Category Archives: Tunnels

Smiles All Round. 29th March

Salter Hebble Bottom Basin to Hebden Bridge, Rochdale Canal

Heading ton the top Salter Hebble Lock

A boat was coming down the middle Salter Hebble Lock as we were getting ready. Mick walked up for a chat and got them to leave the gates open for us. These top two locks are the shortest of the Calder Hebble Locks. On NB Lillyanne we had to come down these two locks backwards just so that we could get out of the bottom gate, we only had an inch to spare. We must have been so careful back then working these locks.

Sunny morning and smiles

The lock cottage alongside the top lock was fairly recently for sale, it’s certainly in desperate need of some tlc the roof couldn’t even be considered to being classified as a sieve! The last use of the Hebble Spike to get us up to the top and then the turn towards Sowerby Bridge.

Is that this outside?

We’d called ahead to Shire Cruisers to see if they’d sell us some diesel, so we carried on into the basin ready to back up to their pump. All the hire boats were lined up, front doors open and some engines running. A chap popped his head out of a door, ‘Are you wanting the services? The hire boats are about to go out, maybe you should come back after lunch’ I relayed this back to Mick. We reversed back out of the basin and pulled into the first space on the Rochdale Canal. Mick walked over the lock and went to see the people in the office, they of course said just come in and reverse up to the pump.

Topping up the tank the first time this year

We reversed back to the junction, and headed back to the pump where a helpful chap was stood waiting to grab our stern line. He filled the tank up then Mick went into the office to pay. We both remember the slightly stern lady here from when we’d hired from them years ago, she rightly wanted hirers to listen to her instructions on how to work a lock!

Another reverse back out of the basin. We discussed what we should do, maybe have a quick lunch and try to get going before all the hire boats came out and grabbed the moorings in Hebden Bridge, or maybe we’d be able to join the first one going up in Tuel Lane Lock. Three quarters of an hour later we pulled back out, no other boat had come along to share with so we’d be on our own.

What a pretty view

Spring blossom brought a smile to my face framing the scene below Lock 1. People stopped to watch, a couple of gents tried to open a gate for us but failed, they did help close it. Oh how stiff the paddles are! Am I out of practice? Or are they worse than five years ago?

Crossing the pound between 1 and 2 was very slow, it took a lot of effort getting into the lock, Oleanna sitting on the bottom! The paddles only just opened, one click on each side and then no amount of adjusting the windlass helped they simply wouldn’t budge. By now we had one of those silent crowds watching us. Thankfully some water was going into the lock and Oleanna was afloat again.

I walked up to Tuel Lane Lock to let the Lock Keeper know we were wanting to come through. You shouldn’t enter the tunnel below the lock as it may need to be emptied of it’s 130,000 gallons of water first! The Lock was full, thankfully the extra water would help us get over the cill at Lock 2 as the level looked quite low. We were instructed to sound our horn as we entered the tunnel. We paused to let the initial wave of water coming from the lock to settle, closed Lock 2 behind us, Mick had only just managed to raise one of the paddles when the water pressure had reduced. We sounded our horn on entering the tunnel and got three whistle blows back, not sure what that meant, the chap hadn’t told me.

Coming into the lock

The lock was waiting, all grey, dripping wet. It’s a modern interior to a lock, concrete built in 1996 to replace locks 3 and 4 as part of the restoration of the canal. Most of the canal had been closed to navigation and officially abandoned by an Act of Parliament in 1952 and parts of the route through Sowerby Bridge had been filled in for a road widening scheme. The IWA petitioned against various building proposals keeping the possibility of connecting the Rochdale to the Calder Hebble alive. In 1991 £2.5 million of funding meant the connection would be possible. The original plans were for the lock to be 57ft 6″ long, similar to the shorter Calder Hebble Locks, but a reworking meant they could accommodate a standard length lock of 72ft. The first boat to use the lock was on the 11th April 1996, the official opening in May.

Part way up Tuel Lane Lock

Passing a rope around the riser at the bow we then moved Oleanna forward to get the stern line around one too. The huge gates were wound closed behind us then a thumbs up from Gary the volunteer and a paddle was raised.

THANK YOU. Dave to the left and Gary to the right.

Down in the depths of the deepest lock on the network I was glad of the bright blue sky overhead. I was also surprised how still Oleanna stayed as we rose up, our ropes hardly needed. Gary was assisted by Dave, who had come down to see what was happening today, he will be a volunteer at the lock after his training which is to be on Monday. I think he was imparted some pearls of wisdom by Gary. As the noise died down I was asked if we’d been through before, ‘Yes our fifth time’. ‘You’ll have got a certificate then.’ ‘No, we’ve never been offered one!’ He returned and handed one over.

Now we wiggled our way along the side of the valley, views stretching out. Oleanna had smiled in the lock, now a smiley face beamed at us from the wood followed by a very happy jumper walking along the towpath.

Views don’t come without some work

Where to moor for the night? Should we stop part way to Hebden or carry on to ensure we got a space. Locks 5 and 6 were pretty heavy work, but I got the paddles up and Oleanna rising. However when it came to Lock 7 it was a different matter all together.

Sunny

In came Oleanna, gates closed, I went to lift one of the paddles. I tried repositioning my windlass to make the very most of umph power to get it raised and onto the first notch. Nothing! I walked all the way round to the other side (no walkway on the top gates) and tried again. Nothing! Oh B***er!

It’s when you can feel your steel windlass bending that you know you’ve got a problem! Mick climbed the ladder, we roped Oleanna up. It took a lot of doing and Mick’s extra weighted umph to get them shifted, they eventually moved.

Mile posts, they don’t mention how many locks there are though!

Thankfully we were through and headed for Lock 8. I’d re-read the blog post from five years ago which mentioned how hard it had been to close the near side bottom gate, Frank and I had serious problems with it. So this time we avoided it opening in the first place. Mick opened the off side gate whilst I kept the problem gate closed. It worked and the paddles were a breeze! Just the short distance now to moor up for the day.

Lucy in the sky

It was just gone 6pm, too late for shore leave for Tilly but there was plenty of room on the moorings to choose from for the weekend. The cruiser we’d seen at Brighouse was sat on the service mooring facing downstream. Is he waiting for someone else to share locks with? Don’t blame him if he is.

Hello Hebden!

9 locks, 7.9 miles, 19ft 8″, 5th time through Tuel Lane for us, twice for Tilly, Lock 7!!!!! 91 litres, 3 reverses, 1 left twice, 1 certificate, 2 boaters with weather worn cheeks.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/imAHKXsu6HuH5AA17

Click the photo for details

PS if you’ve a spare million pounds take a look at this house we passed today. The gardens were immaculate.

Holding Up His Majesty’s Mail. 19th August

Between bridges 8 and 9 to between Locks 21 and 22

Princess Sparkle and Bilbo Bagins let go of the timeshared outside before Tom and She did. The outside moved slowly away, but it moved slower for them. She said we’d just about caught them up when the bridge drifted up to reached us.

Heavy bridge

On arrival the bridge had only just closed, the crew from NB Drifter just about to climb back on board after letting themselves through, some road traffic and then a couple more boats. I walked over, turned the key unlocking the barriers which are manual here. I closed one side and was walking across to do the other one when a Post Office van arrived. The Postie offered to help push the bridge, a welcome offer as it is really quite heavy. He was also happy to wait for a following boat to come through too, he said he was used to it, normally helping the day boats through. We were all soon on our way again.

Boats everywhere

At the bottom of Foxton boats were here there and everywhere. A day boat wanting to wind from it’s mooring, NB Drifter had opened the bridge and were now backing up the otherside of it towards the bottom of the inclined plane to wait for water. The boat in front of us was trying to find a suitable place to pull in before checking in for the locks, we just waited until there was a suitable pause and headed through the middle turning right under Rainbow Bridge towards Leicester.

Back in the world of widebeams we passed one which you could say was moored in a winding hole, but it’s a big winding hole, they’d taken time to find places for their ropes just below the waters surface. Past Debdale we were now where we should have been last night and entering the SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSI area.

When we first did this stretch we noted the amount of reeds, how narrow the channel was and how few moorings there were. Now it’s pretty much like most canals, certainly there was little difference on our way to Market Harborough. The wind blew the reeds about, a wave of green alongside Oleanna, but thankfully the gusts didn’t seem to be catching us out.

Tunnel mode engaged for Saddlington Tunnel. A chap at Foxton the other day had been saying how long it was and that he’d be cycling over it later. I told him of Standedge Tunnel and how it was six times as long, certainly no way of seeing from one end to the other. With our powerful torch at the back we could see all the bat boxes, you are meant to be able to see the bats swooping out of the tunnel at dusk.

A pause at a mooring for lunch then onwards to the locks.

For Sale

The Top Lock Cottage is for sale, a renovation opportunity apparently, even though it has quite a new kitchen. A big amount of land comes with it too for a guide price of £650,000. They’ve been very careful with their drone photo to include the lock and not too much of the sewage works the nearest neighbour!

Back to wide locks

A C&RT chap was busy running water down, paddles open at both ends of the lock. He was surprised to hear that North Lock in Leicester was fully booked for Tuesday, he didn’t understand why they didn’t just get on and mend it. I suspect that will happen once the school holidays are over with and the height of the season has passed.

Glistening water

At Bridge House Barn it was the lull between ceremony and evening do at a wedding. New guests were arriving at the big teepee, Mick waved at the kids who soon would be busy on the dance floor or hiding under the buffet tables.

We dropped down the first four locks, one pound most definitely low, nowhere near the bywash. I walked ahead to set the fifth lock hoping to moor overlooking Wistow. But then a space with a view showed itself, half an hour short of where we’d planned to be, we pulled in. A good wide towpath, trees friendly cover for Tilly, the willow tree needed a touch of a prune before the pram cover could be lifted, but all good. We just needed the wind to die down now for a barbecue.

A dry bywash

Sadly the wind kept coming and going, it would have fanned barbecue coals too well, so we abandoned that idea and had kedgeree instead.

Feet and bricks

Late evening, photos appeared on a facebook group of water flowing out of the side of the Stainforth and Keadby Canal near to the M18. The poster had reported it to C&RT at midday, no notice had been issued. Speculation of a breach started to spread through social media. We’re not due there for several weeks, but if there is a problem we’ll be needing to take a different route. First decision will be at Trent Lock, if we carry on up the Trent the next decision will be at Keadby whether to go round Trent Falls. For now we’ll watch and see how things progress and hope that our friend David and the other moorers on that pound are okay and don’t end up sitting on the bottom.

4 locks, 8.3 miles, 2 bridges, 1 held up, 1 right, 1 tunnel, 0 mysterons, 1 windswept bride, 1 low pound, 1 boat heading our way, 1 mooring with a view, 2 windy to sit out, 1 happy cat, 1 band playing 80’s 90’s hits into the night.

https://goo.gl/maps/cfZRtmawdAzKj61E9

Left This Time Please. 16th August

Avon Aqueduct to Bungalow Bridge 59

Finally the new quote for building panto was added into the other numbers that make up the budget. Bang on, with no contingency and me unconvinced about the printing. A few emails back and forth, one pot of money identified that could be raided, another possibility, but a couple of things missed off the budget. It’s all so frustrating!!

Left this time please

I need to chat to the print man but unless something has changed along the summit pound in the last few years phone signal was going to get worse not better. Our first trip along the summit was on a hire boat many years ago when my Dad went missing with his warden call button. Messages from the neighbours were intermittent, his car was in the drive, search parties about to walk the fields, us several days away from the hire base in Rugby not able to do anything. Thankfully he turned up fine, think he’d gone out for lunch with a friend who’d picked him up and he’d taken his warden call button with him by accident. So I’m well aware of poor signal towards Foxton. In the end I decided there was little I could do about this today other than answer emails.

Another tunnel, another boat

A wave to NB Panda as we cruised past North Kilworth, then tunnel mode was engaged, into Husbands Bosworth Tunnel. We were following one and passed another, thankfully the tunnel wasn’t too wet.

Soon views to one side or the other appear. We once spent a November here and tried to find a suitable mooring for Bonfire Night to overlook Market Harborough to watch the fireworks. No suitable mooring showed itself before dark. Today distinct signs of autumn showed in the trees, berries reddening in the hedgerows. This stretch normally has a very good show of berries.

Mooing on a sunny day

Cows in the fields, sunny sunny day. The scary trees didn’t feel quite as perilous today, maybe the most perilous have lost their fight against gravity in the last few years.

We pulled in short of a long line of boats before bridge 60. Here Tilly could explore without too much footfall from gongoozlers towards Foxton Locks. The solar was good, yet we still needed a short top up with the engine before 8pm to keep us going all night.

The afternoon was spent doing sketches of props and logos for panto. All jobs that would normally get left a while longer, but I’m wanting to pack away my work things, so ticking jobs off the little list was good. I’d been hoping by the end of the afternoon the budget for panto would be signed off. 6pm came, the emails stopped, people were headed for holidays.

During the day an updated notice regarding North Lock in Leicester came through from C&RT.

Following yesterday’s assessment of North Lock, it remains unsafe for boaters to operate unassisted. We will therefore be offering assisted passage to boaters on a Tuesday and Friday between 1pm and 3pm from Tuesday 22nd August 2023.

We’d passed two boats earlier that had turned round because of this. For us we are happy to wait for one of the days with assisted passage. Stories of four hours being stuck in the lock, Spanish Windlasses and six/seven people needed to encourage the gates to open have been heard. We’ll let C&RT do that bit for us.

Chicken spring rolls and fried rice Click the photo for recipe

Tonight we had chicken spring rolls again with fried rice. I’ll try to find the time to do the recipe as I think it’s a keeper.

Today the panto cast has been announced, two familiar faces amongst them from Puss in Boots.

0 locks, 7 miles, 1 left, 1 tunnel, 1 passed, 0 mysterons, 0 contingency, 2 user sign in confusing things, 3 logos, 1 beast, 6pm deadline missed, 1 designer sat in budget limbo, 5 hours! 1 sunny day, 1 towpath filling up with boats, 1 panto cast announced.

https://goo.gl/maps/nHR7ertp5YYqSGP26

Post Office Beans. 10th August

Welton Hythe Marina to Cracks Hill

Tilly was keen to go out this morning, she likes it here. But as we are the custodians of the doors they stayed firmly shut, we had places to go.

A shady room at the Thai restaurant

Nebo switch flicked on, we were soon on our way, the M1 getting closer all the time. The old Thai Restaurant no longer has a terrace below a weeping willow, there is now an extension containing tables and chairs and TV monitors. This only slightly looks better from the canal than when the place was empty and run down, I hope it looks more inviting from land.

We’d already been passed by a couple of boats this morning, so we knew we’d not be straight up the Watford flight. But only one boat was pulled up in front of us, they were the third boat going up. I walked up to find the Lock Keeper with the book, thankfully he was the first one I came across at the bottom of the staircase locks.

Coming up the second lock to wait

For those who don’t know, Watford has narrow locks and the flight is made up of a couple of single locks, then a staircase of four followed by a single at the top. A staircase is where one lock chamber shares the gates of the next chamber, then the next, then the next depending on how many chambers there are. So boats cannot pass in the staircase and there has to be one chamber left empty between boats, so that you don’t steal the water from the boat ahead of you. Both here and at Foxton (where there are two sets of staircase locks) you have to check in with the Lock Keeper, be patient and wait your turn.

Pushing off from our holding mooring

Today it seemed that they were operating three boats up then three boats down. We were the fourth boat to arrive at the bottom, we’d missed the cut. Our instructions were to come up the two single locks and then wait for the boats to come down before starting up the staircase. More boats arrived behind us, they were told to come up the first lock and then have a cuppa whilst they waited.

We all moved into position, helping each other out. The boat behind us was from Ripon, the boat behind turned out to be from Blue Water Marina in Thorne. We all exchanged stories of sink holes, breaches and being stuck.

Filling the next lock and chatting

As the lead boat came down the staircase we all went to help, Mick and a lady from behind filled the lock below the staircase so that it would be ready for each of the three boats. I helped with gates as the following two boats were single handers, each with a lock keeper winding the paddles. This all helped to speed things up and made for a sociable hour.

Red before …

Time for us to rise in the staircase. ‘Red before white and you’ll be alright!’ the mantra many mutter to themselves as they ascend or descend. There are side pounds here to help conserve water. As you lift the red paddle water from the side pound enters the lower chamber. Then you lift the white paddle this empties water from the higher chamber into the side pound. When all three are at the same level you can open the gates between chambers and move your boat. Then repeat until you reach the top of the staircase where there are normal paddles to fill it.

The top single lock was sat empty waiting for us at the top so were the crew from the first boat waiting to come down, not such a sociable lot.

Now choices, where to moor for the day? We know the summit pound really quite well. Should it be the Sheep Mooring? The towpath not wide enough for a bbq and we needed some suitable supplies to cook. We continued onwards, tunnel mode engaged, me with a coat, Mick without.

Passing

The tunnel was wonderfully cool, the south portal very misty. One boat was passed and then at the far end we got a soaking from the tunnel roof. You always get a soaking in Crick tunnel.

So lifeless now

Around what used to be The Moorings (a restaurant) the area and buildings look like they are being prepared for redevelopment, an area behind the bins has been cleared. Wonder what will be there?

As we carried on past the marina we kept our eyes peeled for familiar boats. Was that our old neighbour? Was that someone we knew walking away with their back to us? Was that the bow of a boat we hope to meet up with? The towpath moorings here were busy as always, we carried on hoping for a space away from the marina.

House boat and crane

Hang on what’s that? A big cane was extended, what looked like a house boat below it. Are Aquavista installing house boats at Crick? Or is it something left over from the boat show?

On we pootled, fingers crossed. As bridge 14 came into view I zoomed in with the camera, the reeds making it hard to see if there would be space for us. Then as we rounded the last bit of the bend we could see that there was plenty of space available. Quickly we pulled in and tied up. A quick pace out in front of us to see how much room there still was before a boat would be in the way of the winding hole. Enough for another Oleanna.

Our preferred Crick mooring

As the weather was so good provisions for a barbeque were required, our shopping trip in Rugby had been on a rainy day, our purchases had reflected this. Across the fields, through the woods over the A428 on the little footbridge. It’s funny the first few times we visited Crick we sat on this road in long tail backs heading to Crick show, today only one car passed below me. A wiggle round the houses and I was at the Post Office.

Goody Post Office beans

Birthday cards popped in the post and a quick check to see what local grown veg was available for sale. Then down to the Co-op for some pork chops, milk and a few more bits before returning to the Post Office for some peppers and the obligatory Runner Beans. Back along the bridleway spotting little blue butterflies flitting this way and that, but none of them staying put long enough for a photo.

Some work emails to catch up with. New printing costs were in, with a few extra pieces added to the list we’d managed to get the price down by £1000. Still waiting to hear about everything else though.

Yum!

Another Christmas rub/marinade was tried out on the pork chops, all very tasty sat outside. The evening wasn’t quite as sunny as the day had been, but it was nice to be able to sit out again. If the weather continues to be good we may have to find ourselves a new bbq as the one we’ve had for nine years now is starting to disintegrate.

Cracks Hill

A boat arrived wanting to wind. We watched as the70ft boat turned into the winding hole. Bow thruster, pole. The bottom was really quite silted up, another attempt to get tucked further in. Eventually they managed to have enough room to swing the stern round. So glad Oleanna’s not that long!

7 locks, 4 a staircase, 3.8 miles at the top of the Nebo report, 5.2 at the bottom, 1 tunnel, 1 boat passed, 0 mysterons, 1 pipe delayed rendez vous, 1 mooring just for us, 1 big bunch of beans, 2 cards, 2 chops, 4 kebabs, 4 hours shore leave, 1 tiny limp.

https://goo.gl/maps/wqpSvctw19epXGeh6

Bang On Time. 4th June

George Greaves Bridge to Little Leigh Aqueduct 205, Trent and Mersey Canal

Waking early with plenty of sunshine streaming in through the windows along with the weekly Geraghty zoom this morning meant there was ample time for Mick to cook breakfast, back to the usual standards today.

Is that better Ade?

Zoom topics included relocating snails, foxes relocating shoes, a green soft top Ford Consul and which was quicker the Bakerloo or Northern line?

The covers were ready for a speedy departure, pushing off at 11am. Ahead lay Preston Brook Tunnel which is open to southbound boats from 30 to 40 minutes past the hour. Did we have enough time to reach it before the next window had expired?

Straight on for the tunnel

Not too many moored boats to slow our progress. Midland Chandlers is closed on Sundays so a new float switch couldn’t be purchased, that will have to wait a while longer. A boat coming from the tunnel towards us carried on at a narrow section, we had to hold back a touch, didn’t the chap know we had only a few minutes to spare and he was rapidly using them up!

Bang on time!

Thankfully we made it to the northern portal just as the clock reached 11:30, bang on time!

With life jackets on, big torch at the stern, head light on and cabin lights too we went straight in leaving the Bridgewater Canal behind. *It’s been a while since we’ve been through Preston Brook Tunnel, in fact we can’t quite remember when it last was, have to check the blog. Thankfully it wasn’t too wet.

That’s a bit of a queue

As we popped out the southern portal a line of boats were sat waiting for their turn, five in total. There was nobody behind us, but the lead boat was going to wait a few more minutes before setting off.

Preston Brook stop lock was left open for us. A height difference of about 2inches, the water flowing over the top of the top gates. Blimey these small gates were a touch hard to move, considering their small size they were rivalling some of the gates at Wigan.

Time to get back to work for me. Model making equipment had been dug out from under the dinette before we pushed off this morning. Now to pull out some white mount board and get started. I thought I’d checked my stocks and seen a full sheet of white and a good amount of black, but someone had already used at least a third of each! Oh! Would I have enough to make the basics?

Careful cutting was required and I had just enough white card for every bit of model including a front cloth. But should I change my mind and need to remake anything (which is quite likely) I may well be short. It may be a week before I can restock my card supplies as Middlewich doesn’t have an art shop! Eek!!

A shoe box of bits

Being slightly ahead of our schedule meant we’d not be needing to do the full four hours cruise today. We carried on past where we were meant to stop for the day and found a sun puddle to sit in quarter of an hour away from Saltersford Tunnel. Here our solar could keep topping up the batteries for a bit and Tilly could have a very good afternoon, Good Afternoon! See you later.

I managed to get the majority of my initial white card model made, just the Town Square left for tomorrow then I can put it all in the model box and see what needs altering and if I need more card sooner rather than later.

1 lock (if you can call it that!), 6 miles, 1 straight on, 2 canals, 1272 yards of tunnel, 2 mysterons, 5 waiting, 1 basic white card nearly done, 0.75 sheet of card, 5 hours shore leave, 64 instead of 68 stitches.

*We last went through Preston Brook Tunnel in May 2019.

https://goo.gl/maps/jpmeLbiw1uhQXMwU8

Faces At the Window. 21st September

Ballot Box Bridge to Colebrook Eco Moorings, Regents Canal

We’d planned to be on our way by 7:30 but that didn’t quite happen, it was nearer 8 by the time we’d pushed off. The journey in towards London always takes time, add into the mix weed and other boats, it can always take longer.

A new development sits up high, hang on was that a boat up there? NB Pavo, we’d seen the boat about. Our deduction from down on the canal is that this boat has found itself a pool of water to sit on off Canal and River Trust water a bit like the boat on the South Oxford Canal. Maybe it is going to be an office for someone, or maybe it’s just a big water feature for the complex.

More boats all individual, more paintings on walls.

Very slow boats

Soon we could see a breasted up pair ahead of us some distance away, each bend brought them closer and closer, each bend gave them shallow water that they needed to pole off, it was the Polish coal boat. We caught them up and slowly followed them, tick over then neutral then tick over again. There was nowhere suitable for them to pullover to let us pass until their bow got stuck again. They freed themselves leaving a gap just wide enough for us to go through between them and a moored boat, we were waved on.

Kensal Town brings with it office windows to look into. From above Ainsley and Nicholas peered back down on us, nosy blighters! Duck weed covered the whole canal by now. The bubbles at Westbourne Terrace Bridge doing their best to hold the mass of green back and away from Little Venice. The water point was free, we pulled in to make use of the tap and bins and make a brew.

Left at Little Venice, Rembrandt Gardens moorings were full, we hoped our booked space further along would be available.

At least it won’t go yellow!

The steep bank outside one of the posh houses on the Regents Canal has been clad in astroturf, their gardeners no longer having to mow that part of the garden, they might just have to weed it instead in years to come.

Warthogs biffed at large balls containing edible treats. A lazy Colobus Monkey lounged in what used to be the Snowden Aviary it is now a walk through monkey valley exhibit with high up perches for the monkeys.

There’s Heather!

Stood waiting for us at Hampstead Road Locks was a familiar figure, Heather, she’d walked up from St Pancras to help us with the locks. No volunteers on today and thankfully I remembered which gate had a problem last year, so I used the other one.

Heather set off to set the middle of the three locks. A trip boat set the bottom lock for us, all easy going. Around us the new buildings we’ve seen going up over the last few years all look complete, walkways criss crossing everywhere.

A short pootle and we arrived at St Pancras Lock, two volunteers on duty, one of whom we’d done the Tideway with last year. Sadly there was no room for us to moor at the cruising club this time, but there was plenty to chat about as the lock was set in our favour.

Hello!

We waved goodbye to Heather and David and carried on our way, we’d be seeing them both at the flotilla. The Queen had done her washing and watched us go by as we approached Islington Tunnel.

This looked hopeful

The tunnel was clear, I zoomed in with my camera. One boat in view on the Eco Moorings where we’d booked for two nights. There was a possibility that the boat was breasted up and there’d not be room alongside the towpath. We carried on through the tunnel.

Maybe not so hopeful!

By the time we’d reached the other end the boat I’d seen was breasted up, in fact it was the third boat out from the towpath. All along the Eco-moorings the boats were breasted up apart from one small gap. Was someone overstaying? Had the C&RT website calculated the wrong length of mooring available?

Mooring spaghetti

We pulled through the next bridge and I walked down to check on any spaces below the lock. Every space was full with boats breasted up. Pooh! Only yesterday Mick had tried to look to see if there were any spaces available at the other eco-moorings, but as we’d already got a booking it wouldn’t show us. We’d past a space on the other side of the tunnel, admittedly by a building site, but we’d have been bank side there enabling Oleanna to finish being washed.

Jaunty

Only one thing for it, to reverse back into the space that was available, do the best we could mooring at a jaunty angle and try to sus out when those we were blocking in would be wanting to move off. The angle did have one benefit, we’d be able to open our hatch! Soon after mooring the Puppet Barge came past, thankfully there was enough room for them.

That’s a big one!

We settled in and explained to Tilly that there would be no shore leave for the foreseeable future. The hook up cable came out and after quite a bit of grring from Mick we had power, £10 credited to our account. We’d be able to do washing and use the electric kettle. Cheryl from a few boats up (NB Firecrest) came to say hello as she reads the blog.

Onion Bhaji

This evening we caught a bus and headed over to Kentish Town to meet up with Christine and Paul for an Indian meal at the Bengal Lancer. A very nice meal with great company and the delivery of our nav lights. These came in a really rather big box, four times the size of the lights! We just need a battery for the white one now and somewhere to strap it to. Thank you Christine for the use of your address.

4 locks, 11.73 miles, 1 full water tank, 1 left, 1 tunnel, 1 Heather, 1 David, 1 Ainsley, 1 Nicholas, 1 Queen, 40ft mooring, 58ft 6 boat, 1 jaunty mooring, 1 mission nearly accomplished, 3 nav lights, 0.5 clean boat, 1 harrumphy cat!

Left To London. 12th September

Gayton Junction to almost Adam’s favourite mooring Bridge 63

After spending months on the rivers and seeing on average a couple of boats move in a day (apart from at weekends and excluding the river festival) this morning was a reminder of how busy places can be. Before we were even outside rolling up the covers we’d been passed by several boats , one at 06:20. Then as we were ready to go for it we had to hold fast as two Union Canal boats came past heading southwards.

Quite a distance to go

With a suitable gap in traffic we reversed back to the junction, one small blast of the bow thruster and Oleanna herself turned back onto the Northampton arm and pulled into the service block with next to no effort what-so-ever. Water, yellow water, rubbish all were sorted. NB Ivy May pulled up they had a problem which they hoped the boat yard would be able to help with. Hopefully it’s nothing bad and they can be on their way soon.

With our chores complete, life jackets, torch, waterproofs out the back, a quick check of the direction the tunnel light was facing and that it worked, we were ready. Left to London!

Such a great building

Soon we were passing the lovely mill in Blisworth and approaching the tunnel portal. All tunnel preparations were done, tunnel mode engaged. We paused to let a Kate Boat exit before we plunged into the dark ourselves. I hoped Tilly would still be enjoying her morning snooze and not get worked up about the journey underground.

Coming into the light

We passed another boat part way to the middle and with 1600m to go we saw a tunnel light enter the far end. Thankfully we passed them after the big pissers coming in through the tunnel wall so I didn’t have to mop up inside.

Out the south portal. We passed only one boat moored towards the tunnel, a hire boat running their engine in reverse gear. Maybe they’d be heading for the locks soon? With water levels still low we decided that we’d wait half an hour for a locking partner or for anyone coming up the locks if they were set against us.

Stoke Bruern

As the top of the locks came into view we could see a boat just entering the top lock, Hooray!! We wouldn’t have to wait. Ooooo! Another boat pulled out to join them! We’d be waiting. We pulled in checked the time and waited.

This looks interesting

Mick walked down to see if anyone was coming up, no sign from the bridge. We waited. Still no-one after half an hour. I walked down to the second lock, no-one coming, Mick walked to look back towards the tunnel, no-one coming. We filled the lock.

Peeking out of the top lock

Just as Oleanna was entering the lock a boat appeared from behind, hooray! Soon followed by a second one. Did we have a situation where they were wanting to share? No, we had a locking partner! With both boats in the lock I walked down to set the next in the flight. This was repeated again. But as I walked to the third lock a Black Prince hire boat was just pulling out. I don’t know you wait half an hour for a lock partner, then all of a sudden three come along!

New partner

The lock was ready for when the hire boat arrived, and the same question was asked regarding sharing. I’d already called back to Mick, so we had no problem in swapping partners, we just wanted to get down the locks without wasting water. So we waved goodbye to one boat and joined the next.

Swapping with uphill boats

With four on board the crew were all experienced, so someone naturally walked down to the next lock to set ahead. Only one pair of boats were met heading up the flight, so a swap over in a pound was needed. The lady on one of the uphill boats asked about the tunnel, ‘Would it be worth one of us walking ahead to see if anyone is coming?’ I let her know that the tunnel was two way and that there was no towpath through it. I did suggest putting waterproofs on as even after the drought it was still very wet in there.

A volunteer greeted us at the second to last lock saying there was a problem gate and it had taken five of them to open it for the last boat. It turned out to be a case of a ground paddle still being open and water flowing over the top gates stopping the levels from equalising. The volunteer managed to open the gate on his own this time.

Bye bye

At the bottom we waved our partners goodbye and headed onwards, maybe we’d pull in once down Cosgrove Lock, this is where we should stop today.

But after an hour and twenty minutes we decided that we’d had enough for the day and Tilly would prefer it here.

Of she goes

We spotted Adam’s favourite mooring, a wide beam sadly taking up the view. A little bit further we pulled in, forced a nappy pin through the plants covering the gaps in the armco and let the cat out.

Signs

I spent some of the afternoon working. A few props need sketches doing and sign posts needed making for the model. Now I could have a good tidy up and put my model making things back under the dinette seating. The corner has been filled with my work since we left Bedford in July. After nearly eight weeks it’s nice to have all that room back again! Tilly made sure she reclaimed it by having a good old roll around.

7 locks, 8.43 miles, 1 perfect reverse, 1 full water tank, 1 left, 2 partners, 0.5 hours short, 1 favourite mooring taken, 3ft swords! 9 signs, 4 hours shore leave, 1 reclaimed dinette.

Bangerless! 29th April

Bridge 103 to Water Lane Bridge 9, Grand Union Canal

Not a Lapwing but it was singing it’s little heart out

1980’s synthesised kazooing woke us this morning. Lapwings. Their call will always remind us of Lock down 1 opposite the potato field at one of our early moorings. Such a distinctive call. The three or four of them were in good voice, I wanted to record them but first their was an aeroplane, then passing boats, followed by a tractor, then they had gone. They seem to like freshly sewn fields.

A swan on a very private nest, willow fencing around the area

Pushing off was one of those waiting games today as boats kept coming past. How polite should one be in not pushing out in front of someone? Or should you just grab a gap when one appears? In the end it wasn’t that bad and the boat in front of us soon pulled over for morning coffee, a training boat.

With the trees now in leaf the spire of Braunston church took it’s time to show itself. Bangers! But would we get moored? We hoped our arrival time was suitable to be able to fit in a gap just vacated.

Braunston Turn turned

At the turn we turned southwards, the other folk occupied by a boat that seemed to be wanting to wind. Then we played the chicken game, would there be a mooring further along by Butchers Bridge or not?

Quack quack!

Maybe we’d fit in at the back just by the bridge into the marina, over looked by rip stock mallards. No there was a ledge stopping us from coming in fully and so close to the entrance we’d rather be out of the way.

The moorings had a couple of gaps, one long enough for a 50ft boat perhaps, the other much shorter, but the two together might just fit us. Mick slotted the stern in and then went to see if he could attract the attention of those inside. They moved back and we slotted in everyone on piling hooks rather than rings.

Very pretty

The Aubretia at the top of Nibbits Lane was wonderful. Over the years it has cascaded and tumbled down the dry stone wall to make a fantastic display.

The butchers for a Sunday roast shop. Pork would be on the menu, next cheapest after chicken. A joint for four of shoulder. We got a very generous joint more likely for six or eight, good job we like pork. Some veg, a pork pie and some bacon.

Sunday Roast

Then the question. ‘Are you still doing gluten free sausages?’ The signs on the cabinet didn’t look promising. The answer came back, ‘No we don’t do them’. Well I was very lucky once in the past. No Braunston Bangers for breakfast anymore! The church spire won’t have quite the same effect from now on.

Wait for us!

After lunch we pushed off hoping that a boat that had just passed would wait for us at the locks. The hire boats were busy, two were being filled up with groceries from a Sainsburys van, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many crates! Was this a stag do? Maybe but for an octogenarian!

We had a partner for the locks. Yay! Well we ended up having two. Up ahead was a single hire boat that had only just been sent of from below the locks, they were mob handed with plenty of sailor hats on display.

NB Whistler shared the first three locks with us then it was obvious that we were now being followed by another single hire boat, time for us to split up especially as we’d caught the boat ahead. There were downhill boats at most locks now so gates could be left.

Swapping over

We teamed up with a canal time boat for the last three locks. Once the lock was filling I’d walk up to the next to empty it or help open gates. I signalled back to the lock below that there would be two boats coming down, Mick acknowledged my signal. However he didn’t pass it on to the two ladies crewing for the hire boat, who closed everything up. Soon rectified.

Braunston Top Lock

Once up the last lock it was time for the tunnel. Now is it 300 to 400m from the other end where the kink is? Or 400 to 500m? Thankfully no-one was coming towards us so we didn’t have to adjust our speed to avoid any possible collision. We can confirm the kink is between 400 and 500m from the Norton Junction end.

What plumage! I think there might be a baby sheltering under her wings

The moorings with a view looked pretty full so we pulled in before them and soon found ourselves surrounded by the stag do boats, a boat in front and one behind us. They were a touch noisy to start with but soon settled down to munch their way through their supplies.

Turned out nice again

6 locks, 7.28 miles, 1 right, 4 Lapwings, 2 git gaps made a mooring, 1 huge hunk of pork, 1 pie, 4 rashers, 0 bangers! 12 maroon crates, 2 locking partners, 1 tunnel, 2 mysterons, 1 mooring without a view, 2 boat stag do, 12 stags having Nanna naps.

https://goo.gl/maps/4cGUL7FKryZquvX7A

Left Left Please. 14th April

Curdworth Visitor Moorings to Star City, Grand Union: Birmingham and Warwick Junction Canal

Heading up to the Birmingham plateau usually means long hard days of locks, no matter which direction you come from. However today was going to be a short one for us as we were heading for new waters!

Daffodils and chickens

The boats around us had already moved off before us, the Anglo Welsh boat starting it’s engine bang on 8am. We’d noticed a slight list to Oleanna, I pushed out the bow, but the stern was being obstinate. Mick popped her in reverse, then pushed, then reverse again. Eventually we were off the bottom just as a boat was coming through the bridge behind us. Sorry we pulled out, we’d reached the point where we just had to carry on.

Minworth Bottom Lock

Minworth Bottom Lock was very full, in fact the top gate was open. A chap was busy picking litter from quite a mound of duck weed on the off side. He asked if we could wait whilst he removed the worst of the weed and rubbish from the lock before I emptied it. Mick hung around below and I chatted with the chap. He does this off his own back, with rakes, landing nets, a bucket (now broken) and a high sided wheelbarrow.

Handy bus stop

By the time I emptied the lock and opened the bottom gate (only one as we’re on the BCN) Mick had managed to pick up something on the prop. A blast of reverse disposed of it, but now he was very very close to the arch of the bridge below. Thankfully he managed to manoeuvre away before any damage happened to the grab rail or pram hood.

Pale patches of grass suggests this lock had work done recently

You could tell the chap had started at the bottom of the locks as the next two got progressively worse, more duck weed and more and more rubbish collecting above the top gates.

Noisy motorbikes on the towpath

With todays fuel prices you would think that would put off the towpath motorbikes, but no. Two kept passing us, up and down the way almost to our planned destination. They paused at the drive through KFC then were heading back of into the distance again

.

Tiger, zebra, giraffe and a crocodile!

A hire boat came past, or was it an Ark? Only one of each animal on board though.

The canal now gets more and more urban. The M6 getting closer and closer all the time, HS2 will join in with this in years to come.

Natural light changing ugly into attractive

Over head a factory was built spanning the canal. Concrete pillars holding the weight beyond the towpath. Today we’d timed our cruise to perfection, the sun streaming in between the pillars. The colours of the (none too artistic) graffiti catching the light and creating an effect similar to that of stained glass. Wow! What a treat.

We were facing Spaghetti Junction, old bridges and new all starting to cross cross at speed above the slow moving canal below. Peeking through under the M6 we could see where we’d be stopping today, Star City.

Left left please

At Salford Junction I gave directions. Not straight on or just left but, ‘Left Left Please!’ Mick slowed Oleanna down and pushed the tiller over, several points to the turn and we were round and onto new water for all of us.

The River Tame below M6 above

Now on the Grand Union, we crossed over the River Tame which quietly trickles it’s way underneath transport old and new. Nechelles or Salford Bridge Stop Lock now has no gates but the canal narrows and a cottage sits behind big fences for it’s own protection. A cheery chap called out to us from the garden.

Ahead was our mooring for the night, Star City pontoon, a secure mooring behind a locked gate, or so we thought. On closer inspection someone has cut away the C&RT padlock. This may have been because the padlock broke. We pulled up at the near end, furthest away from the busy road bridge ahead.

What a long pontoon!

Star City has a huge cinema, bowling alley, restaurants etc. We’d not be visiting and neither would Tilly. This took a bit of explaining as to begin with the trees, cowslips and sideways trees looked appealing. But behind them was a service road then the carpark. The Cat Health and Safety Committee convened and decided it was too risky.

Chopping

After a late lunch Mick chopped up a log that had been fished out of the Aire and Calder by Al weeks ago in Goole. I started on a batch of Hot Paw Buns, mixing together the dough and leaving it to rise before adding the fruit and spices.

Only half of the rip!

Next on the jobs list was the port side cratch cover. Yes we’ve only just had the zips mended but unfortunately when Mick dropped me off at Nether Lock on the Trent the other day we were too busy protecting the cabin side to notice that the overhang attacked the pram cover! A rip along the skirt and a broken zip!

Mended a couple of times before

I’ve been looking online to see if it would be possible to mend the zip rather than replace it. With a pair of plyers in hand I had a go at following the advice I’d found, the zip head may have opened up and not be pushing the teeth together enough, so hopefully a squeeze back would do the job.

Squeeze

I gave the leading end of the zip a squeeze, a slight improvement, but I couldn’t squeeze anymore. Mick came and helped too. Maybe the back of the zip needed a squeeze too. We nudged the head down a touch opened up the teeth behind and applied pressure. Back up to the top as far as it could go and try again.

It would never be invisible so I don’t mind the brighter blue cotton

Well it looks like the job might be done as the teeth are now aligning and pushing together as they should do. We’ll see if it stays together tomorrow when I roll the covers up.

Mick checked the weed hatch, not much to report on the urban jellyfish front. We’ll see what we manage to catch in the morning!

Hot Paw Buns Click photo for recipe

Hot Paw Buns had their fruit and spices added. Normally I’d leave the the dough to rest again before shaping them, but today I experimented, shaping and adding their centres, leaving them on a tray to rise before going in the oven. It took them quite sometime to show any intention of rising, maybe they weren’t warm enough, maybe the yeast was past it’s best, or maybe I was pushing them too soon. But what really matters was how did they taste.

Going going….

Yummy as ever!

3 locks, 5.8 miles, 1 left left, 1 good soul, 1 dinted dinghy! 12 hot paw buns, 2 inches darned, 1 log kindling, 1 zip mended?

https://goo.gl/maps/Q3b8GrWZjhmQHurf6

Hidden Depths. 26th March

Bramwith Junction

Fran and Mick

A couple of days ago Mick’s niece Fran had been in touch, she had a spare ticket for a Sheffield Hidden Rivers Tour today, would one of us like to go? Well this was right up Mick’s street and a chance to see Fran too.

So off I (Mick) went to catch the bus into Doncaster. The expected 13:13 bus from Barnby Dun into town never turned up but the 12:42 came along at 13:35. This got me to Doncaster station with 10 minutes to spare to catch the train to Sheffield.

Outside Sheffield Station

Then a short 10 minute walk to the rendezvous point outside the Triple Point Brewery and Bar. I met Fran and her friend outside and donned our wellies in the car park. Another twelve people arrived in dribs and drabs, most (but not quite all) of them suitably attired. The three tour guides met us there, all wearing waders, and gave us a short briefing and hard hats.

Hard Hat
Fran and Ali

Then it was off down the road to a gap in a moveable fence which lead to a suitable place where we could get into the bed of the River Porter. A bit of a walk in the open air first to get us used to walking on the rocky river bed.

The river soon disappeared into a culvert underground. The headroom was very limited at this point, in fact the lowest of the whole tour. At one point I had to resort to hands and knees.

We went this way

It then opened out a bit and the headroom got better. We carried on until we were under the railway station. Here the River Sheaf joined us and the water flow got stronger. The guide told us to look up and he pointed out some wooden boards above our heads. These form part of platform 5 of the station. There are plans to remove these boards and replace them with glass or perspex so people above can look down on the underground river. It will also let light down to the river thereby encouraging a bit more wildlife down there.

Cracks of daylight from the station platform above.

We then took a sharp left and walked under the railway tracks. The station was built between 1865 and 1870 so these arches have been here a while.

All the time there was the rumble of trains moving up above while we carried on for a few hundred metres under the station. The going under foot was very rough along here, well actually for pretty much the whole tour. Lots of loose stones and bricks. There was much potential for broken ankles but we all survived. At one point one of the guides stood in in his waders in waist deep water with his head torch switched to red and pointed us through an archway on the left where the water was much shallower.

Go Left!

We reached as far as we were allowed to go, the presence of bats prevented further progress. So we stood a while to look for bats but none wanted to come out to play. The light at the end of the tunnel was tantalisingly close.

Unreachable Light at the End of the Tunnel

So that was the end of the tour. Or rather the halfway point, we turned around and headed back the way we came. All in all it took a couple of hours and was very enjoyable. It was difficult under foot and a walking pole would have been useful. There were a couple of places where the water came over the top of my wellies so waders would have been good too. But even so it was a great tour.

Fran gave me a lift back to the boat where she stayed for a Saturday roast dinner.

Meanwhile, back on Oleanna …

Tilly and I (Pip) were left in charge of Oleanna for the afternoon. Tilly hunted. I read my panto script, turned down a job that I’d been approached about yesterday (two models on a boat at once just isn’t feasible, panto takes over our lives for long enough, plus we still want to boat this summer), pulled out some knitting and caught up with my old school friend Morag for an hour on the phone. Then a gammon was popped in the oven with roast potatoes as the sun set, all ready in time to welcome the intrepid explorers back.

0 locks, 0 miles, 0 winds, 1 bus, 1 train, 1 car, 0 newspaper, 2 many dogs, 2 intrepid explorers, 2 rivers, 15 hard hats, 1 dress, 4 wet legs, 4 wet socks, 1 panto re-read, 1 sausage day, 1 hour catching up, 1.4kg gammon, 18 roast potatoes, 3 choc chop cookies with ice cream.