Category Archives: Separate Doors

2019 Round Up.

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

Anyhow, here is our round up of the year.

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

Going down at Foxton

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

Waiting at Cromwell

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

First go at Gluten free puff pastry for cruising sausage rolls

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

Cosy heads

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

New galley window going in
200 years old

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

Bridget and Storm with their lovely house

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

Mark came to meet us from York

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

Derby Crown Court

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

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

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

Tuel Lane the deepest on the network

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

Mr Blue Sky and Oleanna

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

Nearly there!

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

Climbing the Cheshire Locks

A pause in the Cheshire Locks meant we got to meet up with Tom and Jan who were over for a visit. For Micks birthday we moored at Barlaston and had a nosy at the wonderful hall on the hill, our plan still stands if any of our family are interested!

Tom and Jan

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

Tixall Wide

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

Busy Braunston Locks

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

Yummy yarn

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

Sharing the locks with Tyseley

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

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

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

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

Up onto the Wey

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


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

Furthest South

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

Hampton Court Palace

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

Waterway Routes
No Problem XL

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

Kelmscott Manor

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

At the end of the navigable Thames

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

Isis lock, Oxford

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

Lovely chaps

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

Gangplank land, the K&A

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

Over the summit

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

The photo of the year, Devizes

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

In good company
Old school friends

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


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


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

Tilly enjoying the big trees

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

A Regular Little Houdini

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

Photo courtesy of Carol WB Still Rockin

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

A calm paws on the Thames at Sandford

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


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

Lakes not meadows

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


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


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

Our final visitors of 2019

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

Narnia Lock our last for the year

Quite a busy year. So our vital statistics for 2019

According to Canalplan

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

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

838.2 engine hours

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

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

Thank you for sharing our year with us.

Just Where We Left Her. 9th December

Cropredy Marina

The lovely Ziggy

It was time to pack our bags this morning and hope we’d enough room for all the presents and post. Everything had fitted into our wheelie bag on the way to London, but going back we needed an extra bag, good job we’d brought one with us. It’s a nice problem to have returning with more than you arrived with, this of course is helped by my birthday falling on the 25th December.

Fatty Finn refusing to leave his box unless there is food about

An early farewell to Josh as he headed to school before 8am. At 10:30 it was time to wake Finn up from his box, Ziggy only slightly jealous of her brothers reign of the cardboard. Then goodbye and thank you to Andrew and Jac for their hospitality once again.

The No 30 bus moved faster on a Monday morning so we’d left ourselves plenty of time to sit at Marylebone Station listening to the foreign announcements about Bicester Village, now a destination for tourists to do duty free shopping.

Knitting and adapted pattern

On the train my knitting came back out and grew nicely, up to the point where the thumb was ready to be knitted using the ‘magic loop’ technique. We were soon back in Banbury and in a taxi back to the marina.

Tilly when we ‘d left

When we’d left on Saturday Tilly had been sat in our bedroom window, there she was still, just facing the opposite direction. Big cuddles and head nudges. Her magic food bowl had worked and opened, every morsel consumed, the large mountain of biscuits also had had a good chunk taken out of them. The heating was raised and we settled down to lunch.

Tilly when we stepped out of the cab today

With the stove out, Mick gave the chimney a good sweep, then hoovered the stove out and put the brand new glass in the door, an early Christmas present for Oleanna. The old glass has been wrapped up and stored under the stove should we need a spare in the future.

Chimney Sweep
Clean clear new glass, lovely

Unpacking and more washing took up the rest of the day with Tilly coming and going.

In the post I’d received a copy of The Separate Doors 3 Report that I was involved with earlier this year. Have to say my sketches and illustrations have come out very well and I am particularly proud of the front cover. Thank you Vanessa for asking me to be part of it.

The front cover

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 train, 1 taxi, 3 cats in one day, 1 very pleased to see us, 1 load washing, 1 load dried, 1 chimney swept, 1 boat hoovered, 1 corner missed, 0.5 inches too big? 1 very big bag of presents ready to sit under the tree, when we bring it in.

Debbie Does Pinot or Potato Salad. 5th June


Our mooring was chosen for it’s proximity to the station. We had tickets booked to head to London for the day. Tilly was left in charge of the boat with an extra scoop of biscuits.

The walk to the station took us along the towpath, then down off the embankment and along a footpath before joining roads that led to the station. The station sits high above the roads, we spotted some steps that looked like they would lead us up to platform height. Except these steps just led up to the car park! We then spotted more steps that looked like they continued from the car park, so we climbed them. These did take us up and over the viaduct to the other side of the road we’d just walked along then down to the underpass to the the station. At least all these stairs increased our steps for the day!

I headed off to catch my train first, I’d opted for a slower train via Long Buckby, Bletchley etc to London, this was £6 cheaper than the faster trains one of which Mick had opted for ( he has an old foggie card and it was my idea to go to London in the first place).

BT Tower

My train arrived with an hour spare before my appointment so I got some lunch crossed over Euston Road and sat down in Gordon Square in the sun. Then a short walk around the corner to RADA. In February I’d been an observer at a Separate Doors 3 masterclass in Huddersfield making sketches for the report that will follow. Today there was to be a forum ‘Integrated Theatre featuring actors with learning disabilities, the will AND the way?’

One of my sketches

Over the last seven or so years I have designed a couple of plays with Vanessa Brooks and Dark Horse Theatre Company. I have also attended workshops and participated in the ‘Silent Approach’ a technique where all participants in the room are on a level playing field, a very inclusive method of working.

Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

Today the forum was attended by around seventy individuals ranging from Directors, Actors, Producers, Academics, Writers, a Composer and one Designer, me. Introductions were given by Geoff Bullen from RADA and Vanessa Brooks which were followed by three panels which discussed different aspects of integrated theatre.

Much has changed in the last few years, parts in television for learning disabled actors have started to branch out from just medical dramas. Next month the National Theatre will produce Jellyfish by Ben Weatherill with two leading learning disabled actors, more integrated pieces are starting to be produced around the country.

Physically disabled actors have a voice, funding has veered towards companies in that sector. Where as learning disabled actors often don’t have a voice of their own, not one that can be heard or understood by all, so others are speaking out for them. Those in the room today already support the sector, but the room needs to expand and loose it’s walls for the message of such talented actors to spread.

Todays programme

I live my life on a narrowboat away from most of my previous life of show after show after show. At times I have felt as though I have left that world behind and now live a separate existence at 3mph. But on days like today I feel included, my voice as equal as the next, If you look past the windlass and the muddy jeans there is still a Designer beneath. Possibly more confident in myself because of my time away. However I still can’t make my mind up quite how to paint my panto model!

It was lovely to see a lot of familiar faces today, one of which was Mick’s sister Kath. She was at the forum representing The National Theatre and we’d arranged to meet afterwards for a catch up. We walked to Euston to meet up with Mick. He’d also had a busy afternoon, having met up with a friend who is over from Australia and then popping over to Hackney to pick up our post.

Well it had to be tried!
Post at last

A nice meal was had at Cafe Rouge followed by beer and a glass of Debbie Does Pinot in a pub just across the way from the station. A nice catch up with Kath, who hopefully we’ll get to see again in a few weeks when we reach London by boat.

Our train back was a speedy one. But as we neared Milton Keynes the train slowed and made an unscheduled stop. A fault had occurred with the train meaning it could no longer head northwards. The next London bound train pulled up and the passengers from both trains swapped. Our train would return to London, Mick thinks it maybe had a cracked windscreen, whilst our new train would now head northwards. Only a slight bit of confusion as everything on our new train suggested it was still going to London, at least it exited the station in the tight direction.

The delay luckily had been only half an hour, Tilly was hungry, very hungry on our return.

0 locks, 0 miles, 7 trains (1 broken), 2 tubes, 26 bus, 1 sock almost finished, 70 forum attendees, 1 potato salad analogy, 15 known, 60 seconds avoided, 1 sister-out-law, 2 burgers, 1 salmon steak, 1 cat home alone, even Tom Tom didn’t come to see me!