carrying on with our journey.

A night at Hawne Basin filled the diesel tank up. A night at Dudley Port Basin got the cupboards filled. A pause at Urban Moorings meant we could donate our deposits and the next day we descended from the Birmingham plateau down the Wolverhampton 21.

Along the Staffordshire and Worcester we managed to have a mid stream catch up with Barbara from NB Bessie Surtees. At Great Haywood I managed a catch up with Kay from NB Pea Green as she set up to trade for the day and Mick filled Oleanna’s water tank.

Heading north on the Trent and Mersey we pulled in for lunch and a surprise hello to Barry and Sandra from NB AreandAre whom we’d got to know last year in the first lockdown. In the afternoon we were joined by Bill and Lisa for a trip through Harecastle Tunnel. Now we swung off the Trent and Mersey and onto the Macclesfield with it’s wonderful bridges.

It would have been nice to take our time but we had a rendez vous to make. The end mooring at Marple was free and from here we headed into Manchester by train to join the London Leckenbys for a meal of big red fish. The following day my old school friend Morag joined us for a night on board with some serious catching up to be done.

Our next deadline loomed, Standedge Tunnel. We dropped down the Marple flight, crossed the aqueduct and turned right at Dukinfield Junction onto the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. We knew we were in for some hard work to climb our way over the Pennines, last time we’d enlisted crew to help as I was one handed. This time we’d be going solo. Apart from the very first lock it wasn’t too troublesome. The work is rewarded with stunning views.

Standedge Tunnel did not disappoint. Because of social distancing Mick got ride ride up front in the cratch leaving the helm to a C&RT volunteer. Bumps and scrapes made Oleanna wince along with us, but we all got through in one piece with no damage. Tilly wasn’t too happy about the trip, but at least I can now boast to the local cats in Scarboreugh that I’ve been through the longest deepest highest tunnel on the canal network whilst they just lazed around on their shed roofs!

On our way down the other side Oleanna had a belt that went taking out quite a few wires in the engine bay. RCR were sent for, the engineer suggested we’d need to remove a pulley on the alternator to be able to remove trapped wires, this could not happen where we were. We could move but the batteries would not charge. The only way to top up our electric was with the solar panels. Emergency power conservation went into operation, blogs were hand written, the freezer turned off and we gradually ate our way through our defrosting supplies. Every day Mick managed to pull more wire from the alternator and soon there was no need for an engineer again, just a new belt needed fitting.

We made our way down to Huddersfield and arrived the day before I had a production meeting at Dark Horse. After walking to my meeting I handed over the model and we stocked up on supplies before heading off east along the Huddersfield Broad Canal.

The Board locks are just that, but they are short. On Lillian we’d nearly got stuck here, but Oleanna was built a foot shorter so we knew we were fine, we still had to take great care in descending the locks diagonally. This continued on to the Calder and Hebble, taking our time and using our Hebble spike. The rebuilding work done at the Figure of Three locks, after flooding washed huge parts of the structure away, are only noticeable due to the new stonework.

Bigger locks were welcome, using the key of power once past Wakefield. The sun shone wonderfully for my last full days boating this year as we made our way to Castleford. Here we hired a car to get me down to Chipping Norton to start work on Panto whilst Mick and Tilly stayed on board with the plan to move Oleanna to a winter mooring in Thorne.

Whilst I painted the set working all the hours I could, Mick and Tilly gradually made their way eastwards. They passed through the breach site and headed to Goole to top up on diesel. On their way back towards the New Junction Canal the engine started to over heat, a problem that had happened a couple of years ago on the Thames.

The following day he winded and slowly made his way to Rawcliffe Bridge for easier access for RCR. Little could be done there and then, so Mick and Alastair (engineer) arranged to meet at Viking Marina in Goole. Oleanna managed the two and a half miles in three stages. After her cooling system had been flushed through the problem hadn’t gone away. The water pump was removed and was obviously the problem. A week later with a new pump Mick moved back out onto the cut and joined Lullabelle (a fellow Goole Escapee).

Taking a long weekend off panto, I headed up to join Mick and Tilly to help move them back to Scarborough. Wendy and Martin kept an eye on Oleanna for us whilst we settled Tilly back into the house, I knew where I was! Pah!!

Several days later with the weather on his side, Mick returned as early as he could, pushed off and single handed Oleanna back along the Aire and Calder to Sykehouse Junction where he turned onto the New Junction Canal. With swing and lift bridges to work he was glad of the assistance of a volunteer at Sykehouse Lock. Then the sharp turn at Bramwith onto the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigations. A few more bridges and two more locks before he arrived at Blue Water Marina, Oleanna’s winter mooring.

Tucked up for a rest

On our way back from Chippy a week or so later we called in to check on her. A boat in winter isn’t too friendly without the stove lit. We’ll have visits every now and then to check on her and do the odd job. The weeks are already flying by before we move back on board.

For a year that we’d decided would purely be about seeing our family and friends we ended up having quite an adventurous time. Trent Falls, the Tideway through London and Standedge Tunnel made it quite a year.

So our vital statistics for the year 2021 according to canal plan are

Total distance was 932 miles, ½ furlong and 627 locks . There were 42 moveable bridges of which 16 are usually left open; 169 small aqueducts or underbridges and 30 tunnels – a total of 19 miles 3 ¼ furlongs underground and 3 major aqueducts.

This was made up of 277 miles, 1 ¾ furlongs of narrow canals; 270 miles, 4 furlongs of broad canals; 89 miles, 4 ¼ furlongs of commercial waterways; 59 miles, 7 ¼ furlongs of small rivers; 121 miles, 5 furlongs of large rivers; 105 miles, 2 ¼ furlongs of tidal rivers; 8 miles of seaways; 263 narrow locks; 302 broad locks; 61 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.

Sadly with Oleanna’s log book where it should be, onboard, I’m not able to offer up the engine hours, litres of diesel, gas bottle or bags of coal. Maybe I’ll update this once we are back on board.

The Thames, 2021

This year we’ve done more miles than last, not bad considering we were on land for so much of it. We’ve done far more tidal miles than ever before and for the first time we’ve been on a Seaway! If someone can tell me what the difference is between Tidal waters and Seaways please do. Maybe it was around Trent Falls, or was it downstream of Tower Bridge?

As last year I hope the pandemic doesn’t throw a spanner in the works for us or anyone else. We need the theatrical world to still function with an income for me designing shows and lodgers paying to stay in our house.

I want to say ‘Keep well friends’, but I feel I need to add, ‘Get well soon friends’, as so many have tested positive recently. Thank you for following us and hope to see you soon x

Seven Meters. 10th August

Above Days Lock to above Sandford Lock

A lie in, waking to the sun streaming in through our bedroom porthole. Wonderful.

Lovely!

Sadly the clear blue sky didn’t last long, but at least today we wouldn’t get soaked.

We took our time in setting off, eating up some bacon was on the cards so this came accompanied by a few mushrooms and poached eggs, not a full breakfast so no photo today.

Good views from up there

The two miles to Clifton Lock has long back gardens coming down to the waters edge on one bank and meadow land on the other.

Along quite a stretch there were diggers with a constant procession of dumper trucks. There were too many for it to be a farmer improving drainage and every now and then we came across a culvert from the river. Is this land going to be built on? I’ve had a quick hunt around on line and it seems that there may be a development near to Little Wittenham, but without trawling through pages of stuff I’m unsure. I just hope the views from our mooring are not affected.

Clifton Hamden Bridge

Clifton Hamden Bridge is made of sturdy brick, when built it used to join Oxfordshire on the north bank to Berkshire on the southern, but in 1976 boundaries changed and Oxfordshire engulfed the south bank. The bridge replaced a ferry on the shallow reach of the river where it had been fordable to cattle and horses. But in 1826 on a ceremonial trip from Oxford to London, the Lord Mayor of London’s barge grounded in the shallows here. Weirs upstream had to be lifted to free the barge which was stuck for several hours. This led to the building of Clifton Lock in 1835 along with weirs which improved the depth, but this meant animals could no longer cross so the bridge was built in 1867 designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott.

Clifton Lock

The lock keeper saw us up Clifton Lock informing us about Whitchurch Lock and it’s broken collar, this was why there were so many Le Boats about, they’d all headed towards Oxford yesterday due to the closure. Looking at the lock gates you can see where recent flood levels have left their mark.

Now we were on the reach where Oleanna had engine troubles two years ago. The river was on yellow boards, stream decreasing. Oleanna was having to force her way upstream and her engine overheated, necessitating the need to lower the anchor shortly after the Appleford Railway Bridge. Link to the post. Today the flow is far less. Mick can now check the engine temperature without having to slide the rear hatch as he’s added a heat sensor to the engine. All seemed as it should be, I still opened the hatch to check the gauge, all good.

Pootling about

At Culham Lock we waited behind a hire boat to go up. The lock is 7′ 11” deep so takes a bit of filling, so we had a wait. Flapping of wings from across the canal from a pigeon who flapped it’s way not very well across the river dipping into the water and eventually landing on our gunnel. It wasn’t happy, maybe it’s wings had got a touch too wet. It made it’s way onto the lock landing and spent an age flapping it’s wings whilst crouching, maybe it was in pain. I considered trying to catch it but Oleanna wouldn’t be the best place for it under the beady eye of Tilly. It managed to fly back across the river into a tree. This is when we noticed what had caused the problem, a mink!

The pigeon managed to fly away, but it’s friend on another branch was very quickly grabbed by the mink, dragged down the trunk of the tree and taken out of sight, possibly into it’s burrow. It took no time at all. After about a minute or two the mink was back out looking for its next victim!

Up in the lock

The Lock Keeper squeezed us in behind the hire boat then brought in another narrowboat alongside. Ropes were adjusted on the hire boat in front, their ropes on the stern not really long enough for the job or depth of the lock. Extra turns round bollards and t-studs for the boat we were alongside, I think we had the best position for an easy ride up.

The queue above the lock was several deep, not enough lock layby for them all to tie to. Was this an early indicator of how busy Abingdon would be?

Once round the bend above the weir the other narrowboat overtook us, forging ahead to grab a space.

Picture postcard

Abingdon came into view, all picture postcard in the sunshine. We spotted only a couple of spaces we’d have tried to fit in, I suspect they wouldn’t be empty for long.

Abingdon Lock

We’d already been told at the previous lock that Richard the Abingdon Lock Keeper wouldn’t be there, he has been suffering from Long Covid for the last year. So I was all prepared to go and press buttons. However a voluntary volunteer (unofficial) was stood at the panel ready to help people through. He was very chatty and warned us of a sunken boat upstream and told tales of a widebeam taking 4 hours to fill their water tank from the tap above the lock.

Not far now

Down to a quarter of a tank we wanted a bit of water, a lady was just waiting for her tank to make the ‘boom I’m full’ noise so we waited, hose out claiming our position in the queue.

23ft long!

We were soon attached to the tap, not too much water going everywhere. Looking at the directions our hose would be too long (as would most hoses on narrowboats), but thankfully we still got water. The pressure here was similar to that at the bottom of Hillmorton. We decided we’d do half an hour and then let someone else have use of the tap, which meant we got to about half full.

Sunk

A pause for lunch and then onwards to Sandford Lock. After a visit to Abingdon from RCR in 2019 Mick had realised that the overheating hadn’t been solved. He kept to the edges of the river where the flow was less, meaning he could keep Oleanna’s revs as low as possible. Today the bollards below the lock were in view, last time I’d been here they were just peeking above flood water. Today I had to use a ladder to assist getting off Oleanna. Up at the lock I’d been beaten to the buttons by a young chap who was only just tall enough to reach the buttons, his Mum and Dad were waiting for the lock below too.

All went well until he hadn’t seen that we’d been joined by another small cruiser, so he started to close the gates as it was coming through. Plenty of shouting meant he removed his finger from the button stopping the gate, phew!

A good spot for a bbq

An Oleanna sized hole was waiting for us above the lock, just where we wanted to be for the day. What NO trees! The friendly cover’s a bit sparse too. I remember last time when there were six cats who ganged up against me. I’ve been patient all day for you to finally tie up a good outside and this is what you catch! Can we go back to yesterdays outside? Pleeease!!

It’s pants here!

With the sun still being out and a grassy mooring we got the barbecue out. Tilly was allowed to stay out with us for a while even though it was after dingding. I’m sure she just stayed out because it’s normally against the rules, not because she wanted to as she didn’t venture far!

4 locks, 12.09 miles, 1 lie in, 2 poached eggs, 1 squeeze, 1 volunteer volunteer, 30 minutes of water, 18m not 7m, 1 sunken boat, 1 meeting arranged, 2 out of 5 options for another, 2ft 6” lower, 1 button presser, 1 unimpressed cat, 4 veg kebabs, 2 salmon steaks, 1 pleasant evening.

PS The Selby Swing Bridge from the basin onto the canal was lifted out yesterday. It is being sent away to be mended, due back in 12 weeks time. So no stopping to press buttons for a while. Not sure where the temporary footbridge is though. Link to photo

Gravy And Stewed Cabbage. 6th August

Desborough Island to Boveney Lock Landing

Last nights mooring this morning

A saunter around the island, of course we noticed that there were spaces at the next mooring where we’d have let Tilly go ashore. That mooring is added to the ‘next time’ list. As we’re in transit we won’t be touching on the ‘next time’ list, we’ll just be adding to it.

A metal warrior stood guard over a garden, whilst a severe fencing kept people off off a lawn. A rather lovely roof line caught our eye, the room at the top of that fire escape would have fitted my teenage dream.

Joining back onto the main channel there was a sign in the middle, the river would be closed for a regatta today, good job there’s the alternate route. We arrived at Shepperton Lock before any Lock Keeper would be on duty, the blue Self Service sign displayed. No need for a Key of Power on the Thames, just patience as they can be slow to fill and empty.

Extra fencing has been added around locks to dissuade people from gathering too close. Signs ask for crew to stay on their boats and if a lock is on self service then only one crew member should go to operate it.

Pharaoh Island

At Pharaoh Island the house on the end looks to have new owners, it was on the market two years ago. A boat is moored round the back and a kids trampoline stands in the garden so that you can gongoozle at the passing boats whilst bouncing.

Chertsey Lock

At Chertsey Lock we were joined by a cruiser, the strong wind making it hard for them to manoeuvre. Oleanna has weight to her so she hunkers down on windy river days, so long as her speed has purpose she is fine. By now we’d remembered how to do the ropes on the Thames if I was acting as Lock Keeper. Positioning the bow rope on the roof and taking the boat hook with me I could then wrap the rope round a bollard to keep the bow in whilst heading away to press buttons, popping back to adjust it if needs be as the lock filled.

Today we spotted a couple of cruisers that have a different line from the usual. They have a hint of a barge to them, quite a pleasing shape and with colour to the cabin sides we decided we quite liked them.

More shapes and sizes as we cruised along.

Approaching Staines on Thames there are new static caravans being built with a difference. Some have roof terraces, others extensions that take them away from the standard oblong design, however the cheapest one will set you back £499,999! We preferred the older more characterful houses. Does anyone know what this tree is please, with fleshy leaves and large white flowers?

Just before Bell Weir Lock we ducked under the M25 for the last time.

Runnymede is already on our list for next time so no need to add it. Today we’d have found a nice mooring, although the road would be a touch too close for Tilly to go off exploring. Only one of the French Brothers trip boats was cruising today. Banners boasted of a refurbishment to Pink Champagne, but the pandemic looks to have put paid to that happening and the fake steamer sat below trees filled with chairs collecting tree sap and bird droppings.

Day boats increased in number the closer we got to Datchet as we skirted round Windsor Royal Park all immaculate as normal. The Queen won’t be short of mistletoe this Christmas, they just need a big cherry picker. Just through Victoria Bridge there are ground works going on. Big boulders and a crane was being put together. Maybe this will be a new rock garden for the Queen!

A side filler

At Romney Lock we were joined by a trip boat as we waited for the lock to empty. Two Lock Keepers attended to the button pushing whilst we inhaled the smell of gravy and stewed cabbage that was to be lunch on the trip boat for the OAPs. We wondered at what age does stewed cabbage become appealing?

I failed to throw my rope over a bollard and a Lockie came to assist. I requested he passed it round a second time which he didn’t seem too keen to do, but as it was a side filling lock he relented after I’d mentioned my failing grip. A second turn means less clinging on for dear life even in the gentler filling locks.

Out of the cut we popped out the view of Windsor Bridge where Eton meets Windsor and where as a child staying with my Aunt and Uncle we used to stand to hear Concord fly overhead, I’m sure we never heard the sonic boom but Uncle Peter swore he did!

Just how many swans! A fayre was set up on the Brocas, we decided we’d carry on, hoping the mooring we’d stayed at above Boveney Lock would be available. Liz wasn’t at home anyway for a cuppa, I suspect she doesn’t want visitors whilst the builders are about!

Only part of the queue

Blimey was that the queue for Boveney Lock ahead?! The full length of lock landing filled with boats. People were stood about, although not quite enough for it to be a queue. Two more things didn’t seem right. NB Zenith was one of the moored boats, the other thing was the narrowboat in front of them was just hanging up their washing on a whirligig. We pulled up closer and heard the news, the lock was broken!

That gate shouldn’t be at that angle!

The story goes that yesterday the Lock Keeper had reported one of the top gates was making an awful noise. By the end of the day the collar had broken and the gate sat at an odd angle. No-one would be going anywhere today other than in the opposite direction.

During the afternoon more boats arrived. The lock island already had boats moored on the other side and by the end of the day they were four abreast behind us.

It’s broken

The Lock Keepers came down to keep us informed. A crane was being brought in by road tomorrow morning, hopefully it was just a case of lifting the gate back into position and replacing the collar, which shouldn’t take too long. If they couldn’t mend it on Saturday it would be Monday. Fingers crossed for the morning.

The choice for what to have to eat this evening was somewhat taken out of my hands as a camembert cheese was starting to plot world domination from the fridge, it needed stopping.

This evenings mooring

PS Selby Swing Bridge is now open to boat traffic and through a Facebook fishing page on the Aire and Calder I have heard reports that the Eastern side of the cofferdam at the breach site has just about been removed. Fingers crossed for everyone still in Goole.

6 locks, 15.43 miles, 1 regatta, 2 self service locks, 0 Liz at home, 1 rock garden, M25, 10 portions stewed cabbage and gravy, 15 waiting below, 10 above, 1 part time boat cat, 1 smoked salmon and camembert quinoa crust quiche, 1 world saved by our tea.

https://goo.gl/maps/VH4KWM7NgBRxoFLg8