Category Archives: Volunteers

Not A Day For A Thumbs Down! 4th July

River Colne Aqueducts to below Black Jack’s Lock 85, Grand Union

Goodbye Slough Arm, maybe we’ll give you another go sometime

A boat whizzed past us this morning, they were aiming for the end of the arm. They apparently made it….. but did they make it back?!

We pushed off just before 11am, things to do today and a minimum three hour cruise. Left at the junction and we were heading northwards again. Another stretch of moorings where there was plenty of space. Where have all the boats gone? If we’d wanted we could have moored up below Cowley Lock, however Puss Puss’s boat was moored there so we’d have chosen to move on anyway. Puss Puss is now quite an old cat a stray who adopted some humans. He quite often used to head to the pub with them giving woofers little leeway!

Cowley Lock

A volunteer at the lock saw us coming and set it for us, bunting zigzagging above. He said how quiet the canal was, a lady had walked down to see if there was room below the lock, room for at least twelve boats today. The cafe here now seems to be gone and the pub is having a serious makeover, Mick wondered if it will still be a pub or a private house.

Rubbish dealt with and the water tank refilled we were on our way again. Slow going to start with past all the moored boats. One of the Uxbridge boys was on their mooring, we’d played leapfrog with them and another boat early in 2015 as they made their way up to the Lancaster Canal.

A long length of towpath is being worked on, all the permanent boats moved elsewhere. Now when I say all the boats moved elsewhere, there were still a couple tied up, one most definitely sat on the bottom not capable of moving anywhere. We turned onto the service mooring at Denham Marina, time to fill up with diesel. 138 Litres later at £1.04 we reversed back out onto the cut and headed up the lock.

The curvy building of Uxbridge

Mick climbed up to help with the gates, these have short beams and are weighted to help, but they are rather heavy for a painful knee to do both. The lock cottage is for sale again, or is it still for sale?

Good luck Larry

It felt apt to take a photo of our Larry for PM banner with Uxbridge in the background, we’d once been in town when the ex PM was buying himself a pasty from Greggs!

We pulled in for lunch a short distance on from NB Old Nick, waving as we passed. We’ve never met but read their blog. A short break as more miles needed to be ticked off today.

Denham Deep

Denham Deep was set against us so required the top gates to be closed and then emptied. Caution required as the lock is so deep, but keeping Oleanna back and adopting out GU paddle routine worked and brought her up quite quickly. A couple sat and watched, aghast, it was their first lock as Gongoozlers.

The older railway bridge

Now I had to be ready for photos. The HS2 viaduct could be seen stretching off into the distance across the lakes, but only glimpses could be seen from the canal between trees. Then high above us we were dwarfed by concrete overhead. A glance to the west revealed a rather pleasing curve, plenty of air around the structure.

We wondered for a while what the extra bits were and why there were only two of them. Now looking at my photos closer it is obvious that they were the next concrete sections heading along the viaduct to be positioned.

Another section making it’s way to be added

A chap waved from above, his tiny size emphasising how big the hole thing is. I wondered who the engineer was who designed it.

The Bear in the Barge is now called The River Garden, a shame as I used to like their pub sign, the new one is easily forgettable, in fact I forgot to take it’s photo! Wide Water Lock was set ready for us, new paint work just about dry! Up we came deliberating on a return trip to London, sadly not to be.

Now we wanted a mooring, one suitable for Tilly, TV signal and the internet. We should have checked the blog for thumbs up or down at our planned for mooring today. Plenty of room below Black Jack’s Lock we pulled in to a gap between trees. Tilly was given a couple of hours, which she used pretty well. Mick set about tuning in the TV.

Hello all the way up there!

I now checked the blog, on one occasion there was a upward thumb, good tv, another a downward thumb, no tv signal. Oh blimey what a day to be without live tv! Mick worked his way round things, thankfully we had good internet coverage and it was a relief when we got more than just ITV. Sometimes our tv won’t even use the internet if there is no terrestrial signal!

We settled down to watch an episode of Traitors. Then turned over for the election coverage. The family whatsap group constantly pinging with anticipation. I decided to turn the heel of a sock just at the wrong moment as the exit pole results were announced. Once turned I realised I’d knitted it in the wrong colour! Out it came and was redone whilst watching Blyth and Sunderland rushing to be the first to declare. Once nine or ten seats had been declared we headed to bed, Tilly had already given up and realised the fishing rod game would not be happening until much later today.

4 locks, 6.4 miles, 1 left, 1 right, 138 Litres, 1 full tank water, 1 very long curvy concrete line, 1 high up wave, 2 hours shore leave, 0 live tv, 1 cat outdoors, 1 internet, 1 traitor, 9 seats, 1 late night but not as late as others.

Free The Paddington One! 2nd July

Ballot Box Bridge to River Colne Aqueducts, Slough Arm, Grand Union Canal

The diesel tank hasn’t been filled since Pyrford Marina, the gauge showing quarter full. Mick doesn’t like the tank to be so low, in fact it may only have been so low once and that was when we picked her up from Finesse in Sheffield, just enough diesel put in her tank for test cruises. The question was, how accurate is the tank gauge? Did we need to seek out diesel today or could it wait for another day or two. The tank was dipped, 10 inches, plenty to keep us going.

Serious clearing up by Ealing volunteers

We made our way back to Bulls Bridge, the moorings by Tesco empty today, well apart from the sunken boat! We pulled in, had lunch, made a shopping list, moved the Larry banner to the cratch for it to be seen better and then went shopping.

A better position for Larry

With everything stowed it was time to get Mick away from chatting to a chap doing his best to avoid polishing his boat, leaving it to his wife. We winded at the junction and started to head northwards. In the last two years quite a lot has changed. Today numerous cranes sat to the east, the start of some buildings. Tower blocks that were going up are now full of people and the landscaping we saw being put in is now tall with plants.

Three miles or so on is Murderers Bridge (Colham Bridge) where in 2015 we said our final goodbye to our first second mate Houdini. Today Tilly was shouting on the top step Free the Paddington One! Tree filled outsides for boat cats!! Friendly cover for all!!! This election has really gone to her head!

Cowley Peachy Junction

At Cowley Peachy Junction we turned westwards onto the Slough Arm. We only cruised the first stretch back in 2015 when we couldn’t get further due to ice. I’m not sure where we moored for the night back then, today we tried pulling in just after the entrance into Packet Boat Marina, Mick managed to get off with a rope, but that was it, Oleanna wasn’t going to come in any more.

The moorings further along looked busy, we chanced it, hoping for a space. Several boats moored up, most looked like they were busy doing jobs. One space between boats might have been long enough, we carried on, a space at the end, better for Tilly. A chap chatted and helped with ropes. A fellow came over from his campsite on the offside for a cuppa. Akeem, I think that was his name, was very chatty, he was busy doing up a boat ready for sale, a coat of red oxide going on the exterior today.


When asked where we’d come from he said, ‘Oh you can’t moor in Paddington anymore!’ We explained that we’d paid and were quite grateful to know we had a mooring waiting for us. Through the years we’ve taken our chances in London like everyone else, reserved moorings when they were free, squeezed onto the Eco moorings when people have overstayed and paid to tie up in Paddington. I suspect we’d still visit London no matter what the mooring situation was, as we’ve both lived there and have friends and family we want to see. But now it’s reassuring to know we’ll have somewhere to tie up on arrival. Time will tell if there are now too many bookable moorings. Many visiting boaters won’t flock to London until they know the system is working, hearing tales of booked moorings being occupied on arrival doesn’t help the situation. London boaters choose to look when the moorings are empty. Yes they are not as full as they were when they were cheaper and the locations fewer. Only C&RT will know the true figures as they can see the bookings and get feed back from their mooring rangers.

A very vocal Tilly today

We settled in and Tilly was given a hours shore leave, at least it stopped her charging back and forth shouting about her rights and how once Larry was PM things would change, Salmon and real real chicken for dingding every day!

0 locks, 9.9 miles, 2 lefts, 1 wind, 2 boxes wine, 1 hour shore leave, 26.5 pairs knitted, 1 very political cat, 1 card returned, 1 knee improving, not much walking being done though.

Early Again. 26th June

Hanwell Moorings to Ballot Box Bridge, Grand Union Canal Paddington Arm.


Another early alarm! Today we hoped we’d make better progress than yesterday, Nebolink was turned on at 5:15, we pushed off towards the locks slowly and quietly to avoid waking our neighbours. If you are part of the St Pancras Cruising Club Tideway cruise this weekend the moorings are already reserved at the bottom of the flight.

Starting up the locks

The bottom lock was just about empty as would be all but one chamber be up the flight. The lower intermediate pounds seemed to be level this morning, not much of any water running over the bywashes. As I filled the bottom lock the level dropped above, this is of course how they should work, enough water to get over the top cill, but would the pound be sufficiently deep to traverse across. With all but one lock empty this morning I wouldn’t be able to drop water as we went to help.

Heading up the flight

A dog walker crossed the gates, the occasional runner ran down the flight, then back up, but other than that we had the flight to ourselves.

The pretty Lock Cottage

The low sun made it hard to look back down the flight at times, but all was calm and sunny with the world, even my migraine seemed to have subsided to not really be noticed.


There is one pound that has nearly always been low when we’ve gone through Hanwell, the risk of setting off early and why we were cautious with levels. However this morning all pounds were full before I filled the locks. It must have been the easiest ascent or descent of the flight we’ve ever had.

Three Bridges

As always I walked along the towpath to reach Three Bridges before Oleanna did, a photo here is more than obligatory for us as the flight and the bridge is where Mick’s interest in the canals was kindled at an early age.

No spaces where we’d wanted to be last night

The pound was full of moored boats, only one we’d seen pass us yesterday. So maybe if we’d carried on we’d have found a space to moor for the day, but with zero shade. We’d made the right discission to call it an early day and not try to battle onwards.

As Oleanna rose up Norwood Bottom Lock we could see something was happening above at the top lock, was there a boat coming? It looked as if the lock was emptying. I spotted a blue t-shirt, someone was litter picking around the lock, 7:20, blimey that’s an early start for a volunteer!

Is that a man in blue?

The chap was an Explorer volunteer, part of C&RT education team. Today he was expecting a school group, so was giving the top lock a bit of a spruce up whilst he ran some water down into the intermediate pound which can get quite low. I said that this had been our best trip up the locks, no water issues on the whole and where there might have been he was already letting water down. I asked how far the school group would go down the flight, he might want to fish out the dead cat we’d come past, bloated and giving off quite a wiff.

Coots taking advantage as they do

A top up on water, disposal of rubbish before we made our way to Bulls Bridge. A weed boat, a sunken boat and one boat sat in some good shade on the visitor mooring outside Tescos. We just managed to squeeze in between them and the sunken boat. Time for breakfast and then a top up shop.

By the time we came out of Tescos the sun had started to crank up on the warming front. To catch up on ourselves we still had a few more miles to cover before we could stop. Two boats turned onto the Paddington Arm, we followed suit and started to head north eastwards in towards London.

Bulls Bridge

It was way too hot and bright for me today, I retired below to be with Tilly. Side hatch open and sheet over it hoping for a breeze inwards. The occasional high landmark would catch my vision, one such at Willowtree Marina. There having just had a top up of diesel was Nb Waka Huia.

I bobbed back on deck as we neared Black Horse water point, the moorings before it used to be chocka, today only a couple of boats. Round the bend however seemed to be more popular, maybe more solar there. The new buildings on the offside , we’d last seen being built, are now all inhabited.

Ooo Hello!

Several lengths of concrete edge keep moorers away, then the thin grassy edge returns as we approached Ballot Box Bridge. We pulled in a bit before we normally do, some trees overhanging for a touch of shade for an hour or so.

Tilly was given four hours and extra rules about not getting run over by the electric scooters and bikes. As she went off to try her best to find a gap in the fence and mesh we sat down to a late lunch. At one point we heard Tilly scurry across the towpath followed by the zoom of a bike. Mick went to open the back door, closing it quickly in Tilly’s face as she’d brought someone home for dinner!

She’s got the right idea

We were joined by another boat a while later. Tilly seen returning from one of the gaps was startled first that we had a neighbour, secondly by there being two cats on board! It turns out they actually have four cats, the two Tilly had seen she’d scared off with just the flick of her bushy tail. With speeding commuters mounting up in number on the towpath we decided to curtail shore leave today, better to be safe.

A quinoa, chicken and bean salad had been put together gradually today, all the hot bits done before the mercury had risen too high. Clothes washed and drying inside to help reduce the temperature. Knitting socks really quite slow. We tried to watch some of the main leaders debate on TV, but gave up and watched different people squabbling instead on Traitors USA.

8 locks, 8.8 miles, 1 right, 1 early start, 9 hours nebo, 1 full water tank, 1 volunteer, 2 pills, 1 cat, 1 bird, 1 paraquet feather, 1 block vegan butter, 2 types sugar, lots of moorings places, 4 cat boat, 1 ex blogging boat, 1 friend, 0.25 sock, 1 hot day, 1 weekends plan coming together.

Four Inches Down. 17th June

Eelsmoor Bridge to Mytchett Visitor Centre

Sad git crumpets with toppings

Thankfully the speeding drivers and whatever else was going on at the end of the runway either stopped or didn’t bother us past midnight, so we got a reasonable nights sleep. Tilly was allowed shore leave whilst we had breakfast, however as soon as planes started to take off she ran back indoors, Those big BIG birds are far noisier than crows!

The gates at the side of the runway were open today and security staff manned the two bridges across the canal. Preparations for the Farnborough Air Show, fencing already up and a big marquee could be seen about half a mile up the side of the runway. We watched from the viewing benches just behind the friendly cover, a plane taking off just about every half hour and plenty of jets sat on the tarmac.

Farnborough Airport

It was nice to be able to zoom in on some of the buildings around the airport and the tower as Andrew my brother had been involved in their design when he worked for 3DReid and Bblurr. His architectural projects now more domestic, loft rooms, house extensions and a garage and utility room for Kath Mick’s sister. I have warned her that they might end up with a helipad on the roof!

Squeezing under the last bridge

Once we’d watched a few planes taking off it was time to move on. A mile and a half further on was the last of the low bridges. On our way up the canal it had felt as if there was masses of room above Oleanna. Now with the horns back in place would we still have space at Farnborough Road Bridge? The bridge fairly obviously is on a slant from side to side, Mick slowed us down and aimed for the higher side. At first there was loads of room, but that was gradually diminishing. The underside of the bridge gradually getting lower and lower. Was Oleanna’s smile about to be knocked off the roof? Would I be able to push Oleanna down to keep us away from the bridge. We inched through with just enough above the horns! Phew!!!!

NB Olive pulling in above the lock

NB Olive had been seen behind, gaining on us gradually as we made our way to Ash Lock. However above the lock they pulled in at the water point/mooring, they’d be stopping there for the day, a good cat mooring. They’d not heard anything from the Basingstoke Canal Authority, neither had we.

Going down

So we descended the lock on our own, back down to the Surrey pound. Immediately we noticed the difference, just about straight away Oleanna grounded. It took some time and wiggling to get off the bottom and start to make our way slowly back towards Mytchett. Waterway Routes suggested this should take us an hour, we knew it would be longer and sure enough it took nearly two with one trip down the weed hatch. Mick didn’t think it was worth another visit, which he could have done within five minutes.

Blue skies matching the railings

Over the aqueduct, past the big lakes, sun in the sky and plenty of time to enjoy it. On our way up the canal a hire boat had enquired where The Swan pub was, today we found out, right next to Heathvale Bridge.

After looking at the swan on the pub roof the bridge was worth looking at. A pill box on both sides of the west bank. Had the bridge been here when it was built? Was there access to both sides under the bridge? A bridge appeared here sometime between 1906 and 1919, possibly to gain access to the shooting ranges to the east of the canal which were very audible today.

Mychett Lake

We considered pulling in at Mychett Lake, but decided to keep on going to reach our destination for the day even if the embankment looked like it might be a suitable place for Tilly to explore.

The Patrol Boat was busy scouping weed out of the canal, just about as fast as we were picking it up. They followed us to the Visitor Centre, space for two boats today. The volunteers on the patrol boat had picked up a big bit of fencing along with lots of weed. Apparently the Surrey pound has been dropped by four inches to help relieve the pressure on the embankment by Mychett Lake where a leak has been discovered, a costly job to mend. Another four inches of depth would make this pound a lot easier to cruise.

Busy chaps on the patrol boat

Chloe rang us from the BCA. The rangers had inspected the lock today, they think it is possible for boats to pass with assisted passage. However the final word would be given tomorrow by an engineer. The patrol boat had been down to the top of the locks today, two boats waiting patiently for the verdict of broken lock 27, a boat having biffed a gate.

A very late lunch was followed by a scrub down of the starboard side of Oleanna. A serious scrub with hot water and suds is still required, but at least it’s a start. Tilly assisted at times but then got distracted by a crow.

Weedhatch view

Crows are canny birds. It allowed her to stalk it, keeping 6ft away all the time. A little hop to somewhere else to keep her at a distance. I then realised what it was doing. It was gradually making it’s way to the side of the canal, a couple of cat pounces with feathers in Tilly’s eyes would distract her from the possibility of missing the crow but landing in the water. I split them up for safetys sake.

Chris the Lock Keeper stopped to say hello from the towpath. When asked about the broken lock he said that he’d not seen the damage himself, but it was hoped that with a bit of reinforcement and someone manning the lock they’d be able to get us and the other boats down. This seemed quite optimistic.

Harry not a crow

The picnic benches were a nice place to sit out and do some weaving of yarn ends to a pair of socks. There are a lot of ends on last weeks pair and may take some time. Mike the other Lock Keeper came past heading to the elsan. His verdict on the lock gate was a touch more pessimistic. He’d been at the next lock when the incident happened. Today a report would have been written after the inspection. Then an assessment of how long a repair is likely to take and therefore how much income the Authority would loose with the canal being closed. This would all go to the insurance company of boater who hit the gate.

All we can do is wait for the engineers verdict which will hopefully be in tomorrow.

1 lock, 6 miles, 0.5 of that very very slowly, 1 following boat, 1 limbo, 2 hours shore leave (which improved), 4 trains an hour, 4 planes an hour, 1 picnic bench, 4 inches down, 1 official line, 1 more day to wait for verdict.

Disposing Of The Evidence. 19th May

Claydon Top Lock to below Slatt Mill Lock

Two Sea Otters

Everyone was moving before us, well it was Sunday. There was breakfast to eat and the Geraghty zoom to join. More attendees this week, subjects included; final is a bit terminal, volvo coaches, Piaff and how to spend £26.4 million, we requested some to go towards new casters for the pull out cupboard onboard Oleanna.

Gorgeous poppies

At the locks we pulled in behind a down hill boat, helped them down, then another up before it was our turn. This gave me time to admire the huge red poppys in the garden alongside the lock, the roses over the arch a little past their best.

Two volunteers were at the hut by the third lock, one siting down for his lunch the other helping us but looking forward to his prawn salad. Todays tally board made it look like it had been a busy morning, there were still more boats to come.


Time for a little chat with the boat ahead at most locks, then the crew of uphill boats too. One lady had owned their boat for a month, they’d done holidays before but now they had their own, I felt very excited for them. Another boat was crewed by a local volunteer and his wife, they were having alternator problems so were heading to wind and then return to the marina to sort it.

A lovely sunny day, no need for us to stop as we’d fuelled ourselves with breakfast. Time to spot NB Herbie at Cropredy Marina, shame not to have coincided with them, one day we’ll manage it, maybe.

Last time we came through Cropredy Lock there seemed to have been a flood as lots of rugs and mats were hung over the picket fence drying. Today it looked immaculate, everything neat and tidy. Someone has left a deep message on a lock gate for those who stand and wait for levels to equalise.

There was a boat woman to say hello to moored below Cropredy Lock, but they were having a leisurely lunch at the pub, we waved anyway and left Anne a message on Facebook.

A field of golden buttercups with Curlews calling

We’d already passed where we needed to be today, but decided we’d continue that bit further and down Slatt Mill Lock, spikes required but a slightly wider towpath to be able to sit out, less footfall for Tilly and safer surroundings. The pound above is often quite shallow, but today the bywash seemed to be blocked, so the depth was the best we’ve known it. We dropped down and pulled in at the end of the lock landing. Spikes were hammered in and we settled down for the remainder of the day.

Keeping an eye on the towpath whilst I got on with important things inside

Time to do a touch of secret baking. I’d had my eyes on a recipe for a chocolate cake, but over the last couple of days I’ve been wondering if this was the cake I’d made myself last Christmas? This took a lot of eating for the two of us. Hmmm. With a EU banana mountain in our fruit bowl I changed tack, it’s been a long time since I made a chocolate banana loaf alla Christine Gemson. The bananas were perfect for it and needed using up.

Quick before anyone sees!

The advantage of secret baking is that you have to dispose of all the evidence, Mick kindly sat out on the towpath whilst the oven was on. Alongside the birthday baking a chicken tray bake did it’s thing for our evening meal.

Another message from another Boat Woman had come through, Kate Saffin was heading up from Banbury. I mentioned there was space in front of us if she wanted to stop, but as she’s headed to perform at Crick Boat Show next weekend she’s on a bit of a mission. As soon as I got a message that she was on her way from the next lock we kept an eye out for her arrival. The two of us headed to the lock to assist with her ascent and to be able to have a chat about all things Thames, Cavalcade, Alarum Theatre and Tooleys in Banbury. Single handing she’s quite a way to go along with having to be at meetings here there and everywhere. If you are going to Crick and fancy watching a performance Kate will be there telling tales of women boaters from the past, well worth watching. Hopefully we’ll get chance to catch one of her shows sometime this summer as we’ve not been for sometime.

Bye Kate have a good time at the show

Kate had timed her arrival and departure very well, when we got back on board there was 1 minute left on the timer for the secret contents in the oven. It was brought out and left to cool surrounded by an invisibility cloak.

10 locks, 4.1 miles, 2 boat women, 1 hour baking, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Goodbye And Hello Old Friends. 17th May

Gibraltar Bridge 20 to Priors Hardwick Bridge 123, South Oxford Canal

Our next and final rendez vous with Clare and Graeme was to be at Calcutt Locks. They had spent the night in Ventnor Marina just before the locks, so I sent a message as we pushed off from our mooring, thinking it would take us about twenty minutes to get there. It actually took thirty and they’d already helped a boat down the locks.

Hello again!

Today Graeme and I managed to open both bottom gates making the transit between the locks easier for the two boats to come in kissing each other. The sun was out along with the banter at our final three locks together.

The Grand Union Team

At the top Graeme and I swapped sides over the sterns of the boats. We needed water but they didn’t. A final hug, only just about possible, a final group selfie not. Instead Graeme showed his true colours, well he is from New Zealand!

How rude!

The last two weeks it has been lovely to spend time with Clare and Graeme again. Supporting each other down and up the broad locks from Birmingham to Napton Junction. So glad we managed to make our cruising plans coincide. Enjoy Crick show and the rest of your time on NB Lottie Jane.

That’s better!

It took a while for the water tank to fill, by which time another boat had arrived wanting to top up too. We chatted away, they had been heading towards the South Stratford. Once we mentioned that Lowsonford Lock 23 was closed they decided they’d not head that way, maybe spend more time in Leamington Spa where they’ve not stopped before.

Napton Junction

I popped up to the bow to check the way was clear, it was, two boats passing each other just in view towards Braunston and the back doors of Lottie Jane open, moored by the junction. We waved our final goodbye and turned right towards the Napton flight.

Hello old friend, we know the South Oxford rather well, it’s a bit like coming home now, except I won’t be working my socks off on panto this time, I’ll just be knitting and delivering some. Hire boats were being made ready, we wound our way round the hill of Napton towards the locks. Should we stop for lunch before, part way up or wait til the top? A space right on the end of the moorings showed itself, we pulled in.

Napton Bottom Lock

By the time we pushed off again the sun was out and quite strong, time to slap the suncream on. A volunteer quickly set the bottom lock for us, but we pulled into the services mooring. Here sat on the low wall was a group having a rather nice looking lunch with a glass of wine each. As I stepped off I apologised straight away as we were in need of emptying our yellow water, the gunnel fitting right in front of their delightful lunch! They chatted away as we did the necessary, they were heading for a week on a hire boat, picking up this afternoon from Napton and heading in the same direction as us, one chap seemed to have done a lot of research.

Bottom Lock

Then onto the lock flight. A volunteer reappeared to help at the bottom lock, a second volunteer a touch further up the flight. They normally just loiter around the bottom lock but maybe on busy hire boat days they spread themselves out a touch more.

Mum escorting her little ones past the lock before flinging herself off a 6ft high wall

At the second lock a chap opened the bottom gates for us then walked back to keep an eye on his boat which was waiting to come down. The third lock was where we met the second volunteer. A long term hire boat waited above to come down, the crew chatting away mentioned that the bottom gate at lock 12 didn’t want to stay closed. The volunteer said it’s done that for the last few years, I added that it’s done that for at least seven years and thank you for reminding me which lock it was.

Views of green

Downhill traffic was busy, I think there were only a couple of locks where I had to close the top gate and there was quite often someone there to help close the bottom gates, a nice easy ride up.

What noise do Water Buffalo make?

The Water Buffalo were having a good lie down, chewing their cud, muddy heads and horns seem to be the fashion this year.

One boat was stopping to visit the tearooms by Lock 14. Another travelling with friends, they were heading back to the Chesterfield Canal on their last cruise before putting the boat up for sale, it sounded like they’d had an eventful cruise!

The cow parsley is very fine on the Oxford

At Marston Dole Top Lock the top gates were open and both paddles up. A boat was moored just round the bend, I wound down the off side paddle, the chap now panicking that I was about to steal the lock from them. It was obvious that they were quite new to boating, a lot of running back and forth, one person knowing what to do and when the other looking a bit lost with a windlass in hand. The chap started to wind a paddle to empty the lock, I made sure I waited for him to get back on board before lifting mine too, a slight language barrier between us not helping. They were soon on their way and after doing the flight they’d be used to going downhill.

Plenty of cars to try to identify today above the top lock as always, then we started our meandering along the summit. Yes THAT boat is still there, now accompanied by some sheds that looked a touch like kennels or chicken coops. They weren’t there in August last year when we last passed.

I’m going for a cheeky walk dear

Not many walkers along this stretch today. One chap came striding towards us, everything swaying with each stride, he certainly wasn’t wearing any strides! I wondered if he wore sun cream instead?

A nice mooring on our own

Just how far should we go today? Just where had we stopped last year? That was a nice spot and suitable for a barbeque. Mick was certain it was the next bridge, I thought it was a touch further on. For once he was correct and the arnco was empty. We pulled in, tied up and gave Tilly two and a half hours shore leave. At first she wasn’t too certain about it, to be honest the noise of farm machinery behind the hedge and a sheep dog being called made me uncertain too. But it all soon calmed down and Tilly vanished for at least an hour.

During the afternoon the sheep came for a nosy. Mick put our chairs out and unpacked his Christmas present from Tilly, the new barbeque. Sitting in the shade was very pleasant, a jumper needed later on when we started to cook. Must remember that fleeces are not useful for moving kebab skewers when very hot though!

Our first barbeque of the year, salmon steaks with ginger and soya sauce, veg and haloumi kebabs (which got a touch too hot) and a potato and cabbage salad with some lime and chilli mayonnaise from Charlie and Ivy. All very yum. Even though I’ve now finished my antibiotics I’m not allowed alcohol for a few days, so I made do with a squash made with lemonade, not quite as good as a Pimms. Mick was very supportive and drank one of the alcohol free lagers we were delivered by mistake, only another 11 to go!

Charred veg, I’m out of practice

Tilly eventually returned a while after her shore leave had expired. Ding ding was provided and the doors closed. We were then told in a very loud meow SO unfair! Why are you allowed to be outside and me NOT!! I fancied some salmon too! Thankfully we wouldn’t have a repeat of last year when she stayed out till 10pm at this mooring.

12 locks, 3 final locks shared, 7.3 miles, 1 full water tank, 1 empty yellow water tank, 1 right, 1 final wave goodbye, 2 volunteers, 4 smelly picnics, 2 bum cheeks, 2 salmon steaks, 4 kebabs, 10 potatoes, 2nd sock cast on, 1 more change of mind, 1 new lodger, 1 quiet evening, apart from Tilly, 1 mooring demoted from thumbs up to side ways TV, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Dog Or Bear? 16th May

Bascote Railway Viaduct to Gibraltar Bridge 20

The forecast was for rain around 1pm today, so when we woke a touch early we decided to push off earlier than planned. Luckily our locking partners rise earlier than us anyway so we were all ready to push off at 9, rain coats handy in case.

There was activity up at the first lock, a single hander emptying it. I walked up to give him a hand. Not far ahead of him were two boats heading onwards to the next lock. The single hander said that this was the second time he’d set this lock, as when he’d opened it for himself those two boats had sailed straight into it! Cheeky!

The supportive two

I asked if I could help, I’d only lift the paddle on one side as I still had a wobbly head and didn’t want to cross the gates today, he was fine with that. As he rose a boat came from up ahead, advanced crew on a bike, we helped them down then it was Oleanna and Lotte Jane’s turn.

At Stockton Bottom Lock there are always plenty of boats to look at. A motor and butty just above were having the ropes over their sheets removed. The side hatch to a boat alongside the lock was open. Out of the gloom peered a black face. Was this a dog or a small bear? It was hard to tell, but it was certainly interested in what was happening at the lock.


A volunteer came from his hut at the bottom lock of the main flight, cuppa in hand, the single hander being assisted by another boater. The single hander was on a mission to move his Uncles boat from Scarisbrook on the Leeds Liverpool to Cropredy on the Oxford. A steep learning curve as he’d not been boating since he was a teenager, now he was single handing. When he’d set out he’d not known about the landslip on the North Oxford, so he’d had to turn round and head back to go through Birmingham. Today was the first time he’d seen a volunteer, none at Hatton, thankfully the volunteer finished his tea and helped the chap up the rest of flight.

Man on a mission

The boater who’d been helping was asking about the landslip, it is due to open tomorrow at 3pm for limited times as work is still on going in the cutting. He was facing towards Warwick and trying to make his mind up whether to turn round so as to avoid Birmingham.

We followed the single hander up the flight. I’d walk on up ahead to empty the full lock into the intermediate pound whilst Graeme filled the one below. This meant only opening one gate most of the time, my head still not keen on crossing gates so those at the helm did a sterling job of getting into the locks.

Waterproofs now required

After the first lock I swapped my jumper for a waterproof coat as drops of rain were starting to land, by the time we reached the top of the flight it was raining properly. Both boats pulled up on the rings just before Kate Boats. Time for a cuppa and regroup. Clare was on the hunt for a laundrette and up at Ventnor they could accommodate them, so with full waterproofs on they headed onwards without us.

Tilly made the most of a couple of hours of shore leave, but thankfully soon came in as we wanted to move to a lighter mooring and no overhanging trees. It turns out we chose the wettest part of the day to do this! Tying up opposite the long term moorers, a second outside for Tilly today. She wasn’t impressed as it was so wet! The front door also had to be checked to see if the weather was different at that end of the boat. I suppose it was okay

An afternoon of not much, the rain came and went, so did Tilly. So much so that she ran out of ‘Thank you for coming home’ Dreamies! Luckily the man in red had left me several packets when we were in the boring inside in Scarboreugh, so She topped up the tub. However she didn’t let me carry on helping myself! Back to self catering I suppose. There was no need to bring a friend home to make a point, even trying to camouflage it behind a leaf didn’t work! Both Tilly and her friend were picked up and popped back on the towpath, well it was a touch too wet to entertain outside!

Oh! That’s just so mean!!!

10 locks, 2.8 miles, 1 soggy afternoon, 1 volunteer, 2 cheekies, 2 outsides, 1 friend, 1 leaf, 1 restocked Dreamies pot, help they are catnip flavour, 3 more pills, 1 battery delivery, 1 rocket diesel boiler, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Nasty Or Nice? 23rd April

Bramble Cuttings to Rookery Moorings

Breath in!

Time to start the climb up through Cheshire today. We made our way towards Middlewich breathing in as we crossed the narrow Croxton Aqueduct, here we leave wide boats behind despite the first lock being wide itself.

The banks have been raised, possibly to stop too much water going over the overspill

Big Lock is just that, big and can hold two narrowboats. Today we got to share our first lock since the Calder and Hebble, it will be our last until we start going down hill from Birmingham. We chatted to the owners of NB Autumn Haze which looked immaculate, had they recently had her painted? Oh yes, 4 years ago. Four years! There wasn’t a mark on her and she looked like she’d just come out of dry dock. If only Oleanna looked so smart! They were heading up to the Macc, shorter trips for them nowadays after exploring much of the network through the years.

Sharing a lock, we’ve not done that for a while

They went on ahead as we were pulling in for a touch of shopping to tide us over. The small Tescos had most of what we were after, no need to walk on to the larger supermarkets today. Back on board we set off for the Middlewich three locks, we’d already spotted volunteers, so it would be an easy journey around the bend.

Our first narrow lock since Foxton last year

Last year the bottom lock had required some gentle handling, one of the bottom paddles could only be lifted at a certain water level. Today new gates held the water back and the paddle problem is no more. A volunteer headed down to help me, no other boats in the flight, so the next two would be set ahead for us. The bottom gates may be new, but the metal board that runs up to meet the one on the top gates was hanging off at a jaunty angle. I mentioned this to the volunteer, who then mentioned it to another who said they’d mentioned it to CRT several times. Mick had spotted it as he’d come into the lock so stayed back.

Round the bend

Moving into the middle lock Mick misjudged the bywash and his speed, quite a clonk to the port side, he blamed the wind! Hope Tilly wasnt too upset inside! Round the tight bend to the top lock Mick made up for his earlier mistake entering the lock without touching the sides. Here two volunteers helped us ascend. The younger chap was watching the time, Kings Lock chippy would now be open, were there any more boats coming or could he head off to get himself an early lunch?

I walked up towards the junction. I spied activity at Wardle Lock, but couldn’t see if a boat had just descended. A lady popped her head out from under the bridge I was walking over, we both clocked our boats were wanting to head in the same direction, so they held back whilst Mick brought Oleanna past. There was a space outside Kings Lock Chandlers, a rare sight, so we pulled in letting the other boat go ahead.

Time to get that replacement bowthruster fuse. They had to look for the correct one, but they did have it in stock. Their white spirit was also getting on for £2 cheaper than we’d seen at Preston Brook. I did look around for a chimney brush as our original one had come from their stand at Crick, but none were to be seen. Our current one has a short handle and needs to be attached to something longer to do a good job.

Form an orderly queue

Now there was a queue starting to form at King’s Lock. With one boat waiting below, Mick quickly pushed Oleanna over to claim our position whilst I helped at the lock. A hire boat arriving from Wardle followed by another from the Middlewich Locks. The first couple were heading for the Ashby, their last big cruise before resticting themselves to pootleing up and down the Llangollen. The lady on board used to be a sailor, single handing across the oceans.

Up we went, the lady from two boats behind joining to help, only a short cruise out for them at the moment.

Only fourteen swans in the next pound, we used to count so many more when NB Winding Down was based at Elton Moss. We also spotted what looked like a new Morrisons Daily which would have been even closer than Tescos for our small shop today.

Such a dusty shame

Rumps Lock, one boat in, one boat out. A couple heading north from Droitwich. The Kiderton Arms now looks totally unloved. Through the last fifteen years we’ve watched it have a new roof, a pub, a thai restaurant, possibly other versions of itself. Today black fabric covers the downstairs windows, dust the upper windows and behind it another new housing estate is being built.

Time for lunch, we tucked onto the end of some armco above Rumps Lock and watched the boats following us come past. Not a place to moor for the night due to the proximity of the road we pushed on.

At least one house in the estate will have a chimney

This stretch of canal is possibly the one we know the best, although it’s been five years since we travelled it last and there has been a lot of building work happening. One lone half timbered Cheshire house sits in amongst new houses, it’s windows shuttered off. Hopefully it will recieve some tlc and have a new life once the estate around it is completed.

Moston Mill

Up the two Booth Lane Locks, a hire boat just leaving the second one was confused by us leaving the gates for them. There used to be a couple of boats moored on the offside by the winding hole, but they are long gone. By Stud Green Bridge a building is having a revamp and the slatted fence has nesting boxes at about 10ft intervals along it, what a nice idea.

Moston Mill just below Crows Nest Lock 67 (Booth Lane Top Lock 67) is also having some work done to the banks, it looks very smart. Back in the 1880’s there was a big mill pond behind it. It last sold in 2020 for £820,000, now the value is estimated at £960,000.

Nice or Nasty?

Crows Nest Lock was the first lock north we would pass through when we were on NB Winding Down, our old shareboat. Going out it was Nice Lock, coming back to base it was Nasty Lock! Mick thought that the nice lock moments outnumbered the nasty, as we’d done the Four Counties Ring on one occasion. I then pointed out that on another occasion we’d picked WD up from Aqueduct Marina after she’d been blacked and returned her to base. So maybe this equalled it out. Now it just brings back memories of our time when a week possibly two were eagerly waited for.

A few changes along the on line moorings above the lock, no longer the ice breaker and a farm shop. A boat came towards us at Elton Moss Bridge. A moment of panic had then they went skew wiff across the cut, it was the helms third day on a boat, we’ve all been there. The old Carefree Cruising yard is very different now, three houses not one sit on the plot and Artie seems to have aquired himself a rather nice soft top Morris 1000.

Under the railway bridge where you used to be able to wind a 57ft shareboat, we stopped at Rookery Moorings, big piling and rings. Out came the tyre fenders soon followed by Tilly whos little legs made a quick beeline for the trees behind us. Last time we moored there she did exactly the same.

More boats came past, most heading towards Wheelock. One very familiar boat in her recent new blue livery came past heading to Middlewich, NB Winding Down. She’s now based at Aston Marina, the owners on board were taking her to the Carefree Cruising base as her gear box had gone. Unfortunatly nobody we knew from the original syndicate, but we said hello anyway.

Are they more boats heading south on this route due to the landslip on the North Oxford, Vazon Sliding Bridge being out of action to give access to the Trent? Or is it just normally this busy. Maybe the later and we get spoilt up north with the lack of moving boats.

9 locks, 1 fat one even though canalplan counts it as narrow, 6.7 miles, 4 volunteers, 200amp fuse, 2 litres white spirit, 274 new houses, 14 swans only, 1000 morris, 2 warm for coats, 2 cold to be without, 1 spinney, 4 little legs, 4 chicken spring roles, 1st sock of pair 17 cast off, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

The View’s Better Up Here. 28th September

Staniland Marina to Bramwith Junction

As Mick popped the kettle on for our morning cuppa Paul was getting ready to push off. A quick goodbye and see you somewhere next year was exchanged. Off he headed, he and his travelling companions hoping to time their arrival on the New Junction Canal with all it’s bridges to avoid rush hour. Hopefully last nights storm won’t have brought any trees down on Paul’s route, it was quite passive here in Thorne.

Here he comes

An email from Clive came through he was about to leave the moorings by the service block. Mick walked up to the lock to see if there was a volunteer on duty, there was, so we could concentrate on getting ourselves ready to push off. A number checker walked past, we chatted with him. His next job today was to locate the sunken boats along the Stainforth and Keadby Canal. One was just by us, all possessions removed, the boat left to sink. It will cost C&RT around £3000 to remove it, we’d spotted at least another three on our way from Keadby!

Bye bye Thorne

As the swing bridge at the lock was pushed out of the way we pushed off, we had a convoy.

Next pair ready to post

Somewhere in amongst all the boats at Staniland are a pair of my Sockathon socks, well they were actually being worn to work today. We waved to Della wherever she moors. Onwards under the railway to the M18. Where had the near breach happened a few weeks ago? We decided that we’d most probably already missed it so where the undergrowth had been cut must have grown back. The new houses looked more settled in Stainforth now, still more being built. The lovely old boats still catch our eye as we pass them.

NB Christopher B following

Soon we were at Bramwith Swing Bridge. I hopped off and pressed the buttons, two boats through, only one car and a bike held up. Onwards to the lock. Earlier a boat had passed us, it was waiting at the lock. For the owner this would be their first ever manual lock, this would be our last manual lock this year. I checked that they were okay with sharing with a narrowboat and this was fine. Did they want to stay up top and watch what happened whilst holding onto a rope, or get back on their boat to bring it up.

First ever manual lock

A wave came from down by the moorings, David our friend from the Goole Escape Committee. Big hugs, he looked so well, a different man from last year, even from earlier this year. Mick, David and myself worked the cruiser and Clive up the lock. The latest on Les was that she will be having an operation and likely to be in a wheelchair for a while. Clive headed off, winded at the junction and then pulled into a gap on the moorings. Our arrival had been timed well as he could talk to the mooring ranger who had stopped by to see David.

Last windlass lock for a while

Next it was our turn up the lock. We seemed to be out of practice as no matter which paddle I lifted first Oleanna had different ideas than to stay on one side of the lock! Oh well. We pulled in to top up on water and have a better chat with Clive.

We nearly pulled in at the end of the permanent moorings, but we’d not have a view, so onwards to the junction to where we nearly always moor. David had warned us that the towpath hadn’t been mown for sometime, so we might have difficulty pulling in. Carefully stepping off we made it, chains round the horizontal bar. The sheers then came out to trim the friendly cover by the stern, bow, hatch and windows. Tall bracken obscured the view to the east, so this got a little trim too, although it was really quite dense Mick gave up after a while.

I can see fur miles!!!

The view’s better from up here! Tilly spent quite a bit of time on the roof, a good vantage point for seeking out friends.

An updated props list was needed, requiring a quick read of the rehearsal draft of the script. David joined us for a cuppa and a catch up. He’d just had news that he’d got a volunteer job, very exciting and perfect for him. It was so good to see him, he has come so far since early last year. Still a way to go, but every day he feels he’s making progress.

Props list amending

The stove took the edge off an autumn evening and provided the means to cook a couple of jacket potatoes to accompany a pie each. The sous chef was in charge this evening, he declined to cover his pie in foil when I could smell something was cooking well. It apparently still tasted good, my pie had a nice golden crust in contrast.

A dark crust

1 lock, 4.7 miles, 1 bridge, 1 held up, 3 Kingfishers, 1st lock for one, 420th for us this year, 2 boats not in the right place, 1 hedge trimmed, 4 hours, 2 friends, 1 stove lit, 1 catch up, 2 jackets, 1 new props list, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Torksey Central. 22nd September

Torksey Top Side to Torksey Bottom Side Pontoon, River Trent

A quiet morning catching up on things and down loading a free trial of Photoshop. Tilly was kept in, no shore leave granted today, we weren’t going far but we had the tide to catch.

Heading into Torksey Lock

At midday we moved up to the water point, topped up on fresh and disposed of the yellow. The rubbish would have to wait as the top lock gates were already open meaning getting to the bins would take longer.

Going down

We pulled in next to NB Olive J in the lock, ropes around bollards, the volunteer closed up behind us then lifted the paddles, down we went. He said we might need to do a bit of jiggling about on the pontoons as they were already quite full.

Back out onto the tidal Trent

One space behind a boat of the south bank, NB Olive J headed to a space behind their friend on the north, there looked to be more room right at the end of the long pontoon. Yes 60ft, we’d fit nicely. We pulled in tied up and settled in for the remainder of the day.

The Lock Cottage up for auction soon

A while later four boats pulled off, comments of ‘last one there buys the drinks tonight’. The lead boat beeped their horn five times as they reached the junction to turn north. Five beeps means ‘I don’t understand your intentions, keep clear!’ Yes it was the same chap who’d beeped his horn to indicate turning to port the other day.

One boat without anyone at the helm!

Blimey it was busy down here. Boats arrived, some radioing the lock to go up, others just pulling in to wait for the next suitable tide. One boat didn’t move off even though they’d intended to, their cat hadn’t returned in time for the tide. Hopefully it’ll be back for their next suitable tide. Tilly has only once almost affected our departure with a tide. That was when a chink was left in the rear hatch and she made the most of it at West Stockwith, half an hour of trying my best not to panic and eventually a well timed rugby tackle worked and we were able to catch the tide.

This one went backwards to the junction

Soon the pontoons were full again. One chap asked Mick which the best way was to get to Ripon, without going by the Humber estuary. A conversation followed which gave Mick the impression that no locks had been booked, no lock keepers phone numbers were at hand, they’d arrived without life jackets on, Mick didn’t dare ask if they had the charts, knowing that the answer would possibly be no. Mick and someone else tried to impress on the chap that Keadby would need to be booked otherwise there might not be anyone there to let them in! Gainsborough pontoon was mentioned by another boater. But who knows!

Boats left waiting

During the afternoon I had a go at starting to learn about Photoshop. One tool looked like it would do the job of removing hairs and replacing them with a suitable background. Photoshop has come on miles since I dabbled a touch ten/fifteen years ago. One demonstration shows you how to remove a house on a mountain side and photoshop just replaces it with more mountain. You can even change the house to being pink and at night time with lights on whilst the scene around it is very obviously daytime.

All calm at the junction this evening

I loaded up part of a portal to have a go at removing hairs, the tool didn’t work, something about not enough something or other. I decided that maybe I should start at the very beginning on the tutorial. This I started but then Mick came to tell me about the man who had NO idea. Then Tilly came and shouted at the back door, stating that it really wasn’t fare being kept locked in when another cat had been allowed to roam free all morning. I gave up, time to do some knitting.

Todays film Wildlife (2018) about a family in 1960’s Montana struggling to make ends meet. Dad goes off to fight fire, their son takes a job at a photographic studio and Mum starts to teach swimming. Things go array for them all, their poor son observing more than a 14 year old should. A sad tale in which I got the start of another sock knitted.

1 lock, 0.4 miles, 4 going down stream, 6 or more arriving, 1 missing cat, 1 mardy cat, 1 AI program on my laptop, 1 clueless chap, 6th pair started, 1 leaking bath.

PS. I made a complaint to C&RT regarding the boat on the Kiln Pontoon in Newark. This week I was asked for the boats name and number, which of course I couldn’t give them as we’d not seen them displayed. I could however give them a photograph of the boat and suggested that their local team were VERY likely to know of it. The local team have since been in touch to inform me that they are very aware of the boat, so are the police. ‘Our Licence Support Team are dealing with it through our official process, but unfortunately this does take time. We are also monitoring the anti-social behaviour and building a case with regards this.’