Tipton Medical Centre to Off Side mooring Wolverhampton
Ice!!! That hadn’t been factored into the plan for today!
The alarm had been set, a full days cruise ahead of us, but we woke to Coots ice skating outside the boat. After breakfast Mick went to see how thick it was with a boat hook, too thick. Oh well, stand down everyone.
One job today was buying filters for the next engine service. So instead of picking them up as we cruised past Oxley Marine, Mick caught a train then a bus down to Autherley Junction just in case the boatyard there is closed tomorrow. The chaps said that they were always there and furnished Mick with all he wanted before returning back up to the Wolverhampton Level.
Not only did he return with filters but with news that at 132ft lower there was no ice, there was also no ice in Wolverhampton. By now the sun had worked it’s magic and melted the ice in Tipton too.
So after lunch we pushed off to get ourselves to the top of the locks ready for the morning. With a bit more time on our hands than originally planned we were disappointed that it was too late on a Friday to turn down the Bradley Arm. The C&RT Bradley Workshops are at the end there and needs to be open to provide enough room to wind, Fridays they knock off at 3pm, we wouldn’t get there in time. So that is one thing left on the list for next time.
The sun was out, warming everything. Bright blue skies, such a shame not to make the most of it going down the locks, but that’s boating for you.
Coseley Tunnel dripped at the northern end, buildings were being built. We tried to remember what this stretch was like when we first did it on NB Winding Down. Far more derelict factories and warehouses then.
At Horseley Fields Junction we looked out for the old entrance to what is now Urban Moorings, a bricked up archway must have been where it was. The service mooring visible as we came past the junction, no need to do any washing today so we would cope with the ringroad noise for a night.
0 locks, 5.31 miles, 2lefts, 1 straight, 2 ice skaters, 2 oil filters, 1 fuel filter, 1 air filter, 2 buses, 2 trains, 1 sunny day, 1 pumpout tank taking root, 2 dabchicks, 1 sour dough starter ready for use, 1 more night on the plateau.
With our entrance tickets bought from the Dudley Canal Trust we walked up through the buildings towards the bus stop in the museum. Despite the time tabel suggesting there would be a bus every 15 minutes we decided to walk up the hill to the main entrance. We soon saw the bus and an old car bipping it’s horn at everyone it saw, both were heading to where we’d come from.
First thing was to change our paper receipt for an annual pass. We can now visit as many times as we like for no extra cost. This may only end up being once more, but you never know.
It was a touch damp now outside so we caught the double decker back down the hill to have a walk round. We first visited the museum about eight years ago when we were moving our shareboat NB Winding Down down the country. We had a very good day, but wished we’d had longer. This time we’d go down the mine and have fish and chips!
Once the chippy opened we checked out the claims from the website. The claims were correct and we could place an order for later, but we were expecting company and had no idea what time we’d like our lunch, so we would risk there being a long queue.
As midday got closer we caught the bus back up the hill to meet up with Marion (Mick’s sister) and John who were coming for a day trip from Eastbourne. As they had train tickets they could do the Days out two for one.
With winter hours being a little bit tight we chose to head back down the hill again, by bus to the thick of the buildings. There is a large area being redeveloped, if that’s what you can call it when the buildings will all be 1940’s to 60’s that already exist. Sadly this means the mine and funfair are closed at the moment.
Lines of school kids zigzagged through the streets following their period dressed guides. Huddles of them stood in dimly lit shops listening to the proprietors talking about what they sold and what it would have been like there in the 20’s and 30’s, some even earlier.
The radio workshop kept John busy for a while and ladies sat in their kitchens kept warm by their ranges, no cooking going on today. A school mistress taught a class speaking very slowly and awarding two pupils a certificate.
The tailor didn’t have quite what John was after but was very well stocked with Peeky Blinder caps and waistcoats.
The tobacconists would have kept my Mum stocked up with her favourite brands and I’m sure my Dad would have found suitable tobacco to make his own mix from.
A 1920’s living room with very smart fan wallpaper had a rug on the floor. I was asked why I thought there were two round marks on it. Was it because something had been placed there and the pile had flattened. No it was a fashion to have rugs which had a pattern, not in colour but in the texture, shag pile and short pile. I’d once aimed to shave one from some carpet for a show, but had run out of time.
By now we were a little bit peckish so joined the queue in Hobbs. Luckily it wasn’t too long, there’s a sign outside where you can sit to while away the half hour before getting served! Our orders were placed. 2 vegetarian, cooked in sunflower oil. 1 gluten free. 1 standard, everything cooked in beef dripping. We found a space to sit and wait, jumping whenever any of the ladies said anything. It didn’t take long, lashings of salt and vinegar were poured into the cones of paper. I have to say it’s the first time I’ve not noticed a difference with gluten free fish. The batter was wonderful and crisp with chunky cod inside. We all wolfed them up whilst inhaling the vinegar fumes.
Lower down on the site a chap demonstrated a beetle Demon and talked about the wallpaper trimming machine in the hardware shop.
The greengrocers was manned by a lady who told us the history of the shop and the lady who’d run it whilst her husband was away in the 1st world war, he had to retrain when he got home as she wasn’t going to hand it back over to him.
The cinema sat silent awaiting the next showing. A chap hammered away in the dark of his workshop whilst it rained outside, presumably making nails.
We timed a visit to the more industrial end very well with a chain making demonstration about to happen. The metal was heated up to white hot, bent round and then bent further with a hammer. Linked to the previous link the ends were flattened and reheated. We were asked to move back, he them gave the two ends a very big whack to weld them together showering sparks. The link was then reshaped with the help of a hammer operated by his foot. The chain makers had to make so many links a day, 200 and something before they would get paid. For some it took six hours others a lot longer.
We then took a walk up to the Workers Institute where a guided tour was due. The lady we’d seen in the schoolhouse was ready and waiting. Due to the rain we started off indoors. We were on a bit of a tight time frame due to return trains to the south coast, the lady imparted her knowledge, pointed out important people in the photographs, handed round photographs of chain makers, more photos of people, they just kept coming, was she going to give us the life history on everyone in the group photos?
Time was ticking, there was still the tat in the shop to look at and still more photos were handed round. We made our excuses , did a quick flit up the stairs and back down as the tour were about to go that way. I’m sure the tour would have been very interesting, but we simply didn’t have the time.
Up the hill in the rain for a purchase or two before heading back down to be through the bottom gates before they closed at 3:45pm. Time for a quick cuppa and warm up back at the boat before Marion and John headed off to return southwards. A very good day.
0 locks, 0 miles, 12 month passes, 40’s 50’s 60’s coming soon, 2 day trippers, 2 veggie of each, 1 gluten free of each, 1 full everything of each please, 1 school, 1 institute life time, 3 bus rides, 1 link, 0 horses, 17 radios, 1 rug, 1 cinema, 2 visitors, 1 living and breathing museum, 0 shore leave yet again!
Day 6, Morning
It’s been bubbling overnight and then deflated.
Day 6 Night
About three hours after feeding. There is hope of sour dough bread this weekend
With winds forecast to be over 40mph later today we aimed to get going, hopefully to miss the worst of it. Despite our aim we didn’t push off till 10am, would this give us enough time to moor up before the worst hit?
The sun was out, blue skies overhead as we pootled our way to the top of Rushall Locks. We could have moored above the locks last night but that wouldn’t have been half as good for Tilly. Signs on the outside of a building here tell you cruising times to both north and south. I think we’ve got plenty of time to get to York by mid July, via a lot of other places on the way.
The bottom gates on the Rushall Flight are doubles, not singles as is common on most of the BCN. The top lock had a nice wide walkway over the top gate and a handy bridge at the bottom, but this wasn’t the case all the way down.
The top two locks are closish together and then only just visible in the distance was lock 3 over a straight mile away. The first stretch of the long pound was filled with reddened dead scum, a slight aroma wafting from it as we parted it around Oleanna’s hull.
I hopped off at Moat Bridge and walked to the next, Sutton Road Bridge, where I joined the road to visit the handy Co-op. Quite a few things I wanted had sad gits labels , so loaves of bread and tomatoes joined our Saturday newspaper in my basket.
When I got back to the canal, Oleanna was taking shelter under the wide bridge. No other boat traffic so it didn’t matter that we were blocking the navigation.
Then the flight was upon us, some locks full others empty. We soon got into our rythmn I’d open up, then walk ahead to set the next lock whilst Mick brought Oleanna in above, closed the lock and lifted a bottom paddle. I’d be back in time to lift the second paddle and open the gates.
I tried my usual trick of kicking the gates open, but decided that the gates looked too chunky, so reverted to walking round instead. If I remembered to drop the off side paddle then Mick could close it from below using the boat hook saving me crossing the gates again.
Each paddle, bar one on the very bottom gate is locked with an anti-vandal mechanism which you get very used to around these parts, you just have to remember which pocket you put your handcuff key in to be able to unlock them!
The lower down the flight we got the more and more spongy the walkways got on the gates. Underfelt is used as anti slip across these, but the surface below some of it was very rotten and decidedly wobbly, I made sure I always had hold of the hand rail should anything fail. One of the gates was allowing water to bubble up from the bottom cill, guaranteeing a quick descent.
At the bottom lock, new gates sealed both ends and with new walkways I was able to cross with confidence once again.
Straight on to Rushall Junction, well at a slight angle now, the wind was building. A very long urban snake sat waiting to catch us out where the stern needed to swing. If it hadn’t been so windy we’d most probably have stopped to pick it up, but instead the engine was taken out of gear at the last moment to let us glide past, then engaged again to force the bow round to the west. Time to cling onto possessions and boat hooks!
The Tame Valley Canal sits high on an embankment and runs along the side of the M6 for a while to where the M5 joins it.
Roads intertwining high on concrete stilts, the River Tame curling it’s way slowly beneath.
Then once over the railway you are surrounded, the canal now in a cutting. A group were magnet fishing at one bridge, several items had been pulled out or just to the side. The chap said he was looking for mobile phones, so he’d most probably leave the trolleys where they had got dragged to.
Blimey it was windy, a touch more revs needed to keep us on our course, good job there are only a couple of moored boats about.
A rope swing distracted Mick at a bridge just for a second or two too long, the engine tone changed. A blast of reverse, still the same. Damn something round the prop. He managed to pull us almost in to the side and hopped off with a centre line. A spike was hammered in to help me keep hold of Oleanna against the wind whilst Mick delved into the murky waters of the weed hatch.
The wind was tunneling it’s way along the canal and Oleanna’s bow was being forced across the cut. The spike was pulling out, should I just let go. No I clung on, forced the spike back into the ground. In a two second lull of wind I rearranged myself to stand on the rope once it was through the spike loop, then I could lean back remembering my windsurfing days when I was just a teenager. I lent back thinking of heavy things like lardy cakes all the time my arms gradually getting that little bit longer. Surely Mick must have finished by now!!!
A large wet something hit the deck, hopefully that was all there was going to be. My arms were now stinging like Alan’s in A Regular Little Houdini, then they burned, at least if I let go I wouldn’t end up feet first in a tunnel of mud with the tide coming in!
As soon as Mick stood up I called out to him and Oleanna was just pulled in enough for us to get back on again with a jump. Blimey my arms throbbed. We now just hoped that the mooring we were aiming for was free and sheltered enough to be able to moor up with an amount of ease.
Still a while to go before we got to Tame Valley Junction, we’d most certainly had enough by now. We turned left and I could see round through the hedge that there was space. Reversing in would be easier we hopped than winding as the entrance to the arm was at an acute angle.
Luck was with us, the wind had dropped. Mick brought us round and started to reverse and as he did so a gentle little breeze pushed the bow round to the right angle to clear the bridge at the entrance of the arm.
Once tied up we could both breath again. A quick check round and the mooring was deemed suitable for Tilly. A late lunch was followed by a hair cut for Mick which was just interesting enough to bring Tilly out from the sideways trees to be picked up and returned inside just before dusk.
Cast Iron Roving Bridge to High Bridge, Old Main Line, BCN
Our mooring in the city centre hadn’t been too noisy, just the comings and goings from the Arena and the Sunday morning runners pounding past. But we’ve been here long enough, time to move on and do some exploring. We currently have a plan which may change due to circumstances, so we’ll see how we do.
We’d planned to explore the BCN a couple of years ago, but with temperatures soaring and a panto to design we opted out and headed for trees away from the city. Will we succeed this time? It’s winter and the temperature, at the moment, isn’t conducive to long days at the helm and may well mean we get iced in somewhere. We can take our time and keep a close eye on the weather.
With padded trousers on we pushed off and headed north west along the New Main Line. We’ve been along this stretch a few times, but things change. Quite a lot of the graffiti has changed. Long lengths of wall have been painted black and artists and (in my opinion) none artists have made their marks. I like good graffiti and today some stuck out, the best being from Pulp Fiction with John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson pointing their guns at us as we left the city.
As navigator around the BCN you have to keep on your toes as their are so many loops and dead ends. But I managed to keep us straight until we reached Smethwick Junction where we turned right to head up Smethwick Locks.
Pulling in below the bottom of the three locks Mick had difficulty pulling Oleanna in. Was there something round the prop? Was the bottom too close to the top? She certainly didn’t want to do as requested, so it took a bit of back and forth. But this was just as well as I spied the bow of a boat coming into the bottom lock from above.
I walked up and the chap was just opening up the second paddle to empty the lock, he walked back and climbed on the back of his boat, with only one gate to open at the bottom I could do this for him.
Mick brought Oleanna into the lock, our first of the year. She rose up and once I’d dropped the paddles Mick opened the gate and I walked up to the next lock leaving him to close up behind.
The sun cast long shadows, but I was glad of standing in the sunshine as out of it even my well insulated legs were getting cold. No turning down the Engine arm which crosses the New Main line here (link to Lillian’s trip down the arm) we carried straight on.
We passed through the 103 yards of the Summit Tunnel and then the canal takes the same course as the M5 for a while.
The road busy overhead and covered in scaffolding. At Spon Lane Junction three locks take boats down onto the New Main Line, but we veered leftwards and continued under the motorway.
Passing over Stewart Aqueduct we were part of a criss cross of bridges. Below The new Main Line, then us on the aqueduct on the Old Main Line, the railway just ahead and soaring over the lot of us the M5.
We continued to follow the M5 in the shade. Our route far older than the motorway overhead. Off to the left Oldbury Locks take a branch of the canal up to Titford Pools, but we continued straight on, passing a few moored boats on the off side and pulling in just short of High Bridge where there were bollards to moor to.
After tying up we stopped and had a quick check of the area. Numerous parked cars behind a fence that was bound to have gaps in it. A car sales place, loads of rubbish in amongst the trees and scrub, who knew what loitered there, possibly stuff that would be bad for a cat. Decision made Tilly would be grounded whilst we were here.
Whist we travel through urban areas we tend to have all the doors locked as a precaution. Unlocking the stern doors I was kack handed and Tilly saw a moment of opportunity and went for it! Damn!! NO sorry I’m busy! Too busy to talk to you! So much to do!She wouldn’t come, so I just followed her with the intention of a rugby tackle should the moment arise. Two crows came and shouted at her which helped, then a chap on the towpath also assisted by just existing. Time to head home! It’s just not safe enough to go to the loo round here.
It being a Sunday it was a touch too late to go to the nearby Sainsburys for a stock up shop. This did have it’s downside. We’d left the hustle and bustle of Birmingham and now found ourselves by a car dealership who blast out a local radio station for all the world to hear.
They’d close soon, it’s Sunday.
Mick went into their reception and was told that they’d close at 5pm and the music would go off then starting again at 8.30am. That was bearable.
6pm came. It hadn’t stopped. I think we were now upto date with chart music. It continued. A phone call to them, just to check it wouldn’t be going all night. No it would stop in about an hour.
At 7.30pm finally the thumping noise ceased, we let out a cheer. Thank goodness, but what time will it start again in the morning?
Tardebigge Top Lock to Cast Iron Roving Bridge, Birmingham, BCN
Out in Vienna it was time to pack my bags. One thing left to do, visit the cheese shop on Langegasse that I’ve been walking past and inhaling for the last ten days.
Many cheeses in this shop are kept in cabinets for safety, our safety. Many of the cheeses in this shop look like given half a chance they would take over the world with only Dr Who capable of stopping them. With so much to choose from and a taxi booked I couldn’t sample too many, which maybe was a good thing.
I’m not too fond of Emmental or Gruyere so that immediately ruled out half of the shop. The chap helped me and gave me a couple of samples. I like goats cheese, but in Britain you don’t often get a hard goats cheese. So as I was in Austria I had to have one from the mountains, ‘High on a hill lived a lonely goatherd’. It was tasty, sold.
Then a softer cheese. No chance to taste this one as they are individual cheeses that have a whole culture of their own. Sold! The chap vacuum wrapped them for me so that my bag wouldn’t be making it’s own way back to the UK.
My taxi was early, the driver arriving just as I checked out and was asking where to wait. Soon I was whisked out to the airport to await a delayed first flight to Munich.
I’d booked a window seat, but at the gate I was issued with a new seat in the middle! This was a shame as there were fantastic views over the Austrian Alps, not much snow though!
Meanwhile back in Birmingham.
Mick and Tilly have been avoiding storm Brendon. On Monday once Chris had left to visit more boat builders Mick filled the water tank and headed northwards again. Passing NB Sola Gratia, under the M42 he chose a suitable place without trees to spend Monday night by Bridge 68.
Tuesday they decided to head into Birmingham setting off early to beat the weather. At 9am they reached the southern portal of Wast Hill Tunnel. The interior of Oleanna already in full tunnel mode, hoping that with all the lights being on this would keep Tilly from fretting. I suspect he just timed their passage well and she was busy having her morning snooze as he could hear no shouting at the back doors.
A mile and a half later they came back out into daylight. But what lay ahead?
There was a boat up against the towpath, pinned in my a fallen tree. Had the tree fallen onto the boat? Mick was about to try to nudge his way through when the owner came out. Last night he’d tried to do the same, but got stuck. Whether he was grounded or just held by the tree Mick didn’t know, but one thing was certain Mick was now stuck too!
The other boater had rung to report it to C&RT, another phone call wouldn’t hurt after all Mick had nowhere to go. He couldn’t get into the side so was just having to sit in the middle. Apparently C&RT staff were on route to access the situation.
Then the C&RT staff got held up by traffic so the contractors were called and sent anyway. They arrived with long handled chain saws and proceeded to climb onto the roof of the stuck boat. Helmets, high-vis but no life jackets! The roof of the boat was wet and had no grabrail or anything should they slip to stop them. They chopped and chopped away at the tree. Soon the trapped boat was free.
Mick offered the bow of Oleanna as a platform to carry on working from, then they moved to the stern to clear more. At last Mick and Oleanna could continue on their journey into Birmingham. The 8.5 miles had taken around 7.5 hours and Mick had got a touch wet in the process.
Location is always important. So I insisted on some greenery in the BUMingham outside. Tom obliged and tied up the one with short sideways trees. Thank goodness it wasn’t just bricks again!
So back in Munich.
I should have had an hour and a half waiting for my next flight. There were things to do, look at the shops and restaurants, then eat the quinoa salad I’d brought with me from Vienna. The new (well to me new) passport control had to be cleared, this I am now a dab hand at after being rejected on my outbound flight. Hold your passport down on the screen with your hand so that it can be read!
I headed to the gate, not quite at the furthest point of the airport, but almost. Staff arrived, then announced that there was a delay. This extended and we finally were allowed through the boarding gate as our plane should have been pushed back. There was no plane, just a bus to take us out to our Star Alliance A319-100, here we crossed the tarmac and climbed the steps to find our seats.
With everyone on board we taxied round to run up along the side of the runway. The pilot swung us round onto the tarmac, would this be a rolling start? We tootled along for a little while straightening, then the engines roared up and the wheels began to speed up. Time to say goodbye to Europe….
Except the engine soon powered down! There had only been a short blast of throttle, now we were trundling along the runway. An air hostess quickly came on the tannoy and said that an announcement would be made shortly by the captain as to why we hadn’t taken off. They don’t use the term abandoned as this might cause alarm!
Once we’d turned off the runway the Captain spoke to us, something about the engines not being in sink, I’m not sure what he was saying as a group of English men were too busy joking with each other about finding the nearest underware shop! One thing we did all hear though was that he was going to go round and try to take off again.
This time we headed further up the runway, turned to face the tarmac and stopped. The engines roared and we set off, so far so good, we’d made it further than last time. Bye Europe… as the wheels lifted off the ground this time. Phew!! I had wondered if we’d have to change planes, be diverted to another UK airport, but thankfully we were on our way.
The sun soon set on the horizon turning the sky orange. After an hour and something the coast of main land Europe showed, lights twinkling below. Clouds covered the English coast, just the occasional glimpse confirmed we were over land again.
With half an hour to go we started to descend, the lower we got the bumpier it got. Bumpier and bumpier. The bumpyness kept on coming. We seemed to be getting lower, but would we be sent round again by air traffic control. There were a lot of houses getting closer, surely we must be about at the end of the run way!
As the runway lights came into view the plane crabbed it’s way towards the ground, was this still Storm Brendan? One wheel down, then the other, both now on the tarmac going slightly diagonally. As soon as the engines stopped their furious noise a round of aplause filled the plane, followed by more comments about underwear shops.
Only about half an hour late, I sailed through biometric passport control, my bag was about the tenth to appear on the conveyor. The cheese in my bag kept quiet so I exited arrivals through the green customes doors to see Mick stood holding his phone with my name flashing away in red, just in case I’d forgotten what he looked like!
0 locks, 14.16 miles, 1 wind, 2 much wind, 1 tree, 1 wet boater, 2 chain saws, £20 on cheese, 2 vacuum bags for safety, 1 taxi, 2 planes, 2 trains, 3 shuttles, 1 walk, 271 head nudges with Tilly, 16 very posh first night chocolates.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A pause in the Cheshire Locks meant we got to meet up with Tom and Jan who were over for a visit. For Micks birthday we moored at Barlaston and had a nosy at the wonderful hall on the hill, our plan still stands if any of our family are interested! https://oleanna.co.uk/2019/05/23/the-plan-20th-may/
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The last few locks were done on New Years Eve bring us up to the Birmingham level for the new 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.
The chap across the way had been running his engine until 11pm both nights we’d been moored opposite the giraffe. The first night we considered going over to see if everyone was alright on board, but it’s quite a long way round. So on the second evening we were relieved to hear the engine going, but not for the length of time it ran for! So this morning we decided to move.
NB Sola Gatia had been round on the Oozells Loop along with another boat, both had moved off. So we decided to move round the corner and see if it would be any quieter, less foot fall for certain.
There was plenty of room for us, so we chose to tie up in the middle, leaving room for boats infront and behind, but we’d be away from both bridges.
In the afternoon we headed into town. Should we walk down into the Jewellery Quarter to look at museums? Go to the Art Gallery? Or go to the top of the Library?
Back in October 2014 Mick had discovered the wonderful gardens and views from the library whilst I was working. He even managed to get a photo of NB Lillyanne (Lillian) moored at Cambrian Wharf. When I had free time we tried again, but high winds meant we could only stay indoors as the gardens were closed.
Today we went to the top, to the viewing gallery and the Shakespeare Library. Then we walked down the 90 steps to the garden. From here we could see for miles. If we hadn’t moved Oleanna this morning we’d have got a photo of her too from up here, but now she was tucked away behind the Sealife Centre.
Below was busy and the new trams came and went from the station.
It was a touch late in the afternoon by now to pay to go into a museum, so we opted for the Art Gallery and headed straight for the Pre-Raphelites and Burne Jones. Mick said we’d been before, but neither of us could remember when. It turns out that after we’d been to see Dippy the dinosaur we had a little look round, that was only 18 months ago!
The same paintings caught my eye. One study for Burne Jones painting Briar Rose is my favourite, I prefer it to the final painting.
But this time we also got to see a bit more of the display. Superduperspective by Patrick Hughes could not be ignored. It’s first view should be straight on, an image of paintings from the gallery in two corridors. But then as you move round you realise the whole thing is 3D and painted in such away to trick your eye. When fooled the furthest parts of the painting are actually the closest to you. Very clever use of shading, but a touch nauseating too.
0 locks, the same 0.14 miles mentioned yesterday, 150 yards from engines running, 1 library, 1 art gallery, 100 Euros, 1 adaptor, 1 bored asleep cat, 1 sock finished.