Category Archives: Wildlife

To Limbo, Or Not. 28th November

Somerton Lake to Kings Sutton

Wonder if it’s ever got high enough so you can’t tell where the canal is?

For the last few days we’ve been retracing our steps of last year. Oxford to Kidlington, Kidlington to Thrupp, etc. However last year strong winds were forecast so we decided to sit them out at Somerton Meadows for a couple of days. Today however we hoped to overtake ourselves from last year, or so we hoped.

Th river is where the grass is

For the whole day we have been surrounded by flood water. Huge expanses stretching away from the river and canal, this is of course what all these fields are for, to hold the excess water. Birds were enjoying their new wet land, but we suspect the sheep that have been separated from their friends would rather have more grass to graze than the narrow strips some were left on.

Somerton Deep Lock

Somerton Deep Lock was our first of the day. At 12ft 1″ deep the bottom gate is very large and heavy. I was ready for a battle, but after lifting a paddle, it moved slowly but steadily open. Waiting for Oleanna to stop completely in the lock before pulling the gate closed, only a few bumps were needed to get it moving, far easier than expected.

Level out the coal

Once we’d reached the top it was time to do some adjustments. The mountain of coal on the roof needed to be laid flat, below the height of the horns certainly if we were going to stand a chance of getting under Nells Bridge.

A different sort of view

We pootled along the next pound the various moorings with wonderful views all empty. Next time we’re this way we’ll try stopping at one of these instead of at the meadows. Below the fields were lakes, at times you could only just make out where the river was by the flow. Gradually the river gained height coming up to meet the canal level.

I love the magnetic letters on this boat

Pulling in at Aynho Wharf we topped up the water tank, this might just give us an extra inch above the cabin top when we reach Nells Bridge.

Aynho Weir through the lock

Aynho Weir Lock. I checked the level board, an inch in the red, the same as yesterday.


Mick looked at the flow on the river that crosses just above the lock, not too horrendous. Some umph from the engine should keep Oleanna away from the wooden protection. We decided to go for it.

Under the bridge before the weir

Both gates on the lock leak so emptying and filling it takes some time. It also being a lozenge shape makes the levels deceptive. The lock still needs to hold a large amount of water so as to be able to keep up with the demand from Somerton Deep Lock, but the river isn’t that much higher than the canal. So the lozenge shape was built with a larger area to fill producing enough volume.


Oleanna easily fitted under the bridge at the top of the lock. We agreed that I’d walk from here, save trying to pick me up. Once clear of the lock gates Mick gave Oleanna’s engine a bit of wellie and off she headed across the flow of the river avoiding the wooden protection across the top of the weir, which today was level.

The low bridge ahead
A man at one with his chimney

Slipping and sliding along the muddy towpath I eventually caught up with Mick. He’d pulled in below Nells Bridge Lock. The chimney now needed removing, the last thing we could do before attempting to limbo under the bridge.

Wonder if it’s in the red or amber?

We both walked up to take a look at the level marker between the lock and bridge. What looks like a new sign above the lock explains the colours. Green normal, Yellow procced with caution, Red do not proceed (not the exact wording but the jist of it). This is all well and good, but when the coloured marker is broken, therefore missing you have no idea if it is safe or not. This however didn’t bother us, we’d made it across the river, we were just interested in the available headroom marker.

Breath in

In the summer we’d measured Oleanna’s height as best we could whilst on the River Wey, she came in at around 1.88m to the top of her horns. The bottom of the board here is at 1.4m. Then a band of white paint suggesting another foot, so 1.7m. The water level was lower than this, by about a brick and a half, possibly another 6 inches (sorry for mixing imperial with metric here). If this was the case then we had 1.85m headroom. The bridge opening is arched, our cabin sides are angled, was there enough room?

Here she comes
That looks good

Only one thing for it, gently nudge Oleanna into the opening and see what happened. Mick straightened Oleanna up and brought her slowly into the bridge hole. This was the moment where we could find ourselves stuck below the lock until the levels drop or on our way towards Christmas.

Nearly there
Mind your head Mick

Slowly she came in, the horns had missed, a good sign. Then more and more of Oleanna came through and into the lock.

Loads of room

There was loads of space! Admittedly we don’t have much on our roof so that helped.


Up she rose the last hurdle/limbo we needed to get past. I can order our Christmas bird now.

A function room maybe

The Pig Place has changed a touch since last year. A new building made from old doors has appeared, maybe an inside bar for damp evenings. As we passed the boats on their moorings the chap from Canal World Forum came out to say hello. We thanked him for his photos and said we had loads of room, his roof box would have been a problem.

here here

Onwards, where to stop for the day? We soon made our minds up to continue up onto the next pound. The canal was being topped up, from the river.

That’s the river coming into the canal

Two weeks ago, part of Banbury had flooded and areas of the towpath had been over topped by the river. Here we could see it happening, the river level higher than that of the canal and towpath. Streams flowing from river into the canal. If the towpath got eroded sufficiently then when levels drop the canal may then flow into the river. A stretch of towpath has been reinforced with gaybions, maybe more of this is needed.

Neat garden by the lock

At Kings Sutton we rose again. Now much higher than the river, for a while anyway, we’d feel happier. Works on the Lock Cottage here now seem to have finished. A neat flower bed on one side of the bridge and a lime mortar wall running along the side of the lock. I was glad to see that the old barn hasn’t been touched, but I suspect it will get a make over at some point.

Weathered and worn

We pootled on a short distance to moor up on some armco and let Tilly out for an hour. Our mission complete. Here the aroma of Banbury fills the air, the trains sound their horns as they pass a crossing and the M40 rumbles away in the distance. Despite this, it is still quite peaceful here.

Kings Sutton Lock

4 locks, 6.18 miles, 1 layer of coal, 1 chimney removed, 1 water tank filled, 1 Black Pig, 1 boat as low as possible, 1 inch in the red, 1 zoom across, 1 limbo with ease, 0 bacon today, 1 river 1 canal almost 1, 1 finished cottage, 1 hour shore leave, 1 spag bol on the stove, 1 mission accomplished.

Catching Up. 10th October

All Cannings to Wolfhall Bridge 103

Yesterday we’d stopped short of our planned destination for the day, today we needed to catch up. So the alarm went off, we had breakfast and were ready to push off into the chilly morning. At least the sun was out and we might be able to see the views that the cloud had shrouded on our way west.

Sun’s out

There are so many boats moored along the Long Pound, progress was very slow but at least Alton Barnes White Horse was in view for much of our way. Then we skirted round the Wiltshire mounds to our north were ancient terracing is very evident.


Under Lady’s Bridge and past the wide water where a chap was just coming out of his boat full of the joys of spring!

Terraced Pickle

Just before Pewsey Winding Hole a chap pointed at us from the bow of his boat and then three others waved.

The Rustys

The Rustys had winded this morning and managed to get their boat just about into the side to moor so that they could go for an exploration. our boats were finally pointing different directions and our paths wouldn’t cross again. Hope their trip back to Hilperton is good. There was a bit of banter about meeting up next year, maybe Bingley.

Boat cat keeping an eye on us

We considered stopping to dispose of our yellow water but by the time we realised that the service mooring was actually free it was a touch late, so we carried onwards. The chilled medication emporium wasn’t open anyway!


Approaching Wooton Rivers Mick took it very slowly, we didn’t want to get shouted at again. The boat in question seemed to have moved since we’d come the other way a month ago, by a full boat length! Maybe he’d been all the way to Bath and back having returned to the same spot, or maybe not.

At the bottom of the locks we disposed of all our rubbish with the handy recycling bins and then started to make our way up to the summit pound.

A chance photo paid off

Work emails kept me busy when not winding my windlass. Difficulty finding the paint I was after, where’s the drawing for the ladder, would I like an extra painty pair of hands in Chippy. This was all panto stuff, then the emails regarding Houdini started flying back and forth between the writer and production manager. All the time I was aware we would be heading into a black hole of communication once over the top.

Wooton Rivers Lock

Even though I was busy trying to respond to everyone there was still time to buy some eggs at our 2000th lock on Oleanna. I picked out the larger ones from the bottom tray thinking that they would be fresher than those on the top. I’d make use of these in the quinoa quiche I was making for tonight, we were a couple of eggs short before and now we had several very large eggs in hand.

As we pulled out of Brimslade Lock an abc hire boat came from the lock above. We left our gate for them as they closed the gates ahead of us. We all said hello and then we watched them pull into the lock landing to drop off crew, followed by having difficulty getting into the already open lock.

Last lock uphill

Cadley Lock was our last up hill. Sadly the plums by the top gate were now well past their best, most rotting on the floor making it very slippy under foot. But I was surprised at the number of butterflies here. About four fluttered their way around me, one hitching a lift on our roof for a distance. I’d have thought it was way past butterfly time.

Rotting plums

The locks up to the summit and down the other side are still being locked overnight at 3pm. We’d been caught out by the very low pound heading westwards and just made it to the top in time. With two more miles across the top we knew we wouldn’t be down the first set of locks by 3pm, so we’d find somewhere to moor instead. At least we’d caught up some of the time we’d lost yesterday, hopefully tomorrow we’ll get back to where we should be.

Hitching a lift

Through Savernake Tunnel we started to look for a possibility, the railway now very close by but on the off side, so Tilly would be safe. A short distance fro where we’d moored last time we pulled in by another boat. The water deep enough at the stern to get close, but the bow sitting a long way out. Here would do us for the day.

Out of the tunnel into the eastern side

Tilly jumped to the bank with ease and headed off to make friends. I then spent the next three hours trying to catch up on the Houdini emails about Kabouki drops and video footage, finally chipping my ideas into the mix that had been going back and forth all morning. My drawings were scanned and shared. Food put in the oven and after eating I finally got chance to do some model making. Four hours later I had a new version of the proscenium finished, it was now well past bedtime.

4 locks, 2000th on Oleanna, 11.96 miles, 1 final farewell, 1 white horse, 1 must have galloped away, 70 ft in a month, 6 giant eggs, 10 litres paint, 1 ladder, 20 pairs castors, 1 or 2 kabouki drops, 10 scanned drawings, 18 toing and froing emails, 1 prosc, 12 midnight finish., 1 black hole ahead

THE Red Boat. 7th September

Photos now added.

Greenham Lock to Vicarage Bridge 76

Lighthouse in the midle of Newbury

Saturday, a newspaper to get and some fresh food, so after breakfast we walked back to Tescos and stocked up. With everything stowed we made ready to push off. An ABC hire boat came past with a large crew on board, Mick enquired as to if they were heading for the next lock, either the chap answering didn’t now or he didn’t understand the question, I think they were from Norway. Not much further on they pulled into a space, that answered our question.

An interesting looking place

We decided this morning that we’ll have a look round Newbury on our way back and get some miles ticked off towards Bristol today. Just as well as fairly soon after we’d pushed off I got confirmation of a production meeting and a run through of A Regular Little Houdini in Newport which would be timed with me being close to Bristol. Dan the actor/director gave me the thumbs up for my white card model, I just have to hear back from Josh (the director) now and see if there are any adjustments needed.

Cloughs just like on the Leeds Liverpool, didn’t notice them until we were up

Newbury Lock had eager Mums and sons ready to help with the gates and grey haired boys stood hoping they’d get chance with the top gates. Jenny Maxwell had been right the locks are now not so fierce, ground paddles not gate paddles.

West Mills Swing Bridge

A bit further along was West Mills Swing Bridge, the only one of the day. As I walked up a couple were crossing it, the lady saying ‘They must go under the bridge otherwise they’d be stranded!’ Such comments always make me smile. I pulled the key of power out of my pocket and slotted it into the keyhole, turned it clockwise, pressed the open button and waited. Barriers down, wedge removed then the bridge started slowly, very slowly, very very very slowly to turn. Blimey it felt like a whole life time before it had opened enough for Oleanna. By the time it had closed Mick most probably would have made it to Bristol without me!

Guyers Lock lay ahead, the stern of a boat visible on the lock landing below. Marvelous lock partners. I zoomed in with the camera, it was a red boat, would it be the red boat that late yesterday afternoon had given us a very big bump? The chap at the helm not apologising! It sure was.

Is it? It is!

Did we want to share the lock with them? We’d made a point of them hitting us yesterday, so they were bound to remember us as we did them. But there was nowhere for us to go without making an even bigger point by refusing to share the lock. So we pulled in alongside them, an atmosphere could be felt. Eventually the silence was broken and I chatted away with the chap working the lock and some civil words exchanged at the helm.

Once up the gates proved problematic to close. The chap from the red boat jumped onto his boat saying the gate was stuck, so he was just going to leave it! I then couldn’t close mine, but we certainly wouldn’t leave the gates for the next person to come along. Mick hopped off and we both pulled and tugged at each gate to get them out of the recesses. Eventually we got them moving and closed.

A34 Newbury Bypass Bridge

When we saw a chance to pull in before the next lock we decided on an early lunch, letting the red boat get ahead. We took our time and were just about ready when another boat came past. The next two locks were shared with the crew of NB Pippin who were out for the weekend, it being someones thirtieth birthday tomorrow. Much more conscientious locking partners than the red boat had been. But they stopped for lunch, possibly to let us get ahead!

There they are again

Above Dreweat’s Lock there was the red boat again. Technically not on the lock landing but between it and the lock. They had stopped for lunch with some friends and had a table and chairs out on the towpath. A third black mark, we won’t be sharing with them further up the way!

Who you looking at!

Across in a field two Roe Deer were chomping away at the lush green grass. They stayed for a while but eventually sought safety of a wood as we passed by.

What’s going on here?

Just below Kintbury Lock there was a widebeam pushing off. A dog walker suggested staying where we were as the boat would go right across the cut and then head onto it’s mooring on the off side. It pushed out then a rope was thrown to the bank where it was attached to a horse. They weren’t mooring up for the day, but just setting out, so we waited hopefully out of their way and waved at all the passengers.

Steering away

Up the last lock and ahead the moorings looked busy, but a boat (possibly NB Harold) pulled out leaving an Oleanna sized space which we very quickly filled. Cat Health and Safety Committee convened, the railway line was deemed to be too close to our mooring and no visible barrier so no shore leave today for Tilly. She did her very best to charm me into opening the doors, you try explaining to a serial killer why you are not letting them out!

Mick got chatting to the boat behind, Charles and Karen on NB Sanity At Last. They are also heading to Bristol and suggested pairing up to do Cain Hill. As we chatted away it sounds as though they take things a lot slower than us. We have a schedule to keep up to so no loitering for too long in one place. But we’ll see what happens.

Pleeeaase let me go out!!

Despite buying fresh supplies this morning we decided to eat out and headed across the bridge, up the hill into Kintbury to find The Blue Ball. The butchers looked interesting, apparently they do very good sausage rolls (not a patch on my GF ones) sadly they will be closed tomorrow but we may visit on our way back.

The Blue Ball only had a few options for me, the usual steak and gammon. I did consider trying out how gluten would now affect me as there was a Steak and Kidney Pudding on the menu. But I opted for the steak, I’ve had better but the chips were good. Mick had liver and bacon which was very nice indeed.

8 locks, 6.12 miles, 1 swing bridge, 0 held up, 1 set of stubborn gates, 1 red boat, 3 strikes, 1 much nicer boat, 1 horse, 2 deer, 2 plans for Christmas! 2 new boater friends, 1 steak, 1 liver and bacon, O shore leave, 2 horrid selfish boaters!

Sideways thumb for TV, due to loss of reception when ever a train passed.

SORRY!!! 31st August

East Street to Day’s Lock


Cuppa in bed, breakfasted and ready to cruise we waited for our shopping to arrive. The van pulled up at about 10:45, one smaller pack of something and tins instead of easily stored cartons of chopped tomatoes, but we did get our Saturday newspaper which in the past hasn’t been possible.

Once everything was stowed we were on our way, we’ve only a few days left of our Thames licence so no dawdling. At Osney Lock a rowing four considered joining us to go down, some of the crew were keen, others wanted to wait, so they left it up to the Lockie. They didn’t join us.

To the right today

With a load of washing on we approached Folly Bridge. In the past heading upstream we’ve taken the northern channel, so today Mick went round the southern one instead.

Spikey flowery decorations
What a pile of pooh!

One house on the island has a galvanised or zinc deck with tall plants to match. Then an ornate brick building with niches and what once were white statues, a priest had quite a mound of guano at his feet.

Art class
Are those mountains?

Passing along Christ Church Meadow there was an art class, easels out and paint brushes in hand. One chap was being quite free with his interpretation of the river, with mountainous peaks filling his paper. Passing the rowing clubs we waved farewell to Oxford, we’ll be back mid October.

Boat houses in the sun

The sun vanished and big clouds loomed, I used work as an excuse to duck inside between locks. Iffley Lock was surrounded by noisy geese. No space to stop in the next reach for lunch, so at Sandford we waited for the lock to fill up with boats and then rise before we dropped down, no space there either. Lunch on the move it was.

Ifley Lock

It had started to rain as we approached Abingdon services, we pulled in behind NB Wishbone. Alistair used to follow our Lillyanne blog and then Oleannas whilst he waited for his own boat to be built by Aintree and very nice she looks too. They were having difficulty with the pooh sucky machine so we dealt with everything else before backing up fill with water.

A clean bucket for Mick and myself, a clean box for Tilly and an empty of the yellow water. All rubbish disposed of and a full tank of diesel from a couple of days ago, happy boaters.

NB Wishbone

As we waited for the water to finish filling a small yogurt pot day boat headed towards the lock, the roof drawn over to keep the occupants dry. One chap outside called instructions to the person at the wheel. ‘Left’ ‘Reverse’ ‘Slow Down’ Biff!! ‘Right’ ‘Stop’ ‘No not that way’ Biff!!! Blimey, it was like watching a dodgem car !! BIFF!!

From inside the voice of a young girl started shouting.



They hadn’t, they’d just hit theirs!




They were wanting to go down the lock too, they let us go first.



By now I was in hysterics at the bow, unable to chat to the volunteer who was kindly positioning my rope for me. Looking behind the boat was now facing back towards Oxford, then London, then Oxford again. Eventually they made it into the lock, the Lockies held onto their ropes for them, we both descended.

We were out first leaving them to spin round in the lock. So hope they made it back to Oxford in one piece.

Caution crocodile

Onwards, plenty more miles to cover today. Four lads in a couple of canoes asked where Culham Lock Cut was, Mick pointed it to them hopping they’d seen it instead of heading straight on towards the weir. A boat was coming up the lock and paused to buy a licence from the Lock Keeper so we waited. A young girl on her bike cycled down to watch what was happening, we got chatting. lots of interesting questions from her. Her 4 year old brother arrived and said they’d been on a huge cruise ship, much bigger than our boat. By the time the lock was ready for us the lads in their canoes had arrived and shared the lock down. It’s the first time we’ve shared a lock with a crocodile!

Last lock of the day

All these interruptions weren’t helping with my model making, only one more lock, Clifton Lock which we shared with more canoes. All along this stretch the view has changed. Two weeks ago three of Didcot Power Station chimneys stood holding their ground, now they are no more, just rubble.

My tree!

We pulled in at a suitable spot above Day’s Lock, lots for Tilly to explore in what was left of the day. She did her best to sort her own Ding Ding out, but that friend was rescued before it was too late.

Another great sunset above Day’s Lock

6 locks, 16.47 miles, 4 boxes wine, 1 newspaper, 3 flavours of houmous, 2 cheese twists, 1 right, 1 wave goodbye, 1 empty wee tank, 1 empty box, 1 empty bucket, 1 full water tank, 1 apologetic young lady, 1 very embarrassed dad or uncle, 360 degrees in a lock, 1 chatty gongoozler, 3 canoes, 1 crocodile, 0 cooling towers, 1 favourite mooring.

MOOOO!!!! 26th August

Cow Mooring, Lechlade to Eaton Hastings


Awake at 6am with a hooligan Mooing at us 2ft away from the window at the foot of our bed. Luckily for us and Oleanna the big post there was more attractive to the cows than anything on the roof or our covers, our herbs and Christmas tree had been moved to the far side of the boat, so they were safe too. We managed to get another hours sleep before the alarm went off.

A quick shop for fresh supplies at Londis. The Cafe across the way had some very nice loaves of sour dough in the window, but as there was no price by them we guessed it would be expensive. We dropped off our shopping and then walked along the meadow down to St John’s Lock.

Thames Path that way, that way and that way

A chap on a cruiser the other day had suggested that we might be able to get diesel at the marina and that they had a chandlery. Before trying to get Oleanna there we’d decided to check which turned out to be just as well. The chap said that diesel would be easier tomorrow and that the bolt Mick was after they wouldn’t have as it had an unusual thread. At least we’d had a walk.

Time to get moving, Lechlade was starting to get busy. The boat behind us was getting ready too. When they’d moored up yesterday the chap at the helm came across as a arse dictator. His two teenagers were ordered what to do, then told off for not doing it correctly, despite not having been given adequate instructions. His poor wife tried to show her son what was needed but then got barked at as she was meant to still be on board in case the boat drifted off. This morning the orders were being barked again, we decided to let them get ahead so we’d not have to share locks with them. A phone call handily delayed us.

Ha’Penny Bridge

We pushed off and headed for Ha’Penny Bridge, from here on the water was filled with canoes, swans and flamingos all with crews who had little awareness of our existence. We managed to avoid them all as we made our way to the footbridge by the Roundhouse.

The End ahead

Two kids were on a paddleboard, then one stepped off and walked across the surface of the water, it would be very shallow there! Here the river was once joined by the Thames and Severn Canal, the furthest we’d be able to get Oleanna up the Thames, we were at the End. Here we hoped would be deep and wide enough for us to turn which fortunately it was as we had a group of on lookers.

Downstream now

Back downstream weaving our way back towards St John’s. We waited for a boat to come up which meant that the dictator had pulled away from the services and was still ahead of us. The Lockie let us down before he’d run away to find some shade for his lunch.

Paddleboarders we’d keep seeing.
PS that is a gongoozler behind Oleanna bearing his belly not Mick

Back along the wiggles and winds to Bascot Lock which was on self service. The paddles were up at the far end and a gate open. I walked down to set the lock for us, some selfish person having left the lock without closing up properly. As I walked over the top gates I noticed that this was not the case. Some 6ft down a couple were holding onto the chains from their canoe, looking up forlornly. The Lockie had waved them in some ten minutes ago, then vanished and they were waiting patiently. Mick and I carefully wound the paddles up for them.

A handy picnic spot

Two cruisers joined us going down and crews from each boat helped to lift paddles and open gates. More wiggles and winds. On one of the hairpin bends a large audience had collected, there being a handy parking space with lots of shade for picnics and a section of low bank to get inflatables into the water. Another steep bend we disturbed a paddleboarder picking blackberries, she was just where the stern of a 58ft boat needed to go, but Mick got us past without spilling any berries.

Even the cows were taking shade today

The sun was hot, we’d have liked some shade, but finding a suitable mooring was unlikely. There was space at Kelmscott, but we carried on to a space I’d marked on my map as a possible wild mooring. We got in and moored up. The back doors opened for Tilly, who very quickly decided it was far too hot and returned inside to the shade. I opened up the shady side curtains to see a wasps nest on the bank, Tilly must have known. Window closed we unpinned ourselves and moved on, not far to the next bit of bank.

Wasps nest

Rules were read and I was allowed out. This outside was just as hot as the last one which I had rejected, but they insisted on this one. I had a smooch around, okay friendly cover, the trees were a bit too far away, it would do.

I told her, I told her that if she was to pounce off the gunnel then there wouldn’t be anything to land on. Did she listen? It fell on deaf soon to be wet ears!

Stupid stupid cat!

Pounce, Splash, Scurry. Into the bathroom after she’d managed to soak every seat on the boat. A towel rub down, always a risk, and then an hour of drying herself off sat on the hearth rug. Cat Health and Safety rules should be listened too and adhered by! I’ve seen lots of woofers doing it and it was really quite cooling, just a bit of a shock.

2 locks, 1 a tight squeeze, 4.41 miles, 225grams sad gits mince, 2 pork chops, 1 loaf bread, 2 pints milk, 0 bolt, 0 diesel, 1 boat unhooliganised, 1 nest, 2nd mooring lucky, 2 many small craft on the river,  1 soaked cat for the second time this month! 1 lucky friend, 2 hot.


Down The Wey. 1st August

Dapdune Wharf to Papercourt Meadows

Earth, Wind, Fire and Water were the order of the day at Dapdune and young visitors arrived early for a day of fun. Around the site you could paddleboard, make mud pies, learn how to make a fire or partake in lots of fun activities all around the place. We opted to just look round the buildings we’d not seen yesterday.

The barge building shed has a great photo at one end of the structure that makes up a Wey Barge and the walls are decorated with Carpenters Porn. Planes of every size and use, drills and one of the biggest vices I’ve seen.

The paintwork was almost alive on the doors

Next the Gunpowder Store that last night was filled with paddle boards. Here we learnt that transporting gunpowder by water was the safest means and it continued until the 1920’s. The kegs of powder would be stored in this room until they set off for London. The paint on the doors was all bubbled and blistered, as though numerous fires had taken place in the room.

Knotty situation

The main display was about ropes, knots and pulleys. Here you could spend hours learning how to tie all manner of knots and then forget them for when they are most needed.

Set up for lunch in the cabin

Reliance was open to have a look around. The boarded over hold very low, necessitated bending over to reach the cabin at the stern. Here the cabin was laid out with a table set up flipped out from the cupboards, dishes on the long stove ready to cook a meal on. Panels which looked like doors made up the seat backs, these would hinge down and make up beds for the crew, far more space than on a narrowboat.

Look at those Frank

A wander around the island and a chance to taste our first Blackberries of the year, mine despite being picked easily was still face shrivellingly sour. Everywhere you looked there were games laid out. An orienteering course, archery and loads more and the site was filled with kids.

Mick had topped up the water before the Wharf had opened this morning so we were now good to go. Not far until we pulled in, a nearby B&Q called us on the hunt for a longer plank. They had none. but a nearby Argos provided Mick with a cheap tablet which he’s hoping to run Waterway Routes on at the stern as we cruise, replacing one that died a few months ago.

Approaching Stoke Lock we could see people milling about. The gates were open, but they proceeded to close them. A stripey person looked at us, turned away from the gate then did a Frank Matthews double take at us , then continued to walk down to the bottom gates. We could see that the lock was being emptied, Oh well! Good job we weren’t in a rush.

We pulled in and I walked down, normally I’d offer a helping hand, but everything was being taken care of, so instead I said Good morning to see what was said back. Nothing other than a ‘morning’. I took the opportunity to walk over the footbridge and take a photo of the lock cottage with the hire boat in front of it.

Plenty of crew taking it in turns to do things, one at a time

The lock emptied, the gates opened and they took their time. A jumper needed rearranging around someones middle then the boat was tied to tightly so couldn’t be undone. With at least five crew everything took time, a lot of it. I suggested that maybe we should have some lunch whilst we waited, there’d almost have been enough time.

Eventually they made their way up and the lock was now ours. I was just about to close a gate when I saw a boat following us, so we waited to be joined, a nice couple on a Sea Otter (a small aluminium narrowboat). We had a short pause for lunch before carrying on to Bowers Lock. Ahead we could see a boat had just entered the lock to go down, we tooted our horn, someone looked but the gates still closed. We tooted again, another look, maybe they didn’t know that they could share locks on this stretch. Oh well we’d be doing this one on our own too.

Filling Bowers Lock

At the moment there is work being done on the weir, there’s lots of noise. Due to this the lock landing is a temporary pontoon quite a distance away, so by the time I reached the lock they were halfway down. I asked how much further they planned on going today, they weren’t sure. One chap stayed and helped me close the very low bottom gates which was the bit I’d not been looking forward to as my back has just about sorted itself from when we came up this lock.

Triggs Lock

We passed them a while later, they’d almost pulled in at a mooring we’d tried to get into on our way up, glasses of wine were already being consumed, it was the last night of their holiday. We offered to share the next lock, but they must have settled for the evening.

How many paddles?

Triggs Lock has way more than it’s fare share of paddles on the bottom gates, three each. The top gates can be chained back and then the lock used as a sluice/weir when the river is in flood. I only got to wind the outer set of paddles today. Winding them back down could be done from land, but anyone a touch shorter than me would have difficulty in reaching with a long handled windlass.

Git Gaps a gogo

By the pub two cruisers were mooring up. The full length of mooring and they chose to take the easy option of tying to a bollard each, leaving only enough space for one narrowboat and two big git gaps! Good job we didn’t want to stop.

Papercourt Lock wasn’t quite so picturesque today the blue sky hiding by now behind clouds. From here I could see that there was only one boat moored up on the meadows below, so there should be somewhere for us to pull up too.

A meadow mooring

Standing at the bow keeping a watch out we tried one spot. No hard or straight edge here, would it be deep enough for us? The bow came in well, we pulled forward so that Mick didn’t have to jump off into nettles. Goose pooh hop scotch was needed as we tied up, we were on a slight list but this would do nicely. Tilly on the other hand wasn’t too sure, most probably due to the lack of trees.

What’s happenedto the trees?!

During the evening we’ve watched reports of the Toddbrook Reservoir that feeds the Peak Forest at Whaley Bridge. I so hope the spillway can be made safe to allow people to go home, the repair will take some time. Boaters have been told to take ‘every precaution’. I think we’d try to get as far away as possible, past Marple towards Poynton in a different valley.

4 locks, 7.23 miles, 1 full water tank, 0 rubbish, 1 clean pooh box, 1 lock stolen, 1 shared, 6 pairs of deaf ears, 2 very low lock beams, 6 paddles, 1 snake, 1 meadow mooring, 19.75 digits and 4 paws crossed for Whaley Bridge.

Dap Dune, Dap Dune, Dap Dune. 21st July

Send Church Footbridge to Guildford Town Bridge

Still edible thank goodness

As long as I took things steadily, no rushing around I thought I’d be okay today. The other thing to avoid was bending down, as any sudden change in altitude usually ends with a very sharp pain between my temples, bloomin migraines! Yes we could have stayed put, but with an early train to catch in the morning we had to get closer to Guildford today.

Bad photo, but anyone know what this is? Wrong leaves for a thistle and a fluffier flower. the flower heads were a couple of inches.

Only two locks today we made our way round the tight wiggles with weirs on the outside bends. At Bowers Lock the navigation takes a left hand bend up onto a cut section. The weir here seems to be having major works done to it and the towpath is currently diverted through woodland.

How low can you get?

The lock first needed emptying, I did this by myself as it was quite a walk back to the lock landing around the bend. Then I had no choice but to inflict altitude sickness on myself. The bottom gates are so low that they only just clear the bridge deck. This of course makes it easier for those walking the towpath, they can just step over open gates. But to be able to close them you need to pull on the bar and chain. It took a little while for me to realise that to close the gates I also needed to be low to the ground. You can stand and pull diagonally, but the gate is reluctant to move in such a direction, it wants to go horizontally. I accepted being low to the ground and pulled eventually closing the gates behind Oleanna.

Coming up

As we finished rising in the lock a boat appeared above along with a lady popping out from the trees, this was their crew who’d decided to walk to set the lock. We chatted a bit, they’d been moored overnight at ‘……….Oh that wharf place’ ‘Oh what’s it called!’ ‘You know ……. wharf’. Sadly I didn’t know. She warned me that there wouldn’t be much space to moor there if we wanted to, but we needed to be closer to town anyway.

A few more manicured lengths off bank suggested moorings, one had been chosen by a couple from a canoe as a handy resting place for a picnic.

Another pretty lock

Approaching Stoke Lock we could see it was emptying, we hung back to give the boat space to leave, then entered closing the gates behind us. With ropes around bollards I was about to start filling it when Mick signalled to me. We were being joined, a chap opened one bottom gate and his boat came in. It was the couple from the canoe.

Yep that’s a lady in the lock with us

Okay so one tiny boat made of fibreglass with a lady sat in it alongside what is most probably 20 tonnes of narrowboat! Mick had warned them, but the chap said they shared locks all the time. Obviously I wound the paddle up just a short way to start with. Luckily these locks seem to behave and with the paddle open on your side with your stern line tied to the yellow post you hardly seem to move an inch, other than upwards. I kept a close eye on the lady, then the chap said to wind the paddle straight up!

They had come out for a paddle yesterday and camped overnight, so their boat was full of camping gear making it heavy, therefore they’d not wanted to lift it out below the lock. We all survived.

There’s a lower bridge to come

Now on the flat for the rest of the day I didn’t need to set the bow rope on the roof for the next lock and could stand down from my duties. We now had chance to practice as the canoeist had mentioned the wharfs name. Dapdune, Dap Dune, Dap Dune, not Daphne, Dap Dune. We’d got it.

A full wharf

Daphne Wharf was full of boats when it came into view so a good job we hadn’t wanted to moor there. We continued onwards into the side of Guildford I’ve not visited. A high mooring showed itself by the Odeon, so we pulled in. The cabin top only just above the towpath height.

After lunch Mick headed off into town to do a recky of other moorings, the station and for a new second hand tablet to be used at the stern. We’d offered to buy Josh’s old one from him if Mick could make it work, sadly it had been resting too long and will be added to the technological graveyard somewhere.

A boozer table that didn’t end up on the floor!

I got on with the last few jobs before my panto meeting tomorrow. A paint list and photos of the model now it was all completed so I could do a final story board for all the creatives to see. Outside it seemed busy, I could hear a group of girls on the path above, then I could hear footsteps above. Someone was using our roof as a continuation of the path! Oy!!

A group of young teenage girls were sat on the bench and by the time I got to the front and opened up the cratch two other girls were stepping off the roof. ‘Can I help you?’ better than a tirade of words. ‘Sorry Sorry lovely boat!’ Hmmmm!

Final checks

Mick returned a short while later the next mooring also as close to the station was free and a touch lower, so not at roof level. We moved.

Property Game

On the River Wey. Fleurs house has quite a large granny annex.

How much? Answers tomorrow.

2 locks, 4.73 miles, I edible loaf, 2 Lilliput gates, 1 tiny sharer, 0 shore leave, 2 moorings, 4 clomping feet, 0 harm done, 1 model ready and packed, 15 sheets drawings, 11 groundplans, 198 photos of models, 1 owy head, 1 twinge.

Yesterdays Property

£475,000 Sold I’m afraid if you fancied it.