Category Archives: Trent and Mersey Canal

Through The Arched Hedge. 30th April

Broken Ankle, Great Haywood to above Longford Lock, Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal

Swans nests are way better than those made by geese

Windy but sunny this morning, the world would be filled with green and blue. We considered going across the way for a cooked breakfast, but stuck to our cereal as that would be quicker.

Tixall Gate House

We turned right onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, passing the Anglo Welsh hire fleet. Yesterday we’d put off coming round the corner and heading for Tixall Wide due to the wind and wanting to visit the farm shop. Arriving at 10/10:30 would mean having more chance of grabbing a mooring with a view of Tixall Gate House, this morning there were several up for grabs, but we needed to be further on today. The newly surfaced towpath looks good, but the armco still looks like it’s the same, only one stretch has had sandbags added to raise the bank from the water a touch.

At Tixall Lock we rose up infront of the nice lock cottage, a possible for a painting, if we ever stay put long enough for me to get one started! The next length of towpath has also been upgraded, a cyclist proved it was ride worthy.

Pair 18 coming along nicely

By now we both realised we were over dressed, big coats no longer required, the strong wind was almost warm. It was warm enough for me to bring my knitting out onto the stern to work my way towards a heel turn and still be able to keep an eye on things passing us by. This is another stretch of canal I’ve rarely seen in the last few years as there are several miles on the flat so I’ve been working below.

Around Stafford, the land to our west was exceptionally boggy and brown, a flood plane, but far browner than we remembered. I wonder how long it’s been under water for this year? A fisherman sat with his kit neatly tucked away by the hedge where there was an arched opening for him to pass his rod through. On closer inspection all the fishing pegs were marked out thus, grass neatly trimmed both by the cut and the hedge and an hedge opening at each.

Once up Deptmore Lock we pulled in for lunch, a nice sunny spot but would we ever get off the bank due to the wind? This took quite a bit of doing and thankfully we could hold our line without going too fast past moored boats. We were now being followed by a hire boat, Shutt Hill lock the lady came up to help, but hardly said a word. As we pulled away she closed the gate and ran back to the bottom gates, maybe they were trying to do the Four Counties Ring in a week!

At Park Gate Lock we’d just about caught the boat ahead of us up, only one top paddle working on the lock meant it took a long time to fill. As we worked our way up a boat came out from the wharf, took it’s time to wind blocking off the canal for a while. Was this a new boat, boxes covered where the mushroom vents would be, the paintwork looked new, apart from below the gunnels. Bourne Boats used to be based here. There were no signs and two rusty shells sat out on the hard were not really a good advert for them. Does anyone know if they are still trading?

The hire boat caught up with us again and this time there was chance for a chat. Four Counties in ten days. We watched as the new boat was manouvered back into the wharf and then under a crane. As it was lifted it was obviously not positioned quite right and was brought back down to the water to find it’s balance.

£975,000 click photo for details

Should we stop early? The wind was one thing, the depth below us another making our progress really quite slow. This of course would be no different tomorrow, but the wind may have died down. As we passed under the M6 we made the usual comments about the house alongside, lovely gardens, but maybe the need for noise cancelling headphones. Then we spotted it was for sale! Blimey! Just how much would it go for if they didn’t have the motorway as a next door neighbour? *The agent has removed the house from their website, but you can still get a shaded look at it from the link.

First Lollipop Lock gates

The M6 stays with the canal for quite a way. Once up Longford Lock we decided to pull in with the motorway opposite, here Tilly would have more fun even if there was a fence cutting the school off from the towpath. Straight out, then the complaints started . But there’s a fence! It’s high! Things look great on the other side. Mick went out to check on her, there she was on top of the fence, wire mesh variety. I was practicing my tight rope act! Thankfully she made it down by herself rather than by us wrestling our way through the hawthorne hedge.

Time to pack the faulty bully boy battery up. The Shed was emptied, steps removed and the battery pulled out. It was put on the stern deck so as not to be in our way overnight and hopefully I’d be able to pack it up out there.

What’s that woofer doing?!

Originally I’d thought of making boxes to surround it in the original box, but these would have to be so strong to hold the batteries weight. Instead I opted to cut widths of cardboard, stick them together and then these would help keep the battery away from the sides of the box. Tilly came to help, but kept a beedy eye on the woofers as they walked past. It took a while to have packing strong enough, but then the box was taped up ready to be sent off tomorrow. All we need to do now is actually get it to a drop off place for UPS, easier said than done!

Packing wadges

4 locks, 9.7 miles, 1st Lollipop, 0.5 pair of socks, 1.5 cardboard boxes cut into strips, 6 layers for strength, 1 tight rope walking cat, 1st proper sunny day without coats.

Wind Burn. 29th April

Off the Stone Visitor Moorings to Broken Ankle, Great Haywood

What a good tree!

Wanting to package up the failed bully boy battery to send back, we’d be needing some extra packaging. We have the original box, but not the foam that surrounded the battery. Mick had found some bubble wrap in the house but something else would be needed too. B&M might just be the place so we walked back into town. Nothing that we could buy apart from brown paper, which I suspected we’d need a LOT of. I could reduce the size of the box, Mick wasn’t convinced. But then I spotted a lady who’d been stacking shelves and on her trolley she had a lot of cardboard, this would be way better than paper with the added advantage of being free.

Only two of us today

Back at Oleanna we made ready to push off, the sky occasionally grey, waterproofs just incase. It hardly rained but they were useful to help keep the wind from really chilling us to the bone.

Aston Lock marks the halfway mark of the mile posts on the T&M

Not many locks today, 4 in all to reach our destination. At Aston Lock a boat was just exiting, another waiting below. I managed to get the half way on the Trent and Mersey photo but didn’t have a peek over the wall at my favourite garden shed! The bottom gate beams are rather high, too high to hurdle over. A touch too low to limbo under, well my knees wouldn’t appreciate it anymore. So having realised I was on the wrong side of the lock I walked all the way round to get back to Oleanna.


Today we realised we’d missed seeing new born lambs, they are all quite chunky, ready for some rosemary and garlic, and have lost their be’doingeeness of the really young. To make up for it however we got chased by a swan, who was dead set on attacking our stern button, protecting his youngesters possibly still being sat on, we didn’t see mum.

Stop swiming!

Then our first sighting of goslings followed by a long line of cygnets. They got themselves on the other side of the boat from Mum and Dad. No matter how many times we told them to stop swimming they carried on all calling out for help!

At Preston Brook we’d seen Dante’s doppleganger modeling a life jacket, but today we got to see his demise. Cast aside on a storage bin he laid on his side with his two friends. No white or tan fur visible anymore having lived on a boat roof for years. What a sorry state he was in, past rescue sadly.

A pause for lunch when we got a distance from the railway. Then onwards. Plenty of posh houses.

Salt Bridge is always admired, but why is it only fancy on one side not both?

As we approached Great Haywood there was a space opposite the cafe. It had been really windy all day, surprisingly so. Our original aim was to moor at Tixall Wide, but it can be busy there and if there was no room for us we’d have had to carry on in the wind. Time to stop, we were both quite red with wind burn.

Too close to the road for peace of mind so Tilly was kept indoors today, sorry! But it looked soo SOOOOO good! We headed off to look round the farm shop see if there was a treat we could buy without taking out a mortgage on the house.


At the Anglo Welsh base there was a crane and lorries. Boats were being lifted out and sent on elsewhere, someone suggested to the K&A. Lifting boats in this wind was not something I’d have enjoyed doing. When we last moored here I managed to break an ankle. The Margees had helped us move Lillian up to the services for me to get off easier and not have to hop up the bank to the road. When I returned from the hospital that day there was a crane here, not to assist me on and off the boat I haisten to add. Today we walked over to the shop, me taking care when stepping on and off curbs.

The shiney apples almost put us off. But our first sighting of asparagus couldn’t be missed. We added to our basket some gf sausages (just because they existed), a pork pie, a couple of cheeses (not an overly exciting selection!) and then maybe a tub of Snugburys Chocolate Brownie Chilled medication went in too. A guess on how much it would be was out by a bit, well £10!

First of the year

The mince I’d got out of the freezer this morning would now wait for tomorrow, instead we had the asparagus followed by expensive sausage and mash.

Yarns for pair 18

We then sat down to watch the first episode of Narrow Escapes on Channel 4. First impressions are good and it was nice to see what things Carrie likes as I’m knitting her and her Mum some socks in my sockathon later in the year, this will be Della’s third pair in aid of Dementia Uk. There’s still some pairs in need of sponsorship! The first toe of pair 18 were cast on as we watched. How ever did she think she’d fit that chandelier onto her boat!?!

4 locks, 9.1 miles, 1 windy day, 2 free boxes, 2 bottle tomatoe ketchup, 1 sad sight, 1 miffed off Tilly, 2 boats flying, 1 basket of polished apples, 1 pie, 6 sausages, 750ml chilled medictaion, 20 spears asparagus, 2 boaters with smelly yellow water, 1 lodger and 1 house still in one piece.

Stone Crew. 28th April

Barlaston Winding Hole to just off the end of Stone Visitor Moorings

Bacon butties were enjoyed before we joined the Geraghty zoom. Topics covered today were Peanut Butter grouting, news from the north was ‘murcky’ and parasitic worms.

Four Windlasses!

Our aimed for departure was 11am, we were slightly later than that, hopefully my guestimate based on travel times on the Waterway Routes maps would have us arrive at the locks at a suitable time to meet our extra crew for the day. There was also time to pop down below and roll up balls of biscuit dough I’d made last night, roll them in two types of sugar and pop a tray in the oven for ten minutes. The Lemon Crinkle biscuits were left to cool as we approached the top of the Meaford Flight.

This lock was in our favour and just required a top up. You can only see ahead if you either walk over the bridge or once the lock gates are opened, no boats in sight.

As we approached Meaford Road Lock I could see that there was a boat ascending the lock below and coming along the towpath were our extra crew for the day, Bill and Lisa. Windlasses were handed out and instructions given. We lowered Oleanna down to the next pound and left the gates for the uphill boat. Below however the gates had been closed and the lock was refilling.

New crew in training

When we got down to the next lock there seemed to be plenty of crew, eager to close the bottom gates behind the uphill boat, however none of them had windlasses. They were just gongoozlers pleased to lend a hand. We helped the crew out lifting paddles and pushing gates, then it was our turn.

Bill and Lisa picked up what to do and when very quickly and were quite happy to stand and watch as the locks emptied and filled, marvelling at the engineering and how it’s not been bettered. We all hopped on board and caught a lift down to Lime Kiln Lock.

Click photo for link, it’s rather a nice house

Lisa grew up in Stone, we passed where one of her teachers used to live, one of the houses for sale. Then just before the lock there is a short line of modern houses, this when she was a kid was The Rising Sun pub. Her Dad used to drink in there and she was allowed to play around the canal, yet she didn’t really remember any boats on the canal at that time (mid 80’s). This was the first time she’d got to work a lock.

Lisa and Bill

The locks are pretty into Stone with their stone curved steps to push the lock beams along and their bridges. They are also easy locks to work, no real need for extra crew today other than spending time with friends and sharing what we do.

A lady heading to the shops with her trolley opened up top gates for us at one lock. One of her two dogs refusing to cross back over the lock bridge ended up crossing over the back of Oleanna, Cheeky! Obligatory photo taken. The chandlers will soon reopen as something completely different, presumably the new owners are the ones who don’t want the boaters rubbish point. At Yard Lock it was being emptied, boat movers moving a boat up to the Macc.

Star Lock, the last for the day

On to Star Lock the last for today. A Mum mallard was trying to encourage her ducklings out of the water where the bank was quite high, so for a while I lost our extra crew. Then it was time to find ourselves a mooring. There had been space above the lock but that wouldn’t have been so good for Tilly, now there were no spaces, just a long line of boats. We pootled on, a new length of armco going in, after this we pulled in. Here the bank was so soft you could almost just push the mooring spikes in by hand. Mick double pinned us, but we weren’t convinced this would last too long.

Time for a cuppa and sit down with some of those biscuits. Tilly was given an hour and thankfully she returned just as we’d finished our drinks. She was left in charge whilst we walked back into town.

Where Ben’s Dad was born

We paused to find our friend Bens Dad’s birth place just down Adies Alley. No 28 was the place, photo taken to send to Ben. Then on to find a pub, Crown Wharf was chosen. Blimey it is a huge pub and very popular on a Sunday. We quickly found ourselves a booth to take over, the general hubhub from the pub adding atmosphere yet we could all hear each other. Sadly no gluten free beer, I was a little surprised at Joules, but hey a glass of wine on a Sunday afternoon was nice enough.

Team Stone. Lisa, Mick, Bill and Pip

It was soon time to say goodbye to our friends, what a lovely Sunday afternoon with very good company. Hopefully we’ll see Bill in a few months time as he’ll be a lodger for a couple of months in Scarborough.

Back to the boat via M&S for something to eat this evening, pies. Sadly my gluten free version was really rather crispy hard. The mooring spikes were only just still holding in the soft ground, one was exchanged for a chain.

We were just settling down for the evening when a phone call came from Scarborough. A strong smell of gas in the pantry and it was getting stronger! Landlord mode kicked in, the leak was reported to the gas board, our lodger opening doors and windows, leaving the house until an engineer arrived. Thankfully someone was there about half an hour after we’d reported it. The tap that turns the gas off and on at the meter was the culpert and once it was replaced the problem solved. You can get quite a good flow of air through the house so thankfully the gas cleared quickly and Georgia could relax for the rest of the evening, as could we.

8 locks, 4.1 miles, 2 extra crew, 1 lovely afternoon with sunshine! 12 lemon cakey biscuits, 2 pints, 1 coke, 1 large wine, 2 pies, 2 jackets, 1 lodger and house still in tact.

This Way Out, Me Duck. 27th April

Between Locks 44 and 45 to Barlaston Winding Hole

No need to be up at the crack of sparrows to be through the tunnel at the first opportunity to get to see a matinee or catch the gas suppliers in Etruria, both these had been sorted on Thursday. However we were wanting to cover some miles. Our schedule had us mooring below Stoke Bottom Lock, not the nicest of places. Plus if we wanted to have some time with friends on Sunday it would be worth cracking on today.

Artwork on the hut between the paired locks at Plants Lock

Just as we rolled up the covers a boat came up the lock behind, it would be very rude to pull out infront of them, so we took our time and followed. Both of the paired locks were empty so the lady opened up the offside lock for us as she waited for her boat. Not many of the Cheshire Locks you can do this on at the moment as so many of the pairs are reduced to just one working lock.

We pulled in at the services, water, yellow water and rubbish dealt with before walking up to the next lock. A single hander was coming down with the assistance from another single hander, a young lady who was headed for Chorley and was covering as much ground as she could in a day. She asked how many more locks there were on the T&M, Thirty odd not a problem. I suggested she made that cuppa she’d planned on making before she got too far down the locks.

Last lock up to the summit of the Trent and Mersey

Up the last two locks to the summit. As Oleanna got within stepping off height for Mick I headed to Lidl. A few things required but mostly a copy of our Saturday newspaper as we needed to check if Mick’s letter regarding the Fund Britain’s Waterways had been published. I’d timed things very well, one copy left in Lidl and when I got back to Oleanna Mick had moved her out of the lock so an oncoming boat could use it, then he’d backed up to the towpath entrance to pick me up, he’d not even had to step off with a rope to wait.

Straight on! We passed a boat coming from the tunnel. The helm said we might be lucky as two boats had been waiting, we might be able to tag onto the back of the south bound passages. I put Oleanna into tunnel mode. All cabin lights on, curtains open, life jackets and waterproofs on, torch to have at the stern.

Is that a Keeper waiting for us?

As we approached we could see no waiting boats, just a C&RT Tunnel Keeper. As he looked up I beeped our horn and turned the tunnel light on, A quick chat with him to make sure we remembered the horn signals should we breakdown, we’d obviously been through before and a warning to mind our heads. Straight in, another bit of perfect timing.

Thank you

Into the tunnel at bang on 11am, following two boats ahead of us. Wet and chilly in there today. As navigator I make sure that we know which way is the closest should we need to get out of the tunnel ( a game really). In most tunnels this is just conveyed to the crew with ‘That way Out’ behind us or ‘This way out’ ahead of us. Mick confirms that he has heard, which means he is still stood behind me at the helm and hasn’t fallen off. But Harecastle always deserves the recognition that we are passing between the north and the south, after all the River Trent historically marked the divide between north and south. So here my wording is that bit different. ‘Tha’ knows!’ to the north and ‘This way out, me duck’ to the south.

At about 1km still to go we could see the doors at the southern portal open up to let a boat through. Harecastle has no ventilation shafts, so to deal with the fumes that modern boats produce there are doors closing the entrance at the south end. Then big fans are used to suck the air and fumes through the tunnel. As they kicked in the atmosphere in the tunnel became foggy and very noisy. At about 100m to go the fans were turned off and the doors opened letting light flood in.

Cup of strong tea? Or Heinz Tomato Soup?

Lots of people don’t like Harecastle and it seems to have been given a nick name, which we don’t really understand, Scarecastle Tunnel. It is one of the few tunnels were someone actually knows you are in there. If you have probelms you beep your horn once every 30 seconds and they will come and rescue you. You just need to face forwards so you know when to duck.

I do NOT like tunnels, stop it!!!

Onwards past Westport Lake, Stoke boats, and Middleport Pottery. Maybe one day we’ll have time to moor up and have a look around the pottery, on our way back? A pause for lunch on some handy rings and then onwards towards Summit Lock.

The mural starting to weather

We’d thought about mooring at Festival Park when we’d wanted to go to the theatre the other day, all moorings were full today. Inside the pub a lady was waving with great enthusiasm, Mick waved back. A minute or so later I got a message, it was Helen from NB Avalon 2, she was the waving lady. Hello!

Going down now

As we approached the lock someone was opening the top gate, no boat in the lock, how nice of them. Then we realised their boat was coming from the services, Mick backed away and let them come round the steep bend and into the lock. We helped them down and then followed on after them. I went ahead and helped them to close up at the lock below, then lifted a paddle to start filling it as Mick lifted a paddle on the top lock.

We worked our way down the Stoke locks. Some new graffiti and wall art to look at as we went. Not much was new until we came to Goods Yard. Here a new neighbourhood is being developed, 174 homes, hotel, workspaces, bars, shops and a green public space. The building closest to the canal looked like it had been an old warehouse and behind it a new build in rusting metal had echos of a red brick mill. The site used to be a goods warehouse where goods were craned between the railway and canal. For more info go here.

Getting greener

Past Shuffelbottoms, past the shingled boat which seems to becoming greener every time we pass, then the shooting range where you can see all the dints in the metal surround created from people missing the targets!

At Trentham Lock a couple were walking their parents dogs, they were walking as little as they could, so the chance to help with the lock was a good distraction. Rain was forcast for 5pm and sure enough just after we’d pulled in before Barlaston down it came. It wasn’t too much to put Tilly off a good explore. This is where I rounded up a fox once, they don’t think I remember places, but I do!

click photo for a nosy

Some baking preparation for tomorrow was needed, a recipe I’ve been wanting to try for a little while, required a rest in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight, perfect. We settled down to Turkey Schnitzel and tomato spaghetti infront of the stove. Quite a long day, a bit reminiscent of our boating holidays and shareboat days.

10 locks, 11.9 miles, 1 tunnel, 1.65 miles underground, I hate tunnels! 3rd boat through, 1 letter, 30 minutes lunch, 1 damp descent, 1 waving woman, 1 hour only! 0 fox, 0 time to find one! 7.5 hours cruising, 1 bowl of lemony mix, pair 17 cast off.

It’s Neither. 26th April

Between Locks 45 and 44

An early start for Mick who left the boat before 8am and walked up the towpath to the station. NB Halsall was above the top lock and by the time Mick got on the train they were pulling in behind a few other boats waiting for the first passage through Harecastle Tunnel. After stoaking the fire, Tilly and I enjoyed a cuppa in bed.

It’s a nice day to go friend hunting

Boats started to come past, an almost constant stream of them up towards the tunnel, being met by down hill traffic. Most boats slowly passed as their crews walked from lock to lock. Others sped past aiming for a lock in their favour, this made for a bumpy morning.

Halsall early this morning

A walk up the towpath to visit both Tescos and the new Lidl. Lidl doesn’t have much in the way of gluten free items so the extra paces were worth it for my prefered breakfast cereal and yoghurt. The remainder of my list was done at Lidl. Last time we were through here I don’t think the store had opened, so it was nice to see that there was access to the towpath just above the locks. As I headed back down the hill, NB Autumn Haze were just turning onto the Macclesfield and another boat we’d seen in Middlewich was climbing the last couple of locks to the summit of the Trent and Mersey.

Meanwhile, Mick’s journey back to Scarborough had him pass the cooling towers in Willington. The River Ouse in York was back within it’s banks and boats were moored at the bottom of the Museum Gardens. In Scarborough he made his way to the hospital where he was almost an hour early for his appointment. A wait of twenty minutes before he was seen. His ultrasound to check for an abdominal aortic aneurysm took about ten minutes. It was clear, no babies and no aneurysm. So no knitting of diddy baby socks required.

The most we’ve seen of our bluebells for years!

After lunch he headed to the house to pick up a box from when the bully boy batteries were delivered, bulky but light he managed it back to the station and started his return journey. Connections meant that he was back in Kidsgrove a little before 9pm.

Pre-raphaelite knitting

Tilly and I had a quiet afternoon. She tried to bring a friend home, but didn’t suceed and I gave the inside of Oleanna a bit of a tidy and sweep through. Then the sock knitting came out and I watched Effie Gray (2014). The film is based on the true story of Euphemia Gray, a Scottish model and writer. She married John Ruskin and moved down to London to live with his parents. Their marriage was never consumated and was finally annulled leaving Effie free to marry again. Her second husband being John Everett Millais the Pre-Raphaelite artist. Throughout there are numerous images based on paintings of the time. A suitable film for a Friday afternoons knitting.

0 locks, 0 miles, 14 tickets, 7 trains, 10 minutes of ultrasound, 0 girls, 0 boys, 0 aneurysm, 3 bags shopping, pair 17 nearly finished, 1 barred cat and friend.

One Cat, Two Servants. 25th April

Pierpoint Top Lock 55 to above Kent’s Lock 45

A little bit of a chug first thing to reach the next lock, one of the few pounds on the way up to Stoke where there’s enough time to boil a kettle, however not enough time to drink the cuppa you’ve just made!

First lock of the day

At Thurlwood Lower Lock both chambers were just about full, I opted for the narrower chamber as this was just a touch lower. We rose up keeping an eye out to make sure Oleanna wasn’t too wide, she wasn’t so all was fine.

I love these gardens

Compared to yesterdays weather today was miserable, damp in the air, cold, then rainy, very little sun shining down on us. The locks would keep us busy and hopefully warm. There’s an honesty hutch above Thurlwood Top Lock for eggs, however this morning it was empty, no chance of us getting a lucky green egg.

There was plenty of mooring available in Rode Heath, a nice mooring unless you are a cat! That outside has soo much pawtential, just need to ban all the woofers!

Now the four Lawton Locks. These were once all paired locks, one of them now a single, the other three only one lock operational. Lock 52 offside had fencing around it, some serious work going on. Had the skip boat we’d just passed got new gates for it? CRT decided to work on this lock out of the winter stoppage season as it’s paired lock was operational. Looking down below my feet on the working side, I did wonder if there was much solidity below me, there seemed to be a lot of air holding up the bricks!

Swapping locks

At just about every lock there was a boat coming down, we were following NB Autumn Haze up, a nice flow of boats through the locks, each rise fed by the next lock being emptied, efficient.

Waiting for the pound and lock to fill

Church Bottom and Top Locks are very close together. Nb Autumn Haze rose up above then the lady returned to lift a paddle to help fill the intermediate pound for us. Thank you.

We’d noticed on facebook this morning that NB Halsall would be making her way up the Cheshire Locks behind us, likely to do the whole lot in a day, few boats to serve. I placed an order and said where we hoped we’d be moored.

Obligatory photo even if it isn’t the same as when we were yellow

Next came a big deliberation. The need for a station tomorrow, the need for another in a few days time, a stock up on food, a location to return the faulty battery, meeting with friends and a desire to see a play. When should we go to the theatre? Today, stopping at Red Bull, transport back would be a problem. Should we see if we could get a booking this afternoon for the tunnel, moor up at Westport Lake and go from there? Should we delay seeing the play by a few days and get a bus back to Newcastle? All options were considered, we opted to pull up at Red Bull, a much better mooring for Tilly. She came and went for a couple of hours, her servants opening and closing doors for her, Dreamies on tap.

Anyone for a good strong cup of tea?

Theatre tickets booked, a bus sused out to get there, a message sent to Halsall incase we weren’t on board when they arrived. That reminds me I must pay them! Just as we were about to get smartened up ‘Coal Boat!’ Halsall pulled up along side, Rachel and Brian onboard. Not much time for a chat as they wanted to be on up to the next lock once they’d made our delivery. Diesel, more coal and a new gas bottle. Thank you as ever Halsall.


A walk up the hill to catch the 4A bus which took us to right outside the New Vic Theatre. We were here to see One Man, Two Guvnors their current production. In the cast several people we knew. Added bonus was our friend Bill happened to be watching the show too this evening, his partner Lisa (I used to work with in Scarborough) a stage manager on the show. I’d selected our tickets well, cheapest seats just because you have to walk along a row past other people to reach your own and the band would be in view throughout the show. It’s hard to get a bad view at a theatre in the round!

Hi NIck!

Mick said he hoped he’d not fall asleep as it was quite long. I knew there’d be little chance of that! What a show! Physical, farcical, at times hysterical. If you are having a bad day go and see this show, your face will ache from laughing so much. The whole company were brilliant, the energy from Michael Hugo and Nick Haverson exhaustingly funny.

Gareth, Nick, Pip, Bill, Mick

We met up with people in the bar afterwards, nice to be able to do such a thing rather than stand in the foyer waiting for people to come out from back stage. I ended up knowing five of the actors, Nick I’ve known since my college days and then lots at the SJT. Gareth could have passed me by without his long hair and beard, he’s been in a couple of Chippy pantos. Michael was in a show at Esk Valley Theatre I designed years ago, Alyce and Thomas stayed in our house last year. Sadly Conrad the director wasn’t about, I’ve worked with him twice, once here at the New Vic on a production of Oleanna by David Mamet.

What a great evening and so lovely to see everyone.

10 locks, 3.3 miles, 1 damp day, 1 canal turning orange, 2 hours, 2 bags excel, 1 gas bottle, 58 litres, 2 green tickets, 1 bus, 1 taxi, 6 actors, 1 DSM, £13 taxi, 1 great night.

Lift Those Fenders. 24th April

Rookery Moorings to above Pierpoint Top Lock 55

To avoid having to stop for lunch and to give all the other boats headed for the locks chance to get going we loitered, long enough for a breakfast. Along the Cheshire Locks there are places you can moor, you can take it steady rather than climbing the hill all in one go. This time we are aiming to do the majority of locks in a couple of days.

I wish gf black pudding was as good and as big as fully glutenified

We set off a little after 11am, a bit of a pootle to reach Wheelock where we wanted to dispose of rubbish and yellow water and if there was room top up the water tank. Just tucked onto the end of the water point was a share boat, the crew stood having breakfast. Then there was a git gap to a boat filling with water, their hose just reaching their tank, another gap not long enough for us. No chance on topping up on water. We pulled into the next space and did the neccessary, the share boat coming past just before we were ready to push off ourselves.

Between the Wheelock Locks

A lot of the Cheshire Locks are paired, one lock sitting side by side with another. Some chambers have been converted into bywashes, others are simply not in working order at the moment, but the bottom few were still in working order. So we were able to use the lock alongside the other boat.

As they rose up I noticed that they had all their fenders down, six, three each side, those rubber pipe fenders that once they get detached from your boat get strangley attracted to other boats props or in and around lock gates inhibiting their function to hold water. Should I mention that it wasn’t such a good idea to cruise with them down?

As they finished in Wheelock Top Lock a boat was heading towards them. Their crew lowered paddles, one walking all the way round the lock to then walk on ahead, the other standing waiting to close the gate, which would be better left for the on coming boat.

Click the photo for more info

Quite a few boats were coming downhill, so the locks worked well, one out, one in. At Lock 63 I had time for a chat to the other uphill boat whilst our lock emptied. Up ahead some of the paired locks are narrow and should they end up in one of those with their fenders down their boat may well get stuck! ‘We always put them up on the Middlewich branch and Llangollen Locks, but she’s been recently blacked so we’re wanting to help protect that.’ I understood, keeping your lovely black bottom black is one thing, however getting jammed in a lock another. She did say they’d not lost a fender, yet!

When their boat had risen they lifted all their fenders and then headed onwards to the next lock, a single on it’s own. Time for a queue.

So pretty with the sun out today

Locks 60 and 61 have the near side locks padlocked off at the moment, these are the narrow chambers I’d warned the boat ahead of. We waited our turn. Then I’d work Oleanna up to a height that I knew Mick would be able to step off at before I walked on ahead to the next lock to set it. Would there be a boat coming down, should the gates be left for them?

Cheshire countryside

A boat was coming down. I phoned Mick and he left the gates for the downhill boat, only for them to tell him in a strong German accent as they passed mid pound, that they were stopping for lunch. With a boat hot on our tail, Mick had told their crew there was a boat on it’s way down. They would now be waiting below the lock for a boat that wouldn’t arrive. One of us would need to head back to close the gate and inform the boat behind us that the lock was theirs. Mick did the honors. This did now mean we weren’t hot on the tail of the boat ahead.

The folly Mow Cop

When the sun was out it was so gorgeous. Warm, bright green and yellow, stunning. Our first view of Mow Cop between the trees. Then when cloud came over an extra layer was required to keep the chill off. I now remembered that I like these locks, only downside is there are only a couple of pounds long enough to boil a kettle in.

M6 traffic flowing well today

Under the M6. We passed a few boats we’d seen yesterday, some stopped for lunch others for the day. Above the Pierpoint locks we discussed whether to stop in this pound, our scheduled stop, or continue onwards to Rode Heath. Here we’d not have numerous woofers walking past and Tilly trying to reach the good trees on the far side of the field, so we pulled in and settled for the remainder of the afternoon.

Mick checked the batteries, as he does most day with the use of an old phone. There was something not right. The inside battery didn’t seem to be working as it should. It had been charging, but now wasn’t giving out any of it’s power. The Shed was emptied, voltage across the terminals checked. 4.8 volts which should have been 26.7ish. This was not good, it was as if the battery had turned itself off.

One coming down

A phone call to the chap we’d bought them from. Mark asked if Mick could send him screen shots from the Battery managment system, but if what Mick was saying was the case the battery would need to be returned, it sounded faulty. Thank goodness we got two, our capacity with just one battery is better than we used to have so we should be fine.

Sock shot from Jane, a complete stranger who has sponsored a pair of socks

Whilst Tilly decided this outside wasn’t so good, our thoughts turned to where the faulty battery could be picked up from whilst we still need to be on the move. Also how to package it up for the journey, we’ve obviously not got the original box and packing on the boat. Hmmm? I wonder if….?

12 locks, 3.9 miles, 1 cooked breakfast, 2 git gaps, 6 fenders lifted, 2 locks reduced to 1, 567874965367689 gladioli, 1 beautiful day, 1 boat half way up the hill, 230 amp hours.

Barry Humphery Would Have A Field Day. 22nd April

Milepost 6ish to Bramble Cuttings

I think if they repainted this it would disintegrate

Pootleing along the loooong pound this morning it was chilly, you could see your breath. We soon passed new fencing, high, blocking off the view to what used to be a sweet little tree house, at least the fence is wooden. Lion Salt Works, well worth a visit if you are in the area. Plenty of bags were piled up outside Thor, they make biocides and disinfectant.

The Four Counties coal boat

Round the bend to Wincham Wharf. In amongst the boats we could see NB Halsall’s bow. Last night we’d finished a bottle of gas just as the roast chicken was finishing. Rachel was just about to pull away from a boat, we checked on her gas stocks, ‘Plenty!’ We’ll hopefully see her before we’re out of her patch and if we don’t there is always the place in Stoke.

Tench and cranes

Now under all the bridges and pipes, passing the moored boats. At the far end a sea of cranes of different sizes surrounded a building. This will be a sustainable power station once built. Then we got a reminder of New Year 2016/17 as we passed NB Tench. We spent the evening sitting in her hold trying not to be cold with Heather Bleasdale, Alex (Tench’s then owner), Brian and some other people whos names escape me now. Good to see Tench again.

By now the gentle rain we’d woken up to had set in, with the occasional heavier interlude. A strip of land with what looks like planning permission for a house and a mooring, no details of who is selling it or any agents. A new house for sale a short distance on with a roof terrace.

Orchard Marina has water in it now, last year it was very dry. A few narrowboats sit at the far end, but it looks like there is still plenty of work to be done. HS2 was going to strtech right across this area, crossing the canal three times. As we’re north of Birmingham this won’t happen now. We wondered if the people whos homes had been compulsively purchased had been given the option to buy their property back?

Twisty trees

More old woodland along the east bank. Gnarldy oak trees covered in ivy, how much longer would these stay standing for, too wiggly for use in lock gates.

Down below in the wide valley the fields are lush green, if not covered in water. One was speckled in yellow. Were these buttercups, Mick thought more likely to be dandelions. He doesn’t like dandelions, so every year I give them a different name. In the past they have been daffodils, he likes them. This year they are gladioli, Dame Edna would have a field day in that field!

I can see space, lots of it!

Up ahead we waited to see if there’d be any space for us at Bramble Cuttings, a much sought after offside mooring. As it came into view it was empty! Brilliant!! We pulled in, made sure we moored consideratly then let Tilly out. Meowow!!

I claim this mooring!

Tilly’d just had time to climb a few trees in excitment and run around like a loon when another boat approached. They’d concidered pulling in, but they also had a cat and neither cat would want to share Bramble Cuttings. They carried on, we’d tied it up just in the nick of time.

Such a nice mooring

Despite the rain Tilly played out for quite some time. We were joined by another boat at the other end of the moorings and then mid to late afternoon a third boat pulled in inbetween. A woofer was on the mooring, so no longer just feline terratory, just as well I’d got bored of getting wet!

The next toe

A quiet afternoon as it rained outside, some knitting done. Micks hospital appointment was sucessfully moved to an afternoon so he can now have his 65 year olds aneurysm check. The boiler people insist on ringing us to make a new appointment, not the other way round! More dates of where and when we’ll be places were worked out with the hope of rendez vousing with foreign friends and family.

Did we ever take it slowly? Or have we always had places we need to be on certain days? One person I doubt we’ll see this year will be Heather Bleasdale as she is now busy exploring Irish waterways on GT the boat we got to meet two summers ago in Earith. She has blue skies over there!

0 locks, 6.4 miles, 1 prat doesn’t mean you can be too! £1.14 diesel on Halsall, 5826437393653 gladioli, 1 unconvinced Mick, 1st cat to claim, 2 neighbours, 1 soggy cat, 1 toe and heel turned, 5 weeks planned, 1 more boat on Lough Erne, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Garlic Enthused. 21st April

Longacre Wood (1 mile to Preston Brook) to site of bridge 194 (6 mile to Preston Brook)

Tilly was allowed some shore leave whilst we had breakfast and joined the Geraghty zoom. Todays subjects, Tweedy Lady protests, digital signatures, Alan Rickman and grit for boggy bits.

Thankfully Tilly popped in to say hello so the doors were closed quickly before she could wander off for a few hours. There was time for a wave and a quick hello to passing boaters, some timing their arrival well for the tunnel behind us.

We pushed off and I set to with some baking, hoping to have timed things well for lunch. I mixed up flour, rosemary, yeast, water and garlic infused rapeseed oil. Popped it into a cake tin, bunged a plastic bag over the top and stuck it onto the top shelf, the proving shelf. There it stayed for an hour as we made our way along the reeealllly long pound at the northern end of the T&M.

Almost finished

The knitting came out the back again and pair 16 were finished all but the casting off, I didn’t want to do that bit in a tunnel.

We’d timed our arrival badly at Saltersford Tunnel, we had to wait for at least half an hour. Perfectly timed however to prod holes in the top of my baking and drizzle the top with more garlic rapeseed oil and then pop it into the oven. Add to this the aroma whenever the fridge was opened, I’d forgotten to cover the remainder of the wild garlic butter from yesterday, the boat was starting to be a touch pongy!

Saltersford Tunnel

A horn could be heard from the far end of the tunnel and about ten minutes later a hire boat came through. They most probably entered the far end just in the nick of time. We pushed off as they passed and headed on through the tunnel. At the far end I bobbed down below my baking baked, now it just needed to cool in the tin for a while before being consumed.

Coming back into the light of Barnton Tunnel

I was back in the welldeck in time to peer into the dark of Barnton Tunnel, this one doesn’t have timed entry as you can see through it, but only when you have just about entered it. Thumbs up to Mick and in we went. Once round the 90 degree bend under the road bridge that follows, we started to look for somewhere to stop for lunch.

Perfectly timed my rosemary and garlic focaccia was still warm and perfect to eat. In days before Mick was in my life, after a busy week at work I used to treat myself to a partly baked focaccia from Tescos with some Boursin cheese. The loaf still warm from the oven was an indulgent treat. Since going gluten free this is a lunch I have missed. Sarah Howell provided me with the recipe, Yorkshire rapeseed oil infused it with garlic and we did a very good job of devour it. I’ve enough flour left for a few more too.

I love this house

Around Anderton was busy, a few trading boats we’ve not seen before. £1.50 for chilled medication, maybe we should stop. But it looked like it would only be of the Walls variety, I seem to be getting a touch picky on the flavour front as I get older. I wondered if the crepes were glutenous or not, but we kept on going past, we’d after all just eaten a whole loaf of bread!

Boat lift, think we’ll be seeing you later in the year

The water point was empty, a second load of pants and socks went in the washing machine as the water tank filled up. It was now far later than we’d thought it would be, so plans to get past Tata chemical works were replaced with finding a mooring sooner.

All the woodland either side of the canal today has been filled with either bluebells or wild garlic. The smell thankfully upstaging that coming from our fridge! Moving past the blue haze of flowers isn’t the best way to take their photo as it just turns into a vague blurr, so I didn’t bother.

Hmmm, should we stop?

Round a bend we pulled in, trees and friendly cover for Tilly, a large puddle pretending to be a new flash on the offside of the canal. Time to use up the wild garlic butter. I popped it under the skin of the chicken for our roast tonight. The aroma of wild garlic is stronger than it’s taste, but still it added a subtle flavour.

When recording our journey today and popping it into canalplan to compare the distance to that provided by Nebo, I chose to use the mileposts as our start and finish positions, these being the closest landmarks I could use. We started at the milepost which said 1 mile from Preston Brook and finished at milepost 6 miles from Preston Brook. So how come we cruised 6 miles 6.75 furlongs?

0 locks, 7 miles or 6 miles 6.75 furlongs, 2 loads washing, 1 focaccia, 2 tunnels, 1 Pippa’s Song, 0 chilled medication, 2 outsides, 1 pungent day, 1 passing moron.

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.