Category Archives: Shropshire Union Canal

2023 A Sociable Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t worry Tilly the count down has started.

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

So our vital statistics for 2023 according to Canalplan are

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

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

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

Although according to Nebo we did

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

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

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

You Have Reached Your Destination.


Nine weeks ago on the 9th May we moved back onboard Oleanna, leaving Goole on the 10th. Today we’d reached our planned destination, Lechlade.

The above map taken from data provided by our Victron Inverter

Our vital statistics for our trip down are as follows

Nebo 366.54 miles 270 locks

Canalplan 364 miles 1.25 furlongs 270 locks

Our Victron Inverter 403.5 miles (?)

Nebo’s map of our journey

Interesting how both maps have gaps in them, both in different places.

So,now where?

We need to make our way back northwards, currently there is only one route open to us, the River Trent.

Apologies to those who get their updates by email. You won’t be able to see the map from victron as it was embedded in the post. The IT department may see if he can replace this today, but you have already received the post, so you won’t be reading this bit anyway!

Margee Bargee. 12th June

Pendford Bridge 4 to Wolverhampton off side mooring, BCN

Today we allowed ourselves to have breakfast before pushing off, other boats that had moored near us had already moved on by the time we’d got ourselves ready. A pause in the long grass by bridge 2 for me to walk to Morrisons to pick up a bag of salad (we’d forgotten to buy yesterday!) and some blueberries.

Last of the Shropie locks for this year

The hire boats were in at base by Autherley Stop Lock, the staff working hard to do the turn arounds. This made it hard to get off Oleanna, crossing the stern of a boat and then managing to get round a cart of equipment required for engine services. Four inches higher and we’d finished our time on the Shropie.

Sorry Chester, maybe next year

Right please!

Then left! Onto the Wolverhampton flight.

Going up!

The bottom lock is always a photo opportunity. 21 carved into the two bottom beams. Up Oleanna came, on to the second lock, here only a single bottom gate, the only one on the flight.

By the time Oleanna was coming into Lock 19, our third of the flight, two figures could be seen walking down the towpath. Our altered schedule meant that we could give some more ex-boaters a canal fix, we like to do our bit for boaters mental health. Today we were being joined by Alison and Laura from NB Large Marge.

Here they come

We first met The Margees on the Chesterfield Canal when we couldn’t exit a lock just below Shireoaks Marina, we ended up cruising with them and their parrot Jaffa for quite a few weeks before our routes headed off in different directions. We’ve met up a few times since and when we’d been in touch a few days ago Alison had expressed an interest in helping us up Wolverhampton.

Windlasses at the ready

The last time we’d seen them we kept our distance, elbow bumps the new way of greeting each other in early 2020, today there were hugs all round before windlasses and hand cuff keys were handed out. A hire boat was hot on our tail, so we’d best get a move on!

Laura heading to set the next one

Leapfrogging of crew started quickly, two working the current lock, one heading upwards to set the next chamber, nobody having to go back and forth or walk round a lock several times.

Even Mick got to chat too

The hardest bit of today was trying to remember the two conversations you were having as you leapfrogged locks and people. There was plenty of news to catch up on, more than the annual Christmas round robin we share. Old hands make for easy locking just as had happened at Audlem with Carol and George.

Swapping in a pound

We met a boat coming down, apparently there had been a problem yesterday, a boat getting stuck in a lock, front button. They’d had to wait for C&RT to top up some pounds, so had had a delayed start to their descent. A while later we came across a second boat coming down.


All the way up the flight there had been wild flowers, but by lock 12 (possibly) the shear number of Oxeye Daisies was amazing. Wonderful, you’d hardly know you were heading into Wolverhampton.

Onwards and upwards

A pause at the half way mark for drinks before carrying on. Hydration important on a day like today.

Think we know where that water went!

Then a flooded pound, thankfully there was an alternative higher path so we didn’t all have to wade to the next lock. Two locks up we could see where the water had possibly come from, the next pound decidedly low. Someone had possibly been letting water run through the lock without realising. Laura headed up to the next lock to let water down, Mick bringing Oleanna along at a crawl. Once we were up that lock we dropped the water to help the hire boat behind us.

Coming in

Another low pound towards the top of the flight had us running more water down. The level was so low that Mick had to back into the lock so as not to be sat on the cill. The pound above had dropped so warranted a top up too, Laura was concerned that would just push the problem up hill, the next lock happened to be the top lock, so not a problem.

The ladies at work

We pulled out of the top lock 2 hours 42 minutes after we’d pulled in at the bottom lock, a job well done on a hot muggy day. The moorings above the lock were all free so we pulled onto one for lunch. A cold collation was enjoyed by all with plenty of drinks.

Top Lock

It was gone 3pm by the time we said our farewells, not enough time to really get anywhere so we pulled along to the offside moorings for the night. Tilly wasn’t impressed with this as she’s not allowed out here. She spent sometime working out a route up the plant covered wall. I could easily make it up there! But it’s the getting down again that would be the problem Tilly!

Todays crew

Another lovely day working locks in the company of friends.

Bye bye, until next time

Now who can we find for the next few flights?

If I get up to that bit, nudge across then it’s straight to the top!

22 locks, 4 miles, 1 right, 1 left, 2 margees, 0 jaffa, 3 downhill boats, 2 low pounds, 4 volunteers litter picking, 1 bag of salad, 3 cheeses, 2 meats, 1 pate, 4 chocolate chip cookies, 1 bored cat, 1 drizzly moment, 1 downpour again!

Fewer Distractions Please. 11th June

Cowley Double Road Bridge to Pendeford Bridge 4

What a lovely mooring shame we can’t stay

A slight change of schedule has increased the hours we need to cruise so an early start was needed. The alarm was set and after making a cuppa we pushed off a little after 7am with mugs in hand. There soon appeared a boat behind us, it felt as if we’d pushed out in front of them so Mick pulled over to let them past as soon as we reached the first straight.

I headed below aiming to spend much of the day model making. Being on the flat should make it easy to concentrate, yesterday this hadn’t proved to be the case as there were so many places I wanted to see. Today I had to do better!

I finished pieces for the hallway scenes and then got on with the additions for the Ugly Sisters boudoir scene for when they are getting ready for the ball or in this case the Carnaval.

Wheaton Aston waking up

We pootled onwards. After an hour and a half we’d reached Wheaton Aston. Diesel at Turners would have been 83.9p a litre, but sadly it being early and a Sunday meant they were closed, no top up today. Pigs on the far side of the winding hole already seemed to have had enough for the day, all covered in mud and very much horizontal.

The boat we’d let overtake us was waiting at the lock as another boat came down, the world waking up and being on the move. We were soon on our way up and heading along the next tree lined straight.

A message was sent to sisters, we were following a slow boat, we’d be late for the Geraghty zoom. Bouncy castles, flag poles and little crevice flowers featured today. At last it was time for breakfast, too hot for the full works but Mick made us both a bacon and mushroom butty to keep us going.

Messerschmitt and Hurricane?

As we pushed off again two old planes came circling overhead, a Messerschmitt and a Hurricane maybe, or a Spitfire, RAF Cosford air show today, maybe we’d see more planes. We pootled in towards Brewood timing our arrival very well to slot into a gap just before other boats arrived hoping to do the same. Have to say some of the boats there look like they have settled in nicely on the 2 day mooring!

You can go everywhere from Brewood

Shopping was required so we walked into the village to stock up on nice things for lunch. A sit down with a Sunday newspaper was requested by Mick before standing at the helm for a while longer today.

The temperature continued to rise as I headed into the rainforest and gardens of Cinderella. Rostra archways and the front cloth all getting attention.

Before we got too close to the urban areas around Autherley Junction we were wanting a mooring. Mick peeked over the hedge at the first possible candidate, far too risky for an enquiring feline mind, we carried on. Every now and then Mick would attempt to pull in, every time the Shropie shelf or silt would have other ideas. Running out of the rural setting we made do with a gap between us and the bank, no need for tyre fenders we were sat on the bottom.

You’d have thought after all these years of boating they’d be able to tie the outside up properly!

The Red Arrows gave us a display, a little bit too far away and looking towards the sun made it hard to see them. Several other planes went over head throughout the afternoon.

It’s too warm to be a cat

Blimey it got muggy, we’d thought of having a barbeque but with the bank being a gap away from the boat we decided against it, the defrosted salmon and a red pepper could be cooked onboard instead, just as the heavens opened and thunder rumbled over head. Rain bounced on the roof and came in through the bathroom mushroom vent, a little disconcerting being dripped on whilst brushing your teeth!

1 lock, 10.7 miles, 3 moorings, 3 cheeses, 2 meat, 1 pate, 2 scenes solved, 3 hours, 8 red arrows? 55meg, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Double Arches. 10th June

Tyrley Visitor Moorings to Cowley Double Road Bridge 31

One boat passed

Last to leave this morning, we followed on behind a while later. A short distance ahead Woodseaves Cutting, narrow and prone to land slips. You need to keep your speed down and enjoy being below masses of trees all clinging on for dear life. Last time we came along here it was March, it’s a very very different place in June. The large boulders that had sat on the towpath three years ago have been moved, somehow!

High bridges and sooo much green

It’s magical down in the depths of what feels like a rainforest, all the time you just hope no one will be coming in the opposite direction. The two boats we did meet we met at places where thankfully there was space to pass.

The Shropie was built with its locks in flights, then the canal maintains it’s height through cuttings and embankments. Mick enjoyed the views on the embankments and then the cool shade from the cuttings whilst I did my best not to get too distracted below and carry on with model making.

Subtle differences

It took quite a while to get a new version of the Town Square clock made, then I could move onto Cinderella’s house. Several scenes meld into one, so a hallway has to transform into a boudoir into a very lonely place. Sadly the archways I’d already cut out just didn’t do the job so a new set were drawn out on paper before being offered up in my model box.

I bobbed back up top as we came past Shebdon where NB Percy sits on her new mooring, one day we’ll get to meet Nev. A nice mooring with views.

Chatting away

A chap stood in a bridge hole chatting away to people on the offside. As Oleanna came through the bridge a lady shouted out ‘How did your panto go?’ It was Ann from NB Caspar whom we’d met last summer in St Ives (not the one in Cornwall) on the Great Ouse. We managed a short chat as we passed by then pulled in close to Anchor Bridge for some lunch.

Grub Street soon followed, another excuse to be up top. Was the lovely car still there? Yes. Could I take a slightly different photo of High Bridge with it’s telegraph pole? Not really. In amongst the friendly cover there was a shelter made from branches, the tarpaulin slipped under the weight of falling debris making it not that water proof.

Norbury Junction looking soo summery

At Norbury Junction we pulled in so that Mick could visit the chandlery whilst we topped up on water. At last we had a float switch! That will keep Mick busy on a day when we’re not moving.

Just a small section of the mooring

More work, more excuses to look out of the hatch at Gnosall. We passed an oncoming boat in the narrow section whilst passing the mooring with Soo much stuff that entertains the eye as you pass.

Improved Town Square

We were now on the look out for a suitable mooring possibly for a barbeque this evening. We soon found one between bridges 31 and 30. Here we could get in to the side, a wide towpath, the long grass having been flattened by previous boaters. Perfect.

Well until you looked up at the sky! The wind was picking up and dark dark clouds were coming overhead. Maybe they’d just pass us by, I made some burgers and rested them in the fridge just as the heavens opened, we’d be cooking them inside tonight. The rain didn’t bother Tilly too much, but she soon returned home after some loud claps of thunder.

0 locks, 13.1 miles, 1 straight on, 2 many distractions, 1 clock, 2 arches, 1 hot humid day, 1 Great Ouse boat, 1 blogging boat, 1 busy pub, 2 wet for a barbeque, 1 soggy moggy.

Yarn Bombing. 9th June

Coxbank Visitor Moorings to Tyrley Visitor Moorings

Boats were coming up the locks behind us before we’d really got ourselves together. A couple pulled up in front of us pausing for breakfast, they had just come up the thick of the flight.

Almost to the top of Audlem

Two more of the Audlem flight to do, both had boats coming down and one arriving as we left making working them very easy. At the bottom of the two a lady walked up and chatted away, in her hand was a bag of crocheted flowers, she was a yarn bomber. This morning she’d checked she’d have enough flowers for each lock they’d pass through, crocheting keeps her arthritic hands moving.

By the top lock the cake stall was just being replenished for the day. A fantastic assortment of cakes then two small fridges one filled with pork pies and pasties. Mick had the required £3 for a pie, fresh from the bakers this morning the lady said as she brought out paper carrier bags filled with scones for cream teas.

Just restocked for the day

We decided to get the remaining lock flights done today, Adderley and Tyrley, leaving only Wheaton Aston and Autherley Stop Locks to do, so I’d be able to get on with panto again tomorrow.

Soon Adderley came into view, would we be so lucky here with boats coming down? After all the busyness of Audlem yesterday and this morning it suddenly felt as if we were the only boat in the world. Most chambers were empty, apart from one that had filled itself back up.

Not too supportive as a handrail

Into our rhythm of uphill narrow locks. I’d set the lock filling, wait until the boat was high enough for Mick to step off before walking up to the next lock to empty it and open the gates. Most of these locks I used to be able to kick/push open the bottom gates, reducing the number of times I’d have to walk round. However the handrail I’d need to grab onto to push the off side gate open was loose, unsecured at one end, unsafe for me to rely on it. I walked round. The next lock the gates were a touch too heavy, after recent back and calf muscle aches I decided I’d walk round this one too!

We pootled on to Market Drayton a mooring just after the water points gave us somewhere to stop for lunch out of the sunshine with a view of Betton Mill, THAT building where we’d talked at length to our first boat builders. Such a shame the building doesn’t seem to be used for anything.

Obligatory photo

Once fed and watered we were on our way again, entering the shaded cutting leading up to Tyrley Locks. Mick held back away from the most forceful of bywashes possibly on the Shropie whilst I walked up ahead and opened the bottom gates. A boat could be seen entering the third lock up, the second one in our favour.

Normally going up such locks, I go ahead to set the next chamber leaving Mick to close up behind, but this is not recommended at the bottom lock as there is a stone shelf lurking under the cloudy water. I opened the lock ahead and walked back to close the top gate behind us, much better than getting stuck on that shelf with the bywash sucking the boat towards it and the pressure of water coming down from above doing it’s best to push you further on it as well! All I need to say is, you really don’t want to be in that situation!

We met a couple of hire boats coming down and we were soon at the top of the flight.

Tyrley Wharf

The lovely buildings at Tyrley Wharf were lit wonderfully in the sunshine. The new owner of the end building owns the winding hole here, it’s one of those things on the Shropie. Over the last couple of months he has caused a lot of comments on social media as he won’t allow winding in his winding hole. First a sign went up. Then he positioned his boat in such a way to make it hard to wind and now there is also a rope across it. He is entitled to do this, but is really not making himself popular with other boaters. Rumours are that he also isn’t too keen on the locks being used after 5pm! Given time things will change, we hope.

Pulling in onto the visitor moorings the unwashed side of Oleanna presented itself. Oh dear!!! What a filthy boat. I set to with cloth bucket and water. Sadly this side was the side that got most of the sun when Oleanna was stranded in Goole during the Aire and Calder breach. The paint needs more than just a wash. To me that is a boy job, to Mick that is a job that should be put off for as long as humanly possible!

12 locks, 6.7 miles, 1 yarn bomber, 5 flowers, 1 empty workshop, 1 upside down 48hr mooring, 3 hours shore leave, 1 better cabin side, 1 bottle of polish sat collecting dust, 1 panto digs sorted.

Talking Of Palins. 8th June

Burrow’s Bridge 85 to Coxbank Visitor Moorings

On the move just before 10am another chilly start but the potential to be a lovely day. As we pootled along the rest of the pound towards the bottom of Audlem I gave the inside of Oleanna a bit of a tidy up. My work things tend to get sprawled out over a few days of work, they needed to be confined back in their boxes. With this done I was back up top shortly before we arrived at the bottom of the locks.

Sorry not the best photo

The bottom lock was just being emptied as two figures both holding windlasses walked beneath the bridge. A wave from us received a wave back, perfect timing all round.

Today we were being joined by two very experienced boaters, Carol and George. The Palins owned and lived on NB Rock ‘n Roll for seven years, then they upgraded to WB Still Rockin’ both built to their spec. WB Still Rockin’ was sold two and a half years ago when they decided to retire from the waterways, buying a house close to Audlem, so they could still get a regular canal fix. It would have been very rude not to get in touch with them.

Passing a water point at Audlem

I have only briefly met them both in passing, but Mick spent a couple of days in their company when the Thames was on red boards in October 2019 at Goring. Both boats eventually got to their destinations that year, battling up and downstream.

Up to the Shropie Fly

The original plan had been to climb the first few locks, fill with water and then head for an early lunch at the Shopie Fly. But with such efficient crew we were very quickly up the first three locks and breasting up against a hire boat to await the water point.

It didn’t take long for the hire boat to fill, the chaps had headed into the pub to get a half of Landlord each. So we helped the lady pull the hire boat out from the inside so that we’d be able to reach the tap easier. The elder of the chaps was on two walking sticks and was a bit concerned at getting back on board the boat, the crew had managed to help him on board so far but the bank was that bit lower, making the step up too high for the man to be confident.

We held the boat steady then someone came up with the idea of standing on the gunnel to dip the side of the boat lower. This almost worked, some rockin’ was required along with good timing and the chap was soon back on board safely.

That bywash can get fiercer than that

Our tank took that bit longer to fill, but we were soon heading up to the next lock behind another boat. Plenty of boats to help up and down. The one in front of us had obviously never been up Audlem before. Their approach was very candid, the lady hopping off the gunnel as the chap slowed the boat right down for her to do so as the bywash thundered down pushing them hard against the bank. Planks have been positioned so that boats don’t get totally stuck and not be able to pull out towards the lock. The lady pushed the bow out all the time her boat getting further away from the bank. All I could think was that if she fell in right now I hoped she’d be behind the plank. Thankfully she didn’t fall in and all was well in the end.

Here Oleanna comes

Next up was Mick who gave Oleanna some wellie, a couple of bumps heading in, but no chance of getting pinned to the bank, just a big burst of reverse to bring Oleanna to a stop before meeting with the top of the lock.

Very experienced crew, Carol and George

As it was still quite early we decided to carry on up the flight, boats were coming down and it was worth making use of empty lock chambers. George or I would walk up to the next lock to open gates (if they hadn’t been left by a downhill boat) and Carol would open a paddle at the top to start the fill. We were a well oiled machine working up the locks, a bit slow at opening the gates at times because we were too busy chatting.

Walking ahead you get a good view back down the flight

We were soon up the main flight of locks and decided to leave the last two for tomorrow.

Carol and George invited us back to their house for a late lunch, their car was parked just by the last bridge. So much to Tilly’s disgust we headed off for the afternoon for more chatting. Having read each others blogs for years we already felt like we knew each other. Then there was news of other bloggers, who don’t post so much anymore. There was so much to talk about my camera didn’t come out again.

Nearly at the top

Their house has all that they need. Plenty of garden with fields stretching out behind and a hut where we sat to have lunch. Views and the equivalent of the stern deck with pram cover of WB Still Rockin’.

Last lock of the day

George gave us a lift back to Oleanna late afternoon and Tilly was allowed ninety minutes of shore leave, meaning we could leave all the doors and hatches open to get a nice breeze through the boat.

Hmm, today’s outside went that way!

What a lovely day. Thank you for your lock wheeling and your hospitality, if there’s any chance of the recipe for the sticky pork Carol, that was yum.

13 locks, 3.9 miles, 2 extra windlasses, 1 full water tank, 1 immaculate bin compound, 1 lovely house, 1 lovely day.

Returning Home. 7th June

Morris Bridge 15 to Burrow’s Bridge 85, Shropshire Union Canal

Two boats had already gone past us by the time we were on the move this morning, well our first lock would be Minshull Lock more commonly known on Oleanna as the Queuing Lock. However both boats seemed to have pulled over, one for a comfort break for their dog the other to explore Yankee Candles. Would this mean we’d be first to the lock?

Some of the moorings on the Middlewich Branch are lovely, big views across rolling fields, the prime spots taken, but still plenty of room.

Aqueduct Marina

Aqueduct Marina, where we once spent a week iced in on NB Winding Down, we also picked her up there once in thick fog after she’d been blacked, we only made it out onto the canal that day.

What! No queue

No boats in the queue! Hooray!! Just one coming down to help. Soon we were joined below by two more boats, we were the front of the queue. It can be quite a wait as the lock is really quite deep.

NB Merlin moored at the barbecue mooring

Onwards we pootled, plenty of space at the barbecue mooring before Venetian, in fact just one hire boat NB Merlin, do Ian and Irene from NB Free Spirit still own her?

Cholmondeston Lock ahead

Now we were being transported back three years. This is where on the 22nd March 2020 we moored up for the night, slotting in between boats, laughing at a chap who was obviously coughing on purpose to avoid having anyone too close! The following morning we woke with a feeling that maybe we should retrace our steps and go back up Cholmondeston Lock as we had no idea what was ahead. That evening was when lockdown was announced.

Coming up onto the ‘Home’ pound

Today two volunteers helped at the lock which had been our last ascent before lockdown on 23rd March, and our first descent on 10th June when we had to start moving again. It’s been three years since we’ve been on the Nantwich pound, it felt quite odd to be back.

Lockdown Mooring 1

Where boats had been moored for weeks on end there was a queue for the lock. Venetian Marina was one of the places you could get parcels sent to, the very helpful lady there taking in Mick’s birthday present. Soon we passed what we called Lockdown Mooring 1, where we’d stayed for the first few days before we needed to fill with water. It hadn’t been an ideal place to be, a narrow towpath when everyone was doing their best to keep a minimum of 2 meters.

Barbridge Junction

More boats headed towards us at Barbridge Junction two came under the wide arched bridge, the way ahead was clear for us then. Here we turned left towards Nantwich and the south. Some familiar boats still on their moorings, others that had been abandoned for months now gone.

The fairies used to live at the bottom of this garden.

The pretty garden with flag flying high and a ramp for ducks. A wind sock? When and why? I waited patiently to see how the fairies were doing at the bottom of a garden, sadly their toadstool house now grown over with plenty of dead plants. Sad. The boat that had a repaint during lockdown still looks as fresh as it did three years ago.

No scrabble boaters hauling water down the hill

The white posts in the banks of Hurleston Reservoir, are there more than there were when we were in residence? ‘No mooring’ signs now sit at the bottom of the embankment, this had been where several boats had sought refuge away from the increased number of towpath users. No Scrabble boat, or the chap who was signwriting his boat, he’d also designed the yellow bicycle that we’d bought when in Hebden Bridge for the Tour de France back in 2014. Neighbours we just started to get to know towards the end of lockdown when our personal parameters were all clearly drawn.

Hurleston Junction sign post

A couple sat on the bench at the junction. The last people we’d seen sat there had been the owners of NB Somona, a Finesse boat that followed Oleanna out of their workshop. No sign of the testosterone filled pheasants on the bridge. Sadly no wheelie shoppers either, I so wonder who?what?why?

To our great surprise ‘Home’ only had a couple of boats moored on it. Normally this mooring is filled to the brim, yet back in 2020 this became where we moored for most of our time. Sharing it with passing boaters heading for water/shops/diesel. Our spot straight in front of the big gap in the hedge was free, we were tempted to stop for lunch. The field this year is just grass, no crop to watch grow. A good wide towpath where we could sit out, have barbecues and wonder just how far Tilly had managed to venture each day. We carried on.

Past the Flag Bubble mooring, their wide sitting out area overgrown now. No potatoes in the field opposite. Was this the cow that fell into the canal and gave us all an exciting day! The Lapwing mooring, the bus and Lamas, the horses who were always a bit frisky!

Coming into Nantwich we wondered if one boat had been moored in the same spot for three years on the one day mooring. We slotted in at the end of the embankment moorings where we’d been for the Beast from the East. Gosh this pound holds a lot of memories.

I love these almshouses

Lunch first then we both headed out. Mick to see if the chandlers had a float switch for the bilge pump, sadly not. They could order one, it would be here in two days, however we wouldn’t. I walked into town, far busier than when I’d last visited, no lines of queues for the essential shops either. Unfortunately WH Smiths didn’t have any mountboard. The lady suggested there might be an art shop up the street opposite, but the only interesting shop I found was a cheese shop, worth a visit next time.

I tried a picture framers shop, he could sell me some Conservation Mount but it would be £15! I could get a sheet twice the size I need with delivery for £10, he was trying to make an extra fiver. I decided to manage with what I have until I know where I’ll be able to buy some at half the price.

Nantwich Embankment needs some care to walk on. The bank is subsiding somewhat, the path drops by about six inches in parts, quite alarming. C&RT are keeping an eye on it, safe solutions as their signs suggest are hard to come by. A few more miles to do before we could pull up for the day. We checked the look of the stop gates at the next bridge hole, they looked like they’d help hold water back should anything happen at the embankment.

The last lockdown mooring was passed just below Hack Green locks. We only ventured out here once lockdown restrictions had started to be lifted, getting a feel for moving again before we had to start heading our way back towards Yorkshire and the house.

Hack Green

The lock was in our favour so we held up a hire boat with at least six chaps and their twenty or so empty bottles on the roof. Going up the second lock of Hack Green I had the assistance of a boat mover who’d stopped to have a bowl of ice cream, he was making the most of being on a boat with a working freezer, good man.

Hack Green top lock

Now we’d left the Nantwich pound. Today we’d spent 5 hours 13 minutes on our ‘Home’ pound, three years ago we spent 80 days. As Mick said, Michael Palin went round the world in 80 days! We pulled up a short distance further on, Tilly was given 1hour 30 minutes which ended up being extended.

Oleanna has been looking very grubby since we left Goole, so Mick suggested that maybe we could give her a wash. As he’d offered to help I put an hours worth of work on hold to take him up on it. Between the two of us the roof was given a very good wash, then the port side got a good going over. Drying her off in the shade meant I couldn’t quite see what the end result was going to be, hopefully a lot better than when we’d started, let’s face it she couldn’t be any worse!

Tilly enjoyed most of her extra towpath time, that was until the complaining Magpies contained one bird who simply wasn’t going to put up with her any longer. Tilly came running back to the boat all bushy tailed with a swooping Magpie close behind her. The second time this happened we decided it was her dingding time.

A strangely emotional day for us being back in Nantwich and reliving the days we spent here in lockdown. Perhaps it was good that we were only passing through, perhaps ‘next time’ we’ll stay longer and see if we get to spot the Wheelie Shoppers again.

4 locks, 12 miles, 1 left, 2 many memories, 5 hours 13 minutes, 80 days, 1 slipping embankment, 2 failed shopping missions, 0.5 day closing, 0 pies! 1 possible new digs, 0 wheelie shoppers.

Adjusting The Squelch. 7th April

*This post was superseded by A Glimmer Of Hope yesterday*

Panto spiky trees

Whilst waiting for news regarding the breach and possible escape from Goole we’ve not been idle. Well I say we, but in regards to boaty things Mick has been the busy one whilst I’ve been working painting my panto model.

Town Square buildings

On our last visit to Oleanna we brought back the life jackets. These were in need of a service, in fact a year overdue. Last time we paid for them to be checked over to much consternation from readers. This time Mick followed instructions on Youtube.

He checked for any damage, wear and tear. Weighed the gas bottles. Checked the dates on the firing mechanisms. Blew the whistles. Inflated them and left them overnight (well a couple of days) to check they remained inflated.

New firing mechanisms

A couple of the firing mechanisms had a few months left on them and Mick had broken one of the clips that is used to indicate that a firing mechanism has been manually fired. The green clip obviously needed replacing so it was worth getting a couple of new mechanisms.

When they arrived the oldest dated mechanisms were swapped out for the newest and put into the jackets we use the most, these will last us till 2024. The middle aged ones were put in our two spare jackets, these will last till December 2022. The oldest ones we are keeping as spares and run out in February 2022.

All rolled and folded how it should be

The next job was to fold and roll the jackets back up into the covers. This is possibly the hardest part of the servicing. But they are all done and in the crate ready to be returned to Oleanna on our next visit.

Next was the VHF radio. We bought our hand held radio a few years ago and use it to listen in to the big ships around Goole and when we are on tidal waters. You should have your radio licenced and have completed a course to use it. Mick has been meaning to do the course for a number of years but had never got round to it, I suspect like many others. My sister-in-law had looked into it for his birthday last year, but it was going to cost too much.

With the only way out of Goole for the next few months being through the docks to Ocean Lock and down onto the tidal Ouse (when/if ABP allow leisure craft), we have decided the cost of the VHF course and test would be worth doing. ABP normally require leisure boats to have two crew, life jackets and a VHF radio. Should the chance arise to be able to pen down onto the Ouse we’d rather meet all the criteria.

Tilly assisting with panto

The RYA VHF/SRC (Short Range Certificate) Marine Radio Course can be done online for £75. Then the test costs £60 on top. Mick contacted Scarborough Yacht Club to see if they were running the courses and test. This was possible, although the test would have to wait until after April 12th and would be done on a one to one basis at the Yacht Club at Scarborough lighthouse.

Handbook included in the course

Once the course fee was paid a chap popped the handbook through our front door the following day and Mick was ready to do the course. The course takes around 10 hours and Mick has worked his way through doing all the modules in the last week. Before he books for the exam I’m going to look at the course too. Should we be in an emergency situation and Mick not be able to use the radio, I would at least know what to do.

Once the exam is passed Oleanna and her crew will meet all the criteria that ABP require, if this also means that we can cruise as a flotilla with other boats who haven’t got VHF all the better.

*Sadly later in the day Mick received an email saying that as Scarborough Yacht Club building would remain closed until 17th May, exams would not be possible until after that date.

A few days ago marked our 7th anniversary of being boat owners. Today marks our 4th anniversary of the three of us moving onboard Oleanna in Sheffield. So I’d best do a Where Were We

Where were we

2020 Lockdown Mooring 3, Calveley, Shropshire Union Canal. LINK

2019 Above Lemonroyd Lock, Aire and Calder Navigation. LINK

2018 Stourport, Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal and Beverley. LINK

2017 Victoria Basin, Sheffield and Tinsley Canal and Crick Marina, Leicester Line. LINK

2016 Bulbourne Junction, Grand Union Canal. LINK

2015 Kingswood Junction, Stratford Canal. LINK

2014 Bugbrooke, Grand Union Canal. Sorry no link, we were on too much of a mission to write a blog. But we did get Lillian off the River Nene where her EA licence had run out and up the Northampton Flight, her first narrow locks.

A touch more panto

Spare Tyres. 26th March

Our girths may have increased during the lockdowns of the last year, but this post is not about that type of tyre! It is about tyre fenders.


Back in 2016 when we moored at Kings Marina in Newark for the winter, we visited the Boat Jumble sale at Newark show ground. Not everything at a boat jumble sale is second hand, I believe we bought some new rope. But what we did find on one stall was a couple of wheelbarrow wheels, the perfect thing for mooring on the Shropie where the underwater shelf can be a nuisance. Local boats all have tyres on their roofs and we’d been wanting a pair for a while.

When they were new to us

At £6 for the pair of wheels this was a bargain. They have served us well through the years since then. They have deflated at times, been repaired every now and again, but it was time to give them some serious tlc, the rubber now perishing at quite a rate.

A touch faded and the rubber perishing

Mick found a company on line who had the right size of tyre and inner tube. Tyre and Tube . Not as cheep as the originals had been, but worth it.

So on a sunny day last week Mick laid the new tyres and old wheels out on the wall in the sun, hoping to make the job easier by warming up the rubber. It helped a bit, but was still a struggle.

All ready for cruising again

But now, all pumped back up, we have two new tyre fenders. We just need to be able to go cruising to be able to use them.

However instead we’ve got ourselves a ticket for the Virtual Crick Boat Show. It’s free. There are boats on show, Crick Radio (playing songs from headline acts of years gone by), relaxation videos, Narrowboat video Channel with Andy Tidy offering history of the waterways, boat sales, chandlers all the usual stuff you find at Crick. However you won’t need to queue for refreshments and they will be considerably cheaper.

We’d been hoping to go to the show this year as we’ve not been for a number of years. At the moment there is a possibility the show will run later this year, but for now the on-line version will have to do. If you do go, don’t forget to vote for your favourite boat.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 new tyre fenders.