Category Archives: #unit21

Rustling In The Hedges. 1st May

Almost Lockdown Mooring 4

Since we’ve been mooring here we have occasionally seen a couple walking along the field alongside us. The first time was at dusk, they walked along the towpath and then bobbed through the large gap into the field. The lady had a face covering/scarf wrapped round and the chap had a wheelie shopper. They entered the field and walked back along the hedge, never to be seen again that evening.

Hawthorn blossom

Maybe the ladies face covering was due to the virus, or was it a disguise so nobody would recognise them? Just what were they doing with their wheelie shopper in the field? Certain possibilities came to mind, but in the morning there was no evidence in the field of a freshly dug hole.

View across the reservoir

We’ve been keeping an eye out for a boat with that wheelie shopper. But we now know most of the boaters around us and none of them fitted the bill. As we stood one day waiting to cross the main road into Nantwich, the same couple appeared from under the aqueduct and walked northwards with that wheelie shopper, no disguise that day.

Then this morning the lady crept past the gap in the hedge again, we’re right along side it now, maybe the chap had already passed by with the shopper and I just hadn’t noticed him. Just what do they do in there? Our four legged spy refused to go and keep an eye on them, she went out eventually but didn’t give us any information when she returned.

Sunbathing spy

Mick headed off on the bike to pick up a parcel for me. A very helpful local lady had offered to help with post should we need and I’d been running low on paper for my illustrations. I’d hunted round on the internet for ages trying to find one place that stocked the same paper I’d been using along with a new sketch book for panto. This had proved impossible. So I hunted round the Fred Aldous website to see if they had the equivalent weight paper as I’d been using. An A4 pad and two sketch books were ordered, one for panto and the other for #unit21. No excuses now I had to do some work, well …. after a walk.

Lots of paper to fill with drawings and ideas

On my way up to the reservoir I had a quick check in the field, no obvious signs of any activity again. Maybe it’s a short cut !?! Up at the reservoir the hawthorn was bloomin. No eggs for sale today and the raft that we think divers had been using to inspect the dam has now gone, leaving the water for the ducks.

Mountbatten on her way

As I reached the boat house with it’s slipway I could see the familiar shape of NB Mountbatten heading from Barbridge to Nantwich. That would explain why some of the locks had been empty when I’d walked up the flight, Mountbatten comes down the flight and heads up to Calverley before returning southwards. I gave Mick a call so he’d be aware of Richard delivering coal to us. This will be the last time we see them for a while as Mountbatten is heading to the Erewash canal for some work on her base plate.

Topping up our coal reserves

The towpath alongside the moorings has had a hair cut whilst we were away yesterday. A fresh cut edge visible towards the hedge. An expletive was heard from the boat just behind us ‘SH*T’. The lady was most probably correct in her observation, and I suspect there will be a patch of grass that will grow greener than it’s surrounding due to the substance she had been stirring.

Our garden has had an hair cut

The rest of the day was spent improving some of my drawings. My original plan had been to do new drawings rather than amendments to those already existing, so I could choose which was best. But sadly the new pad of paper I’d bought, despite being of the same weight isn’t as white as the original pad. So when they are photographed the background would be different.

Improved? Not sure

So as I’ve only three sheets left of the original paper I’m saving those for the drawings that need the most work and just rubbing out where needed on the originals. I now need a really fine pointed rubber to help edit faces that with just a slight line in the wring place end up gurning out from the page at me!

Lots of ingredients
Chicken bubbling away

Half of the spinach from yesterdays veg box was wilted into a chicken curry that I’ve adapted from my Hemsley and Hemsley cook book. Peas instead of green beans, a chunk of ginger added and served with basmati brown rice. Very tasty it was too.

Ready to eat

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 bike ride, 1 reservoir walk, 3 buckets constantly stirred, 3 sketch books, 1 hail storm, 6 improved drawings, 1 pair glasses, 1 lady, 1 chap, 1 hedge, 1 field, 1 wheelie shopper, 1 mystery, 1 silent spy.

Closing Down. 27th April

Lockdown Mooring 4

Today notices from C&RT have been coming into our inbox regarding the closure of lock flights due to low water levels in reservoirs. Levels have been kept low at reservoirs on the Leeds and Liverpool and the Macclesfield due to essential maintenance works. Now with the lack of rainfall, the levels will remain low, so not enough water at the beginning of the boating season to sustain normal boat movements.

As we’re not meant to be moving anywhere anyway it seems sensible for measures to be taken to conserve as much water as possible. So all the locks between Wigan and Bingley, and either end of the Macc are being padlocked and ashed up tomorrow lunchtime and measures are being taken so that vandalism won’t be possible.

So when the lockdown ends (which I don’t think will be anytime soon) we won’t be able to cross the Pennines by any route, the need to do so no longer exists for us, but it would still have been nice to be up on the Leeds Liverpool again. Another thought had been to spend some time on the Macc, but the poor old Macc hasn’t had any luck in the last few years.

Where we go, and when, will stay on the back burner for now, there are other things we need to do whilst the canal network closes down around us.

Sour dough Into the bowl to rise

This morning I decided I’d be making some bread today whether my starter was ready or not. I’ve been watching it closely and it definitely runs to a timetable. Nothing happens for a couple of hours, then it gradually rises over the next hour and a half. At some point in the next half hour it gives up bubbling and sinks again. It hasn’t been as bubbly as I’d liked, maybe my expectations were greater than its own. Maybe what it has been doing is all it will ever achieve and I’ve just been wasting flour. So this morning I fed it and returned the jar to the proving shelf. A timer was set for three hours time.

Town square

I re-read the synopsis for panto and took notes. The writer for Rapunzel is the same chap who wrote Aladdin and there are similarities. Along with a tower with one window and no door, I will need to create a Town Square (obligatory), a pub, a galleon and a medieval jousting match.

Cannons and rigging

My calf muscle has been rested for a few days so I decided to see how it would fare walking up the locks whilst the hours ticked by for my starter.

As I approached bridge 97 I could see there was some sort of kerfuffle going on, flapping of wings etc. I carefully walked up the bank to see what I could see. Two male Pheasants sparring with each other. No females standing on the sidelines, just a head bobbing stand off.

Boys will be boys

One chap looked pristine whilst the others feathers around it’s neck were bedraggled, he certainly wouldn’t have been my choice in such a state. Heads bobbed up and down and only occasionally did claws make contact. Stunning looking birds.

Once they’d made enough room for me to pass I carried on over the bridge and up the flight. Sandra from NB AreandAre had told us about an egg farm at the top of the flight. We already knew of the lady with her few hens, but on the other side of the Llangollen just a bit further along was a whole farm.

Egg shop

A red van was parked with it’s back doors open, a honesty box and prices on the eggs. Medium and Extra Large hens eggs along with some duck eggs. We currently have quite a few eggs on board so it was just as well I didn’t have any money on me. But we’ll be back when we need some. Apparently he normally has around 30 dozen to sell a day. His ladies looked quite happy out the back too.

Eggs anyone

My calf had survived the journey, so I’ll be taking more short walks for a while.

Happy ladies

The timer was just about to go off when I returned. Time to make necessary flour for a loaf. Oats and sunflower seeds needed grinding up and adding to various other starches and flours. I hoped that Maple syrup instead of coconut palm sugar would work. My starter had reached it’s normal maximum, so I poured off enough for the loaf, mixed everything together then put it into a t-towel lined bowl, wrapped it in plastic bag and left it to rise back on the shelf.

The recipe said two hours maximum, but hardly anything had happened. I decided to leave it the three and a half hours my starter normally takes to rise and this proved to be a good idea.

Risen a bit

Whilst it did it’s thing Mick worked his way though tax returns all of which mean he owes the tax man nothing again. I dealt with emails about my sketches and ideas for Dark Horses next production #unit21. So a day pretty much like the old days, three projects in one day.

The timer went off the oven and cast iron pot were hot, time to see what baking my loaf would turn out like. The previous recipe had been using sorghum flour and had been a lot firmer, this was with buckwheat and had been like a thick cake batter. I carefully turned it out of it’s bowl onto grease proof paper and scored the top. It started to relax, so I quickly popped it in the pot and into the oven, fingers crossed.

A loaf with potentail

The end product looked not quite as risen as I’d hoped for, but it still showed much more potential than the last loaf I’d made. We’ll have to wait for the morning to see how it has turned out. The remains of my starter have been put into the fridge with the hope that it will pop back into life for the next loaf.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 flight walked up, 10 flights closed, dozens of eggs, 1 last feed, 1 sketch to redo, 5 amendments, 2 uv or not, 9 scenes, 2 boats again, 1 set breakdown, 3.5 hours, 1 loaf with potential, 1 very large friend!

Mud Weight. 7th April

Lockdown Mooring 3

The gardeners were about this morning

Mick put the oven on first thing with our cast iron pot inside to warm up good and hot to bake the loaf. I didn’t hold out much hope when I unveiled it. When everything was heated up I lowered it into the pot on some greaseproof paper, put the lid on and slide it into the oven. Twenty five minutes later the lid came off, not the best view, but another twenty five minutes before it could sit on the shelf to finish cooking. I already knew it wouldn’t be the most appetising loaf I’ve ever made! Oh well I knew it was an experiment.

Not the most appetising loaf!

Mick spent some of the morning linking my phone to Zoom so that I could use it as a hand held camera to show my model better at my production meeting today. A cuppa was made and I sat down to see what changes to The Garden were going to happen.

Come play with me!

Dark Horse Theatre Company work with learning disabled actors, they have an Ensemble of qualified actors and students. The Garden was to be this years graduation show, sadly Lynda and Amy had made the decision to cancel all live performances last week. Rescheduling the show was getting more and more complicated, affecting their next production which is a big tour for them. However they had come up with an idea which would mean the play could still be heard and still involve everyone who’d been contracted.

A zoom meeting taken from a bad angle

Five of us discussed the possibilities of the play becoming a radio play. How could the actors record themselves? How different would the recordings sound as they got edited together? Posting out a recording device wouldn’t be possible as the actors are not that tech savvy and not everyone has help from family members where they live. So the play would need to be recorded onto phones, sound effects and atmosphere added. We actually decided that the quality of the recording would reflect the times we’re living in rather than sound as if it was done in a recording studio.

But what of my part? I know how the show was going to look, how would it look now. The play will be illustrated by me, eight or so drawings depicting moments from the play, then portraits of the actors for the credits (my own idea!). The hope is that we’ll produce something that can go onto YouTube, therefore reaching a larger audience and be accessible for all. So I’ve not as much work to do, no sewing, but a lot of drawing and painting, all of which can be done on the boat. The hope is that when people can be together again Dark Horse will put together an immersive exhibition of The Garden, we may even realise part of the design, so my model needs to be kept.

A smaller meeting followed between myself and Amy (the Director) regarding the show that will tour next year. They currently have a computer games animator working on the show and it’s getting to the point where he will need to know what people will look like, what costumes they will wear etc.

We chatted through the show in detail, a play about Adulting, set in a 1984 type world where you have to pass tasks to be allowed into the adult world. It is a highly technical show and I will need to seek advice from those more ofay with serious digital projection.

View by our mooring

Mick and Tilly kept quiet whilst my two hour meeting was happening. Mick had headed out to find milk whilst Tilly search for friends.

Late afternoon I headed out on my own again for a walk. This time I took the OS map with me and I headed out to walk in the opposite direction to yesterday. First walking along the canal to Bunbury. I passed a few boats moored along the cut, a tent in amongst the trees where a chap was collecting fire wood and a whirligig drying a bit of washing nowhere near a boat!


Bunbury staircase had both chambers empty, nobody had gone through, the walls were dry. Well we’d been the only boat along here to move yesterday so that wasn’t a surprise. In the window of the AngloWelsh office there were signs up trying to discourage people from walking the towpath. Below the lock the towpath is narrower than above so boaters who live there are getting twitchy.

Walking on water

Here I followed the road to the South. Lock Farm was readying itself for the cattle to cross the road for milking, the farm house a very fine looking building set back a touch from the road, all immaculate.

What a lovely farm house

I continued onwards to where Bird’s Lane headed off to the left. Here hedges have been carved into long wide triangular divides between road and fields.

Triangular hedges

At the righthand bend I came across a couple of ladies out for their daily walk. They moved with precision keeping at least two meters apart from each other and did a red arrows manoeuvre when I came into view to give me space too. Thank you ladies.

What’s that mid shot

Then across the fields, over stiles and little bridges to where I’d gone wrong yesterday. I’d turned left instead of keeping going straight, the kissing gate in a little dip so it had been out of view. Over the last bridge into the field below Oleanna and the canal. A black shape was just visible above the friendly cover, Tilly.

Is it?

Well, there I was minding my own friends when a She appeared in MY field! How dare She!! I’d just detected a friend and then got distracted. She seemed to know me, She called my name. Hang on how come She was in my field!? Hello!!! My friend could wait.

It is!

When Tilly became convinced it was me her tail lifted above the grass and she trotted her way over to say hello. That tail is such a welcoming sight.


This evening I sliced into the loaf. Heavy, thick, zero crumb, just as I thought. We tried a little taste each, very sour from having been left overnight. I finely cut some up to sprinkle on top of my Shepherdness pie. Too heavy to feed to the ducks, but not quite heavy enough to become a mud weight, it went in the bin.

My little thug

April is full of anniversaries for us. Today three years ago we hired a van, loaded it with essential possessions and bundled Tilly into her escape pod to drive to Sheffield. That day we moved onto Oleanna and Tilly claimed the bottom shelf of the bookcase as hers. Since then Oleanna has served us well, travelling over 3500 miles of canals and rivers and ascending and descending around 2300 locks. This year our travels will be much reduced, but one day we will be able to cruise again.

Staking her claim three years ago

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 towpath trimmed, 2 hours talking to Yorkshire, 2 shows, 8 illustrations, 1 box set, 1 animator chomping at the bit, 9th April milk, 0 water, 9 hours, 2.3 miles walked, 2 boats, 1 failed loaf, 3 years of Oleanna life.

Was That A …. !? 2nd April

Lockdown Mooring 2

As we sat in bed with our cuppas this morning, the curtains of our large picture window (36″ by 18″ is large on a narrowboat) drawn open above our toes, a large furry shape dashed past. ‘Was that….. was that a horse?’ We tried peering out of the window at an acute angle, nothing could be seen. Then a few minutes later there it was again going in the opposite direction. If it wasn’t a horse the first time it certainly was now. My camera sat on the dinette table so my phone had to suffice as the horse/pony trotted on down the towpath on it’s own.

A Horse trotting on the towpath

Just where had it come from? On our walk the other day we’d seen a donkey in a field, but no horses. So it must have got onto the towpath quite a distance away. Hope it found it’s way home, we certainly didn’t see it again.

That was only the start of the days excitement.

Mick every now and then has a look to see if there are any delivery slots available at the supermarkets. This morning he spotted one with Morrisons in three weeks time. He grabbed it and checked our delivery details. Thanks to Jaq Biggs we have pin pointed a couple of places around Nantwich where deliveries worked for her in the past when she lived onboard NB Valerie. Normally with deliveries we book them and arrive the day before hoping there is space for us, there always has been up till now. Fingers crossed that there will be space on the embankment in three weeks time.

The fields around us have been turned over, what next

So our cuppas lasted longer in bed than usual as we put things into our basket. Some items not in stock, but we got enough to hold our delivery. Hopefully when we revisit in 19 days time milk will be back in stock! They were excited, but taking far too long over it! Where was my game of PEN!!! At least they added food for me. Plenty of wood pellets for the pooh box and some new odour control to add to it that we’re going to try, She said. We? Well I use shore based facilities now so have no need for such things, maybe they’ll add it into their pooh bucket.

Over breakfast there was even more excitement. Mick had been able to log into Sainsbury’s website and there was a Click and Collect slot available in Nantwich for tomorrow! Sainsbury’s have reserved all their delivery slots for the over 70s and high risk people, so we’d not been expecting one of those, but this would happily do us for the next week.

The Llangollen canal feeding the reservoir

We thought about what we would need to keep us going along with what would fit into our Brompton bag and a rucksack. Our Sunday chicken is still feeding us from last Sunday so it would be nice to have a change. A joint of lamb maybe, some fresh veg along with milk and bread. Mick will cycle the two miles to collect it tomorrow, so we are limited to what we can get. When we’d checked out we noticed that if we spent another few pounds then we wouldn’t be charged £4. So another few items fell into our basket.

What an exciting morning.

I had a read of a new script I’ve been sent. #Unit 21 will hopefully be the next Dark Horse show to tour this time next year. Not your average show, plenty of animated projections required, so someone who works in computer gaming has been part of the team for a while. Next week after my virtual production meeting for The Garden is over Amy and I will have a chat about the new show. I think I’m going to have to read it through a couple more times before then as it’s a little bit hard to get my head round in one sitting.

Late afternoon we walked up to Hurleston Locks. A route back via the A51 had been rejected as the road still looks like it is quite busy and without a footpath a risk to life so we headed for the reservoir instead.

Going up

A narrowboat had just gone up the first lock of the flight and was waiting for the second chamber to be opened up. Blimey it was windy! Even if the journey was essential, I don’t think we would have been doing so today! With wind and tooing and froing the chap kept forgetting to close paddles, but others managed to close them or pointed them out to him.

Blue and blustery

At the top lock we crossed over the wide plank on the top gate, no need to hold onto anything, we then climbed over the stile to join the path around the reservoir.


The views from up there are fantastic, Oleanna just out of shot. We considered walking all the way round the water, but the wind was so blustery that it was doing it’s best to knock us off our feet. So instead we returned, pausing to wait for the narrowboat to finish at the locks. Here we met Barry who had succeeded in the full route round the reservoir, we managed to chat keeping our distance as we made our way back to our respective boats.

Still going up

Back on board we waited for the daily press conference on the BBC. We like to stay informed so watch them, but at times they are more party political broadcast than anything else. Look how good we are. 3 million lots of PPE (or whatever they quoted today) may sound a lot, but are they enough!!

The seed drill is out now

The last lot of my gluten free puff pastry had been defrosted during the day and was used to top a chicken and mushroom pie. This had to wait to be eaten until after 8pm as we wanted to join in with the round of applause. Oleanna beeped her horn and we applauded the masses who are working so hard. A distant boat horn could be heard in reply and the busy farmers in the fields tooted their horns too. We may be out in the middle of nowhere but we can still be heard.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 horse, twice, 1 delivery slot, 1 click and collect slot, 9 hours actually equates to 15 cat hours, 5 left, unit 21, 4 boats, 1 going up the locks, 1 very blowy day, 9 hellos to Lucy’s readers, 1/3 pastry, 1 chicken pie, just the stock to use now, 1 tractor, 1 seed drill, 8pm horn blowing, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.