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Breath In. 16th April

Salterhebble Middle Lock to Lock 1, Rochdale Canal

Sausages, Bacon, poached egg, black pudding, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried potatoes, toast, with a mug of tea. Yumm!

As we made ready this morning a boat was coming down the middle lock of Salterhebble, I walked with windlass and spike to show our intentions, the gates were left open.

Below the lock

On Lillian this was the shortest lock we encountered. We came down it backwards without bow and stern fenders. Getting the stern past a closed bottom gate took a bit of doing, with tiller hard over we reckoned we had about an inch spare after the stern nav light. Oleanna’s length was chosen with this lock in mind, a foot shorter than Lillian, we should be fine.

Coming in
Moving over to the other side

Mick brought her in through one open gate, slowed her down, bow touching at the front. At this point there was a chance that we might have to lift a fender to sneak her in past the closed gate.

Will she? Won’t she?

Would she slide in? Breath in! The stern fender looked like it was just over by an inch.

Then Mick pushed on the gate, it wasn’t quite fully closed. This gave us a few more inches.


She slid past no problem! Phew.

Nudged up over the cill as she rose

By this time there was someone saying ‘Hello’ to me, a Lockie who would be seeing us through Tuel Lane in a couple of days. With the gates closed we started to lift the ground paddles, keeping an eye on Oleanna as she rose. Now that was easier than we thought it would be, maybe we could have had her built three inches longer!

Top of Salterhebble

With another boat waiting to come down we went straight into the top lock instead of filling with water in the intermediate pound. Here we had gongoozlers, the crew from the other boat and two more Lockies. The lady from the other boat alerted me to water spraying into the well deck from the top gates. Yes things would be getting wet, but it wasn’t really all that much concern, Mick nudged Oleanna a bit to avoid the pisser from the gate and she carried on up with no problem.

Top Salterhebble Lock a pretty lock

The two locks were over very quickly and with ease. There are often questions on facebook groups as to how long is the ideal boat, a go anywhere boat(apart from the 40 something foot lock on the middle levels). Lillian was 59ft 6inches plus fenders, her stern was a little bit squarer than Oleanna’s and her bow may have been a touch fatter. Removing her fenders we cruised her up to Ripon, did the Salterhebble and the Huddersfield Broad locks. All these were done with care, but were a touch tight, especially the one on the Huddersfield Broad! When we specked Oleanna she had to be able to cruise the northern canals so she was built at 58ft 6 inches. Her shape possibly also makes a difference, just that bit more curvy and slender in the right places. We had several inches to spare today with our fenders down. The plan worked, we just need to see if she’ll fit through Standedge Tunnel now.

Trees! Please!!

We topped up with water and disposed of rubbish at the top. We wondered if the water pressure would have been better in the pound below, but we were patient and were out of the way for the other boat to go down. The trees looked very good here, but still they wouldn’t let me out!

In to the basin

A top up of diesel and a new gas bottle were required before we could settle for the day. The visitor moorings by the basin at Sowerby Bridge looked like we’d be able to fit on the end, but a lack of rings put us off. At the basin we swung into Shire Cruisers diesel point. This is where we’d left Lillian whilst we finished packing up the house to rent out, where we got a sofa bed delivered and where Houdini (our old cat) moved on board with us five years ago.

Last boat on the end

Refilled we reversed back out and winded. I’d spotted a space free below Lock 1 on the Rochdale Canal so we pulled in where the trees looked good, the river a safe distance away. Here will do us for a couple of days.

Pooh pumping station.

Mick headed to Halifax to pick up my new camera whilst I did some work. Whilst I wondered if I could use a sewage pumping station to base the main part of my set for Puss In Boots on, Tilly climbed trees and worried the local duck population. A good afternoon all round.

2 locks, 2.25 miles, 2 boats coming down, 4 inches spare, 1 breakfast up to standards, 1 left, 1 right, 1 wind, 1 camera, 1 very sexy pumping station, 5 friends, 4 trees, 0 wet paws, 2 geese sent flying.


Boxing Day Floods. 15th April

Crowther Bridge16 to Salterhebble Middle Lock


Today we came through one section of the canal that was badly hit by the flooding on Boxing Day 2015. In front of us as we pushed off, Crowther Bridge looked new with gabions up either side presumably to help reinforce the bridge should there be another bad flood. Over the last few days we’ve noticed dried out silt on quite a bit of the towpath and around locks brought up by the flooding a few weeks ago.

The canal runs very close to the river and should the river swell it joins forces with the canal, pushing it along as well.

A blue haze

We were now starting to enter the valley, steep wooded banks with a blue haze of bluebells. Sadly my phone camera didn’t do them justice and maybe in a weeks time they will be even better. Wild Garlic is also starting to appear but it’s heady smell was nowhere to be smelt today.

The level it sank to obvious by the line on it’s windows

A pause for a trip boat to clear Park Nook Lock and then it was our turn to ascend. Above a boat was moored on the lock landing. This was not someone being in the way, this was a boat that had been sunk and pumped out, all the contents piled up at the side of the towpath coated in mud. Such a sad sight. This next pound on Boxing Day was very much under water, the pub sign has a level marked on it about half way up, just about level with the next pound above Elland Lock.

Below Elland Lock

Five years ago we met a chap at Salterhebble who was convinced that the shortest lock on this section wasn’t the middle lock at Salterhebble but a bit further down. We’d come down the top two locks backwards, winded and aimed to carry on down hill forwards. But this chap was convinced he’d see us reversing back to wind and do them in reverse. We think he must have meant Elland Lock was the shortest, it has a full walkway across the bottom gates where as most only have enough to stand on to operate the paddles.

We had no problem back then and today we took it steady coming up and nudging away from the walkway as soon as we could.

Elland Bridge after the floods

Elland Bridge was next, another bridge that has been rebuilt. This carries on and spans both the canal and river, it cost £5 million to rebuild, it was the last section of the canal to reopen after the floods, the navigation reopening in 2017. New properties have flood walls built around them and one canal side property looks to have been built with high water levels in mind, just a shame it’s a bit of a big step to get in the front door!

Leave us alone!
His mate right back by the bridge

Today we didn’t have problems with high water. Today we had problems with an expectant father. We came through the bridge to suddenly be set upon by a Cob. He did his best to bite through the chains holding the stern fender on, we were quite concerned that he’d injure himself on the prop. He simply wouldn’t stop. Mick put some more revs on, then a spurt which shook him loose. But this didn’t stop him as he came flying back for a second go at us! We were about to close the back doors when he eventually gave up. Looking back towards Elland Bridge there was his mate sat on a nest. Suspect he swam back to her all proud that he’d seen us off.

Bow getting a wash
Mick under the walkway

Woodside Mills and Longlees Locks are still both short, hunkered into the steep valley side. Plenty of trees have been cut back and many of them have had the tops capped off with what looks like pencils. I’ve tried hunting around on the internet to see what they are about, but I’ve only found someone else asking the same question.

Pencil topped stumps

There is a disc of ply wood that has been fixed to the top of the tree stumps and on this are what looks like lots of coloured pencils stuck on end. Most probably a project by someone as they are all quite considered keeping to certain colours on each stump. Sadly my phone camera didn’t do too well capturing them. The sooner we can get to Halifax for my new camera the better.

To the guillotine

Salterhebble Bottom Lock sits behind a road bridge, a horse tunnel leads the towpath up to it. Here there is more breathing space, afforded by a guillotine gate. The key of power is required to operate this end of the lock, once turned a single button press is all that is required to get the lock to empty and the guillotine to raise. Well that’s what it says on the panel. The lock was empty so it took quite sometime for any signs of movement to happen, all the time I was wondering had I pressed the button hard enough or was there a fault. But no in the end the gate started to raise. Closing it you have to hold the button, swapping thumbs to avoid RSI as it takes forever.

That next lock can wait for tomorrow

We pulled in, we decided that the top two shortest locks could wait for tomorrow. Tilly got six hours of freedom and we settled down to some lunch followed by emptying the yellow water and some work for me. My Separate Doors 3 illustrations are finished, so they were scanned and uploaded to Dropbox. But with the internet being extremely slow here I’m not convinced I won’t have to do it again. The rest of the afternoon was spent finding images for Puss in Boots.

5 locks, 2.52 miles, 3 boats moving, 1 mardy cob, 1 risen boat, 4 bw sketches, 2 colour sketches, 265 references, 1 empty wee tank, 1 anchor still ready, 2 empty bottles of gas, 1 heel turned.

We’ve Been Down South For Too Long. 12th April

Hartley Bank Bridge to Bull Bridge, Mirfield

Frosty morning

Opening the curtain on the porthole behind our bed this morning there was frost covering the towpath and field behind us, a magical view. However, when I opened the curtains on the bigger window at the foot of our bed, two Kingfishers were busy fishing. One view topping the other. This used to be a colliery!

Obstacle course for water

As we had breakfast NB Rebellion passed us by. I wonder how many more leapfrogs we’ll do before our routes take us different ways over the Pennines. We pushed off late morning, soon leapfrogging Rebellion once more, they’d pulled up at Hartley Bridge. Here we considered pulling in to top up the water tank, but it being through a narrow archway at right angles to the cut where buoys marked an obstruction put us off, it could wait till we got to Mirfield.

The figure of Three Locks were up ahead. Yesterday Mick had asked on Canal World Forum if anyone knew which locks required a Hebble Spike, within minutes he had the answer, from this he put together an overlay for our Waterway Routes map. Now we know what to take up to the locks.

Rocky terrain

A large chunk of towpath had been dug out, possibly for an electric cable. Only one sign at the top, which laid on the floor, saying that the towpath was closed. Once clambered through we worked up the two locks, the last long ones that we could remember.

Bridges cross the canal, mostly redundant now from coal mines and mills. Their numbering a law unto themselves, 24, 40, 23, 39, 27, 20!

The joining pound at Thornhill Double Locks

We soon reached where a branch heads off to Dewsbury and the main canal heads to the left up Thornhill Double Locks. This is where five years ago we managed to knock Lillian’s rudder out of it’s cup, a nice man from Hebden Bridge came with a dry suit and it was forced back to where it should be.

Breath in!

Both locks are short, Lillian was a foot longer than Oleanna, so we should be fine, especially going uphill, but it’s still a tight squeeze. Mick kept her to the centre of the locks a few feet spare at the stern.

We pulled in to refuel ourselves where there were rings. There used to be a pub here, when we first came through we’d thought of stopping for an evening meal but the surroundings and the lack of glass in the pub windows put us off somewhat. Today things are a touch different, the area still is one we’d think twice about staying in overnight , but the pub has had some work done to it and has transformed itself into a school!

If I show you my white bits will you let me out?

Not an outside to stop in they said, so why had they tied it up? They’d been moving it long enough, it was about time they stopped. But no. They had some dingding and then pushed it away. I thought it looked quite good myself, but was told there was a better one to be caught later on.

More oddly numbered bridges an 8 sneaking in between 33 and 31. At one disused railway bridge we slowed down as some divers were inspecting it. High vis clad chaps clung to the metal work as we passed underneath, hope it passed it’s inspection.

I wondered if this lock would ever empty with only one paddle working on the bottom gates

We joined the river once again only to rise above it at Greenwood Lock. Having spent too much time in the south of late these locks were hard work. The water pressure against the paddles makes it seriously hard to get any of them moving, a chink will gradually fill the chamber bring up the water and reducing the pressure, enabling you to lift paddles higher. Some of the locks fool you into thinking you’ve gained extra strength all of a sudden, only for you to realise you could carry on turning your windlass for days and it would still have no effect other than to make you look foolish.

A lady truck driver came to have a nosy. She was about to head out onto the M62 and was so so jealous of us. I think she may start saving up for a slower pace of life.

Maternity ward

Two swans sat on their nests, very close together, will there be ructions in weeks to come when the eggs hatch?

Close to the boom
Poor quality photo, top of it’s head and back of neck were dark and a big bulbous bit on it’s beak

Turning back out onto the river again, skirting the weir boom masses of Canadian Geese protested at us. How we have not missed that noise! Amongst all the bandaged chins there was one goose who looked out of place, resembling a Greylag but not quite. I think it might have been an African Goose, but sadly my phone camera isn’t too sharp whilst zooming.

Do not drop your spike at one of these

Shipley Bridge Lock was soon with us, one paddle working to empty it, then a struggle to fill. This is where we witnessed a hire boat loose their spike in one of the ground paddles. These are open below and should you let go of your spike it will disappear out of sight. Cheap or homemade spikes would float, but if you’ve forked out for a posh hard wood one, you will never see it again. I think that is why that paddle simply wouldn’t work today.

We pulled over to the charity boats thinking the water point was there, but we needed to nudge up a bit further to the service block. Mirfield was our chosen destination for today, we’ve not stopped here before as the moorings have always been full. The first stretch was bordered by a tall cat proof fence. Not suitable, if Tilly got over it by means of a nearby tree, she might never get back. We continued. Right by a road, but it had trees! Not suitable. On further to the last moorings, by a road, a bridge and Lidl, a good wall to climb! We pulled in, this would be good for us but all shore leave for Tilly was cancelled.

7 locks, 2 flood locks, 6.05 miles, 1 missing towpath, 2 soft southern hands returning to northern calloused hands, 1 juddering paddle, 1owy little finger, 0 pub, 1 school, 1 very sulky cat, 2 nests, 1 outsider, 1 vet appointment, 2 cheese twists, 1 pack of Dreamies as an advance, 1 happy Mick, 1st homemade tagliatelle, yum.

Carr And Coal. 11th April

Hartley Bank Bridge


Our mooring was chosen to give us good access to a footpath that would take us up to Horbury. The path skirts a property that has high mesh fences and signs of cute dogs, we waved and smiled as we walked past the cameras in view. To cross the river we walked over an old railway bridge and soon we reached the railway lines cut deep into a cliff, one way Wakefield the other Manchester. A steep path gained us a lot of height up to the town, turning round the views of lush green fields stretched away with Emley Moor transmitter breaking the horizon.

That is quite some cutting

First thing today was find a birthday card for a very important man who turns 80 tomorrow and get it in the post. This done we were exactly where we wanted to be, outside St Peter and St Leonard Church. This is not your normal run of the mill parish church, that one was knocked down to make way for this one, the foundation stone being laid in February 1790.

St Peter;s and St Leonard’s

Why had we made a special visit? John Carr was a renowned English Georgian architect who designed and paid for the church to be built. He was famous for his bridges (Ouse Bridge in York, Ferry Bridge) buildings such as Harewood House, Newark Town Hall and plenty more. He became Lord Mayor of York in 1770 and 1785, where he founded an architectural practice that through the years ended up with my Grandfather and Father as partners, long after John Carr had passed away needless to say. So I had an interest to come and see the church as John is almost family.

One huge organ

Carr was born in Horbury and never forgot the town, returning to build the church
“as a memorial to his skill and bounty.” The original cost was £8000 with a further £2000 for the bells and organ, between £5 and £10 million today. He passed away in 1807 at the age of 84 leaving a small fortune of £150,000 or £93 million today (shame he didn’t leave any for my Dad!). In the 1950’s when repairs where taking place at St Peter’s a vault was found under the floor of vestry, this is where John Carr and members of his family are interred.

Very reminiscent of Newark Ballroom, just with pews

We arrived just as midday Mass was starting. Taking seats quickly on the far side of the church from the service we sat and respectfully listened, having chance to look around. The church was light despite the number of windows and reminded me of the ballroom in Newark, with it’s elaborate royal icing decoration.

So much
intricate detail

After the service several people came over to welcome us. We apologised for only having come to look round the church. Despite having a strong link to John Carr, we didn’t manage to get an offer to view the crypt where he is buried. There is an open day in a weeks time, but we want to be further on by then. The vicar came and had a chat too, we had after all swelled the congregation to 11!

Not quite structurally sound

John Carr was unacquainted with certain principles of engineering and he omitted supporting arches from the lower part of the steeple. This meant 100 years later the steeple was in danger of collapse and large steel girders had to be inserted. A large heavy stone ball used to sit on top of the spire, but gravitation became too much for it during a storm and it came crashing down through the church roof.

Carr Lodge all boarded up, waiting to be brought to life again

Carr Lodge sits a short distance away from the church. Built in 1770’s for John Bayldon it is a Grade 2 listed house. It was passed on to John Carr the lawyer, nephew of John Carr the architect and is surrounded by large gardens which are now a park. Sadly the house has been empty for some years and is boarded up awaiting a new purpose.

Quite a view

With a pork pie from one of the butchers we returned to Oleanna. The old railway bridge had to lead somewhere and in the afternoon Mick did some digging around on the internet. The lush fields that surround us, was until the 60’s, Hartley Bank Colliery. Two pit heads reached for the sky and numerous buildings covered the land where the cows now graze. The railway led to sidings and on to the main tracks, there was also a wharf for transporting the coal by water.

Hartley Bank Colliery
The wharf onto the canal

Who would have thought we were sat where so much industry and dirt had once been.

Who’d have thought

0 locks, 0 miles, 3 miles walked, 1 cliff climbed, 1 Sir 80, 1 church, 2 saints, 0 communion, 1 very pretty church, 2 many boarded up windows, 1 pork pie, 2 smiling boaters on CCTV, 1 house built on the flood plane, 2 pit heads, 5 whole hours, 4 muddy paws, 3 friends, 1 long snooze on the cards thank you.

Mrs Tilly nearly approves

There’s A Lot Of It About. 10th April

Fall Ing Lock to Hartley Bank Bridge 32

The camera Mick bought me for my 50th is having to be retired. It has been having great difficulty in functioning for a while now, it is only capable of focusing at a specific point and that is very unhelpful whilst cruising along. By the time I’ve found where it will focus, what I want to capture is long gone even at 3mph! So for the last week or so I’ve just been using my phone, which makes me slightly nervous near water, especially as it’s not covered on our insurance.

The Hepworth

So today we walked to Currys to see if they had the same camera. They had the identical one with a silver top. Great except the one that is all black is £30 cheaper and that money can be used to buy protection for it, so the next time I kill my camera, in about 22 months time I’ll be able to get it mended or replaced. I will kill it, it’s guaranteed, most days it takes 100 photos, I work a camera hard. I will however be buying myself a bumbag for it to go in, Bridget used to have one and I think it’s worth investing in one, hoping my new camera might last another couple of months before I kill it.

We deliberated for a while, I need a camera very soon for work to take model photos. instead of paying the extra £30 I have opted to get an all black one delivered to another store where we can pick it up in a few days time.

A top up shop from Sainsburys on our way back to keep us going until we get to Brighouse where we can moor outside for a bigger stock up. We chose to walk via The Hepworth, they are having a garden laid out in front of the building which I’m sure will be very nice once completed.

Mr Plastic hanging over the boats
Boat just visible under the bridge

The footbridge crosses the river just above a weir. Here a group of boats moor tied together. In the recent floods two Land and Water work boats got swept over the weir and capsized below it, they took quite a bit to get out. Today they are gone but a small narrowboat rests on the bottom below the weir, a sad sight and it looks like someone has had a fire on board too. Yet the plastic junk man suspended above the moored boats still sticks his tongue out at those who walk by.


After lunch we pushed off, the sun was out making Wakefield look like a class holiday destination as we pulled back out onto the river. We passed Double Two, a shirt factory where I used to paint scenery for the John Godber Theatre Company. Don’t ask, it didn’t really make sense to either Graham (the carpenter) or I at the time, we just went along with it.

Hebble Spike
The paddle gear

Soon we reached Thornes Lock. As I walked up to open it up I realised that we’d be needing our Hebble Spike. Mick had a good routle through the lockers at the back and pulled it out. Many of the Calder Hebble Locks require a spike to operate them. ‘Give me a lever and a fulcrum…’ the spike is the lever and quite a long one at that, the method of operation is quite clunky, but it soon came back to me.

As Mick brought Oleanna into the lock a narrowboat appeared from behind, we waved them to join us. From memory there should be enough room for us to share for a while yet. The locks get shorter and shorter as you go uphill. Our old boat Lillian managed them coming down hill, but being over long you have to do them diagonally, infact we had to do the top two backwards which afforded us a few more inches with her bow over the cill. Oleanna was built with these locks in mind, she is a foot shorter than Lillian, we may still have to lift fenders on the shortest locks.

Sharing again

NB Blue Moon was crewed by a couple and their son. It was their first solo cruise without their parents, very chatty they were too. Nice to be sharing locks again. I worked the Hebbel spike and both boats rose in the lock. They went ahead to get Broad Cut Low Lock ready.

As we got close, there were strange maneuvers going on. NB Blue Moon was being moored up on the pontoon below the lock, when we got within ear shot they shouted that the lock was broken. So we pulled in behind them on the pontoon. Two boats were sat in the lock heading uphill. The lock was having similar problems to those we’d had at Bank Dole, it simply wouldn’t fill. Here however there is a short pound above it which will gradually drain away whilst you hope the levels will equalise. They had called C&RT and a chap was on his way.

Chatting to pass the time the chap from NB Blue Moon, said he’d recently been to look at a boat on the Peak Forest, he’d handed over a deposit to be able to take it for a test run. The engine ran badly and he pulled out from buying the boat, the vendor refused to hand back the deposit. He’d looked the chap up on line and seen that he’d been done for fraud. Mick and I smiled, ‘There’s a lot of it about!’.

Nearly there!

Once the chap from C&RT had turned up, he lifted paddles, forced them down, flushed water through and the bubbling below lessened. The lock started to fill, one boats pram cover still up just missing the wide walkway on the bottom gates. With three of us on a gate beam we eventually managed to get it to open. Two boats up, now it was our turn.

This seemed to take longer and in the mean time NB Rebellion arrived behind us. Mrs Rebellion came up all ready to work the lock only to find us waiting for it to fill. This did mean we could find out which way they would be heading and would we keep playing leapfrog for the next few weeks. They will be heading a different way to us soon.

Moored by ourselves, and cows

Eventually the levels equalled and we could carry on. NB Blue Moon stopped by The Navigation for the day and we were left to carry on by ourselves. We wanted to get a touch further today. No obvious moorings, but the depth was good, out came the mooring pins and we settled for the rest of the day whilst the cows paddled and Tilly explored.

A canoe in there?
Water tight too

3 locks, 2 flood locks, 4.28 miles, 1 reluctant to fill, 1 empty wee tank, £30 for a silver top! 1 spike, 1 C&RT chap, 1 pram cover up, 1 (ours) pram cover down, 1 foldable canoe, 2.5 hours of muddy paw freedom.

This is what it’s all about

Volcanic Bread. 9th April

King’s Road Lock to Fall Ing Lock, Calder and Hebble Navigation

I really should have held my nerve last night. I was convinced that my sour dough starter wouldn’t do the job on it’s own and I’d started the whole process too late in the day anyway, but my recipe said that I could add 3gms of dried yeast to the mix to give a lighter loaf. This also reduced the rising/proving time by an hour and a half. All mixed up it went into my 2lb loaf tin which I’d luckily lined with grease proof paper and it was then put up on my proving shelf across the way from the stove. Timer set for an hour and a half.


For our dinner I was making a chickeny pasta dish that I’d wanted to put a cheese sauce over and bake for a while, this would warm the oven up ready for the bread to go in, or so I thought! As I was about to make the cheese sauce I happened to glance across to the bread tin. The contents were rising quite happily and were visible above the grease proof liner. With full fat gluten bread this would be a very good sign, a nice bit of rise, but with skimmed gluten free it is not so good a there is no elasticity in the dough to keep the shape.

Erupted sour dough

The rise was such that a slow volcanic eruption was occurring on the top shelf. Globs of dough were expanding up and over the sides of the paper and blobbing down onto the shelf. Cheese sauce was cancelled, oven put on quickly, as soon as I thought it would be hot enough I carefully carried the tin to the oven, globs dropping as I went. These were really rather tasty! The tray in the bottom of the oven had boiling water added and I carefully popped the tin in and closed the door, the monster was at last contained. After an hour it looked like it should be ready. It took some prising off the shelf that it had welded itself through, it had made a grab for the tray on the oven bottom.

Yummy toast with crunchy handles

This morning it was time to sample it. The recipe said that if it was a touch under cooked then it would be good toasted, it did look a touch moist inside. Once toasted with a golden glow… well that is the best toast I’ve had in an age! Once this loaf has gone I’ll try a batch without the yeast to see if that controls it’s rise better, I’m on the hunt for a deeper bread tin too.

They were meanies and didn’t let me out. This outside was still being judged on it’s merit for a Mrs Tilly award. Although the lack of trees was a touch disappointing. 

Bit of a droop there

We pushed off soon arriving at Birkwood Lock. The old gates in the centre of the lock have certainly seen much better days, they are never used anymore and would most probably just disintegrate if you tried to move them. It’s also a good job the usable gates are operated hydraulically as the beams don’t look like they’d take much strain. This was to be our last fully automated lock for quite sometime, possibly until the Thames in the summer.

Crossing the old aqueduct

Our diesel tank gauge was reading about a third full, the lowest it’s been in two years. Places to fill up as you cross the Pennines get few and far between so there was no option for us but to fill at Stanley Ferry. Crossing the aqueduct we spotted the diesel pump, winded and then came back on ourselves to moor. A phone call was made and someone eventually turned up filling our tank with 100 litres, at 95p a litre we didn’t bother with the last inch, we’ll have enough to get to somewhere cheaper now.

Columns and pediments seen from the new aqueduct

3 bags of coal on the roof and we could keep warm again. We used the aqueducts as a roundabout, spotting NB Rebellion (the purple boat we see everywhere!) as we turned. We’ve only come across the old aqueduct before, crossing the new one alongside you get a good view of the columns and pediments on the old one.


Across our path was the newly refurbished and reinstated Ramsdens Swing Bridge, an easy operation to get it moving, no key required. It was lunchtime now so we pulled in more or less where we’d moored in 2014, just after the water point at the end of the permanent moorings. This time however our second mate got to explore, Houdini wasn’t as so lucky five years ago. We guiltily had a barbecue whilst she watched from inside the cabin, she’d only been a boat cat for a matter of days and we didn’t want to loose our precious cargo, even if she was a grumpy old sod at times!

Broadreach Flood Lock ahead

Tilly came home, so we decided to carry on to Wakefield and get away from the incessant bark emanating from a boat across the way. That woofer was getting on my …. too, glad they took the hint! The log straight brings you to Broadreach Flood Lock and then back out onto the River Aire.

It’s a long walk round to close both gates

Much sooner than we thought we were at the foot of Fall Ing Lock ready to make our way up onto the start of the Calder and Hebble Navigation. Coming this way the lock seemed to have shrunk in stature, but it soon reminded me how long it was as I had to walk round to close both gates before it could be emptied. Windlasses back in hands we worked our way up then pulled in just after the new (to us) petrol station. That would do for the day and mean we could get a bit of shopping in the morning before pushing off.


2 locks, 1 flood lock, 3.91 miles, 1 wind, 1 roundabout, 100 litres, 75kgs coal, 1 lunch break, 3 slices of tasty toast, 32 spurts of air.

The Narrowboat That Wasn’t. Epilogue. 9th April 2019

We’ve never believed that Kevin and Richard set out to de-fraud people in the beginning. They built nice boats and for a time we wanted them to build ours. Kevin lived on a boat, giving him far more experience of how one should work than most boat builders. Where they failed was when they hit financial problems, instead of putting up a hand and admitting it, they tried to make things better. They got a spade and started to dig. By the time we were shown ‘our’ boat Richard had brought in a JCB.

Our original spec

There are questions which remain unanswered, which most probably would have come to light at a trial. At least we should get to know why charges were dropped against Kevin as the CPS are writing to us to explain.

I’m not sure what would have happened with us if Nichola hadn’t got in touch. The day we sat outside the workshop in Ripley looking at two narrowboat shells, neither one ours, we very quickly resigned ourselves that our boat was no more. That was something we would live with, we’d regroup and start again, which is what we did. However with all the statements from the Action Group and our photographs the police believed there was a case and investigated. Who knows if there would have been a case without our photographs.

In the next couple of months there will be more hearings in Derby regarding Richards assets, which will be confiscated and then split between the complainants. We don’t expect to get much, according to the CPS barrister, Richard doesn’t have much.

How do we feel about the sentence? Was it harsh enough? Well, we feel that the Judge summed the case up very well, the circumstances of the case were as we’d suspected. The guidelines for sentencing were pointed out to the Judge by the prosecution, without comment from the defence. The Judge was very clear that he wasn’t being lenient because Richard had pleaded guilty. It was a serious case and a lot of hard work had gone into gathering the evidence. I think that if there hadn’t been a Government guideline suggesting a suspended sentence be given then the sentence would have been custodial. The Government and taxpayer simply can’t afford to put everyone in prison. In some cases we believe it is better that people contribute to the purse rather than empty it by being provided with board and lodgings.


What is wrong, other than the original crime, is the amount of time it has taken to come to court. It took the police longer to put the file together than they originally thought, but that all needed doing. I’d been told that court dates would be set about six months after the CPS had decided to press charges. From being told this to when we attended the sentencing last week it was a total of 33 months! First the case hadn’t been allotted enough time, then the Judge wasn’t available for half the hearing. All this time and all the waiting for everyone. The prosecution barrister was apologetic about it, too much crime not enough courts and judges. In the end the length of time it took to get to court also had a bearing on the sentence. Maybe if it had been heard on the original dates the sentence would have been stronger.

Communication from the court system has been lacking. When first the dates of the case were going to change I had a phone call asking my availability for the next six months, then new dates came though nine months later. I may not have been available! It also seemed that not everyone was informed of each step, several members of the Action Group were not informed of the guilty plea, it was only when people started emailing each other that everyone got to hear.

It has to be said that this was not always the fault of the Witness Care Unit. On Friday whilst we were trying to escape Leeds Lock my phone rang, it was the lady who’d been looking after us. She knew we’d been to the hearing the day before, so could I please tell her what the outcome had been, what sentence had been given. All the information she had been given was a court date in July. For a system you would expect to be faultless there are huge fissures in it. An email later that afternoon was sent out from the WCU to inform all the witnesses of the sentence, I really hope I remembered the details correctly.

We have done our best to stay level headed through out. Sadly what has happened has happened. Nothing can change that, we know we’ll never get all our money back, that is something we’ve always known. As a good friend has said, ‘There are no winners’.

Us and Oleanna

Over the last few years we have learnt several things.

  • A contract can be as water tight as you like, but when someone starts to lie that contract won’t help.
  • Those people on the Braidbar boat at Crick in 2012 were right, we didn’t want a cruiser stern.
  • However they were also wrong. We didn’t want a Trad.
  • Having a second hand boat for a few years has saved us getting things wrong with Oleanna.
  • It’s disappointing when a Judge doesn’t shout during sentencing.
  • Being a boater doesn’t mean that you can turn up to a court with a pen knife in your pocket! Luckily the nice man returned Mick’s Swiss Army knife as we left, this does now leave me trying to find something for his birthday this year.

We now have our wonderful boat, she is far better than she would have been, and we are thankful to be able to live the life we do.

Launch day, 2 years ago today

I needed to write about this more than I thought I did. Thank you for baring with me. But now it’s time to leave it all behind, close the chapter and carry on enjoying life.

She just keep smiling back at us